Revolution #227, March 20, 2011
A Reflection... An Invitation... And a Challenge
We live under a system whose rulers endlessly portray themselves as the "good guys" in the world; the defenders of "freedom," "democracy," and "human rights."
But there is a leader on this planet who says:
"There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth."
We live under a system that systematically denies billions of people a basic education and a scientific understanding of the world.
But there is a leader on this planet who says:
"Oppressed people who are unable or unwilling to confront reality as it actually is, are condemned to remain enslaved and oppressed."
We live under a system whose representatives manage to convince large numbers of people that this world of perpetual wars, torture, poverty, and environmental destruction—and the brutal subjugation of entire people and nations—is the best we can hope for; that trying to bring a different world into being is simply "not realistic."
But there is a leader on this planet who says:
"There is nothing more unrealistic than the idea of reforming this system into something that would come anywhere near being in the interests of the great majority of people and ultimately of humanity as a whole."
This leader is Bob Avakian.
Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has a unique voice—a rare combination of an unsparing critique of the history and current direction of American society with a sweeping view of world history and the potential for humanity. Avakian is an innovative and critical thinker who has taken Marxism to a new place; he's a provocative commentator on everything from basketball to religion, doo-wop music to science. He is the leader of a party and a movement aiming to make revolution when the possibility opens up. He is someone, in the words of Cornel West, who "is a long distance runner in the freedom struggle against imperialism, racism and capitalism."
And yet, in a world that is constantly, desperately crying out for fundamental change, far too few people even know that Bob Avakian exists, let alone are engaging his work. If you are someone who sincerely yearns for radical change—or even someone who wants to see the question of radical change become a major topic of conversation in society—you should recognize that this situation is intolerable. But there is something else you should recognize: there is a major opening, in the immediate future, to dramatically transform that situation. And you have an urgent role to play in seizing on this opening.
Next month will witness the release of BAsics, from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian. BAsics will concentrate more than 35 years of Avakian's work on everything standing between humanity and complete emancipation into a single concise book of essential quotes and short essays. On Monday, April 11, Harlem Stage will be the venue for a truly historic and unprecedented event: "On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World." This event will bring together well-known musicians, writers, actors, people from the community and the youth—all from different perspectives and different spheres—in a major celebration whose impact could go far beyond the walls of Harlem Stage. The night will include poetry, music, visual arts, and readings of letters from prisoners responding to Avakian's words and to the ideas of revolution and bringing into being a new world. These will be interspersed with people's own reflections (from the stage or via video) of what it means to them to celebrate revolution and the vision of a new world, and readings of quotes from BAsics.
Taken together, BAsics—and the celebration on the occasion of its release—will introduce many, many new people to the most radical revolutionary on the planet; to a leader whose sense of humor is as sharp as his hatred for oppression is fierce; to the visionary who deeply understands that humanity can and must radically transform the world without "turning out the lights" on artistic and intellectual experimentation. The night of April 11 will bring together a broad range of people—including prominent, influential voices—who have an equally broad range of reasons for wanting to see Avakian and his work become a mass question in society; those who recognize that popularizing Avakian is essential to putting revolution and communism back on the map and ultimately initiating a new stage of communist revolution will be mixing it up with those who, from a variety of perspectives, feel that Avakian's words and the question of revolutionary possibility must be known to and engaged by anyone who dreams of a different future.
In other words, the celebration on the occasion of the release of BAsics is not just an event that is happening in Harlem. Rather, it will constitute a resounding statement with the potential for nationwide reverberations: Revolution is back on the map. And if you don't know who Bob Avakian—the leader of this revolution—is, you better ask somebody!
Let's take a moment and fast-forward: It's the night of April 11. 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—with a few special surprises to boot. 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.
When the night is finally over, people go back to their homes and communities—many of them taking copies of BAsics with them—and start telling their families, friends, neighbors, classmates and co-workers: "Check out what I went to!" Major media outlets feel compelled to cover the celebration—or else must work even harder than usual to rationalize not doing so. Those who ache for a radically different world but weren't able to make it to the Harlem Stage—or only learn about the event afterwards—say: "Damn! All these people were there celebrating revolution and a new world— and I missed it?! I gotta find out more about this!" The BAsics publication, and the name "Bob Avakian," starts circulating in more and more housing projects, dorm rooms, faculty lounges, artistic and literary circles, youth hot spots, and prominent venues.
