An Unusual Day at Columbia University
From a member of the Revolution Club, New York City
September 21, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Two members of the Revolution Club were trying to reconnect with students and faculty met throughout the past year to organize them into the revolution. We were making our way through campus and heard yelling from a distance. As we neared we realized this was someone we knew. We listened in and realized this student was reading the names of people killed at the hands of the police from the Guardian website. His voice was hoarse but he continued with a lot of conviction, certitude, and anger. We noticed a few Black students stood by watching and listening; at a certain point some of them approached him and thanked him for his action. We asked him what provoked him to do this: he said that morning he saw the video of Terence Crutcher killed at the hands of the police in Tulsa, showed us the video, and said he needed to act. It was not an organized action; he just needed to vent and he choose the steps of Low Library. We asked if we could join him; and he said by all means. We just happened to have an American flag and a banner that reads, "We need to overthrow, not vote for this system" because of the times we're living (the contention with Kaepernick's kneeling for the anthem and the milieu of the elections). So we laid the American rag on the floor and held up our banner as we stood on the American flag. Within minutes a crowd formed.
There were all types of positions; the terms of which are captured in BAsics 5:20 where after putting forward the need for a radically different culture and morality, BA concludes by saying: “… we see now a situation that is too much like that described in the poem by William Butler Yeats: “The worst are full of passionate intensity”—and absolutist certainty, we might add—while “the best lack all conviction.” This has to be radically taken on and radically changed.”
So we had to reshape this reality. We did some brief agitation of why we were standing there uniting with the student (referred to above); did some brief agitation on the crimes of this system; and we called on others (students) to take on the argument of those offended by us stepping on the American rag. One student who studies Middle East policies united with our agitation of the crimes of this system and added (in sum) that human nature is shaped by the nature of the ruling system. In other words, the question isn't good or bad soldier/officer—the problem is woven into the nature of this system. This began to set different terms. Others began to crowd around but still the more vocal supporters of the American rag (including anti-communists) continued to try and dominate the terms of debate.
At a certain point the administration came by in force (half a dozen) and asked the two members of the Revolution Club if we were students. We said (speaking to the crowd of students) no, but you need us here!!! Because we are bringing the real source of the problem confronting the seven billion people and the very existence of the planet itself—which is this capitalist-imperialist system. And the only way out of that is with an actual revolution; that's why we're promoting the leadership of Bob Avakian (BA)... the architect of a whole new synthesis of communism, which includes a strategy for an actual revolution. A handful of students were intently listening in. So then we posed to the students listening in: if you think there should be active ferment on this campus about the problems confronting humanity and the possibility of radically changing the world then you need to stand with us. Don't be fooled into thinking the possibilities of change are locked within just reforming this system or doing some good in a messed up world. And then we asked for people to raise their hands if they wanted us to stay on campus (since the administration was trying to remove us from campus). One young woman raised her hand and we asked her to step forward. She was really shy and couldn't speak loudly on why she stood with us but she held up the banner we were holding and said, "I think you need to be here." There were a lot of intermediate students but one young woman asked about our strategy for making revolution (since she was a pacifist) and as soon as we opened up "Time To Get Organized for an ACTUAL Revolution, Message from the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA" hands went up with people grabbing for the message. We talked about Bob Avakian's THE NEW COMMUNISM and the October 8th book launch; and we referred people to www.revcom.us to read "HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution." This opened up all sorts of debate. In the main, people said, "I don't agree with you but I think you need to be on this campus" with a small handful of students saying, "I'm seriously considering joining."
As the title of our summation says: this was a very unusual day on the campus but we also learned a tremendous amount of the potential of jumping into a very fraught atmosphere (given the sharpening up of contradictions of this illegitimate system) and the urgency of re-polarizing for an actual revolution. We were able to compel the administration to back off and we stayed on campus, and we're trying to concretely follow up with the students met; even as we're working with those we already know to try to develop a concrete form of revolutionary organization (like a reading group/book club on THE NEW COMMUNISM). And as the student who wants to take initiative for forming a group on campus said: this can't be a group on to itself this has to be an organization that's part of impacting and interacting with the larger society (like the October 8th book-launch being a concrete expression of that dynamic)... More to come!
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