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Revolution #276 July 29, 2012
Excerpts from An Interview with Bob Avakian
At the beginning of 2012, an in-depth interview with Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, was conducted over a period of several days by A. Brooks, a younger-generation revolutionary who has been inspired by the leadership and body of work of Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism this has brought forward. Brooks is the author of "God The Original Fascist" (a series of articles which appeared in Revolution in 2005, and is available at revcom.us). From the outset and through the course of this interview, Brooks posed probing questions, dealing with a wide range of subjects, including: the challenges of building a movement for revolution in a powerful imperialist country like the U.S., and initiating a new stage of communist revolution in a world marked by profound inequalities and antagonisms, and repeated upheavals, but also the weakness of communist forces at this time; the content of the new synthesis of communism, its vision of a radically different and emancipating society and world, and how this applies to many different spheres of society and social life, such as art and culture and intellectual inquiry and ferment; previous historical experience of the revolutionary and communist movements; and the personal experience, as well as broader social experience, which led Avakian to become a communist and contributed to his development as a communist leader. The fact that Avakian did not know in advance what the questions would be, and that many of them came up through the course of the interview itself, adds to the liveliness of the interview and the living sense of the method with which Avakian digs into, examines from many angles, and "breaks down" the kinds of far-reaching and often complex questions which were posed in this interview and which have to be grappled with in confronting the challenges of radically transforming the world through communist revolution.The following are excerpts from the interview. In preparing this for publication, while maintaining its integrity and character as an interview, some minor editing of the text was done by Bob Avakian for purposes of clarity, and subheads were added. Read the full interview, including endnotes, here.
The excerpts from this interview are printed as a special pull-out section of Revolution newspaper. PDF versions are available below for reprint.
Revolution #276 July 29, 2012
BAsics Bus Tour
The BAsics Bus Tour hit New York City in mid-July, and volunteers—women and men of different nationalities and ages, from across the country—have been going out to neighborhoods in the Bronx and Brooklyn, connecting people with the vision and works of Bob Avakian and the movement for revolution he is leading. The following is a report on the first week of the bus tour.
It was a hot and humid Sunday morning in the Bronx. Two dozen volunteers piled into a social club without air conditioning but still full of energy. This was the orientation day for the BAsics Bus Tour volunteers. People in their 20s, 40s and 60s all meeting each other for the first time. As we gathered in a circle, the person leading the orientation asked everyone to look around at each other—these are the faces of the people who have come here on a mission, and each person here represents the contributions of people all across the country—the musicians in the midwest who played their music to raise funds, the youth on the west coast who pulled together for yard sales and picnics, the professors and professionals who contributed, and the dozens in Harlem who pooled together their penny jars to raise over $400 and counting. We were gathered in this room because of all their efforts. And we also represent the hopes and interests of people all over the world, the people groaning under the brutality and misery brought by this system. We are here representing the future.
The volunteers all looked around with smiles in their eyes and their heads held high. And the volunteers were also all coming from different cultural backgrounds as evidenced in their style of dress or manner of speaking. You could hear the variety of regions in the voices—a Black youth from the South speaking at a rushed clip, a pensive woman in her 40s who speaks with a clear directness, a Latino youth from the West Coast who speaks with energy despite the tired in his eyes, but takes his time through the words, revolutionary veterans of different nationalities who have a fire in their belly for revolution and people new to the revolution who have more recently discovered Avakian—through pieces like All Played Out or his memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond—and want others to get into his work too. Some of the volunteers were impelled into revolution through their own bitter life experience—relatives murdered by the police, women still wearing scars—physical and emotional—from sexual violence perpetrated by men who are supposed to be their intimate loved ones. Others impelled because they learned about how most people live in the world, and learned there was a way out... that we don’t have to live this way, and could not look away from that, wrangling with their own responsibility to this reality.
People were very glad to meet each other, to get down with the people they’d be changing the world with. Breakfast and lunch time buzzed with people talking about what brought them there and what they thought they might expect.
In the orientation, the person leading laid out three key points of orientation, points which the volunteers could keep coming back to, to themselves assess how we’re doing:
The folks filling the two different RVs split up into two groups to talk about the overall orientation and make initial plans.... I can’t capture here all the discussion that went on, but one volunteer, a young woman who sits with a straight-backed assertiveness and doesn’t waste words, put it well: “this whole BAsics Bus Tour is an all-out assault on people’s sense that another world isn’t possible.”
A few days later, I got a chance to hear from the volunteers on how it’s been going. A collective enthusiasm filled the room, different people finishing each other’s sentences or telling similar stories from different angles, a camaraderie with people checking in on each other, getting each other food and sodas... a stranger would’ve had no idea this crew had, just a few days earlier, been strangers to one another.
The first person who spoke—a veteran of the last BAsics Bus tour—started by saying that he should maybe let someone else start, but he’s just so eager. That spoke to a common characteristic of all the volunteers—eager. Even among those with a history of reticence, there is a pushing-each-other-forward eagerness to connect up Avakian’s work with people forced to the bottom of society and locked into that situation. And a lot of discussion and wrestling with the need and the forms to build a movement for revolution for real, including the need to leave behind organization in these neighborhoods—Revolution Clubs which the people they’re meeting now have to take responsibility to pull together in different ways.
There are so many different stories to tell, which the volunteers will probably tell better when they slow down to write in to the BAsics Bus Tour blog, but I’ll share some of these here now.
There is the openness among the people they’re meeting. Not everyone wants to talk and definitely not everyone agrees but the ways these volunteers are stepping—with a 30-foot decorated RV, marching and singing and chanting, listening and struggling and putting Avakian’s work directly into people’s hands through BAsics and the Revolution talk—is opening people’s minds to something they’ve never seriously allowed themselves to consider. And people are pouring forth with their deep questions and their own bitter experiences at the hands of the authorities, and most especially in the neighborhoods they’re rolling through, this is the experience with the police. Stopped and frisked, young men and women sexually molested by the police, arrested on bullshit charges... brothers, sisters, sons, cousins, uncles... everyone has a story.
This is something one of the younger volunteers remarked on. This is a loud, unabashed woman... who at one point apologized for maybe going on too long and then said, in an aside full of attitude and a small switch of the head, “Well, I could keep going, because I do love to talk.” This got a knowing laugh out of all the other volunteers. She talked about how she’s read about how people in the ghettos are forced to live, she knows the statistics around mass incarceration and police brutality, but being in this neighborhood at dusk as waves of police descend on the area, and hearing the young kids talk about how the police treat them... she said she’s learning on a much deeper level how people are forced to live in this supposed “best of all possible” worlds, what’s the painful reality of that.
And there’s how seriously the volunteers are taking themselves and are being taken by people in the neighborhood. Different volunteers can talk about the impact connecting with BA had on them, and why they’ve come to understand the need for revolution, the world historic significance of Avakian’s new synthesis of communism and the need to initiate a new stage of revolution. There are varying degrees of understanding in all this but it’s what has brought them all here. They came here on a mission and while not all deciding what their whole lives are going to be about, threw in for this two weeks—giving it everything they can.
One person—the one who talks at a faster clip than most New Yorkers you’ll meet—talked about the first time he read BAsics. He said he opened to the first quote and then just got in deeper. He felt like Avakian put together all the pieces for him—tapping into the shit he knew but also challenging him to understand the full problem and the full solution. He said since he first read BAsics, he’s been down with this revolution and he saw a particular importance in bringing this to the ghettos of New York City—where there’s so much repression but also where things can really reverberate out from.
He told a story about one young man who got BAsics, someone who is clearly influenced by gangster culture but has aspirations beyond that. Someone who knows he’s been lied to but wrongly sees the problem as the Illuminati or something short of the whole capitalist system. But when he grabbed a hold of the book, he didn’t stop reading for several pages. The volunteer said he could see himself in this youth, the way he just got so quickly immersed. When this youth got to the quote in BAsics about how the U.S. stole land from Mexico to expand the slave system, he looked up and asked, “So that means I got the same enemy as the Mexicans?” They got into all this more deeply, including the actual nature of this enemy and what it means that it’s a capitalist system. Though this youth really wanted the book, he only had $3. They decided to give it to him and also went about raising funds in the neighborhood so they could make up the difference, “We got to make revenue,” said the volunteer, “because we won’t have a big enough impact if we’re not raising the kind of money required.” This bus tour is a part of BA Everywhere... a campaign to raise big money to project BA’s vision and works into every corner of society. The youth said he would show the book to all his friends, and began right there giving out some of the palm cards with BAsics quotes.
Another story—which had all of us rolling—was about how quickly some people can change, when they’re both challenged and given a way to contribute to the revolution. There was a group of what the volunteers have come to call old timers, all sitting in a circle. A couple of the revolutionaries were rapping with them about Avakian, talking about BAsics and what this bus tour was about. One guy, we’ll call him James, kept challenging every volunteer who walked by, asking if they were serious about revolution, if they even knew what the word meant, why they had to call it communism. James had a different question for everyone who went by him and while he was listening, seemed unsettled by the whole thing. James was sharing his circle with someone who turned out to be very religious; he asked a volunteer whether he thought Jesus was Black or white, and when the volunteer said he was an atheist, that god doesn’t exist and we need liberation without gods, this guy nearly flipped his lid. He started to walk away, turned back around and aggressively gave back the palm card, making clear he was done talking. But a woman next to him, who may have been his partner, leaned in to a volunteer and said, "I can’t say much right now, but you all are doing the right thing and don’t stop.”
Later, the volunteer who told this guy he was an atheist saw a different volunteer talking to James. He was surprised as he thought everyone had seen this unfriendly exchange but James was looking through the book and seemed to really be listening. When the volunteer walked by, he saw James had a stack of palm cards he was handing out to folks and he hollered out, “See, I’m doing my part for the revolution.” The volunteer summed this up, “Damn, now that’s what we mean by transformation.”
Reflecting on this, another volunteer talked about how you can’t dismiss people ahead of time. We have to put out this revolutionary line and leadership very boldly and then let people find their relationship to this, including keeping our arms wide open to let people into this process. There’s a lot of motion and change in people’s thinking, and even a lot of people who don’t all agree were excited the revolutionaries were there... and wanted to be part of meeting the needs of the tour—taking up the 12 ways they can be part of the revolution, helping with food and housing, and contributing funds.
There are also ways this transformation is taking place among the volunteers—where they’re listening and learning from the people they’re talking to in a deeper way. One of the young women, new to this kind of neighborhood, talked with another young woman. Upon reading the BAsics quotes on the palm cards, she responded, “That’s powerful, I’ll vote for him.” The volunteer told how before she would’ve launched into a whole struggle about the elections but she realized she should hear this woman more deeply, and that really wasn’t the main point she was making, so the volunteer clarified that he wasn’t running for elections, he was the leader of a movement for revolution, but then also asked why she felt BA should be in a position of leadership. The young woman answered, “he sounds like he’s got a lot of dedication, and he’s telling the truth.”
