Saturday, October 31, 2009

Not a Footnote In History: NYU student on Raymond Lotta

Before I came to NYU, I had some dim, vaguely formed ethical qualms with the world around me. As materially comfortable people in the undisputed superpower of the world, it’s sensible to assume us Americans, particularly those of us fortunate enough to be economically and physically comfortable would be a contented lot, however this is not the case. We seem to exist in a baseline state of vague, disaffected malaise, moving through our lives and approaching our respective educations with only the bare minimum of effort and enthusiasm. Abroad, our collectively unenthusiastic, consumerist lifestyle has placed billions of people in squalor, poverty, and financial enslavement.

What I was feeling particularly guilty about was my inability to work towards any kind of solution to these problems. Their magnitude is staggering, and I felt I could never possibly effect change for the better. This was when I met the Revolutionary Communists.

The reaction most people, myself included, have when they discover Communism is still being advocated is a sort of befuddled disbelief. Isn’t Communism a relic of the past, a disproven failure? According to some, yes. Others, including Revolutionary Communist Raymond Lotta disagree. Incidentally Lotta will be holding a conversation at the Cantor Film Center on October 26th.

I am uncertain about Communism as a viable form of social organization. Most of my present knowledge seems to say that it is not. This knowledge however, was taught to me by an education system with a vested interest in ensuring that students become contributors to the present economic system, which is increasingly evident is not in the best interest for most of us. In the wake of economic collapse there is much thought about how to amend and fix our system, but very little on whether it is a success which deserves to exist. I believe this question deserves to be re-examined, and Lotta is one of only a few people doing so.

As I said, there is much in Communism which I doubt, or at least need convincing of, which is why I plan on attending the conversation. We are in higher education first and foremost to learn, and I want to learn about Communism from those who consider it a topic worth consideration and serious examination, rather than from educators who consider it a footnote of history.

So what should we do? If the dismal results of the pop quiz on basic, well-documented facts about the history of Communism taken by hundreds of randomly polled NYU students is any indication, we need to learn more, and from different sources than we got our ‘common knowledge’ on the subject. (Over the past two weeks, over 300 people took a simple, multiple choice quiz on the history of the communist revolutions of the 20th century. On average correct answers were given only 53% of the time.)

If you feel as I do, that there can be a better world than this one, or if you believe Communism is a broken system, you should be at this conversation, to contribute to the creation of knowledge, the whole point of our education.

Ryan Johnson
NYU Class of '13

TOUR DATES - LA and Chicago

Tuesday, November 3, 7pm
Room 2160E UCLA Broad Art Center
240 E. Charles Young Drive: Park in Lot 3
(213) 488-1303

University of Chicago
Wednesday, November 11, 7pm
Kent Hall, Room 107
1020 E. 58th Street (On the quad)
(773) 489-0930,

LEAFLET text for Raymond Lotta tour

Capitalism Is a Failure
Revolution Is The Solution

In a world of planetwide horror and environmental catastrophe, you yearn for a different one. You think about justice and human possibility, of how to live a life that matters, that can contribute. You have come to the university to find out about everything – including whether such a world could really be brought into being, and what your role might be in bringing that about.

But you have been lied to – systematically and pervasively – about the actual possibility and path to getting such a world.

You have been lied to about the real history of revolution, and the actual promise of communism. And we can prove it.

Raymond Lotta has the facts on what actually has been accomplished – and he also has an understanding to share of where these revolutions fell short and erred, and how humanity can do better...the next time around.

Raymond Lotta will speak here, at ___, on ____ at _____.

His speech will cover four main points:

He will show how the conventional wisdom as well as the “state-of-the-art” scholarship about the experience of the socialist revolutions in the 20th century is full of lies... and how this constrains and mutilates the discourse of what is possible...

He will define what socialism and communism actually are – and are not...

He will examine the most important revolutionary experience thus far – the Cultural Revolution in China – illuminating its purposes and accomplishments, and analyzing its shortcomings.

And he will lay out a way in which humanity could go further and do better in the socialist revolution – the new synthesis of Bob Avakian.

