What made an impact on me in these Interviews? I come from a little bit of an identity politics background, not as much as it is in the U.S., but it's still present all over the world. So I was affected by it and affected by anarchist ideas of not having leaders and the whole “old white man” kind of accusation. That was still kind of somewhere with me throughout the whole time I have been around. I did see how different BA is, but I had never seen his interviews other than the parts featured on The RNL Show. So it wasn't like a full experience. I think the Interviews showed me a very different light. It was definitely personal and with heart.
Maybe less than a year ago, one of the young revolutionaries said something like “I love BA” and it was just strange for me to hear it. You don't say the word love about politicians, in my experience, and it's much deeper, a much deeper feeling. And I knew that he meant it. So it felt odd and he's never met BA or anything, so how can you love someone who you don't really know. But what really stood out to me is that I saw a completely different leader. I've never heard anyone speak like this of people. It's very clear that BA has a deep love for people, overall for humanity. And I could see how that can be contagious and how that appreciation of someone politically can actually turn into deep love, in the sense of love from one human to another or between friends.
"But I've noticed recently since the Interviews, my approach and observations and everything changed, and what I pay attention to, and what I see in people. There is definitely more beauty that I find now. So the interview wasn't just a political revelation and kind of a source of answers to a lot of questions. But it definitely was a big, personal, emotional and transforming experience. And I want to learn even more."
I was struck the most by the third interview when he was talking about how he sees people, not just for where they are right now or what they are right now, but what they can be. He sees potential in everyone basically. So I've actually only had one person in my life that had that approach to people in general. And in that person's case, it was from their personality, but also driven by religion. But I've never heard it for just people. You never feel like he looks down on people in any way. Not even those who are caught up in bullshit, who could disagree with him or attack him for very ridiculous reasons. You feel that, even then, he first and foremost tries to understand where it's coming from, what is influencing these thoughts and ideas. And BA doesn't put personal blame on individuals as much as on this system, and everything around us does that. Basically we're used to thinking that if I didn't make it, it must be my fault. It's on you, especially now with “representation,” and all that narrative basically means that you see a handful have made it because they tried harder. That really, really struck me and stood out to me.
I think that was the last point for me in the “leadership or no leadership” debate. It's not like I ever had problems with leadership overall. At work and in my personal life, I very much look up to different people and I respect their expertise or something. But for some reason in politics, it was kind of an issue. Because I've never seen leaders like BA. I didn't even know a lot of communist theory either. So I had a view of Stalin as the worst person ever. And then, when it comes to Lenin and Mao, I had no idea what they were exactly, what their ideas were until I started finding out more through the revcoms. Actually that was a really big deal for me.
I think all of my activism, when I started caring about the world, comes from genuinely wanting the best for people and having love for people. And I think since the Interviews, I noticed that even in public spaces, I find more beauty in little things about people or their interactions that I observe, like, on the bus and stuff. And, especially with oppressed people, I used to be pretty intimidated by talking to Black people in particular in the U.S. First of all, it's a completely different accent and harder for me to understand. But also with identity politics, and everything, I felt like it's not my place to even impose my presence on them. Who am I, an educated white girl, bothering them with my existence? That's how it felt. And I wasn't intimidated in the sense of being scared of them. The system wants us to be, but more I felt very out of place. I was not used to people saying “Hi” on the streets. So I would always not know how to react. But I've noticed recently since the Interviews, my approach and observations and everything changed, and what I pay attention to, and what I see in people. There is definitely more beauty that I find now. So the interview wasn't just a political revelation and kind of a source of answers to a lot of questions. But it definitely was a big, personal, emotional and transforming experience. And I want to learn even more.
Q: Were there other things that stood out to you? For example, the poetic spirit that you have mentioned before?
Absolutely. That stood out a lot because I'm used to seeing a socialist state mainly as the Soviet Union in this very strict kind of close-minded approach to reality. Someone told me, I haven't heard this quote myself, but I believe BA said that it was like socialism there, but somebody turned out all the lights. That's very much how I viewed it. So putting forward the poetic experience, broadness of mind was exciting and new.
I was making notes during the third interview. And something I wrote was the poverty of imagination that he brought up. That phrase really struck me because I feel especially working with older people versus young people, when you bring new ideas to them, you can see that a lot of adults develop this poverty of imagination because they imprison themselves within what they see around them, what they believe is possible, and it's very hard for them to break out of that. How different it is for younger people. But the adults put this pressure on younger people that there can only be what we see around us, and not see how much potential there can be and how different it can be.