Then there was the joyful telling of the rec center where they watched the Revolution talk with about 40 camp kids ages 6 to 15. A volunteer described this whole experience as “deep, very deep.” They had scheduled ahead of time to show clips of the Revolution talk in this rec center in the housing projects. (The housing projects are something a lot of the volunteers are commenting on... how it’s just block after block after block of grimy brown housing where it feels like people are being literally warehoused and contained.) At first a few camp counselors came in to check out the video, the volunteers talked with them about what BA gets into and if it wasn’t too graphic for some of the younger kids. One of the older counselors (in her 20s), said one of the girls had just done a project on slavery, and anyway, this was a history the kids needed to hear. So, they all piled into this room and watched Avakian tell the painful truth of the history of this country, a history of lynchings and the celebration of lynchings. They also showed the video about the last BAsics Bus Tour and the kids were attentive and quiet the whole time.
When the video was done, one of the counselors and a volunteer went back and forth, further explaining this history. Talking about who Emmett Till was, and then who the Black Panther Party were who fought against all this. The volunteer got into how BA came out of those times, but has since never given up on revolution and how he’s about freeing people all over the world today. This same volunteer said he’s been trying to pay special attention to making clear who BA is, and what his history is, that people need to get to know this leader in full. The kids then asked a bunch of questions about why people were lynched back in the day, what that means about their lives—including drawing connections to the way the police treat them and their families. After this, they broke into a bunch of small groups and did projects with the kids. They wrote two quotes from Avakian which are being featured this month: “American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People’s Lives” and “Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First.” Because... And worked with the kids to write their responses. They wrote things like “harmony” and “freedom is everything.” Someone else wrote: “They are not the only ones in the world and everyone is great, smart and perfect for the world and that is the BAsics.” Or one of the older kids wrote, “Everybody in the entire world is important. Not just Americans! If people really believe that Americans are more important, it would be like a type of racism. Not racism judges by the color of your skin, but racism on the country in which you are from. Peace, justice, happiness.” Another wrote: “I think that everyone’s lives are equally important. Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses but no one is best at everything.” This was signed Shantel and was surrounded by pictures of butterflies. One of the volunteers showed a couple of the kids pictures from Revolution newspaper of kids just like them, but born in different parts of the world, they thought about this and wrote things like: “the people of the world matter and some do not have food to eat. Also people are really important to me. But some people, I do not like it when people are mean.” “I learned that so many people die. People matter. When they don’t eat and drink, they die. We respect each other with knowledge, wisdom and understanding. We love people who passed away. We will always love.” Or “we want to change the world, because we want to stop danger that we are putting into the world. And we want to stop the system that is racist.”
This was an incredibly moving experience for the volunteers and the camp counselors thanked them for sharing all this. As they were telling this, I could hear BA’s voice in my head about what this system does to the beautiful children in the world... how their parents have to worry about their kids as they grow older in a system that corners them at every turn—trapping them to lives of misery and brutality, “even before they are born.” And what’s on us—the volunteers here with this tour, and all those who are stepping into be part of this revolution in all kinds of ways, big and small—to make good on Avakian’s pledge of “no more of that.” These same youth can be part of building a whole new world which we, which all of us, have to fight to bring into being.
As an appreciation, the camp gave a bunch of food to the bus tour, more than they could carry. This is a real need for the volunteers spending days in the hot sun, which people all over the city have stepped forward to contribute in different ways.
A poignant thing for me in hearing the volunteers tell it was the mutual admiration they had for each other as well. One volunteer said how impressed he was at how a couple of the other volunteers handled themselves, that they were able to break down these complex ideas for these kids and hold their attention while being real about revolution and bringing out who BA is.
An important observation from several volunteers is how much they’re sensing a seething anger from people they’re meeting, and a real desire for political resistance. They’ve got plans next week for speakouts and marches in the neighborhoods, applying a core element of the RCP’s strategy: fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution. This is also an important element of the Revolution Clubs they’re aiming to build.
There’s so much more to tell... of a street theater they did in the neighborhood capturing how the pigs treat the youth every day, about Carl Dix speaking and calling on people there to be part of this, about the two young women who offered to do a bake sale to raise money for the bus tour, and about what they are learning as they talk with people about the Revolution Clubs, and calling on them to be part of it—again, in all kinds of ways big and small. And what they are learning as they are walking through the statement "On the Strategy for Revolution" with people. Getting into their questions which are spoken to in that strategy statement about how “'the powers-that-be are too powerful, the people are too messed up and too caught up in going along with the way things are, the revolutionary forces are too small.’ This is wrong—revolution is possible.” And they’re getting down with people about why and how... and how this tour is a part of that. The volunteers are also wrestling with how to get more copies of BAsics and Avakian’s Revolution talk in people’s hands. This is the glue of whatever organization they are fighting to leave behind. They’re getting into it with people about why “you can’t change the world if you don’t know the BAsics!” as the back of the book says and why they need to dig into BA’s work themselves. How this book concentrates 30 years of Avakian’s work and concentrates the essential questions of revolution and human emancipation. They’re also seeking out collective forms where people all go in for a book and reaching out to stores and barber shops in the area to set up things like a neighborhood lending library. People reading this can contribute to these efforts which will also make a real difference. Find out how to give at basicsbustour.tumblr.com/donate
I’ll end—for now—with one more reflection from the volunteers. In different ways, they talked about how people in this neighborhood feel rejected and abandoned. And how many people they met talked about how the politicians will just roll through peddling bullshit and poisonous promises. People wanted to know if the revolutionaries were going to come back. They said they would. That they were heading to a couple of surrounding cities and they’d be back next week. But this bus tour is over at the end of the month... and the movement for revolution has to exist beyond where all the communists can be all the time. And we do have to put to people: BA is a tested revolutionary leader, and the Party he leads is a serious Party and a revolutionary Party, it’s not going away or selling out. At the same time, to paraphrase BA, if you want to be emancipated, you’re going to have to emancipate yourself. Ain’t no savior going to do it for you. And we have to put before people all the ways they can contribute to this. As the statement on strategy says: “For those who have hungered for, who have dreamed of, a whole different world, without the madness and torment of what this system brings every day...those who have dared to hope that such a world could be possible...and even those who, up to now, would like to see this, but have accepted that this could never happen...there is a place and a role, a need and a means, for thousands now and ultimately millions to contribute to building this movement for revolution, in many different ways, big and small—with ideas and with practical involvement, with support, and with questions and criticisms. Get together with our Party, learn more about this movement and become a part of it as you learn, acting in unity with others in this country, and throughout the world, aiming for the very challenging but tremendously inspiring and liberating—and, yes, possible—goal of emancipating all of humanity through revolution and advancing to a communist world, free of exploitation and oppression.”
There is a little over a week left in this leg of the BAsics Bus Tour... and this is a tremendous opportunity to spread this all over the country. For the enthusiasm and energy of the volunteers bringing the revolutionary line and leadership of BA to the neighborhoods of New York City to be a catalyst in making a big leap in building the movement for revolution... in this city and beyond.
Revolution #276 July 29, 2012
When you think of New York, what do you think of?
Do you think of the tall gleaming buildings where finance capitalists determine the fates of thousands and even millions with a single click of a mouse?
Or Times Square, where thousands from around the world rub shoulders with people in from the neighborhoods on a Friday night, surrounded by huge flashing screens of commercials, walking past the Broadway shows—right near the porn shops and strip bars?
Do you think of Harlem “after hours,” the birthplace of bebop... or the burnt-out, stomped-down South Bronx, the cradle of hip-hop? The East Village where punk was king... the Beats before them... or tomorrow’s next big thing? The peoples from every corner of the world looking for a change, bringing the pulse of languages, rhythms, foods, and styles in a glorious stew... and sometimes mixing it up and making something new?
Or does the face of Amadou Diallo come to mind—an immigrant in a strange land, reaching for his wallet in his doorway, and then falling in a hail of 41 bullets coming from four hair-trigger cops on a spring night in the Bronx?
Did you hear about the Father’s Day march last month where thousands marched against stop-and-frisk... the sit-ins and arrests last fall against the same racist police tactic... and the seething anger against the endless humiliation and abuse beginning right now to find voice and expression?
Do you remember Occupy, taking root last fall in the steel canyons of Wall Street? The defiance from Stonewall to ACT-UP that shook things loose? The student uprising at Columbia in 1968, the rebellions in Harlem before that? Malcolm X on the corner at 125th? What goes down here reverberates.
Whatever comes to mind, know this: the BAsics Bus Tour is right now smack in the middle of all of this, bringing to people the liberating vision and works and leadership of Bob Avakian, letting people know about the revolution that needs to and can be made, and giving them real ways to get into this and be part of it. It’s gonna be in the neighborhoods on the deep bottom of society... it’s gonna mix it up in the schools and the artistic scenes... and it’s gonna break through the clamor and hustle and attitude. There’s two busloads this time... from the South, from the West, from New York itself... “old hands” and “youngbloods” and in between—all primed to bring a fresh REVOLUTIONARY energy into the hot summer mix of the Big Apple.
If you saw the video of the bus tour in the South—and if you didn’t, then go right now to basicsbustour.tumblr.com!—you’ll get a sense of the difference this can make.
Give your money... and let THIS be the next thing that reverberates out of New York...
Revolution #276 July 29, 2012
"American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People's Lives"
Don't get me wrong, I love most sports. But I'm going to have my TV remote (with mute!) at the ready for the upcoming summer Olympics. You know the drill—soaring, beautiful feats of heart, talent and skill by athletes from around the world will be twisted into training people in flag-waving "USA, USA, USA" jingoism and rooting for "our" country—with the occasional "human interest" bit on non-U.S. athletes thrown in to help the chauvinist poison go down. No matter where the U.S. ends up in the ever-present medal count, all this will prove—once again—that this imperialist system works to turn everything it touches—no matter its human potential—into something oppressive and ugly.
Of course, Olympics chauvinism is hardly the worst of it: America and Americans No. 1 are the ideological underpinning and justification for countless crimes, from extraordinary violence to everyday exploitation committed by this empire against millions upon millions across the planet—not once every four years, but each and every day.
So I was thrilled when I heard of the July push to spread two quotes from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian—"American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People' s Lives" and "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First"—far and wide (with an exclamation point on the 26th—more on that later). This is happening as the BAsics Bus Tour rolls through the streets of New York and nearby areas, with volunteers who have come from across the country going out to the neighborhoods to connect Bob Avakian's leadership, vision, and works with the people.
