Q: OK, picking up on your point that there’s a role and a need for everybody who finds the state of the world intolerable, to get with this movement for revolution—with that point in mind, and picking up on the point that you just made, I wanted to ask you to speak directly to people with different levels of familiarity with BA, whether they’re just finding out about him or whether they’ve been familiar with his work for a while. And the question I wanted you to speak to is, basically what it means on different levels for people to get into BA and get with his leadership? Why is this so important?
AS: Look, in a lot of ways, it’s pretty straightforward. Whatever kind of background you come from, whatever your position in society today, if you’re the kind of person who feels that there are a lot of things that are really messed up about the way the world is, the way society is; if you’re completely outraged and unwilling to tolerate for a minute longer a lot of the more outrageous abuses and injustices of the society—and there’s no shortage of these that different people become aware of—then follow your conscience, first of all. Follow your conscience and follow your convictions, and follow the trail to see what does BA say, given that we’re saying, look, this guy’s been doing decades of work, analyzing why these problems keep happening, what they are rooted in, what’s the fundamental reason these terrible things keep happening in this society, what could be done about it.
So, “get into BA” means, first of all, don’t stand aloof when you see these great injustices and this great suffering of the people from various directions. Get involved. Get involved in fighting and exposing these abuses, in joining with others, get organized to fight these abuses, to expose these outrages, to make it clear you’re not tolerating them. And, as you become part of this movement, this movement for revolution, this movement to fight the power, to transform your own thinking and the thinking of your friends and family, and others, on some of the key questions of the day, as you get more involved in that, at the same time as you’re doing that, go deeper. Go deeper. Be like a good scientist. Get into BA, because by getting into BA you are going to learn a lot about the deeper source of the problems and what the actual solutions are, or are not, and what can be done about these problems.
A good place to start, if you’re new to things, besides something like the Dialogue, I would highly recommend that people watch, and watch with their friends and families, and so on, the film Revolution—Nothing Less! It’s six hours of BA talking, analyzing the deeper sources of the problem in society and the solution. There’s also an earlier film, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, that is also full of very helpful material which gets very clearly into why a revolution is necessary and why it is possible, even in a country like the U.S., and what kind of revolution should we have, what kind of society should we bring into being. And you can get a copy of BAsics and just start reading it anywhere you want, read some of the quotes and the short essays that are in there that give a feel for some of the range and the depth of analysis on some of these questions, and why this system cannot just be fixed with a few tweaks, why it can’t just be reformed.
One of the most important things that it means to get into BA is to get into the deeper analysis and exposition of precisely why you cannot reform this system, and why capitalist imperialism as a system needs to be completely dismantled through a revolution, an actual revolution, and replaced with a new society built on a completely different economic and political foundation and, correspondingly, very different social values and ways people can relate to each other and function in society.
So, getting into BA—well, there’s not just one way to get into BA. There are many different ways. If you’re new to things, I would recommend the Dialogue, BAsics, Revolution—Nothing Less! I would recommend going regularly, at least once a week, to the revcom.us website and exploring not only Revolution newspaper on a regular basis, but also going to the other portals on the website: the portal that has BA’s works, and talks about the new synthesis; the portal that talks about the Party he leads, why there’s a need for a revolutionary party and what that involves and why people should be talking about joining this revolutionary party; and the portal that talks about what’s going on in the movement for revolution and these different initiatives to fight mass incarceration and police murders and brutality, and to combat the restrictions on abortion and combat the degradation of women through pornography and rape culture and in other ways, and the fights around the environmental degradation and against these imperialist wars, and so on. There are a lot of practical things, practical initiatives, that people can get into, and people can get involved in one, or more than one, of these initiatives. But getting into BA means, at whatever level and wherever you start, trying to really get into what is he saying about why you can’t fix things just one thing at a time, and why you can’t fix things by trying to reform this system. And it means getting into what is the relationship between fighting particular abuses and outrages today, and being able to get to the point where you’re in a position to have an actual full-out revolution to dismantle the existing system and reconfigure the society on a completely different foundation.
