Chairman Bob Avakian: All Played Out!

Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in... For full effect, imagine this coming out over loudspeakers several times a day at your workplace.

I dedicate this blog post to the memory of John Leonard, who always found Chairman Bob pretty amusing. He's like a character out of John's last novel, the Pynchonesque Crybaby of the Western World.

The initial reviews at RevLeft are not favorable:

"It's like a 14 year old just discovered gill scot heron or amiri baraka and decided to write down like everything he thinks about the world."

"His voice is like a less cool Christopher Walken."

"wow anybody with half a brain and a thesaurus could have written this. i couldn't take it. his lispy voice kind of creeps me out"

"Maoists talked (back in the day) about denouncing the oppressors and 'extolling' the people. But there is zero extolling here (except of Avakian himself and his new synthesis and his books). There is bitterness that no one reads his books, and a special chapter denouncing those who have a chance to read Avakian but choose not to."
January 26, 2011 9:33 AM | | Comments (6)


I liked it. I wish it was coming out over loudspeakers at my workplace.

Yeah, it has that Jim Jones sermonic-groove thing going for it.

I have been following Bob Avakian since 1997 and he has spent his life to bringing about a better future. Revolution will happen in this country and the world. I wish i could be here to see it.

Praise Bob! Can I get an amen?

So do you find the trolls at Rev Left more "amusing'"? More dedicated and more effective at putting communist revolution back on the map than Avakian?
More inspiring and analytically adept? Why not just respond to the spoken word piece directly, positively or negatively, rather than mine the internet for cheap shots?
Sure, the tone and form of the spoken word poem could be critiqued. But people seem to have a real problem with the content. The above quote takes Bob to task for not extolling the people. People should see his statement on Egypt---of course this brother extols the heroic uprisings of the masses...those all too brief moments in which people put it all on the line to oppose all that's rotten about the status quo. As you know, he believes that without communist leadership, these rebellions will not lead to a socialist society, and people will not spontaneously become class-conscious in the "emancipators of humanity" sense.
I like Avakian's frank calling out of everything that's holding people back from becoming conscious revolutionary communists, and this poem correctly takes aim at all of it---wannabe preachers who are whores to power, smug liberals who are content with the "politics of the possible," blaming immigrants, macho patriarchy that sees women as property, etc.
One who actually spends time among the basic masses in this country, not just as an "ally" but as someone who is trying to make them "fit to rule" as part of building a movement for revolution---such a person could not deny that these ARE things that should be called out. That's the difference between tailing and leading---between defeatist revisionism and revolutionary optimism.
I'd be curious to see spoken word poems by Scott McLemee or RevLeft...LOL

You won't hear me indulge in "spoken word" noodling because, unlike the Dear Leader, I do have some sense of the limits of my abilities, and of the reasonable demands I might make upon the good nature of others.

If I did not, then yes -- you are quite right, it would probably be as ridiculous as Avakian, or almost.

The "problem" people have is not really with the politics of the rant (such as they are) but with its rant-iness. The idea that Chairman Bob is actually "putting communist revolution back on the map" is only credible to people living within the borders defined by his egomania.

And policed by it. Since you guys decided to purge anybody who didn't think that the problem with the RCP is that it wasn't already nearly enough of a cult of personality (it boggles my mind to say that, by the way), there are now even fewer people around to give Avakian the worship he expects.

This can't be good for anyone living inside the compound, of course. Giving him the adoration to which he feels entitled must be exhausting. And I feel for you on that score. That you are showing up to defend his doggerel on this humble blog is not the sign of an organization with sound priorities.

At the moment, I'm much more concerned to pay attention to what is happening in Libya. Dear Leader Chairman Bob Avakian seems well on the way to resembling Qaddafi more than the courageous people making a revolution. Which is sad without being politically important.

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Recent Work

"Crimes Against the Intellect" 
Last month, in France, playboy philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy was indicted for fraud, hucksterism, and general ridiculousness, and there will be a trial tomorrow. Sort of.

Somehow I doubt this is going to affect his standing at The Huffington Post.

Our Living Language 
My column today is about gun nuts. A reader has been in touch to ask whether I meant to use the word "refudiate." Indeed I did, and also tried to sneak in my own made-up word, "newlogism," but my editor changed this to the more standard spelling. Alas!
The Fixer 
What's really intriguing about Sarah Palin's complaint that she is the object of a "blood libel" is that she's much too ignorant to have come up with it herself. It isn't a part of fundamentalist or evangelic folklore; there is no real basis for it in the Bible, even in the more antisemitic parts of St. John or Revelation.

In other words, even her malapropisms are being stage-managed.*

It's been thirty years since I read Bernard Malamud's novel about a blood-libel case. And it occurs to me that this is probably the only thing of his that I've read. Anyone out there with an opinion on whether there is something else I should get to?