And on further reflection, I realized just how unique and unprecedented the spreading these two quotes from BAsics is, and why it's an effort anyone who cares about the planet should join or support.
I've covered and opposed U.S. wars and imperialism for years—from Vietnam "back in the day" to reporting on Iran' s 1979 revolution against the U.S.-backed tyrant and torturer, the Shah; investigating the poison cloud that spewed from a Union Carbide plant massacring 10,000 to 15,000 people in Bhopal India; seeing the made-in-USA tear gas and rubber bullets used by Israel to injure and kill Palestinians in Gaza in the 1988-89 Intifada; helping document the murderous impact of U.S. sanctions on Iraq, which killed over 500,000 Iraqi children in the 1990s; and writing about the imperialist agenda behind the U.S. "war on terror," the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and the current threats against Iran.
Over these years, many have protested and spoken out against U.S. wars and interventions, and there have been some bold stands against U.S. chauvinism, including raising the Vietnamese National Liberation Front flag during Vietnam War protests, and standing with the Iranian people and declaring "It's not our Embassy!" during the 1979-1981 "hostage crisis." And the sentiment that it's wrong to value American lives over the lives of others has spread (although it must be said that far too often opposition to U.S. crimes is framed in terms of the cost to America and Americans, thus reinforcing the very ideology used to justify these crimes).
But because the capitalist-imperialist system has remained in place, the U.S. continues to rain death and destruction across the planet—via ecological damage and climate change, wars, and imperialist-driven impoverishment and dislocation. And with their system facing new challenges and stresses, the U.S. rulers—whether Democrats or Republicans—are even more stridently promoting America No. 1 exceptionalism and the baseless notion that American lives are worth more than others. Let's be clear—this poisonous idea is one reason there is way, way too much silence when Obama illegally assassinates people in Yemen, Pakistan, or Somalia. Or when Afghans are massacred, tortured, or brutalized by U.S. troops. Why does Mr. Barack "change-you-can-believe in" Obama end every major speech with "May God bless America"? Every issue—from jobs to manufacturing to the environment—gets filtered through "what's good for America," and how "we" can keep America No. 1. All this is sickening and immoral.
As U.S. chauvinism grows ever more hideous, going straight up against the America uber alles mentality and broadly popularizing the outlook and morality expressed by those two BAsics quotes is right on time! The quotes plant a radically different pole, and call for a radically different morality and imagination. If you really start thinking about what putting the world first and not valuing American lives above others actually means, the implications are deep and far reaching.
You start thinking in terms of facing and working on the problems of humanity and the planet as a whole—not just America's (or your own). You start thinking about how the vast majority of people around the world—billions of people—are forced to live and the unspeakable abuses they suffer. You think about the war being waged in one form or another on women—half of humanity! You follow what's happening to the planet's ecosystems. You learn about and face the fact that a very small handful of people centered in a few powerful imperialist countries are exploiting and strangling millions upon millions. And you start thinking about what it's really going to take to end these needless nightmares—not just being "sorry" or "concerned" about them.
The BAsics Bus Tour is raising just these kinds of questions right now in the New York City area—the empire's financial headquarters and ground zero for unending war, stop-and-frisk, and targeting of immigrants and Muslims. And, together with others across the country, the tour is distributing tens of thousands of palm cards with these internationalist quotes—including by putting this effort right in the hands of the people most cast off by the system. This is part of a broader effort to introduce many, many more people to Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and BAsics. This book not only calls out U.S. chauvinism and the system's myriad abuses, but lays out a vision and strategy for making revolution and getting to a communist world without exploitation, imperialism, national oppression—or national boundaries—and the chauvinism that these divisions foster. Connecting people with Avakian's leadership and work is crucial for building a movement for revolution right here in the belly of this imperial beast. (For more on the tour, see: basicsbustour.tumblr.com)
The two quotes are tapping into the aspirations of many, many people for a better world—aspirations they very rarely have the chance to express.
A middle-aged Black man outside a Wal-Mart in one city said, "I like these quotes. The President says 'God bless America and nowhere else.' That's selfish! The U.S. does many, many bad things to people of other countries. Like wars. The U.S. does these to keep its power over others. No more of this."
A Black woman said, "I really think every person's life should be equal."
"Even though some Americans think they themselves are superior and treat people in other countries, including immigrants, as second-class people, that's wrong," a middle-aged unemployed Mexican immigrant worker whose son was murdered by police a few years ago said. "Because America oppresses other countries, people there have no way to survive except to come here to find jobs. I think everyone's life is precious and everybody should be equal, and there should not be someone's life being more important than others."
The BAsics Bus Tour organizers have issued a call for creative expressions around the country on July 26 around the two BAsics quotes: "Imagine...a big brass band and a crew with beautiful signs in the city center or town square...a flash mob with people shouting out the quotes one by one...a big globe balloon...poetry and spoken word performances inspired by the quotes...dramatic and colorful giant banners..." They've also called on people to "Make posters with these quotes with space for people to write what they think of the quote," and then send photos and videos of these to email@example.com.
Anyone with a conscience, who cares about the planet and everyone on it, who opposes war, global exploitation, and injustice and who wants to shake up and reshape the whole discussion in this country should take part in spreading these quotes all over and in the creative expressions on July 26.
Revolution #276 July 29, 2012
Week of July 23
"Scenes from BA Everywhere" is a regular feature that gives our readers an ongoing picture of this multifaceted campaign, and the variety of ways that funds are being raised and the whole BA vision and framework is being brought into all corners of society. Revolution newspaper is at the hub of the BA Everywhere effort—publishing reports from those taking up the campaign. Revolution plays a pivotal role in building an organized network of people across the country coming together to make BA a household word. We urge our readers to send in timely correspondence on what you are doing as part of this campaign—send your reports and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
From a Volunteer on the BAsics Bus Tour
July 19, 2012
Today was an important day on the BAsics Bus Tour. We met all kinds of interesting people that were examining what BA was talking about. My comrade and I talked to one lady who had a lot of anger towards the people for killing each other and for doing what the masses do to each other on a daily basis. We struggled with this lady for quite a while. At least we put some questions in this woman's mind. After we were finished discussing the situation that Blacks find themselves in, we moved on to speak with another lady who was interested in what we were doing. We told her that Carl Dix, one of the founders of the Revolutionary Communist Party, was speaking out on this block at 6 pm. So we built the day up and in the neighborhood for Carl's speech.
We had street theater where we put forward a show to stop stop-and-frisk. One comrade had on a big red pig nose and a big fake badge that said "Special Police" and a police hat, so it was obvious he wasn't a real pig. He called to me and said, "There was a crime in the neighborhood. You Black guys all look suspicious. I know you guys smoke weed." I said, "I didn't do anything." He told me to spread my legs and started frisking me. Then I was slammed on the ground. This same woman that we talked to earlier came up. The comrade playing the pig had his back over me, so she couldn't see the red nose or the fake police badge. She couldn't bear to witness this injustice and was going to jump in to stop this cop from manhandling me. She was outraged by this stop-and-frisk maneuver. She yelled out with rage, "What the fxxx is this? Who is this mxxxxxfxxxxx?" Another comrade told her, "It's street theater," and she seemed relieved. At the same time, the police tried their best to intimidate the people in the community by posting up in their cars on all sides of the revolutionaries.
After our skit, our crew was chanting, "NO to Stop and Frisk!" "No More Generations of Our Youth," and "No Pipeline to Mass Incarceration."
Then I met a lady and her daughter and they were interested in Carl Dix speaking. I just remember the daughter asking me who was on my shirt? I told her it was Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and this is what Carl Dix was going to be talking about.
We came up with a new chant:
Brothers getting stopped and frisked, WE SAY NO MORE!
Sisters getting raped and dissed, WE SAY NO MORE!
Stop the pigs from killing youth, WE SAY NO MORE!
Exploitation around the world, WE SAY NO MORE!
The following are some of the responses from people in one area to the two quotes from BAsics that are a focus in July: "American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People's Lives" (5:7) and "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First" (5:8).
"Even though some Americans think they themselves are superior and treat people in other countries, including immigrants, as second-class people, that's wrong. Because America oppresses other countries, people there have no way to survive except to come here to find jobs. I think everyone's life is precious and everybody should be equal, and there should not be someone's life being more important than others'... In Mexico, the country where I came from, people have no work in the fields and they're forced to go to the cities. But they cannot find jobs in the cities. That's why they risk their lives to cross the borders. I fully agree that the whole world should come first—that's a very good orientation. Only 1% of the American people are rich and they control everything, even other countries. I used to have dreams when I first came here, but after my son was killed, I've lost my dreams... Revolution here? Yes...but there needs to be revolution in Mexico, too."
"It's really wrong for the U.S. to oppress other countries for the sake of making money. It's really wrong for the U.S. to wage wars to dominate other countries. They do air strikes and kill people. U.S. rulers are the real terrorists!"
"People need jobs but the government has not provided that. Instead, wars and wars have been waged on other countries. We need to do something—we need revolution. But we cannot let leaders get killed like what happened to Malcolm X, Fred Hampton, and MLK."
"I absolutely agree with these quotes. I'm against 'my country first' mentality. It's a class and social problem we are dealing with. Some people would say that their class is first and their country comes first, but poor people have nothing and so they have nothing to say about being first or better. For poor people, yes, the whole world should come first."
"I agree with the quotes and I think we have to educate people and children about how the system works in oppression, like how the police murder people and how they carry out the 'stop-and-frisk.' We also need to educate people on how the system carries out wars against other countries in order for the U.S. to be number one. I really think every person's life should be equal."
"I like these quotes. The president says 'God bless America and nowhere else.' That's selfish! The U.S. does many, many bad things to people of other countries. Like wars. The U.S. does these to keep its power over others. No more of this."
"America is the real terrorist. America hits you with a bat and then gives you some crumbs."
"The American-trained troops killed my grandfather in a village of 3,200 people, in my country. Then after they burned his corpse, they hanged it on the tree."
Available online at revcom.us and basicsbustour.tumblr.com: audio of Revolution correspondent Michael Slate's interview with a Black woman in the Bronx who just recently learned about Bob Avakian and the movement for revolution and who is an ardent supporter of the BAsics Bus Tour. Here's a brief excerpt:
Michael Slate: You didn't know about Bob Avakian before. The purpose of this tour is to actually reach people like you and turn them on to who Bob Avakian is and what his work and vision is. What do you think about that now?
Nicky: I think that—I've never met this man, I've just started reading his book, but I think that he is a leader. You know, a leader is a person that has a vision and is so genuine in that vision that they're allowed to get other people to share that vision and to become a part of it. In my opinion, he's a leader in a positive manner. People say, you know, communists or whatever. Listen, this man is teaching me things that I never knew before, and is showing me a way to change the things that I feel needs to be changed—which is the whole world, by the way. It's powerful stuff.
