Revolution#127, April 20, 2008
Programs Around the Country
Engaging With Bob Avakian's New Synthesis
Imagine a Different Kind of World…
Imagine a different kind of world. A world where the masses of people actually think about, struggle over, and take up revolutionary theory to change the world. Imagine a world where artists, intellectuals, and workers; students and professors; people of different nationalities, ages, and experiences—come together to discuss the big questions facing humanity, debate philosophy and why it matters, struggle over the politics and strategy of how to revolutionize society, wrangle with the positive, as well as negative, lessons from previous socialist societies—and figure out how we have to do things better if we want to emancipate all of humanity.
We got a beginning glimpse of this at the programs: “Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism: What Is Bob Avakian’s New Synthesis?”
We got a taste of how exciting it is when human beings come together to grapple on a high level with revolutionary theory, to pose and consider, ponder and debate, big questions that have to do with the possibilities of a whole new world.
All together, in New York, Chicago, Berkeley, and Los Angeles, some 800 people heard this presentation of Bob Avakian’s new synthesis—what Avakian himself has called his “recasting and recombining of the positive experience so far of the communist movement and of socialist society, while learning from the negative aspects of this experience.”
Now we’re very excited to announce that the text of this talk will soon be available. And there are programs planned in other cities (see box). So those who missed this first round of programs will now get a chance to read and/or hear this important speech.
These presentations addressed Chairman Avakian’s synthesis of the methods and experience so far of communists leading people to understand and revolutionize the world, on three levels: philosophy, or how we understand the world; politics, especially but not limited to the political conception that guided the first attempts at socialist transformation; and strategic conception, which focuses on how one would actually make revolution in a country like this.
There were lots of different kinds of people who came to these programs—some hearing about this new synthesis for the first time, some who only recently started reading and studying Avakian’s work, as well as long-time followers of Bob Avakian. There were people from many different walks of life—including professors and other intellectuals, artists, workers, immigrants, youth and students, and political activists.
At every program, people commented on how there was a palpable seriousness in the air, along with a real feeling of urgency—a recognition that the questions being addressed, the revolutionary theory being offered, really matters in terms of what will and what won’t happen in the world. People were really challenged with a different way of thinking and approaching the world, and of transforming it.
The two-hour presentations were followed by another couple of hours of Q&A, followed by informal mingling and discussion…which then stretched into the night at local restaurants and living rooms.
How People Think Matters
Since Revolution wrote about the March 9 program in New York (see “A Journey into Possibilities of a New World,” issue #124 at revcom.us) we have heard about the programs in Chicago, Berkeley, and Los Angeles held on March 22.
A college professor in Los Angeles sent an e-mail to one of the organizers after the program which said (in part): “I came in not sure if the billing that this was a new synthesis was appropriate, but I do think now that it was. I was particularly personally impressed with the argument that apres [post] revolution there would still be a civil society and that the party’s leadership was not seen as monopolizing the truth and that the solid core was not synonymous with the party but with the most advanced elements at any given point. I had misgivings about the role of the party in an apres revolution situation based on the past experience of socialist revolutions. Bob Avakian’s thinking on this was very notable and relieving.”
The part in the presentation on philosophy was very demanding—and it was noted in the emcee’s introduction how it takes hard work in the realm of theory to make revolution. And as the presentation put it, “Philosophy matters…to what you DO.” A number of people noted that while they found this part of the presentation difficult, that they really liked it and wanted to get clearer on the different philosophical concepts that were put forward.
A young guy in his mid 20s who attended the program in L.A. said he really liked how the speech took on other philosophies, like the thinking behind the book The Secret, promoted by Oprah Winfrey, that basically says you create your world by the thoughts you think. He said he knows a lot of people reading the book, like his cousin who told him, “I use it when I want to get a parking space, and sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t.” He had thought this was BS but, until he heard the presentation, had not been sure why.
