Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics
Monday April 11, 7pm
An evening of music, visual art, poetry and readings including musician Guillermo Brown; singer Maggie Brown; Richard Brown, former member Black Panther Party and co-founder of The Committee for the Defense of Human Rights, founded by the SF8; Ruby Dee; poet and playwright reg e. gaines; Moist Paula Henderson, baritone sax player and composer; Justin Long-Moton, poet; Maluca; jazz musician David Murray; Outernational; Abiodun Oyewole from The LastPoets; Ted Rall, cartoonist and author; Rebel Diaz; excerpts from Tapsploitation; and jazz musicians Matthew Shipp and William Parker. Readings of letters from prisoners and others by Aladdin, Bridgit Antoinette Evans, Raul Castillo, Brian Dykstra and Nitya Vidyasagar. Directed by Leah Bonvissuto.
A visual arts exhibition specially curated for the night will include the work of Derrick Adams, Wafaa Bilal, Emory Douglas, Richard Duardo, Skylar Fein, Kyle Goen, Guerrilla Girls Broad Band, Steve Lambert, Wangechi Mutu, Dread Scott, SenOne and Hank Willis Thomas.
The April 11 Host Committee, in association with Revolution Books, includes Aladdin, actor and playwright; Rafael Agustin, writer and actor; Rafael Angulo, Professor of Social Work, University of Southern California*; Paul Von Blum, Senior Lecturer Emeritus, African American Studies and Communication Studies, UCLA*, Herb Boyd, journalist and author; Elaine Brower, National Steering Committee of World Can't Wait* and anti-war military mom; Dr. Robert Keith Collins, anthropologist; The Committee For the Defense of Human Rights, founded by the SF8; Carl Dix, founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party; Jessica Green, media maker and co-director, Maysles Cinema*; Nicholas Heyward, Sr., father of Nicholas Heyward, Jr. (murdered by the NYPD in 1994); Russ Jennings, theatre producer and writer; Erin Aubry Kaplan, journalist and author; Rev. Earl Kooperkamp, St. Mary's Church*, Harlem; Mike Ladd, poet and music producer; Harry Lennix, actor and producer; Philip Maysles, visual artist, co-director, Maysles Cinema*; John Santos, musician; Matthew Shipp, musician; Dr. Tolbert Small, poet, co-founder and physician at the Harriet Tubman Medical Office in East Oakland, CA and former physician to the founding chapter of the Black Panther Party; Clarence Taylor, Professor of History, Baruch College*; Cornel West, Professor of Religion, Princeton University*; Robert M. Young, film maker and David Zeiger, film maker.
(* for identification purposes only)
TICKETS: $35, $15 students & unemployed, $100 premium tickets. Purchase tickets at Revolution Books or Harlem Stage. Buy tickets online at revolutionbooksnyc.org.
Harlem Stage at Aaron Davis Hall on the campus of the
City College of New York, 135th and Convent Avenue
An Evening of Music, Visual Art, Poetry and Readings
Send us your comments.
Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
What People Are Saying
Revolution: Why did you decide to host the April 11 event—On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World?
Erin Aubry Kaplan: I was asked and I think of myself as a fellow traveler of Bob Avakian. So much of what he says makes sense and fills in the holes of the mainstream discussion. He's always resonated with me. I'm a mainstream journalist, I had a column for a while in the Los Angeles Times. I just always kind of felt like what the RCP and Bob Avakian were doing felt like home to me and was certainly not something I was hearing in mainstream media. It's tough for me personally [working in the mainstream media] and I really found a lot of, strange to say, comfort, in the truth. To me Bob is always hitting on the truth—and this was always a comfort even though it can be very grim. The facts are not reassuring, but the truth is clarity and clarity is where we gotta start. And it seems like most of the country is just so far from even the starting line. That I just felt like I had some really good company in people like Avakian and people who really see things for what they are. And frankly also, I need to read and hear him because it's very easy to drift away from the truth and you feel like you want to go shopping or you want to just kind of tune out because that's what the culture is, you want to tune out, you kind of want to close your eyes and cross your fingers and hope things will work out, because, hey this is a democracy and blah, blah. That stuff gets tempting. But I always get shaken awake by Avakian and that's a good thing to be awake. It's a good thing. It's not comfortable sometimes, but it's a great thing. And now more than ever we need to be really, really awake.
Revolution: I think I know what you're getting at about "now more than ever"—given the world situation. But could you talk about this some?
Kaplan: I was one of those people who was pretty heartened, I have to say, as a Black American, it felt like something good had to come of Barack Obama's election. I'm still actually quite surprised he got elected and that mere act, I thought, it's got to mean something new, not revolutionary maybe, but certainly a new direction. And I started to realize no, it was just like a Black person getting a really good job. What tends to happen, there's a price to pay for that, I see what the system does. The price of a Black person getting a good job and getting a good salary—you're sort of boxed in. You can't really do anything except be a creature of the system. That's been proven over and over again, that's not a new thing. It's just that I just hoped Obama would start to be an exception to that and he's not really. And so we live with very dangerous illusions. But of course, since he's been elected he's been called a rabid socialist and communist and it starts getting very dangerous, that level of illusion or delusion, I should say. People actually believe a very middle of the road guy like him is a communist? We really are way, way—I don't know where we are now. It's so twisted, it's like being in a funhouse or something. And so I have to argue to people, no, no, no, he's not a communist. He's not a really great guy, he's not really that effective, but he's not a communist. I'm just trying to argue people down to this very simple truth, one, that Obama is not a communist, two he was born here. Let's just get the facts straight, you know? I feel like we're so far behind the eight ball in terms of truth. And it's kind of complicated because Obama is president and there is actually a lot more confusion and hysteria. It's not his fault per se, it's just because he's a Black person in this position of power, people have really lost their minds over just bullshit, stuff that he just doesn't even do. So now we've compounded our confusion, by deciding that this tiny little bill he passed is socialism. The cost of having to clear away those cobwebs—it's like trying to pay a huge, huge bill and you're paying only the interest and you're not paying the principle, it'll take you years to get to the principle, right? So all we're doing is sort of trying to clear the interest. So it just feels like we're really behind in our truth payments. So that's why I think it's so dangerous, we are actually no clearer on a lot of things than we were before. In fact we're more confused because Obama has actually muddled things, again not his fault, just because of our history and because of our own paranoia and hysteria, which is now all coming to the surface, every bit of it. So yeah, these are dangerous times.
Revolution: So how do you see this event fitting into all that? What do you hope will come of the April 11 event?
Kaplan: Shoot, I hope he gets number one Amazon.com. We need to get this kind of word, this kind of conversation out into—it needs to be disseminated, it needs to be in the mainstream more. We got to stop thinking that this kind of stuff just belongs at the very, very fringe of society. It's just got to be pushed more to the middle... Everyone should hear it. That's the thing, everyone should hear it, you don't have to necessarily agree with it but, my god, it needs a place at the media table. For all the instant media we have, it seems like it's more and more lopsided, it's really not democratic at all, we keep hearing the same things over and over. So I would really hope that this would somehow start some kind of Bob Avakian trend, like everybody wearing BAsics hats and t-shirts. Let's do the old American thing, of let's just saturate, let's just get people talking about what it is. I realize in America, one great thing it's given to the world is marketing, we can sell anything to anybody. Let's make it cool and popular. Hey let's all talk about revolution. I really think if you can get that message out, do it cleverly, people will at least take a look. It's tricky though with something's that intellectually challenging like this. We don't like intellectually challenging things—intellectually challenging things and pop culture don't go together. But once in a while I think that can happen, I really do. You just have to get to a certain profile, you have to get some famous people wearing it or talking about it.... I also had a fantasy that we could get his spoken word piece, "All Played Out"—which is, I think very cool with the complement with the jazz musician William Parker. I think it's really fabulous and we should make a hit single out of it, play it and do a youtube. These are my ideas, OK. Let's use what we have at our disposal to sort of generate some hits and just get people looking and thinking and talking in a different direction. I think it can can be done, I really do.
Once I was complaining to a friend of mine about, oh my god, it's so hard to change the status quo. And he said, well, the status quo is the status quo until it changes. And as we've seen in the last several months, the status quo in the Middle East has really changed, across north Africa. Things can change fast. So that's always, always possible and things that have been going on for 40 years can be undone in a month.
Revolution: That's actually a very important point.
Kaplan: It's very true though. Of course the reality is things have been built up over 40 years and it's not an overnight thing, it actually has taken time to build up. Like earthquakes, pressure builds up over time and then there's a big event. But the point is things are moving when you don't realize they're moving. And so I always have hope in that sense. Things are always in motion, unless something's actually dead. Things are actually moving, you just don't necessarily see it. I think we should be the earthquake force. This is our time.
Revolution: It's interesting what you're saying about it being intellectually challenging. I don't know if you've had a chance to read any of the prisoner letters that have been written about BAsics.
Kaplan: I did see a couple, yeah, I did.
Revolution: It's pretty amazing, these are people that the system has put away in a dungeon and thrown away the key. And they're like dealing with all these big ideas and revolutionary theory and able to be, like you said, optimistic, even though they're in a cell. So it's very inspiring.
Kaplan: That is inspiring. But in a way they should be the ones who are transformed because they need to be because they're the victims of a lot of this. That's appropriate. A lot of them are kept, even when they get out of prison, it's like they're kept down, at the margins, they can't vote in many states and things like that. They're part of the truth we should be listening to. And so I'm very glad that Bob Avakian and the RCP has such an effect on them because that's the way it should be. And the way we're turning out prisoners, hey they're more and more of a voice—because we have so many, it's not a small population. So I hope that at some point, they will have their time, they will have their say. It's only so long that you can just kind of throw people away and hope to not see or hear from them again.
Revolution: That's part of your point about the earthquake, the rumblings beneath.
Kaplan: That's exactly right. And we have to give up this illusion that we all live in these separate corners, separate classes, separate realities. It's clear that's not the case, say with the whole environmental situation, with climate change and all that. We all breathe the same air, right? And if we ignore the truth it's going to cost everybody, it's costing us now. Unfortunately I think people have a huge tolerance for deception and lies, this is not new. But there's a breaking point. There's a threshold at which people say "no," I really believe that. We haven't quite gotten there yet, but we'll get there.
Revolution: You mentioned getting BAsics out to the mainstream, and I think that's very important—and there's increasingly a lot of dissatisfaction among a broad range of people. But I'm also wondering if you have any thoughts about the significance of Bob Avakian and BAsics to the basic people.
Kaplan: The masses—I think it's something that should be in everybody's house, I mean I really do. Because that's who he is talking about, that's who he's speaking for. I don't know how this could happen, it needs to be in every neighborhood, every Black and Brown neighborhood, in big cities, he should be everywhere. I don't know how that could happen, I can't see the public school system doing something like that. He just needs to get down to the ground and again you have to get down to the level of pop culture... He should be in the consciousness of the people who are victims of everything that he talks about and what he also understands is that these folks are deliberately kept in the dark. So he's just trying to strike a match and light a light...
This needs to be brought directly to people and I think they'll really eat it up. But frankly, a lot of people he speaks of, some of them would be frightened of his ideas or not used to the truth either. We all suffer from this illusion, delusion, even folks among us who are most oppressed. And I'm sure Bob is very aware of that too and that's another complication. A lot of the masses are not necessarily ready for revolution. They're not necessarily ready to throw off what they know. A lot of say Black people are still vested in integrating into the mainstream, they're still very trained on that, that's what they want to do. But I think you just need to introduce to folks—just pass it out, maybe at the subway, on the street level. And I think BAsics is a great way to do it because it's like the quotable Bob Avakian. It's like pieces of stuff but they all add up. And like you could read a little bit at a time, you don't have to invest the time to read the entire book. But you could actually open the page at any point and get something out of it. I think it's a great format and good for popular reading. I think it's actually a really good way to disseminate everything he's about. So I think it's an important step.
Revolution: As one of the hosts, what would you say to people about why they really should be there on April 11?
Kaplan: Because they really need to hear it now. Because it's always made sense but people really need to free their minds, get over the fear—I think people are really in fear now, in a weird way, more fearful of not just speaking out against things, but hearing or receiving stuff that's not state approved or not mainstream. Psychological oppression is still with us and so it's really important—come hear something different, something truthful. But also something energetic—it's not like we're going to beat you over the head with a baseball bat and send you home depressed. It's something I think uplifting and energizing and new and really worth a listen. And it's not the same old same old, that's for sure. It's not, not that I see. And the great thing about Bob to me is that he keeps up with what's happening. He's not somebody speaking from the '60s saying the same thing he's said since then. It's really just everything—history as it unfolds. So it's very current, very now, very cutting edge, hip. That's why people should go because it's very hip. They can see some great people and they can get inspired.
It's like going to see a really popular motivational speaker—but it's got more substance to it. It's deeper than that. It's not just telling you to be more positive, feel good stuff. It's like feel good, yeah, but here's what we need to be doing, here's how we can make our world better. Here's exactly what's wrong. Here's how we, not just I, me feeling good, it's all of us. And so it's a great feel good event. I mean that in a serious way, not in a superficial kind of way. It's mind changing. And it also will confirm for a lot of people what they already believe. People already believe that things are not right, that we're in a straight jacket, we need to break out. How do we break out, what do we do, they don't know where to turn, they don't know who to listen to, there's too much crap out there. This will be a great event. Like I say, you know the truth can hit you between the eyes, but it's also really energizing. People tend to think oh, this kind of social critique is a downer, I don't want to deal with that. I want something uplifting. Well, this is really uplifting, the most uplifting stuff I've read in a long time. So I just get energized by the truth and by education and really for me, as a Black American, affirming what I already knew. But it's never spoken, it's never out there in the mainstream. You have to always say to yourself, I know this oppression is there, nobody's talking about it, but it's there right, I'm not crazy, right. And you always have to go it alone. But this is about doing it together. And what we can do about it—that's a huge one. People feel so un-empowered. It's not that they don't believe a lot of what is said here, what Bob believes. But they don't know what to do. And so since they don't know what to do, they just go home That's what I'm saying, this will motivate you and you'll find it's not as difficult to act as you think it is. I think coming to the event is a great act.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
What People Are Saying
Revolution: Tell us from you own standpoint why you are hosting the April 11 event—On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World?
Aladdin: It's my understanding that it's a celebration of the release of the book BAsics by Bob Avakian and it's a book that I definitely support and the words of Bob Avakian I think are really important because they are relevant to what is going on today and the need for revolution. So when I was approached to get involved in the host committee I thought it would be something that I would definitely be a part of. And also to support the bookstore [Revolution Books] which I feel is a bookstore that is my favorite in New York. So those are two causes that I am definitely behind helping out—anything for Bob Avakian and the revolutionary movement as well as the bookstore. So in any way that I can help, I just thought contributing would be a labor of love.
Revolution: What do you hope the effect of the program will be?
Aladdin: Hopefully that people will feel that the talk of revolution is tangible, it's realistic and not just some rhetoric that's not reachable. I think that if people see that revolution is possible, then there's hope for a better day, hope for a solution to some of these problems, and how it's just intrinsic to the despair that people have, the cynicism. With what Bob Avakian is talking about and what the people in his movement are talking about, that there is a way to make this a better world and that it is not something, as I joke about, as unrealistic as finding a unicorn, that it's actually realistic. And once you're able to convince people that it is a plan that works I think people start to listen because it doesn't sound like a bunch of lunatics talking about revolution in a way that is the rhetoric of the past and it's a relic, but is very tangible today. That's why I feel like it's really important to get the message out, that it's realistic.
