Interview with Annie Day on The Bob Avakian Institute:
Revolution: First of all, congratulations on the book-launch event for THE NEW COMMUNISM. That was an amazing event, and a project in part of The Bob Avakian Institute. It gave me, at least, a sense of the kind of things that The Bob Avakian Institute can be doing. We’re going to get more into what people can do to become part of this, but before we do maybe we could talk about the mission of The Bob Avakian Institute, why it’s so important.
Annie Day: Yeah, I’d love to talk about that. First, I do think you saw in the launch event for THE NEW COMMUNISM a really powerful example of what difference it would make in the world and society if Bob Avakian’s work were known and engaged—the challenges that presents, the hope that inspires, the moral unity and outrage at the horrors that exist today, and also the deep inquiry into the source of the problem in the system of capitalism and the way out through making an actual revolution to get rid of all the oppressive and antagonistic divisions among people which cause so much unnecessary suffering today. I think all of that was present in yesterday’s event, including the really powerful readings of the book itself. And then coming off that, the talks by Carl Dix and Cornel West and then the discussion moderated by Andy Zee.
These are such important questions around which there was discussion and debate… it was very exciting and you got a feel for what having this book out in the world can open up and change for people. It was really a great place to be, and I do encourage everyone to watch it on the livestream which is still up at revcom.us and linked from our site, TheBobAvakianInstitute.org
Revolution: Can you talk more about the mission of The BA Institute?
Annie Day: The BA Institute is an educational institution whose aim is to project Avakian’s work throughout society. The new synthesis of communism, the body of work of Avakian, the scientific breakthroughs and vision that this concentrates and projects, is a breakthrough for humanity and it could make a big difference if this were known and engaged around the world.
Bob Avakian is the Karl Marx of our time, and the new synthesis of communism truly is a revolution in human thought, a whole different framework, scientifically grounded, for human emancipation. When you have such a big breakthrough, this needs to be known and engaged here and all around the world. Avakian leads a movement for revolution in the U.S., he leads the Revolutionary Communist Party. At the same time, the new synthesis of communism is a breakthrough for humanity internationally; it’s bigger than a revolution or a revolutionary party in one country. Commensurate with that, it’s really vital to have an Institute that’s making that known, making that work available, that’s preserving and protecting the work that exists thus far, but also the ongoing work that Avakian is continuing to do and develop.
This needs to reach throughout society, in the inner cities and urban cores, internationally in a major way, and to impact and influence things in the realm of ideas, to contend framework against framework over problem and solution—up against all the false and baseless verdicts and distortions on the first stage of communist revolution and up against all the outmoded ideas which predominate today. And which are suffocating humanity. It’s really precious to have the understanding concentrated in the new synthesis of communism and where this all ends up isn’t predetermined. Look, there’s a lot to learn painfully from the example of the Library of Alexandria* where they understood very fundamental things about the nature of reality and the nature of the planets and science and math—and that was lost for 1,200 years! Right now, we can have a major impact in how history turns and that has a lot to do with what people understand. And in the world today, this means we really have to contend with what most people are thinking: that all the horrors in the world are a product of human nature, the will of some god, that the most you can do is take care of your friends and family and look out for yourself… or even among those who desperately care about the conditions for humanity, most think you just have to accept the framework of the system as it is and do the best you can within this. This is no good!
So to have an Institute whose mission and purpose is to project the new synthesis of communism, that breakthrough for humanity, that revolution in human thought, that framework for human emancipation, this can have a big impact literally on the planet. That’s the mission of the Institute—to really make this work known, engaged, and debated in every corner of society, yes, all around the world and as a point of reference and contention in the struggle over ideas.
What This Can Mean for People All Around the World
Revolution: At the book launch, you gave the example of people dying trying to cross the Mediterranean in conditions that harken back to the days of the slave trade, and yet knowing there is a way out of all this hell.
Annie Day: All around the world there are people who are objectively up against the biggest questions—people who are thrown from their homelands, sex trafficked, people who are brutalized, beaten, and degraded in a thousand different ways. But people don’t understand the deeper causes of this. There are some who are wrestling with this and trying to understand the nature of what they’re up against and whether there is a way through it or a way out of it.
They need to hear Avakian’s analysis of the problem in the system of capitalism-imperialism, and his answer in what’s required to make an actual revolution and get to a society of real human emancipation… and what their role is in that.
People have no idea that the answers are there in Avakian’s work, that there is actually somebody who for decades has been putting himself in a very scientific way to understanding and answering those problems. This is really an unacceptable situation for the people of the world. Because if people knew this, if people were engaging this work, were working with and applying the new synthesis of communism, it could open whole new paths of inquiry, whole new ways of understanding the problems in this system, going at that problem in a revolutionary way, understanding the relationships and the dynamics of different contradictions in society and actually traversing a way out.