There is something that has been on the revcom.us website recently which gives a short definition. It’s called “What IS An Actual Revolution?” I’m just going to read it here:
An actual revolution is a lot more than a protest. An actual revolution requires that millions of people get involved, in an organized way, in a determined fight to dismantle this state apparatus and system and replace it with a completely different state apparatus and system, a whole different way of organizing society, with completely different objectives and ways of life for the people.
“With completely different objectives and ways of life for the people.” I just want to stay on that for a second. That’s a very important thing, how a society is organized. What does the system that governs the society—what is it aiming to do? Under capitalism-imperialism, it seeks to meet the needs of the capitalist-imperialists, in terms of being able to develop and sustain their empire, increase their profits, compete successfully with other capitalist-imperialists. It has very little to do with meeting the needs of the people, either the basic requirements of life or these more intangible things like art and culture and science. It is geared to meeting the needs of the capitalists, the imperialists. The whole state apparatus, the police and the armed forces, and so on, these are state institutions that are geared to buttressing, supporting and strengthening this system and its objectives, its goals.
And a real revolution is a process which actually involves getting to the point where you can fight—where millions of people can be involved in fighting—to dismantle, to break down and completely break apart the existing institutions of the system, and replace them with completely new institutions and new organs of power, and new ways of setting up the economy, and all the things that flow from that, including all sorts of ways that the people relate to each other, and all the ideas that flow from that. It’s a radical transformation in everything, from the way people live, to the way people relate to each other, to the way people dream and aspire to things—all of this undergoes a real sea change when you have an actual revolution.
And if you get into BA, this is what you should be looking for—you should be looking for his method and approach, his analysis of why things are the way they are. Why do police keep murdering unarmed Black and Brown people in this society? Why is this continuing what has been in existence since the days of slavery and Jim Crow? The “lynching culture” is now the “police murder of people culture”—it is an extension of the same thing. BA does a very deep and insightful analysis of the whole history of this and of how this is so woven into the fabric of this system that you can’t just wish it away, and you can’t even protest it away. You should protest, you should have strong fights against this, organize with other people, like the movement that’s been developing since Ferguson, a movement which started around Trayvon Martin and then built up around Mike Brown and Eric Garner, with people coming forward all over the country in different cities, and in cities around the world, to denounce this kind of thing. It is extremely important not only to continue this, but to actually expand it and have it grow and be stronger. It is part of organizing the people and strengthening the people.
And the same can be said around a number of other key concentrations of social contradictions, these key outrages in society, these contradictions that this system cannot fix. They cannot fix the oppression of Black people, of Brown people. They cannot fix the way immigrants get blocked from borders or turned away or tormented or denounced as “illegals,” as if any human being were ever an “illegal” human being. It cannot fix the way women are degraded and treated as less than full human beings in this country and all around the world. It cannot fix the environment in any sustained fundamental way—not as long as we live under a system that is driven by a constant search, and a fierce competition, for profits, not as long as those are the rules of the system running things. The rules of the game for capitalism-imperialism are that capitalists are constantly competing with other capitalist-imperialists around the world to divide the world, and for plunder and pillage, and to increase their profits; and if you don’t play that game, and beat out others, you go under. So even if an individual capitalist wanted to have a more enlightened position, they can’t really do anything about it. The system is set up to meet the needs of that system, not the needs of the people.