The new society won't only be focused on overcoming oppression and economic changes, political changes, but also there will be this emphasis on revolutionizing ideas. I think the culture should be very, very different. And having that appreciation for beauty, arts in so many different forms can transform people and speak to people in ways that they don't even expect, and how much that is restricted right now when everything is commercialized. Do we know how many beautiful paintings and poems and all that art there is in people's basements right now, all around the world? That's what we don't get to see because it isn't a commercially successful thing.
Another transformative part of that video for me was that for quite some time, I've been feeling that I know that this is the right way. I know that I agree with the analysis of the current situation, the potential for revolution, the need for revolution. But I've seen other people around the revolution, and Revolution Club members and stuff, being so fired up about it that they can’t stop talking about it, not because they feel like it's their task or mission, but because you can see they genuinely just want to share it with everyone in the world, like you found out this awesome secret that it can change the world, you want to share it with everyone. But I wasn't feeling that. And especially I realized that after watching videos of the people from the tour [National Get Organized for an ACTUAL Revolution Tour] in LA and another show from last year, I think a few people in interviews told their stories of how they found revolution. And that stood out to me a lot. And I kept wondering why am I not feeling this way? I'm happy to keep it to myself. I'm very hesitant, or sometimes afraid of talking to other people about it, because I'm afraid of rejection or whatever accusations and stuff. But that changed a lot during the interview. And I met with a friend maybe a week or two after the third interview. And I remember going there, I thought, Okay, I want to bring it up in a subtle way. But I'm not going to do it right away. I haven't seen her in a while and we're going to spend some time talking about personal stuff. I think it was less than 10 minutes. I said, "Oh, actually, I've seen this and it really transformed me and I think you should watch it." I just couldn't hold back.
Q: You have taken a lot of initiative in raising funds for the Interviews. Could you talk about why that is?
When it comes to raising funds, it can help a lot to have ways of putting advertisements here and there or finding different ways to spread the Interviews, which we can’t do without funds because unfortunately we still live in a capitalist society. Second is I'm treating it not only as a fundraiser but as a way for people to find out about BA and revolution. Now especially after the pandemic, it seems like people only gather for specific events. You don't even see people on a regular basis or on the street. So, it's a way, a specific effort to spread the Interviews themselves through a fundraiser and through the opportunity for people to come to these events and meet revolutionaries and ask questions and find out more.
Q: You mentioned that you came to understand more deeply the need and the possibility of a revolution through the Interviews. Can you talk about that?
I think it was more from studying before and being in a study group. What was different in the Interviews was that since we studied the TNC [The New Communism by Bob Avakian], but only like the beginning of it, I only saw the need for revolution based on what we're fighting against. But the Interviews presented also what we were fighting for. And that was a big deal. Because you can only fight against something for so long. If you don't see the goal, or what it's for, and what can come out of it in a different way, I don't think I would be able to sustain myself enough, if I'm just fighting against something.
Q: What did you think about what, in this third interview, he says about state power?
Going back to fighting against something, I see that it's impossible to basically do it. If we don't have state power, the option is only reforms. And that doesn't work, as we've come to learn. So I think there's a lot more and on a bigger scale that we can do. First of all, to build a new society not everyone will be on board with it from the very beginning. Even if we want something much, much better and different in the interest of humanity, not all of humanity or not everyone in this country, even the well-meaning people, will be on board with it. So how do we negotiate our way through? That's impossible without state power.
Q: What, if anything, did the Interviews make you want to dig into more deeply?
I don't know enough about the history of this country and like different political moments and movements. So I'm still learning that and definitely, through the Interviews, some things came up that I wasn't as familiar with.
Q: Can you think of an example of that or anything that wasn't clear to you?
By now I kind of knew the names of people in the Black Panther Party that he worked with. I started reading BA's autobiography [From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, A Memoir by Bob Avakian] recently. So not all of it was unfamiliar, but definitely I feel like there is a lot more that I should find out in order to understand people here and all the underlying societal things.
Overall, I realized that I need to get more into theory, continue studying new communism and the new works specifically on the strategy for revolution. And I think I need to take it seriously as a strategic way not just an intellectual exercise broadening my mind. So in terms of the strategy and what exactly we need to do, I want to know more.