I know a lot of the quotes in BAsics. What really influenced me is that a close friend of mine gave me a video of Bob Avakian, the one where he opens up with Emmett Till, that really got my attention. Because sometimes when people are intellectualizing, you kind of tune off and space out. But each time that Bob Avakian talks you really engage because he's really uncovering the truth. And like I say, the great thing about the truth is that you don't have to remember lies. Everything that Bob says is all facts so what really caught my attention is that I think he was trying to make people understand that the way that we learn the history of America is full of lies. And what he's trying to embark on is a movement that if we can embrace the truth and know the past and acknowledge that we've been lied to then revolution is realistic because we can approach what is clearly a lie and approach it with truth. And the great thing about truth is that is one of the ways you can get people's attention. And I think it can mobilize because people identify when they've been lied to. So when I heard Bob Avakian I knew that it was something that I was definitely interested in because it was based on truth.
Revolution: What would you say to someone to convince them to be there on April 11.
Aladdin: Well I think that the performers who are going to be there are doing some incredible work. So based on the fact that the people are going to be performing, reading, just performing in general are amazing. And there's something about doing work that's really thought provoking, that from an audience standpoint, it's the most exhilarating kind of performance. So based on that alone it's worth the price of admissions. And also it's supporting a movement that is about getting people to really uprise and stand for themselves. And revolution, which is, I think the whole theme of the evening, is about getting people who are oppressed, people who don't have a voice, and standing up and really creating a movement where they're trying to make the world a better place. So that kind of movement is a movement that I think everyone will be excited about. And when you come away from an evening like that you can't help but be inspired and exhilarated.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
What People Are Saying
Question: You just got a ticket for the April 11 event. Why?
Answer: You know, walking through the streets of Harlem, and anywhere nationwide, you can see that there's this system where there's a number of people who are facing extreme difficulties going about their daily lives. It's important to recognize that it's not just individuals but it's part of a systemic issue that we as a people and as a nation need to deal with right away. It needs to happen, and there needs to be a conversation about what we can do to make the system for everybody, not just a few individuals. So it's with the hope that, to open the conversation up, to see what alternatives are possible in this nation, in this world, besides the one we have now, which continues to oppress people, which thrives on the systemic oppression of specific groups of people, the systemic destruction of people's lives and people's humanity. And also trying to figure out what institutions are possible. What are the concrete steps that we can take to move forward in this process. And thus far the answers are really difficult to do that. What I'm hoping is to learn more about that from people who have ideas. I'm open to it. It's not something that...I don't have any political allegiances or anything like that, but I think everyone needs to start having a conversation about what we can do to make the process better for everyone.
Q: Have you heard about Bob Avakian or the Revolutionary Communist Party before this?
A: Yeah, I've seen the Party and its members who are dedicated out there every day, handing out flyers, handing out information, spreading their message. Unfortunately, I haven't heard much about Avakian's message, which is why I bought the book today, so I can have an idea of where he stands. It does say a lot to push forward a big message. So I'm willing to hear it out. That's part of the reason why I bought the ticket. I'm trying to be open-minded about things, not shut off about things. It's needed to have people who are courageous enough to present this idea, but also to have a vision of something drastically different, if that's possible. It doesn't mean the work will be easy. And it doesn't mean I'll agree with everything. But it doesn't mean I shouldn't be open to what the message is and make the judgment based on what I hear. So that's why I'm attending the event.
Q: BAsics should give you a really concentrated dose of revolutionary science.
A: I hope so. And I hope it gives me a chance to really learn about what the Party stands for, and what kind of, I guess, vision you guys have for getting to a place where you want to see it. And if it's feasible or not. That's a question that I've always thought about, is like, is this process feasible, and how do you see that happening?
Send us your comments.
Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
What People Are Saying
Question: Why are you going to the Celebration?
Answer: I think the main thing is the publication of BAsics. Because I already saw it and I have read some of the quotes. It's surprising all the work that Avakian has done... more than 30 years. It's so much that in fact, he concentrates all that theoretical work in one book like BAsics, it's surprising. And the way they put it together, well, each quote has in it, each one concentrates all this synthesis of Avakian, what the new synthesis is about. Especially over all that time.
I have read some of his works. Then this has had the effect... it's something that has happened, something that is common among various people who have read BAsics, since it's been published. The thing is that once a quote is published, if you know Avakian, the first thing you really want to do, if you have previously read this book or works of his, it's like you want to go back and check it out again, especially the part the quote is from.
And for new people I think it's like, "Hey, Avakian wrote this." Or "who is this person writing this?" And they are going to be surprised, especially when they see that he has a lot of material to study and read. And BAsics does work for a lot of people. Especially if they find it real hard to get into theory. To read lots and lots of books. Or lots and lots of volumes.
Something that Avakian has discovered is this method that he has for writing, for explaining things, for enabling people to understand these things that are so complex. And then there's the way he develops it. So for this reason, he has concentrated on the basics in each quote. And that is what grabs my attention.
Also how this can get to more people, at all levels and among all ages. Even in places where it's real hard to get this kind of literature—like in the prisons, in the schools where this is not what they teach and in the universities, even there, right? I think people don't know about this kind of revolutionary theory. So, there is a way to get this into their hands.
I think that this event is going to be a chance to project the potential of BAsics. I think that this is something that is going to mark like a beginning. I think this event is going to have, is going to contribute, a lot of people, in a real, real big way, especially as part of the campaign to make Avakian's name a household word, as well as his work. And the campaign's leader is alive and has the ability to lead this revolution. There isn't anyone else out there who wants to do this, but he is doing it and has been working for this all this time.
But I think that this event is very important. And it's more important that more people be there. And especially, well, I have a question when I find myself with all these people who have different viewpoints, who have different ways of thinking. And I'm not just talking about different political lines that many have. We also want folks to come. We are finding people who want change but aren't sure if revolution, communism is the change they want. But even so, they want to know about this and get into this.
And there are also others who are kind of curious, like about these people who have been around some time doing all this work, who have a long time doing this. And they have conviction and they have a Manifesto and a strategy and now they have a book called BAsics. And a celebration that will have all these well-known performers. Famous people. This alone is attracting the youth, people in the neighborhoods, intellectuals and others, revolutionaries and progressives.
Q: You've been out organizing for people to come to this celebration — what's that been like?
A: I don't have much time, but even so, I'm real excited about the event. Since I heard about it, I've been waiting for it, for the date to come around. We are about a week away, seven days away. We have maxed out. Well, really what I'm trying to do is get the word out about the event to everybody. Take out the invitation to all the places—the stores, people I know, neighbors, friends, invite them. Aside from explaining it to people, tell them it's a celebration. It's a political-cultural event, but it's a celebration.
Well, sometimes it's a bit hard at times to imagine it. A lot of people don't know BAsics, they don't know Avakian, they aren't familiar with the scene. But this is something that I think is real interesting, having all these different viewpoints in this event, and all these ways of looking at the world, and understanding it. In other words, this whole mix. I think it's about bringing out this elasticity. I think this will be a way to show what Avakian talks about, this elasticity, but with the core. But it's necessary to have this core as well. To do everything on this level. From there you can have a lot of ferment.
Some people are kind of like curious as well. The work that is done for the event is very important, however small it may be. I would like to see the place filled with people. And no ticket goes unsold and there is no one who doesn't get in. At least with people I know, I think they are going to be interested. And other folks I'm not sure about, you also have to invite them. And sometimes we have to do some work, like you have to argue a bit, struggle a bit. Tell them about the event. And convince them for real. But even so people will say, "Well, I don't know...." But these people need to know about the importance of this event.
That is, it's not easy to put on an event like this, any old day. This is a very special campaign. And the people who are going to be there, well, they are also going to be special. We need this tide of people, as many people as we can get. Invite them. And put up posters everywhere where people hang out. I think this is something that has helped me, has helped us get people to know about this event. And also selling tickets. And working it out for people like students or people who can't work. And also people who perhaps have more means and can contribute to this.
But I think that another thing that I have also wanted to do is call people I know, just call them up and tell them about the event, "Look, I got some tickets, and if you want...." Or even people who say, I can't go because I have to go to school, I have to work or whatever, you can tell them: "OK. Why don't you donate something for the event?" In other words, you are going to be there as well, by contributing so this event can happen.
Here's something else that is very important: fundraising. We need to pay for the place and continue promoting BAsics and keep on promoting all these activities we are doing. But this time around, I think it will be an opportunity for more people to know Avakian. And what better way than a celebration? A celebration of revolution and...
And I think that people are going to leave with a good taste in their mouth. The possibility of a different world, a new world. I think that for me, this is the orientation for attracting more people. I don't think I've done enough, because as I said, I don't have much time. But even so, I want to make more time to go out after work. That is, I just called someone or on the weekend, they can go out and put up a poster. Go to their house or a café, or people I know who... And artists, I think a lot of artists are going to be interested in this. I sort of know some people, like musicians, painters.
Q: Tell us about the fundraising project you were involved in, where an immigrant restaurant owner donated food that was sold in an artists' community to raise money for the event.
A: Well, I met someone through a friend. And we were talking to him about the event and that we need to raise funds. That we want to put on a lot of events. We want to have a party. And we are going to see what is most workable. And when this guy from the restaurant heard about this, he said to me: "I can donate something, I can donate food if you want. And you can sell it."
Q: What kind of food?
A: Well, it was what is called "pernil," roast pork, with rice and beans. In fact, when we went to talk to him, we ate in his restaurant. And the food is good. I didn't see what food he donated, but for sure it was good. I'm not sure how much was sold and all the details, but this is one of the things that is being worked on. I also sold him a couple of tickets.
Q: What motivated the restaurant owner to donate the food to raise money for the celebration?
A: Yes, well, this is an interesting thing because a lot of people I have invited also have their own thinking, they have their own line or leader. But this guy is interesting because he has posters of leaders from all over.
He thinks that people have to check out Avakian. That they have to read about him. He's open, despite thinking that... For him, this revolution is all the same thing, even though it's not. But even so, he wants to know, he wants to read. Recently, I sold him a copy of the Constitution [for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)]
Send us your comments.
Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
What People Are Saying
Revolution: Why you think this April 11 event is important?
Herb Boyd: One of the things about an event like this is it is an opportunity for a number of activists in our community to come together. We don't have these opportunities that often. And certainly as it resonates around a particular issue given the turmoil in the world—as Bob Marley said, "there's so much trouble in the world." And we'll get a chance to express ourselves about the conditions of the world and also the revolutionary potential that many of these people bring to this event. Having it on the college campus, I think is good too. You got a lot of young people there, having an opportunity to bring these people together, the Ruby Dees and the Cornell Wests and what-have-you, for our young people—many of them who have no idea who they are, what they represent. So having it on the campus, we'll have an audience there that I think will be very receptive to these ideas. There's some organizing, some action now, some movement, some mobilization on campus at this time. And so this will kind of fuel that, kind of help them along, push and encourage them and let them know they're not alone in the struggles that they have on campus, particularly with the tuition hikes they're facing. So you have a collection of individuals, of activists, performers, entertainers, thinkers coming together and that's an optimum time for us to really put some ideas out there to see how we can galvanize these and make for a stronger, more mobilized resistance and then push—really a strong push for revolution.
Revolution: This will be the first time for some people to come in contact with the work of Bob Avakian, on the occasion of the publication of BAsics.
Boyd: It's a perfect occasion I think for an opportunity to be introduced to him. A lot of people will be discovering him for the first time, but it won't be the last time. I think they'll find that his ideas, his thinking is so absolutely current and so many different perspectives, a whole diverse set of ideas that he brings to bear on issues of the day from a social, political and cultural standpoint. And certainly his book begins to capture—he's a very imaginative thinker, a very revolutionary thinker too. And I think some of those ideas, particularly as he talks about some of the issues of the day that pertains to capitalism, as it pertains to racism and imperialism, will be right on point for some of these students who are just beginning to push into this territory and make sense about what's going on in the world. And I think he has a way of simplifying some very complex issues. He uses anecdotes to do that. I think one of the things that he does, for example, on basketball, would probably capture the imagination of young people who are sports-minded, cause you know Bob has that background in sports so he knows how to go into that thing and pull those ideas together. So all of this coming together kind of culminates in what could be a very momentous occasion because you do have the book coming out, you have the event connecting with that, and you have these here eager, eager activists and students out there who are always looking for opportunities to get new ideas. You know how young people are, you can't hold them in one place long enough and I think he has the kind of ideas and programs that can really be relevant for our young people.
Revolution: What kind of responses have you gotten from people?
Boyd: Two of my students came in and had the palm cards [for the event]. I mean people get palm cards all the time, they look at it, go about one block and they throw it in the garbage can. So one of the students took a look at it and saw my name on it and said—wow. And so sometimes that means a lot to people because they can begin to have some kind of personal connection with something because they know somebody there. But if they come out to this event, they'll know a lot of people. They've heard the names before but it's good now to put a face with that and to hear some of those ideas connected to some of those names that are very popular—and some people they've never heard of before, particularly the younger folks who are connected with the program, I think that's going to resonate for them very well.
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
What People Are Saying
Revolution: Why did you decide to perform on April 11?
Maggie Brown: Because I really want change. I mean the music that is pumped out the most now, particularly on Black radio stations, it feeds us what they need us to think, they feed us to buy whatever they're selling and, it's ridiculous and we just accept it. I feel when you're gifted, to have the gift of music and be able to inspire people, you do have a responsibility, not just to make money.
From what I know about it, who's going to be there, what kinds of things will be going on—I see it allows us to come together, of like mind. There might be variations of philosophy, but it allows like-minded people to come together, be reinforced, inspired by each other. It allows us to talk about this common page we could be on.
Revolution: What do you hope will happen with this event?
Brown: It could sort of centralize communication and the base of constituents—people coming together, people that can be reached again. When it's time to make a move to do something else, they're already sort of in a group, that people coming from different organizations will be inspired to take information out, to have that kind of viral effect. My perspective is that words are powerful, it's very important, that the images we see, the music we hear, they need to be guided.
Revolution: Why should people be there on April 11?
Brown: In the words of one poet, the action be the dialect of liberation. It's action, standing up, it's not just saying you will, it's actually standing up. In the 60s, we would actually fight for an issue until we got results. We can't just tweet this. And so why be there? Because there's a spirit, a vibration that is caused by this action, by these souls coming together and to be there and catch that spirit, be infected by that spirit, it's strengthening—something you can't get by just hearing about it.
Revolution: Have you had a chance to see the book BAsics?
Brown: I'm new to Avakian and his quotes, but I'm impressed by him. His language and ability to state it real plain. And so far what I've read of the book, I agree with a lot of things that he says, the situation of Black people and so forth. And I think the book, his quotations, it's like sometimes people feel a certain way but they don't know how to articulate it. He's articulated some things that are needed and makes it accessible, more tangible. Sometimes the voiceless need a voice, they know it's wrong but they don't know how to say it in a way that can be heard and comprehended. But I was very glad I was sent a copy so I can look more into it...
It's so deep. I did get into the pages—the quote that says, "if you can conceive of a world without America,"—get your head around that. Then that's a baby step that's a necessary thing. It is hard to do, your mind fills with all kinds of question—what would you do... how would this happen, what about this? We've been so damn indoctrinated, we're so damn used to things.
The youth—I would say that they need to come catch the vibe. They're being inundated with a lot of cover up and as the poets of the Funky Wordsmyths put it, "Feed your child the truth/We gotta raise more inedible youth." They're not getting the truth and it's hard to operate and run your life and your goals when you're starting with a foundation of lies. And so I often say, everything they're selling we don't need to buy...
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
What People Are Saying
Revolution: Tell us why you think this event is important, and why you decided to be a part of it.
Leah Bonvissuto: In the world as it is today, there are a lot of things people have a right to be unhappy about. And a lot of times we don't know how to make a change. This is a group of people coming together who are making their own changes in their own ways, whether it's through spoken word or music or art or themselves as revolutionaries. So it's incredibly inspiring to see the way that they're making a change forward and bringing that to the audience. So that's really why I was inspired to become involved.
Revolution: Had you heard about Bob Avakian before this?
