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[Essay]

Left of Bernie

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In the fall of 2014, I attended a public dialogue on “Revolution and Religion” between Bob Avakian, chairman and cofounder of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and Cornel West, professor of philosophy and activist, billed on this occasion as a “Revolutionary Christian.” The event was held at Riverside Church in New York City and supported by a host committee of professors, theologians, and artists, as well as two parents whose children were killed by New York police. Alice Walker provided an endorsement, as did Ed Asner, whose depiction of the event as “a consummation to be wished for” appeared in a full-page ad in the New York Times. A contingent of protesters from Ferguson, Missouri, attended as well, their travel expenses offset by a bake sale. Organizers promised a rare opportunity to hear Avakian, who has led the R.C.P. from self-imposed exile in France since 1981, but the real rush would come from hearing the words “capitalism” and “revolution” — and “Marxism” too — spoken in the same resonant space where Martin Luther King Jr. once stood to denounce the Vietnam War.

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is a contributing editor of Harper’s Magazine. His most recent essay for the magazine, as well as the book that followed, was entitled “Getting Schooled: The Reeducation of an American Teacher” (September 2011).

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