Why I Got into BA—and Why You Should Too

“There was a certain point when I started asking questions…”

| revcom.us


The following is an edited excerpt from a taped discussion with members of the Tour on the importance of really getting Bob Avakian (BA) and his leadership out to millions.

In answer to the question of why people should get into BA, and why we revcoms need to be fighting for this, the short answer is because the world could be so radically different! It doesn’t have to be this way! If you look at those 5 Stops—these things are real. There’s the planet, the environment could actually be destroyed where people can’t actually survive anymore. We’ve seen this fascist motherfucker put children in cages. We’ve seen so much of these things that are part of this system get escalated. The people who rule this society have a hold on people’s way of thinking, you know, where they’re seeing what could be done totally within the confines of their system that actually causes all this shit, that can’t actually do without shooting Black people, locking them up—it’s like a slow genocide that could actually turn into a fast one. These are real things, you know. The world is a horror, there’s so much horror in people’s actual lives and it doesn’t have to be this way! We could get beyond all of that.

I get why people don’t have any hope. I get why they don’t have it—I’ve been there, we’ve all been there. Joe was saying how he got into BA. I was in the same place and... I’m trying to think like, “Why are these things this way?” and I’m so full of anger, so full of frustration. I don’t want to sound like that now, but I’m talking about like back then when I first encountered BA.

Starting to Ask Questions

I was in prison. There was a certain point where I started asking questions... starting to see that people could actually change things. I read a little bit of history, most people like me are locked out of reading, you know. I didn’t read for shit my whole young life. I didn’t pick up a book—it was just out of the question. That’s not something I did—maybe other people who went to school or whatever, but me? I was what you call a thug. I was out in the streets. I was doing shit that people on the bottom do when they have no hope and they see no purpose other than to get over on other people. That was who I was. And then I went into prison and just read out of sheer boredom. Or else I wouldn’t have picked up a book and kind of found out that people actually change history, people have actually changed things.

And I was like: How do they do that? What is it? And learning about different figures. And then thinking: “Okay, it seems like there’s something to this communism stuff” even though people were very anti-communist who I looked up to, that were writing a lot of these books. But I was like: “Okay, they [the communists] are the only ones that actually ever made a revolution, have actually overthrown capitalism”—because I was seeing capitalism as a problem.

It’s not like I didn’t read anything else. I was trying to search... there’s people that I respect. There was a... I seen this book on the table and I just remember, somebody brought it to me, they saw it on the table, and they were like: “Hey, you’ll probably like this book.” And it said something about: Talking About a Revolution. It was a collection of interviews with all these different authors, and people are talking—like Noam Chomsky, I used to read his books. Howard Zinn. Good people, you know, but they weren’t talking about revolution, they weren’t talking about a way out. They had a lot of insights but they weren’t talking about a way out.

A Way OUT of the Madness

So, when I encountered BA, he was talking about a way out. One of the first things I read from BA was the Memoir. It was him, you know... you see who he was... he talks about his life growing up and then coming to change and encountering different people, like Black people and then seeing the way they were treated. And he wasn’t coming at it like: “Well, how does this relate to me?” or whatever. He was like: this is really fucked up and that has to stop. He’s confronted by the civil rights movement and all this stuff that’s going on and people struggling against that.

And it was something that I had never encountered as far as the morality and the willingness to pursue, just pursue the question: Like, why is this the way it is? How could it actually be different? Or do we just have to consign ourselves to things as they are? Do we have to give up? Is there really nothing we could do? If there is something we can do, how do we do it? And just being very rigorous in pursuing the truth, you know. So, when I read that Memoir, I was like: this dude is for real. He was like... I’ve known people growing up who were like: Okay, I look out for my homies and I’ll make any kind of sacrifice for them and for my family, or like nowadays you look out for “your community”. People who have, like, generally good hearts—but this was on a whole ’nother level.

He’s talking about a world of oppression. He’s coming to confront that and how do you get rid of all of that. And he went deep to understand the why; and who he is as a person is very connected to his willingness to wanting to stop that shit. He’s developed a whole scientific method and approach, like really summed up the past and why we [those who led previous revolutions] made the mistakes that we made. What were people confronting at that actual time and how did they go at it? What was it in their thinking that led to these errors that they did make, and without saying that it was all bad actually recognizing the tremendous achievements, but like: What was it? And then summed up a lot of stuff. That’s how we got this new communism that people have to take up.

