Bob Avakian Answers Questions on Building the Revolution Clubs, the Role of Culture, Relating to Different Struggles Against the System... and How to View Mistakes



The following is the text of five Questions and Answers with Bob Avakian (BA), following the presentation of his speech, Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution, in Los Angeles during the summer of 2018. For clarity and background for certain references, BA has provided some minor editing, including brief additions in brackets within the text, and footnotes have been added.

Question #1

So some of the things that we’ve been wrangling with lately is that we’ve come to understand that we’ve had a sort of narrow view, building the movement for revolution [by] collapsing it into building up the Revolution Clubs and measuring how we’re doing in relation to that by how many people have stepped forward to join the Revolution Clubs. And in your speech you spoke about the relationship between needing to build a mass movement, spreading the Revolution Clubs across the country, and then you posed something that I thought was interesting in relation to that: the need to have a critical mass, which in different circumstances looks like different numbers of people, and the need to integrate that national movement through the website, And so I was wondering if you could explicate more what the relationship between these things are?

Question #2

Yeah, sure, one thing that I appreciate about this talk and frankly, every time you speak, is about the role doesn’t just reduce down to political economy or reduce down to...just the role of culture and how it actually shapes and informs people and how it’s actually shaped and matured your development as a revolutionary...and I think looking at sections of art, sections of artists, and how in this particular period, I mean, you talk about the influence of doo-wop or about Black music in the ’60s, you’ve talked about the influence of model works in revolutionary China and how they’ve shifted people’s understanding, but I wonder if you could speak some to this particular moment right now, and engendering and bringing forward a revolutionary people and revolutionary situation, what the role of art and arts and shifting culture is in relation to that?

Question #3

Hi. Thank you. So, a specific question on have you given a scan of specific, current movements or that you think could be particularly leveraged at this point, I mean, there’s like abolish ICE, there’s disarm the police, there are a number of specific movements happening and have you given thought to what might be most fertile ground to be working with?

Moderator: OK, then, how do we get the mic all the way down here? You carry it down, OK.

BA: That one was easy to solve.

Question #4

OK, what is the significance and also the necessity of being future people in building a movement for an actual revolution and what does that look like especially in relation, and in particular, to geometric progression in a short period of time? And then also being, like, you know, revolutionary role models in the sense of like that quote in BAsics 3:1,1 inspiring people not just with the idea of revolution, but a concrete, viable strategy and something that we need to go for in forging a revolutionary people. And especially—and I think this is also related—especially in the context of what you correctly said, “revolting against this revolting culture” that we do live in, and how that sets a pole not just for people who are around the orbit of the movement for a revolution but the “we” as in the we are the people we need to be a part of this.

Question #5

I guess it is like very related to these questions about how do you transform the potential that exists into a movement that...the masses that we actually need to actually make revolution. You know, I get very excited when I,’s not that I want it, but I know that it have to go through that third part [the third part of HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution that discusses the basic principles and approach for how the violent repressive forces of the existing system could be defeated when the conditions for revolution had been brought into being]. You know, when you talked about the third part how...wrangling with this in a serious way, that’s part of what really attracted me to the RCP. I guess there’s an art, right, to leadership that you modeled that we just can’t get right. We keep coming up against our limitations: We’re either too damn liberal or we fuckin’...some little thing somebody says pisses us off so much that we just go at that, you know or, then there’s...I mean, there’s just a mess of contradictions that you have to fight through, you know. I get very frustrated. You said this has gotta be a revolution of...we’re aiming for the “4 Alls” [the abolition of all class distinctions, of all the production relations on which those class distinctions rest, of all the social relations that correspond to those production relations, and the revolutionizing of all the ideas that correspond to those social relations]. Not revenge—it’s not about revenge. I know I get caught up in this, you know, fuckin’ hatred for the enemy, like you hear children crying from cages or they blow up a bus in Yemen full of children and it’s hard to just not have like this burning hatred for them and what they do and those who uphold it, you know? And then...but you have to be scientific and lead through all that. And it’s...I guess and I already know that I’m not gonna get a formula but I think I’m looking for a formula, how you actually deal with—how do you actually deal with all the contradictions, and seeing what you have to go at, how do you lead? Not have to lead not ones and twos but in a mass kind of way which are...where you’re moving whole sections of people to stand on the fuckin’ right side of things. So often the time when they’re standing off to the back—like some of these gangs, right—it’s a particular thing. You mentioned in 3:162 how there are fouler, more monstrous criminals than mythology has ever invented or jails ever held who are running society, and you see it in what they do. And you have masses of people shooting each other, thinking that they’re “bad” ’cause they do that. And at the same time they [the fascists] are prepared for a civil war—you see these white supremacists marching with their AKs and their AR-15s and at the same time you go to the masses of people and tell them what’s going on and a few seconds later they’re fucking shooting at each other. So, like, how do you actually lead through all of that without going mad or wanting to just shake the shit out of people?