All this matters a great deal. If what Lotta is saying is right, then everything changes in terms of what actually is possible for humanity. In order to be true to your own aspirations and principles, you need to at minimum acquaint yourself with what this unique speaker has to say, and grapple with the challenges he is raising.

Lotta will take on all comers in the questions and answers. On October 26, he spoke to an audience of over 200 hundred people at NYU. All the questions which followed his presentation are included here to give you an idea of the character of the debate. And you are encouraged to bring your own toughest questions to this event.

  • Does communism subsume women’s liberation and racism? Or does it only open the way to solving these questions?
  • Isn’t greed part of human nature? Greed and war have been part of societies from the beginning of time. Greed has been a mainstay of everyone's culture. And wasn’t greed responsible for the overthrow of communism?
  • I'm interested in poverty and the eradication of poverty. Jeffrey Sachs and Fareed Zakaria cite capitalist economic reforms as the solution- these are academics who pursue no imperialist agenda. Haven't 100 million people in China moved out of poverty thanks to the economic reforms? And how would communism actually lift people out of poverty.
  • Didn’t the Cultural Revolution under Mao kill a million people in Tibet and destroy 6000 monasteries? And you can give this lecture about communism at a university in the U.S., but what do you think would be the result if you gave a talk about democracy in Beijing?
  • I’m a white, heterosexual male born into an affluent household. I also know that the clothes I wear contribute to exploitation, and the same with the food I eat. And that it is not acceptable to do nothing about all that. Further, when people say that there is no value whatsoever in communism, that strikes me as wrong. But when you dismiss capitalism out of hand, aren’t you doing the same thing?
  • How would the revolution you are talking about deal with religion?
  • You say that you want debate – but would people be allowed to not just debate, but to overthrow communism in a revolutionary society?

Who is Raymond Lotta?

Raymond Lotta is a revolutionary intellectual. He takes as his foundation Bob Avakian’s new synthesis and has written extensively on China during and after the Cultural Revolution and played a major role in elucidating the actual thinking of Mao and the so-called Gang of Four that supported Mao. He also played a major role in working to expose the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union and China, including through written work and mass public debate. He has, through the Setting the Record Straight project which he leads, fought to spread the truth—and refute the lies—about the experience of the communist revolution in the Soviet Union between 1917 and 1956 and China between 1949 and 1976. Most recently, he co-authored “Alain Badiou’s ‘Politics of Emancipation’: A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World” (

Lotta has also done major work on political economy, including America in Decline (Banner Press, 1984) and “Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry,” a four-part series published in this newspaper in July and August 2008. A recent speech—“Understanding the Global Economic Crisis: System Failure and the Need for Revolution”—can be heard at

Thoughts on the Raymond Lotta Tour: Going All Out and, Yes, Making This A Very Big Deal Indeed

THIS was just posted on Revolution Newspaper's website, important for all who want to see this tour spread....

Open Letter from Sunsara Taylor to college students: the furthest thing from your minds

Watch THIS video from Sunsara Taylor, reading her open letter to NYU students about Raymond Lotta's campus tour.

You can read it HERE.

This is definitely applicable for students and campuses across the country!

Raymond Lotta open letter to Tony Judt and broader academic community, UCLA event

An Open Letter from Raymond Lotta to Tony Judt and to the Broader Academic Community: On the Responsibility of Intellectuals to the Truth... Including and Especially the Truth About Communism

Note: Two weeks ago, I issued this letter to Tony Judt, the prominent scholar of 20th century history and political thought, and to the broader academic community in New York City on the occasion of my campus tour “Everything You’ve Been Told About Communism Is Wrong.” I will be giving this speech here at UCLA this Tuesday evening. In the talk, I deconstruct the core lies spread about communism and survey communism’s real past, real lessons, and real prospects for the future.

I am issuing this letter in slightly edited form to the UCLA academic community because Tony Judt’s slanders and misrepresentations of communism are widespread and emblematic of an orientation and method found not only among outright reactionaries but also, and unfortunately, among intellectuals and social critics with progressive pretensions or even progressive intentions. What they all have in common is the uncritical acceptance of distortions about communism, a refusal to reckon with the actual historical experience of communist revolution in a systematic and scientific way, and a refusal to approach this experience in the spirit of searching for the truth, including with a healthy skepticism towards “conventional wisdom” (what “everyone knows”).

