Radically Different Paths for Humanity and the Planet
By Dennis Loo (1/2/14)
Before getting to the heart of this, first, a bit of background. When I was a young person just entering Harvard College, I had a dream of becoming something like US Secretary of State. I planned to go to Harvard Law School and then make my way to Washington, D.C. I didn't want to run for political office because that seemed much too phony to me because I'd have to shake hands with everyone, kiss babies, and say things I didn't really mean. So serving in an appointed position but impacting public policy seemed more realistic. Eventually I realized that as a Chinese-American the idea that I would serve in such a high office in the US was a pipe dream. I am slightly embarrased to disclose these naive youthful ambitions at this point.
A lot of things happened to me on my way through college. The 1960s happened. While my first reaction to it was that student activists were a little far out there and pursuing unrealistic goals, the force of those massive and determined protests and my own studies about the actual carrying out of public policy (e.g., the US' defoliation campaign in Vietnam, the Interior Department's war on the prairie dog, even though there was no evidence that prairie dogs were harming the cattle industry, and the reason why education was not focused on the joy of learning but the external rewards of grades - because it was preparing people to live and work in an alienating economic system) all came together. It made me alter my planned life-course radically when I realized the reality of what this system does and the fact that it is a system. The wealth and personally powerful life-path that I could have pursued now seemed irresponsible and immoral to me.
One of the distinct virtues of going to an Ivy League School like Harvard was that you got to meet and talk to many of the people who actually run the society. These were not distantly seen or briefly encountered movers and shakers. These were sit down and talk directly to sessions with the society's elites. To give you a taste of this, one of my professors joked one day that D.C. was an "annex to Harvard." The aura that surrounds these people, which is all that the vast majority of people ever get to see, is shed by the opportunity to see them up close, engage in conversations with them, and hear them speak before groups where they had to answer questions, sometimes very pointed questions, and were expected in many instances to actually come up with a real answer or were called to task when they didn't. Herman Kahn, for example, the Hoover Institute's founder whose "thinking the unthinkable" about nuclear deterrence (MADD - Mutually Assured Destruction Doctrine) earned him the dubious distinction of being the inspiration for Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove (memorably played by Peter Sellers), spoke at Harvard and got called on the carpet for lying about what he said during his talk.
The atmosphere at Harvard and in the larger society until 1973 - when the political terrain changed and dorm dinner conversations among the younger students literally shifted from politics to parties - was such that those who opposed the existing order of things held the initiative. Those who were personally ambitious for their own careers, however, were still present (people like Hillary Rodham and Bill Clinton). They just had to temper their naked ambition most of the time in the face of the dominant ethic of service to the people. I recall, for example, running for the first time into a Harvard black Republican undergraduate who reminded me very strongly of Sen. Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, who he no doubt lionized as his model. He was dressed up in a suit, a bizarre get up among Harvard undergrads at the time. His role in this particular meeting was to present himself as interested in the topic we were meeting about - educational reform (which meant something entirely different to us back then than the term means now) - but his whole approach to the question reeked of personal ambition - I described it to my roommate and best friend at the time as "oilyness" - rather than any sense of the heart of what the rest of us were trying to do. He apologized for what administrators were doing rather than understood anything in the least about our criticisms of how education was being carried out. I could not understand why he was at our meeting in the first place or how a black student could even be a Republican. He stood out like a sore thumb.
I compared notes with a friend many years later about how he felt about going to Yale and even though he and I have our political differences, he said that his reaction to meeting elites at Yale was identical to mine: these people are not so great and are moved by values that are sharply different than his. This was made much easier in my case by the confrontations between the anti-war et al movement activists and authorities. While authorities, particularly academic ones, like to appear to be magnanimous and very liberal-minded, when they had to face activists from the Left their true colors came out and it was extremely revealing.