Well, I’ll come back to the heart of your question later, but just to start with the last thing first and then we’ll go back to the first question: I hope that nothing I’ve said would be interpreted that you should in any way diminish your hatred for this system and for those who rule it. The question is what do we do with that? If you didn’t have profound hatred for all that, there would be something wrong, and we could never make a revolution without that kind of hatred, because it’s entirely and completely justified and the only really human response to what they’re doing. But then the question is what do you do with that? You can’t just give expression to it in a way of individually satisfying yourself. We have to put an end to this, and that’s where that hatred has to be channeled and then it has to be guided by science. But, certainly, a passionate hatred for everything that this system does is completely justified and absolutely necessary. So I just want to make that point clear.

Now to go back to the first question—was it about critical masses, was that what it is about? Did I get that right?

Questioner responds:

Yeah, it was about the relationship between having a critical mass and the fact that you’re building a mass movement, [BA: Right] and you’ve got these atoms, these electrons out in the middle of nowhere and how do you cohere all that?


OK, well I think we need two things, and we need to handle, (I mean, we need a lot of things, but two important things) and we need to correctly handle the relationship between them. We need a broad and growing mass movement for revolution. I mean, there are all kinds of mass movements that are necessary. Someone raised a question about particular mass struggles or demands around which people are mobilized and how that relates—I’ll get to that one a little later. But there are...we need a mass movement for revolution very, very broad and growing—and growing, as someone said, geometrically, not just by one after one after one, but by leaps and bounds. And that needs to be much broader than the most tightly organized forces for the revolution. But that’s the other thing that you do need. You need a broad mass movement of people who in various ways identify with and consider themselves part of and are actually in one way or another, on one level or another, contributing to it, even if in very beginning ways; and then you do need an organized expression of that. You need both elements, because if you don’t have an organized expression then it’s all just diffuse and it’s just...basically that amounts to a lot of sentiment which has no real...doesn’t have the kind of impact it needs to have, let me put it that way.

So you need a very broad and exponentially, by leaps and bounds, growing mass revolutionary movement. And “mass” means different things at different times. Right now, a mass movement in a particular area might be hundreds of people. At a different point in the process, when the whole thing is going down, it might mean hundreds of thousands of people in a particular area. Things change according to the changing conditions. But you need a broad and exponentially growing mass movement. And then you need organized forces who are at the core of that, so to speak, which are also growing. And they’re growing in dialectical—that is, a back-and-forth—relation with that broader mass movement, drawing from it, bringing forward people out of it into that organized movement—I mean, into that organized force. But the point about critical masses is, if you have an organized force, as opposed to just a bunch of individuals who are sort of dispersed, then that organized force can have an impact. And I’ll give you an example that I used in The New Communism. If you remember, during the upsurge against police brutality and murder, in which, first of all, there was the thing with Trayvon Martin, and that wasn’t directly the police, it was just a wannabe pig, Zimmerman, but then things took another leap with Ferguson and Michael Brown. And, by the way, have people seen this movie called Stranger Fruit? It’s a movie about the thing with Michael Brown. It’s a good movie, I’d recommend it to people. It refutes a lot of the attacks that came against the struggle around that, including that it wasn’t correct that he had his hands up [the lie that Michael Brown didn’t have his hands up when he was shot], and all this kind of stuff. Just to make a side point here, but an important one. I don’t know, you can probably access it one way or another: it’s called Stranger Fruit, which is obviously a takeoff from the Billie Holiday song “Strange Fruit” about lynching.

Anyway, things took a leap with Ferguson and Michael Brown, and there was a succession of things...and what happens in these situations? The masses pour out in outrage, and then the ruling class also responds. They send their media in there to report in certain ways, to build up certain forces and to try to isolate other forces. And here comes Al Sharpton on his horse into the situation, you know, and immediately what does he do? He goes in and says a few words against the outrage, but immediately he goes and gets in with the family, and works on the family to get the family to come out and say that they don’t want anybody to do anything that would besmirch the memory of their murdered family member, so don’t do anything other than quietly, or at least passively, protest. So this is one thing. You go back and look at some of these things, one after another: Here comes Al Sharpton, the ruling class is worried. OK, that’s one thing, you know.