I invite members of the UCLA academic community to a talk I will be giving on November 3 at 7:00 p.m. at the Broad Art Center titled “Everything You Have Been Told About Communism Is Wrong.” I address this letter to Professor Judt in particular because in the past period he has contributed towards opening up intellectual discourse and critical thinking in certain arenas, including about Zionism.

But I also address this letter to Tony Judt because he has at the same time been doing the opposite. When it comes to the signal political breakthrough of the 20th century—that the “wretched of the earth” rose up and made revolutions in the Soviet Union (1917-56) and China (1949-1976) that represented the first and historic steps towards creating a communist world without exploitation and oppression—when it comes to this most important question, Professor Judt has actually contributed to the perpetuation of ignorance. He has contributed to the grave constriction of critical thinking and critical inquiry by repeating and reinforcing “official verdicts” and hackneyed distortions about communism.

In his 1998 commentary on The Black Book of Communism, Judt asserts: “Communism and Nazism are, and always were, morally indistinguishable.” Under both regimes, Judt argues, “whole categories of people, real or imagined…were exterminated not for anything they had done, but just for being who they were.” To which I can only respond: you are wrong, you are spreading lies, you don’t know what you are talking about, and you are causing great harm.

One of the authors of the anticommunist The Black Book who subsequently dissociated himself from the Introduction to the text told Le Monde: “death camps did not exist in the Soviet Union,” and “the more you compare communism and nazism, the more the differences are obvious.”

Tony Judt seeks to buttress his case that communism has been a political failure and moral disaster with the outrageous assertion that “the facts and figures [in The Black Book]…are irrefutable.” But such “facts and figures” ostensibly documenting communism’s “crimes” can be readily refuted. The only problem is that no one is allowed to seriously do so in the public square. Such is the weight and influence of the institutionalized conventional wisdom about communism.

I intend to crack open debate and change this situation with my talk at UCLA, as well as through other events. I will show that this received wisdom is built on lies and misrepresentations about the aims and methods of communist revolution, and about the actual historical-social conditions they faced and sought to transform. I will show how humanity made unprecedented leaps in moving beyond the “long dark night” of exploitative and class-divided society.

The stakes of this discussion are very high. These spurious verdicts about communism lower sights and constrain discourse and exploration about how the world could be radically different. In short, these verdicts reinforce the oppressive status quo and its conventional wisdom that the best we can do is tinker around the edges of contemporary capitalism.

Tony Judt’s account of communism as a closed and totalizing system of thought intent, as he says, on “solving the problems of mankind in one stroke” is not only a grotesque and pedestrian distortion. It also effaces the reality that the communist project is a developing one that has learned from previous experience and mistakes in conception and practice. In fact, as I will show in my talk, Mao Tse-tung effected a major rupture with Stalin’s approach to building a socialist economy and confronting counter-revolution. Mao developed new understanding for continuing a revolution that seeks to change people’s material circumstances, along with their thinking and values, through their ever-more conscious activism.

But my talk will not confine itself to a defense of the past. Most importantly, I will be discussing the new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian. Yes, revolutionary power must be held on to: a new state power and the overall leadership of a vanguard party are indispensable. But leadership must be exercised in ways that are, in certain important and crucial respects, different from how this was understood and practiced in the past. This new synthesis recognizes the indispensable role of intellectual ferment and dissent in socialist society. Indeed, socialism must be a place where a Tony Judt can and must have the ability to articulate and disseminate his views, and where there will be great debate about these views as part of the struggle to understand and change the world.

Again, I extend an invitation to all of you to attend my talk.

To anyone seriously concerned about the state of the need to come and bring your toughest questions.

To the many students at UCLA who want to dedicate their lives in one form or another to the betterment of humanity but who have never heard a coherent and spirited defense of the past, present, and future of the communist project…you need to come.

To those who want to defend this system…you need to be there too, because I am taking on all comers.

Raymond Lotta

Raymond Lotta at UCLA:
Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong, Capitalism Is a Failure, Revolution Is the Solution
7:00pm Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Room 2160E UCLA Broad Art Center
240 E. Charles Young Drive: Park in Lot 3, 213.488.1303