Revolution #264, April 1, 2012
Taking BA Everywhere to South by Southwest
South by Southwest (SXSW) is a massive music/film/interactive festival that has taken place every spring in Austin, Texas, for the last 25 years. Artists/bands from the U.S. and all over the world perform at every conceivable venue. People come from all over the world to catch films, panel discussions and musical performances by artists and bands, from the unknown to the well-known.
SXSW is a really wild scene, especially on the last weekend. Austin's Convention Center buzzes all day long, and a blocked-off area of 6th Street hosts bands all night long. This creative cultural cornucopia marbled with cutting-edge entertainment technology made for an interesting mix of entrepreneurialism and social consciousness. It was a great opportunity to connect people with Bob Avakian.
Into the Middle of the Street
So a "BA Everywhere" crew spent several days there—kinda like the BA Bus Tour without the bus. We printed up several tens of thousands of palm cards promoting BAsics: some with the quote 3:2 ("There is nothing more unrealistic than the idea of reforming this system...") on the back side, and some with quote 1:16 ("I'm a self-made man..."). We also had cards promoting "All Played Out" (APO), Avakian's spoken word piece with music by jazz musician William Parker. And, of course, lots of copies of Revolution and BAsics.
On Friday and Saturday night 6th Street was filled with tens of thousands of all ages and nationalities, but especially young people, checking out the clubs and milling up and down the street. Multinational hip-hop crews were out performing on street corners. Groups of people were dancing, singing and drumming up and down the streets.
We set up our display with a banner saying "You Can't Change the World if You Don't Know the BAsics" literally in the middle of the street. People started asking "What does that mean?" and discussing it. We got out the palm cards to thousands of people and many of them stopped by to talk. Some bought the book as well. Our presence and agitation stirred up debate which in some cases continued after we left. A group of 20-something Black men got into it over religion as a slave mentality and as we were walking away they continued to argue over whether science could be used to reach truth when there was always going to be so much unknown. They had plans to go online to see what BA has to say about all this.
This was good. But it wasn't making a big enough impact. It was not gonna make BA a household name.
Taking It Higher (literally)
We summed up that we needed to become much more of a focal point in the scene. So we had one of our crew stand above the crowd—on a ladder—and speak to the thousands of people coming down the street in waves. This made a big difference. Several groups of people took hundreds of cards to distribute. Two groups of high school youth went up and down the streets and came back several times to get more to get out. One of the guys said that he is all for revolution and another young woman said that she doesn't know much about communism but if it's about changing things for everybody everywhere then people should know about it. They had been going out to people and telling them that they really need to find out about this.
Not surprisingly, our presence became more and more a point of controversy. Many of these debates were loud and passionate. At one point some asshole tried to knock our agitator off the ladder—an indication that we were hitting a nerve. Some of the debate was over what people have heard was the history of communism and its viability. Many people were challenged by the quotes themselves. Several young men in the music industry said that while they didn't think humanity is ready for communism, they were glad that we were out there challenging people to think about these questions. Others wanted to know how it is possible to make revolution and who is Bob Avakian. Jazz fans especially were drawn to check out "All Played Out."
Taking BA out in this scene more boldly helped open things up and several people who have hoped for and given up their dreams of revolution were uplifted by hearing about BA and the movement for revolution. One youth said that he always considered himself a communist but until now he never talked about it too much because of other people's prejudices. Another youth told us that it takes a lot of courage to be out doing what we are doing. He then took a bunch of cards to distribute and then came back to get more to get out. We had that dynamic going of unleashing the masses on the spot to take this up while they were checking out what BA is about.
A couple of philosophy students from Texas A&M each got a copy of BAsics. After looking over the table of contents they wanted to check out who this guy was and whether communism was a science. A Black youth from El Paso, who had come to SXSW to promote his progressive hip-hop group, had seen one of the palm cards. He came up demanding, "Where is the book?!" saying, "This is exactly what we need!" Two other guys at different points throughout the evening gave $20 for BAsics, wanting to support what we were doing. One of them, an Occupy supporter and fan of Tom Morello, said that he really wanted to stir the pot, get a lot of new ideas out among the people. He wanted to support our effort even though he was not at all sure whether communism was do-able.
One young woman who had read some of BA's Phony Communism is Dead… Long Live Real Communism! said that we shouldn't be surprised that it was overthrown in its historical infancy—look how long it took for capitalism to finally triumph over feudalism. She said she agreed with BA that state power, if it is in the hands of the right people, is a good thing—we need a government that will defend our interests. The question for her was how do you get it.
Our message hit home with a lot of people. A number of people who were drawn to our banner and literature also expressed real anxiety over where things are at today—the moves toward war with Iran, the rush to pass fascist laws like the National Defense Authorization Act, and the Obama regime's targeted assassinations, as well as the whole increasing ideological dominance of the Christian fascists. Two women from the Midwest who are neuroscientists expressed alarm about how far things had gone in that direction, saying that they were "controversial" because of their jobs. When asked if it is because they're women, they said, "No—because we are scientists!"—that to be a scientist is becoming illegitimate. And that who would've thought that in 2012 we would have to fight for the right to birth control.
A revolutionary-minded Kenyan couple who were part of a hip-hop crew from England were amazed and delighted to find us. They were running to catch their bus but gave us their contact info and got a big stack of our palm cards to take back home with them.
More Engaging BA
Three young guys at a Tom Morello/Occupy SXSW event Friday nite came over to check out BAsics. One of them was a Canadian who was traveling around and hooked up with the Occupy folks in Austin. He spoke bitterness about the global exploitation of the imperialist system and spared no criticism of the Canadian government in that. We got to talking about how revolution is the solution, all the more because in Bob Avakian and the RCP we have the leadership, and two local youth joined the conversation. They were asking if BA was "political"—they wanted to know if he runs in official elections. When they were shown the "three sentences" quote—BAsics 1:22: "In a world marked by profound class divisions..."—they were intrigued and felt that he was getting at something very profound. We got into imperialist "globalization" vs. internationalism and mentioned the quote "The whole world comes first," which they liked. One of them asked if what BA had developed was just for the U.S. or was it applicable to the whole world. We got into this, and more into what communism is all about, emancipating humanity. As we parted, one of them stated, "This is a beautiful book."
Saturday was also the six month anniversary of the Occupy movement and musicians organized a Million Musicians March through downtown Austin in support of Occupy. There were hundreds of people, mainly from the activist community in Austin who came out and we were able to engage with many of them about BA.
We did have an impact on SXSW, and need to follow through with many people. Thousands of cards were distributed at the venues, in the streets, and at shops and cafes in the general area. Many people read the quotes and came up to talk. Some of them took more to get out to others and some bought BAsics. Thousands more read the banner and many people came to take pictures of the banner including with themselves posing in the picture. These pictures will be going up on their Facebook pages and it'll further spread BA and BAsics.
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