1. The BA Interviews as “game-changer,” drawing on responses
The BA Interviews being a “game-changer” has two aspects. Objectively, it brings together key elements of the new communism, and the leadership of this revolution concentrated in BA, in a way we haven’t had before. Not that the Interviews replace key works like “Something Terrible Or Something Truly Emancipating”, Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, recent works on Ukraine and world war, wokeness, etc., the Memoir, and others. But the Interviews put things together in a way that we haven’t had before, including in the films of BA’s talks. It’s a model and inspiration for revcoms, those of us who have been in the “game,” so to speak, for a while as well as those who have fairly recently become part of this (like the person who recently joined the Revolution Club and was interviewed about the impact of the Interviews).
For myself, I was somewhat taken aback at first by how much BA went into his personal stories in these Interviews; not taken aback in the sense of “where did that come from?” or “why is he doing that?” but he made me think about his method and what could be called his “style”—and the title really captured it: up close and personal… heart and soul & hard-core for revolution… And watching and re-watching the Interviews has led to an even deeper level of appreciation and grasp—in terms of scientific understanding but also viscerally—of the uniqueness and importance of this person as a leader, and what could be achieved if he and the revolution he leads is connected up with hundreds of thousands and millions.
One of the responses to the Interviews at revcom.us, from a person who donated, said, “We need to confront reality and the truth in a scientific, passionate, poetic way, and that is what BA has brought forth.” And the principal thing about what BA has brought forth is a more thoroughly scientific understanding of reality and how to act to change it, in the interests of humanity. But as BA addresses specifically at certain points in the Interviews, but also as comes out through the Interviews as a whole, there is great importance to the “passionate, poetic”—awe and wonder, morals and ethics, a deep sense of seeing the oppressed here and around the world as “these are my people,” etc. Toward the end of Interview 3, in response to a question about not giving up, BA talks about how the main thing is the scientific understanding of necessity and possibility for revolution—but first he talks about his friends and different people he’s gotten close to over the years (and then growing to care about the people of the whole world), and how giving up on revolution would be like “turning your back on your best friends.”…
And you can see, from the range of broader voices—from basic people to academics, activists, immigrants, and others—that these BA Interviews could move anyone who cares about the state of the world and its future, and doesn’t have a closed mind to arguments challenging what and how they currently think. The comment from someone attending a Revolution Books event on the Interviews captured something very real: “…the whole bit about poetry and literature and the human experience of being amazed at things… that sort of translates into a capacity to me to envision a future.”
At the same time, in order to actually “change the game” in terms of being a major factor in repolarizing the situation to one that is more favorable to revolution and making qualitative leaps toward bringing forward a revolutionary people, the BA Interviews obviously have to get out to and touch more than the existing revcom forces and a few hundreds beyond. They need to reach hundreds of thousands, and millions in the next immediate period—and through that, be a crucial part of bringing forward the hundreds and then thousands (not right off the bat but not in some extended period of time either) who are part of the organized revolutionary force that is acting together, and influencing the political terrain, and beginning to put revolution on the map for real. The potential to do that is rooted in the same intensification of the objective situation, in particular the sharp splits at the top that are leading to them not being able to rule in the way they have been, that, as BA has analyzed, are making revolution more possible. And that potential can be seen in a beginning way in the range of responses we’ve gotten so far as reflected in the “What People Are Saying… and Doing” page at revcom.us….
One of the striking things about the Interviews is the emphasis on speaking to, and bringing forward, youths from the basic masses. There is the part in Interview 1 where BA speaks to “This is your mission.” Again, this is not something that is totally new and “out of the blue,” but the “theme” is interwoven through the three Interviews. In Interview 1, this comes right after BA’s discussion on how the rulers can’t hold things together in the way that they have, and that creates openings for revolution. BA says how this is going to shake people overall out of the illusion that things can just go along the way they always have—but then he gets right into how revcoms have to go to the people catching the worst hell, and get into things with them the way he was doing earlier in that answer, “in very simple terms, maybe a little shorter than what I just did.” And of course, there is the Q&A in the third Interview where he is directly addressing the people catching the most hell… as well as in various other places, e.g., the part re getting out of the terms under this system where you’re either fucking others over or being fucked, etc.
This emphasis on the basic youth made me think about how, in relation to the few thousands that need to be brought forward into this revolution in the next immediate period, on one hand, there is the necessity that among those must be a significant section from the Black and other oppressed masses; on the other hand, there is the real objective potential that’s being heightened, in the ways BA has been getting into in the Interviews, to go out to these basic people (as well as youths from other sections) and win them over to the “mission.” (Of course, in the next answer in Interview 1, BA gets into the tremendous struggle needed to win over and transform these basic youths, like with among all sections of people.)