So when you get into BA, you should be reading and listening and checking out all the different things that intrigue you and interest you, and talking to other people about it. You don’t have to agree with everything, just check it out, do some work. Get together with people, read things, listen to things, watch films, discuss things, and develop your own understanding, at the same time that you’re out there fighting and denouncing and exposing the injustices of everyday life as they’re going on right now, which BA is definitely encouraging people to do. At the same time that you’re doing that, keep going deeper, so that you really start to understand why these terrible outrageous abuses are built into the fabric of this system, and you can push back for a while, but ultimately you cannot totally get rid of these abuses until you get rid of the system itself and replace it with a completely new system. BA makes very, very deep and insightful analyses of all of that: why you need a revolution; what is the possibility for a revolution; what is the basis—on what basis, even in a powerful imperialist country like the United States, with all its military and stuff, is it actually possible; and, if you succeed in seizing power, then how do you build a society that was worth fighting for, that you’d want to live in, as opposed to yet another bad system. All of that is in BA’s works.
In that statement I was reading about “What IS an Actual Revolution?” it gets into the link between fighting the power today and building for an actual revolution. It says, “Fighting the power today has to help build and develop and organize the fight for the whole thing.” “The fight for the whole thing”—if you don’t get into BA, you’re going to be missing a lot about how to link all these different things together and understand their root causes, which are deeply built into the fabric of the system, and you won’t know how to fight for the whole thing. And you have to fight for the whole thing in order to have an actual revolution. And this statement ends, “Otherwise we’ll be protesting the same abuses generations from now!” I don’t know about you, but I don’t want that, three generations hence...people have made that point about Emmett Till, that people protested what happened to Emmett Till, the lynching of Emmett Till way back in the 1950s, and here we are protesting what happened to Eric Garner, to Mike Brown, to Oscar Grant, to Ramarley Graham, to Amadou Diallo, to Trayvon Martin, to Tamir Rice...the list goes on and on and on... Right? How long are we going to be doing the same thing?
So, yes, first of all, we should definitely be protesting, but we also need to go deeper and be more scientific and more organized and more unified, and we need to get smarter, frankly, about how we take on these things. Bob Avakian has developed a whole strategy for the whole revolutionary process—not just for one corner of it, but for all the different components of it—in this country, in a country like the U.S., as well as having some very important insights for the development of revolution in other countries, including other types of countries, like Third World countries that are under the domination of imperialism, where it is necessary to work in somewhat different ways for an actual revolution.
So all that is some of what it means to get into BA. You know, just do the work. Go to the revcom.us website. Get BAsics. Get Revolution—Nothing Less! Watch the Dialogue. Read BA’s memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond. Listen to some of the cultural things. Listen to “All Played Out.” Play the “Borderline” song on the Outernational album. Watch and listen to these things with other people. There are many, many different angles and many different ways to get into this. Look, BA has spent a lifetime, he’s spent decades developing all of this work. You’re not going to be able to catch up, you’re not going to be able to “get it all,” in a few weeks or a few months or even a few years. But make a start, and then follow it up. Ask questions if things aren’t clear enough. Struggle with other people about their misconceptions. Go to your friends and family and talk to them about what you’re learning. And, by the way, expect to be mocked, ridiculed, criticized, to be told you don’t know what you’re talking about! Expect push back, OK? But don’t give up when that happens. Do the best you can in answering things, on the basis of what you’ve been learning, but when you run into things that you don’t understand well enough, go back to BA, go back to his materials, dig in a little deeper, talk to other people who know more about this, ask them for help, so that you can keep spreading this among the people.
The idea is that, if you had hundreds more, thousands more, tens of thousands more, discussing, debating what BA has been bringing forward, what he’s arguing for, his analysis, what he says the nature of the problem is, and what the nature of the solution is, then it’s not that everybody would immediately agree, but we’d all be so much better off—if everybody were having that kind of discussion, instead of just sort of turning their backs on the problems of society and the problems of the people and just cultivating their own little “self,” or maybe actually trying to fight some of these abuses but in a way that is sort of like being stuck in a narrow little cubicle, where you’re just taking on one issue, or one corner of one issue, but you’re not seeing the bigger patterns, and you’re not linking them up to the other egregious outrages in society, and you’re not understanding that there is actually a strategy to get out of this mess once and for all. There is a strategy. This is why you should get into BA, and this is how to make a start.