Watching Clips from the Dialogue Between Cornel West and Bob Avakian in West Baltimore

May 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


What follows is drawn from an interview with several revolutionaries who work with the New York City Revolution Club and who came to Baltimore to join in the fight for justice for Freddie Gray and to spread the revolution among the freedom fighters there.


The atmosphere in the room was electric as nine people, mainly from West Baltimore, where Freddie Gray was murdered, gathered around the tiny screen of a DVD player to watch excerpts from REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion. From teenagers to people in their 50s and older, men and women, and some who had done long bids in prison—everyone in the room was glued to the screen, hooting, laughing, and clapping at times, and at other times audibly silent, intensely listening to the dialogue—with some particular intensity to the part where Bob Avakian laid out in clear and serious terms how it could be possible to make an actual revolution and defeat the brutal power of the rulers.

Three selections from the Dialogue were shown, the first being from the opening presentation by Avakian on “What if the world didn’t have to be this way?”, the second one from the Q&A, “Why are we still fighting for justice in 2015?”, and also another Q&A section roughly titled, “How are we the oppressed supposed to accomplish true revolution peacefully when we’re up against those who have so much power to destroy? I see a no-win in that situation.” The excerpts ran 30 to 40 minutes.

The “What if...” section of the Dialogue drew a visceral reaction, with people kind of expecting BA to speak on the question of police murder, but then really deeply feeling the way he goes at that and at the way you’re assaulted in every way as a Black person in this society. And when BA goes on to lay out a vision of a world where the lives of all of humanity really do matter, it resonated deeply and opened new horizons beyond what people had ever even dared to imagine could be possible—where not only would there be an immediate end to the murderous terror of the police, but women would no longer be devalued and abused as sex objects and there would be no more immigrants because there would be no more borders to divide and oppress humanity. When BA talked about women being able to walk down the street and be able to look every man in the eye, one woman in the group just erupted—she was verbal as well as applauding. And other people joined in, partly because they did actually agree, but partly also because she drew a line by being so vocal, and you had to choose which side you were on. If you weren’t going to applaud, then it was kind of like you weren’t serious about all of this oppression. And then came the point where he talks about getting to a world where women aren’t battered, raped, abused, and then deprived of the right to control their own bodies.

During the second cut, people were listening a lot, and it was interesting—a couple of people in the room were familiar with the reference to 1968 and urban rebellions, they had a sense of widespread rebellions all across the country. People were really listening to where BA talks about why we are still here struggling, we’re still living under the same system. People were really responding to the back and forth between BA and CW over the role of art and having a different kind of culture—the point about the tenderness, the sweetness, and the collectivity. When BA said, “It’s not weak to love,” that really struck a chord—people not expecting it, but then really appreciating it. And also the thing about hip hop and Ice-T going from rapping about cop killers to playing a cop on TV. That was something that really had people with it and laughing. And that last banter between BA and Cornel about “god doesn’t ask for your permission”—and some people responded to BA, “oh, don’t worry you’ll hear god.” That was a response some people had at the end of that cut. But off of that, people were in a very lively, uplifted mood.

When the third cut came on, where BA gets into how you could really make a revolution and win, the whole way people were sitting literally changed. People moved their chairs forward and leaned in. Then this section framed a lot of the seriousness of the tone of the conversation that followed.

One young guy was talking about how people don’t always see a white dude get up there and talk about how they’re feeling in ways that are convincing in the way BA was, and with the seriousness in what he was talking about. Others appreciated that, but were also talking about how there’s something about this country, that it has been white supremacy, and it has been Black people catching the most hell. So there was some back and forth around that, how to understand that. It wasn’t so much a question of “white people are the problem” but more it was: “What is the problem with white people?” There was a lot of sincerity, broadness of mind, and just genuine sentiments of wanting a world where human beings can just be—and the kind of way they were dealing with this was everyone has oppression, white people can be oppressed, too, under this system—they were trying to figure out how to correctly understand this. But it’s not just that—the question is what kind of world do we want to live in? Do we want to live in a society where whole sections of people are treated that way? No! There was a lot of fluidity that was in the room.

The other big theme of the conversation was this question of winning, making it something worth winning. People talked about sacrifice—not just dying, but being willing to sacrifice for revolution and living your life for something. And this is where the seriousness of how people were taking this really came through. One guy referenced the “What if” part and then the point that if you’re going to go up against them, you have to take seriously into account what they will bring down on people who try to fight them. He said, “I leaned forward when I heard that.” He said how he’d hate to be motivated and get into that and come to find out people are not on that same page. There was back and forth on that, too. OK, what’s the responsibility of people who do see that, and leading people who are not yet ready to make that level of commitment and sacrifice?

Summing up the conversation afterwards, one Revolution Club member said, “You really got a sense that people want to fight, they want to stand up, they really want to see how serious BA is, you know. Is he real or what? I could see people engage BA—is he real or what? And they’re watching him, and when he talked about that serious thing, could we actually win, they were quiet, they were listening, they really wanted to know. And they asked us, are you guys serious, basically? Are you guys going to stand with people here in Baltimore, because if you’re not, you’re getting our hopes up for nothing... One guy at the meeting, he keeps the Stolen Lives poster on his wall so that he’ll never forget that he has to fight this every day... At the end of the meeting [one woman] said she was “worried” because she felt so good. She felt so full of hope. We talked a little bit about this thing of how much it hurts for people to hope, but how much this raises people’s hopes and sights and dreams. Physically you could see she was so full of excitement—but she was also thinking, ‘am I a fool to hope?’ It was sort of an unspoken—or actually a spoken—thing. People were trying to take a measure of us, and of BA. I don’t think there was a question in people’s minds that BA is for real.”

There were several ways that people indicated that while this was the first time they’d heard BA, they wanted to hear a lot more. One way it came out was in the course of the discussion, several people quoted from BAsics—and then everybody in the room wanted a copy. People were figuring out about saving their nickels and dimes so they could make down payments on copies of it. Also in the course of the discussion, it was brought out how this film, in other sections, really gets into this question of if we really want emancipation, it’s not about revenge—and people were very eager to know they could see the whole movie. A date was set to watch the whole film.



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"The film brings you up close inside Cornel West's and Bob Avakian's dialogue: the passion, the audacity, the science, the morality, the revolutionary substance. Two courageous voices modeling a morality that refuses to accept injustice – pouring heart and soul into standing together challenging all of us to fight for a world worthy of humanity."

Andy Zee,
co-director of the film


BA Speaks

"No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that."

BAsics 1:13

Do you know anyone else—any person or organization—that has managed to bring forth an actual PLAN for a radically different society, in all its dimensions, and a CONSTITUTION to codify all this? — A different world IS possible — Check out and order online the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).

What Humanity Needs

At the beginning of 2012, an in-depth interview with Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, was conducted over a period of several days by A. Brooks, a younger generation revolutionary who has been inspired by the leadership and body of work of Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism this has brought forward.

Special Issue

People need the truth about the communist revolution. The REAL truth. At a time when people are rising up in many places all over the world and seeking out ways forward, THIS alternative is ruled out of order. At a time when even more people are agonizing over and raising big questions about the future, THIS alternative is constantly slandered and maligned and lied about, while those who defend it are given no space to reply.

Contains Interview with Raymond Lotta, Timeline of The REAL History of Communist Revolution, and more...