Revolution #67, October 29, 2006
Taking Bob Avakian’s 7 Talks to a Class on Student Leadership
We received the following letter from a reader who works with the Revolutionary Communist Youth Brigade in Los Angeles. It is in response to the call by Revolution to send in reports on taking out the recent New Presentations by Bob Avakian to campuses.
On a Wednesday morning a couple weeks ago, I spent two hours in a class on student leadership having a discussion about Bob Avakian—about what kind of leader he is, what kind of society he’s envisioning, and how he’s leading people to bring that kind of society into being. By the end of the two hours (after the official class time had long been over), I was invited by the students and the professor to come back the following week so we could continue the discussion. The first week we listened to the first 6 and a half minutes of the closing remarks to the 7 Talks, where Bob Avakian talks about the role of communist leaders and his own role in particular. The next week we listened to #9 of the Q&A’s, which exposes the bitter oppression of the Black masses and their revolutionary potential as part of a revolution to end all oppression.
It’s a small class—there were no more than ten students each time. Two people in the class already had some familiarity with Bob Avakian. In fact, the reason I had been invited to come to the class is because when the students were talking about the leaders they look up to—as part of an assignment to write about the qualities of leadership—Bob Avakian was mentioned by one of the students who has been listening to another talk by Chairman Avakian, “Christianity and Society—The Old Testament and the New Testament, Resistance and Revolution” (available at bobavakian.net). The other student who was already familiar with Bob Avakian has read and heard pieces of different works by him and has joined a lot of discussion and struggle over whether or not Bob Avakian is actually providing the leadership the masses need to be able to make fundamental change, and whether it is right to promote and popularize such a leader.
The teacher didn’t seem to be that aware of the existence of Bob Avakian at the beginning of the class, but had a lot of knowledge—coming from a perspective rooted in Black nationalism—about Marxism, the history of the Soviet Union and China, and the radical movements of the 1960s. The other students in the class were a mix of some students who are involved in student government on campus and other students who see themselves taking up a leadership role in some form or another.
Both discussions were fascinating and fun and gave me a lot to think about afterwards. The first one was more like a question and answer session, but the questions were very deep and important and reflected a lot of thought given to how a socialist society would be run according to what Bob Avakian is putting forward. Some of what the students were grappling with—as it was put on the table by me and the professor off of listening to the closing remarks of the talks—was what it means to lead with a scientific method and approach, what it means to run society with the application of that method and approach with a “solid core with a lot of elasticity,” and how in doing that can you transform all of society and move it in the direction of communism, principally defined by the “4 alls.” (The professor at some point had me get up and write out the “4 alls” on the blackboard: the abolition of class distinctions; of all the production relations on which those class distinctions rest; of all the social relations corresponding to those production relations; and the revolutionization of all the ideas corresponding to those social relations.)
One student asked about what it would mean to have the kind of socialist society Bob Avakian envisions where there is a scientific outlook on how to govern. He said, “But for people in that society who don’t see the world that way, for example people who are religious and believe in a higher source of power, I could see serious conflict arising, for example with the church.” He wanted to know whether leading with a scientific outlook would mean suppressing religion and people who believe in God. Another student asked, “I hear you talking about ideas like some ideas are good and others are bad. Who decides what are good ideas and bad ideas, and doesn’t this mean imposing ideas on people?”
The professor asked a lot of questions and put forward his own point of view on communism, the socialist experience, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and how he thinks that socialism is not able to bring about equality, particularly for oppressed nationalities. In terms of Bob Avakian’s new synthesis off of the achievements and mistakes of the socialist experience thus far, the professor seemed intrigued by this. Towards the end of the discussion he was saying that socialism is a society where “the ruling class thinks its ideas are sacrosanct” and “socialists have always put forward the need for a strict government in order to divest people of capitalist ideas.” He asked: If we’re talking about a society with much more elasticity in terms of people putting forward ideas that dissent from and criticize the government—1) are we going to listen to those ideas, and 2) how are we going to protect this society?
The professor had argued that the socialist revolution is not in the interests of oppressed nationalities and Black people in particular. So I thought it would be important to address head on why, in fact, socialism is in the interests of oppressed nationalities. I opened our discussion the next week with Q&A #9 (about the oppression of Black people in the United States). I don’t know about the make-up of the school as a whole, but in this class the majority of the students are Black. Listening to this part of the talks led to the breaking open of a freewheeling discussion among the students that I thought was very exciting.
It started off slow at first. I asked for responses to what the students had heard. They didn’t know what to say at first. I said I wanted their reactions because I’m sure they’d never heard anything like this before. One woman said, “I’ve heard stuff like this before.” Somebody else asked a question about what kind of society Bob Avakian is envisioning, and I said you are able to see a lot about what kind of society he is talking about by how he’s addressing this question. I told them about how when I listened to this for the first time I’d been very moved by the part where he says there never could be and never should be a revolution that doesn’t unleash the burning desire of the Black masses to get rid of their oppression, as part of doing away with all oppression. Another student commented matter-of-factly, “You can’t get rid of it.” The first woman who’d spoken said at first, “There’s been progress.” And then another student asked, “How is he trying to lead to change?”
And then we were off and running. The professor explained, “If you find out you have cancer, you can let it go or you can seek medical remedies. This society is like a cancer, nothing will change if nothing is done. The RCP, Bob Avakian has a remedy for cancer. Other people have other remedies.” As I talked about revolution and remaking society, the students wanted to know more about Bob Avakian and as they asked questions, the other students who already know some about him jumped in to be part of answering them. The woman who initially said Bob Avakian wasn’t saying anything new, now wanted to know, “I’ve never heard of him before and I pay attention. I watch the news. I watch CNN. How come I’ve never heard of him if he’s trying to make these changes?” I jumped in to point out that in fact we’re trying to break through in the media and get Bob Avakian’s name everywhere and get his works and his ideas spreading. I told them about the Get the Word Out committees, and I encouraged students to buy Bob Avakian’s memoir (From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey From Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist) to learn more about who he is, how he came to be the leader he is, and what kind of person he is.
The discussion kept going as the students went back and forth between each other trying to get a handle on what this revolution is. I talked about needing a revolutionary people in their millions and a political situation where people have lost their allegiance to this system and see how to fight for a different kind of society. An earnest question came, “How do you get to that?” I spoke about hastening while awaiting, drawing from Chairman Avakian’s talk, “Why We’re in the Situation We’re in Today...And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution.”
I also talked about how the Party is part of the struggle to drive out the Bush regime and the urgent necessity to do this, to put a halt to the horrors this regime is unleashing on the world and where it is taking society. I made the point that this movement involves all kinds of people with all different ideas about where this ultimately needs to go. I also explained how the Party sees what the possibilities could be out of a radically changed political situation where millions of people are acting in a conscious way to change society—how with the work of the Party within that it could be possible (and as the Chairman says, not guaranteed and maybe not probable, but possible) to move things in the direction of a revolutionary situation.
One student said, “I see the need to drive out Bush,” while another asked, “Can’t we just wait two years?” and still another answered him, “The Bush regime is making changes that can’t be reversed—like the Patriot Act.” And in response to my comments about how to change the political situation, one woman said, “I can see how this could really change things.”
By the time the class was over, there were many more questions still coming up and I was wishing I could come back again the next week too! I got the e-mail addresses of several people so we can keep the discussion going.
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