The heart of this is the scientific breakthroughs in the new synthesis of communism. This is a point that Avakian makes repeatedly, this runs through THE NEW COMMUNISM, and it’s further explicated in Ardea Skybreak’s Interview, Science and Revolution. People will not be able to emancipate themselves from all tradition’s chains, will not be able to get out from all the oppressive relations and antagonistic divisions among people without science. So it’s a really big deal that there is this thoroughly scientific framework for human emancipation. In a world where so many progressive people are afraid to stand on anything with real certitude, in a way that leaves them paralyzed and so many oppressed people who are caught up in dark ages religious mentalities, these breakthroughs in the science of communism are such a breath of fresh air and they’re so desperately needed.
I want to add though, too, that on the basis of and informed by these scientific breakthroughs, there is a tremendous body of work that BA has developed. If you’ve not gotten into this yourself, do so! There’s nothing more important or exciting that you can do. In addition to reading THE NEW COMMUNISM, I want to encourage people to take time to go through the bibliography. And go through the first Appendix in the book: “The New Synthesis of Communism: Fundamental Orientation, Method and Approach, and Core Elements—An Outline.”
In addition to breaking this down for people, Avakian has done a lot of work to provide the tools for people to take up this science themselves.
At the same time, and I can’t really do this justice, but the range of questions that are dealt with in Avakian’s whole body of work are vast and are a real storehouse for humanity. The fact that he’s written a Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America is seminal and unprecedented in its own right. Also, how he’s developed our understanding of questions of democracy and dictatorship, the relationship between political economy and how people’s thinking is shaped, internationalism, art, religion, sports, the driving dynamics of imperialist globalization, new ways of approaching the environment under socialism, questions of law and rights, the relationship between the individual and human society. Further developing the understanding of the contradictions and character of communist society itself.
I could go on and on and I don’t think we can overestimate the difference this could make in academia, in culture—yes, in the arts, but also in the culture and relations among people if this work were known: the theoretical breakthroughs, the ideological, political, yes, the scientific breakthroughs. I’m barely scratching the surface here and you could write a thesis on every one of these questions and it could open up so much for our species if this work were really known and engaged throughout society.
When I spoke at the launch event at the Schomburg, I read this quote from Skybreak’s book where she talks more about what difference it could make if people throughout society were really getting into BA, what that would change. She says, “We’ve seen it before. We’ve seen it in previous periods of revolutionary upsurge. The people get better. The people get smarter. The people get more lofty. They dream bigger and they act in accordance with these bigger dreams. It’s a beautiful sight. And that’s a lot of what BA is actually giving us the tools to accomplish.”
Science and Revolution
Revolution: Earlier you mentioned the important role of Ardea Skybreak’s book Science and Revolution, which is a model of doing what you’re talking about, right?
Annie Day: I do think the Interview with Ardea Skybreak is very powerful, it’s an exciting and enlivening book to read, and it is, like you said, a model in a lot of ways for how to understand and approach the importance of advocating for the new synthesis of communism. But I also think it’s more than that, and the title says it all: Science and Revolution: On the Importance of Science and the Application of Science to Society, the New Synthesis of Communism and the Leadership of Bob Avakian. It’s a very powerful, compelling, and substantive argument for the world historic importance of BA and the new synthesis of communism—in particular, but not only, the scientific breakthroughs. Skybreak deeply walks through how those scientific breakthroughs apply to many, many different contradictions of human society and nature and the process of human transformation and how those things interrelate. And it’s full of sharp critique of all the things that don’t live up to what humanity needs. Skybreak is a scientist in her own right, a biologist and author of several books including, The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters. In Science and Revolution, she makes the case for what BA and the new synthesis concentrates, but also what it means for someone like herself to do their work in the framework of the new synthesis, the tremendous vistas of discovery that can be opened up in the service of humanity getting free.
I really love the book as a whole and I find it, like I said, incredibly fun to read, but I also think the heading of the last section in the book captures what I’m getting at. The heading of the last section is: “An Explorer, a Critical Thinker, a Follower of BA: Understanding the World, and Changing It for the Better, in the Interests of Humanity.” That dynamic is very exciting. Look, there’s a lot of people doing a lot of important work in the world, but their vistas are incredibly low, even despite their better intentions. This interview is a really powerful example of what it can open up, what it can change if you’re really, yes, a critical thinker, and a follower of BA. A lot of people are going to think those things are contradictory, a contradiction in terms, and this book and Skybreak in her own right is a living example of the fact that those two things have everything to do with each other—yes, she is very serious but also incredibly joyous. There’s no lack of confrontation of the horrors of the world, but there’s also a vibrant example of what it means to be able to confront that scientifically and see a pathway to transform all that in the framework of the new synthesis of communism. So it’s a book that the Institute is wanting to promote much more. I see it both as a model but also a work that should be influencing everyone in society, including the intellectuals and thinkers from all strata, young and old, who seriously want a better world but are up against a painful lack of understanding and a lot of wrong understanding.
Four Things People Can Do
Revolution: OK, so how do people plug in to being part of the work of The Bob Avakian Institute?