But then another thing that happens is they mobilize the so-called community leaders—a few decades ago they used to be called “Responsible Negro Leaders,” now they’re called “community leaders,” made up of (not all, again, not the ones who really stand with the oppressed) but a certain amount of clergy, preachers, and hack politicians, and so on—and they come out and they act as police on the demonstration. And, I made the...I gave the example in The New Communism that, for example, in Ferguson, and then again in Baltimore, these “community leaders,” when the people’s anger was boiling over, and they were getting up in the face of the police, these “community leaders” came out and formed a line between the police and the angry masses of people. Now, here’s something significant: Which direction were they facing? They were facing toward the people, telling the people to get back, don’t get up in the face of the police. And I used the example in The New Communism: Let’s say you had an organized force of revolutionaries of only, say, a few dozen who came down to that scene in formation and let everybody know the revolutionaries are here in a serious way. And walked right up into that situation and said to these preachers: “You, motherfuckers, are facing the wrong way! If you’re supposed to be standing with the people, you need to turn around and confront the police, otherwise, get off the street and let the revolutionaries do what needs to be done here.”

Now, in that kind of situation, you could have a greatly magnified impact with only a few dozen people organized, if you’re serious and together and really representing for revolution in that situation. And there are many similar types of situations like this where...that is...a critical mass means enough people that it actually is...can be objectively seen by others as a real force on the terrain that’s influencing things.

At a different time, when you have millions of people in motion, then that critical mass, that force would need to be in the thousands. But right now, you could even influence things in a beginning way with just a few dozen organized there as a revolutionary force—not dispersed, and not half-stepping, and not defensive, and not being bashful about being revolutionaries, but being out there, not in an individualistic way, like “Oh, you know, this is something I’m doing because it’s cool.” No! Out there as an organized revolutionary force because this is what the masses of people need.

So, this is one example of what a critical mass can do in a given situation. But it’s also not just against the enemy. There’s also, out there among the people, I mean, to go back to the last question, the frustration get into it with people, you explain to them what’s going on in the world, and they might even say, “yeah, yeah, yeah,” you know, and then they are, and the next thing you know, they’re doing what they shouldn’t be doing, including killing each other, once again.

And, just to speak to that for a second. Look, I may be wrong, but to me a part of it is that why the youth get into this is, you know, like I was saying with those lines from the song [“Seems like I gotta do wrong...before they notice me”], it’s a way that you can have...find some meaning and purpose that you can say that you’re somebody and what you’re doing means something, even though it’s completely the wrong thing. And, it’s seems to be, in a certain way, easier than doing what needs to be done. And in the short run, it is easier. You’re gonna end up dead, you’re gonna end up in jail. You read about it, you talk to these youth who’ve gotten shot, and there I said, I was talking to some people in Chicago and one of the guys who used to be in a gang, and got out of it, was talking about his frustration. He said a lot of these youth think this is fun. Well, it’s fun until you get shot! And then you find out that hurts like a motherfucker, you know what I mean? So, it hurts a lot, it’s not like on TV, it really hurts! And then you’re in a wheelchair for the rest of your life, however long that goes. But it’s a way that you can have a purpose. This is the shithole that you’ve—to talk about shitholes—this is the shithole you’ve been put in, and you don’t see, on your own, any way out of that. So, this is what you know how to do, there’s some organized...there’s some organization to it, there’s some “purpose” to it. And you can step back from it and say it’s horrific, but if you’re inside of it, it looks like this is a way that you can give some meaning and express something about yourself having some meaning.

You know, again, when I was talking to these people in Chicago, one of these women who was there, whose grandson had been killed by the police, was part of taking a banner out with the names of people who’d been killed by the police. And one of these young kids, she was recounting this very movingly, she said one of these young kids came up and said: “When I die, is my name gonna be on that banner?” Now think what it means that this is the question the youth are asking, and the way that they’re thinking. What does that tell you? So, OK, what does it got to do with a critical mass? Well, look, one person arguing with some of these youth, OK, they might even think you’ve got a good rap and whatever, but it only goes so far, and then it’s like, OK, there’s the pull of what people know how to do. “I don’t know how to do that, I know how to do this.” But then, if you have an organized force of people who are for real—and we are gonna be for real—and you come out there as a force, and you’re serious about what you’re doing, and it gets back to also popularizing these Points of Attention for the Revolution3 and living, as you said, as future people, if I understood your question correctly.

And people would say: “Ah, you know, that’s no way, that’s not...nobody’s gonna go with it.”

Well, one thing we have to tell people when they keep telling us nobody’s gonna go with that, we have to say: Look, I’m sorry, but quit opening your mouth and letting the system speak through it. OK? Let’s actually get down to what’s real here. How do you know this is not real? What work have you done to tell you that revolution can’t be done? What have you studied, what experience do you know about that tells you that it can’t be done? A lot of work has gone into this, don’t give me this shit about how this can’t be done.

