Speech by Andy Zee at the Berkeley Emergency Program

Why Fascists Want to Burn Down Revolution Books—and Why We Must Stand Together to Defend It!

March 19, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Revolution Books-Berkeley
March 18, 2018
Andy Zee, Speaker


One of my favorite things to do is to be and speak at Revolution Books—here in Berkeley or in New York. 

This is so even as the occasion of this talk is to oppose the ugly assault on Revolution Books-Berkeley—the vicious and vile misogynist personal assault against Reiko as well as the staff culminating in the vicious threat to burn down the store itself. These fascists will not stop Revolution Books, they will not deter from why this is a precious and essential place that embodies the future.  And, NO! their assault will not diminish either our sense of purpose or joy in what is represented by Revolution Books.  

We mean both words of our name: Revolution … Books. Not a marketing slogan, it is what we are and embodies for whom and for what we exist. This is a bookstore about the world, for a radically new world. A place that is guided by a radically new and emancipatory understanding of the first word of our name—REVOLUTION, as it has been re-envisioned in the new communism developed by Bob Avakian, the revolutionary leader, who it should be said, is a “son” of Berkeley—the Berkeley High School Yellowjackets and UC Berkeley.

These fascists will not diminish the excitement of digging into the rich and varied explorations of the natural and social world contained in the books that surround us, or the engagement with each other and thrill of dialogue and debate over the world we live in, and how we could together change it. No, we will not, we must not let Trump, Pence, and their fascist thugs turn Revolution Books and the potential that it, and the intellectual, political, and cultural life that is contained within its walls into a 21st century burning of the Library of Alexandria. And, we will stand against such attacks wherever they occur.

The ugly spectacle of the two fascists who assaulted sister Reiko and the store with their threat of arson conjures and concentrates the present reality that not only Revolution Books faces, but that we all do. Any and every person whose work, whose morality, whose values aspire to a world of diversity, of overcoming the oppression of all peoples regardless of nationality, race, gender, or beliefs is under siege. The harsh fascist future that these thugs acted in service of impacts everyone who values critical thinking, scholarship, and engagement. If you appreciate what the arts contribute to our being human—to the tremendous import of imagination to the life of the mind and the vital richness of society, the attack on this bookstore is a frontline fight for you. The assault on Revolution Books is an attack on truth itself—on the importance of the scientific method, of why evidence matters, and even on the existence of objective reality. These are critical tools, essential modes of thinking, without which, at this moment in human history, our species and this planet might not survive. And let’s not step over that this is an attack on the radical discourse and struggle that is the legacy of Berkeley, while we understand that this fight is bigger than Berkeley.  

This attack is against all I’ve just said, and as such, it is no accident that Revolution Books has been their target—10 times in the last 6 months. Why? Because RB embodies all those values. And, beyond that, it is and will continue to be the political and the intellectual and the cultural center of a movement for an actual revolution to bring about a radically new liberatory world. And, that world—or frankly any world that is not the fascism that is being cemented into place today—depends on all of us joining together to defend this store as one front in the great challenge of this year, which is to drive the fascist Trump/Pence Regime from power.

The vicious ghouls that attacked RB are not only emboldened and unleashed by this regime, but are a strike force—a reactionary revanchist movement whose purpose is to intimidate and bludgeon people to accept and capitulate to this fascism. As part of its mission, Revolution Books has been a key site, a gathering spot, where people come to learn about and dig into this fascism, its roots and how to stop it. Revolution Books in New York held the first forum on the fascism of this regime in the month after Trump’s election, and today both the New York and Berkeley stores are featuring the film, The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go! In The Name of Humanity, We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America, A Better World IS Possible, A Talk by Bob Avakian—a must-see film to understand what we face and what we must do to stop it. So we are not surprised by their hatred for Revolution Books and we will not be deterred. 

We will not back down because of all of you, because of all of the people who can and must be rallied to defend Revolution Books. We should see the fight to defend RB as one part of a great cause, an unprecedented struggle to recognize, organize, and act decisively to stop the fascism unfolding before us. Everyone can be a part of spreading the word and forging the principled unity so that the million or more people who learned of the attack on RB Berkeley through videos and the media coverage can become a part of the movement to stand not just with RB, but against the whole Trump/Pence Regime. 

