Revolution #171, August 2, 2009

Los Angeles – A Revolutionary Internationalist July 4th

Dear Revolution,

Nearly 100 people gathered in a multinational neighborhood in LA for a July 4th picnic to raise funds for Revolution newspaper, as part of further forging the revolutionary movement. The theme, “Stop Thinking Like Americans! Start Thinking about Humanity!” was a magnet to many (and an outrage to others). For example, a few days before the picnic, a woman at a concert at the Santa Monica Pier read the statement from Bob Avakian in the centerfold of the paper about “If you can conceive of a world without America”, and said, “Yes! We need proletarian internationalism!”, gave $100 and got 5 picnic tickets on the spot. Another woman called Libros Revolucion and said that of all the choices on July 4th, she wanted to be with the people who are thinking about humanity.

The crowd was extremely diverse – lots of proletarians and young people from different areas of the city, college students, middle class professionals, and family members of comrades. One very important component were people from other parts of the world, including a core of Iranians who have been actively taking revolutionary politics to the almost daily demonstrations in support of the anti-government protests and street fighting in Iran. What united us all, on one level or another, was valuing the importance of Revolution. We came together to share a day of fun and relaxation, but also high revolutionary spirits and discussion with others who want a whole different world.

Our plan was to build for this picnic in a way that would expand the newspaper’s ties and influence, to unleash many more people to take responsibility for increasing the reach of the newspaper and to take responsibility for the fund raising needs that go together with that. There was some struggle among ourselves and with supporters about whether this was just going to be a nice day in the park, or if it made a difference if a significant group came together on the 4th to build this movement around the newspaper and raise the sustained financial support that’s needed. Many leaflets were distributed throughout the city, posters went up in key neighborhoods, and the picnic was announced on Michael Slate’s show on Pacifica radio station KPFK. A number of people carved out time to phone and email hundreds of people that have gotten the paper or otherwise have made contact with the revolutionary movement in the past year.

There were a number of ways that people contributed to the success of the picnic. We took the centerfold of the newspaper and the picnic flyer to businesses and got food donations from several Iranian businesses, produce from Latino and Chicano shopkeepers, as well as donations from individuals. Four supporters took initiative to get the food together – though in retrospect, we should have put a lot more emphasis on unleashing all kinds of people to contribute.

The program had some real quality. Many people were moved by the personal statements from several supporters who attended who spoke to how this newspaper has changed their understanding, their outlook, and/or their lives. Two young people read Joe Veale’s letter that had been printed on the back page of the paper about how he became a revolutionary in prison and why he called on people to contribute to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund. We also enjoyed the reading of a new poem called “What Is the Sound of an American Flag Burning?”

The testimonials about the newspaper were heartfelt and had a real impact on others. When one young supporter was asked to read Joe Veale’s statement at the picnic, she said it was a powerful piece, and loved the “Athenian deconstruction”. A young Latina we met at the LA Times Festival of Books said that she really related to one speech (about a father wanting to send shoes to Mexico to help the poor and the daughter’s struggle with him over giving it to revolution) and that she’s “one of those people” who want to give shoes to the poor, but she’s also realizing that we need revolution. She, like some other young people there, seem to be at a crossroads of what to give their lives to. Another young person said that he was agonizing over getting involved full-time in the revolutionary movement, but not feeling ready to make that leap. Yet another discussion was about Away with All Gods and the Declaration around fighting women’s oppression, and when a student said that “it was cool” how we knew all this, it was raised that “anybody can learn these things and through that build resistance against the shit that people go through.” The kind of communist work that we do with these people and others can be decisive in solidifying some cores around this revolutionary movement.

We raised nearly $1,000. Several Latino immigrant proletarians pledged to give additional money on a monthly basis. 20 t-shirts with the beautiful Revolution masthead in English and Spanish were sold with proceeds to go to the newspaper’s fund drive. And orders were taken for 5 photos at $25 each of struggles from the 1960’s by a photographer who is donating his prints for the fund drive. (An important suggestion was made by a newer supporter on her two-hour drive home. She thought that we should have had small group discussions after the program to solidify fundraising plans. We didn’t do that then, so we have some catching up to do.)

There was definitely motion and development off of the picnic. One of the people told the audience that he didn’t feel comfortable speaking in front of a crowd (“I’m shaking”), but felt that it was too important not to step up to the challenge. One of the points he made was how the paper shows how different class forces are trying to remake society in their image and how this applies to what’s going on in Iran. Another supporter said he should have spoken up about how he eagerly awaits the Party’s analysis of world events through the newspaper and then challenged others to become sustainers. Some people made commitments to begin monthly sustainers, to translate, distribute, or in some ways work with the newspaper. And this picnic laid the basis for going back to people who came and others who didn’t to expand the base of people sustaining the paper.

A woman we met at the Iran demos had gotten a $5 trial sub, then changed it to a $50 year-long sub after hearing a supporter speak about the importance this paper has to people internationally. A college student who is very new to communism was inspired to get a year’s sub at the picnic. An unemployed activist bought a 6-month sub; he is someone who through listening to Avakian’s 7 Talks, sees that the Chairman grasps the complexity involved in carrying the struggle through to socialism from many different angles. An older woman who came with her husband bought a trial sub; they had attended a recent bookstore program around torture and have a deep hatred for the direction that society has gone, but are also cynical about Americans changing. A number of newspapers were bought by passersby who were very attracted to the banners and large newspaper displays set up around the perimeter of our canopies and tables.

The picnic was marked by all kinds of lively and intense discussions over overflowing plates of food, and there were some borders broken down between nationalities, ages, classes. For example, Joe Veale sat down with a white professional couple and told them about how the Revolutionary Union (precursor to the RCP, USA) challenged him, unlike other groups that tailed him. Several people spoke about how they have been looking for an organization and are very happy to have found us. These are not isolated incidents. This reveals the basis for fighting through to reach our goals for this sustainer fund drive, and this picnic was an important step in getting there. The challenge now is to harvest and unleash the potential that began to take shape. 

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