Snapshot: Carl Dix and Sunsara Taylor campus tour visits Berkeley High School

March 7, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


Carl Dix and Sunsara Taylor, as part the national campus tour “If you are serious about changing the world and want to know what a REAL revolution is,” went to Berkeley High, and spoke to about 200 students. Bob Avakian attended Berkeley High, and as BA goes into in his memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, his experiences there, including meeting and becoming friends with Black students, played an important role in BA developing socially and politically, and ultimately becoming the revolutionary communist leader that he is today.

Berkeley High is the only public high school in Berkeley, and the student body draws from a very diverse population, ranging from the children of prominent and influential intellectuals, to recent immigrants, to Black students from oppressed neighborhoods. The same essential contradictions BA talks about in his memoir exist in Berkeley High today, more than 50 years later. Sharp contradictions remain over the academic success of Black vs. white students. And it is a place of ferment. In recent years, Berkeley High students have walked out of classes in support of the protests against police terrorizing Black people. And just last November, many hundreds of students walked out of school after learning of a racist threat made by a student against Black students.

In the days leading into the visit by Carl and Sunsara, copies of the “High School” chapter of BA’s memoir circulated among some teachers. One teacher plans to use the chapter in a class. Revolutionaries also passed out a flyer to students outside the school with the headline "Bob Avakian, the most radical revolutionary leader and scientist on the planet today, came out of Berkeley High," which urged people to learn more about BA and the revolution and get connected at and which also included an excerpt from BA's new work, “The Science, the Strategy, the Leadership for an Actual Revolution, and a Radically New Society on the Road to Real Emancipation.”

By the time Carl and Sunsara spoke in the class, teachers worked together to bring a total of nine classes totaling about 200 students who came over three different periods. Students came from history, African-American Studies, economics, and social studies classes. So Carl and Sunsara spoke to a new group of students each of the three periods. And students who wanted to get more seriously into things were invited to meet with Carl and Sunsara and the Revolution Club at lunch period, when a teacher made her classroom available for that.

Carl and Sunsara gave a powerful presentation which we will not try to sum up here, except to say that they talked about why the world cries out for revolution, how Bob Avakian has developed a new synthesis of communism, and what this means, and they called on students to step forward and join this revolution. One of the important points in the speech that students later said really moved them was when Carl and Sunsara read from BA’s memoir recounting his experience at Berkeley High. One story was about how many of the white students he went to school with in junior high questioned what he was doing by hanging out with the Black students. One guy said, “Why don’t you stick with your own kind,” to which BA said, “‘You mean like you?’ and that was the end of that conversation, and of any friendship between us.”

Another story was about discussions he had with some of the Black football players about racism, on a bus on the way to a football game, where BA writes that “I remember that very, very deeply–I learned a lot more in that one hour than I learned in many hours of classroom time, even from some of the better teachers.”

Every session after their presentation was filled with comments and questions from the students, some welcoming the revolution and asking more about it, some raising challenges and questions about communism and the new synthesis. To give a sense of the back and forth, here is some of what the students raised:

* You say the things we learn in class about communism are incorrect and you're giving a true representation. We've heard all the stats about communism and the facts speak the truth. The creator, Karl Marx, said the economic system is not governed and there has to be an elite leader. It often becomes a tyrannical dictatorship and it doesn't solve the problems, it creates more. It takes away freedom and rights. It happened over and over again. Other problems arise–literacy rates may go up and people can read propaganda. We don't have the perfect system. But millions died and oppression exists–there's extreme differences between people.

* Mao didn't really care about the people or maybe he was trying to care. He took half of what people were making. If you want a revolution to take off, you need to get up high in the media.

* How was the communism developed by BA different–what do you mean?

* When you talk about revolution and seizing power, what does that really look like? What are the practicalities?

* How many people are part of your revolution? What do you do?

* This was fascinating talking about revolution and seizing power. What does a revolution look like?

* What about economic problems? Isn’t there more innovation under capitalism? What about state-led enterprises?

* What do you plan to do to people who don't agree with communism? Do you force them out or relocate them?

* What is it about Bob Avakian and having a cult of personality?

* Racism and sexism–how would you deal with it? There's understanding institutional change–but what about individuals? You can’t legislate people’s beliefs and feelings. How do you change how people see the world?

* What is a scientific revolution?

* Can you elaborate on your plans for revolution? How are you going to go for a revolution?

Just the partial list of questions shows that bringing BA, revolution and the new synthesis of communism, as well as BA’s own formative life experiences, into the ferment at Berkeley High today sparked many questions, and some real controversy. And most importantly, among some students the challenge from Sunsara and Carl to join the revolution is being taken seriously. And it is also very good that among the teachers, some are very interested in the memoir and the life story of this extraordinary and precious revolutionary leader. Something very important opened up with this visit, and now we need to take it much further.


Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.

REVOLUTION AND RELIGION The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion, A Dialogue Between Cornel West & Bob Avakian
BA Speaks: Revolution Nothing Less! Bob Avakian Live
BAsics from the Talks and Writings of Bob Avakian
Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)
WHAT HUMANITY NEEDS Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism
You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation Its History and Our Future Interview with Raymond Lotta
The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need