I remember one incident in particular where members of the Progressive Labor Party (PLP, a Trotskyite group) had been unsuccessfully trying to meet with the Dean of the College about the painters' helpers. Painters' helpers were all black and were paid far less than the painters even though they did essentially the same work. The two-tier system was clearly racist. The Dean refused to meet with PLP. One night the Dean was supposed to have dinner at my dorm at Currier House and PLP heard about it and showed up to try to meet with the Dean. The Dean upon getting wind that PLP was nearby fled to the Master's Residence down the hall from the dining room and hid while PLP circulated among the students, passing out leaflets, and talking to students having dinner in the dining hall. Because I was a resident, I could shuttle back and forth between the dining hall and the Master's Residence. I was struck by how harmless this encounter could have been as the PLP people (who all seemed to be wearing white overalls) merely wanted to talk to the Dean and by how frightened the Dean was of having to talk to PLP. "What are you afraid of?" is what I was thinking.
Many, many years later I heard a speech by Bob Avakian in which he said that on the rare occasion that a student movement representative got a chance to actually debate a government or university spokesman on an issue like the Vietnam War, that the student activist would invariably "wipe the floor" with the authorities' spokesman. This was because the student activist knew what s/he was talking about, had the facts, took the moral high ground, and could expose the lies and half-truths that the "authority" was purveying. This is why it was so hard and is so hard to get authorities to engage in a fair debate: they know that their positions cannot stand up to close scrutiny so they avoid such forums. This contrast between what those who wield authority over not just our lives but the fate of the planet and the utter bankruptcy of their policies and philosophy is sharper today than it has ever been. The stakes are as high as they can be: the viability of the planet itself. Puncturing authorities' veil of legitimacy with sharp exposures and deep and searching analyses, creatively done and compellingly presented, in articles, cartoons, music, art, humor, theatre, etc. can alter the situation dramatically and open up the way to what so many people now think is unthinkable or cannot even now imagine but who would greet the prospects of an entirely different world with tears and with joy.
Please listen to or read this January 1, 2014 statement from Bob Avakian. As you read/listen, think about what by contrast we are told by authorities like the President of the United States and major mainstream pundits. Compare and contrast them and do so giving a full and fair airing to both sides. Which one sounds like they can be believed? Which one is speaking the unvarnished truth and which is papering over the truth? Which one do you think has the best interests of humanity and the planet in mind, not only in their words, but in their actions? Which one do you think will lead to the destruction of the planet and which one do you think offers the only hope of saving it?
This is Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, with a New Year's message—A Call To REVOLUTION.
We need a new world, a radically different world.
Look at the world today. Destruction of the environment. Youth in the inner cities robbed of a future, "presumed guilty" for being Black or Brown, hounded and shot down by police, incarcerated in huge numbers. Women raped, battered and murdered, denied their basic humanity and their full potential as human beings. People scorned, bullied, brutalized for being gay, or just being "different." Millions of children dying every year from starvation and disease. Immigrants driven from their homelands, forced into the shadows, exploited, deported, ripped away from their children. Slaughter and enslavement in the name of one god or another. Wars, torture, and massive government spying.
Things are this way because of the system that rules over us and declares its "special right" to rule the world. A system like this is a system that no one should put up with or go along with. It needs to be swept off the face of the earth. And it can be.
This system is not a mystery, or something that only a few people can understand. And it is not all-powerful. This system has a name—capitalism. This system is full of contradictions—an economy based on ruthless exploitation and dog-eat-dog competition, repeated crises, unemployment and poverty...savage inequalities...claims of "peace" and "justice for all" that are bitter lies—contradictions that this system cannot resolve. All this is the basis to bring this system down and bring something much better into being.
A lot of people say: "You can't really change things. Nobody cares what we think. Those who have the power don't give a damn about us." Yeah, they don't—but so what! Their power is illegitimate anyway—a law and order of injustice and exploitation, enforced with brutality, murder, high-tech assassination and devastation, here and worldwide. It needs to be overthrown.