But anyway, if is one thing, we do need to struggle with people. But mainly we need a force out there that’s a serious force that actually represents the future, both in what people are fighting for, and in the values and the way they embody that and how they live, and how they treat each other—and not just each other, but how they treat the masses of people, even when the masses of people “don’t deserve it.” No, even when they make us mad by acting the fool and all the rest of it, we still have to act the future with them. You know, we don’t have to take shit from them, OK? But we have to act the future with them. We have to live the future with them. We have to embody what they need to get with, even before they’re ready to get with it. And, yes, we have to struggle with them, but one-on-one struggle can only go so far. You need...we need to get an organized force out there that people see it and stand...and sit up and take notice that here are the revolutionaries. And then you get the debate going: “Aw, that ain’t nothing, that’s not gonna go anywhere...dah, dah, dah, dah, dah dah”...back and forth. But people take notice, and then the buzz starts going and people start talking. But nobody who isn’t already with it wants to be the first one to step out and be with it when everybody that they come up around and whom they care about is not yet ready to do that, and is telling them that’s not the thing to get with, it isn’t going to go anywhere. But if it’s more of a mass thing, even if it’s I said, a small critical mass to begin, it has more of an impact. So, yes, we need to go out individually, but we also need to mobilize as a force.

There are times for dispersing, to go out broadly and be able to reach a lot of people. There are also times for concentrating not just, not simply, when there’s an outrage or an attack like the police killed somebody or something like that, but just to be out there as a revolutionary force together that people see that’s not just one individual here or there—and also, as I said, be continually and boldly putting forward that this is part of a national movement. And we also should make that real. People in LA should be...we’ve gotta...I have my criticism of the culture around the internet, OK. I can go on for a long time about that, but never mind that right now. There are a lot of things that we need to be doing with it, including getting on social media, and other ways and, like, doing mutual things with people in other parts of the country, letting people see that this is a national movement. There are people in other cities, and new forces springing up not just where things already exist, but at other places. And presenting to people an actual living revolutionary force, even if it is a small critical mass at this time. And so there’s a need for dispersing to go broadly, there’s also a need to concentrate, to present an actual force that people can see is more than just the person that talked to them yesterday. So I think this is very important, the critical mass can impact a given political situation when masses are mobilized but it can also impact just people in a neighborhood or people at a school or whatever. And again, doing it always as part of a national movement and bringing that alive for people. Here we are, we’re sending messages of support, we’re getting the people in this neighborhood to send messages of greetings and support to people in some part, a whole other part of the country, or sometimes even a whole other part of the world, depending on what’s happening. Give them a living sense of an actual force, as opposed to just one person talking to them. However good that one person might be, it’s still gonna have its limitations.

So I think the importance of a critical mass is know, also, you march up in formation into a demonstration—well: “Who are those people? What are they all about? How come they’re together in this kind of way?” You know: “We are the revcoms, the mighty, mighty revcoms.” Yes, we are and we should be very bold about that. It’s not that we think that as individuals we’re better than other people or some nonsense like that, it’s that we’re a revolutionary force, however small we might be at a given time, it’s mighty not because of us as individuals or not because of the size of what we are right now, but because of what we represent in terms of the fundamental interests of the masses of humanity. That’s what’s mighty about us, see? And we should be very bold in bringing that to people. It’s not that...we’re not in competition with other people in some stupid sense. It’s a question of what really is needed by the masses of humanity, and that’s what makes this important, that’s what makes even a relatively small number of people together, and acting together, being bold, that’s what makes them mighty. They’re mighty...we are mighty in what we represent. Then we have to go out and do the work to make it real and bring more and more people into it. But if we just disperse ourselves all the time—yes to disperse...if you all go off and disperse you can reach a lot more people in the short run, you can cover a lot more territory, so to speak, but you gotta come back together as an organized force.

And you gotta get these youth to start running with this, not just argue about it, start running with it. “No, you can’t put on the shirt [the“BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!” shirt] yet because you still got a lotta bullshit you gotta break with, OK. No, you don’t get to put on this shirt yet. You don’t get to say you’re part of this and still wanna go off tomorrow and do some bullshit. But run with it. Let’s get into what this is about. Let’s talk about what’s real out here. Let’s talk about where this leads that you’re into and where we need to go.” But here’s the thing, if you’re like that youth and all you...Look, one of the most heartbreaking things is when you hear these stories, not just one or two, but a whole bunch of youth who are planning their funerals. What does it tell you about “this great country we live in” that you’ve got all kinds of youth in their teens thinking about their funeral because that’s the way they think—that’s gonna be the most meaningful thing in their life, a time when they’ll get respect and when people will show that they care about them—their funeral! I’m not making this up. This is real, a lot of these youth, that’s what they do. It’s the same thing as saying: Is my name gonna be on that banner?

