Revolution #114, December 30, 2007

Correspondence from Los Angeles

Discussing Bob Avakian’s Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity

The twenty-something guy from Riverside settled in his seat next to Revolution journalist and radio personality Michael Slate. To his right was the woman he met at the fund-raising meeting the week before, and as the discussion was about to start two high school students slid into the front row seats. Libros Revolución was filled with people—young, old, men, women, Black, Latino, white, Iranian, Asian…mothers from Watts, Spanish-speaking immigrants, long-time activists, young revolutionaries. Clyde Young from the Revolutionary Communist Party and Revolution correspondent Reggie Dylan called the meeting to attention. Everyone was there to discuss: Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, a talk by Bob Avakian currently being serialized in Revolution (and available in its entirety online at A short excerpt from the talk was read, and discussion began.

People started to talk about the theme of what it means to “want to get more” and to actually “get more” if you invent something. Someone brought up how the creation of music becomes a commodity under capitalism and wanted to know what others thought about that. Someone else was grappling with the mental/manual contradiction—the gulf in society between people who mostly work with their minds, and people who mostly work with their hands. They thought the main problem with wanting to get more for an invention is that it gives added value to intellectual work. In response, someone else said that commodities hide profound inequality and this has to do with the fundamental way society is set up. A young guy all the way in the back said he thinks that in a different society, fame and appreciation would be enough reward for creating music. Then he thought for a minute and asked if in communism people would still become famous for the music they create. A teacher responded that it is this society that bombards people with the idea that they need to be recognized for what they do and this goes along with the idea that anything you do, you have to get paid for. Someone else added that the problem is the values we live by which go along with capitalist society, like getting self-worth from the shoes you have. Then another person said she thought the problem with wanting to get more is not just what people think, but that getting more means there has to be exploitation and all the horrors that means.

Several people wanted to talk about how to change how people think, how to bring forward the masses to change things. One person said the problem is that people don’t think, and wanted to know how to deal with that. Someone said the answer is fear—that if people understand for example that the planet is going to die, that fear will cause them to want to change things. Someone else said people need education to understand the impact of what’s happening. In the midst of this, an older man asked what the new system would be like “when I get old and can’t work anymore.” A young proletarian answered him that communism is about “working for one’s ability.” He said, “In this society there’s no hope for you, but like in Bob Avakian’s ‘Imagine,’ in a new society there’s something for everybody. With age comes wisdom which can add to society.”

Back on the question of how to change how people are thinking, someone said the problem is there’s a lack of awareness because capitalism is a system that is deceiving people. He said, “We have to start questioning everything.” He talked about how people are deceived into buying things they don’t need and aren’t going to learn anything different in school or from their parents, so “it starts within yourself, becoming more aware.” A woman returned to the earlier comment about fear. She said we should be putting forward a vision of another world instead. She said, “I don’t think it’s fear. Fear shuts people down. I like the idea of hope and not fear.”

Clyde Young posed the question, why if you get more for what you invent will it drag society backwards?

A woman said she thinks people need to get beyond thinking they have to compete with one another and understand there’s enough for everybody. But she had some reservations about revolutionary power being a good thing, saying, “Power is tricky. How do we prevent the abuse of power?” Others also commented about how people think: that if people think in the framework of buying and selling then their sights don’t get beyond the framework of capitalism; that the problem is children are trained to think about getting more for themselves as adults. Someone responded to the comment about competition saying people feel the need to compete in this society because “if you don’t work, you starve.” He went on to say that “I want to get more,” will take you to where China is now, where some people got rich and others are impoverished.

Reggie Dylan said the communist revolution is about “changing circumstances and changing people,” and talked about the process of transforming society, continuing to revolutionize it through socialism so that people are finally able to transcend the narrow horizon of “getting more.” Someone else grabbed onto that point and talked about how there are still commodity relations in socialism and if you don’t constantly push the envelope in restricting these, it will take you back to capitalism.

In coming back to the question of how to change minds and bring forward the masses, some people talked about Revolution newspaper. A student from Locke High School said the newspaper needs to be in the schools. She said, “There are things they’re not teaching us and the newspaper brings us these truths and plays an important role.” She said at Locke the newspaper led the walkout that happened there for the Jena 6. She went on to say, “High school and college students need to be able to read what Bob Avakian is writing, this is science and it breaks the borders the government is putting in the schools.” Another student from Locke spoke next, telling about how she got Revolution newspaper to one of her teachers and not long afterwards he started teaching about what socialism and capitalism is. She said, “People were interested. They were saying the U.S. does need revolution. People stepped out of the box.”

The collective wrangling with Bob Avakian’s talk continued—with insights about science and how to understand reality. But something the high school student said when she ended her comments, was a common sentiment shared afterwards. She said the talk that everyone was sitting there having needs to spread. She said she was going to go have this kind of talk with her friends and they would talk to more people. She said this is how to “get more people involved—rather than the whole movement go down.”

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