Connecting with BA at the Harlem Book Fair

October 28, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper |


Editor’s note: This interview was conducted during the summer. We recently received a transcript and are sharing it with our readers.

Revolution: [After showing and talking with R about a palm card featuring BAsics 5:7—"American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People's Lives" and BAsics 5:8—"Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First."]

These quotes are both from this book BAsics, which is from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. And he's a revolutionary leader who's re-envisioned revolution and communism. And he's gone really deeply into the past experience of the communist revolution—both in theory and in practice—and he's identified the tremendous achievements that these socialist societies accomplished in every sphere of society, but also the mistakes they made and areas where we need to do better. And he's leading a movement for a new stage of communist revolution. And this book concentrates more than 30 years of his work.

And this book actually starts out like this—this is the first quote in this book: [BAsics 1:1]

"There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth."

R: Built on the backs of slaves, the United States. Free labor. My people are from Haiti, we had the first slave revolt—successful slave revolt—and we pushed the French out of Haiti. But we built the country on our labor, on our backs, and then basically we were set free and nothing—40 acres and a mule we never got. The whole capitalist system is kind of fucked up. I don't know if communism is the answer. I read a little bit of Marx. The system right now is broken. I'll probably check out [BAsics.] Can I get it online?

Revolution: There is an e-book, but there's a table over there where people are selling this book today. You should get it, because it goes really deeply—

R: What's his name, Bob Avakian?

Revolution: Bob Avakian, yeah. This book goes really deeply into what is the system that we live under, why is the world this way, what's the connection between the conditions that the most oppressed people in this country are facing and what's done to people all over the world, how could we actually make a revolution in this country to get to a whole new society and a whole new world. There's a vision of a whole new way humanity could be living in here.

R: I think the problem is you would have to break a lot of eggs to do something like that (laughs).... You can't steer the minds of people that have been constantly programmed... They've been told that capitalism is the way since you were little, you know what I mean? They want big cars, they want money...

Revolution: When you say you don't know if communism is the answer, why do you say that?

R: Look at Cuba, China—I mean, they're communist countries, right?

Revolution: No, that's the thing, there are no socialist countries in the world anymore. This is one part of the experience that Avakian has gone really deeply into—

R: I think on a small scale socialism works. But when it starts to get big, some people are gonna take to try and take most—the people that control it, they want more. People are greedy naturally, [even as] little babies. Like my son, I had to teach him to share, he doesn't want to share. That's what happens. You can talk about it, but then somebody's gonna get greedy, and the people in control are gonna want more than the other people. And it becomes cash, people divide themselves. And we separate ourselves. I don't intentionally do it, but regardless of whether it's race or cash, we find ways to separate ourselves... Once there's separation involved, it's like, "He has more goats than I do—I want his goats."

Revolution: I think these are just the ways of thinking and relating to each other that are stirred up by this system, though. That people are—

R: Under this system, how do we eradicate—

Revolution: There's a whole chapter in this book, "Making Revolution," on the strategy for how to actually make a revolution to get rid of this system and bring a socialist society into being.

R: I'll check it out. I will check it out.

Revolution: I want to show you, on this point about, "people are always gonna want more." Check out BAsics 2:1 and 2:2 here.

[R reads the quotes]

Revolution: What do you think?

R: I want to see it done in practice. It's all ideas. The ideas sound good, but how would it work in practice when you got people that—right now, we got people that control the media, they control the minds of the people. You can't erase everything, unless there's some kind of nuclear holocaust, zombie apocalypse. That's the only way you can erase everything—you can't. I think the best way to beat the system is to join it, and then try to change it.

Revolution: But that means joining a system that thrives on brutally exploiting billions of people.

R: I know, exactly. Sometimes you gotta think—how else could you beat it, without the resources? If you don't have the resources or the manpower—I mean, it will destroy itself eventually...gotta come to a head. But it's like, I don't know. You can preach all you want, I don't think it's gonna... I was looking at the communism, I look at socialism, it sounds good, but I don't think it would work—I think people are greedy, selfish.

Revolution: A couple things: One, just to be clear, what's being talked about is building a movement for revolution, actually bringing forward thousands of people now to reach and influence millions of people, so that at the time that there's a revolutionary crisis, there would be a real revolutionary people of millions who—when the time for it is right—we could have an actual revolution. So, just to be clear, we're not talking about an actual revolution now. But we are talking about working every day to bring that closer to be able to get to that point—

R: To reach their minds. You got the mainstream media that's controlling everything—mind control right now. So how would you—people are controlled by television, movies, video games.

