On a BA Everywhere Discussion with a Retired Doctor/Scientist

December 9, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From readers:

We recently had a fundraising discussion for BA Everywhere with a retired doctor and scientist who "wants BA to succeed" but also has some serious differences. We began by introducing the campaign, BA Everywhere, saying we wanted to discuss the importance of raising funds to get BA's work out to every corner of society, and why he should support it.

He responded that he agreed with BA on the goals of justice and equality for humanity, but has differences with communism and with the method of revolution. Communism has a bad reputation, he said; the communist countries—Russia, Cuba, China, Venezuela—all failed. Communist countries have all been dictatorships turning people into slaves.

This country is also a dictatorship, he said, a hidden one. It's run by corporations, the corporations are crazy and the government has to do what they want—that's why Congress is useless, they're afraid to do anything because they need money and support, and anyone who goes against corporate interests will be targeted. He said he agrees that the system needs to be fundamentally changed, but we need a new way to do that.

We said he was wrong about communism and sorted out the countries he mentioned. Cuba did have a national revolution, but it was never a society aiming to emancipate humanity; it's a capitalist society with some social welfare. Avakian bases himself on the experience of two revolutions in the last century—the Russian revolution and the Chinese revolution, though neither of those countries is socialist today.

He was surprised at our view on Cuba and wanted to know when Russia was a socialist country. When we said Russia was socialist from 1917 to 1956, he said that Russia had never been free and told us a story about people who went back to their home country in the USSR in 1949. They agreed in advance on a signal to let others know what the situation there was—if it was good, they would send a picture of themselves standing, if it was bad, sitting down. In some of the pictures sent, people were lying down, it was so bad. We said that stories and anecdotes don't get to the larger picture and truth of what was going on, the context and the main direction, that the Soviet Union was the first time humanity broke free of capitalist society and had done amazing things—legalizing abortion and de-criminalizing homosexuality, for example; backing women in throwing off the veil; opposing anti-Semitism and the oppression of nationalities.

He countered with a story about Stalin—who supposedly said that if anyone had a problem or disagreement, to let him know, he would solve it—by killing the people. We said that Stalin never said that and didn't do that. He led and fought to develop and defend the first socialist state in a very difficult situation. He made serious mistakes that have to be analyzed scientifically in the context of the situation and what Stalin understood.

Our friend disagreed and told us his plan for changing the present system, not through revolution, but evolution. He asked if we had studied psychology and said that much of humanity is literally insane. Not only are the people in power crazy but there's mass insanity. He is working on a plan for humanity to evolve beyond that, which he would like to share with BA.

He put forward Switzerland and the Scandinavian countries as a social model that works, in opposition to revolutionary Russia and China. In Switzerland, he said, the cantons fought each other in the past, but they've gotten beyond that. People can only be in government for limited terms, and have to govern by consensus. The people are happy and live relatively well without a lot of poverty or unemployment.

We said he was wrong. Where did the wealth in Switzerland come from? Much of it came from the Nazis, or from rulers and exploiters from all over the world. Switzerland plays a certain role as an international banker in the division of labor of capitalism-imperialism. There's a resurgent fascist movement today in Sweden and some of the other Scandinavian countries. You can't look at these countries in isolation from their role and relations with the rest of the world. In Belgium, for example, the wealth came from Congo, where people were brutalized, mutilated, and forced to slave, going back to King Leopold.

Our friend didn't want to go there and insisted that the Swiss model is working.

We brought the discussion back to the larger horrors of this system—the crisis of the environment, making the planet unfit for humans and other species. Rape, police murder, mass incarceration of Black people—things we would like to change immediately but can't under this system.

He said, we have consensus on that, the system needs to change, fundamentally, but he doesn't want to be part of the RCP or the communist movement.

We said that he couldn't be part of the RCP, he's not a communist, but he should donate to BAE to see these questions opened up and debated—people never have the kind of discussion we're having! We shared with him what we're learning in our work among different sections of the people—on college campuses, the idea of radical, fundamental change is not part of the conversation, revolution is not an option, not something people think about. In the oppressed communities, people think that they themselves are to blame for the conditions they face.

He said, of course, they are lied to, they are slaves. He agreed that this should all be changed, but put forward Martin Luther King and non-violence in opposition to revolution. MLK accomplished a lot, he said, for example Barack Obama, the first Black president, is in line with what MLK fought for. We said yes, it's true, Barack Obama, a war criminal, is in line with Martin Luther King's goal of getting into the system.

He agreed that Obama is a war criminal but still held to Martin Luther King and non-violent change. Look at South Africa, Nelson Mandela didn't kill the capitalists, they had reconciliation. Yes, and the masses of Black people in South Africa are worse off now than they were under apartheid. He admitted that that's probably true.

Though he had to agree with some of our points, he kept saying he couldn't donate because he doesn't want to be associated with communism, and even said that saying you have a new synthesis of communism is like saying you have a new version of the Mafia that's going to kill less people. We said, come on, you know that's not true.

He put forward the Indian woman socialist who had just been elected in Seattle as a hopeful sign and a model of peaceful change. He had to admit that she wouldn't be able to accomplish anything in the context of this capitalist-imperialist system. He wouldn't go further in following this logic to its conclusion but reiterated that he couldn't donate because of his disagreements with communism and revolution.

Finally, after all this back-and-forth, we challenged him to get Stepping Into the Future, and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, to seriously engage them, and if he is at all inspired and moved, to donate. He said he would, gave us a hug and thanked us for the discussion.

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