Bonvissuto: I had heard about him and been vaguely familiar with his work. But not nearly as much as I have in the last weeks since I've become involved. Kind of amazed that I hadn't.
Revolution: Have you seen the BAsics book yet?
Bonvissuto: Yeah, I'm almost half way through.
Revolution: What do you think?
Bonvissuto: I'm really enjoying it, yeah. It's wonderful.
Revolution: You're directing the on-stage program. How is that going?
Bonvissuto: It's been good. It's always challenging with something like this, because there's a lot of people involved and you want everyone to have the part of it that they want to have. But that's really rewarding too because you're figuring out the build of the event, who's going to play off to [who] well, and making sure that the energy is right. I love events like this, because you're not focusing on one performer or one style. It's really a mish-mash and very exciting.
Revolution: What do you think the effect of the event will be?
Bonvissuto: I'm hoping that the energy of the event will build in a way that people will, at the end of it, want to make a difference. They'll be inspired. But there are so many different ways to make a difference. And also just being more aware of Avakian and his words and what he's been up to most of his life... And to see how many people he has affected. I think that's really inspiring for people too. From the prisoners, who are writing letters, to the artists we've known.
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
What People Are Saying
Question: Revolution Books store carries textbooks for your class, and you take students to the store to expose them to different ideas and perspectives. Can you talk about your experience in getting students to buy tickets for the April 11 event?
Answer: Basically, that's what college is supposed to do. You're supposed to consider alternative perspectives. And that's why we visit Revolution Books. So I heard about the event. I simply went back to the students and said, this is the event, it's coming up April 11. I just put it to them, I didn't sell it to them. I said, would you like to go? And the students, without any prompting from me, they discussed it and said they wanted to go. The vast majority of students said they wanted to go... it's approximately 18 to 20 students. I suspect that when we go back to school on Monday, the rest of them will buy their tickets.
Q: What is your sense of why the students thought this event was important?
A: Some of the students have had class with me before. Some of them had gone to events on their own that the bookstore has held. I think some of them went to the Cornel West-Carl Dix event last year. Some have been active at the bookstore. So they spoke up and said this would be a good idea, something they would like.
Q: Did the students know about Bob Avakian before this?
A: Some of them have seen his film [Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About]. Last term we went down there [the bookstore], they played a film about him. This time the bookstore didn't play the film but they mentioned Avakian and gave out pamphlets. You see, our whole thing is that Revolution Books is an independent bookstore. We don't have many more small bookstores in New York City. We don't have that many bookstores, period. Also Revolution Books is about ideas. The people there are well read and conversant. And that's how I want my students to be.
Q: You yourself are coming to the event?
A: Yeah, of course. I'm going because the majority of students are going, so I'm going as well.
Q: Aside from your desire to open up students to different ideas, why do you think this event is important?
A: When I was in college, people were much more active and there were many more things going on. And this reminds me of the old days, of people questioning the system, people challenging the policies. And we're at a point in time in which it's a healthy thing to openly question the policies of the government and of society, to openly debate them and offer solutions. I think it's a healthy thing. It reminds me of when I was young.
Q: Have you seen the new book, BAsics?
A: I understand I'm going to get a copy of it, because I made a donation for the event. I've seen some of his writings, and I've seen him on film. He gave a 10-hour lecture a few years ago. And they [at the bookstore] played excerpts from the film, "Postcards from the Lynching," and those type of things. I think it's good that they raise very important issues. And I think it's essential to be critical, to have critical thinking and see things from alternative perspectives.
Q: We've got one week to build for this event. What would you say to someone who is trying to decide whether to go?
A: I would simply say that this is a challenging time to be living in. The economy is in shambles. We're involved in a third war. Things are moving very quickly, and it seems as if the people have no say in it. I would say that it's imperative that we listen to other voices, other perspectives and try as American people to get ourselves out of the jam we find ourselves in.
Q: This event will also be a celebration—of revolution and the vision of a new world.
A: I joke with them at the bookstore all the time—there's an old saying, life is what you do when you're planning for these other things. You're supposedly planning for all these great things down the road, meanwhile that's your life. So I tell them all the time, I enjoy the camaraderie at the bookstore. They're friendly, knowledgeable. This IS the revolution, the fact that we can get together, debate all kinds of topics, challenge each other, work collectively for different things. Just the fact that my students and I, we meet at the college... We walk a few blocks, we go to Revolution Books, they're more strident, they're more vocal. But that's because their ideas are in the background, so they have to be heard. I just enjoy the camaraderie, the discussion, the cooperation together, going to different events. It's great it's going to be a celebration. We've got to enjoy ourselves as we live this life.
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
What People Are Saying
Question: We are doing an interview to find out about the event coming up on April 11 on the occasion of the publication of BAsics. Well, what do you think?
Answer: I think that this is real interesting and that everybody should participate and collaborate in these activities. These are consciousness activities and even more so now that the world needs for some light to be shed on the situation because it's confusing. I think it's a good idea for people to go to this event so they can understand well... world events and it will be real good so they aren't fooled.
Question: Have you had any experience inviting people?
Answer: Around where I live... to the bakery inviting people so they go to the event, that it's important for people to attend the consciousness event, It's an event for becoming conscious.
Question: And what do you think about the atmosphere of the event?
Answer: Well, the whole atmosphere is positive, there is a lot of enthusiasm from people and getting back to remind them to be there. It's a great event, a magnificent event for all the people who live here in New York.
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
What People Are Saying
Revolution: Why did you decide to be a host for this event?
David Zeiger: The best way to put it is because I think that, I have felt for a long time, certainly that first of all, what's left of genuine progressive, radical, or revolutionary thought in this country has become so meaningless, really, with one exception and that's really the work Bob Avakian has done and the direction that he's taking and representing the potential for genuinely, not a return to revolution and socialism and communism, but a whole new way forward. I am kind of, I have some particular feelings about how communism—what it represents in the world today, and the enormous, I think difficulties that are raised by what's happened with the Soviet Union and now with China. And I think one of the things that I feel that he has done is recognized in a way that not too many people have, not just the huge advances that those revolutions were, but the reality of their reversal and the need that that creates to go way beyond what they accomplished. I was thinking about this this morning, I mean, I might get too obsessed by this, but the first great communist revolution became one of the superpowers threatening the world with world war in the 1960s and '70s and '80s, and then the other one [China] has become one of the most exploitative and oppressive societies on the planet. So that's not a small thing. And I think it's created a context where for most people in the world that's what communist revolution turns into, that's how they see it. And if there is ever going to be a new wave, a new upsurge of revolutionary communism, that has to be really confronted and I think that's the hope that I see in the work that Bob Avakian is doing and the contribution he's making.
Revolution: What do you hope the event will accomplish?
Zeiger: I hope it will broaden the realm of people who are looking, really seriously looking at Bob's work—into as many arenas of society as possible.
Revolution: Why should people be there April 11?
Zeiger: For one, it sounds to me like the program is going to be great, the musicians that are in the line-up that I am aware of, are well worth the price of admission just on their own. But I think, it seems to me it's going to present that artistry in a particular context that a lot of people have never experienced and that itself, the newness of, I think is very exciting. I think a lot of people are looking for something new, they're looking for something that represents, that feels like a new and innovative never before approach kind of thing. And I'm hoping that's what people will experience with this event.
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
The following was written by a young person who was part of a group of people who made significant contributions to the production and publication of BAsics.
March 29, 2011
I now have the actual book: BAsics!
This book is a special milestone in a lifetime dedicated to ending the horrific suffering that humanity endures every day and bringing a far better world into being. It is a distillation of the most advanced and comprehensive understanding on the planet of why the world is the way it is and the fact that it doesn't have to be this way; of the emancipatory heights that the people of the world can reach; of what it will take to reach those heights; and of what is required of people, both individually and collectively, in the process of straining towards those heights. It is a vehicle through which great numbers of people can be newly introduced to this understanding, and to the person who has developed that understanding. It is a historic tool with the potential to change how huge numbers of people, including whole new generations of youth, look at revolution and communism, and—more broadly—how they understand the world that is and the world that could and should be. It is a means to inspire, empower, and enable masses of all strata to contribute, in different ways, to building for a much brighter future. It is a major tribute to the author's burning hatred for oppression and injustice; his dedication to, love for, and confidence in the masses; his scientific breakthroughs in grasping the process required to reach a world free of all exploitation and oppression; his advances in understanding how to properly relate to ideas, contradiction, and people; his humor; and his appreciation and knowledge of many different spheres of human experience.
The book also looks really good! In particular, the front cover is lively, glossy, eye-catching, and distinctive, and commensurate with the content beyond that cover.
A tremendous amount of work went into all aspects of this publication, both in the immediate sense—in terms of the work done by many different people—and, even more importantly, in the longer-term sense, in the sense that decades of work and commitment informed this publication.
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
The following talk was given by a comrade at Revolution Books in NYC.
I want to open by recognizing the people who chose the quotes and supplements, translated many of them, conceptualized the layout and design, did the proofing, did the portrait, raised the money, and even in some cases hauled the book here on an airplane with them so that there could be plenty of copies to build this event... and recognizing, of course, most of all the author himself. What a wonderful achievement and powerful tool!
I want to start with a very serious point we've made a lot and made before, but which bears continual repeating and re-grounding ourselves in. In the words of our Manifesto, communism is at a crossroads where it faces the question: either vanguard of the future or residue of the past. And the Manifesto is very sharp on the stakes in that: residue of the past is not some harmless thing, but a form of "betraying the masses of people throughout the world for whom the communist revolution represents the only road out of the madness and horror of the present world and toward a world truly worth living in."
Right now, communism is caught in a political and ideological encirclement and we badly need to fight our way out of it. We can't on our own make revolution the dominant discourse in society—but we can and we'd better make it something with much more initiative, or we run the risk of the people on this planet not even having access to the only thing that can liberate them... at a time when the stakes have never been higher for humanity.
But I also want to raise the other side of the coin. Yes, our movement is fighting for its life. But it is not an entirely bleak and dead landscape we do our work on. In fact, there is plenty going on. And if a situation like that in Egypt developed here today... would we be ready? Would we be able to do what is said in the Party's statement on strategy (which is included in BAsics, by the way) in those kinds of situations where "the system is shaken to its foundations...deep cracks appear and magnify within the ruling structures and institutions...the raw relations of oppression are more sharply exposed...conflicts among the powers that be deepen, and cannot be easily resolved and it becomes much more difficult for them to hold things together under their control and keep people down"... If and when that happens, will there be a truly revolutionary movement that would be able to call the legitimacy of the system and the right and ability of the ruling powers to keep on ruling "seriously and directly into question"?
We don't need to have millions going into such a situation; but we do need, if we are going to really be able to go make something liberating out of it, thousands who have been trained, oriented and organized to lead millions. We have to get to that point. We'll try our hardest to wrench what we can for emancipation out of such a situation if it presents itself, but we don't want to sum up at the end... "if we only had really taken our own understanding seriously...."
To use the old coach's cliché, luck is when preparation meets opportunity. You don't want to somehow get the breaks that get you into the Olympic trials, only to end up regretting those days that you decided not to run up the hills because you were tired and you did hills last week and part of you felt that, really, you'd never get a real chance anyway. NO.
Which leads me to the campaign, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have." This campaign is designed to break out of this metaphorical encirclement, and get into a different position. The campaign began nearly two years ago with three goals:
Now, there is a very good editorial that appeared in our paper a few weeks ago entitled "A Reflection... An Invitation... And a Challenge." And it goes quite a bit into the importance of Bob Avakian. It makes the point: BA is the single greatest resource our movement has. There's a lot of other material we've written going into why this is so, and there is this great new book—BAsics—which lets you find out for yourself. I'm not going to try to go into the depth of that tonight. I'll leave it for now at what's said in the Party's recent statement on strategy which calls on people to make this leadership known as an essential element in that strategy:
Bob Avakian has dedicated his life since the 1960s to the cause of revolution and communism. While providing practical leadership to the Party and the revolutionary movement, he has deeply studied and summed up the world historical experience of the communist revolution and the socialist societies it has brought into being—the great achievements and the serious problems and errors—and has studied many other fields of human experience and knowledge. He has advanced the science of communism and made decisive breakthroughs in the theory, method, and strategy of revolution and the final goal of communism throughout the world. It is crucial for growing numbers of people to know about and study his talks and writings...to defend and protect him...to take up the leadership he is providing, which opens new pathways for revolution.
Many were here for discussion of this in conferences last May—where we went deeply into this. Some of the ideas that are now being used to promote this book were developed back then. And we've made important and significant progress in this campaign since those conferences.
All this, along with other things like the activities of people in Arizona, the Carl Dix/Cornel West program, "All Played Out,"—again, some of which were not directly related to the campaign and some which were—have accomplished very important progress, but we cannot yet say that we have reversed the trajectory.
And it's at this point where BAsics comes in. If you've had a chance to read into this at all, you should be able to see that this is a potentially very powerful tool for all three objectives that we're fighting for.
BAsics, in a crisp and concise way, really gives people a sense of the character and the scope of the revolution that we're fighting to bring into being. This book really shows you what it means to make revolution in the 21st century. It gives you a map to the new synthesis of communism. Now it's a map—it's not the whole terrain itself. But like a good map, it gives you the lay of the land, it lets you know what to expect, it gives you a sense of the paths to pursue in order go deeper. And it answers, in a very powerful way, some very big and fundamental questions that are on the minds of at least tens of thousands of people today in the U.S. and many more internationally: "What kind of world are we living in?" "Is a better world really possible, and if it is what would it be like?" "What is needed to get to that different world?" "How do I understand the world around us and this process of changing it more deeply?" "What does it mean to live a moral life in this society once I have this understanding?" "And what is my responsibility—what is our responsibility—in this whole process?"
BAsics brings together, in an extremely accessible but still substantive way, what BA stands for—and you get a sense of who he is as well. There is nobody who can read this with an open mind and in good faith, and NOT come away having a sense of the sweep of the person's work and the range of the questions he's applied himself to... and the method and approach he has developed in doing this. This book—along with the memoir From Ike to Mao and Beyond and the Revolution talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About—should be a way that millions of people, potentially, can get to know who BA is and what he's all about.
But this book does something else as well, and this should not be in any way underestimated—this really does provide a big part of the basic way to train the thousands who must lead millions when, to return to the statement on strategy, there are jolts in the normal workings of things and "situations [arise] in which many more people are searching for answers and open to considering radical change." We want to get to the point and we are working to get to the point where we are bringing forward, orienting, organizing and training in a revolutionary way thousands, while reaching and influencing millions... so that, "when there is a revolutionary situation, those thousands can be a backbone and pivotal force in winning millions to revolution and organizing them in the struggle to carry the revolution through." And BAsics is a major part of that training.
I couldn't help but think, in reading over this book, about experiences I had as a radical student, when we would go in and work with the local chapter of the Black Panther Party—how at the end of the day, whatever we had been doing, we'd get together and read what the chapter leader would call a "functional quote" from the Red Book—the quotations of Mao Tsetung. And we'd get into it and wrangle together over how we saw it and how it applied to what we had done that day and how it all connected to revolution.
I mentioned this to another comrade and she told me about the first time she went to a study group led by the Revolutionary Union, the main forerunner of the RCP. They too read a quote from the Red Book and then everyone said what they thought it meant and the people who were leading it would help people get in deeper, penetrating into the essence of it and making connections. And then some people could and did go on to study the works that the quotes came from.
This book you have can and will play a similar role in the years to come... and with the communism that BA has, in important respects, taken beyond Mao. You could easily have very vibrant discussion groups, led by people with many different levels of conversancy with the material, that would take off from a single quote. Just look at the first quote in every chapter, for instance; I could imagine very rich discussions which just took off on people responding to one of those, and then yes, there being leadership but leadership that could be wielded by many different people. And you also have the source material with each quote that lets you go deeper.
