Sunday, November 5, over 85 people came together at the New Parkway Theater in Oakland for a special screening of selections of the Bob Avakian Interviews, a benefit event for the Revolution Club. They got a glimpse into the unique character of Bob Avakian (BA) as a revolutionary leader who has selflessly dedicated his life to the emancipation of humanity, who never loses sight of the potential of masses of people to change the world, and who is funny as hell. And they got a taste of the strategy to make revolution in this rare time now when revolution is more possible, the vision of the future socialist society that will replace this system, and the way this revolution will bring into being a world without exploitation and oppression.
The screening itself brought together people of many different backgrounds. College/university students, Revolution Club members and supporters, a physical therapist, a civil engineer, immigrants from several countries including Iran and Mexico, a longtime peace activist, veteran revolutionaries and their friends/families, several people in the orbit of the Revolution Club, several poets, a lawyer, and more. What became clear throughout the day was that people are agonizing about the state of the world and looking for solutions.
They were welcomed by the emcee of the evening, Rafael Kadaris. The theater eventually went dark, and the large letters for the Bob Avakian Interviews came on the screen. There is nothing like seeing BA on the big screen and hearing his voice reverberate into the hearts and minds of so many people together in a theater. Afterwards there was a moving fund pitch from the Revolution Club, and a brief Q&A and discussion with Andy Zee, the host of The RNL Show who together with Sunsara Taylor had conducted these Interviews. He first addressed the elephant in the room, the genocide being carried out by Israel with the full backing of the U.S. and the need for masses in the U.S. to stand against this horrific crime, with a particular important role for Jewish people to stand against this genocide. Andy spoke to how the genocide against the Palestinian people must heighten the work and organizing for an actual revolution.
Unfortunately, there was only a short time for Andy Zee to take questions from the audience before we had to give the space up for the next film scheduled there.
The audience was invited to come to a pizza restaurant down the street for deeper discussion (which was arranged beforehand with a friendly shop owner). This was a very rich conversation with Andy Zee in a smaller, intimate setting. BA’s compelling argument in the Interviews for why we need nothing less than a real revolution surfaced big questions. There was a robust, substantive and at times sharp exchange over big questions of reform vs. revolution. This included questions such as: Is it really necessary to make revolution and isn’t there some way to improve this system short of that? Wouldn’t it be better to have a mixture of capitalism and socialism? Revolution is not practical so why not support and form cooperatives now and then as things evolve, take it to a societal level?
There were other questions raised, probing how a revolutionary force can be brought forward now, about the relationship between ending the oppression of women and ending all oppression, what opportunities this recent outbreak of protest around Palestine presents to revolutionaries, the value (or not) of voting in the upcoming election. In a session that stretched for more than two hours, Andy Zee spoke with a lot of depth about why revolution IS what is needed, bringing people to the reality of this system and why only getting rid of it through revolution could open up the possibility of solving the problems that people were hoping could be resolved through different kinds of reforms. Andy spoke to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, and getting into Bob Avakian and the new communism as a pole of attraction and essential in preparation for revolution. People were issued the challenge to get organized into this revolution by spreading these Bob Avakian Interviews and running with the Revolution Club going forward from the Revolution—Nothing Less Week.
The work to bring all these people to the New Parkway reached into many corners of society with the message that with the world facing climate devastation… nuclear war threatened… the danger of all-out fascism… the times cry out for a real revolution! And BA is a rare and unique leader who has a way out for humanity. In the organizing for the film showing, there was struggle in the ranks of the revolutionaries to recognize and break with some defensiveness about putting BA out there very boldly, straight up, everywhere we could reach, challenging one and all to be there. This meant boldly using the Three Reasons Why You Should Be at the Screening of the BA Interviews, posted on revcom, but putting the positive factor of coming to hear Bob Avakian up front—that getting with this leader BA is what the world needs right now and that these BA Interviews have to reach a very broad audience.
The sharpened situation with Israel and Gaza is bringing people into political life on the college and high school campuses, as well as mass protests, and speaking to this from the revolutionary communist perspective that BA is modeling brought forward people who wanted to hear from this revolutionary leader about what should be done about the state of things in the world. One example:
People at the First Friday street art/culture festival in Oakland eagerly signed a banner that said “From Oakland to Palestine, People Need Revolution.” And many then went over to the Revolution Books booth at the festival to look at video clips of the BA Interviews. More than half of the people who bought tickets for the showing of the Interview on Nov. 5 did so after watching clips of the Interview.
After the showing at the Parkway, one woman commented on the "great turnout" and noted BA's history with the Black Panther Party, a history she did not know about, and said she appreciated his comments on what sustains him. She also really was impressed with the speaker from the Revolution Club. Her friend said he was so glad to have come, and commented, “Wow, BA is real clear, not rhetorical” and said you get a real sense of how he feels about humanity—such a contrast to how revolutionary leaders are slandered. He said he himself felt part of a community while he was there. He commented that he really liked BA’s challenge to people to "do your own research"—that in a way it is so obvious yet certainly not the currency today.
There is more to learn from the impact that this screening, and the work to build for it, had. But it is clear that there is a need to bring forward many more people to watch these Interviews, for the positive factor this can bring when it is really on the political terrain at this key moment. And this means joining the struggle for what humanity needs, and why people need to get with Bob Avakian. When people come into contact with this revolutionary leader in these Interviews, it not only brings hope for a different way things could be, it also challenges in a good way the frameworks that people are still proceeding from, and opens up the possibility for really breaking things open in society, with a major struggle over the revolution that is needed, and the dead-ends and false promises of trying to reform this capitalist system.