And what we do matters a great deal. Our lives should be, and can be, about something with meaning and purpose that is really worth living for and fighting for. Why should we do what they want us to do—killing and crippling each other, trying to beat down or beat out each other, ending up in jail, or paralyzed, or dead at an early age—instead of joining together to go up against the system that has got us in this mess in the first place? Why should we accept the lies that people who are of a different color, or live in a different place, or speak a different language, or love in a different way, are less than human and deserve to be locked up, or beaten down, or murdered? Why should girls and women be treated like things, whose only value is to be used for sex and having babies? Why should we go along with the sickening culture of this system which says money is more important than people, and people are only a means to make money? Why should we believe that "it's all in god's hands," when all this horror and suffering is completely unnecessary and could be ended? Why should we accept the way things are, or just try to make things a little bit better, still living within this system that will keep on destroying the lives of human beings, and denying a decent future to the youth, all over the world?
We need to, and we can, do much better than this. We can change all this—we can change ourselves as we change the world—Fighting the Power, and Transforming the People, for REVOLUTION.
Revolution is not an impossible dream. It is not "unrealistic." Changing all of society, changing the whole world, is not a crazy or dangerous idea. What is crazy, and dangerous, is going along with the way things are, and where things are heading, under this system. Revolution—a radical change in how society works, how we relate as human beings, what our values are, how we understand the world and act to affect it—this is what we, what people all over the world, desperately need. And it is lot more realistic than trying to "fix" this system.
People say: "Revolution has been tried, and it didn't work. It got smashed, or turned into something worse than what it was fighting against. Everybody has given up on revolution." No. The process of revolution has gone through twists and turns, mistakes have been made, there have been setbacks and defeats—but the truth is that, in its short history so far, the communist revolution has accomplished great things on a road of liberation never before taken. This revolution remains the only road which can actually bring about a radically different and much better world. As long as human beings continue to be exploited and abused, there will be the need and the possibility for this revolution.
And everybody has not given up on revolution. On my part, I have not just refused to give up, but have recognized the need to make new breakthroughs for this revolution. I have gone to work to learn from the experience of revolution, and from experience more broadly, and this has led to a new synthesis of communism—a deeper, even more scientific understanding of the methods, the goals, the strategy and plan for making revolution and creating a new society. On this basis, our Party, the Revolutionary Communist Party, is right now building a movement for revolution, and we are building our Party as the leadership that is needed for that revolution. But this movement and this Party have to get much stronger. More and more people need to get with this.
I call on youth in the inner cities, men and women in prison, people struggling just to keep from going under, mocked by the lie that "you can make it if you try," all those catching hell under this system, everyone deeply troubled by the desperate situation and dismal future facing so many youth—I call on students, academics, musicians and other artists, all those outraged by the crimes perpetrated by this system, everyone who agonizes over the state of the world and the future of humanity—to seriously get into this revolution. Go to the website revcom.us, and read the newspaper Revolution, where our Party puts forward why we need revolution, what the goals of this revolution are, and how to work for this revolution. With the guidelines this provides, thousands can move now in a unified way and build up the basis to lead millions when the time comes. Fighting back against the injustices of this system, and learning as we fight. Spreading and deepening the movement for revolution—preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution—in the neighborhoods and schools, everywhere people are who need to know about and join in this revolution. Helping to bring about, and getting ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win.
This is no joke, and it is not just some "grand idea" with no basis "in the real world." It is real, and it is being taken up with a serious, scientific method and approach—and with the joy of striving for a world where the suffering and madness that is now daily life for the masses of humanity will be gone, and whole new dimensions of freedom and of human potential will open up for people everywhere, no longer divided into rich and poor, masters and slaves, rulers and ruled. No longer fighting and slaughtering each other, but working together for the common good. No longer destroying, but acting as fit caretakers for the earth. This is communism, the goal of our revolution, a future—for the youth, for all of humanity—that is truly worth dedicating our lives to.
This is Bob Avakian, with a message of revolution. The challenge is there. The leadership is there. What's needed...is you.