Conclusion of the Opening Presentation by Bob Avakian at the November 15 Dialogue with Cornel West at Riverside Church in New York City

December 22, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


The following is what Bob Avakian had prepared as the Conclusion of his Opening Presentation at the Dialogue with Cornel West on November 15, 2014, but it includes parts beyond what was actually presented by BA at the Dialogue itself. Watch the video of the Dialogue at

What gives meaning to life, what is truly a life with a purpose? Living in this country, in this cut-throat system that plunders the whole world, you are encouraged, and constantly pulled, to be absorbed in "self." The "selfie" is indeed a fitting icon of this culture. (Often what you hear sounds like a singer warming up: me, me, me...!) For the more privileged, there is all too often the sense of being entitled to all that is provided by nature and produced by the world's people, while remaining ignorant of, or deliberately ignoring, the terrible reality of life for the great majority of humanity, and for great numbers of people within this country. You know how it goes: "We're parasitic Amuricans—we don't have time to learn about the world, we're too busy gorging ourselves on it!" (Hashtag: "Parasitic Amuricans") Or, if you're in a more desperate situation, you are driven to hustle, scramble, and scuffle to get what you can—while things work to keep you from understanding why things are the way they are, and how they could be radically different. This is the way it is under this system. This is an empty, cold, cruel way of life, lacking in deeper meaning and higher purpose.

Now, once again we see people beginning to raise their heads, to break with the normal routine, to question and resist—to stand up and rise up. The question is, where will this go—where will it be led: back within the deadly dead-end trap, the killing confines, of this system, or building toward the real solution, a revolution to get rid of this system and bring something much better into being? Human life may be short, but it can be full of meaning—the meaning we give to it. As I have put it before: "If you have had a chance to see the world as it really is, there are profoundly different roads you can take with your life. You can just get into the dog-eat-dog, and most likely get swallowed up by that while trying to get ahead in it. You can put your snout into the trough and try to scarf up as much as you can, while scrambling desperately to get more than others. Or you can try to do something that would change the whole direction of society and the whole way the world is. When you put those things alongside each other, which one has any meaning, which one really contributes to anything worthwhile? Your life is going to be about something—or it's going to be about nothing. And there is nothing greater your life can be about than contributing whatever you can to the revolutionary transformation of society and the world, to put an end to all systems and relations of oppression and exploitation and all the unnecessary suffering and destruction that goes along with them. I have learned that more and more deeply through all the twists and turns and even the great setbacks, as well as the great achievements, of the communist revolution so far, in what are really still its early stages historically."

But let me say this: I am a confirmed atheist, and am firmly convinced that what we need to bring a much better world into being, is the method and the morals of communism, not religion; yet Cornel is much closer to my heart than many atheists. WHY? Because too many atheists use their atheism to sit smugly, satisfied with the world as it is, or even use it to justify the world as it is.

With Cornel there is none of that world-weary cynicism and small-minded snarkiness that serve as a convenient cover for remaining complacent, and complicit, with injustice and the continual horrors inflicted on the masses of humanity. Cornel is a voracious intellectual with a deep appreciation for the life of the mind, but who also understands that a role and responsibility of an intellectual is to stand with the wretched of the earth and take a stand in the fight against oppression. And I would much rather walk with Cornel than with a smug atheist.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some very good atheists—communists, humanists and others, but all too many who are justifying going along with the way things are.

The movement I envision, and am working for, is one where people like Cornel and myself can walk together on the road of revolution and emancipation—uniting in the struggle to bring about a world where there will no longer be the wretched of the earth but human beings giving ever greater expression to their humanity, in a myriad of diverse ways—and, yes, we will argue, vigorously, about how to bring this into being, even as we proceed arm-in-arm together.

As I emphasized in Away With All Gods!: "In terms of the basis of unity in the political struggle, the dividing line should never be whether or not people believe in god and are religious, but whether they are willing to unite, and can be won to unite, in ways that are objectively in the interests of the masses of people. To the degree that they do so, it is necessary to build unity with them, and to struggle with them to do so more fully and consistently, even while struggle is also carried out with them, in the ideological realm, over the question of which worldview actually corresponds to reality and will lead to emancipation." In the broadest sense, the movement we need to radically change the world is one that embraces all those who are determined to fight injustice; is marked by unity, and struggle; largeness of mind and generosity of spirit. In this light, let me end with a call which I have made before and which seems very fitting on this occasion.


Let's go on a crucial journey together—full of unity against oppression and lively struggle about the source of the problem and the solution. Pursue your own convictions—that the outrages that move you are intolerable—to their logical conclusion, and be determined not to stop until those outrages have been eliminated. And if this, as well as learning about other outrages, and ideas about how this all fits together and flows from a common source—and how it could all be ended, and something much better brought into being—leads in the direction of seeing not only the need for bold and determined resistance, but also the need for revolution and ultimately communism, then don't turn away from that because it moves you beyond your comfort zone, challenges what had been your cherished beliefs, or because of prejudices and slanders. Instead, actively seek to learn more about this revolution and its goal of communism and to determine whether it is in fact the necessary, and possible, solution. And then act accordingly.



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