Taking Bob Avakian and Cornel West Dialogue to a New Year’s Eve Party

January 5, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader, January 1, 2015:

Two of us from Revolution Books got to go to a New Year’s eve party hosted and attended by a crowd of mainly1960s era activists (anti-war, environmentalists, etc.). It was a welcoming and communal atmosphere with a band performing live music, among which were “Across the Borderline” and “Imagine,” and also some dance music to bring in the New Year. Many were eager to engage on the big questions of revolution and communism. 

A number of these party goers expressed real disgust with the way the world is, and said they were glad to meet and talk with us at this. The host let us set up a small book table with copies of Revolution and fundraising packets for the November 15 Cornel West and Bob Avakian dialogue. Many put on the sticker we brought of “No New Year Under the Old System. We Can’t Breathe.”

We learned a lot, including from responses to the historic Dialogue that a number of people there had heard on KPFK. Pacifica radio KPFK had been airing the whole 4-hour Dialogue by running one-hour segments that began December 29. The last hour was to play on January 1 itself.

One such KPFK listener was a 6th grade teacher who said she “loved BA’s sense of humor! He is telling you all this shit but it’s not doom and gloom. He has a subtle sense of humor about the pitfalls of capitalism. He makes it understandable.” I think that as an educator, she appreciated BA’s ability to break down complex concepts so they are accessible to a very broad audience.  

I asked her thoughts on what he said about revolution, and she said she thought “it’s the only way”—but added it’s not completely clear in her mind how it would happen, though she expressed being “definitely anti-capitalist.”

Like a number of others I talked to there, she made the point of being for non-violence. Yet because one of her relatives had volunteered to fight fascism during World War II (i.e., fight against the Franco regime in Spain), she understood you may not be able to avoid it. For several of these folks, Chris Hedges and Jim Wallis are reference points.

She thought that “revolution may be frightening if the wrong people get in charge.” She felt strongly that you had to discard the word communism because of all the negative views of it, which led us to a brief exchange about the interview with Raymond Lotta on “The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and our Future.”

A friend of hers, also a teacher, was interested in the Lotta interview as he was even more insistent that there are “people with agendas where once they get power, they will exhibit the animal farm syndrome.” He felt that “you can’t have just one approach” and thinks “the RCP’s view is just part and parcel of a puzzle.” We didn’t have the chance to explore further what he meant by all this.

One person simply said of hearing the Dialogue that she “loved what BA was saying when he called them ghouls. That’s how I feel. He is telling the truth.” She was very angry at the epidemic of police murders of Black and Latino people, but also told me the story of her late husband, who was white, being shot and killed by the Berkeley police in the late '60s when he was walking on a street near student protests.

One activist (with a friend who is also listening to the KPFK broadcast) said he has met the RCP at protests in different cities, and noted warmly that we are “boisterous.” As an environmentalist, he felt “change has to happen, things are really bad and we are at a point of no return.” He said he “prefer[s] non-violent change….” He thinks capitalism can be reformed, maybe through things like food riots, boycotts, voting etc., and that while communism has a good critique of capitalist system, the youth are more inclined towards anarchism than communism. Someone else thought any successful revolution involves coalition of different sections of society including students, workers, faith community and others and welcomed the dialogue in this light.

One interesting conversation was with someone who works with Vets for Peace and with the alternative press, and is also a homeless activist. He was viscerally upset about the state of the world and especially the treatment of the homeless people, how so many people's lives and humanity are destroyed. He relayed his interesting life story, including a relative who had lived in China before the communist revolution and observed the many “little white bundles in the gutter every morning” (dead/starved babies) and how he understood “that’s why they had a revolution.” He has checked out some of BA before, and felt if changing the horrible world meant going where BA is leading things, he’d be willing and open “to go there.”

These exchanges made me think of a comment from another comrade that the question of what social system is objectively being posed for many people. Some of these folks are not only searching for, and working out, possible solutions to the horrors of this system, but also are striving for different values—to be different kinds of people than the dog-eat-dog mentality fostered by this capitalist system. One young college grad from Oregon captured this in wanting to check out the CD of the 2012 interview of BA by Cornel West, with BA’s “All Played Out” and “2014 New Year Message” tracks. She said she hates how people in this country live off the backs of others in the world, and she does alternative farming as a way to feed people without profiting because she “does not believe in slavery in any form and don’t see making money as a way to become legit in life.” 


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