Well, what’s real? If that’s all, if that’s your horizon, then maybe this other shit that you’re doing makes sense. But once your horizons are opened up to a whole other thing—not only, yes, very importantly, by people bringing that to you, and struggling with you, but also by people seeing an organized force that’s actually going for that, whatever its size is at a given time—then that opens up bigger questions for people. And a lot of this buzz is going on. I mean...I even read an article in the New York Times about Chicago, which as you probably know, the ruling class has singled out...even though its murder rate is not the highest in the country, but they’’s way too high among the masses, it shouldn’t be any, but they’ve focused on it. Trump’s always talking about “We’re gonna come in and deal with this problem, we’re gonna send in the federal troops” and everything else. They’ve focused on it to make a thing about: “This is what these ‘animals’ are into.” You know, how Trump called me out here...the Salvadoran gang, MS 13, right? “I call them all ‘animals’” [Trump said]. Well, look, they do a lot of fucked up shit, and it’s not a good thing, OK? But he didn’t just mean the people who are in that gang, OK? He’s talking about all these youth out here. OK?

So, the point is that if we raise people’s horizons beyond just what they see right around them and what is kind of the spontaneity of how things have gone growing up, then the buzz goes on. In Chicago, I read this article in the New York Times, I started to say, where here these youth in one set are hanging out in the neighborhood and the article says they’re hanging out, they didn’t have much to do, they’re bored; they started talking and arguing about revolution. Well where did that come from? That came from people doing work, and it gets...becomes part of what’s being debated there. And then some people from another set came in and they’re—just like you’re talking about, they’re all into that again now. These things are contending. But we’re not gonna just do it one-on-one.

So, that’s the importance of an organized force and a critical mass and actually wielding it, and actually being it. You know, we should be out there as that. And letting people know that there’s an organized force here. OK, we’re small now, we’re not gonna lie to people and pretend that we’re tens of thousands when we’re not. But we’re serious, and we represent, yes, something very mighty because of what it’s all about, and what needs to happen.

And then, challenge these youth: Get with this, become part of this. Run with us together. It’s one thing if you say “Run with me”—then you gotta go up against all the homies—but to run with a bunch of other people is different. OK, so that’s one thing about the critical mass.

Then there was a question about different forces, and who...where there might be more favorable ground, if I understood, there it was brought up about abolish ICE, was one demand. Well, a lot of these demands are unrealistic, like abolish ICE. That’s not gonna happen—and, if it is abolished, it’ll only be replaced by something else that does the same thing or worse. But a lot of the people...see, there’s a difference between the organized expression of a lot these reformist things and the people who are in them. Some of the people in them are deeply committed to reform and don’t want to hear about anything else; but many of the people are drawn to them because of the injustice that they’re speaking to, even if they’re speaking to it in a way that will not solve the problem and, in fact, reinforces certain illusions. So, I would say wherever people are in motion against injustice...I mean, we can’t run after everything, ’cause we don’t have the forces to do that, to be honest, but wherever there is significant motion of people around injustice, we should be going to those people and uniting with what can be united with in what they’re doing and what they’re raising, while struggling with them to see the larger picture and to see the fundamental question of how all this flows out of this system. Abolish ICE is the spontaneous response that seems more realistic than abolishing the whole system, [it is a response] to a real egregious outrage of how these immigrants are being treated and, in particular, it’s become intensified with the whole thing of separating children from their parents at the border, and so on. So wherever there’s significant motion of people around...fighting against injustice, we should be going out to those people and uniting with what can be united with in what they’re doing, even where it’s short of revolution—but, at the same time, struggling to bring to them the need for revolution to deal with this and all the...everything that’s concentrated in those 5 STOPS,4 for short.

BA: So then there was another...

Moderator: There’s two more questions. Revolutionary culture came up in...

BA: Oh yeah, twice...

Moderator: two aspects of what role that plays, and then there’s back to where we started.

BA: OK, we’ll come back to that a little more. Look, partly, I would like to ask you: Presumably, you’re asking this because you have a particular interest in the realm of art and culture—and you too [referring to someone else who also raised a question about culture]. So, partly, this is something that you could make a contribution to by grappling yourself with the question that you raised, and then contributing whatever you’re able to come up with, making it part of the collective process, ’cause I would assume that this is (and from what I know, this is) a special area of interest and involvement, so...I’m not gonna just leave it entirely on you, but I will say: contribute more on this question. I’m sure you have a lot of thinking yourself, and I’ll get to your question more specifically too. But I’m just saying, I’m sure you have a lot of thinking and a lot of experience, so that could be very valuable.