On a sunny Saturday, July 14, the day before the bus tour's official launch, we held a mass meeting out in the open park. This was something quite new. Previously, we've held cultural and fundraising events in the same park; but this time we were having a meeting about the bus tour and the revolutionary potential of the masses with participants as wide ranging as families of people whose lives had been stolen by the police, Revolution supporters, ex-prisoners, a college professor, teachers, and over a dozen local residents who had been part of the anti-July 4th party two weeks prior. Something else new was the fact that some residents from the 'hood were bringing their friends as well as family to the meeting. Some people (other than the cops) who've been checking the revolution out for weeks were also beginning to come around, seeing that we were not just playing.
The meeting began by reading an edited version of the speech given at New York Revolution Books on June 27: "The BAsics Bus Tour and the Revolutionary Potential of the Masses of People." This was very important for getting grounded in what getting BA Everywhere means, including two powerful quotes from the BAsics Chapter 6 essay about BA never losing faith in the revolutionary potential of the basic people. This reading was interspersed with playing the audio of Michael Slate's interview with Virginia, a resident of Sanford, Florida (site of Trayvon Martin's killing), where the BAsics Bus Tour went a month ago, showing the impact of the BAsics Bus Tour on people there. If you have any doubt about the impact of the words of BA on the people, you must listen to this interview, especially after Virginia says she "couldn't put the book down" and had to find out more about BA!
Later in the program, a nine-minute video of a demonstration at the Sanford police station was shown a total of three times. Some people were so moved by the video that they watched it all three times.
After a sister read a letter from a prisoner who said that he felt BA was speaking to people like him... and about not feeling sorry for himself, that he has the potential to become one of the emancipators of humanity, we all sat down in a semi-circle to get down to some questions in people's minds.
Immediately someone raised "why New York?" which is related to "why not our own neighborhood?" Although the New York bookstore speech details the monumental disparities of wealth and oppression between upper Manhattan and Brownsville, as well as the issues of racial profiling, and the issues of immigrants from all over the world, this is still a question among those who feel the boot of the man directly on their own necks in this 'hood. It was then that a college professor mentioned the importance of "priorities," i.e., we would like to have the resources and people to go all over... however New York is extremely significant and can have far reaching impact on getting BA Everywhere in a worldwide sense... as another participant noted, New York is a center for lots of things from art and music to political events like Occupy. Or from page 3 of the latest Revolution "what goes down here reverberates."
As far as worldwide impact, it was noted that New York is also a center for immigrants from Haiti, Africa, Puerto Rico, Asia, etc., etc., where the U.S. has made a living hell of their homelands. For these people especially, the two main quotes popularized by the bus tour to NYC about American lives not being more important than other people's lives as well as internationalism, reverberate. Add to this mix the horrendous stop-and-frisk racial profiling of the local residents; and there is great potential to spread even further.
Another participant then raised the question of what exactly were we expecting to accomplish with these bus tours. This was wrangled with, as the importance of making BA a household name was necessary for the people to break out, and what all this means for making revolution. As one resident said, "BA Everywhere is a good goal!!" An ex-prisoner then raised his hand to testify what the horrendous conditions of the jails are and what prisoners' participation in the movement for revolution, even via the mail (referring to the prisoner's letter read aloud by a sister), really meant to him. We talked about the significance of last year's hunger strike of the prisoners in raising people's sights... and how in the midst of this BA's voice was touching a raw nerve to those in the hole. Also how we all learned from those prisoners... it wasn't just a one-way street.
Another question that came up was "how can the people see their own potential? They often have so many different things blocking them. They don't even see what's happening in the outside world, because they get caught up in the basic necessities like food and shelter, transportation and basic money problems which set people against each other." This question was taken up by someone who brought out the "12 ways" card... yes, we all do recognize this as a contradiction, but there is a way to deal with it—people can get involved in this movement in many ways and by doing that they can learn more. And the very first suggestion on "12 ways" is to view BA's Revolution talk DVD (in fact BA addresses this very question in the DVD Q&A) and read BAsics.
Related is the fact that people can come to the revolution many different ways, and in fact there were many different ways that people could support this bus tour, including fundraising. Plans were made in the meeting (and carried out the next day) to go to a middle class area, sell Skittles, get reactions to the two main quotes, and raise money for the tour.
There was more discussion about how significant this tour could be in getting BA Everywhere, especially when it was not just the couple of dozen on the bus, but the hundreds and thousands that could be following it on basicsbustour.tumblr.com and so on. People seeing a better world being possible and what communism is all about as envisioned by BA. So at the end, people at the meeting were encouraged to take stacks of the palm cards and other materials to get out way beyond the 'hood. A lot of these were done, with people hanging around to talk more with the revolutionaries and check out books displayed on the book table of Revolution Books.
A group of us got together for a festive send-off for volunteers from our area to the BAsics Bus Tour. We enjoyed wine and some kick-ass spicy chocolate cookies made by a teenager to help raise money for the bus tour. People from Occupy, activists, and revolutionaries came together to express their support for the volunteers and shared their thoughts about the bus tour and Bob Avakian's quotes that are the theme of this third leg of the tour.
As we were talking about the bus tour, several people wrote down their comments about the quotes. We pinned them, along with other statements we had collected earlier, to a poster board with the centerfold poster from Revolution. One of the statements, comparing the U.S. to a spoiled child, was written by a middle school educator who is deeply disturbed about how kids are conditioned to think in this society. She was moved by the bus tour video and said she is happy to donate to an effort that poses a visionary alternative to the current situation and that can broaden people's outlook.
The view that people all over the world are all important was spoken to in many ways in the statements, and it drew out people to talk more about their sentiments and personal experiences. One person recounted how, while working a day labor job, he put his life in danger by challenging the chauvinistic rants of his redneck employer/driver, who threw him out of the truck when he refused to back down.
Woven into the evening with this spirit of internationalism and resistance was also a sense of the joy that comes with taking on the powers-that-be as people shared lessons from their experiences.
We had a good time, raised some money, and our volunteers left for New York City with a warm bon voyage.
Sunsara Taylor said in the most recent BAsics Bus Tour video, "Sometimes you are in the midst of history and you don't even recognize it." As people gathered at the Elastic Arts Gallery in Chicago on July 8 to create an evening of culture through which they both expressed the need for and propelled forward important efforts toward the emancipation of humanity, I thought of these words from Sunsara.
The evening, which benefitted the upcoming New York leg of the BAsics Bus Tour, brought together a diverse grouping of musicians and spoken word artists who united around the importance of promoting quotation 1:13 from Bob Avakian's BAsics and supporting the bus tour. A number of them had participated in previous fund raising events for the BA Everywhere—Imagine the Difference It Can Make campaign, but never before had they all shared one stage on one evening.
Performers poured passion and poetry into the evening, delivering up an experience rich, tasty, and memorable. Audience members and performers fueled each others' seriousness and positive energy. Each performance was artistically vibrant and emotionally stirring. Several were not only politically relevant, but also politically challenged the audience to get deeper into bringing about fundamental change, and to be part of the movement for revolution.
After a welcome from the MC, who read BAsics 1:13, the video from LA Rising was shown. BAsics 1:13 has struck a chord with many people in this city because of the insane number of people, mostly Black youth, who have been shot and wounded in violence among the people. So far this year, 263 have been killed! There is a crying need, especially for those who see and experience the daily life of those most oppressed in this society, to focus on the social conditions that promote a "kill or be killed" mentality among those whose real interests lie in doing away with this killing system. Media, politicians, and top cops spew forth the lie that the oppressed are self-destructive savages. Bob Avakian's words resonate with people who see that the present system offers the youth only more destruction and oppression, who sorely yearn for a better world, and who are beginning to see the movement for revolution BA leads as the way to get there.
George Flynn began the performances with two of his piano/word compositions. Flynn is an internationally acclaimed composer and pianist. He describes his works as being modern classical or avant-garde classical music and he began by telling the audience he recognizes that 99 percent of the people in the world don't listen to his kind of music because they are too busy toiling and trying to survive. But, as he said, he likes this stuff and wants to play it. Those familiar with his work and those just being introduced to it were not disappointed in any way. His pieces were excerpts from his longer compositions "Kanal," about the failed Polish revolt against the Nazis and "American Rest" that were written in the period of and immediately after the Vietnam War. George read the lyrics before he performed the music, and the words recreated the horrors wrought by an arrogant empire that cares nothing for human life.
Kush Thompson then stepped up to the mic with a powerful spoken word poem about the hopes and fears of a Black mother about to give birth to a son and what will await him in this world as it exists today. Kush is a young Black woman and recent high school graduate who was selected as an Indy Finalist in the 2011 Louder Than A Bomb youth poetry competition which celebrated over 600 young writers, representing Chicago at the national Brave New Voices 2011. She has performed all across the Midwest since then and in Chicago, including at Victory Gardens Theater, where she is an ensemble member for the Poets to Playwrights Conservatory.
Next, poet and writer Esaun performed a poem that told the tale of Bennie and Corey, two men down on their luck who settled for lower and lower sights but should have been aiming much higher towards liberation. His piece was backed by the musical ensemble brought by Prince Saleem, a flutist and saxophonist who has performed around the world.
Chuck Jines, a philosopher and blogger, read his piece "Beat," inspired by the work and life of Allen Ginsberg, using wordplay to paint a picture of a society in which everyone and everything is corrupted and degraded by commercialism and commodity relations.
Writer Jacqueline Lewis then performed a spoken word piece she put together for this event. To the rhythm and beat of the ensemble, and with a soaring flute from Prince Saleem, Jacqueline declared, "I say no more!" and, fist in the air, said "Today—tonight—is the right time for change!"
Following this dramatic piece, poet Malcolm London took the mic. Malcolm also competed in Louder Than A Bomb 2011 as a member of team YOUmedia Chicago and was selected as an Indy Finalist in the 2011 competition. This year he competed in Louder Than A Bomb College Slam and was a featured poet at the recent dialogue between Carl Dix and Cornel West at the University of Chicago. He began with a spoken word piece about an incident on the "El" train concerning a homeless woman and racist frat boy who dissed her. Then Malcolm performed his "A Change Is Gonna Come" piece, a furious wordplay poem picking up on the famous Sam Cooke song.
Then a slide show was played with pictures of the Revolution Books contingent in last year's Bud Billiken Parade, the largest African-American parade in the country that annually brings tens of thousands of people onto the streets of Chicago's South Side. Last year, many family members of youth slain by Chicago police marched with posters of their loved ones and with banners promoting Bob Avakian's BAsics. At this July 8 cultural event, the call went out for even more people to participate in an even bigger contingent in the next parade coming later this summer.
