For the seventh stop of the “Woke” Lunacy vs. Real Revolution national campus speaking tour, Rafael Kadaris led a lively evening at the University of Houston on November 8, giving students something they’ve never heard before and fielding their questions with science and passion. Twenty-one students and 30 people altogether attended the talk.
For days leading up to this event, a team of revcom supporters was out on campus spreading the word and attracting attention from all demographics on this vibrantly diverse campus. Many people took the flyers and stopped to talk, intrigued by our title and shaken up by the genocide in Gaza and the other horrors in the world. This was not, for the most part, a case of people staring into their phones, thinking they’ve heard it all, or being so steeped in woke-ism that they missed the “real revolution” part. Students stopped because they were challenged by the flyer and a large display of the 7 Indictments on “Woke,” and they were curious about who we were and what we were bringing.
A diverse group of students did come and listen with rapt attention. For 45 minutes they were nodding, taking notes, and showing a willingness—and even an eagerness—to be challenged. Rafael started with a deep provocation on the state of Israel, the genocide in Gaza, the reactionary character of Hamas and the refusal of so much of the “left” to criticize Hamas as a very stark and heartbreaking illustration of the logical extension of “woke” lunacy. He took us on a journey through the dregs of identity politics to the vision of what is possible in a new socialist society. He held up the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, written by Bob Avakian, and asked the audience to imagine a world, with very concrete examples ranging from education to healthcare to the climate, where we could actually go to work on meeting the needs of humanity instead of the needs of profit.
Then, for the next hour and a half, students asked questions in a really vigorous and rapid-fire discussion, exactly the kind of energy and ferment we need on a larger scale. The first questions asked for more clarity on what we mean by a real revolution, and why we were pitting the question of pronouns against the global problems—can’t we do both. At the end of that back and forth, the student said that maybe it could be understood as a mismatch of energy—which showed a real wrangling and engagement with the contradiction.
Someone who identified himself as part of the left asked whether the “woke” lunacy really had that much power. He saw it as more fringe. Rafael talked about the outsized influence this framework has on the decent people—the very people who should be rising up in resistance to injustice and especially the accelerating fascist threat but are instead paralyzed into inaction by this framework.
There was a cluster of questions about voting: 1) Do we take a stance on voting while waiting for the revolutionary conditions to develop if that can mitigate some of the harm for oppressed communities? 2) What’s the next steps after we have millions of people who agree with the revcoms? Since we’re not going to make revolution in the next few years, do we vote in the meantime? 3) If we know elections aren’t how things are decided and we’re not going to vote anyway, would it be worthwhile to do a protest vote for a third party? 4) What do you think of Bernie Sanders? Each question helped open up the discussion on elections and the nature of this system and its unreformability in different ways. Rafael gave substantial answers to all of them in ways that were very clarifying and challenged people to break out of the terms of this system and see how getting with this revolution, spreading this revolution, can put us in position to really win when things come to a head, potentially very soon. The whole question of how much is up in the air right now and how fast things can change was a key part of answering these questions. In the answers, the uprisings of 2020 against the police murder of George Floyd, and the situation in Egypt in 2010, were offered as examples of how fast things can change, but why rising up alone cannot end the oppression that is fundamentally caused by this system. People need to consider, too, the tremendously positive factor that we do have—the leadership of BA.
One student raised his staunch defense of capitalism, saying that profit is just a measure of the market value of an idea or product and the “entrepreneurs” are risk-takers that should be compensated and rewarded for that. Rafael’s answer began with resetting the terms in a big way: The biggest risk these capitalists are taking is with the future of humanity. Underlying the argument the capitalist-defender was making was that it’s only entrepreneurs, not all of humanity, that has this creative potential. There was a substantive back and forth with some fierce struggle—and another student chimed in saying that this person’s defense of capitalism is the same way people defended slavery.
In some ways, there was simplicity to how this evening came together. We found out how to get a room, we made flyers, we made a plan to saturate and agitate, and we pushed against objective conditions to get an audience. We have the goods. We have the substance. We have something students are not going to hear anywhere else. So bring this tour to your campus!