In basic terms, any revolutionary movement needs revolutionary art and culture. Even broader than just the communist culture and art, which there’s a need for, there’s a need, as you were pointing to (and you made reference to a radical revolt against a revolting culture), there is a need broadly for a culture that’s in opposition in various ways—not necessarily always in explicitly, the most explicit political terms, but in various expressions is in opposition—to the dominant culture and to the dominant ethos of society that it expresses. So there’s a real need for that. And there’s a lot of creativity among masses of people. There are some people that are highly developed in every realm. Whether it’s sports or whether it’s particular spheres of science or other spheres in the intellectual realm, or in art and culture, there are people who have developed a very high level of ability. And then there are broader people who have talents and thoughts, and so on, and we need all of that to be contributing, winning people to contribute to a culture that goes up against what’s dominating in the society right now, with a strong and growing current within it that is explicitly revolutionary and guided by the new communism, but not in a hackish way. We don’t need stilted, stultifying and stilted, art and culture. We need living art and culture in many different forms. And we need to bring forward people to help create that. There needs to be struggle with people about what are the values that we should be expressing in the art and culture. That needs to go on. But there also needs to be a lot of unleashing people to give expression to their creativity within the broad framework of the right kind of values and outlook.

The ruling class has very consciously been working on the culture of the masses for several decades now. Without just picking on the individuals—but they do need to be picked on a bit—you got the two “Ice’s”—Cube and T—who did stuff, (isn’t that right, Ice Cube and Ice T?) who did of them did “Cop Killer” and the other did “Fuck tha Police” and now they’re both playing police on TV and in movies. OK, come on now! Maybe they can’t—maybe that can’t be put a stop to, but... Look, there were things wrong with “Fuck tha Police” but there was a pretty good spirit to it, and that kind of thing needs to be nurtured. Not just “fuck the police,” but a whole revolutionary culture. But the ruling class has been working on this: “OK, here’s your options, Ice T. You can talk about cop killer and then you ain’t gonna get anywhere in the realm of culture—plus maybe we’ll bring up some of your past shit you did that maybe we can find a way to prosecute you for some of that.” I mean, look, I’m speculating here, OK. I don’t know these things for a fact, but I’m speculating. But I do know generally how they moved: “Or, you can play a cop on TV, you can play a cop in the movies, you know, and you can make it.” Well, if you’re just thinking about yourself, you might go for that option. But we need to be encouraging and nurturing and supporting people who want to stick with the right kind of thing. The ruling class very consciously moved on this culture. You had Public Enemy, and then that got replaced by real public enemy culture, you know what I mean? Actual enemy of the people. Yes there are, by the way, enemies of the people—not what Donald Trump thinks they are, but there are actually forces that are oppressing the people. Yes, there are. And, most of all, the ruling class itself.

So, we should be giving encouragement, and there are a lot of different forms this can take. I don’t know, for example, what happened to all the—like the whole poetry slam things they used to have, and the spoken word. That was a big phenomenon maybe 15, 20 years ago or so, but that was a...that had a lot of positive stuff within it. And there was, obviously, the realm of music, there are people in film. I think there’s two dimensions or legs to this: one is people who are already somewhat established, in the sense of having developed their skill to a fairly high level, and already are producing things that we need to struggle with and influence, particularly ones who are showing inclinations toward doing positive things. And then there is the question of bringing forward a lot of ferment among people who are not yet well established, who are...youth and others who are themselves experimenting and struggling to do something in this realm. But overall, it’s very important that there be...that we contend in the realm of culture. And I don’t mean that in a narrow and mechanical and sort of ugly sense of stereotypical “revolutionary art.” There needs to be revolutionary art, but not stereotypical stuff that’s really uninspiring, dogmatic stuff. I mean living, vibrant revolutionary culture that has a lot of different dimensions and expressions to it. And whatever people can contribute to that by struggling with people, by creating art themselves, by organizing venues and platforms within which people can have a way to give expression to this—all of that can make a big contribution. It has...especially in this larger society, larger culture, this realm has a great influence on people. They’re influenced one way or the other, positively or negatively, and right now overwhelmingly negatively, because there’s the force of the ruling class and all of its institutions and instrumentalities behind that. But there can be also very positive ones.

So I would say: put your creativity—not just you, but all those who particularly have an inclination or an interest in it—put your creativity to the task of actually finding the ways to bring forward a lot of diverse expressions of this. Mao had this saying in the 1950s: “Let a hundred flowers bloom.” Well, there is something to that. It doesn’t have to be all one particular form, it can be a lot of different forms, and it doesn’t all have to be explicitly political. There’s a lot of very good culture that’s “cultural,” if you know what I mean. It isn’t explicitly “Let’s go to a demonstration next week,” or “Let’s...” well, anyway, I was going to say something else, but I won’t. Never mind that. But it doesn’t have to be...if it’s explicitly political and it’s good—great. But it doesn’t have to be that. It can be lots of different ways of promoting values that are the kind of values we want people to take up, and that are in opposition to the values that are dominant.

