Part 10: What Was Great About Seattle -- How the Basic People See This

Bob Avakian Speaks Out, Interviewed by Carl Dix

On War and Revolution, On Being a Revolutionary and Changing the World

Revolutionary Worker #1166, September 15, 2002, posted at

The Revolutionary Worker is very excited to present to our readers this interview and exchange between Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and Carl Dix, national spokesperson of the RCP.

In coming weeks, the many different subjects covered in this important and wide-ranging interview will be made available. This week is Part 10. In the future, the complete interview will also be published and made available online.

The transcript has been slightly edited for publication.


In heavy times like these, the people require extraordinary things to help prepare them for the challenges we face. What follows is truly extraordinary, something that will help arm those who want to take on the U.S. rulers' juggernaut of war and repression with the kind of understanding they need to deal with these times--the immediate challenges in front of us and a whole lot more involved in changing the world. The Revolutionary Worker is publishing an important interview with Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.

I had the honor of doing this interview with him in early 2002. Going into it, I knew there were burning questions many people would've wanted to put to him if they had the chance. They had been putting those kinds of questions to me when I went out there around the Party's Draft Programme or got down with people around the "war without limits" the U.S. imperialist ruling class has unleashed on the world. I was going to have the responsibility, and the opportunity, to put these questions to him for them.

Doing this was intense. It was hard, and it was fun. I hadn't had a chance to get into it with Bob Avakian like this for quite a while. He was the same "fired man" (to borrow a term from Peter Tosh) who had provided crucial leadership for the revolutionary movement at key junctures so many times in the past. He was right on top of what was going down in the U.S. and around the world. And he had the same boundless enthusiasm to dig into world historic questions concerning the process of proletarian revolution. We spent several days doing the interview, getting into everything from the current situation to the role of religion to what sustains him as a veteran revolutionary leader. And then, when we finished our work, we went deep into the night talking about basketball, movies and more.

I hope those who read this interview get as much out of it, and enjoy it as much, as I did in the process of doing it.

Carl Dix


Carl Dix : I would like to circle back to some things that we touched on before but maybe again from a different angle--I guess that I referred to them as identity politics, but there are two particular questions that have been posed by people who come at things that way and there is actually a relationship between these two questions, even. But maybe we can decide whether we want to go at them together, or you know, one by one. One is the question: "Where was the color in Seattle?" What it came down to was a view that was critical of the mobilization of mainly youth that took to the streets in Seattle and criticizing that because there were not enough people of color involved. So that made it, you know, something that should be viewed negatively. The other question, which is a little different but I think shares something in common with that, is the idea that revolutionary organization and even multi- national organization can play a good role if it is led by predominantly people of color, but if it isn't being led by predominantly people of color then it is not going to persist and carry through on the struggle against oppression and exploitation but will conciliate in some way with the system and particularly with its white supremacy.

Bob Avakian : Well, let's take these things a little more one by one, let's start out on "where is the color?"--not so much in the leadership of the revolution or whatever, but in the manifestations of mass protests and resistance and so on.

I think there are some real contradictions involved here, but criticizing something like Seattle from this point of view is grabbing hold of the wrong side of the contradiction and building up the negative side of it. In other words, what I am trying to say is, ultimately, for the struggle to develop to the point where it can actually go where it has to go and make revolution to really solve the problems that we are up against and get at the source of all this oppression, we need to bring forward masses of the oppressed people and in particular the proletarians to be at the forefront of the overall struggle while uniting very broadly with other forces. That's our ultimate goal, and the question is how do we build toward that, how do we bring forward increasing numbers of the basic masses, including the oppressed nationalities and proletarians generally, to come to the forefront?