The new video from the BAsics Bus Tour featuring the scenes from Sanford, Florida, was then shown. After Sunsara Taylor's compelling call on the video for people to donate funds for the new leg of the tour, a local revolutionary took the stage to ask people to dig deeply and donate that night. Cash did fly into the donation baskets, and one person took advantage of an iPad provided for people who wanted to make donations online. After this, a break allowed people to mingle, meet, and eat some delicious food donated by a local Mexican restaurant.
But the night was far from over! The young poet Nine took the mic to speak his piece about the shooting of Rekia Boyd by an off-duty Chicago cop in March this year. He had the audience repeating the theme line, "Rekia, beautiful Rekia." After he finished, he told everyone, "I know that if nothing else, that Rekia Boyd, as long as I'm alive, like she's going to be alive and fighting for her justice through me. So as you read these terrible press clips about the people that the cops are shooting down and people who are dying from 'Black on Black' crime, 'brown on brown' crime, etc.—like just hold on to one person. Cause if each of us do that, that means none of these people will ever be forgotten. Word."
Delinda was called up to the stage by Prince Saleem for her first-ever public singing performance. She did a beautiful jazzy version of "My Favorite Things." Esaun came up once more with his piece "Locked Down."
Then the Prince Saleem Ensemble broke out into full force, causing people to get up and start dancing. Soon a Soul Train line shaped up and people styled. Poet Nine later commented jokingly that "The revolution will not be televised, but apparently it will have a Soul Train line!"
A late-arriving poet, T.J. Gardner, aka Poetically Correct, then came up to pour out a spoken word piece on her vision of true love that segued into the soul classic "Just My Imagination" by the Temptations.
In all, $565 was raised for the BAsics Bus Tour.
Revolution #276 July 29, 2012
The following letter was written by a prisoner in the Midwest, July 4, 2012
To Whom It May Concern,
Even though this is more coincidental than conscious on my part, the fact that today is the 4th of July brings out a certain irony to all my below comments as they relate to the true realities of America and her bourgeois illusions. So, hey...I’m going to let the fireworks begin as I celebrate what this day actually means to me. Cool?
Over the past several months, I’ve been following the BAsics Bus Tour in earnest and watching how the tour has connected with the various communities it has come across as it has traversed the country. One way it’s done so has been by making themes out of certain quotes, such as BAsics 1:13, which says:
“No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to and early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that.”
The above quote reminds me of something that George Jackson once said in his book Soledad Brother which has stayed with me since the first time I read and is STILL the ground upon which my own convictions are also rooted in. He said: “When I revolt, slavery dies with me. I refuse to pass it down again. The terms of my existence are founded on that.” (p. 250)
I recently had a conversation with this younger brotha, who’s recently fresh to the joint with over a 100 year prison sentence. When I came down over a decade ago, it was “normal” to see a young 18, 19, or 20 year old brotha to be handed down a 50, 60 or 65 year sentence. I still remember the first time I witnessed a dude come back from court after being sentenced to 50 years in prison. It was surreal to say the least. It was even more surreal when I was handed down a lengthy term myself. Yet even then, only a few guys I knew had ever been given more than 65 years—not like that was a drop in the bucket or anything. You just knew one day you would possible see the streets again. You didn’t have LIFE. Today, though, when I look around at the guys newly arriving to the joint now-a-days, it’s really nothing to learn that your neighbor has 100 years, or even LIFE. Today, that’s really become the “new norm.” And if that wasn’t bad enough, instead of new arrivals having the chance of staying in the general prison population, acquiring a college degree, and a few trades, today warehousing an increasing number of us on supermax units 23 hours a day is also the “new norm,” since there’s no more college in our state and very few programs.
That’s why when me and this particular brotha was talking about my own conversion to becoming a communist and how he was glad that I had eventually found “my passion” in life—although I had to come to prison in order to find it—it really struck a chord with me. In one sense, I saw myself in him because I, too, remember that time in my own life when I really didn’t have any real tangible sense of purpose. Like him, I was also searching for answers to why shit was like it was in books and how life seemed more like a “curse” than some “preordained miracle.” On the other hand, I saw in this brotha and his comments a generation of Black and Latino males whose only real crime was being born into a marginalized group whose chance of socio-economic mobility was already limitedly determined by the fact of where they were born within the overall economic relations of the capitalist system. For this unfortunate sector of the population, prison and death was more than a possibility; it was a necessity of the very working of the system itself.
As I mentioned to this brotha, it wasn’t really so much about me finding “my purpose” in life per se, as if it was just “my thing” and I could’ve easily taken up another purpose; it had more to do with realizing the fact of NECESSITY. In other words, once I realized that the economic and social circumstances which brought me and him to prison, or caused others to seek escape though drugs, or caused some to find the “American Dream” through other means (prostitution, the drug economy, or even through sub-prime “legal” scams), and still others who committed suicide because of their frustration with life itself, ALL socially derived from the dynamics of the capitalist-imperialist system—Once I was able to put a circle around that, I one and the same time realized none of this shit had to be! None of these particular social realities! And it was at that point, that I started to feel like George: “When I revolt, slavery dies with me, I refuse to pass it down again. The terms of my existence are founded on that.”
By the end of our dialogue, I think bro realized, too, that his own circumstances could only be understood by the wider dynamics at work, and to a large extent, his lengthy term in prison was not so much due to his “personal choices” in life per se, as much as it was FIRST determined by the limitedly determined choices we were born into within the framework of the all-encompassing economic relations of capitalist system.
The fact of the matter, is that while neither me or him were “destined” to come to prison in some teleological sense, taken as a whole, numerous sections of the population were “destined” to find themselves in prison, in poverty, or facing all kinds of hardships due to the dictates of the capitalist system. That’s a given! Now...who will actual find themselves in that predicament and statistical category in their lifetime is variable; however, the fact that such a predicament and categories are necessary and integral to functioning of the overall system, is testament to the fact that we all must eventually become passionate about saying “NO MORE OF THAT” as we come to concretely understand the problem and it’s only solution.
BA summed all this up best when he mentioned in What Humanity Needs: Revolution and the New Synthesis of Communism that:
Marx made this point in another work of his, the Grundrisse: Once a system is firmly in place and entrenched, then individuals may be able to change their social position—they may acquire education and become part of the middle class, for example, or in some other way escape from being impoverished, into a more middle class position— but Marx emphasized in a very important point, while individuals may be able to do that, the masses of people cannot escape the conditions of their existence en masse, as the masses of people, except though abolishing those conditions—except, in other words, through revolution...
The misfortune of the masses of people is that, once this system is entrenched and its dynamics are what’s determining the character of things—and the confines and limits of what’s possible, within that system—then the masses of people are chained within conditions. And, to refer once again to Marx’s statement in the Grundrisse, they cannot escape from those conditions, en masse—in this country or that, and ultimately in the world as a whole—without overthrowing, uprooting and completely abolishing that system and replacing it with an emancipating system. (p.78, 79)
For me, that’s what BAsics 1:13 ultimately means to me.
In Solidarity, XXXXXXXXX
Revolution #276 July 29, 2012
“Noche” Diaz, a young revolutionary, is about to go on trial on unjust charges and faces years in jail if convicted. Noche has been arrested five times since October 2011 and has had 11 charges piled on him in four New York City boroughs, all for observing and protesting the illegitimate actions of the NYPD. Noche was one of the first members of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and helped organize protests that kicked off a citywide struggle against stop-and-frisk. He is well known to the people—and to the NYPD—for being a member of the People’s Neighborhood Patrol of Harlem.
On March 13, Noche was arrested in the Bronx. This is the same precinct—the 43rd—where NYPD officers killed Amadou Diallo in 1999, firing 41 shots, as he stood, unarmed, in front of his door, and where they killed Malcolm Ferguson, another unarmed Black man, in 2000. As Noche walked up to the intersection of Westchester & Boynton, officers from the 43rd were beating a Black motorist in the street. Bystanders were screaming at the police to stop, and pulling out their phones to document the brutality. But to the NYPD, the problem wasn’t the beat-down of an unarmed man, but people’s outrage at them for doing it. The police put a headlock on a woman taping the police, and threw her partner into a window for coming to her defense.
Noche and others were watching police conduct, as they have a legal right to do, but he and two others were arrested. Bronx prosecutors even admit Noche was within his rights to observe, as he told the police at the scene. He is charged with disorderly conduct and specifically with not obeying a cop’s order to move.
The NYPD had arrested Noche in Brooklyn and Queens last fall for participating in mass civil disobedience to “STOP Stop-and-Frisk,” and they arrested him twice in Manhattan, claiming he interfered with their attempts to arrest other unnamed persons who were not arrested. NYC prosecutors are now using this to argue that Noche shows a “pattern” of interfering with police. In Noche’s case the pattern is of unjustified arrest for doing lawful activity, and of the police lying and piling on charges to target this young revolutionary activist.
What about the PATTERN of police murder and brutality against millions? What about the PATTERN of getting stopped-and-frisked, getting put into the system with a record, and incarceration facing a big part of this generation of youth? It’s outrageous that police routinely beat people, way too often killing young men like Ramarley Graham, unarmed when he was shot in his own apartment earlier this year in the Bronx. But people who observe, document, and verbally expose the routine brutality of the police are themselves arrested and brutalized and called criminals?!
We can’t allow the authorities to target, convict, and jail Noche, who faces years in jail on Class A misdemeanor charges. By targeting Noche, they are trying to send a message that people who stand up to their brutality and expose the illegitimate use of authority by the police will be persecuted and treated as “criminals.”
No! The people must NOT allow the authorities to get away with railroading Noche and sending an intimidating message in an effort to stop the resistance. We can’t and won’t stand for this, coming from authorities who endanger hundreds of thousands in NYC alone with the racist, illegal and unconstitutional practice of stop-and-frisk, enforcing a system of mass incarceration of millions. Right is on the side of the protesters—and there is a real need and basis to mobilize support very broadly among the people and turn this reactionary attack into a political defeat for those in power.
Defending Noche by condemning these unjust charges, demanding the prosecutors drop them, and by hundreds of people showing up July 27 for his trial will strengthen and spread the movement against mass incarceration and stop-and-frisk, and the whole unjust system that they are part of.
Sign and Spread the RESOLUTION calling for the DA to Drop Charges Against Noche and the “Stop-and-Frisk 19.” Call Bronx District Attorney Robert Johnson (718-590-2001) and tell him to drop the charge against Noche Diaz.
Be there to support Noche at his trial on Friday, July 27, 9:00 am, at Bronx Criminal Court, 265 E. 161st St. Bronx.