Fascism rules through reliance on open terror and violence, trampling on civil and legal rights, wielding the power of the state, and by mobilizing organized groups of fanatical thugs, to commit atrocities against masses of people, particularly groups of people identified as “enemies,” “undesirables,” or “dangers to society.”  And, books and bookstores are definitely all three of these things to fascists. We should recognize that the assault on RB is not an isolated occurrence. The night after the attack on RB, a store window was smashed and an outdoor bookshelf torched at Groundwork Books Collective in San Diego. There is virulent connection between these fascist groups and the project of the Trump/Pence Regime to consolidate fascism in this country. This is deadly serious and I will return to our responsibility to stop it later.

So, it is a very serious purpose and responsibility that brings me to Revolution Books-Berkeley, yet, as I said, that does not diminish my appreciation and joy of being at and representing for Revolution Books. The walls around us hold a curated collection of books that matter in a place that matters. Books that are the repository of the experience of people all over the world over the millennia—stories of lives and of dreams. But more, RB is a place that is a bridge between the world that is today, and what could be.

Let me read you something that animates Revolution Books:

Let’s imagine if we had a whole different art and culture. Come on, enough of this “bitches and ho’s” and SWAT teams kicking down doors. Enough of this “get low” bullshit. And how come it’s always the women that have to get low? We already have a situation where the masses of women and the masses of people are pushed down and held down low enough already. It’s time for us to get up and get on up.

Imagine if we had a society where there was culture—yes it was lively and full of creativity and energy and yes rhythm and excitement, but at the same time, instead of degrading people, lifted us up. Imagine if it gave us a vision and a reality of what it means to make a whole different society and a whole different kind of world. Imagine if it laid out the problems for people in making this kind of world and challenged them to take up these problems. Imagine if art and culture too—movies, songs, television, everything—challenged people to think critically, to look at things differently, to see things in a different light, but all pointing toward how can we make a better world.

Imagine if the people who created art and culture were not just a handful of people but all of the masses of people, with all their creative energy unleashed, and the time were made for them to do that, and for them to join with people who are more full-time workers and creators in the realm of art and culture to bring forward something new that would challenge people, that would make them think in different ways, that would make them be able to see things critically and from a different angle, and would help them to be uplifted and help them to see their unity with each other and with people throughout the world in putting an end to all the horrors that we’re taught are just the natural order of things. Imagine all that. 

These words are from Bob Avakian, published in BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian drawn from his 2003 film, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About.

These are values and ways of being that the first communist revolutions in the 20th century began. But, those revolutions no longer exist, defeated by the strength of the prevailing imperialist system as well as their own limitations in understanding and practice. After these defeats, determined that the struggle for total emancipatory revolution would not die, Bob Avakian went to work. Through over 40 years study and struggle—practically leading the movement for revolution and developing the theory that could win and bring about a fully liberating society, he has developed a new communism. Sifting through the previous experience, taking on board the changes in the world since, engaging work from other fields of inquiry, he developed a new synthesis of communism that really could bring about a far better world—a radically new society in which people could collectively go to work on overcoming all of the oppressive and exploitive divisions that exist today, a new society that could, at long last, achieve human emancipation all over the world.


We live today in a moment when we are staring down the barrel of an American fascism—that imperils lives here and around the entire globe. Last week I hosted the great Kenyan writer, Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o at RB in New York reading from his prison memoir, Wrestling with the Devil. A young woman from Kenya spoke with me afterwards and said: the American people have to realize that when they vote it doesn’t just affect them, it can harm everyone around the world.

Today, around the globe tens of millions of people flee their homes—to escape war, famine, and unnecessary disease all brought about and exacerbated by the prevailing capitalist-imperialist system. These are people—with dreams and contributions to make. Their lives are not less precious than American lives.  Sixty-five people drowned last Saturday when their boat from Turkey capsized in the Mediterranean. Famine stalks Somalia and even northern Kenya. A genocide takes place in Ghouta, Syria, with yet a second genocide in the Congo in the offing as the vicious gangs and militias compete to provide the coltan for our cell phones and electronic devices. 