A Scientific Approach

You see all these things get in the way of people’s thinking and understanding, not actually having a scientific approach—which just means let’s go for reality and let’s look for evidence. Like, why are Black people being shot down by police? Why do they get away with it over and over again? Why is it that you go from... people being persecuted, treated as less than human, being forced to hide because they’re going to get picked up by fucking ICE or whatever and get deported, get picked up as if they’re trash, “you don’t belong here,” all this racist shit. Why do people have to go through that? And we go from that to where fascists in the ruling class say, “Okay, we’re going to fucking start, we’re going to take this to another level, and we’re going to start terrorizing people and snatching their kids away and putting them in cages.” Rather than: “Let’s fix this!” This is where they go, where their system goes. And you could lose your mind seeing that.

But BA, he actually went to: Why? Why is that happening? Because you can’t come to a solution without understanding why it is. And he really went deep. We’ve been talking some about how is it that this system is at the root of all this. What are the changes that it is actually causing? I’m going to just go on for a little bit.

Because, I was mentioning that I started reading because I’m looking for answers and I’m seeing Marx, you know. So Marx is understanding something here about the way this system works. And also reading Lenin and Engels because this is what people who call themselves revolutionaries were talking about. This is what you gotta get into. So I’m searching, I’m searching for all these people who call themselves Marxists because communists were the only ones that actually overthrew this system. And I’m looking at all these people and organizations who call themselves communists, and I’m trying to figure out which one is actually trying to make a revolution. Because even though I didn’t have much of an education, I understood one thing: this system gets enforced with brutal violence. And there’s no way you’re going to actually change that without an actual revolution that actually deals with that. So, the more I looked, the more I started to lose hope because people aren’t actually dealing with that question.

Following BA, Taking Up the Scientific Method Yourself

So, this stood out a lot to me about BA—it was like what I was saying about who he is as a person, what initially came through, him being very real and having a lot of heart for people and pursuing the truth. But then also he came up, he developed a scientifically grounded strategy. He summed up a lot of past experience about socialist society so far and summed up how we could actually do better. And how do you go up against this system? He’s developed the strategy for that. It’s not like all the answers are there, but it’s like what Michelle [another participant in the discussion] had said about what you find in BA is not just answers, there’s an approach, you will find answers but there are also tools—an approach for people to actually take up. And not just like: you wish it could be and you have a whole lot of stand, but actually let’s examine it for real because we’re talking about real things and it’s very serious.

What are some of the things that revolutionary forces would have to confront? First of all, what is the kind of situation that you need to actually be able to make a revolution? And let’s look at that for real and is that possible to get there? And then once that’s there, how do you actually wage a revolutionary struggle? And if you win, it better be something that’s worth winning. And he’s went at all these questions in a way that nobody else has.

That’s why I’m following BA because nobody else has went at these questions without even the slightest bit of seriousness that he has. You run into a lot of people out here in the streets who are like... you know they have a lot of shit-talking they like to do but they haven’t done any kind of work that in any way approaches what BA has done as far as what’s it actually going to take to putting an end to all forms of oppression. A lot of people are out here trying to fight to lead a damn march and they don’t want answers coming in there because they’re not trying to find an answer. They’re not trying to find solutions, they just want to resist. Some people do, they may want to fix some things, but it’s totally within, and it’s totally not dealing with the actual nature of the system—like “defund the police,” or “abolish the police, abolish the prisons,” without abolishing the system that requires all of that.

I think that the more that people actually get to know who BA is, who he actually is, and the work that he’s actually done, the more they’ll see the need for them to follow and to get other people to follow BA also. And to speak to that, I was saying that taking up the leadership of BA means taking up the method and approach because he’s not about just giving people orders. He’s actually done a lot of analysis and it’s not just like: Okay, I have some answers now, go take them out—or whatever. But underneath all of that he’s emphasized over and over that we need people taking up this approach, it’s about pursuing the truth wherever it leads. And proceeding from reality, not what we’d like it to be, not what’s more convenient but what actually is—and how do you go to work to transform that in a way that’s actually realistic. And the irony is that what’s realistic is so far beyond people’s imagination that they think it’s unrealistic. But it’s actually in line with reality, if you take up a consistently scientific method and approach you’ll find that this is scientifically based and grounded.



Bob Avakian (BA) is the most important political thinker and leader in the world today.

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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.

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

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This article was originally published in 2014. We believe that it is particularly timely now to either return to this or, for those who have not read it before, to read it for the first time.

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Bob Avakian (BA) is the most important political thinker and leader in the world today.

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