Now BAsics should play a role in our own wrangling and reflection, and that will be very important. This is going to give everyone new angles on BA. I'll tell you, I've been looking at lots of things anew, and from different angles, in the few short days since I got it. But it will also be for those times when both veterans but also people who are newer to the movement take copies of the paper or some other material out to friends and acquaintances, and get hit with the questions. You know the questions. "What about human nature? What's your plan to make revolution? Don't you guys say the ends justify the means? Why are you so much against religion? What were the mistakes of the previous socialist societies—and how will you prevent them? Aren't the rulers too powerful? Can't we reform America? Why do we need leaders, and if you're all about unleashing the masses, why should we promote individual leaders?"
The answers to all of these are in BAsics, and very accessible. Those questions you get hit with will become something you welcome, because you know they're going to force you to get back into the work, in a different way, and the answer is going to be there for you.
So that's one extremely important dimension of this: training these thousands, today. And, also, through the distribution of this book attracting those thousands who WILL be trained.
But I want to return to the earlier point about BAsics also being a way for people very broadly to "get to know BA" and what he's all about. And here I want to talk about the dynamism that can get unleashed when people DO get to know this leader.
Let's look at this event on April 11, the celebration of revolution and the vision of a different world, being held on the occasion of the publication of BAsics. This focuses up our launch of this work—it is crucially important to getting this book out there. And there are lessons to be drawing from and applying what has already been done. Have people read the host committee statements or similar statements like that of Emory Douglas—and not just read them, but reflected on them and thought about what they reflect and mean? It's not "one size fits all"—it's quite diverse—and it's people bringing their own viewpoints into the mix, and changing the mix—and changing themselves, no doubt—as they do so. People are responding to this even while they are still thinking about revolution, and in some cases may feel fairly certain that such a revolution will not happen or perhaps even feel that it should not happen. They find the most radical parts of their spirit or their aspirations, but also their biggest questions, if you will, drawn forward by this person. And everyone here should be challenged and enriched in our understanding by what people are saying and raising, and by the fact that from all these diverse viewpoints, people have found themselves wanting to make this happen.
This also goes for the people performing, some of whom have also made statements and others of whom will show us that night, in their art, a great deal of how this work and these concepts of revolution and the vision of a new world move them. You can hear quite a bit of that in William Parker's version of "All Played Out." This is no small thing, and we should think deeply about the diverse places people are coming from and the different ways that they are finding to contribute, and that should enable us ourselves to do better at building this event, but even more it should give us a deeper grasp of the kind of movement for revolution we are leading, and the kind of revolution we are making. We have to grasp the depth of this, and break with the fetter in our own thinking that rules people out, that in effect says to people—for instance, well-off people, even very very well-off people—"you have no visionary or radical or justice-loving side to you"—and deprive both them and the movement for revolution of their participation and support.
At the same time, there is the latest wave of letters from prisoners. And they're bringing something different, in a lot of ways, into this. Yes, they have their own diversity, which we should value and be very alive to, but you also do get a sense of those whose life is lived on the desperate edge finding something very real and very important in BA. There are literally millions and millions with the life experience of those prisoners—to give a statistic in this "land of the free," 31% of Black adult men have felony records. There is great potential here... and for these prisoners as well, they have found ways to contribute to making this event happen.
Are we getting this? Are we understanding what's involved in something as seemingly modest as the people who made dinners in the project to raise money? Or the person who sleeps in their car but donated $400? Do we understand the potential here... and the responsibility?
And there is, or there should be, interaction between the responses from those who "catch hell in the hardest way every day from this system" and the responses of others... and again, through that whole process, something higher should ultimately emerge. This is an example of what we mean when we say that we want to build a culture of appreciation, popularization and promotion of BA. As it says in BAsics... quote #35, page 100:
When we're taking this out, and working to build this culture of appreciation, promotion, and popularization [in relation to the leadership of Bob Avakian], we are not doing so in order to build a cult around a person, in some religious sense. We're doing so in order to enable people to engage the most advanced understanding we have of where society and humanity needs to go, and can go, what this body of work and method and approach has to do with that and why it's important in relation to that—why, in reality, it is indispensable for masses of people to engage with this in relation to—to serve, and to advance towards—that, and not anything else. Even the aspect, which is secondary but not unimportant—the aspect of the person Bob Avakian—is important only in the framework of, and on the basis of, being a revolutionary communist leader, the leader of a communist vanguard party which is capable of leading people toward the goal of revolution and ultimately communism—which has to continue developing its ability to do this, but has a basic foundation for actually leading people toward that goal. That is the point of all this.
Revolution and Emancipating Humanity – Part 2,
Revolution #115, January 13, 2008
As the quote says, this aspect of BA the person, while secondary, is nonetheless very connected to this work while at the same time bringing another dimension to it: who he is as a person—his whole history and the whole way he approaches things is something that people respond to. People do sense something about how this leader sees things that resonates with them. And again, from many many different points of view.
What people should experience on April 11 should prefigure the kind of revolutionary society that can and must be brought into being. This is not a revolution—this is not an understanding of communism—that is religious. It is not millennial—in the sense that one day everyone sees the light and becomes a communist, or that we seize state power and then the party keeps expanding and one day everyone is in the party, and then there are no more antagonisms between people. It is much more dynamic. It is about a solid core and a lot of elasticity on the basis of that solid core—again, to reach into BAsics... quote #26, page 58:
In order to handle this correctly, there are a couple principles that I think are very important. One was actually articulated for me in a conversation that I had not long ago with a spoken word artist and poet. I was laying out to him how I saw socialist society and some of the same points that I'm making here about how we have to hang onto power and keep things going in a forward direction toward communism, while on the other hand there is a need for a lot of experimentation in the arts, a lot of critical thinking that needs to go on in the sciences and all these different spheres, and you have to let people take the ball and run with it, and not supervise them at every point on everything they do. And I asked him, for example: could you write your poetry if every step of the way there was a party cadre there looking over your shoulder, examining what you are writing. He said "no way."
Then, as we discussed this for a while, he came up with what I thought was a very good formulation. He said, "It sounds to me like what you are talking about is 'a solid core with a lot of elasticity.'" And I said "yeah, you've really hit on something there," because that was exactly what I was trying to give voice to—that you have to have a solid core that firmly grasps and is committed to the strategic objectives and aims and process of the struggle for communism. If you let go of that you are just giving everything back to the capitalists in one form or another, with all the horrors that means. At the same time, if you don't allow for a lot of diversity and people running in all kinds of directions with things, then not only are people going to be building up tremendous resentment against you, but you are also not going to have the rich kind of process out of which the greatest truth and ability to transform reality will emerge.
Dictatorship and Democracy, and the Socialist Transition to Communism, Revolutionary Worker #1257, October 31, 2004
So even as this book gives people a living if basic sense of the new synthesis, and a sense of the future society—this program with which we aim to strongly impact the atmosphere—this too must GIVE a real sense of the future society, and of the solid core with a lot of elasticity.
This April 11 program really needs to be seen in two ways. First, the program is a key way to break this book out really big. But second, the program itself is very important again in especially the first two objectives of this campaign—putting revolution back on the map in people's thinking and making Bob Avakian a much bigger, much better known point of reference in society.
The editorial to which I referred earlier gives a vision:
We're sitting in a packed auditorium. The room is filled by masses from Harlem and other oppressed communities; students and teachers from high schools and universities around the city; some people who have traveled from outside New York City to attend the event; musicians; authors and poets; visual and spoken-word artists; journalists; scientists; progressive lawyers; activists involved in resisting various crimes of this capitalist-imperialist system; parents of those brutalized or killed by the police; and others. This crowd includes men and women, people of different ages, races, nationalities and sexual orientations. Together they take part in an exhilarating evening characterized by many diverse forms of revolutionary swagger and artistic expression... After the formal program ends, the room is buzzing as people from many different backgrounds, strata and spheres are trading questions and engaging in lively discussions and debates with one another about the event they have just experienced, about Avakian and BAsics, and about revolution and the vision of a new world. The evening models the very principles and relations—and the very type of world—that Avakian and the movement for revolution that he leads are working to bring into being.
That vision, if realized and if built off of, and if it reverberates through the media of all kinds going into and coming out of it, could mark a very important step forward—perhaps even a leap. But there is a lot of work and struggle and a lot of creativity and imagination and persistence required, and not all that much time, to make that vision materialize. This can't be done by putting our heads down and "just doing it." This too has got to be done with the vision of the new society... the solid core and elasticity... expanding the "we" in different ways...all this as part of preparing for revolution, part of hastening while awaiting. This has everything to do with influencing people very broadly but also accumulating forces for revolution—and here too there is a very important editorial in a recent issue of our paper that went into this, drawing from the statement on strategy, now posted online.
This editorial on accumulating revolutionary forces puts it this way:
When we make plans, do we comprehend the full scope of those who would want to contribute, in one way or another, and make sure that we are giving them opportunities to do so? Are we comprehending the ways that people with diverse views and levels of commitment coming together can actually create/unleash new energies? Are we building "we's" at all different levels... "we's" that interpenetrate with one another and create a whole greater than the sum of its parts?
Then it goes on to discuss the solid core in all this, which is critical to this—that this solid core has to be solid ideologically—which doesn't mean rigid, but means clear in outlook and strategy and objectives... it means grounded in... the BAsics!
The work which was clearly done in bringing forward and bringing together the hosts and the artists and the prisoners is not something different than solid core with a lot of elasticity. And that is the method we have to persevere in and deepen, in many cases, to take this to the level it needs to go.
This is what we have to do now. We here in this room have to commit to make this event be what it has to be—really fulfill what it has to do—to be something that launches this in a powerful and surprising way into the atmosphere, providing magnetism and dynamism to the effort to get this book out there and working its power and moving forward—qualitatively—in the impact of this campaign. This can be "a great night in Harlem"—this can be something historic—but that is up to the people in this room.
So I really want to speak to you personally now—to say to you that you need now to take these next two weeks and throw in on this with everything you have. If you are in a job where you really cannot or should not take a leave—if you are a teacher, for instance—then make sure that the time on this job and your time off it is spent spreading the word of this event to everyone you know... if you can take the time off, or if you can take the weekends, or extra days... then there are people here who can plug you into the crucial tasks that really have to be done to make this event happen on the scale and in the way that it needs to happen. If you got involved in this movement and got enthusiastic, but you maybe lost direction or connection or other things happened in your life, now is the time to jump back in with both feet for these two weeks at least... if you are just getting into this and are not sure of what you can do, we have ways you can contribute and learn... if you have talents or connections or initiatives you want to take, we have room for all that... if you've been into this and you are down with this, then step it up to another level for this week.
Our plan tonight is NOT to start with a big discussion, and only then organize people once everyone is leaving or about to leave. Our plan is to go directly from this talk into the organizing part, and then I'll stick around and talk informally with whoever wants to after that. So I'm going to remind people of the two points I made at the beginning about the times we're in and the reason for this campaign—to reverse the trajectory where communism is fighting for its life and get into one where it has increasing traction and attraction in society... and to prepare so that when one of those jolts talked about in the strategy statement, of the kind we are witnessing today in the Middle East and North Africa, to prepare so that there will be a movement strong enough and grounded enough to make something good out of that. And I'm going to close with a quote from BAsics... quote #32, page 65:
We should not underestimate the potential of [the new synthesis] as a source of hope and of daring on a solid scientific foundation. In the 1960s, when the Black Panther Party emerged on the scene, Eldridge Cleaver made the pungent observation that the old revisionist Communist Party had "ideologized" revolution off the scene, but the Panthers had "ideologized" it back on the scene. In the present period in the U.S., revolution has once more been "ideologized" off the scene. And in the world as a whole, to a very large degree, revolution aiming for communism and the vision of a communist world—this has been "ideologized" off the scene—and with it the only road that actually represents the possibility of a radically different and far better world, in the real world, one that people really would want to live in and would really thrive in. The new synthesis has objectively "ideologized" this back on the scene once more, on a higher level and in a potentially very powerful way.
But what will be done with this? Will it become a powerful political as well as ideological force? It is up to us to take this out everywhere—very, very boldly and with substance, linking it with the widespread, if still largely latent, desire for another way, for another world—and engage ever growing numbers of people with this new synthesis in a good, lively and living way.
Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity – Part 1,
Revolution #112, December 16, 2007
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
From the New Book:
From chapters 4, 5, 6
Oppressed people who are unable or unwilling to confront reality as it actually is, are condemned to remain enslaved and oppressed.
Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind
and Radically Changing the World, 2008
The notion of a god, or gods, was created by humanity, in its infancy, out of ignorance. This has been perpetuated by ruling classes, for thousands of years since then, to serve their interests in exploiting and dominating the majority of people and keeping them enslaved to ignorance and irrationality.
Bringing about a new, and far better, world and future for humanity means overthrowing such exploiting classes and breaking free of and leaving behind forever such enslaving ignorance and irrationality.
Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind
and Radically Changing the World, 2008
The whole point of principle is that you have to fight for it when it is not easy to do. There is no need for principle if the only time it is applied is when it doesn't matter.
"Methods and Principles,"
Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy, 2005
There is not one human nature. There is not some uniform and unchanging way that everybody is and how everybody sees the world. Human nature has different meanings in different times and for different classes and groups in society.
Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible,
What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian.
Available at revolutiontalk.net and in a DVD set from RCP Publications.
If you have had a chance to see the world as it really is, there are profoundly different roads you can take with your life. You can just get into the dog-eat-dog, and most likely get swallowed up by that while trying to get ahead in it. You can put your snout into the trough and try to scarf up as much as you can, while scrambling desperately to get more than others. Or you can try to do something that would change the whole direction of society and the whole way the world is. When you put those things alongside each other, which one has any meaning, which one really contributes to anything worthwhile? Your life is going to be about something—or it's going to be about nothing. And there is nothing greater your life can be about than contributing whatever you can to the revolutionary transformation of society and the world, to put an end to all systems and relations of oppression and exploitation and all the unnecessary suffering and destruction that goes along with them. I have learned that more and more deeply through all the twists and turns and even the great setbacks, as well as the great achievements, of the communist revolution so far, in what are really still its early stages historically.
From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from
Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist,
A Memoir by Bob Avakian, 2005
If you don't have a poetic spirit—or at least a poetic side—it is very dangerous for you to lead a Marxist movement or be the leader of a socialist state.
"Materialism and Romanticism: Can We Do Without Myth?"
Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy, 2005
(quote originally published 1990)
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
CHECK IT OUT:
When was the last time you saw portrayed on film scenes and the story of the Zionist ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, the brutal occupation of Palestine by Israel, and a sympathetic portrayal of the 1987 Intifada and the struggle of the Palestinian people to liberate themselves? Miral is a new movie coming into theaters starring Freida Pinto (from Slumdog Millionaire) and being featured on TV morning talk shows. It starts in 1947 with the unjust UN mandated partition of Palestine and traces through the lives of 3 generations of Palestinian women—their oppression and their struggles. It is based on a semi-autobiographical novel written by a Palestinian woman. While its vision and understanding of the road to liberation of Palestine fall short, this is an important movie coming at a time when the whole pivotal question of the Israeli occupation of Palestine is being shoved out of sight by the Western media and the imperialist powers—even as millions of people in the Middle East are rising up against decades and decades of oppressive rule.
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
Discussion on the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)
The publication of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) by the Revolutionary Communist Party is a bold and visionary act.
I have read and studied the document. As someone who has spent three decades studying, practicing, and teaching law in the U.S.A., and as a student of history, including the history of the approaches to law in the Soviet Union and the People's Republic of China (before capitalism was restored in both countries), the Draft Proposal gives me hope for the future.
It is based on a frank summation of both the advances and problems of past revolutions. And it plainly stands head and shoulders above the U.S. Constitution, that blood soaked document built on an edifice of slavery, near genocide of Native American people, wars of conquest and empire, racism, degradation of women, and exploitation of wage labor.