2. I've never seen someone like this... I've never heard these things before... I've never thought about things this way... Maybe things don't have to be this way... Maybe things can change... Maybe... but how?
When you review the responses people have so far given to The Bob Avakian Interviews you can see a transformation taking place. You can see people who care about the world, who agonize about the way the world is, and who are reluctant to allow themselves to hope are being moved in profound ways. The most significant lesson I'm drawing about the potential power of The Bob Avakian Interviews is the way it breaks down the idea that this world as it is is the only way things can be. It is giving people real hope for the future and inspiring a hunger in people to go deeper. This is a wonderful thing for humanity and a dangerous thing for a system which has no solution to all the suffering and oppression people are subjected to and which is now in the throes of an ever deepening crisis.
The more you get to know BA, the more it gives you hope; I certainly feel this way. I can say I've gotten a much deeper insight into who he is through these interviews—as much as reading his memoir. Seeing him respond to the questions and how he carries himself and how he can be so serious one moment and yet joke and be playful. He is such a likable guy and even if for whatever reason you can't “get down” with his political philosophy no one can deny how human he is, how real he is, how much integrity he has, and how much real and sincere love he has for humanity. When you listen to him you can really “feel” how much he embodies a world worth fighting for. Watching these interviews makes me swell with pride. I'm proud to follow BA—he has given me a great gift. He has given me the eyes to see the real potential of humanity and shown me how much higher humanity can soar. If you watch these interviews, if you “open your mind, use your brain, and also use your heart,” you are going to see the potential of humanity in a radically new way.
I've never seen BA like this; the whole spontaneous and unrehearsed aspect of these interviews makes it totally captivating. The natural and plainspoken way BA breaks down who he is, what he is about, what he is fighting for, why we need a revolution, what even is a revolution, why is this a rare time, what kind of world are we fighting for? I got a deeper understanding of things by hearing it broken down in plain terms and everyday language and also learned a lot about how to break this down for others.
The most impactful thing for me has been hearing BA's critique of gradualism. You know before I sort of saw things in very mechanical and linear terms seeing the revolutionary process as a kind of gradual increase in the revcom forces alongside things getting “worse and worse” for people because of the system. It's a kind of crude arithmetic. And this is how a lot of people look at things when they think about revolution, they see how things in this country have basically stayed the same for a very long time and have great difficulty grasping how a totally new situation could emerge out of the existing one. But over the past six weeks I have gotten a much deeper sense of how the mode of production is creating very profound changes in the society and how this is sharpening the contradictions in society. This is woven all throughout BA's interviews. For example in the “Lead Belly” example about the “National Defense Blues” how changes in the underlying mode of production and the initiative of people have driven changes in the relations between men and women that are tearing at the seams of what has held this society together. Then BA goes into how these underlying changes have given powerful impetus to fascist forces who no longer believe in the norms which have held this country together and which people have been conditioned to accept.
So I heard all of this and I started to understand what he was saying about the historical tendency Lenin described that “There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” Here you are puttering along in this capitalist democracy but which all along is accumulating all kinds of underlying changes. Here you are within this certain framework and then comes along someone like Trump and things which have essentially stayed the same for almost 150 years start changing very rapidly where the norms that have held together a society full of racism, sexism, inequality, and oppression are no longer able to hold it together. In that I can definitely see the potential for radical change, radically emancipating or radically reactionary change.
This is where I want to bring things back to the interviews because it is exactly in a situation like this, where the objective situation is rapidly changing, that people's thinking can be rapidly changed (for better or for worse). If these interviews are seen by tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people it would give many thousands of people real hope for the future and would inspire some of them to go deeper. It would go a long way towards bringing into being a revolutionary people in the hundreds and then thousands, which would go a long way towards putting revolution on the map and putting the revolutionaries in a position to be contending on the big stage for the allegiance of millions and millions. This is why I think the interviews are a “game-changer.”
I don't think any of this is going to happen automatically; it's going to need to be fought for. We are going to have to work to create a societal compulsion to watch and engage these interviews and we are gonna need to struggle for people to “open your mind, use your brain, and also use your heart.” When people come to this with the right spirit, they are going to be transformed. There is a real connection with BA that people experience when they watch these interviews. It's both that people from different walks of life feel like BA “gets them” but you also really start to get BA. You are inspired by who he is and what he is all about and then he brings all this razor-sharp clarity of the what, why and how of revolution. You get this razor-sharp clarity of why now is a rare time when revolution is more possible. You see him do this whole master class on revolution that is highly engaging, popular, and deeply moving. It fills you up with appreciation and gratitude for this person.