Revolution: Well, all that is true, but then the thing is, there's a statement on the strategy for revolution in this book, BAsics. One of the things that strategy statement talks about is this: the bases for crisis actually flows out of the workings of this system. This system is constantly creating unemployment, wars, conditions of misery and starvation, and at times this actually leads to crisis where people don't put up with things that they usually go along with. People to start to question and resist what they usually accept.

You can see this in different parts of the world. Like, I'm not comparing these two situations exactly, that's not my point, but just in a general sense—

R: Egypt?

Revolution: Egypt, yeah, exactly what I was gonna say. A few years ago, people would have never thought it would be possible that there would be a huge upsurge like that that would force Mubarak to step down. Now, the system has not been replaced. There hasn't been an actual revolution there—there's still the same system in place. So I'm not raising that as an example of revolution, I'm raising that as an example of how things can change very quickly, and then that causes people's thinking to go through really rapid changes. But then the question is: Are millions of people going to know about this revolutionary leadership, and are they going to know about the party that he [Avakian]'s leading, and are people going to know that there's a whole different way the world could be?

R: Yeah. So you put the information out there for people. I think people tend to reject it, though (laughs). When you say "communism," they think Russia. We've been told communism is bad. I knew nothing about communism. When I was little, I was told it was bad. Watching wrestling—WWF—they had a Russian guy who was the bad guy. In the Cold War, it was always—so people automatically think without even knowing anything. Maybe you need to spoon-feed 'em or...

Revolution: The point is, that can change though as... nobody's born a communist. People's view and understanding of communism can radically change through struggle. And through people getting into this leader and what he's brought forward. Because this is what communism is today. This is somebody who's looked at—in Russia and China, when they were actually socialist countries, as opposed to now, when they're capitalist countries, but when they were actually socialist countries, they did amazing things. In China under Mao, you went from a country where hundreds of millions of people were starving before the revolution, to within like 15 years, they had solved their food problem and everybody had enough to eat. You had a situation where women were treated as concubines, and there was this slogan: "A woman married is like a pony bought. I can ride her and whip her as I please." That was the way people looked at women before the revolution in China. After the revolution, they had the slogan, "Women hold up half the sky." Tremendous things were done in terms of emancipating women. These are just a couple of examples—in not too distant history, there's been a time when billions of people have lived a whole different way.

But then capitalism was restored in those countries. And what Avakian has done is look really deeply and study really deeply what happened in these societies: What were the tremendous things that we're always lied to about, or which are always covered over that were achieved, but also where there were mistakes that were made. Going to that quote [BAsics 5:8], for example: "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First." There have been times when different socialist countries have put the revolution in their own countries above the whole world revolution. And there's actually been bad consequences sometimes, as a result of that. And that's just one example of how he's re-envisioned revolution and communism, and figured out how we can do even better.

Right now, the problem is not nearly enough people even know about Avakian and what he's brought forward. When people find out about this, when they find out about this movement for revolution that he's leading, then people's thoughts about what's possible, and how the world could be, can change radically. But if people think this world, with millions of Black and Latino youth in prison, and wars being waged by the U.S. all over the world, and all the other nightmares that you could go on down the list—if people think that's all that's possible, then they try to find their way within that. They try to get a piece of that. Like you were saying earlier: People try to get their part within the system, or be a part of the system. If people know [things] don't have to be this way, then it's a whole different ball,game.

R: I don't know, I mean, at this point, they got the big guns. So you can say that, but I think they will try to crush any type of revolution. Like the CIA—the Black Power movement, they assassinated people, they imprisoned them. I think people that are in power, that have money, and that have guns, they won't go for it... The people who control the system, they'll do anything to stay in power....

Revolution: What you're saying about this system will do anything to stay in power, and what you're saying about the '60s and that experience of going after and killing the Panthers, it's very real. You're absolutely correct that this system is vicious. But that's part of the point of: We are building a movement for revolution. Getting to the point of millions of people. My point is not: You get to millions of people, that means they won't try to crush this. But part of being serious about building a movement for revolution is protecting and defending this leadership who represents a way out for humanity and is bringing forward millions of people to be part of this, so that it's a lot harder for this to be crushed and isolated.

And there is a whole strategy that's taking very seriously, making no bones about the fact, that we're up against a very vicious system that will do anything to stay in power. And that's also why, to emphasize again: What's not being talked about is doing this now, but what is being talked about is building a movement [for revolution]....

They're vicious, they're very powerful, but they're not all-powerful

R: That's true...

[As the conversation winds down, R heads over to the Revolution Books table to check out BAsics.]

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