When such horrors ricochet around the world, with the threat of nuclear war and environmental devastation hanging in the balance as the Trump/Pence Regime barrels forward, that there is Revolution Books imbued with a hallmark of the new communism—that either the whole world gets free and people everywhere are emancipated, or none of us do. This is one reason why RB features voices and literature from countries and diasporas the world over.

Think about what a difference the kind of vision and the approach to creating a radically new culture that was in the “Imagine” quotation I just read. How it opens up vistas for people that are otherwise hidden. Think about this vision, and then contrast it with the self-obsessed culture of today: imagine if this whole new culture “laid out the problems for people in making this kind of world and challenged them to take up these problems.” Right there is a glimpse of a point of departure in the method and approach of BA—putting the problems of the revolution, of creating a whole new society, before the people—not failing to lead by asking the right questions and providing orientation, but involving masses of people to collectively work on the solutions. This involves not just culture, but the economy, the form of a radically different state that would ultimately get beyond the need for states, education, media, tackling all forms of oppression and the backward ideas that reinforce that oppression. This vision and plan is available at RB in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, written by Bob Avakian.

This method and approach which runs through the strategy and vision for the new society is also what we strive to apply today at Revolution Books. What kind of engaged atmosphere do we need? How do you approach putting these questions before people? By what method and approach do people tackle the BIG questions:  What kind of world do we want and what kind of people could we be? How do we overcome the huge divisions between peoples that so press on humanity? By what method and approach do we identify and dig into the fundamental problem we face in the capitalist system and how it shapes all the other forms of oppression that have plagued people for millennia. Why and how is revolution the solution?  How do we forge the kind of principled discourse and demarcating struggle over ideas, philosophy, strategy and the plans to fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution? While this method and approach is what the staff at RB strives to model, the best way to get into this is to watch the BA films and to get into THE NEW COMMUNISM and BAsics.

The heart of the new communism is a scientific approach to all of reality and to revolution in particular. It is a qualitative breakthrough in putting communism on a consistently and thoroughly scientific foundation. Why does this matter?

Ardea Skybreak in the book SCIENCE AND REVOLUTION, On the Importance of Science and the Application of Science to Society, the New Synthesis of Communism and the Leadership of Bob Avakian, which we feature at RB, paraphrases Neil deGrasse Tyson saying: “Science allows you to confront and identify problems, to recognize problems and figure out how to solve them, rather than run away from them. She continues, “It’s a tool—science—a very powerful tool. It’s a method and approach for being able to tell what’s true, what corresponds to reality as it really is…

She goes on to make this point:

Without science, you can only say what you as an individual think reality is, or maybe you can say what a whole bunch of people think reality is, or maybe you can say what a government, or religious authority, or some other authority might tell you reality is like, but that doesn’t make any of it true. Without science you are at the mercy of being manipulated, of having your thinking manipulated and not being able to tell what’s right from what’s wrong, what’s true from what’s false.

No one can accuse Donald Trump of being the least bit concerned with what is true. No one in their right mind can think that Mike Pence, who is a biblical literalist and as such doesn’t believe in evolution, is concerned with actual evidence and objective reality. Cabinet Secretaries Pruitt, DeVos, Carson, Zinke, Perry, and that insanely cruel Trump appointed Supreme Court Justice Gorsuch—constitute a cabal of lunatic Christian fascists who deny actual reality while slamming their fascist unreal reality down the throat of the world.  

To this regime, to the idiot thug duo who threatened to “burn down” Revolution Books, wearing their Trump “Make America Great Again” caps while spewing white supremacist, vile anti-women slurs at the staff of RB—RB is an anathema to be destroyed. A bookstore whose mission is providing the books and the engagement where people can scientifically dig into the fundamental problems of this system and discover and learn how to fight it and ultimately replace it through revolution is everything these fascists fear.

