I want to specifically talk about BA’s overall method and approach. As a sociologist (which is a type of social scientist), I find BA’s call for and application of a thorough, rigorous, scientific approach to analyzing both the natural AND (very importantly) the social world to be incredibly inspiring. Simply put, there is no one else who is doing this with the same degree of conviction—of fearlessness, of following the truth wherever it leads you—as BA. In my own work as a researcher, writer and instructor, I consistently try to learn from and emulate BA’s approach: to follow the evidence; to interrogate and self-interrogate; to reject “common wisdom” and not accept established truths without subjecting them to rigorous analysis; to search and fight for what’s true, no matter how uncomfortable (or unpopular) those truths may be; to emphasize epistemological method in how to approach understanding (and transforming) reality; to learn from others, including from those with whom I may strongly disagree on many things; to speak and write in a way that breaks down complex ideas without losing their substance and essence; and to persist, in spite of difficulties, obstacles, criticism, attacks and hardships.
I also want to speak to what I view as one of the “crown jewels” of BA’s work: his radically visionary, awe-inspiring blueprint for a new and liberatory socialist society. As someone who has seriously studied BA’s work, over a number of years, I repeatedly return to the following insight of his: That, in order to uproot all of the deeply seated and interwoven inequalities—between women and men; between different nationalities and races, between those in the imperialist citadels and those of the oppressed nations; between those who can work with their minds and those forced to work, like brute animals, only with their bodies; between those viciously exploited by the workings of the capitalist mode of production and those who benefit from that exploitation—achieving what is sometimes called the abolition of the Four Alls, society under socialism has to be “opened up” on a qualitatively greater plane, which requires a “solid core with a lot of elasticity on the basis of that solid core.” You NEED massive, society-wide debate and wrangling; you NEED to be challenged; you NEED an unleashing of the arts, the sciences, of culture, of women and other formerly oppressed peoples, of youth movements; on a level well beyond anything that has existed in previous socialist societies (to say nothing of the rotten, putrid, dog-eat-dog, “might-makes-right”-ism of capitalist societies such as this one). This isn’t some conciliation to liberal criticisms of socialism: without this—without, as BA puts it, “being willing to go to the brink of being drawn and quartered” but without losing your grip of the whole thing—humanity will never be able to uproot all of the deeply-seated inequalities, divisions, and the ways of thinking that both correspond to and reinforce them. It is a groundbreaking, jaw-dropping, and deeply materialist development of the science of communism that I am continually provoked to revisit and reflect upon.
All of this is completely in contrast to the utterly absurd, dangerously piggish, embarrassingly idiotic, and outright McCarthyite charges of “cult” and “pyramid scheme” that are being hurled at BA and those who follow him. That some of the people who are making these accusations fancy themselves as “socialists” or “radicals” is all the more despicable and stomach churning. These intellectual cowards are (whether consciously or otherwise) doing the very damaging work of the state and political police in actively lying about, and attempting to keep people from engaging with, a world-class revolutionary thinker and leader. And they’re doing it without even the pretense of refuting, engaging, or even presenting BA’s arguments, ideas, or body of work!!! It defies belief that this kind of gutter-level, anti-intellectual, substantively vapid garbage is even given a hearing among “progressives” and self-proclaimed “radicals” and “socialists.”
But don’t take my word for it! Engage BA’s work for yourself. Don’t go by what “everybody knows” or what other puffed-up “movement leaders” and people are telling you (talk about “cultish” and slavish thinking!). Go into it deeply. And then read the work of others who are purporting to offer different analyses of the situation we face, and different solutions to those problems. Compare and contrast the different political and ideological programs, lines, and methods. Have the courage of your convictions. Be serious, and do the goddamn work! Let’s raise the level of our sights and of our discourse. If you disagree, offer up your best arguments. What do you think of his argument that THIS is a rare time in which a revolution in a country like this becomes actually possible, based on the deepening divisions among the rulers of this country, with all that implies and entails? What about his analysis of the new two outmodeds: fascist lunacy and “woke-folk” insanity? His argument about means and ends, and how that relates to the fight for emancipation? His point about epistemology and morality? His critique of democracy? The John Stuart Mill point? His full frontal repudiation of “political truth”? I could go on…. But if you wanna talk about BA, then let’s have a discussion on THAT—about the struggle to understand and change the world, and BA’s contributions to that process.
John Hedlund, sociology instructor and graduate student