UCLA Screening of First Hour of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live
The Audience Was Rapt, the Questions Were Serious

October 21, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


On the evening of Thursday, October 17, more than 100 people attended a screening of the first hour of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, at UCLA's DeNeve Auditorium. It was the first of a three-part series spreading over the next two academic quarters, sponsored by UCLA's Office of Residential Life, the Academic Advancement Program (AAP), and Revolution Books.

The audience was multinational and made up mainly of students from UCLA and surrounding schools, including a couple dozen from a campus over an hour away.

Juan Gomez-Quiñones, UCLA history professor, author, and activist, provided a warm welcome. He spoke to the importance of this film in enabling students to consider the possibility of a better world. He said that just that morning one of his students had asked him "what is social revolution?" and he expressed deep concern that these questions were not enough in the discourse. He said that the university has a responsibility to stimulate critical thinking, including introducing them to the rigorous analysis and vision provided by Bob Avakian in this talk.

Everyone in the room seemed at rapt attention as the first hour of the film unfolded, with powerful, often gut-wrenching exposure of the ugly, brutal, and massive crimes of this system, and what it means to the tens and hundreds of millions and ultimately billions of people who are forced to live with this as a result of the system of capitalism-imperialism. But there also were moments of laughter as Avakian sharply challenged prevailing norms that the audience recognized as problems in their own thinking or in society.

Following the screening, most of the audience stayed for a lively and wide-ranging Q&A with a panel consisting of a writer from Revolution newspaper and Dennis Loo, a professor of sociology at Cal Poly Pomona. The discussion went well past the scheduled hour and spilled into the hallway afterward.

For many, this was the very beginning of a journey totally new to them, an extremely different and challenging view of and approach to knowing and changing the world. Some found it "interesting," admitting that they knew practically nothing of what they heard in this hour, and had not even thought about things this way, or at all. Others felt that we didn't need revolution, or that it wouldn't accomplish anything good, and they remained convinced that these problems could be worked out through this system. Still others felt revolution was necessary and were seriously asking how they could meaningfully contribute to this movement for revolution.

Most people were struck, if not shaken alive, by what they heard, and felt that others should learn about, or be made to confront, the reality of life for the masses of people today. A number of people said they wanted to show it to others, to relatives or friends. Some students expressed wanting to get together with others they knew at this showing on a regular basis, to watch the rest of the film. In the lobby afterward, there was a lot of discussion about how people could contribute to BA Everywhere, the massive fundraising campaign to get BA's vision and works into every corner of society, how to hook up with the Revolution Club, and how they could take up the fight around O22.

Overall, students and others had thoughtful and agonizing questions and comments about what they had just encountered. The questions were mainly coming from the perspective of how to change the world, and how people should see themselves in this process.

A young woman asked about doing away with multinational corporations and how that would affect people around the world who've come to rely on them; another asked about whether you could just do away with corporations one by one; there was a question about how BA sees the relationship between the development of white supremacy and capitalism. A young man asked about the protest on October 22 (which had been spoken to during the Q&A): Was this kind of resistance and call for reforming the police in contradiction to revolution, and could those who are suffering most under this system, and have the least time and space, be able to meaningfully participate? A young Black student said he believed "knowledge is power" but asked why there is such a quiet atmosphere on college campuses today and how to change it. Another young woman asked a question she seemed to be agonizing quite deeply about: She said that the last time she felt so inspired and empowered coming off an event like this, she was incredibly disheartened when she went back out and no one else seemed to care about what was happening in the world. She asked what to make of this and what to do about it.

From the panel there was a lot of unity with the audience but also struggle to look not just at the excesses or pieces of capitalism but at what the real source of the problem is: the whole system of capitalism-imperialism; to understand what revolution really means and how this is a revolution that is being built for now; to widen their horizons to look at the whole different system that is possible; and to get much more deeply into BA's work—getting the rest of the film, hooking up with the movement for revolution, contributing to BA Everywhere. And there was special emphasis put on being a part of fighting the power on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.

There was also struggle on a more epistemological and ideological level—people have to fight for what they understand to be true, to go up against all the philosophical and moral relativism in our society and which (along with the pervasive lies and distortions about communism) is especially impacting college campuses. On that basis, they have to take responsibility for what kind of world they're going to fight for, and what their lives are going to be about.