There are many things worthy of discussion and admirable goals worth striving to achieve in the Draft Proposal Constitution. But I want to single out one provision in particular in this letter. Because this should be stated very directly: this provision, even standing alone, is ample reason to support the Revolutionary Communist Party and the revolutionary movement it is building. To say this is not to take away from the tremendous achievement represented by the rest of the Draft Constitution.
On page 23, under "Defense and Security," the following provision appears:
"3. The New Socialist Republic in North America will not develop, and will not use, nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction. It will wage a determined and many-sided struggle to rid the world of all such weapons—and it will do this as part of the larger, overall struggle to defeat and dismantle all imperialist and reactionary states and forces and to advance toward the achievement of communism, throughout the world, which will finally make it possible for the desires and dreams of countless human beings throughout history, and the fundamental interests of humanity, for a world without war, to at long last be realized." (emphasis added)
Today, the U.S. rulers hold over the heads of the world's people (including the people of the U.S.) the threat of destruction in the form of thousands upon thousands of nuclear weapons, as well as many other weapons of mass destruction, known and unknown. They hypocritically accuse others of "terrorism," and seek to deny others the ability to acquire such weapons while asserting their own "right" to massively stockpile and brandish them, even refusing to disclaim the "right" to use them in a "first strike," a preemptive war against their enemies.
These weapons have no conceivable "defensive" purpose. They are designed for the purpose of incinerating entire cities, not targeting opposing armies, but killing the babies in their cribs, the sick in the hospitals, the disabled in their wheelchairs, the children in their schoolrooms, the workers in the factories, the farmers in the field, the families in their homes, the prisoners in their cells, and the shopkeepers in their stores. Their use will destroy the trees and flowers, kill the birds and butterflies, poison the air, soil, and water for generations to come, and cause cancer and birth defects in any life that manages to survive.
The massive use of such weapons in a major war threatens the extinction of all life on this planet. The terms "crime," "war crime," "crime against humanity," and even "genocide" are inadequate to truly describe the enormity of the evil that would result from their widespread use.
The U.S. imperialists have previously shown their callous disregard for life and unconcern about murdering civilians by dropping atomic bombs on two cities in Japan, and are still the only ones to have actually used such terroristic weapons. They did so without even a warning, even though some scientists in the atomic bomb development project suggested that the rulers of Japan first be given a demonstration of the weapons on an uninhabited island rather than dropping them on a populated city. And a fair reading of the historical facts suggests that they may have been motivated by purposes of gaining political advantage over the then socialist Soviet Union, to assure that the U.S. alone would be the occupier of defeated Japan, unlike Europe, where half the continent was ripped from their grasp for a period of time.
The stance of the Draft Proposal Constitution is diametrically opposite. It promises that the proletariat once in power in North America "will not develop, and will not use, nuclear weapons or other weapons of mass destruction." Just as we will not stoop to the use of torture, even against the worst of enemies, we will not "fight" in this manner. The ends do not always justify the means.
Part of taking a stand for humanity as a whole, of placing the interests of the worldwide revolution and transition to communism above the narrow interests of any one country, even a victorious revolution on one continent, is a refusal to wield such inhuman weapons in purported "defense," even if it means setback and temporary defeat.
In the past, the socialist Soviet Union and the socialist People's Republic of China did develop such weapons, and the parties leading those countries sincerely then believed that this was necessary for defensive purposes, and to stay the aggressive hand of the U.S. imperialists. I believe that the stand taken in the Draft Proposal Constitution reflects a more advanced understanding—that this was mistaken.
It would be immoral, in the most profound meaning of the concept, to use weapons targeting whole cities, even in supposed defense. History, and all sane persons, condemn categorically the Nazis who marched 9-year-old children into gas chambers in concentration camps, and will ultimately pronounce the same verdict on those who drop nuclear weapons on cities.
Should imperialist enemies of a newly victorious North American socialist revolution send their nuclear missiles flying to destroy us, which certainly could happen, the socialist government would not respond in kind, compounding the crime and destroying the lives of millions of innocent people. Instead, it would denounce the crime, repeat its determination not to resort to the use of weapons threatening all life everywhere, and call on the people of the country or countries that launched such a horrendous attack to rise up and throw off their own brutal barbarian rulers.
This provision in the Draft Proposal Constitution is a courageous, fearless, principled embodiment of internationalism, of placing the interests of all of humanity, and of the worldwide revolutionary process first. The RCP should be proud of raising the bright red banner of revolution in this manner, of setting a moral and political standard higher than has ever been strived for before.
Many other provisions in the Proposed Draft Constitution deserve to be discussed in detail, and I hope they will be. But this provision should be singled out and emphasized as something that almost everyone can and should rally around.
With revolutionary greetings!
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
A letter from a prisoner on the Constitution
November 28, Sunday, 2010
...I particularly liked how Chairman Avakian's new synthesis, particularly the principle of the "solid core with a lot of elasticity," was given broad expression to throughout this whole document. Instead of perpetrating the same erroneous mistakes of past Communist vanguard parties and states, one walks away from this Constitution with a reassured confidence and belief in genuine communist leadership. After I read all ninety-one pages, it made me proud and hopeful to know that there's at least one Communist Party in existence, which has approached communism as an evolving science, capable of learning from its past mistakes, while upholding the most positive features of proletarian revolution throughout its history. For that reason, I must salute Chairman Bob Avakian's leadership for that.
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
Editors' note: Phil Ochs (1940–1976) wrote and sang hundreds of songs in the 1960s, including the bitingly ironic "Love Me I'm a Liberal."
For those enraged at the putrid and revolting culture of present day USA: with its white American supremacy and never-ending wars for empire; its ugly consumer parasitism side by side with much of humanity barely surviving; and the unending onslaught of degradation of women in society and the world—to you out there on the front lines of struggling to revolt against all of this ideologically, politically and culturally; to those deeply disturbed by the world "as it is" but wondering can there be something different, the feature length documentary Phil Ochs: There But For Fortune will inspire a vision of what a truly liberating political and cultural revolt can look like and provide a lot of raw material to sort through and reflect on.
The filmmaker Kenneth Brower has created something which is very moving and which in many ways is very insightful on the life and times of Phil Ochs. Brower examines Ochs and his music as it evolved and grew in relation to and within the contradictions of the social turmoil and struggle of the 1960s. Using archival footage of the times, footage of Ochs and a lot of his music, interspersed with commentary from those who lived through the times and knew Phil Ochs, Brower has brought to life a time where so many people together, in their schools, their homes, in the cafés and concerts, and on the streets—everywhere—were fighting the power while at the same time struggling among themselves to figure out what kind of world we could create which would be a better place for humanity. Phil Ochs was very much in the middle of so much of this. Ochs was a uniquely talented artist inspired by and engaged with the many struggles of the 1960s. Ochs' music and lyrics combined a passionate outrage at the news of the day and satirical and often polemical insights into the contending political ideas being fought out.
While this film is really poignant in how it upholds and celebrates Phil Ochs and the times of the 1960s, to me, this documentary also stands out in the angle from which it explores the trajectory of the '60s and how this impacted on Ochs as a person and artist. He was an artist who threw his life, heart and soul into the times, and his heart was broken and his soul shaken as much of the movement (and his own illusions) ran up against limitations in the politics and ideology upon which much of the movement was based. There is a lot of raw material to reflect on and try to further understand in this—but while the "conventional" narrative on the movement of the '60s is some variation on the themes that the people and movements of the '60s could not live up to its idealism or that sections of the movement took things "too far" and were too radical, this movie does not do this. Instead, in looking at the limitations of much of the movement of the '60s, the film actually explores the significant strains of the mass movement of the 1960s which to a large part, even in much of its most radical expressions, was based on really believing that justice and equality could be struggled for and won within the political structures of the USA. At a certain point it became clear that the system—even confronted with the radical and revolutionary struggles of the times—was not going to change its color, was not going to reform itself. The film shows how excruciating a time this was for Ochs, and puts this directly in the context of the period where many people began to realize that no matter how deeply the crimes and lies of imperialism were exposed, how many people took to the streets to fight these crimes, how much of a truly liberating culture was brought forward by social relations and artistic creativity—the system in the U.S. was not going to fundamentally change. This was a "crossroads" period, which was confronted by and responded to differently by the various political forces and movements of the times. While this movie does not examine in any detail the various roads different radical political and cultural forces took in response to this realization, it does directly and sharply pose the question—the system's refusal to change—that people were confronting, and does follow the trajectory Phil Ochs took in response to this.
I think this film provides a lot of positive things to celebrate and learn from those times; and there is also a lot of food for thought and reflection in terms of why the movement was not able to confront and move forward through the realization that the system really was not reformable. While all the reasons the movement of the '60s ebbed, lost the political initiative in the struggle against the system, cannot be reduced to this one question, this was an important one and in significant ways still confronts many people who really do not like what this system does in the world, but in different ways do not resist it (or resist it in the ways necessary).
* * * * *
As I sat in this movie, and even more afterwards, what really struck me was how confusing and disorienting that "crossroads" period was for so many people. Many in the movement felt they were hitting their heads against the wall in fighting the system and could not find the answer of what to do when it became clear that the system (the basic political and economic institutions and leaders) was not going to transform its oppressive and exploitive ways in the world at large or within the U.S. Many just felt "burnt out," as the answer of "what to do next" in terms of mobilizing the people and how to continue fighting the power was not easily understandable. It was not at all clear, and from the movie one gets the sense that this was a real burden on Phil Ochs, that anything of lasting and sustainable value was going to come out of the radical political and social movements of the 1960s. There was a lot of contention around how to go forward, what were the goals and objectives and how to give leadership to carry forward. There certainly was not in the broadest movement and culture a spontaneous move towards building a revolutionary party; and in fact among the more radical sections of the movement there were sharp differences on what to do and how to lead. As the movements and rebellions of the 1960s were ebbing it was not at all clear that any kind of leadership would emerge which would constitute a radical and revolutionary force which would continue to fundamentally challenge the system, continue to attempt to revolutionize society and fundamentally transform the system and the world.
While many people took many different paths away from the revolutionary road broadly represented by the 1960s, there were forces within the movement which were struggling to understand the limitations of the movement up to that time, why the movement was ebbing in some crucial respects, recognizing that even as things were ebbing there was the necessity and basis to move forward and form a vanguard revolutionary party. Within the broad movement of the 1960s there had developed a revolutionary and communist trend (which is not touched on in this documentary) and in different ways these forces were influenced by the same illusions and strains the movement as a whole was facing. In fact, there was a crossroads period in the early-mid '70s where these forces also were struggling among themselves as to what kind of party it should be; or whether it was even right for such a party to form and take responsibility to lead a communist revolution in the U.S.
Even for someone like myself who lived through those times and that process, it brought home the wrenching and rupturing wrangling we went through to form this party (RCP). It was no sure thing, there was a very protracted process, which included theoretical debate around the critical issues of what kind of revolution is needed, issues of revolutionary strategy, and very closely linked to these issues, the question of what comprises revolutionary leadership. Organizations and people you had worked with closely (and in some cases with whom you had deep personal ties) were locked in tense debate and conflict; there was polarization and people you had learned from and always thought would be with you were struggling sharply for different roads and different lines. How to sort out someone's intent, their reasoned arguments and strategic thesis was not so easy. Many people became disoriented and dropped out of the process. In all of this the leadership of Bob Avakian was decisive. On one level his basic stand stood out: yes, this is very hard, we have been fighting for many years and it is true, the system is not going to reform itself—but the system is still committing the same crimes all over the world; humanity still needs to be emancipated, so we have to figure things out. And it really stood out that he was scientific about it—in his polemics and arguments there were no cheap shots against individuals or organizations; there were no emotional plays directed to appease this or that group. He was very materialist in trying to figure out a revolutionary strategy, he looked at things on a world scale for all of humanity, not just for this country or for this or that group within this country; and he tirelessly sorted through contradictions to try to develop a political line and revolutionary strategy to lead. I really would encourage you to read or re-read the chapters in Bob Avakian's memoir [From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist. A Memoir by Bob Avakian] about this period to get a living sense of all that was involved and to gain a deeper appreciation of his leadership and what it took to form this Party.
Finally...at the end of the movie Phil's daughter, Meegan, says Phil would be happy that people were celebrating his life with this movie; but he would also be angry that the things he fought against in the world have not changed. Well, Phil, we are also still angry and we are still here fighting, exactly because the world cannot be left "as it is"—there is still a need for revolution and a revolutionary transformation of this world.
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
Revolution: We're speaking at a time when the uprising in Libya is being met with brutal force by the Muammar Qaddafi regime. In Egypt, Mubarak stepped down under pressure of the mass revolt and the obvious prod from the military. So one of the big questions on people's minds is what's similar and what's different as between Libya and Egypt.
Raymond Lotta: It's an important place to start the discussion. The uprising in Libya is an expression of profound discontent in Libyan society. Broad sections of Libyan society, taking inspiration from events in Tunisia and Egypt, have risen against an oppressive regime. And this uprising in Libya is part of the wave of rebellion sweeping through the imperialist-dominated Middle East.
But when you compare events in Libya with those of Egypt, there are two major differences.
First, in Libya, you have a situation where imperialist intrigue is commingling with genuine and just mass upheaval. This makes things highly complicated.
In Egypt, the uprising was overwhelmingly a product of mass discontent against a U.S-backed client regime. But U.S. imperialism had a reliable base within the leadership and command structure of the Egyptian military. That military has been trained, financed, and equipped by the U.S. It's been the U.S.'s most vital asset in trying to stabilize the situation in Egypt to its advantage. I mean being able to stabilize from within the existing state apparatus... in order to maintain Egypt as a key flank of U.S. dominance in the Middle East. And the U.S. also has large, direct economic interests in Egypt.
Now the outcome of the uprising in Egypt has by no means been sealed. Protests are still erupting, people are debating what's been accomplished and what hasn't, and things are still in motion. But what I'm getting at is that U.S. imperialism has important capacities and assets inside Egypt.
That's not the case in Libya. You don't have that kind of military apparatus with such close ties to the U.S. The Libyan state structure—here I'm speaking of key ministries and sections of the security apparatus—is fracturing and splitting in response to the uprising and the pressures of imperialism. And the U.S. does not have the same kind of large economic holdings in Libya as it does in Egypt.
So this creates both necessity and opportunity for the U.S. and West European imperialists. They are reaching out to and seeking to bolster oppositional forces in Libya who might be the embryo of an entirely new neocolonial regime... one that would be a more pliant tool of Western interests. And it can't be ruled out that imperialist operatives have, from the very beginning of this uprising, been assisting some of the oppositional forces.
So as I said, while there is genuine and just mass upheaval, there are also significant elements of imperialist maneuvering involved. These are things that we need to analyze and understand more deeply.
Revolution: You mentioned two major differences.
Lotta: Yes. The second major difference between what's happening in Libya and the upheavals in other parts of the Middle East is Qaddafi himself. Muammar Qaddafi is not the same as Mubarak.
I know this is not the official story line of the State Department or the narrative put out on CNN about a crazed, autocratic ruler... but Qaddafi actually had popular support when he came to power in 1969, especially from sections of the intelligentsia and professional and middle classes. He had popular bases of support for many years of his rule.
For three decades, Qaddafi was viewed by many inside and outside of Libya as someone standing up for the genuine national interests of Libya... as someone who stood against imperialism and the Israeli occupation of Palestine.
And the fact is... Qaddafi was for many years a real thorn in the side of imperialism, especially the U.S. Let's not forget that in 1986 Ronald Reagan launched fighter attacks and bombed Libya's two largest cities, tried to assassinate Qaddafi, and in the bombings killed one of his daughters.
Qaddafi is not the same as the openly servile Hosni Mubarak... even though the Qaddafi regime never fundamentally broke with or fundamentally challenged imperialism.