Get with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network right away. 866-841-9139 x2670 email@example.com
Revolution #276 July 29, 2012
In a vicious and brutal show of force against Occupy LA, the Los Angeles police shot rubber bullets, beat, and arrested people as the Occupiers and others were writing and drawing with chalk at the monthly Downtown LA Art Walk on Thursday, July 12. Four people were injured by rubber bullets or beanbags, and many others by batons, pepper-spray, foam grenades, and tear gas. Of the 17 people arrested, a couple of them were Occupiers; the rest came from the thousands of people who attended the Art Walk.
In the month leading up to the Art Walk, the LAPD had been arresting Occupy LA people and other youth for "vandalism" for writing political messages with chalk on the sidewalk in opposition to the Central City Association, a group of businesses, developers, and banks that funnel funds to local politicians and lobbies who want to gentrify the area where the homeless reside. In response to these arrests, the Occupiers called for people to go to the Art Walk where they would "non-confrontationally distribute vast amounts of 'free chalk for free speech' on the sidewalks of Art Walk to raise awareness about political repression, raise funds, and do outreach." People at the Art Walk, including children, took up the chalk. Sidewalks and walls of vacant buildings blossomed with colorful slogans, names, sayings, doodles, pictures and more.
The attack began when police started arresting people and a young woman who wanted to diffuse the situation got between the people and the cops and chalked a smiling stick figure. She was immediately vamped on by the cops, and, as her boyfriend tried to come to her aid, the cops jumped him and fired tear gas, and then a significant section of the crowd, who were outraged that this force and violence was used against people chalking, took to the streets to help those who were being shot and beaten, chanting, "Whose Streets? Our Streets!" and "This is what a police state looks like!" The LAPD called a citywide tactical alert and sent hundreds of baton-wielding cops in riot gear into the area to push people back and clear the streets.
Online videos show riot police facing the people and capture vivid incidents of brutality, including a skateboarder who was hit and had fallen on his skateboard before the advancing police line and then was kicked in the face and trampled before being dragged away and arrested. In these videos you can hear people saying, "It's chalk. It's called sidewalk chalk. It's water-soluble, and it's raining."
This project was physically and politically attacked and criminalized by the LAPD and the mayor, who created a tense situation by putting a heavy police presence into the Art Walk from earlier in the evening. The LA Times quoted a police captain who said chalking is "vandalism." LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said, "That's not free speech, that's criminal behavior."
To be clear, this is about the mayor and the cops criminalizing and eliminating dissent and the free expression of ideas in a public space where the dog-eat-dog relations of this society are not the framework and people are creating different ways of relating to each other. This vicious attack is a continuation of the nationwide, coordinated eviction of Occupy from public spaces to shut down resistance—and to shut down spaces where people are lifting their heads and where dangerous questions about what's wrong with this society and what kind of world is possible are being debated and discussed. Recently Occupy LA has been putting up tents every night at the offices of the Central City Association. The LA Times described this: "With the exception of some new faces and the fact that the tents must come down every morning at dawn, the new encampment feels a lot like the old one." This Occupy struggle has become unacceptable to City Hall, so the cops were called in to raid this encampment and to arrest people who were chalking.
Immediately after the tents in last year's encampment were taken down by the cops, the LA Times wrote an editorial on December 3, 2011, which evoked the "broken windows" theory, stating, "the next group of squatters may be skinheads or anti-immigration zealots—protesters City Hall may enjoy less as neighbors. Going forward, a word of advice to the city leadership: No one should be allowed to sleep in the park. It closes at 10:30 every night for everyone. Enforcing that rule forcefully but thoughtfully—without regard to the message of those attempting to violate it—will save this city plenty of grief." In other words, you better not even let this get started again. (See George L. Kelling and James Q. Wilson, "Broken Windows, The police and neighborhood safety," The Atlantic, March 1982 which introduced the "broken windows" theory.)
Despite this brutal attack by the LAPD and its attempt to put down this form of public dissent, the Occupiers and others came back even stronger the next night, gathering in Pershing Square and decorating it with a rainbow of chalked slogans. People were responding to Thursday's attack by the police as they were preparing to march to an encampment at the downtown Federal Building supporting Bradley Manning, whose cause Occupy is taking up.
As darkness fell, people marched. Despite the violent attack of the previous day, they courageously took the street and refused to leave it, defying the many motorcycle cops who were trying to run people over and push them back on the sidewalk. As they marched, people chanted: "Free Bradley Manning!" "Get Up, Get Down, There's a Revolution in This Town! We're Unstoppable, Another World is Possible!"
A reporter from Revolution on the scene that night was told by an organizer of the Bradley Manning events that they were contacted by and spoke with the Department of Homeland Security. It is unclear about Homeland Security's role in the attack that happened on Thursday night, but one thing that is clear is that this attack and the arrests, whether planned far ahead of time or not, are outrageous and completely illegitimate and clearly intended to criminalize and suppress the public expression of dissent.
City Hall and the cops are trying to win people in the downtown area to support this repression by calling the chalking "vandalism." One merchant said, "I'm not against Occupy, I'm for Occupy, but I'm against the riffraff that come through." But it was the police, not Occupy, and not the people in the street, who rioted at the Art Walk. The Art Walk crowd was mainly young, multi-national, artists, "hipsters," workers and students—people who were not part of Occupy but supportive of "Free Chalk for Free Speech" and outraged at the LAPD's use of overwhelming force and brutality to suppress chalking in public space.
Every single arrest at Art Walk was shameful and unjustifiable; every person who was arrested or brutalized should be supported and the illegitimate police violence condemned.
Revolution #276 July 29, 2012
On July 19, a vigil for Ramarley Graham was held in front of the house where he was shot down in cold blood by NYPD cop Richard Haste. On June 11, narcotics detectives kicked down the door of the Graham house in the Bronx, guns drawn, and in a matter of seconds, a death sentence—shooting Ramarley Graham close range in the bathroom for no reason other than being young and Black and therefore, in the eyes of the police, suspicious.
A vigil has been held every Thursday (the day Graham was killed) and this was the 18th vigil, marking the 18 short years Graham lived before his murder. After this last vigil, 350 people marched to the 47th police precinct. Many joined in from the neighborhood and people were there from other parts of the city, including volunteers from the BAsics Bus Tour. One sign had at the top: “NYC is a City Divided” with a big jagged line down the middle. On one side of the line it said, “While we cry and a family mourns” with photos of people crying and protesting. On the other side it said “47 Precinct—They Celebrate Cowards!” with photos of the police applauding the cop who killed Ramarley Graham. This was right in sync with the Revolution graphic BAsics Bus Tour volunteers held up during the march—with the same photo of the cops clapping, with the title: “This is Why We Call Them Pigs!”
Revolution #276 July 29, 2012
This is a slightly edited version of an article which first appeared on OpEdNews.com.
For a week now, the web has been abuzz with controversy over a fucked up joke that comedian Daniel Tosh made at a stand-up comedy show. From what has been reported, he was on stage talking about rape jokes when a woman from the audience shouted out, "Rape jokes are never funny." At this point, Daniel Tosh replied, "Wouldn't it be funny if that girl got raped by, like five guys right now?"
No, Daniel Tosh, that would not be funny. Rape is a horrific, degrading, invasive and scarring act of violence. It is one of the most widespread and most destructive forms of violence against women.
Further, your joke about rape wasn't funny either. Not to people who care about the half of humanity who are born female.
It is very positive that a lot of people on the web and within the comedic community have argued this. One of my favorite responses is one where comedian Curtis Luciani paints a picture of a society where women cut off men's dicks and then asks the reader to imagine how fucked up it would be to then have a female make jokes about that on stage.
However, in the main, the terms of this controversy has been twisted. Instead of viewing this as a question of misogynist (woman-hating) jokes, many are treating this as a question of whether stand-up comedy should be censored or whether comedy should push the limits. Here is how the New YorkTimes put it: "Make no mistake: The reason there are so many rape jokes is that they work. As Mr. Tosh now knows, telling them carries a potential price, but so does changing the unfiltered, anything-for-a-laugh ethos of comedy clubs." (July 17, 2012)
No, the question isn't whether comedy should be free to push the limits and to offend people or whether things should be censored in order to "protect the audience from offense." Insisting that no one ever be offended would make for a very stultifying and sterile atmosphere and a very boring comedic realm! One of the great things about good comedy is the way it can make you look anew at things that you have long accepted—including many things which should be thrown in the dustpan of history. Think of George Carlin skewering belief in god or Richard Pryor's many routines that drew into sharp relief many of the daily abuses and degradations suffered by Black people, including constant police brutality.
The question which actually has to be focused up—and which is being obscured by the way the New York Times and many others are responding to this—is what is the content of the joke and, in broad strokes, who and what is an "offensive" joke offending? Is it offending those who are comfortable with the status quo of constant wars, social alienation, mass incarceration, the hunting down of immigrants and epidemic violence against women? Or, is it offending the victims of these crimes and those who understand how much damage they do?
When it comes specifically to rape, is the joke ridiculing and skewering the way that this culture has normalized violence and degradation against women or is the joke belittling women and reinforcing this violence and degradation? That could be very refreshing and potentially very funny. Or is the joke making light of the crime of rape and belittling and further blaming or shaming its victims?
I also reject the way that people are almost universally calling this woman who challenged Daniel Tosh a "heckler." Here's how dictionary.com defines heckle:
"to harass (a public speaker, performer, etc.) with impertinent questions, gibes, or the like; badger."
This woman was not harassing Daniel Tosh; she didn't insult him or say anything about his character. And her comments were not impertinent. She was acting with conscience and a lot of courage. In response, a noted comedian used his platform and skills to conjure up the specter of her being violently attacked and violated by five men before a whole public audience.
Where is the outcry about what this kind of humor does to stifle women who might otherwise dare to challenge a culture of misogyny? Where is the outcry about how the millions and millions and millions of women who are raped are sent the message in hundreds of ways—including through a "joke" like Mr. Tosh's—that it's "not that big a deal" and they should just "get over it"?
To return to a claim made by the New York Times, the reason why jokes that belittle or celebrate rape "work" (to those who find them funny) is because we live in a society with a big elephant in the room when it comes to rape and the oppression of women. On the one hand, there are real and oppressive power relations in which women are routinely violated, killed, beaten, demeaned, and degraded. On the other hand, we are told every day that women have "won their equality" and openly misogynist views are not acceptable in "polite company." In other words, there is a profound contradiction between the declared "equality of women" and the reality of grotesque and pervasive subjugation and degradation.
But, whether you find it funny to laugh about rape depends on your view of how this contradiction should be resolved. Should we abandon the idea that women should be equal and descend openly into the hatred of women? If you think this, you will find rape jokes very, very funny—particularly because you know how much they stab right at an open wound in the lives of women. Or, should we expose the hideous and oppressive conditions women are still locked in and fight to bring about real and full liberation? In this case, you will not find these jokes funny because you understand that men will never view women as fully human and women will never fully be able to lift their heads as long as misogyny is a cornerstone of the culture.
