Since the invasion of Iraq the United States has occupied that nation for five years. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died, 4 million have become refugees, tens of thousands have been rounded up and incarcerated in hell holes called prisons, and millions more suffer on a daily basis, while the Bush regime brags how it is bringing democracy and freedom to the Middle East. In Afghanistan the U.S. occupation has been even longer with similar suffering for the people of that country. War with Iran could be launched any day by the United States, creating an unimaginable catastrophe for the people of Iran and the world.
Do you wonder from where such wars come? Are they just the result of “electing” a bad president? Or are they rooted in the workings of the economic system known as imperialism, and don't we need something different? What is that something? And how will it be created?
Well these and other questions were addressed on March 22 at Berkeley’s Black Repertory Theater by one of Berkeley’s own, Bob Avakian. Avakian grew up in Berkeley in the ’50s and ’60s, attending Berkeley High and UC Berkeley. He went on to become the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party. I went to the well-attended event where there was a presentation and discussion of Avakian’s new synthesis re-envisioning revolution and communism.
I know a lot of the readers are now rolling their eyes and saying something to the effect of doesn’t this Theisen know that communism is dead and so is the possibility of radically transforming the world into something better. But is this true? Why? Are we only faced with adapting to the “new world order” announced by Bush I in the ’90s and well on its way to creation by Bush II in this century? Must we live in a world of torture and imperialist wars, where due process and other legal rights are relics of the past in order to guarantee our “safety?”
Or is there a possibility of a better world where the lives of millions of children are not cut short by curable diseases; where hellholes like Guantánamo do not exist; where nooses are only displayed in museums; where immigrants are welcome guests and not hunted fugitives; where women are allowed to control their own bodies without fear of domestic violence, rape, or a government telling them they must remain pregnant; where youth are not treated as either criminals or commodities; and where the earth itself is not seen as commodity to be used and destroyed in the pursuit of profit.
I have dreamed of a revolution that can set about ending these horrors and meeting the pressing needs of the people. But that is not enough? Revolutions have occurred before, but then have been turned into their opposites. A truly emancipatory socialism must lay the basis, and take concrete steps, toward a society where people consciously change the world and themselves, in a society of freely associating human beings and where the need for any kind of state has been surpassed.
In that light, Bob Avakian has done path-breaking work to go beyond even the best of the previous socialist societies and re-envisioned a socialism that is both visionary and viable. Avakian’s new synthesis comes out of 30 years of hard, scientific work. It recasts and recombines the positive experience so far of the communist movement and of socialist society, while also learning from the negative aspects of this experience. This “new synthesis” has tackled a whole realm of questions, including:
How does the new revolutionary power maintain power and maintain it as a power worth keeping? How does it not just survive in a world dominated by imperialism, but do that as a base area for further revolutions?
What would be the role of individual rights, civil society, and politics outside the purview of the state? What would be the role of a constitution and elections? Why would this re-envisioned socialism not only tolerate, but foster, dissent?
What would be the relation between scientists, artists, and intellectuals carrying out urgent work to meet the most pressing needs of society and, at the same time, pursuing work, experimentation, and exploration not tied to those kinds of immediate goals? How would the age-old division between those who work with ideas and those who are locked out of that, be overcome—in a way that does not sacrifice but actually enhances vibrancy and intellectual ferment throughout society in unprecedented ways?
What is the importance of a fearless attitude toward the truth and what have been the shortcomings and blinders in regard to this in the communist movement as it has developed?
How does this new synthesis both continue on the path first charted by Marx, Lenin, and Mao while going beyond it, in new and crucial ways?
What is the importance of taking Bob Avakian’s new synthesis out into society? What does all this have to do with how to prepare for revolution? What difference does it make if the people who will make the communist revolution get involved in wrestling with what it is all about and the means to make it?
Berkeley had often been on the cutting edge of change since the ’60s. The free speech movement was born here. The recent debate around the Marine recruiting station has stirred the nation and the world. It is only fitting that a discussion involving the future development of humankind should also take place in Berkeley.
Since I was a child I have dreamed of a different and better world. I have had enough of the new world order. Have you? Check out this new synthesis and start to change the world by going to the websites: rwor.org or engagewithbobavakian.org.
Kenneth J. Theisen is an Oakland resident and political activist.