Q: In the Interviews BA brings up the slogan Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. Had you heard that before? What does it mean to you?
I've heard it before, from people around the revolution, for sure. But I think that transforming people was not fully clear to me until the Interviews. Fight the power also was not fully understood, but when it comes to the strategy for actual revolution my thoughts are a little scattered. I think I'd like to maybe discuss it.
Q: Anything else you want to say about the Interviews?
I think what I really want first of all is to watch it again. We shouldn't just watch it once. I think every time I rewatch different parts, here and there, I find something new that I didn't notice right away. Because it's six hours, very condensed and deep.
Q: Can you give an example of that, or something that stood out to you when you went back?
I think we rewatched a part where he talks about what sustains him. For some reason, when I was watching it the first time, the whole third part was a big deal for me. But that part didn't stand out as much as when we rewatched it. When we watched it again, I was actually deeply moved by that part. Because the way he explained the importance of having a scientific basis, and a firm approach with heart. The way he sees people is like he's doing it for his friends, with his friends in mind. I liked that he said friends are people in your heart or something like that. How he sees his friends in these oppressed people and how that moves him to continue fighting and that turning away from revolution would be like turning your back on friends.
Q: He made the point that people accuse him of being a humanist. And he said, I'm not a humanist. I'm a scientist. What do you think of that important distinction he made?
They have to go hand-in-hand because if you only come based on the goodness of your hearts or solely on that, even with good intentions, you can end up going the wrong way or even doing harm.
I think I wrangle the most now with how to actually get the Interviews out to people and convey to people why it's so important.
Q: And why do you see it as important?
Because I know how it inspired me. I see what kind of impact it has had on different people around the Revolution Club too and energizing some of us a lot. And overall, it's something that you don't hear discussed in society right now. But that should be urgently taken on because we don't have a lot of time to change the whole social and political terrain. I think in these Interviews there is something that will speak to everyone, if they actually engage with it. They might not agree with absolutely everything he says. But people need to hear it, even if it's uncomfortable, if it's challenging, and they have to challenge themselves,
Q: Some people have said that listening to the Interviews gave them hope. How do you see that?
Very much. Because it's easy to try to close off and go back to your shell because of how much shit is going on in the world. It can be overwhelming if you see it as something that cannot change. So that is extremely important. And it's not a religious type of hope. That can be blinding, but instead something that is challenging, scientific, and calls on each and every one of us to take part in it. And anyone who ever wanted to do good in their life, not just like live for themselves, they should consider it.
Q: That reminds me of the whole part that he goes into about individualism and “woke folk”… What did you think of that part? It was pretty sharp. And he said it more than once.
I was into identity politics because people I liked were in it. I wasn't in it just because I agreed with everything. It was more that I saw oppressed people follow identity politics. So, I thought if that's what can help them and make their lives better, I'm just going to do it.
Q: So what do you think of his critique of identity politics?
As far as identity politics, I don't remember a lot of details from that part, but I've heard this in different videos and short clips, about staying in your lane. And I absolutely agree with that. Because no matter if you believe in it or not, reality catches up with you even if you're looking away. It will come and hit you in the back. So, it's important to actually know the world and know the reality because there is no way you can change it otherwise. And this whole approach that there is not one objective reality is just so bizarre. I used to be more religious and stuff but I treated religion as more of an inspiration thing than a reflection of reality. So when it comes to staying in your lane, it's striking because I see all of these wars happening right now. Ask people the day before the invasion in Ukraine happened or the uprising in Iran. Did they think that it was going to happen? And then not believing that it's possible or not believing that it was going to happen? Did it stop it from happening? No, it is ridiculous. And people have to wake up. Because with everything that is happening, the threat of nuclear war, the civil war here, and the climate change, there will just be nowhere to hide. Humanity has to face reality.
Oh, something that stood out to me also was when he was talking about religion and I think I've only recently started identifying as atheist. Seeing the Christian fascists in the U.S. made me kind of resent religion a lot. And I maybe brought some hostility towards it. But I think BA talking about it brought me back to understanding why people gravitate to that. It's not an accurate reflection of reality and yes, you can break away with the old society only so far if you're still stuck in religion. But we can't just look down upon people who still follow religion or think that they're all bad or have these backwards ideas because they choose to believe stuff. So that was a very good part.