Speaking to a Revolution reporter afterwards, one of the campus organizers spoke to the significance of this screening taking place at an elite campus like UCLA: We're really excited to be able to offer it here, on a campus. As the moderator said, this is the kind of activity that should be occurring on campuses. You're bringing new ideas, you're educating people; this is a place that should be a hotbed for struggle; college campuses have historically been that, so it's exciting to be able to bring it here and to get our students to think critically, and learn, and talk about ideas, and try to figure out for themselves how they want to struggle for social change, and revolution. So it's exciting.

In the weeks before the screening, people with Revolution Books and with the Revolution Club spent time on campus—learning from the students and working with professors and staff people to have an impact on campus. People heard about the film through the sponsoring UCLA departments; their professors; revolutionaries announcing it in classrooms; seeing fliers around campus or on electronic billboards in sponsoring departments; via a trailer worked on by a UCLA videographer shown on the closed-circuit TV channel accessible in the dorms; mass emails through several campus departments; and through four ads in the UCLA campus paper, The Daily Bruin, including one in color on the day of the event, designed by a student volunteer.One student came off of seeing a "tent card" on her dining hall table earlier that day. About a third of the audience came from other parts of LA or surrounding cities who had heard about the film from Revolution distributors or Revolution Books, which co-sponsored the event.

All kinds of people took initiative to provide ideas and resources, develop materials, and spread the word of this screening. Tens of thousands of people saw something about this film on and around the UCLA campus—and there is a great deal to build on in the coming weeks... for many more people to experience BA and the scientific summoning to revolution that is concentrated in this film... and to break open wider debate and discussion.


Comments from the audience after the screening:

A student who learned of it when organizers spoke in their class on the environment:

I expected something different, more like a film than a lecture about society, what he thinks of society, but I do agree with what he says; and I think he has very interesting viewpoints that I would consider. In general I agree... the things I didn't agree with stem from the view of, we do acknowledge some of the problems, but we have different solutions. I'm only 18, so I'm not that knowledgeable about it; but I'm generally skeptical of complete change. I feel like I take a more pragmatic viewpoint, that one should do the best that he or she can. People like me, we just want to lead our lives, but it's good to acknowledge these problems in society and do the best we can with the governments we have, basically.

A Chicano student expressing appreciation for Professor Gomez-Quiñones participation:

I thought it was great to see a professor so involved in this. You know, more professors should be doing this. I wish they would play this in my history class. Especially my Chicano classes, because this is something we can identify with, as Latinos and African-Americans. And it's something that needs to be put out there. You shouldn't have people out there tabling fliers, 'cause I know how difficult it is. It's got to happen more in an academic setting, where profs say "you know what, sit down and watch this, and let's discuss it." Once that happens, I'm pretty sure everybody on campus will start getting more involved and invested...

I'm a fourth-year student, and I heard about this at an Academic Advancement Program. When this was presented, it really intrigued me. I'm trying to get into social documentary work, so to hear all the issues... what was surprising was the things he was describing wasn't that new to me... being a Chicano from that community, it's something that's kind of pushed off here, because they're more about empowering the student without getting into the background from where he comes.... A lot of people fear being radical... but it's something I don't fear.... I don't want to see this happen to my kids, in my community. I'd definitely be for revolution... if it comes to revolution, so be it.

Someone familiar with BA and the campaign to raise big funds to get BA Everywhere:

... Just to make him more accessible, where people don't have to dig so fucking far to find someone who is so incredible, so groundbreaking. Even the intellectuals, they have to dig to find it; and it shouldn't be that way, because this is a big-ass breakthrough. He's been here 30, 40 years synthesizing, and synthesizing, and synthesizing; he's the most prominent revolutionary thinker right now. And it shouldn't be that hard to fucking find out about him. Because he is the real deal, as Cornel West said. And it's a basic necessity that we need to raise big funds to get him out there into the mainstream.

A young woman student:

... He was able fluently to go from one subject to another, and also draw on history, and then bring it back to the present.... He was able to... make all of the issues and all of these atrocities flow together while also bringing [in] the past and pulling it into the future; so I was very impressed.

Another important point BA made was the connection between our current culture of pornography and the way he compared that to the lynch mobs and the lynch picnics, and also postcards that were sent out, from the lynchings, all the way up to 1960s and '70s, and I think the last lynching was in '75. I like how he compared that to the violent nature of pornography; of how it's used to titillate men's desires and give them entertainment while it's really violent. It was refreshing to hear him say it, because not many people will come out and do that, especially white men.

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