Revolution Books is the place to dig into the why’s and the what’s of the fascism that grows around the world, and especially here with the Trump/Pence Regime.  At RB, through the work of BA, people dig into the roots of this fascism in the whole history of the U.S. Drilling down further into the nature of this system reveals why the core intractable problems such as the oppression of Black people, of immigrants, of women, of the destruction of the environment, and people of the world by U.S. wars and occupations for their empire—what we call the “Five Stops,” cannot be solved under this system. This is why we need a revolution. Our ultimate objective is, as I’ve been saying, for a radically different future than the fascism of Trump/Pence, or, for that matter, a return to a future of the “normal” oppressive workings of the capitalist-imperialist system. Rather, we advocate for a leap into a third, different and better future through a revolution aiming for a world where humanity could truly flourish.

The threat to burn down RB must be taken seriously. First, because it is the site of engagement and popularization of the theory and the leadership for a revolution leading to a radical new society on the road to human emancipation in the work and leadership of Bob Avakian, which I have been speaking about. But, also because the threat to burn down bookstores (and actually attempting to do so at Groundwork Books Collective in San Diego), is a serious warning of the growing bold initiative of the fascist remaking of society. 

It must be said to those academics and others who RB spoke with and who said to the staff that they are sorry that this threat was made against RB, and that they wished us well, but they see no imminent danger or reason to step out themselves to denounce this and to take up the fight to drive out the Trump/Pence Regime, to these people we must say: wake the fuck up. Get your head out of the sand or wherever it is lodged, and look at what is happening, not just to RB and to radical thought, but across the board—to 11 million immigrants, terrorized by the sword of deportation and detention; to women who Mike Pence says will lose the right to abortion very soon; to the youth who Trump told the police to “treat rough,” to incredibly draconian repressive laws being promulgated at all levels, and most especially to the people of the world who face environmental devastation and possible nuclear war at the hands of this fascist regime. And, this isn’t the half of it. Don’t say that fascism can’t happen here. Don’t reassure yourself that because you don’t want to get out of your comfort zone, because you can get by, because fascism hasn’t directly affected you, that it isn’t fascism. If you adjust and accommodate to great injustice done to others you are aiding and abetting fascism’s progress. 

Yes, the threats to burn bookstores here is not yet May 10, 1933, when 20,000 books were burned in Nazi rallies across Germany. But the echo is pregnant today as the fascists aim to legitimize fascism on the campuses under a false flag rubric of “free speech.”

Critical thinking, intellectual rigor, and reason are under attack from a regime that is in control of all three branches of the government, that today commands two-thirds of the state houses, and is backed up by a fascist social base that hasn’t shrunk but only hardened in its resolve with a core of lunatic dangerous followers who will stop at nothing to get their white supremacist, xenophobic, women-hating fascist America cemented into law and power.

The political form of Christian fundamentalism that we accurately call Christian fascism and the white supremacist bullying “America First” fascism of Trump do necessarily have to go after reason, rational thought, and a scientific, evidence-based approach to reality. The breadth of literature, serious studies of roots of white supremacy, of the environment, of origins and continued prevalence of gender oppression, of the division of the world into imperialist and neo-colonial oppressed nations, are all daylight and a cross to these vampires, who ironically wrap themselves in the cloak of religion. 

Over the last 25+ years Bob Avakian has been deeply analyzing the rise and development of fascism in the world, with a focus on its development in the U.S. He has made the point that we communists, who are working to bring about a total revolution, will fight to uphold and defend the aspect of the enlightenment that holds that the world is knowable in all its complexity and which promotes science and the scientific method. But, with two critical differences. 