I will leave you with a short excerpt from a lengthy and incredibly deep and wide-ranging interview with Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party. A. Brooks (a younger generation revolutionary who conducted the interview) asked Bob Avakian about keeping his sense of humor through many decades in the revolutionary struggle. In his answer, BA not only points out what is wrong with the kind of humor I have been criticizing, but he also points to the need and tremendous basis for a far more liberating, uplifting and humor-filled culture as part of the fight to make revolution and emancipate humanity:
"If you're really going for the emancipation of all humanity, there is—look, life is full of things that are humorous. Now, different people think different things are funny, depending on their outlook. You know, someone will tell a racist joke, and you say, 'Hey, that's fucked up,' and they reply, 'It's just a joke.' No, it's not funny. It's not funny, because we understand the harm that does, and we understand the way in which that helps to reinforce centuries of brutal oppression. The same thing with sexist jokes. The same thing with jokes that degrade gay people. And so on. They're harmful. They reinforce oppression. So different groups of people think different things are funny, or not funny, depending on their outlook and their aspirations—what kind of world, to put it simply, they want to see and they're striving for. But, in any case, certainly those of us who are striving for a world free of exploitation and oppression and antagonistic conflicts among the mass of humanity should be able to—and should naturally, in a certain sense—find lots to laugh about, and lots to give expression to in humor and in other forms of lively culture, even while we're deadly serious."
Revolution #276 July 29, 2012
"The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be."
For four days, Anaheim, California, has been rocked by righteous anger and defiance ignited by the police execution of Manuel Diaz on Saturday, July 21 on Anna Drive, and then the murder of Joel Acevedo the next evening.
Saturday afternoon, July 21:
Neighbors and friends say it was a quiet afternoon on Anna Drive. Little kids were playing outside. Manuel Diaz was talking with a friend when two cops in an unmarked car pulled up.
According to Manuel's mother, Genevieve Huizar, "Witnesses say he was just at a water spigot washing his hands when the police came around the corner, and they shot him. He was not running. There's no truth to being in a car, a stolen car, that a lie! There's no truth to that. All the witnesses in the area say he was just washing his hands when the police came up. He was shot in the back, he was shot first in the back and then when he was down then they shot him another time! Then they shot him in the head! If he was robbing a bank, ok, if he was doing something wrong, but he wasn't doing anything wrong. He didn't deserve to die."
Originally the police said that officers on patrol "in a high crime gang area" shot a gang member who ran from them.
"I didn't see it, but I heard exactly what happened," a friend of Manuel's told Revolution. "He got shot. By the cops. Supposedly for running, when he did not run. He did not run... Shot in the back, and in the head. That's bullshit. That's bullshit to me. Seriously. Yes, he might have a record, but that doesn't mean anything, that doesn't mean anything. Ask anybody. If people needed something, he would go to them, and help them." A young woman told Revolution that Manuel was always helpful and friendly. He never disrespected people; he was never disrespectful to women, she told us.
Saturday night, July 21:
On Anna Drive, residents immediately began to protest, first with placards and signs. The police on the scene were "securing the area for investigators" and trying to intimidate the residents and offering money to anyone who'd caught the murder on a phone or gadget. Then Saturday night police violently attacked a crowd of kids, parents, mothers with strollers, and others protesting the murder.
News video shows overturned bikes, strollers, and parents shielding children as police fire rubber bullets into the crowd in the neighborhood. An officer "accidentally" unleashed a snarling police dog that attacked a mother holding her child, and attacked a 19- year- old man who suffered dog bite wounds. Police shot pepperballs and beanbags at residents, but people stood their ground.
This vicious attack intensified people's anger and residents bravely defended themselves. People took to the streets and stopped business as usual on La Palma and Anna Sts.
Posted above the candles and flowers at the memorial people made for Manuel Diaz were signs reading "APD – Another Person Dead" "FUCK the Police" and "They Have Blood on Their Badges."
Sunday, July 22:
On Sunday, the family of Manuel Diaz, a number families of those killed by Anaheim- and Orange County- based police departments, and activists congregated at the Anaheim police headquarters. As Manuel Diaz's mother entered to demand the police report on her son's killing, over 50 protesters followed her in. There was a stand-off, as protesters confronted police in the lobby of the headquarters, demanding that the killer cops be put in jail.
At the protest were family members of Kelly Thomas, a mentally impaired homeless man who was beaten to death by Fullerton police. In the last year, Anaheim police have shot down David Raya, Marcel Ceja, Bernie Villegas, Roscoe Cambridge, Gerardo Pineda, and Martin Hernandez. And they were not done killing people this weekend, as you will read below.
At the protest families spoke with Revolution newspaper. Theresa Smith is the surviving mother of Ceasar Cruz, gunned down by Anaheim police in 2009. Speaking of the Anaheim police shooting of her son, "All I know is they followed him. It happened at Walmart. Several officers followed him under cover. They followed him, they boxed him in, they shot him. It was five police involved, they each shot him, I don't know how many times, I just know they shot him twice in the head."
Sonia Hernandez is the sister of Martin Hernandez, who was gunned down four months ago by Anaheim police. Speaking of her brother's shooting and Saturday's execution of Manuel Diaz, she said, " That's racist... they're viewing all Mexicans as gang members. And even if they are, is it right to kill a gang member? Who knows their life story? They might be trying to change their life around. And I think that was my brother. He never had a chance to actually continue to work or do something with his life. He was just beginning to change and never had a chance. My brother was 21. It was exactly 20 days before his 22nd birthday."
Anaheim is 52% Latino; 50% of the population is under 35. Latino neighborhoods are home to many immigrants and sons and daughters of immigrants and are overwhelmingly young.
Sunday evening, July 22:
On Sunday evening, Anaheim police killed another young Latino. According to a police spokesperson, gang officers recognized "a gang member on probation in a stolen SUV." The police story is that a man who fled the SUV after it crashed fired at police; police returned fire. Joel Acevedo was killed. A picture online shows Acevedo's body with a handgun positioned between his legs. Acevedo may have had a gun. Or, that gun may have been dropped by police after they gunned Joel Acevedo down. Either way, Anaheim police act as judge, jury and executioner. This is now the sixth officer-involved shooting, five of them fatal, in Anaheim this year.
Monday July 23:
The neighborhood is seething angry about these police killings and the police attack on their neighborhood Saturday night. On Monday afternoon people are hanging out on Anna St., talking with each other and with supporters who have come into the neighborhood about what to do. Residents of Anna Drive are now urged by Latino community organizers to come to the City Council meeting on Tuesday to make their voices heard and to bring out the truth. Maybe opening an official channel will quiet down these people, city officials hope. That night, residents of Anna St. march up and down the street demanding justice for Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo.
Tuesday, July 24:
Hundreds of people come out to protest at the council meeting. They are confronted by Anaheim and Brea riot police. The overwhelming majority of people are prevented from entering City Council chambers. They chant "Let us in" and "Manuel Diaz, Esta Presente!" and "Asesinos! Asesinos!"
After an intense confrontation of hundreds of people inside and in front of City Hall where the City Council was meeting with the riot squad stationed in front of the doors, people took off on a march to the Anaheim police department. When the march returned, a few cops ran up shooting rubber bullets, beanbags and pepperballs. This small group of cops got surrounded and retreated. Then the swarms of cops in cars came in and arrested some people down in the middle of the street in front of City Hall. Hundreds of people were swirling around and a stand-off developed for about an hour between people in the street and the cops.
Inside City Hall, the City Council voted unanimously to ask the U.S. Attorney's office to investigate the police shootings. Outside, a thousand people had gathered by now, squaring off against the riot squads from Anaheim and Brea police. A group of people took off down the street. Reports from the Orange County Register are that a bank and a Starbucks were trashed, as were some other downtown spots; fires were set in the street.
The crowd was young, angry. The mood: "Just 'cause we're Latino you want to kill us!? We're not having it, not this time." By the next morning, 24 people had been arrested, and it was reported by the local press that the police department and City Hall buildings and some patrol cars were damaged.
Wednesday, July 25:
There are reports from people in the community, including on Anna St., that police are targeting youth in the wake of Tuesday's defiance and resistance to police murder. As we go to press, solidarity marches against police brutality in Anaheim are being planned in other cities, and the next steps are being planned by people in the community and others who have been and are standing with them, who have been outraged by these two killings.
Revolution #276 July 29, 2012
False Paths and Dead Ends:
The following is excerpted from "The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need," Revolution Issue #144.
People say: “You can’t talk of fundamental change while the people are all caught up in killing each other. First we have to stop this violence among the people, and then we can talk about making bigger change.”
The violent situation in many Black and Latino neighborhoods all over the country—where parents watch young children shot down in crossfires and kids grow up haunted by nightmares of gunfire, sure they won’t make it past 18—is a horror for the people. But the logic that the people must first somehow “fix themselves” as the necessary first step, before they can change the larger conditions people find themselves in, reverses cause and effect and, regardless of intent, directs people’s attention away from the source of the violence among the people—the capitalist-imperialist system which has created these conditions in the first place. The violence people commit against each other is not at root due to “bad choices” that need to be “solved first” but is due to the ways in which this system has confined people in a position where they are set against each other to survive.
People like Bill Cosby—as well as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—not only go so far as to blame Black people for the horrendous situation into which this system has shoved them, with its dead-end set of “choices,” they do so with a phony pose of concern for Black people. These snakes do tremendous damage to Black people’s ability to understand the problem and to change the world accordingly, and they also justify all those racist lies in the minds of white people.
Yes, people do need to change—but they’re only going to transform themselves, fundamentally and in a liberating way, in the process of confronting the actual source of the problem and radically changing their conditions. This happened in large numbers in the revolutionary movement of the 1960s, when many former gangbangers and prisoners got out of that life and into making revolution and serving the people, making the rupture from “criminal-minded” to “revolutionary-minded.”
The factors that especially young people are responding to today—the fact that these youth really have nothing to lose under this system—are the very same driving forces that could impel them in a whole other direction if they could be ruptured with that “gangsta” outlook and if their anger, alienation, and rebelliousness could instead be channeled at the source of the problem, and tempered and transformed with revolutionary science and a morality of liberation. But this will only happen based on FIGHTING the power, and not “working with it” or “within the system” to somehow keep a lid on things. We have to abolish the system that causes and enforces these conditions, bring into being a new society and new conditions in which such violence among the people will no longer have any basis, and will no longer take place. And it is in this process—of making revolution to change the larger circumstances while learning about the underlying dynamics that give rise to those circumstances—that people can, and must, transform themselves.
Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution!
