RW #592, February 10, 1991

Communism: Imagine...In Living Color

by Bob Avakian

Not long ago I received a bunch of video tapes, and one of them included the TV show "In Living Color." Besides finding this show interesting in general, I kept running the tape back to the theme song, a rap by Heavy D and the Boyz. I couldn't help it--some of the lines in this rap were really getting at something. Check it out:

And how would ya feel
knowing prejudice was obsolete
and all mankind
danced to the exact beat
and at night it was safe
to walk down the street?....
Everybody here is equally kind.
What's mine is yours,
and what's yours is mine.

I'm pretty sure Heavy D didn't think of it exactly this way, but the fact is that these lines have much to do with the answer to that big question: What is communism--what will communist society be like? A lot of what it will be like has a lot to do with things talked about in those lines from "In Living Color."

And this got me to thinking back to another song: "Imagine," which was written and recorded by John Lennon, the former Beatle who was assassinated at the beginning of the '80s. I was never really into the Beatles or John Lennon, but when this John Lennon song "Imagine" came out, about 20 years ago, a friend of mine who knew I was a communist told me: you ought to check out this song "Imagine"--it's John Lennon's attempt to give his vision of a communist world. I had my doubts, but when I looked into it I had to admit that there was something to this. And reading over the words of this song today, it still strikes me that way:

Imagine there's no heaven.
It's easy if you try.
No hell below us,
above us only sky.
Imagine all the people,
living for today.

Ah, imagine there's no countries.
It isn't hard to do.
Nothing to kill or die for
and no religion too.
Imagine all the people,
living life in peace.

You, you may say I'm a dreamer.
But I'm not the only one.
I hope some day you'll join us
and the world will be as one.

Imagine no possessions.
I wonder if you can.
No need for greed or hunger
a brotherhood of man.
Imagine all the people, sharing all the world.

You may say I'm a dreamer.
But I'm not the only one.
I hope some day you'll join us.
And the world will live as one.

Now, we should be clear: John Lennon was not a Maoist--he no doubt read some Marx, and (pardon the pun) some Lenin and Mao, but he was not a revolutionary communist. At most he was what we would call a "utopian socialist"--someone who did not really understand, or agree with, the need to bring communism into the world through revolution--someone who could only "imagine" and "dream" of a world where private ownership of wealth ("possessions") and the exploitation of the masses in the world by a greedy handful would no longer exist and people would no longer be divided into different nations warring with each other. Still, even though he was not a revolutionary communist, there is a lot we can share with his "imaginings" and "dreaming" in this song. In fact, we can carry this further and get a sense of a more clear and more full picture of what communist society will really be like by doing some "imagining" of our own:

Imagine people are not divided into different classes--into rich and poor, or those who are educated and those who are denied an education.

Imagine nobody slaves for anybody else but everybody works in cooperation to contribute the most they can to society, and everybody gets back from society what they need to live a decent life. Imagine further that nobody is stuck doing one job all the time but everybody learns to do all different kinds of things. Imagine: everybody spends part of their time doing work (of different kinds), part of their time in recreation, art, entertainment and relaxation, part of their time thinking and discussing and debating about questions of society and the world, part of their time helping to take care of the administration of society.

Imagine if education really taught people about the true history of the world and its people and really helped people learn about how nature and society actually work and how people can interact with nature and with each other in the interests of humanity as a whole, not just for the present but for future generations. Imagine if education and work were both productive and creative and helped people develop in an all-around way, physically as well as mentally.

Imagine if art and culture were not something used to dull and degrade the people but instead something that uplifted them, fired their imaginations, helped them to see to further horizons and to see old things in new ways, and at the same time inspired them to act to change the world in the interests of the people. Imagine if this sphere of art and culture were not restricted to a small number of professionals but the masses of people took part in creating as well as appreciating art and culture.

Imagine if there were no countries--no borders and border guards. Imagine if people did not live just in one area or part of the world their whole lives but were able to live in many different parts of the world during their lifetime.

Imagine if you lived in a world where there were no racist assaults, or racist insults. A world that was not divided into different nations, with some lording it over the others. A world without racism or anything like that--no ridiculous notions of one group of people being superior to another--a world where people, for the first time, really saw themselves and acted as part of the world community of human beings.

Imagine if women no less than men could walk anywhere they wanted, at any time, without any fear of being attacked. Imagine a world where such things as sexual abuse, rape and everything like that were unknown. A world where the words "men" and "women" did not raise any ridiculous notions of one being strong and the other weak, one made to run things and the other made merely to support him. A world without domination, discrimination, inequality, oppression, and degradation for women at the hands of men and a male-supremacist society. A world where these things no longer existed.

Imagine a situation where, when people get sick, those responsible for health care really do treat them with caring and respect. A world where science and technology are developed and applied according to the principle of serving the people--and where the people, collectively and cooperatively, take responsibility for science and technology, along with everything else in society.

Imagine a world without hunger. Without superstition. Without war, without armies and weapons that people use against other people. A world where the fate of humanity was not in the grasp of a handful of reactionary and murderous oppressors but was in the hands of the world's people, striving and struggling with each other to serve the highest interests of humanity.

Yes, imagine! But the most important and most powerful thing is not that we can imagine a world like this. The most powerful, the most liberating thing is that a world like this can actually be brought into being.

Marxism-Leninism-Maoism makes it possible for us to go beyond just imagining, dreaming and hoping for a better world, someday--it shows the road to this future and the means and methods of fighting for it. It shows that the first step in moving toward this future is for the masses to rise up and overthrow the system of imperialism that rules over us--to smash the armed power of the imperialists and replace it with the revolutionary power of the masses, the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is already a great change, and it opens the door to even greater changes.

The next great step is for the masses to continue carrying forward the revolution under this proletarian dictatorship, to use their power to radically change the relations between people in every part of society and to revolutionize people's way of thinking, breaking free of "tradition's chains" and moving fully into the future of humanity.

We who are alive today will not see the final victory of communism worldwide. Yet we can make a big contribution toward that goal, and we will certainly see big changes in the world. Especially the youth may well live to see--in fact they must play a great part in helping to bring about--new great leaps forward, including the overthrow of imperialism and the seizure of power by our people, the proletariat and oppressed people, in different parts of the world. And this could include right in the "belly of the beast"--in what is now that foul monstrosity calling itself the U.S. of A.

It is true that we face many powerful obstacles and real difficulties in reaching our goal. But we also have the all-important weapon in dealing with these obstacles and difficulties--we have the ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. And because we have Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, we have the crucial lessons from the previous experience of our class --the great achievements as well as mistakes and setbacks--to build on and learn from in carrying out and carrying forward this great world-emancipating revolution.

When this revolution has been carried through, worldwide, humanity will enter the era of communism, and what today we can only imagine will then become reality in living color.

A footnote: There is something rather rare in John Lennon's "Imagine." Something that does show that he was dreaming not just of a different world but of a radically changed world. That something is that Lennon openly "imagines" a world without religious superstition. He even starts the song with this: "Imagine there's no heaven. It's easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky." And then later he comes back to this: "Nothing to kill or die for and no religion too."

This is definitely something important --something that should be united with--and something that we, with the outlook of Marxism- Leninism-Maoism, can get into even more deeply. It's something I have written and spoken about before, and something we have to keep coming back to--because without breaking off the shackles of religion, and all superstition, it is not possible to even fully imagine, let alone actually bring about, a really radically changed world, with radically changed people. This will be the subject of my next article in this series.