Now, let's rewind—'cause we're not there yet. And back in the present, we've got a lot of work to do, in order to make this vision of April 11 and its aftermath a reality. There is A LOT of money to be raised and donated. There are campuses and key neighborhoods to blanket with palm cards, posters and other promotional materials. There are a plethora of media outlets—bigger and smaller, online and print, radio and TV—to reach out to with advertisements and press releases. There are prominent artists and intellectuals to contact about performing on April 11 or joining the host committee for the event. There are Facebook pages and Twitter feeds and email lists on which to spread the word. There are events and discussions to attend with stacks of promotional materials in hand and announcements prepared. There is research to do, in order to identify potential donors and the best means for getting in touch with them. There are letters to write to Revolution newspaper with further thoughts and insights about the significance of BAsics and the celebration on the occasion of its release. There are many big ideas, bold ideas, and new ideas that are not on this list to be brainstormed and contributed.
All this will require a broad range of people contributing their time and energy in the ways and on the level that they are able. It will require the collective efforts of all those who recognize that it is crucial for Bob Avakian's leadership and revolutionary possibility to become a major part of the discourse in this society.
In July 2009, the Revolutionary Communist Party launched a campaign, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have." This campaign has three goals: 1) To familiarize millions with the goal and character of communist revolution, as it has been reconceived by Bob Avakian; to inject this into the discourse in a radically creative and urgent way; 2) To make known very broadly in society the leadership of Bob Avakian—giving people a sense of the work he is carrying out, his history and character as a rare and outstanding communist leader, and—on the broadest level—his connection to revolution. 3) Through all this to begin forging a core of dedicated, passionate and conscious fighters for this revolution.
This occasion of the publication of BAsics has the potential to effect a huge leap in relation to this campaign, and in particular in relation to the second goal.
It is because of Avakian's leadership that this revolution is real: It is because of his advanced understanding of why the world is the way it is today, his scientific grasp of the need, possibility, and strategy for revolution, and his re-envisioning of communism, that humanity actually has a chance to escape the horrors of this capitalist-imperialist system and advance to a world free of all exploitation and oppression.
As it was put in the opening speech from the RCP's recent conferences on "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have":
"Without Bob Avakian and the work he did and is doing—without Bob Avakian and the courageous struggle he waged, and led—it is very likely that there would BE no communism today, at least no vital and viable communism.
"Without Bob Avakian, it is very likely that there would be no Party in the U.S. today—at least no party that is really a vanguard of revolution—nor would there be a revolutionary movement.
"One more thing. Without Bob Avakian—BA—and the work he's done, it is very likely that there would be no plan, no foundation and no strategy for actually making revolution in the USA—actually figuring out how to break through the suffocating situation of today and get things to the point where people in their millions could actually be won and roused to take on this monster...and to win.
"Do you realize how precious THAT is? To not only be able to uncover and analyze the causes and forces behind the character of the prison that confines you...to not only see the basis for a future without those bars and chains...but to know the way out?"
This is what the people of the world are being denied with every day that passes in which Bob Avakian is not yet a household word.
Events of the last several months have illustrated, in a very living and powerful way, the potential for revolutionary possibility to be thrust very suddenly and unexpectedly onto the scene. In Egypt, masses who had endured generation after generation of brutal oppression rise up and—in less than three weeks—oust a cruel, hated U.S.-backed president, giving profound hope and inspiration to people throughout the world. What seemed impossible yesterday seems inevitable today.
But the events in Egypt and elsewhere have also illustrated the decisiveness of leadership in determining whether or not this revolutionary possibility can ultimately be realized. As the title of a statement from Avakian puts it: "EGYPT 2011: MILLIONS HAVE HEROICALLY STOOD UP...THE FUTURE REMAINS TO BE WRITTEN."
Watching developments rapidly unfold in Egypt has called to mind another excerpt from the opening speech of the conferences on "The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have":
"Let me tell you, the days will come—and they may come sooner than you think and almost certainly those days will come before we feel fully ready for them—when masses of people will be seeking a way out. And when they do, they better know something about this revolution [and its leadership]."
The celebration on the occasion of the release of BAsics, and the process of boldly and broadly building for this celebration, can be part of a major leap—in the numbers of people who know something about this revolution and its leadership, and in the number of masses in this country who are beginning to look for a way out.
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