Revolution: This gets us into the history of Libya and Qaddafi. It would be helpful if you could provide some background.
Lotta: Well, Libya did not really exist as a unitary state until after World War 2. It gained its formal independence in 1951.
In the late 1500s, the coastal regions of what is today Libya were conquered by the Turkish Ottoman empire. In 1910, Italian imperialism moved to colonize the area of Libya. Libya is strategically located in North Africa on the Mediterranean Sea. When Italy came to the imperialist banquet table, other colonial powers had already imposed their presence in the region. The British ruled Egypt. The French had colonized Algeria. From 1911 to 1943, Italy employed savage means to consolidate its rule in Libya. The historian Abdullatif Ahmida describes this as one of the most brutal colonizations of the 20th century.
Italy was on the losing side of World War 2. After the war, the U.S. and Britain put their weight behind a pro-Western constitutional monarchy in Libya headed by King Idris. He allowed the U.S. to set up Wheelus Air Base. It was one of the U.S.'s largest overseas military facilities... and the base was used for military training, missile testing, and for fighter and reconnaissance missions.
Revolution: Of course, Libya has been a major oil producer.
Lotta: Actually, it was only in 1959 that large oil deposits were discovered in Libya. U.S. and European companies moved in big time to set up production operations. The banking sector grew rapidly, especially after an oil pipeline to the Mediterranean Sea was finished. Oil revenues soared through the decade of the 1960s. But the foreign oil companies were getting the lion's share of earnings. And what oil wealth did return to Libya... it was concentrated in the hands of a small mercantile, banking, and speculator elite.
Poverty remained widespread. And the opportunities for a new middle class growing in connection with the oil economy... they were limited. So, mass resentment against the Idris monarchy was growing.
Then you had the impact of regional and world events. In 1967, Israel attacked Egypt and Syria with the support of the U.S. In Libya, students, intellectuals, and workers organized mass actions and strikes. There were also protests against the U.S. war in Vietnam. Unrest was spreading in the face of the Libyan government's total subordination to the West.
In the 1960s, a wave of national liberation struggles—in Asia, Latin America, and Africa—was battering imperialism and shook the international order. This aroused literally hundreds of millions throughout the world to rise in resistance. This was a time when a new nationalist spirit was being stirred, when ideas of Arab unity against imperialism were taking hold. It was a time when revolutionary China was influencing social forces and Marxism-Leninism was a big part of the ideological discourse. But the fact that the U.S. was under this kind of siege also provided openings for many different class forces who had been held down by imperialism. They saw new possibilities.
Revolution: So this was setting the stage for Qaddafi.
Lotta: Yes. Qaddafi was part of a group of young army officers influenced by the pan-Arabist and social reformist ideas of Gamal Nasser, the leader of Egypt. Qaddafi came from poor desert-tribal origins, and other radical-minded officers came from lower-class backgrounds. The military was one of the few institutions in Libyan society that afforded them any chance of training and mobility.
These young army officers were outraged by the corruption and subservience of the ruling regime. They saw themselves as the bearers of a new Libya. And in 1969, they organized a coup against the King and constituted a new government out of what they called their Revolutionary Command Council.
Revolution: Maybe you could say more about the program of Qaddafi?
Lotta: Qaddafi argued that Libya's national sovereignty had been bartered away, that foreign capital had been allowed to dictate to the Libyan people. He accused the old order of squandering Libya's oil resources and doing little to alleviate the suffering of the Libyan people.
He forced the U.S. to accelerate its timetable for closing down Wheelus Air Base. He moved to nationalize banks. He made the government a major stakeholder in the oil industry. He promised to develop agriculture and industry and did direct some funds into these sectors. He enacted social programs in the 1970s that over the next 20 years led to real improvements in mass literacy, life expectancy, and housing. These actions and polices had popular support.
But for all of Qaddafi's anti-imperialist rhetoric, this whole project rested on the preservation and expansion of Libya's oil-based economy. It rested on Libya's continued insertion into the global capitalist system... its division of labor and international relations of exploitation.
Qaddafi relied heavily on Western Europe as a market for Libyan oil. He used oil revenues to buy French jets, to attract German manufacturing capital to Libya, and even to become a major investor in Italy's largest auto company. Italy, the old colonial power, was allowed to keep its operations going in Libya.
Revolution: You've focused on the economic base of Qaddafi's program, but what about the other dimensions of what he was doing?
Lotta: Qaddafi harnessed oil revenues to restructure society. He was creating a social welfare system with particular political features. He set up "people's committees" at local levels in order to widen his political support and to redirect tribal and clan loyalties toward the central regime. At the same time, he outlawed unions and independent political organization and muzzled press criticism of the regime.
He used oil revenues to build up a large security and military apparatus... both to put down any internal opposition to the regime and to project Libya as a political model and regional force in the Middle East and Africa.
Ideologically, the Qaddafi regime combined social welfarism and pan-Arabism with retrograde values. Islam was made the official state religion. Women had more opportunities than before, but patriarchal Sharia law was made the foundation of legal-social codes. Qaddafi was vehemently anticommunist... and claimed to be finding a third way between capitalism and communism.
The reality was that Qaddafi was creating a state capitalism... based on oil revenues and beholden to world imperialism for markets, technology, transport, and investment capital.
Revolution: You're saying there was nothing authentically radical about this project.
Lotta: Qaddafi was changing things, but within the existing framework of imperialist dominance, capitalist property relations, and a complex web of tribal loyalties and regional divisions.
There was nothing truly transformative in terms of breaking with imperialism. There was nothing truly transformative in terms of the masses having the kind of leadership and radically different political state power that could enable them to remake the economy and society in a truly liberating direction.
Bob Avakian has this very incisive formulation about "three alternatives" in the world. Now I am paraphrasing here, but he basically says this. The first alternative is to leave the world as it is... which is totally unacceptable. Or you can make some changes in the distribution of wealth and forms of rule, but leave the basic exploitative production and oppressive social relations of society and the world basically intact. That's the second alternative.
Or, and this is the third alternative, you can make a genuine revolution. A revolution that aims to transform all relations of exploitation, all oppressive institutions, all oppressive social arrangements, and all enslaving ideas and values... a revolution to overcome the very division of human society into classes. That third alternative is the world proletarian revolution to achieve communism.
Qaddafi's program, his social and economic model, fits into that second alternative that changes some aspects of the status quo but keeps the oppressive essence of existing social order the same.
Revolution: What comes across in the general coverage of Qaddafi, the indictment that's made, is that he is this ruthless "strongman."
Lotta: You know, this notion of the "strongman"... it's a "straw man." It obscures the essence, the class essence, of things. This is what Marxism enables us to understand.
Look, all societies at this stage of human history are divided into classes. Leaders don't float in some ether. They concentrate the outlook, the methods, and aspirations of different classes. Qaddafi and those military officers who took power in 1969, what I was talking about earlier... they represented and concentrated the outlook of a radicalized sector of the petty bourgeoisie and national bourgeoisie of a nation oppressed by imperialism.
They felt stymied by imperialist subjugation. And from their class standpoint, the problem, as they saw it, was that Libya was getting a bad deal. They wanted to make market mechanisms, which are based on exploitation and the production of profit, somehow "work" for the benefit of the whole nation. They had this illusion that they would be able to wrench concessions from imperialism... and force imperialism to come to terms with them. But the fact is: global capitalism operates according to a definite logic and imposes its norms on these societies and economies.
These bourgeois nationalist forces claimed to speak for the whole nation. They saw their interests as being identical with the interests of all social classes in the nation. But there are dominant and dominated classes in these nations.
You know one of the slogans that Qaddafi raised, I think it's in his so-called "Green Book," was: "not wage earners but partners." In other words, here you have this system based on profit and integration into capitalist world markets, but somehow you could turn everyone into equal stakeholders. That was both populist rhetoric and illusion.
Wage earners, or proletarians, do not own means of production. In order to survive, they must sell their labor power to those who do command control over the means of production: the capitalists. The capitalist class exploits workers in the production process to make profit, and to continue to make profit on an ever-expanding scale. And when sufficient profit cannot be generated, wage-laborers are cast off. The basic condition of wage labor is its domination by capital and its subordination to the accumulation of capital. There is a basic antagonism between workers and capitalists.
In Libya, wage-labor is part of the foundation of the economy. In Libya today, there's 20 percent unemployment. The reality is that wage earners cannot be "partners" of capital.
Politically and ideologically, these aspiring bourgeois forces feared the basic masses... they feared that the masses would step beyond their reformist, let's-make-a-deal-with-imperialism program. And they tried to control and contain those on the bottom of society.
My point is that whatever idiosyncrasies Qaddafi might have... if you want to understand the Qaddafi program, you have to analyze the class interests and outlook that he represents and how those interests were interacting with the world situation. I mean, you can call Barack Obama "calm" and "worldly," or whatever, but what he's really about... is that he concentrates the exploitative and murderous interests of empire and the world outlook of an imperialist ruling class.
Revolution: Qaddafi held on for so long and did have those radical credentials.
Lotta: Yes. When Qaddafi consolidated power in the early 1970s, the regime had certain things going for it in world politics and world economics. To begin with, the U.S. was facing defeat in Vietnam and its global economic power was weakening. So that created some space.
Second, the Soviet Union was challenging the U.S. globally. Now the Soviet Union claimed to be socialist. But socialism in the Soviet Union had been overthrown by a new capitalist class in the mid-1950s. The Soviet Union became a social-imperialist power. By the mid-1970s, it was contending for influence and control in different parts of the world. Part of its global strategy was to build up client regimes in key areas of the Third World. The Soviet Union began offering economic aid, oil agreements, and diplomatic support to regimes like that headed by Qaddafi... and the Soviets became a major weapons supplier to Libya.
And there was a third factor. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the world oil industry was going through changes. The major oil companies were entering into new arrangements with oil producers in the Third World. Formal control over production was allowed to pass into the hands of Third World governments and their state oil companies. Imperialist domination was exerted through control over oil refining, marketing, technology, and finance. But now producer countries had more latitude at the production level... you have the Third World producers cartel, OPEC. And in the 1970s the price of oil was rising. These developments worked to Qaddafi's advantage.
Revolution: So all of this gave Qaddafi some maneuvering room economically and politically.
Lotta: Yes... but to do what? You see, bourgeois nationalist forces such as Qaddafi were neither willing nor able to lead the masses to break with imperialism and to carry forward a liberating social revolution. As I said, they chafed under imperialism but also feared the masses. Again, this has to do with their class nature of these rulers: they were held down by relations of imperialism but could not see beyond a world in which they control exploitative relations... rather than a world that has abolished exploitation.
So here you have Qaddafi... securing his hold on power... wheeling and dealing with imperialism... and seeking to modernize an oil economy subordinated to the norms of world capitalist production. Over 95 percent of Libya's export earnings were coming from oil, and in the 1973-83 decade, Libya became one of the three largest weapons importers in the Third World. This was distorted and dependent development.
As things unfolded, these national bourgeois forces in power evolved into the core of an oppressive ruling bourgeois elite dependent on and tied into imperialism.
On the international stage, Qaddafi criticized conservative Arab regimes and presented himself as the real champion of the Palestinian people's rights. He voiced support for African liberation. This was part of his popularity.
Revolution: In the 1980s, Qaddafi was demonized by the U.S. imperialists as a mad-dog ruler.
Lotta: Yes, but this had nothing to do with the repressiveness of the regime or Qaddafi's style of rule. I mean the U.S. was propping up brutal client regimes and "strongman despots" in Central America—and their human rights violations made Qaddafi look positively benign. The problem the U.S. imperialists had with Qaddafi was his close ties to the Soviet bloc... the problem they had was assertiveness in supporting certain radical movements and groups that might benefit the Soviet bloc at a time when the rivalry between the U.S. and Soviet-led blocs was heading towards a global military showdown.
In the 1980s, the U.S. ramped up the vilification of Qaddafi. Reagan provoked aerial fights with Soviet-made Libyan jets off the Libyan coast and launched that military attack on Libya that I referred to earlier. The U.S. set out to punish the regime with economic sanctions and diplomatic pressures. U.S. oil companies suspended operations.
Now, as I have mentioned, Libya has been a significant energy supplier to Western Europe. This was a source of tension between the U.S. and the West European imperialists. I think there is strong evidence that Reagan's military attacks on Libya were also aimed at bringing the West European imperialists more closely into line, as the face-off with the Soviet social-imperialist bloc was intensifying.
Under U.S. pressure, the UN imposed sanctions on Libya. These moves to isolate Libya began to pinch Libya's economy and periodic declines in world oil prices hurt the economy as well. And Libya's oil industry was in need of upgrading and new investment.
Then in 1989-91, the Soviet Union and its bloc collapsed. This marked a qualitative shift in international relations. It knocked a lot of the wind out of Qaddafi's project. He no longer had this great power backing. And the demise of the Soviet Union gave the U.S. new freedom—and it moved to exploit this new freedom in the Middle East and other parts of the Third World.
In this changed situation, Qaddafi began cultivating closer ties with the West European imperialists. By the end of the 1990s, relations were restored with Great Britain. Italy was allowed greater sway over Libya's oil and natural gas sectors.
Revolution: It does seem that the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003 was another turning point.
Lotta: I think that's right. It put more pressure on Qaddafi—would Libya be next? Qaddafi was also worried about a fundamentalist Islamic challenge to his rule. So he began making overtures to the U.S. After 9/11, the Qaddafi regime started sharing intelligence about al-Qaida-type forces with the U.S. In 2004, Qaddafi announced that he was giving up various nuclear and other weapons programs. The U.S. took Libya off its list of "terrorist states." Qaddafi became a valued ally in the U.S. war against terrorism. Bush gave the green light to U.S. oil companies to sign new contracts with Libya. Qaddafi began privatizing some sectors of industry.
I have to say... Qaddafi can't restrain himself in scraping before the imperialists. Last year he signed an agreement with Italy to seal off the crossing routes for undocumented African immigrants coming through Libya to Europe. This was ugly. He demanded billions in payment for patrolling borders... and he issued racist warnings that Europe would turn "black" unless it adopted stricter measures to turn back African immigrants.
This was the "rehabilitated" Qaddafi whose son met with Hillary Clinton... this was the Qaddafi that the London School of Economics was accepting huge donations from... the Qaddafi that the British were now selling arms to. The imperialists found Qaddafi useful and "workable."
You know in early February 2011, the International Monetary Fund released a report on Libya's economy and commended the Qaddafi government, and I'm quoting, for its "ambitious reform agenda" and "strong macroeconomic performance"... and "encouraged" authorities to keep on this promising path. What higher praise, than from the IMF!
But now, when it suits them, and it's really brazen... when they might be able to utilize mass discontent to install an even "more workable" regime, the imperialists are back to the master narrative of "Qaddafi the madman," "Qaddafi the strongman."
Revolution: So let's shift the discussion to some of what is happening in Libya right now and some of the bigger issues and challenges being thrown up.
Lotta: Well, I've focused a lot on the class nature of Qaddafi and the social-economic character of the development model that the Qaddafi regime was pursuing. This is important in understanding how things have unfolded and how growing numbers of people turned against Qaddafi and this model.
Over the last decade, oil wealth and nationalized properties were becoming the province of a narrower and narrower circle, including the extended Qaddafi family... and more of this wealth was being invested abroad.
The regime brooked no criticism. The widespread censorship became increasingly unbearable at a time when people were seeking outlets for expression. Dissidents were being arrested. There was a thirst for political life outside the official structures. The so-called "people's councils" were largely discredited, having become arms of a patronage system and tools of a surveillance network. There was a thirst for cultural diversity—until recently, foreign languages could not be taught in the schools. Health care has deteriorated recently. Unemployment has risen.
Qaddafi's response has been heavier repression... while looking to invigorate the economy with infusions of Western capital. One of the paradoxes of recent years is that when the sanctions were lifted, and the sense of siege abated, Qaddafi's anti-imperialist and nationalist appeals did not have the same resonance. His militant "luster" had worn thin... the allegiance he previously commanded was dissipating.