So, that partially speaks to what you raised, but there was also your question, which I think I touched on somewhat, about being future people. It is very important that what’s embodied and concentrated in those Points of Attention for the Revolution—the values and culture in the sense that’s embodied there—be broadly popularized among the masses of people, both be lived by the revolutionaries at any given time, the growing ranks of the revolution, but also be popularized. And you know, a lot of times people give you shit but they’re listening and they’re paying attention. “Ah, you know all that blah blah blah...I gotta run all my women...” OK, no! No—we’re not going for that. But people are listening—especially people who really are catching hell in this world here are listening many times, even while they’re acting as if they couldn’t care less about what you’re saying and what you’re saying has got nothing to do with what they’re interested in.

So, we should keep that in mind. This should...once again, living and popularizing the future in the present can be a very powerful attractive force, especially as it’s expressed, once again, by an organized force, even more than by individuals, although individuals doing so is also important. So, I really feel that we should be both living and fighting for and popularizing these values. This is the way...and don’t underestimate the significance of people actually seeing people living these values and fighting for them. For example, think about all the women out there in the world, among all different strata of the people, who are just being subjected to the most indescribable horrors in their daily, intimate lives, as well as in the society at large, and think about what it means if there’s a force that actually puts into life, gives living expression to, a whole different set of values around that and a whole bunch of other very important relations in society. Don’t ever underestimate the tremendous attractive force of that. People will—it goes back to the very first question: people will have their doubts about whether this is really real, and whether you’re serious and you really mean this, or whether people say one thing and do another. All that’s gonna be tested out. But if we’re living it and making it real, it can have potentially a tremendous attractive force for all the people who are subjected to the relations that dominate in this society—the gender relations, the relations between people of color and white people, the whole gamut of relations that are just so horrific and putrid in this society. And the same for the culture, by the way. The culture really is putrid, the dominant culture, in every regard, what it promotes—the extreme individualism, the misogyny, the exploit-everybody-else-to-get-yours—all this is really putrid. And people don’t even know how putrid it is until they see something else that’s opposed to it that’s actually being put forward as a living force, and then it really stands out, both how putrid that is, and how much different this is.

So I think that’s very important.

Now, did I miss anything other than coming back to...OK.

Just not to leave you hanging. Look, there is no magic solution, and there is nobody who doesn’t make mistakes, OK? This is something we... Look, when we make mistakes, it hurts because of the importance of what we’re doing. But we are gonna make mistakes, everybody is gonna make mistakes, we’ve all made mistakes, and you can’t let that become a burden. The way you get frustrated, or the way you knew you should have said this, but you didn’t say it, or you knew you should have done that, but you didn’t do it, and, god damn it, so on, so forth. We can’t let our mistakes become an additional burden that gets in the way of our doing what we need to do. We just have to learn from them, and that’s also where our collectivity comes in, where we struggle with each other, not to tear each other down but to help each other figure out how to do this better, not just as individuals, but as a force out there, a collective force. There is no magic solution to this. There are principles. There are methods. Being scientific. Keeping in mind the larger picture of what this is all for, and that it’s not about us as individuals, that it’s about the masses of people in the world—that’s a very important principle that can keep you grounded. Being scientific, looking for actually what is the reality we’re dealing with, and what are the contradictions within that reality, how do we work on that? Is there a basis to work on this so it can contribute to going where we need to go? Those are the kinds of questions we should be continually coming back to.

But I just want to say something, one last thing about mistakes—and again, on this putrid culture. Look, people who have done bad things, or even terrible things, need to be called to account for having done so, they need to be brought to account. But even there, that’s not the end of the story. And we have...look, in this revolution, there have been and there are people who’ve committed armed robberies, people who’ve committed homicides, people who are veterans of the Vietnam War who committed unspeakable atrocities as part of the U.S. military. And yes, they have to come to grips with what they’ve done, and recognize what it flowed from, and repudiate that. But we don’t turn those people away and say: “Because you’ve done something terrible, you can’t be part of this revolution.” Never would we do that if people are willing to transform and become part of transforming the world in the interests of the masses of humanity. We would never turn people away on that basis—and if we did, we would never get where we need to go. And we have to go against this whole culture of tearing people down on the basis of looking back over people’s lives and let’s see if we can find one thing that they did that’s wrong, and then just discount them and flush them down the toilet. Instead, we should look at the arc of people’s life, and where is it going. If you run everybody’’s a challenge, if you run everybody’s life in reverse, is there anybody who can say there’s nothing that they’ve ever done that they’re ashamed of or feel really bad about? Think about it. In your entire lifetime? Let’s run it the way it actually goes, instead of in reverse. What’s the arc of people’s lives, what is becoming dominant in what they’re all about? Are they continuing on a path of doing terrible things, or have they gone on a different path? Even the religious people are better than that. Unless I misunderstand, things like “Amazing Grace”—isn’t that about a guy who was in the slave trade and then came to see how wrong it was? Jesus Christ, if you’ll pardon the expression, if the religious people can see that, then we have to be even better than that.

