Revolution #177, September 27, 2009

Response of Some High School Students on Watching Raymond Lotta Youtube

The following is from a reader:

“I learned about how much people are being lied to about Mao and [socialist] China. … like in that book about Mao [Mao: The Unknown Story, by Jung Chang and Jon Halliday]”

This was the response of a high school student on watching the Youtube of Raymond Lotta at a salon discussion.

The discussion itself was spirited and substantive covering questions on revolutionary strategy, and mainly the need for revolution. The main exchange was a back-and-forth volley on whether capitalism cannot be reformed, and on why revolution is necessary, sparked off by us watching the "Imagine…A New Society…" excerpt of Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian. A student asked why these changes [described in the excerpt] can’t be done under capitalism. This discussion, starting with responses and counter-responses to this question then progressively went into questions of whether human nature is inherently selfish, and whether and how society can be organized differently than in capitalism, on something other than material incentive and individual advancement. Four high school students and a couple of college students were part of the mix in this discussion with us.

From this animated discussion we segued into letting people know about and organizing for the Raymond Lotta talk on campuses, Everything You’ve Been Told About Communism is Wrong, Capitalism is a Failure, Revolution is the Solution. In this context, we all collectively watched the Youtube of Raymond Lotta. The room was generally charged by the exchange and students were really interested and curious about this speech -- and the Youtube introducing it.

In the following comments, two things really stood out to the students.

First, the specific refutation by Lotta of the accusation in Mao: The Unknown Story that Mao said “Half of China may well have to die” in the course of collectivization and related socialist transformations. In the Youtube, Lotta demonstrates how this quote is taken out of context to completely distort and, in fact invert the implication, and that Mao was warning that some socialist policies, especially economic plans, were trying to accomplish too much, risking such catastrophic impact, and these should be reformulated. To one student who had read about the book in the New York Times [these were some of the most intellectual high school students we have ever come across], Lotta’s specific refutation, citing page number of accusation and then refuting it, demonstrated that this book was dishonest and full of lies. The specificity and the refutation i.e. the fact that it was not simply assertions by Lotta, made the students feel they could trust what Lotta was saying. [Students seem to love specificity and examples.]

Second, that Lotta was willing to "take on all comers," inviting defenders of the capitalist-imperialist system and upholders of the slander against communism to his talk. This aspect of contestation and debate really appealed to the students.

Some of these students joined us at their school to get out the high-school issue of Revolution, getting out a large number of papers, and sparking debate and controversy…which as I understand, still continues. 

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