Revolution #171, August 2, 2009

From a Reader

Building a Serious Movement for Revolution

Dear Revolution,

In taking up and spreading this message, “the revolution we need ... the leadership we have” I’ve learned about some positive experience in fund-raising and organizing I wanted to share.

To put it sharply, you are not serious about fundamentally changing the world if you are not organizing people into the revolutionary movement. And while that takes all kinds of forms, people broadly and on different levels, contributing and raising funds for projects that advance the revolution is a tremendously important and needed expression of conscious support for and participation in this revolution.

Nothing we are setting out to accomplish will be possible without this.

First, in the run-up to this campaign, there was a well-planned and organized anti-July 4th picnic in a neighborhood where the revolutionaries had been doing distribution of Revolution newspaper for a few months. The picnic was focused around building a sustainer network for the newspaper in this neighborhood. In all, about 75 people from different nationalities came throughout the day.

They built for this by going out with enlarged centerfolds and pages from Revolution, playing music and selling copies of Revolution. They had organizing meetings to plan for it where they struggled over the basis and need for people, including people with very little means, to contribute to Revolution. They talked about the role of Revolution in being the organizational and political foundation and scaffolding of this revolutionary movement. The spreading of this newspaper is the responsibility of anyone who wants to see a different world, and while different people can give on different levels, giving and raising money for Revolution is an opportunity to participate in the revolution in an absolutely essential way.

They also struggled over the content of the program at the picnic itself—that the culture couldn’t be degrading towards women, play on the contradiction between Blacks or Latinos or uphold the “gang mentality” of being out to get me and mine. Importantly, they set goals for this few weeks of work: 15 sustainers amounting to $150 per month to go towards Revolution newspaper. They were able to get 13 sustainers amounting to $185 per month. Half of these were pledges, and there was an immediate plan to follow up on that.

At the picnic itself, along with a showing of part of the filmed talk by Bob Avakian, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, there were testimonials from three people about what they think of this newspaper and why others should be part of sustaining it. One person the organizers met recently had spent time in prison where he was influenced by revolutionary nationalists from the ’60s. He committed to sustain Revolution at $20 per month and said the following, “The revolution is about raising the consciousness of the masses about the oppression and injustice—not just their own, but worldwide. That is the purpose of a vanguard—to be the voice of the people. Fighting for justice as well as revolution—to replace this capitalist government that constantly oppresses our brothers and sisters. A revolutionary realizes that to struggle is to go the long distance … to win is not caring how far to go.”

A homeless man pledged to raise $10 per month for Revolution by washing cars and he went around helping collect funds from others at the picnic. Someone else had an idea for a youth basketball tournament to raise funds. In addition to the sustainers mentioned above, $405 was collected. The bulk of this was from one section of immigrants, but they also raised smaller amounts from passing around the fund-raising bucket.

You see in this picnic, and the work around it, how fund-raising for Revolution newspaper is a concrete part of building a base of support—politically and organizationally—in an ongoing way on a revolutionary basis.

The second example I heard about was in relation to a more major fund-raising event for the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund. Going into the event, people made a plan to be freed up the day after so they could move in real time to learn about who came and to get back to people. At the event itself, lots of people gave their names—both to contribute money but also just to be contacted. This happens all the time. But this time, instead of waiting several days to get back to them, or just entering their name into a database, someone did a little bit of research on who these people were and they were gotten back to immediately. The revolutionaries were able to learn what people thought of the event, they learned more about the kinds of people who attended and were able to set up several meetings just a couple days after. Also, people appreciated hearing back right away.

A lot of times people will go to an event and be moved and even shook by what they learned and the challenge posed to them, but it doesn’t end up going anywhere and it just becomes something they went to and they’re on to the next thing. If we’re following up with people immediately it both builds on whatever they were just impacted by and what compelled them to contribute or give you their name in the first place, and it lets them know we’re serious about bringing them into this revolution—on whatever level they’re ready to throw in.

My last thought in this was from experience of being out on the street with this new message and call from the RCP. We were making a big splash with this, marching with big red flags and bringing a real sense that “the revolutionaries are here!” This was great fun and got a lot of attention. But when we stopped to talk to people more one on one, sometimes we ended up spending more time with the people who were less interested or had more backward arguments and less with people who wanted to get a copy of the statement right away. (Don’t get me wrong, we should sharply and substantively answer people’s backward shit, but it’s not where we should be spending the bulk of our time.) I think part of this has to do with the fact that sometimes it can be more challenging to deepen the engagement with people who are more readily open to discussing revolution. The questions are often more complicated and deeper. And it puts it on us to challenge people to get with the revolution. There’s a tremendous amount in this message to wield with people—but we have to put that to people, “it’s up to us to get with it and get to the challenge of making this happen.”

We should get into this on the spot: the people themselves have to be taking responsibility for the revolution—engaging it, spreading it and funding the projects that advance it.

And those of us at the core of these efforts have to be oriented and organized to both put this challenge to people and find the ways for them to take up these needs. (I heard one idea that if teams with this message are out on the street and someone gives you their contact info, you should text or email them right on the spot, log in if they bought a bundle, how much they gave and where they’re planning to distribute it.) And again, you’re just not serious if you don’t follow this all the way through, with deepening struggle and engagement.

My final point—along with the content of the message itself, we should be talking to people about the goals of this campaign and what that has to do with making revolution. The three objectives laid out in last week’s editorial (making THIS revolution known throughout society, having Bob Avakian become a household word, and drawing forward a core of people who are on a mission to go out and fight for this line, struggling for communism and becoming communists themselves). We have to get into all this with people—how we see these three interrelated objectives as key to breaking out of the suppression and suffocation gripping society, key to building a serious movement for revolution. And we need to enlist their participation, thinking and financial contributions to make this happen!

I look forward to sharing more with you soon, and reading correspondence from others in the pages of Revolution.

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