Revolution: And then the uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt lit a fuse.
Lotta: Yes. As we're doing this interview, the situation in Libya is both cloudy and bloody. Qaddafi announced his intention to fight to the end to retain power. Right now the central government controls Tripoli and the western regions of the country, while oppositional forces have taken command of the east. Some ministers and military figures have gone over to the opposition and become part of a nucleus of another government in the making.
Some within this "interim national government council" are calling for Western air strikes to aid them. This is a reactionary demand that represents a craven pro-imperialist stance. This is not in the interests of the Libyan people, who have long suffered under imperial domination.
Something to keep in mind is that this is the first upheaval in the region that has disrupted oil production. Libya has the largest proven oil reserves of any African country, and Libya supplies a significant share of Europe's oil needs. So this too is a factor influencing imperialist calculations. The imperialists are using the pretext of "humanitarian concern" as an ideological wedge for possible military intervention.
Revolution: So this underscores the complicated character of what is happening.
Lotta: Yes. One of the things to emphasize here, looking at the situation in Libya and the continuing struggle in Egypt, is that the notion of "leaderless" movements... it's untrue and it's very damaging. A lot of progressive and radical-minded people would like to think they can swear off leadership. But leadership is being exerted in society and the world, including on them.
In Libya, as in Egypt, different class and social forces have been in the field. They are bringing their interests and outlooks into the fray... and various forces are vying for leadership and seeking to push these movements in certain directions.
Look, you have lawyers assembling in eastern Libya who want to restore the old 1952 constitution, which served a decrepit political and social order. And doctors, university professors, students, disaffected youth, and workers who had taken to the streets... well, they are part of a larger swirl in which reactionary tribal leaders, former ministers, and colonels are angling for position and leadership. You have some people who are trying to settle old scores. You have youth raising slogans "no to tribalism and no to factionalism." And in this same swirl, the imperialists are maneuvering.
Different class forces are bringing forward leadership, programs, and agendas that correspond to their interests. And different sections of society are looking for leadership.
What I'm trying to say is that the question is not leadership or no leadership. No, the question is what kind of leadership? Serving what goals? Using what methods to achieve those goals? And where there is no truly revolutionary and communist leadership, history has repeatedly shown that the masses lose... the people who are the most bitterly oppressed and exploited... and who yearn for and most desperately need fundamental change... they get left out and betrayed.
In his recent statement on Egypt, Bob Avakian speaks to these issues very powerfully, and I want to read from it. He says: "When people ... in their millions finally break free of the constraints that have kept them from rising up against their oppressors and tormentors, then whether or not their heroic struggle and sacrifice will really lead to fundamental change, moving toward the abolition of all exploitation and oppression, depends on whether or not there is a leadership, a communist leadership, that has the necessary scientific understanding and method, and on that basis can develop the necessary strategic approach and the influence and organized ties among growing numbers of the people, in order to lead the uprising of the people, through all the twists and turns, to the goal of a real, revolutionary transformation of society, in accordance with the fundamental interests of the people."
But, and this brings me back to issues of class, to make the kind of revolution that can really emancipate all of humanity... this requires bringing forward the basic sections of the people as the backbone and driving force of revolutionary transformation and as conscious emancipators of all humanity. It requires a leadership capable of doing so.
So there are important lessons to be drawn from what is happening. There are big challenges to rise to. And as Avakian has also emphasized, the future remains to be written.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
In this world of unjust war, unbearable suffering and environmental catastrophe... in these days of discontent, upheaval and questioning... it is critical that this newspaper—Revolution—publish! And that it continue to improve its content and look, and expand its readership.
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Will people in growing numbers get to read analysis that actually lays bare the real causes behind the war on Libya? Coverage that exposes the lies, and cuts through the confusion that currently has people far too passive and immobilized? Will people understand not only the driving forces behind the nuclear disaster in Japan, but that there are real solutions?
And beyond that, in the midst of everything happening, and the upheavals to come, will people come to understand that things do not have to be this way? Will they hear about Bob Avakian's vision of revolution and have a chance to get to know what this rare and unique leader is all about?
Will they be exposed to the movement for revolution that comes to life in the pages of this paper—its advances, analyzing its problems, criticizing itself where it falls short? Will they learn that there is a party that is actually and actively preparing people to make a revolution that could really bring about the changes that we need?
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
Let Us Know Your Experience
April 9, 2011
Next weekend, April 15-17, should witness a major push to sell and distribute BAsics. This should encompass passing out promotional material and getting up posters... selling the book on the street... impromptu "read-ins" of quotes... getting bookstores to order copies... getting unconventional outlets to take books wholesale or on consignment.
Also this week: choose a campus and get out there with the book. Then return once a week, same day, between now and the end of the semester, with the book again, as well as other materials. Get to know people. Become a presence.
In making plans, don't fail to read and re-read the letters and interviews we have printed thus far—these give a real window into the great potential for this book.
We will, this Thursday, post more ideas on this. Please send us experience before then that others can learn from. For now, a few beginning incidents and experience. First, this from an urban university:
[The friend I was with] spoke to a table of 8 women—a bit older than the rest of the students, maybe mid-twenties—mostly Black, a couple of Latina women and one white woman)... they offered to him that one of the women was a spoken word artist—so my friend asked if she would agree to read a quote out loud to the table if he picked one out for her. She asked her friends' permission and they agreed. So, she took a few minutes to prepare herself and then my friend called me over and we both listened. She read the quote, "Look at all the beautiful children who are born female.." [#10 in Chapter 1] and people listened intently. Her reading was poetic and furious, very intense. About midway through, heads at the table started nodding slowly and pretty seriously. When it was done, the whole table burst into enthusiastic applause. Then, one woman looked up at me and declared with some amazement, "Are those your words?!" (she had misunderstood my friend when he explained the book and why he was calling me over... but I clarified that they were BA's words... it is interesting, that given the power and the poetry of the quote itself, and the fact that their friend was a spoken word artist, some of them seemed to think it was a book of poetry and they were really impressed). But, then another Black woman turned to her friends and to me and said very seriously and with some amazement, "Its all true. That's crazy! That's crazy—that its all true." It was like when the outrage of the situation—of what we learn to live in every day—finally hit her, it was overwhelming and intolerable. It seemed that she, and a couple of the other women at the table, were responding particularly to the references to the constant brutality that women face, but also the quote as a whole.
The second is from an elite university, in a large classroom chosen at random because the professor was not yet there. An older male comrade with a rather commanding presence shouted over the hubbub of the gathering students that "this sister"—pointing to younger comrade who was with him—"has an important announcement to make and people need to be quiet and listen." There was a momentary hush and a younger comrade—who herself has some experience in the dramatic arts—then read quote #31 in Chapter 1 ("If you can imagine a world without America..."). The students were rapt and very responsive and the teacher who came in let them finish and pass out their promotional cards before bidding them farewell. This campus has also been the site of outdoor read-ins, where people read quotes in a dynamic way and engage others with the materials.
We have also heard that one particular quote that has struck a particularly deep and powerful chord from students is quote #23, in Chapter 5. Interestingly, this has also been one pointed to by prisoners. It is the quote that begins, "If you have had a chance to see the world as it really is..."
Another experience: in a mainly Black neighborhood in a large city, on a rainy day when it was hard to be outside, some people went into a cafeteria and passed out xeroxes of the first three pages of quotes from the book, along with palmcards. Three customers came up, money in hand, to buy the book.
Let us know your experience between now and Wednesday night, and we'll try to post it by Thursday night. Then go all out this weekend and get BAsics out in a big way... and start a consistent presence with it at least one campus.
We have a great tool in our hands. Let's wield it, in creative ways.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
From a Reader:
Victor Toro denied asylum; ordered deported to Chile
On March 2, a U.S. Immigration Court judge in New York ruled in the case of well-known immigrants' rights activist and Chilean exile Victor Toro, denying his request for political asylum in the U.S. and ordering him deported to Chile.
As readers of Revolution may recall (Revolution #96, revcom.us/a/096/ice-raid-en.html), Victor Toro's case began on July 6, 2007 when Immigration Control Enforcement (ICE) agents went down the aisles of an Amtrak train near Rochester, N.Y., demanding to see immigration documents from those that they profiled as immigrants, and 35 people were detained. That this prominent immigrants' rights activist was among the detained made it a major news story at the time. This incident put a spotlight on an increasingly common outrage—ICE agents profiling and detaining people who "look" like immigrants on trains and in bus stations. [The racial profiling involved in this has been further shown by the targeting of another well-known person, Silvio Torres-Saillant, Ph.D., formerly director of the Dominican Studies Institute at the City University of New York and now director of the Latino-Latin American Studies Program at Syracuse University. Dr. Torres-Saillant has reported being stopped by ICE agents three times at upstate bus stations as he began bus trips back to New York City.]
The decision in Victor Toro's case was outrageous on many levels. In powerful testimony, Toro, his family and expert witnesses presented a picture of massive crimes including torture committed against Toro and others in Chile. Toro was among the many thousands of Chileans arrested and tortured by the government of Augusto Pinochet, which seized power through a U.S.-backed coup in September 1973. Secret documents leaked over the years have clearly established that the U.S. government, through U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, played a key role in planning and carrying out this coup.
Testimony presented in Toro's case recounted three torture chambers in Chile where Toro was brutally tortured. Documentation was made of how Toro was declared officially dead by the Chilean military junta government and expelled from the country. Evidence documented how in "Operation Condor," the Chilean security forces, DINA, hunted down and assassinated opponents of the Pinochet regime in different parts of Latin America, the attempted assassination of ex-vice president Bernardo Leighton in Italy in 1975 and the car bomb assassination of former minister [during the presidency of Salvador Allende] Orlando Letelier and his American secretary Ronni Moffitt in the streets of Washington in 1976. Evidence was presented on how DINA was trailing Toro in several countries after he left Chile. Yet the court refused to recognize that Toro would have had very good reason not to have applied for asylum within a year of his entry into the U.S. in 1984, fearing that providing his whereabouts to the U.S. government that worked so closely with the Chilean secret police would give them this information, fearing that such information could get to DINA.
But that wasn't the worst of it. This prosecution, which began during the Bush regime and continued on the same course under Obama, submitted sensational CIA and CIA "think tank" reports attempting to paint Toro and those he worked with in Chile, as "terroristas." A 1970 Time magazine article was submitted by Homeland Security about a land takeover involving several thousand people outside of Santiago, which named Victor Toro as a leader.
The judge upheld the Homeland Security prosecutors' claim that "there has been a fundamental change in circumstances in Chile" and Toro would have no reason to fear returning to Chile now, despite the fact that most of those who tortured him and others still freely roam in Chile, including some still in positions of authority.
Doctors testified about Toro's disability, back problems and emotional distress stemming from the aftermath of his torture, continuing up to now. Witnesses documented the important work done by the cultural/political center "Vamos a La Peña" in the South Bronx that Toro co-founded. Supporters packed the courtroom every day showing how precious Toro is for many people. Yet the judge has now ordered him to be expelled to Chile, separated from his family, child and grandchild, and friends of 25 years in the South Bronx.
The cruelty and heartless nature of this decision and the legal framework that the judge followed is an indictment of this system. What kind of system is it that orders and assists in the murder of foreign country presidents, the killing and torture of thousands, the driving of thousands to the U.S. and then forces those immigrants who come here into decades of lives of fear—hounded by the authorities and subject to targeting and detention by ICE agents?
Lest any think this was an isolated incident—take a look at what Obama said on his visit to Chile, just 10 days after Toro was denied asylum. At a news conference in Chile, a Chilean reporter asked Obama whether "the United States is willing to ask for forgiveness for what it did in those very difficult years in the '70s in Chile." Obama simply answered firmly that no such apology would be forthcoming, and said that the U.S. and Chile could not be "trapped by our history" and insisted that he could not "speak to all of the policies of the past."
This outrageous decision is being appealed and the struggle against this attack is continuing and should be supported. Victor has declared that every day he remains here he will "fight for the rights of immigrants in the United States" and to expose and shut down the U.S. torture chambers at Guantánamo and elsewhere around the world.
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
From a Reader:
I was recently able to attend the Left Forum in New York, an annual gathering of progressive thinkers struggling with some important questions. It was very interesting for me to see the line developed by Bob Avakian in contention with other lines. Among many of the panelists and attendees, there was a spirit of disgust with the way things are now and a yearning for something far better. On that basis, there was a lot to unite with. But at the same time, there was a lot to contend with. Many people's understanding of the fundamental problem and solution was often unscientific and lacking in scope. When held up against the visionary work of Bob Avakian, it was clear what line actually had the scientific grounding and the recognition of the full breadth of what we're confronting, and therefore carried the only real possibility of leading to the full emancipation of humanity.
As I sat through different discussions and heard various panelists and attendees speak, I constantly had the same thought: "Man! I wish I had my copy of BAsics already!" [ed. note: this was before BAsics became available] For so many questions that were asked, I knew there was a quote from Avakian that would sharply and scientifically speak to what was being raised. For example, in one panel I attended, a young woman who looked about student-age said that she truly felt that capitalism itself was the problem, but that she was struggling with what she could do now to bring a new world into being. At the time, of course, I thought: "I wish I had my BAsics!" Because I knew that there is a quote from BA about how we need to be working now to prepare for and hasten the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people. But I couldn't remember the quote fully and speak to the whole breadth of what he lays out.
Well, the good news is that I do have my copy of BAsics now! And here is that quote:
"We hear from masses of people—and I've see this in reports recently—statements or sentiments along the following lines: 'I know revolution is needed,' or 'I know revolution is what's gotta happen at some point,' but 'what do we do now, what do we do in the meantime?'
"Answer? Make revolution. Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. Prepare minds and organize forces for the time when a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people, in the millions and millions, emerges. Work actively and consciously to bring this time closer and to bring things to where we are in the best position to act decisively when this does come about. Devote your life, energy, daring and creativity to confronting, fighting through and overcoming the obstacles to making this happen, and to winning more and more people to doing the same."
- From BAsics, Chapter 3: Making Revolution; Quote #31
Over and over again, the same phenomenon happened. Someone in the audience or one of the panelists would raise a point or a question that really was demanding me to read aloud from BAsics. I got a living sense of what a tool this book will be, not only for people just starting to get familiar with Avakian and the revolutionary movement, but also for people who have been studying his work to get into it much more deeply and to wield the line developed by Avakian and the RCP; to demarcate what the fundamental nature of this system is and how to break free of today's oppression and to get to a far better, more liberating world.
In a funny way, this experience made me think of those iPhone commercials—the ones that present problems like finding a recipe or a map and end with "There's an app for that." When we confront the questions that come out in the process of making revolution and transforming the people, we can answer with confidence, "There's a quote for that!" and then pull out our copies of BAsics and really get into it.
Here are some more examples of times when I thought: "There's a quote for that!"
1. In one discussion, a young man who looked to be in his late 20s said that he was struggling to understand the class dynamics of the U.S. and that he didn't know whether there was a real proletariat in this country because many factory workers could lead "comfortable" lifestyles. The panelists spoke to this question by saying that because of the work of the unions many factory workers were able to ascend to the middle class, and so maybe a better understanding of the proletariat in this country is that it is made up of cubicle workers who are making less money and aren't able to unionize. I was really struck that not a single panelist talked about the situation for Black people in this country in relation to this question! I thought it was a profoundly inaccurate understanding of the true class dynamics at play.
But don't worry: There's a quote for that!
"If you want to talk about who owes whom—if you keep in mind everything the capitalists (as well as the slave owners) have accumulated through all the labor Black people have carried out in this country and the privileges that have been passed out to people on that basis—there wouldn't even be a U.S. imperialism as there is today if it weren't for the exploitation of Black people under this system. Not that the exploitation of Black people is the whole of it—there has been a lot of other people exploited, both in the U.S. and internationally, by this ruling class. But there wouldn't be a U.S. imperialism in the way there is today if it weren't for the exploitation of Black people under slavery and then after slavery in the sharecropping system and in the plants and other workplaces in a kind of caste-like oppression in the cities."