A young woman who grew up in a middle class suburb also really liked the philosophy part of the presentation and took notes so she could go back over them later. Referring to the part of the speech that identified different philosophical outlooks, she said the people she works with have an empirical outlook and base everything on their own experience and have a narrow “heads down” view. She said she agrees with the point about how there is just one reality, but argued that you can’t confront people about their deeply held beliefs because “that’s their reality.” In fact, religion was a big point of controversy at most of the programs.
Religion was taken on in the speech as a philosophical form of idealism that really hinders people’s ability to get to the truth of things and know the world and change the world. This led to a lot of lively and sometimes heated debate. And many people left that day with a copy of Bob Avakian’s new book, Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World.
In Los Angeles the question got sharply posed in the Q&A when a Muslim woman got up and argued that religion actually helps women. A revolutionary Iranian woman countered this, exposing how Sharia law brutally oppresses women. And this sparked off a whole round of debate about religion, women, and the family—including how the role of women, the family, and sexual relations would be radically transformed under socialism.
Challenging, Controversial Questions
People came with a range of questions about what a new socialist society would be like and how to get there. And the presentation gave rise to many more questions and opinions. Dozens of written questions were submitted and people also spoke from the floor. In every city it was notable how most people stayed for the Q&A and how there was such a range of well-thought-out and serious questions—far too many to address in a few hours—but that gave people a lot of food for thought and fuel for further discussion and study.
There was also a lot of back-and-forth discussion over the crucial role of dissent and debate under socialism, which is a very important part of Bob Avakian’s new synthesis. In Berkeley, a longtime political activist got up to speak, prefacing her remarks by saying she loved the sound of the phrase, “emancipators of humanity.” But then she said, “You talk a lot about dissent but wouldn’t the Party or the solid core be the one calling the shots?” A similar question was raised in Chicago by a young student who asked if allowing this kind of dissent and debate was just another way of letting people vent, but not really giving people real power to effect things.
A lawyer who has been part of the battle to get Marine recruiters out of Berkeley said she was new to communism and revolutionary theory but “looking for more” and “open to revolutionary theory.” She said that the idea of a society being very revolutionary yet wanting dissent against its own state power was “fascinating.”
People posed and grappled with the real contradictions and problems in a socialist society truly aimed at emancipating all humanity, debating how you would handle different things, how you would apply Bob Avakian’s new synthesis.
A sample of the written questions in Chicago gives a sense of the range of questions, debate, and controversy: Thinking about what’s going on in Tibet, how does the new synthesis apply to things like religion and nationalism, struggle versus national oppression? What will happen to private, single-family homes and family farms after a socialist revolution? Isn’t there a crying need to develop a deeper understanding of epistemology in a fast-paced world, particularly in an imperialist country, the psychology of capitalism and how it affects people’s thinking, the enormous amount of privatization occurring and how that impacts the revolutionary struggle, etc.? Mass media and advertising are powerful forces that shape/control opinion and social consciousness—how does the new synthesis propose to work with or against this powerful social force? How does the new synthesis propose to create checks and balances against a communist ideology that becomes another imperializing force—ignoring the specificities of local cultures?
This is only a snapshot of the kind of stimulating discussion and debate that went on at these programs as people seriously engaged with Bob Avakian’s new synthesis. All this shows the great potential for communists, and revolutionary-minded people more generally, to take this new synthesis out in the world in a BIG way and engage many more people with this revolutionary theory that really does matter in the world.
Re-envisioning Revolution and Communism:
Cleveland - May 3, Saturday, at 1 pmPresented by Revolution Books and Black Studies Program at
Cleveland State University
Fenn Tower Ballroom, third floor
Cleveland State University, E. 24th St. and Euclid Ave
For info, contact Revolution Books or Black Studies Program at 216-687-3655
Atlanta - April 19, Saturday, 2-6 pmPresented by Revolution Books/Libros Revolución
Little Five Points Community Center, 1083 Austin Avenue. Entrance faces Euclid.
Suggested donation $5
Philadelphia: To be announced.Call for information: 215-519-6112
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