So, yes, people should be held to account. You can’t say, “Well, I did that, but that was yesterday so it doesn’t count.” But, on the other hand, let’s look at the arc of people’s lives and let’s struggle with people to come to terms with what they’ve done that’s wrong—but, more than that, to get on the path of actually becoming part of the emancipators of humanity. Let’s do that!


1. BAsics 3:1 refers to the first quote in the third chapter of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian:

Let’s get down to basics: We need a revolution. Anything else, in the final analysis, is bullshit.

Now, that doesn’t mean we don’t unite with people in all sorts of struggles short of revolution. We definitely need to do that. But the proffering of any other solution to these monumental and monstrous problems and outrages is ridiculous, frankly. And we need to be taking the offensive and mobilizing increasing numbers of masses to cut through this shit and bring to the fore what really is the solution to this, and to answer the questions and, yes, the accusations that come forth in response to this, while deepening our scientific basis for being able to do this. And the point is: not only do we need to be doing this, but we need to be bringing forward, unleashing and leading, and enabling increasing numbers of the masses to do this. They need to be inspired, not just with a general idea of revolution, but with a deepening understanding, a scientific grounding, as to why and how revolution really is the answer to all of this. [back]

2. “3:16” refers to BAsics 3:16, which reads:

An Appeal to Those the System Has Cast Off

Here I am speaking not only to prisoners but to those whose life is lived on the desperate edge, whether or not they find some work; to those without work or even homes; to all those the system and its enforcers treat as so much human waste material.

Raise your sights above the degradation and madness, the muck and demoralization, above the individual battle to survive and to “be somebody” on the terms of the imperialists—of fouler, more monstrous criminals than mythology has ever invented or jails ever held. Become a part of the human saviors of humanity: the gravediggers of this system and the bearers of the future communist society.

This is not just talk or an attempt to make poetry here: there are great tasks to be fulfilled, great struggles to be carried out, and yes great sacrifices to be made to accomplish all this. But there is a world to save—and to win—and in that process those the system has counted as nothing can count for a great deal. They represent a great reserve force that must become an active force for the proletarian revolution. [back]

3. The Points of Attention for the Revolution are:

1. We base ourselves on and strive to represent the highest interests of humanity: revolution and communism. We do not tolerate using the revolution for personal gain.

2. We fight for a world where ALL the chains are broken. Women, men, and differently gendered people are equals and comrades. We do not tolerate physically or verbally abusing women or treating them as sexual objects, nor do we tolerate insults or “jokes” about people’s gender or sexual orientation.

3. We fight for a world without borders, and for equality among different peoples, cultures and languages. We do not tolerate insults, “jokes” or derogatory names about a person’s race, nationality, or language.

4. We stand with the most oppressed and never lose sight of their potential to emancipate humanity—nor of our responsibility to lead them to do that. We work to win people of all backgrounds to take part in the revolution, and do not tolerate revenge among the people.

5. We search for and fight for the truth no matter how unpopular, even as we listen to and learn from the observations, insights and criticisms of others.

6. We are going for an actual overthrow of this system and a whole better way beyond the destructive, vicious conflicts of today between the people. Because we are serious, at this stage we do not initiate violence and we oppose all violence against the people and among the people. [back]

4. The 5 STOPS are:

STOP Genocidal Persecution, Mass Incarceration, Police Brutality and Murder of Black and Brown People!

STOP the Patriarchal Degradation, Dehumanization, and Subjugation of All Women Everywhere, and All Oppression Based on Gender or Sexual Orientation!

STOP Wars of Empire, Armies of Occupation, and Crimes Against Humanity!

STOP the Demonization, Criminalization and Deportations of Immigrants and the Militarization of the Border!

STOP Capitalism-Imperialism from Destroying Our Planet! [back]


The science, the strategy, the leadership for an actual revolution, and a radically new society on the road to real emancipation, by Bob Avakian

Download PDF of book here

Basics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian

BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian

"You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics."

BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian is a book of quotations and short essays that speaks powerfully to questions of revolution and human emancipation.

Order the book or download the book in ePub format HERE


Get a free email subscription to

Send us your comments.