One thing we know that is kind of a theme that I keep coming back to is that the inequalities in society have concrete effect. Proletarians are not usually the first ones to take up, in an active way--they certainly might think about this, but they are not the first ones to take up in mass struggle a lot of the different arenas of struggle that go on in society, whether it is a question of the wars the imperialists wage or whether it is a question of the battle around the rights of women, or other arenas of struggle. It's often not the proletarians who are in a position to step out first around that because of their very conditions of life and the more intense oppression and repression that they're under. It is not so easy for people who work in a garment factory and maybe are immigrants, so-called illegals, to step to the forefront in open political struggle. It is not so easy for people in a housing project who are literally under the gun and have this "one strike and you're out, evicted," if someone in your family, or even someone who visits your family, is accused--not convicted, but accused--of a is not necessarily so easy for them to develop open manifestations of political struggle.

Of course it is a goal to overcome those obstacles--that's a big challenge that we have to meet in order to build the kind of revolutionary movement with the proletariat at the forefront and building that solid core with the oppressed nationalities that you were talking about earlier, as the core of the whole broader united front. At any given time how do we view struggles that break out among other sections of the people and how, for example--we know this from our own work, and you could speak to this as well, but like how do masses in the housing projects view Seattle? Do they say "Oh, there's too many white people out there protesting and not enough people of color"? I am sure they would have liked to have seen more people of color, more people like themselves, out there too. But overwhelmingly you know they were tremendously heartened by seeing other people out there --by seeing these youth, these students, these other sections of people who were largely, although not entirely, white, out there--because they said, "Hey, we are not so alone, we are not so isolated, we're not surrounded at every turn. It's not like they try to tell us that, except for us in the housing projects and others who are in the same situation we're in, that the whole mass of society is against us and would support any kind of an effort to just wipe us out if we dare raise our heads."

I think that, overwhelmingly, the basic masses in society were tremendously heartened by things like Seattle and took great encouragement from it and were encouraged themselves to step out in various forms and arenas of struggle, feeling more that they had other people they could unite with if they did so, other people who were willing to put something on the line to fight the injustices of this system. That's the way they view it. They didn't say: "Where is the color? There is not enough Black people or Brown people or whatever out there." They said, "This is great."

At the same time, there have been some people of color, including people our Party works with and people in the youth group, the RCYB, and people within the Party, who have taken part in things like Seattle, and the demonstrations against the IMF and World Bank and the Republican and Democratic conventions in 2000; and there has been some interesting and important experience in this. And they, in turn, on the basis of that experience were able to go to other people, including-- say, middle class Black people--and present to them the experiences they had being part of this and inspire them to want to get involved. That's the way you build a positive dynamic. You take a contradiction here that exists in society, that in some ways the first people to step out in certain struggles are not going to be the people the most under the gun, the most downpressed and exploited--what do you do with that? Do you build on the positive side of it and the positive momentum and the way in which it brings forward an important struggle but also potential and important allies for the proletariat? Or do you down it and criticize it because it's mainly another section of the people, it's mainly white people, or white youth or whatever, who are out there? Different classes have very different ways of looking at this same thing.

CD: Yeah, I think it's important to tie that to the question of class outlook because it really was a heartening thing for a lot of people on the bottom, especially a lot of people, a lot of proletarians of color to look up there and see large numbers of youth, mainly white, out there fighting with the cops around the important issues of social justice not just here in the U.S. but even internationally. I mean that was a very important stand that those youth were taking, and proletarians looked at it, like you said, as an indication that "we are not the only ones who've got beefs with this setup, we are not the only ones who want to step out and take it on," and it gave 'em a sense "we are not alone in this," which had been the kind of message that had been pumped out there--"You are all by yourself. You stand up, you're isolated..."

BA: Yeah, of course...

CD: "and you'll get crushed." We see that in other kinds of instances, like with every year on October 22 and the way in which we work to bring out--the October 22nd coalition works to bring out--people who are under the gun of brutal murdering cops, people who are largely people of color, but also works to bring to stand with them allies from throughout society. And that also has been a heartening thing for people, and pointing out to them that there are some possibilities out there and you can in fact move forward in struggle, there are allies out there to link up with. That view, as opposed to a view that would, you know, dis what went down in Seattle because it was too many white people, actually reflects different classes in society looking to different things as what they want to see go down, and I think that's an important distinction to make.

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