Don't bother suggesting The Natural. I have studied C.L.R. James on cricket, and will continue to pay attention to my friend Dave Zirin's sportswriting, but must draw the line at reading a novel about baseball.

* AFTERTHOUGHT:If someone is actually circulating stories about how Sarah Palin drinks the blood of children, then I can see where she would be upset. That kind of rumor can just sink a campaign.
Down With New Media! 

Mimi and Eunice, via TechDirt

Allegories of E-Reading 
My end-of-the-year essay about digital readers for The National has inspired a response by Rob Horning at The New Inquiry.

Glad to see him take the hint about Moretti, whose work I wrote about...five years ago? That can't be right. 
Sherry Talks Back 
For my last column of 2010, I asked a few people to identify books they'd read that year that made a big impression on them. The resulting piece came together well and seems to have gotten a decent bit of play -- though one person on Twitter characterized the participants as "Ivy Leaguers and tasteful snobs." Now, a couple of the participants are members of the labor movement, where snobbery, tasteful or otherwise, is not a value. And clearly the fact that I hadn't actually invited anybody from the Ivy League to respond was no obstacle to this individual's exercise of the right to have an uninformed opinion. So it goes. I don't write for stupid people but can do nothing to prevent them from reading.

In any case, two people named Patti Smith's memoir Just Kids, which I also liked very much. And this morning I see that Sherry Wolfe -- whose blog Sherry Talks Back I have been meaning to recommend -- recently stopped by the Chelsea Hotel in the wake of reading the book. Wolfe moved back to NYC last year and the continuing toll of the economy on culture naturally makes a big impression:

As a former denizen of the East Village, from 1988 to 2000, I was eyewitness to that bohemia's twentieth-century grand finale. I moved in the week of the Tompkins Square riot that seems, in retrospect, to have signaled the gentrifiers' victory over a sanctuary of counterculture.

I could still chat on the street back then with The Naked Civil Servant's Quentin Crisp and Howl's Allen Ginsberg or catch a $5 show with Sandra Bernhard, Penny Arcade or John Leguizamo around the corner. But the writing was on the wall as my own rent-stabilized haunt across from the Russian and Turkish Baths on 10th St. slowly drifted toward $1,000 a month.
About the only cultural activity you can still enjoy in Manhattan for no money is people watching--at least that remains one of the most spectacular circuses of humanity on earth.

And of course, artists will always find ways of meeting and mixing with each other in any city, no matter how hard the market tries to homogenize, synchronize and sterilize us all. There's always Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and dare I say, even Staten Island.

I like this (read the entry here) as a response to Smith's book -- that is, the refusal to let reading it turn into an occasion for nostalgia. The spirit of Greenwich Village cannot afford to live in Greenwich Village, but it has work to do, especially right now.

The Quick and the Dead 
A few months ago, I decided not to run for a second term on the board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle (for reasons having nothing to do with that worthy institution, and everything to do with my own need to concentrate on other commitments) and I stuck to that decision even when asked a couple of times to reconsider. Nobody not actually on the board knows just how much work is involved. And I don't just mean loading up the hundreds of books that arrive every week onto a cart to transport them to my cubicle at Inside Higher Ed, down the block. That's the least of it.

It turns out that the sheer amount of fantasy about the NBCC is kind of interesting, in a psychohistory sort of way. A case in point being something I read online not long ago about how those of us deciding on the awards are subjected to "lobbying." In three years, I've never heard from a single author, agent, or editor trying to influence me one way or the other. I get pitches from publicists all the time, of course, but they are invariably so clueless that I can't imagine them influencing anyone into reading a book -- let alone reviewing one, much less voting for it.

A fair hunch is that the belief in "lobbying" is a function of litblogger wish-fulfillment fantasies being projected. Somebody at Billy Bob's Book Blog assumes that if he or she were on the board, then famous authors would be inviting them to dinner. Alas, no. Would that this were true. After three years my virtue remains all too untested. But who am I to interrupt anybody's fantasies of glamor by pointing out that serving on the NBCC board just means doing a lot of pro bono labor while the anklebitters gnash their teeth? No good can come of insisting on the realities.

Be that as it may -- and with about ten solid weeks of work to do before the end of my term -- I have resolved to bring Quick Study out of its persistent vegetative state. A few people have expressed disappointment that it has had barely a pulse for the past couple of years. I haven't even bothered to post links to my work, while my Twitter presence has been low-volume and erratic, at best. There are various reasons for all of this, but the desire to explain them in detail seems as much a vice as idleness itself. Anyway, I will try to do better.


Battle of the Titans 
Dinesh D'Souza and Alan Wolfe debating? Imagine a slime mold in conflict with a patch of mildew. It's just that inspiring.
To the Tehran Station 
Not about Edmund Wilson
more picks


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