Revolution #276 July 29, 2012
On July 24, about 80 people crowded into a New York restaurant at a fundraising dinner for the BA Everywhere campaign and the BAsics Bus Tour. During the dinner four of the bus tour volunteers recounted what they learned from being on the tour and how people in the neighborhoods responded to them and the tour. Afterward, another comrade gave an important talk. What follows is an edited version of that talk.
On the video of the volunteers in Sanford, Florida, the comrade says when you're right in the middle of making history you don't know that's what you're doing, you're just doing it. We are right at the cusp, we are right at the beginning of making history. Understand that. I spent a day with each of the volunteer groups for the BAsics Bus Tour, talking with them, an afternoon with one and a night with the other. And you just heard the tip of the iceberg in these stories tonight of what they're doing, and what they're learning.
And it's not just the people on the bus. It's the people who've come forward and opened up their houses, who have fed the volunteers, who have brought them around the neighborhoods and shown them where to go—and the people all over the country who have worked to raise money for this bus tour. This is the kind of support that makes a revolution. This is the kind of support that enables an underdog to be victorious in a fight that nobody ever thought they could win. This is what has been done in history. This is what could be done in the future, in different circumstances. So understand that, too.
What does this last week and a half teach us? It teaches us that if you take what this leader, Bob Avakian, has brought forward in the form of BAsics,1 in the form of the Revolution talk—and if you take it out there in the way that is consistent with the revolutionary content of what he has brought forward and what he is all about, there is a very powerful connection that gets made. You can hear this on the Tumblr site [basicsbustour.tumblr.com] in the interviews that Michael Slate does. You can see it in that little ten-minute video—the fundraising video—that showed people in Sanford, Florida, and the way people were responding—there is a very important connection here that is being made. There is something very, very powerful being connected.
I was going to say, everybody here should be taking the next four or five days to maximize this tour and to do everything. But damn, if after hearing these volunteers, you don't want to be part of this, then I'm sorry for you. I mean, the stories that you hear of what happened! The first night they roll into town—and it wasn't even that clear that there were even places to stay for people up to the 11th hour—and parents whose sons and nephews were murdered by the police threw open their doors, cooked dinners for them, and then went back and forth in very deep discussion over why the volunteers were here on the one hand, and what the experience of these mothers had been on the other, and what this system does, and all kinds of questions about revolution.
So we should, everybody should, do whatever they can: send the Tumblr video, the Tumblr site, to all your friends, to everybody you've ever known. People need to know about this. It needs to break out much, much bigger into society. This embryo has to grow to be a driving force and it can—that's the point of these bus tours—to put something out there in a much more powerful way, to show people a whole different thing and on that basis to begin a jump start, to create a movement, to get out of where we are now and to get on to somewhere else, where revolution has initiative in society, where those young men that you meet [referring to stories told earlier by some volunteers about their encounters with young men "on the corner"] know what revolution is all about and are sorting themselves out in relation to that because revolution has come.
|We should not underestimate the potential of [the new synthesis] as a source of hope and of daring on a solid scientific foundation. In the 1960s, when the Black Panther Party emerged on the scene, Eldridge Cleaver made the pungent observation that the old revisionist Communist Party had “ideologized” revolution off the scene, but the Panthers had “ideologized” it back on the scene. In the present period in the U.S., revolution has once more been “ideologized” off the scene. And in the world as a whole, to a very large degree, revolution aiming for communism and the vision of a communist world—this has been “ideologized” off the scene—and with it the only road that actually represents the possibility of a radically different and far better world, in the real world, one that people really would want to live in and would really thrive in. The new synthesis has objectively “ideologized” this back on the scene once more, on a higher level and in a potentially very powerful way.
But what will be done with this? Will it become a powerful political as well as ideological force? It is up to us to take this out everywhere—very, very boldly and with substance, linking it with the widespread, if still largely latent, desire for another way, for another world—and engage ever growing numbers of people with this new synthesis in a good, lively and living way.
Look, what you have, what we've got here, actually, is the embodiment of a quote from BAsics, where BA says that this new synthesis of communism, this is hope on a solid scientific foundation. This is what we've been seeing for the last 10 days, this is what people have been meeting—hope on a scientific, solid foundation. [BAsics 2:32] These volunteers are out here representing a whole different way it could be. Representing the hope in the way they're moving, the way they're coming at people and the way they're stepping. And a lot of people like it and they want some of it, and they want to be part of it, they want to learn about it and they want to have a way into it.
But there are forces in society that don't want that hope out there. There are forces in this society that feed off the despair at the bottom of society. These forces that rule society feed off and promote and push the cynicism that somebody was talking about, that permeates the whole culture including in the middle classes in society. And when the revolution begins to connect, those forces move against it.
Thirty years ago it was a time when the whole history of the '60s and the whole idea of revolution was not yet "lost history." And at that point this Party was going very firmly and boldly out with revolution and out with BA, and the way these forces—the rulers of society—the way they responded at that point was to file charge upon charge upon charge against BA. They also arrested people in the Party overall—there were lots of arrests of people for just selling the newspaper, a lot of jail time. One of their pigs was on the scene when a member of our Party, Damian Garcia, was assassinated. But they focused their attack on BA himself. To plant stories in newspapers, to begin investigations, to drag him into court cases. They diagramed his house the way they diagramed the apartment of Fred Hampton2 in the very same suburb that Fred Hampton grew up in. And we had to fight that and we did fight it.
Now these are new times, when there's new potential, and when the forces of revolution are finding their footing again, but on a much more potentially powerful basis. And these motherfuckers will come back and they are coming back and they may be coming back right now even harder. And so I want to talk about a few things.
In the issue of Revolution newspaper #274 (July 8, 2012), there is an article, it's two pages, it's kind of complex so people are going to have to read it carefully, maybe read it together and break it down. But what has happened in short is that there has been a court ruling on one of these very repressive bills by Obama and right in the middle of the ruling by the federal judge there is a statement that, number one, singles out BA by name and then totally mischaracterizes what he and the Party he leads is all about, in such a way that it could be misconstrued as "terrorist," and be wide open then for all kinds of repression both legal and extra legal. And this is very, very serious and this case is still in motion.
The next issue of the paper after this has a story about filing a brief in the court contesting this. But this has got to be fought in many ways. We cannot let this attack go down. We have to take the news that there could be something very bad brewing here, nobody knows where this is gonna go, we have to take this out to people. We have to take the offensive on this and not let it go where they, the ruling class, want it to go. Build up enough political opposition to tie their hands as best we can on this. And in the course of this, build up a sense that if you come after BA, if you come after this Party, you are going to have to come through the masses of people. Everybody out there says to us, right volunteers? They say those people on top are going to go after your leader. We can't let that go down. And the stopping of that begins now. It begins in taking on these kinds of attacks, taking them seriously and taking them on.
And it's not just that either. They go after the people who come forward as revolutionary fighters. And they go after the youth. And right now they are going after Noche Diaz in New York. Noche is somebody who walks on the people's neighborhood patrols, known in the community, to non-violently prevent illegal police abuse under color of authority, police abusive violence. He's been a leader in the whole thing that started here in New York that has actually raised up stop-and-frisk as a major issue in New York, a whole movement against stop-and-frisk. He's been a volunteer on the BAsics Bus Tour both in the South and up here in the deep North. He's been a volunteer in both places. He's a very partisan revolutionary fighter. They are going after him. They have five cases on him. This is one way they work, they pile on the so-called minor cases and then suddenly you're facing years. And what are they for? The one that he's going to be facing on Friday is that he watched these pigs as they stopped a motorist, cut off his seatbelt, pulled him out of the car and beat his ass. And they arrested the driver and they arrested people who were filming. And they arrested Noche for watching and saying that he had a legal right to observe it.
We can't let them go after young revolutionary fighters like that. We cannot let that happen. We cannot let this case—or any of the other cases he's facing—be a defeat because that's how they try to do it to you. They are doing this both to get rid of him, to get him off the streets. But they're also doing it to send a message and to intimidate masses of people. So we can't let that happen. There is an awful lot bound up in this. His trial date is Friday, right? It's 9 am at 161st and Concourse in the Bronx. Everybody should be there, write your friends about it. Let's pack that fucking courtroom and let's take it to the masses, tomorrow and Thursday and then on Friday. I know there are plans to do that, so let's carry that out. [Noche's case was continued until October.]
And let's understand what it means to live in times where history could be made. The more this line, the more this leadership, the more these ideas, these aspirations, these hopes, this strategy and this movement for revolution, the more that all this connects with people, the more that this movement is able to find the ways with all kinds of people to participate, the more that it is able to open its doors and let people in, the more this movement is able to do all that, the more they are going to come after this movement.
And that is how revolution gets made. It's in that back and forth. It's in that battle when they come at you and you come right back at them, politically right now, that the lines are drawn for people, that the issues are clarified, that the sides are lined up and that things are built to the point where one day when they face a crisis, and that creates a jolt in society, something big can happen. When not just thousands of people but millions of people begin raising their heads and wondering why is this happening, what's going to happen to us, what do we need to do about it. It's at that point when you can take things to another level. And if you have been fighting these battles, that we are into right now, in the way that I have been describing, then there is a chance... then there is a chance.
You know, this new issue of Revolution, #276 (July 29, 2012), has excerpts from a very important interview with Bob Avakian. It has a lot of important things in it and people have been quoting from it a lot. I saw the article Sunsara Taylor just wrote about "rape jokes" which quotes something from that interview. Well there is a whole spirit in the interview, where he says, we want to be right. But that's not enough; we have to win. So what we're about now, the battles we are waging now, everything that this is about, to come back when they repress people for just doing that—all that is the crucible where that ability is going to get forged.
So we're going to defend this Party. We're going to defend this extraordinary leader that we have and that we are lucky to be alive while he's around, that we are lucky to be a part of the whole project that he is leading and heading up. We are going to defend him. We are going to defend the fighters who come forward in this movement for revolution. And we are going to do this as we carry out the strategy for revolution, the strategy you can read about in BAsics in the Party's statement on strategy. Spreading this message all through society, rallying people to fight the power in different ways, organizing thousands of people to influence millions toward revolution today, and preparing the ground for the time when there is a revolutionary situation that does emerge—when the rulers are split amongst each other, when there is no clear path forward for them out of the crisis they face, when people in their tens of millions are lifting their heads and asking why, when there is a party that has established itself amongst masses of people and laid out a program that people are familiar with and can see as the way forward. At that point, to quote the statement on strategy, "those thousands can be a backbone and pivotal force in winning millions to revolution and organizing them in the struggle to carry the revolution through."
Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution!
1. BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, RCP Publications, 2011. [back]
2. Fred Hampton was a leader of the Black Panther Party in Chicago. On December 4, 1969, police invaded the apartment where he and other members of the BPP were staying, and murdered Hampton as he slept. [back]