First, I quote BA, “The truth will not set us free, in and of itself, but we will not get free without the truth.” The truth will not just inevitably win out, it must be fought for. At Revolution Books we both appreciate and engage philosophy, art and ideas in their own right, but not for their own sake. For those of you who have seen Raoul Peck’s The Young Marx, the film shows Marx’s development when he said: “the philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.” The critical principle which BA has fought for up against all forms of social democracy, is that for ideas —including correct ideas—to become “operative” in society as a whole, there has to be a struggle, a class struggle, ultimately a revolution. And, second, we do not uphold the belief in the enlightenment that it is the role of the “enlightened” to “civilize” “backward” peoples and nations, the so called “white man’s burden” which regards the “enlightenment” as a positive instrument and justification for colonialism and imperialist domination.

At the same time, at RB we do appreciate the importance of scientific, intellectual, and artistic engagement in its own right and seek to learn from all of human experience. In this Avakian makes an important break with previous communist theory with the understanding that the truth does not have a class character. What is true is so because it corresponds to reality.

This is some of the theoretical underpinning and foundation for why you sit in this incredible place with the breadth of books and experience of humanity surrounding you. Why there are programs at the Revolution Books stores with authors and scholars from around the world. It’s why, for example, the wonderful young Ghanaian-American writer, Yaa Gyasi read from, and we had deep discussions at Revolution Books in both New York and Berkeley about her debut novel, Homegoing. It tells of an epic journey that goes from slavery in Ghana, through the middle passage, to slavery in the U.S. all the way up to today going back and forth between Ghana and the U.S. revealing how this history impacts the present day descendants of two sisters who begin the novel—one branch of the family in Ghana, the other in the U.S.

RB is, as we say, a bookstore about the world and for a radically new world. People from all over the world come into Revolution Books and these stores are sites that help spread the new communism around the world. This, too, matters as there are forces in the world that are right now struggling to take up and apply this new communism to their part of the world revolution. 

I spoke before of Ngũgĩ wa Thiong’o, a friend of Revolution Books, writer and literary theorist, he opens the first volume of his memoir, with the following epigraph from the poet, Martin Carter: “I do not sleep to dream but dream to change the world.” Bob Avakian has written, “If you don’t have a poetic spirit—or at least a poetic side—it is very dangerous for you to lead a Marxist movement or be the leader of a socialist state.” RB is a place that gives flight to the imagination, for a world that really could be.

Let’s go back again, and recall the bigoted distorted faces of the two fascists who threatened RB, who called themselves “Western Chauvinists”—a blood-drenched concept that is only a more pompous expression of Trump’s calling Africa and Haiti “shithole countries."

Contrast this poisonous chauvinism to this from BAsics, which guides Revolution Books: “Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First.”

The contrast between two futures couldn’t be sharper. Fascism vs. a store and a movement for revolution dedicated to a scientific approach to knowing and changing the world—a store dedicated to the emancipation of all humanity.

On the one side, a fascist regime headed by a narcissistic psychopathic racist sexual predator who epitomizes the ignorance of America as he pursues his “winners and losers” paradigm. Behind him, as RefuseFascism.org has put it, is a section of powerful ruling forces who see in Trump and Pence the vehicle for an American Fascism: Manifest Destiny and American exceptionalism, a fascism wrapped in the Bible taken literally and the American flag, saturated with racism, misogyny, and xenophobia. With a legion of puffed up turds—dried up revenge filled thugs—who cling to their delusions of superiority, now backed up by the most powerful state. 

On the other side, is all that I have spoken about that is concentrated in this store. It is not just about the staff or the place, although it is that, it is about all the people who hate injustice and all forms of oppression and exploitation. It is about the aspirations of humanity to live in a far different and better world. It is about the science, the vision, the strategy, and the leadership for a truly emancipating revolution.

What’s it going to be? That is up to us. Are we going to stand against this regime and its goons? Are we going to struggle with our friends, families, co-workers, teachers, and fellow students, indeed with everyone and everybody we can to unite broadly to drive this regime from power? Are we going to struggle with our friends, families, co-workers, teachers, and fellow students—and even ourselves, to engage Bob Avakian’s new communism, the most radical liberating theory for transforming the whole world and ourselves in the process—a theory that is a revolution in thought, and a breakthrough in strategy and conception of a new society on the road to human emancipation. That there is a way out of the madness and horror is cause for celebration, and Revolution Books is the place for that party.





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