–From BAsics, Chapter 1: A Worldwide System of Exploitation and Oppression; Quote #12
2. One common topic of discussion was leadership and what kind of leadership and organization people thought was needed in order to create change. In one discussion, a panelist said that she thought the best way to create change, and even challenge this system, was by embodying the spirit of "Think Global, Act Local," and that people should set up small local organizations that address local problems, such as land conservation. I was thinking that this doesn't even begin to address the real magnitude of what is created by this system, let alone what it will take to bring a new one into being!
I was thinking: There's a quote for that!
"What kind of organization you see as necessary depends on what you're trying to do. If all you're trying to do is make a few reforms, if you're not trying to really confront and deal with this whole system, if you're not trying to make revolution and transform society and the world, then you don't need this kind of vanguard party."
–From BAsics, Chapter 6: Revolutionary Responsibility and Leadership; Quote #2
3. In another discussion, in response to comments from another revolutionary, one person said "Look, what you're talking about, getting to a new world, that sounds great. But, it's never going to happen. We need to think more practically."
Of course, though: There's a quote for that!
"This is not a fantasy. These are the things that have been done in socialist societies that have existed—or they're things that, on the basis on that experience, we have summed up and are learning more deeply need to be done. This is all possible. It's not some pipe dream. This is what happens when the masses of people rise up and take control over society and this is what waits to be done."
–From BAsics, Chapter 2: A Whole New--And Far Better--World; Quote #9
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
Letter from a high school Revolution Books volunteer:
The idea had been raised of selling the International Women's Day t-shirts at school for the bookstore. I agreed with the idea, thinking it a cool way to fundraise. At the time, I had no idea of the impact this would have not only on me, but my school as a community.
I had sold $100 worth of t-shirts in a week. Throughout the week, people had come up to me and asked, "Are you the one selling the t-shirts?" Word had flown about like wildfire as more began to wear the shirts. I had fellow progressive friends publicizing, practically being my salesman! It was a unifying feeling for a mostly girl occupied school. People had begun to talk.
Without my encouragement, dialogue had been ignited. My whole group of friends started talking on the issue of abortion. Watching this intense conversation develop, I was quickly satisfied. The t-shirts were a success. It had allowed students to start to think about global issues, themselves as women, and their roles in society.
As for myself, the whole process was an intimate one. People regarded me as a feminist, which I felt was accurate because of this experience. Not only was I learning the history of women, but modern women of today, as I engaged with my peers. I had been in heated discussions on the topic of abortion and women's equality before, but never on this level.
It was an eye-opening experience. My "customers" acknowledged the progress women have made over time, but what I have learned is that the battle is not yet over. The sexism that still remains must be abolished. And this awareness is the ideal that has been revived once again.
I wrote this poem for the celebration of IWD 2011:
Declare it, Repeat it, Say it: I am a Woman.
These hands, worn and calloused
ache from threads, steam, and back breaking sweat
as I bend over machines, for petty wages each day:
I am a Woman.
Decaying in my flesh
these burnings persist, as dowries are paid
exploited by money grubbing motives.
I am a Woman.
Devalued as a bitch or a whore,
crestfallen by broken dreams, as I'm paid less than the rest...
I am a Woman.
Tainted, unwanted at birth, sold in a sex slave trade, abused and placed in fear, I am a woman.
This chronic disease of subordination and discrimination is alive and at work.
I am a Woman.
Reading, Writing, Educating the future generations,
Fighting for the suffrage movement with my head held high,
speaking to you with pride, integrity and dignity,
Campaigning for elections, as growing leaders of the future,
Liberating thyself and sparking others to defy
the chains that shrouds and strips
what it really means to be a woman.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
We received the following correspondence from a reader:
The week started with a small group of us going out to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) national convention. This 4-day conference was attended by thousands of scientists and educators from all over the world and included presentations and symposia on climate change, nutrition, engineering, life science, earth science and space science. (Go to www.nsta.org/conferences for more info on this conference.) There was a special session devoted to teaching evolution "when students, parents or administrators make claims that evolution is not a science." There were major addresses given by astrophysicist Jeff Goldstein, NASA astronaut Bernard Harris and evolution expert Eugenie Scott.
We set up outside the conference center with enlargements of BAsics, On the Strategy for Revolution and the cover of the special issue of Revolution on the environment, and a table with these issues of the paper, the Message and Call ["The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have—A Message, And A Call, From The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA"], Bob Avakian's memoir From Ike to Mao and Beyond, Away With All Gods, 7 talks, Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon, the Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy pamphlet, the Revolution Talk, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) and the Manifesto.
We approached people with the BAsics card and On the Strategy for Revolution statement together—emphasizing that these represent a scientific plan and theory for making revolution and getting to a whole new world. A good percentage of people took these... like maybe 1/3. Some took the materials and started reading them in the foyer or would stand to the side and flip through the statement. Some would pass by—take a look and walk away—others would more politely say that they had to go because they didn't want to be late for their next workshop. And some stopped to talk. Overall we felt that there was a certain openness to checking it out, and within the openness, some contention over various topics would surface and the engagement would deepen. The idea that we were talking about making a revolution to uproot the whole status quo and replace it with a whole different society that's not based on profit in command/commodity production and relations struck many people as something that they had never considered before—but were willing to poke into examining. Overall, it was evident from just short comments we got that there was a unsettled feeling coming from different angles—the extremeness of the attacks on education, attacks on teachers like the union busting "trend setting" in Wisconsin, and suppression of critical thinking in the academic arena. One phenomenon that we noticed was that a high percentage of the Black teachers took the materials and responded with agreement. My sense from some conversations with Black teachers is that they feel that they are especially isolated and under attack. For one thing, the percentage of Black teachers in most school districts is low and decreasing.
Here are some highlights of conversations:
One young white woman was excited by the literature, the revolutionary strategy, the Constitution. The whole perspective of struggle for a completely new society and world really hit the spot for her. She is working in a district with a lot of non-white kids and it was challenging, but it was where she wanted to be. She said that she was working with people there who were like-minded and would all be excited to hear about what we are doing—and would like to use some of these materials in the classroom.
One middle-aged teacher from the Middle East came by. At the beginning, there was a lot of unity around the importance of the uprisings going on—that this represented a blow to a repressive setup of the U.S. and the potential for a new day. But when we pushed further into the issue of what kind of society the world needed to move towards, sharp differences emerged. He held to the view that the autocracies needed to be discarded but his model was a multi-party democracy. He had come to the conclusion that communism had failed, and cited the collapse of the Soviet Union as the evidence that convinced him. We had some back and forth with him, but in the end, he said that he had made up his mind...and refused to get any of the literature.
A Black woman science teacher in her late 30's from Alabama expressed a lot of agreement around the issue of the attacks on teachers and education and also agreed that the problem went deeper than reactionary public policy. She expressed agreement that the system itself was corrupt and that there is a need for radical change. She was seeing education in her area as being undermined and said she saw a bleak future for the youth. She took the issue with the statement On the Strategy for Revolution and contributed a few dollars.
One middle-aged, rather well-dressed teacher came up and was interested in talking. While there was a lot of agreement that there is something basically wrong with society, as the conversation unfolded, it became clear that he saw the essence of this as corruption and a conspiratorial cabal, the Illuminati. Once again, there was back and forth and he seemed to bend away from his position at times, but did not embrace the view that we were advocating. However, he did take the Strategy for Revolution issue to read and we later saw him in a restaurant reading it.
A group of people came by from Wisconsin, wearing Wisconsin sweatshirts. We talked to one of the women in the group and she was of the view that things were moving towards some kind of general strike in her state. She also agreed that the problem was deeper than public policy and united with the view that the system itself was fundamentally at fault. She and some of her colleagues took the Strategy for Revolution issue and other literature.
We had an interesting conversation with a teacher from Lebanon who bought the Manifesto. He got the Strategy for Revolution issue and said that he had never heard that there were revolutionary forces right here in the U.S. preparing for revolution. (He's been here for 10 years.) His comments were sprinkled with comments about the devastating and brutal effects of imperialism in the Middle East and his spirits are now lifted by the uprisings going on. He seemed to be very inquisitive about how to make a successful revolution in the midst of the resistance. We got into the example of the 1917 experience in Russia. He was also drawn towards checking out Bob Avakian's new synthesis and how it can be applied—this is what drew him towards getting the Manifesto.
Overall, many important questions came to the fore off of stretching a line to these forces. It was a very worthwhile experience and it was good that before going we had reviewed the section from Part 2 of Birds and Crocodiles [by Bob Avakian] about the intelligentsia and communist revolution.
One lesson we learned about agitating for people to contribute money: one teacher went by us—took one look at everything and said... "Yeah, yeah... I know all about that" and walked away. One of us said loudly (actually talking to our group), "Well if he knows all about it... then he should stop and get some multiple issues to take out and contribute some money." The teacher heard this comment, stopped in his tracks and doubled back and said "you know, you're right... I'll take some and here's some money."
Notes from a March 14 protest against education budget cuts in Sacramento:
We made plans for this a month prior to the protest at our first Revolution brunch gathering. At that time... We discussed how this would be a significant outpouring to pay attention to and make advance plans for. Then... the issue with Statement on the Strategy for Revolution came out and the promotional material for BAsics. So—we thought—this is great timing! We took guidance from the Strategy for Revolution statement itself and were motivated and inspired by the quote from our Chairman in that issue. Our approach was to really push out with the two mainstays [Ed. note: the two mainstays are a culture of appreciation, promotion and popularization of what has been brought forward by BA and what he represents, and our Party's newspaper as the "hub and pivot"—and the scaffolding—of the movement we are building for revolution]—concentrated in various kinds of materials that we brought up there—and apply what we learned during the campaign about the impact of really saturating the crowd. We took the Statement on Strategy for Revolution, 2,000 of the Message and Call and back issues of the paper on Egypt and an old issue about the student protests at UC Berkeley.
So—we were hastening our preparations and awaiting with anxious anticipation for this event. Our crew, again only a small group, read the new article on the significance of Wisconsin that was online in Revolution on the way up there. We were a bit worried about the rain... How much this would dampen things in terms of turn-out.
The youth didn't let some rain stop them! At first, just a few hundred started coming in from the right side of the Capitol... But a little later... We heard drumming, loud chanting of 7,000 youth from ages of 17 to 23 years old streaming down Capitol street—heading straight for the steps of the Capitol. We quickly got right into the midst of the stream—and started getting out the two twin materials of the Strategy for Revolution statement and the BAsics card. Many youth started grabbing for these—some would put their hands into the plastic bags and get a whole bundle to pass out... When we would say the word "Revolution"—this caught their attention... they would say things like: "Yeah... Give me that" ... Or "Yeah... It's about time for that!" "Oh... You actually have a strategy for making a REVOLUTION?!" In the pouring rain, we were literally surrounded and rushed by a whole tsunami of youth from all over California (Sacramento, San Jose. 30 bus loads from San Francisco City College, Fresco, Evergreen College, Diablo Valley College, Los Medanos College, Monterey, Chico, Los Angeles, San Diego, Cabrillo College, Modesto City College, Mendocino City College. Alameda College, Skyline College and Dominguez). These were fresh, vibrant and full of a fighting spirit multi-national youth that we're NOT going to let these cuts go down without a loud and emphatic statement. And for some reason there were groupings of older Chinese workers in the midst of this young crew.
When we talked about communism, there were responses of earnest inquisitiveness... Wanting to know exactly what that is and how can that kind of vision be realized out of the present situation... We didn't encounter a whole lot of counter strategies... Mainly a desire to know what this one was all about. After we ran out of the Strategy for Revolution statement, we got out the Message and Call and other issues of the paper. We would see clusters of youth opening up the paper... and reading it.
Examples of how these materials were circulating and percolating in their minds came out in several different experiences: In one instance, a Latino student came up to the table and looked at the Message and Call and said... "Hey, I know you guys... You're from Revolution Books in Berkeley..." He then took up a whole stack of the Message and Call and said that he would get them out into the crowd and turned around to his friends and told them... "You gotta see this stuff... It's from the RCP and Bob Avakian... This is the SHIT!" Other students came up to the table saying... "I want THAT"—pointing to the revolutionary strategy statement.
One woman had gotten the statement from someone else and approached the table and said... "I want to know what this is ALL about." When I started to get into the revolutionary strategy piece more... she said... "No... I said I want to know what ALL THIS IS About—THIS WHOLE revolution thing." I gave her a brief overview of the WHOLE thing... And highlighting the important leadership role of Bob Avakian to this WHOLE thing. She looked down at all the literature on the table and scanned each one... and said... "Let me think about that" and walked away. About 10 minutes later...she came back with questions about what the revolutionary overthrow of this system would really mean. After some discussion she walked away and came back with another question: "But how about afterwards—Will there just be another set of exploiters/oppressors replacing the ones we have now?" I showed her the new Constitution—which she looked through. Then, she looked at the image on the T-shirt... And asked—"how's he going to be a different kind of leader of the future society than what we have now?" We introduced Bob Avakian to her using the section in the paper and the table of contents of BAsics. She ended up saying that she is not ready to take up any multiple issue of anything yet... But picked up the revolutionary strategy statement, the Message and Call, the statement on Egypt by Bob Avakian, the BAsics card and a couple of issues Revolution newspaper as if she was in a candy store and stuffed it all into a plastic bag and said... "Yeah... lots to read and think about..." There were other engaging conversations that surfaced.
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Revolution #229, April 10, 2011
An Urgent Exchange:
Wednesday, April 27 6:30 pm
Tishman Auditorium, The New School, 66 W. 12th Street, New York City
Click to download flier. Invite your friends via Facebook.
Revolution received this notice of an important conference on April 27 in New York. A conference like this, at a time when people are beginning to feel constrained by the status quo and the "choices" offered by the current political landscape, and are beginning to search for other roads, can be of great importance.
A diverse group of artists, scholars, and political thinkers including Wafaa Bilal, Laura Lee Schmidt and Sunsara Taylor, will engage the question:
"If you are troubled about the state and direction of the world…if you are repelled by both the arrogant assertion of empire by the government and leaders of the U.S. and the fanatical backwardness of Islamic fundamentalism, what should you be doing?"
Uprisings in the Middle East have given renewed hope to many. But the U. S. continues to rain down death on the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan and occupy Iraq, seeking, with its European allies, to dominate Libya through military intervention. Islamic fundamentalism, presenting itself as an "alternative" to Western domination, puts a brake on the radical aspirations of people, especially women.
Come and be part of the conversation about alternatives to these two unacceptable options – in a world crying out for fundamental change.
Iraqi-born artist Wafaa Bilal, an Assistant Arts Professor at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, is known internationally for his on-line performative and interactive works provoking dialogue about international politics and internal dynamics. Bilal's work is constantly informed by the experience of fleeing his homeland and existing simultaneously in two worlds – his home in the "comfort zone" of the U.S. and his consciousness of the "conflict zone" in Iraq.
Laura Lee Schmidt is the East Coast Assistant Regional Coordinator for the Platypus Affiliated Society and an editor of the Platypus Review. She gained her master's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture and will continue her graduate work as a PhD student in Harvard's History of Science program.
Sunsara Taylor is a writer for Revolution Newspaper, a host of WBAI's Equal Time for Freethought, and sits on the Advisory Board of World Can't Wait. She has written on the rise of theocracy, wars and repression in the U.S., led in building resistance to these crimes, and takes as her foundation the new synthesis on revolution and communism developed by Bob Avakian.
Sponsored by The Platypus Affiliated Society & World Can't Wait
Call (866) 973-4463 for more information.
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