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BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian Paperback – April 5, 2011
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By Herb Boyd
One doesn't need a B.A. or a bachelor's degree to understand or to grasp the essential meaning of the lessons delivered in Bob Avakian's latest book, BAsics.
As in most of his books and columns in RevolutionÂ the Revolutionary Communist Party's paper from which much of BAsics is derivedÂ the writing is clear, the analogies simply conceived to breakdown complex issues, and the content absolutely relevant.
In the opening chapter on how a worldwide system of exploitation and oppression is created, Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, offers one word: slavery.
" There would be no United States as we know it today without slavery," he writes. " That is a simple and basic truth." And this basic truth, which is given expansive annotation, is a recurring theme in the book and forges the foundation of his political thought, particularly his ideas on the remedies for capitalism and imperialism.
If it weren't for the often brutal exploitation of Black workers, Avakian contends, " There wouldn t even be a U.S. imperialism today."
That global imperialism, he continues, is at the core of U.S. world domination and the reason for the suffering of so many people. But if things are so terrible in America why are so many clamoring to get in, is a question he raises and answers. Because you have f---ed up the rest " of the world even worse than what you have done in this country," he concludes.
For the most part the book is a compilation of capsules, brief paragraphs that deal with a considerable number of social, political, and cultural issues. In his chapter, "Making Revolution," many of the questions raised by those who believe such a task much too daunting, if not impossible, Avakian is at his best, dispatching each concern in a rational and passionate way.
Any revolutionary struggle in the U.S. will have to include all of the various nationalities, which he perceives as pivotal. " But you're also never going to make revolution in this country without a vanguard that bases itself on a scientific approach to these questionsÂ and to every other decisive questionÂ a vanguard in which everybody contributes and struggles with each other on the basis of striving to grasp that scientific approach..." he asserts.
Later in the book he returns to this proposition, providing a more explicit example, using an analogy from basketball. On a basketball team there are the stars, the Carmelo Anthonys, who want the ball in crunch time when the game is on the line. " These are the ones who not only soar to great heights themselves but in so doing raise the level of their team as a whole," he writes. " Why shouldn't the advanced forces of proletarian revolution those who have the most profound interest in this revolution and the most profound desire for revolution why shouldn t they be capable of this kind of greatness?"
Avakian and his comrades certainly express this profound desire for revolution and have been no less than resolute and determined to see that day when capitalism, racism, and imperialism have been cast to the dustbin of history.
BAsics, in short, is a fundamental primer on revolution and into the imaginative and gifted political mind of Bob Avakian...
(This review first appeared on the website of Black Star News.)
--Herb Boyd, Black Star News
...I am heartened to see that the social idealism that I once considered and still consider quintessentially American lives on in full force through people like Bob Avakin. For him, hope is not just a campaign phrase, and never will be. --Erin Aubry Kaplan, journalist and author
The great revolutions of the last century have themselves become, in the minds of most people, the best arguments against communist revolution. How can that be overcome? I'm honestly not sure it can. But one thing I know is that without the profoundly new work that Bob Avakian is doing, it never will. And without that work being in the mix of the debate in this world, it never will be. --David Zeiger, filmmaker
About the Author
Cornel West describes Avakian as someone who "is a long distance runner in the freedom struggle against imperialism, racism and capitalism" in his comment about Avakian's memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond, My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist.
Top Customer Reviews
with Marxism I would recommend you reading some Lenin and Mao first.
For those who question Avakian's "credentials" and view him as a "cult" leader I suggest you read his memoir
"From Ike To Mao". He is has the "creds", intellect, and a sense of humor surpringly enough. That will give an
idea of his background and evolution. This book is worth the read for many reasons. It gives you insight into
the world of the 1960s, the Black Panther Party, and the radical social movements of that era.
Though lacking specifics, the book offers a powerful message for change under the theme that capitalism cannot be reformed; it must be replaced. The author takes the reader on a journey through capitalism's history offering solid evidence to show that reformers hoping to manage capitalism by instituting controls and tweaking its regulations have in fact perpetuated and enhanced it through compromise. He keenly analyzes and provides proof that throughout history progressive reforms have been resisted, overturned, and reversed, leading back again and again into economic decline and social disintegration. Now that the whole world is capitalist, and the whole world is poor and getting poorer, 21st century liberals and progressives must finally admit that capitalism itself is the problem. In his book, "Democracy at Work - A Cure for Capitalism" Richard Wolff captures this point with a striking analogy explaining the difference between a reformer and a revolutionary:
"Modern-day socialists are somewhat like the antislavery activist of the mid-nineteenth century. Antislavery agitators split into two subgroups. The first, horrified by slavery, chose to agitate for improvements in slaves' diets, clothing, housing, the treatment of their families, and so on. A second group of antislavery activists agreed with the first group's demands and goals, but was also bitterly angry with them about the limitations of their politics. They insisted that the basic problem of slavery was slavery itself, not merely the living conditions of the slaves. Even if reforms in the conditions of slaves might be won, so long as they remained slaves, those reforms would be insecure and reversible. This more radical group--the abolitionists--insisted that slavery would have to be dissolved in favor of universal personal freedom and emancipation.
....All of the varieties of state socialism in the twentieth century discovered that their progressive reforms--universal health care; public education; subsidized food, housing, daycare, and transportation; guaranteed employment, and so on--were not permanent, not part of the historically necessary transition from capitalism to communism."
This book urges liberals and progressives to understand that capitalism is not just an economic system; it is a biased social system. Surplus production, rather than being shared by those who produce it, accumulates to oligopolists who take control of the government, the media, the banking system, and the military, gaining the power to diminish and eventually eliminate progressive reforms altogether. The problem with capitalism is capitalism itself. This is the stark reality that liberals can no longer deny if they want to be instruments of change. They must give up their role as reformers and take up the banner of the revolutionary.
It wasn't until I found Marxism and materialism, as concentrated in Avakian's talks and writings, that I began to understand the material basis for wars and unspeakable acts, why women were in a subordinate position all over the world, and why rich people were so different from my parents, aunts and uncles. This understanding gave me a sense of control over my life as well as a responsibility to try and act on what I knew.
Avakian's book elucidates and brings into sharp focus the material and dialectal nature of society and how we can arrive at "a whole new - and far better - world," as he states in Chapter 2, #2:
"Marx said about the future world, the world of communism, that
it will seem ridiculous and outrageous for one part of society to
privately own the land, and everything that goes along with that,
as it now seems for one human being to own another.
Communism means that we have reached the point where the very idea
that the way society should advance is for a few to benefit and then to
proclaim that to be in the general interest of society, where that idea will
seem so ridiculous and outrageous that in a certain sense, to put it simply,
it couldn't get a hearing."
If you're looking to just understand the world, or want to change it, you need to read BAsics.