Annie Day: Well, we’ve got very concrete things that people can do and I’ll speak to those in a minute, but part of this is opening up that question to many, many people who agree with the mission of the Institute, who think this needs to be made known and can share their thinking on how! So I’ll put that back to the readers of revcom.us, and people more broadly, and invite you into the process of feeding with your thinking on accomplishing our mission in a big way.
I encourage people to go to our website at TheBobAvakianInstitute.org, to read our Mission Statement and the projects we’ve undertaken so far. And there’s a lot more we want to do: getting Avakian’s work assigned in classes, having students and grad students do their work within the framework of the new synthesis where we can serve as a resource for getting into Avakian, projects in translation, serious archiving, and the preservation of the world historic breakthroughs of Avakian’s work. We’ve just barely scratched the surface of the potential here.
Revolution: So people reading this need to contribute to wrangling with this challenge and you’ve given us something to really think about. And there are plans in the works now, right? At the launch program you mentioned some exciting initiatives of The Bob Avakian Institute. Can you talk about those?
Annie Day: Right, so, here are the four main things that I want to put to those reading this now.
First, and the main thing right now: invite a speaker from The Bob Avakian Institute to your school, classroom, book club, church, professional association, or host a fundraising salon in your living room. Put this in front of groups of people who need to hear about and engage with the new synthesis of communism—and open up a great debate about Avakian’s analysis of the source of the problem in this system and the need for an actual, all the way revolution. These ardent advocates for the new synthesis of communism can speak to people’s biggest questions and challenge them with the reality concentrated in BA’s work, with largeness of mind and a welcoming spirit. This can be part of opening up a very different, very needed, and very refreshing kind of debate in society. Contact us to schedule this and if it’s a place that’s far from one of the people in the speakers bureau, then let’s figure out how to raise the funds together to bring them to where you are and to whomever you can pull together.
Second, raise funds to get THE NEW COMMUNISM out throughout all of society. This book represents a demarcation from everything that exists in society today in terms of the science, the strategy, the leadership for an actual revolution, and a radically new society on the road to real emancipation, as the subtitle says. And this book is for anyone who’s agonizing about the way the world is and how it could be different—the kids in the suburbs and rural areas, college campuses in a big way, artists, intellectuals, lawyers, all kinds of people in every corner of society. We want to develop further plans to promote and advertise this book among all those kinds of people.
At the same time, we’re beginning a special fundraising initiative to raise funds to get this book for a subsidized price to people whose life conditions make it so that it’s hard to afford—to get it inside the housing projects in the inner cities, to the people struggling to make ends meet, to the youth on the run, and people who are most up against the brutality and the hopelessness of this system. This section of people need to get a hold of this scientific framework, and the challenge that Avakian’s work poses—to everyone, and to them in particular, that they have the responsibility but also the basis to step forward as emancipators of humanity.
We are raising funds so that we can get THE NEW COMMUNISM to people for $5 apiece who can’t afford the full price. A $60 contribution will subsidize 10 books, $150 will subsidize 25 books, just $3,000 will subsidize 500 books! Plus we want to raise funds to advertise so people know this program exists. And people can find out more and contribute at our website, TheBobAvakianInstitute.org.
If you read the statements from people who have read this book—whether those just out of prison, those in prison, people from the inner cities—you can feel the kind of impact it has. There’s a recent comment from someone in a Revolution Club who says: “THE NEW COMMUNISM showed me that there can be a better society than capitalism.” And he talks about his own life and life conditions. And then he says: “The book gave me a way to understand that we need to make a new society and hope. I’m eager to share this book with everybody.”
So we’re saying to people: be part of spreading this hope. Contribute and raise funds. And do that at the same time as you’re getting the book for yourself and everyone you know.
Third, we’re initiating a program of Friends of The BA Institute where we’re asking and enlisting professionals, artists, people in academia, activists, people who want to see our mission accomplished—well known and not—who want to be part of both supporting the work of the Institute in a consistent and ongoing way but also part of strategizing with us about how we’re going to carry out our mission. If you agree with this Mission Statement, and can make a regular financial contribution of a minimum of $250 annually (which can be made in monthly installments), if you want to see the new synthesis of communism and the vision and works of BA reach throughout society, and if you want to join a community of others who are lending their creativity and their thinking to how this is going to be accomplished, become a Friend of The BA Institute.
We are aiming to forge a network of people, encompassing different levels of unity who are part of accomplishing this mission, on different levels and in different ways.
Finally, I encourage people to get into the book yourself and have discussions with people about it. If you’re in an area where people are hosting one regularly, join them and invite others. If you’re on your own somewhere, take the Framework and Guidelines from the back of the book which Avakian has provided and get into those. Become a student of Avakian’s work and let’s really take the world by storm.
Go to the website TheBobAvakianInstitute.org, make a financial contribution, and write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org with your ideas and your thinking.
*In ancient times, The Royal Library in Alexandria, Egypt was a center of learning, and much of the existing knowledge of humanity was preserved on hundreds of thousands of papyrus scrolls there. The Library was destroyed at the dawn of the Christian era.