Revolution Online Edition, September 14, 2009
Bringing Revolution to the Campus...
Revolution received the following correspondence:
Guided by the overall orientation in the editorial in Revolution #174, "Bringing Revolution to the Campuses," we got an initial buzz and had an initial, but real, impact this week out at a local campus. Through summation and struggle we were able to do better as we went along and were able to carry out some important new things.
The editorial talked about saturation and blanketing with the statement, while, "at the same time, there should be consistent and high profile open-air distribution/agitation sites..." We did both but we were limited in our ability to have a bigger impact and create a much larger buzz because the team required further struggle in regards to "on the spot" organizing of the students to get out the statement with us, to take stacks to their dorms and classes and to struggle with students "to understand why this matters to prying open the possibilities and ferment over real revolution in these intolerable times." In other words, we summed up the first day that we need to further rupture with an approach of simply "meeting radical-minded students" and not aiming to "radically transforming the life of the campuses as a whole." As we summed this up, we were able to make ground in both meeting and organizing people and in creating a buzz in the atmosphere that the "revolutionaries are here" and they are saying, "you've been lied to about socialism and communism!"
Our open air distribution/agitation site had a large display of the statement, another display with the words: you've been lied to about socialism and communism, a banner with the title of the statement; and (on two days that first week) near our distribution/agitation spot we also set up the projector with the Revolution talk DVD playing on the wall and it was pretty loud. (Next to the projector we had the large banner which clearly displayed Bob Avakian as the speaker in the film.) This created a whole scene where hundreds of students after class would walk by and get the palm card and others would stop and check it out. And just nearby we were agitating around the statement and getting it out (and sending students to walk over to watch the DVD on the wall). So, I thought this was new, getting creative in terms of creating a buzz and an impact, where we are making Bob Avakian a "household word" and many are starting to ask who he is and those who have heard the name are stopping and asking questions (one person, a movement type, stopped and said, "I recognize that voice, I was hearing it yesterday on the radio" and a professor also said, "Is that Bob Avakian's voice I hear?" as she passed the film being played on the wall).
In aiming for saturation, we got out a little over 2000 flyers of the statement and 800 Revolution talk palm cards in total for both days and about 130 copies of Revolution newspaper. And it had an impact in drawing people out, even though more needs to be done to really saturate the campus. There were several instances where people got the flyer the evening before (on their car window for example) or earlier in the day and then came back and looked for us to find out more and (in at least one case) one young student came and said: "sign me up!" So, it seemed at some point we started to get that initial buzz and atmosphere where people were getting the flyer on their car window and hearing/watching Bob Avakian being projected on the wall, coming across the posters on the bulletin boards or running into our agitation/distribution spot and checking it out.
The student who said "sign me up" had gotten the flyer in the late morning and came to talk to us in the afternoon after he read it. He considers himself a socialist and wanted to find out more about our organization. He said his Dad used to be part of the CP in Mexico in the 70's. He said the statement struck a cord with him; that he agreed that the situation cries out for revolution, had not heard about Bob Avakian. So, we talked about this and he ended up taking posters for the Revolution talk DVD and he said, "I'll put them up on Monday in places that have been ripped down so more people can find out about him." He had no money then and had to leave for work he was starting that day, but asked, "Is there a limit to contributing to this organization?" So, we talked about fundraising (including struggling with him on contributing financially to this and not something else that's reformist even if well intentioned like Doctors Without Borders).
We also met this other Latino student who had met us somewhere else a while ago and had bought Away With All Gods! We challenged him to get with this. He said he's an atheist and liked what he had read so far in the book. He connected with the part around what the system does to the youth in the statement; he said his younger brother is in jail for some "bullshit" and that so many young people get caught up in bullshit but it's not their fault. He said, according to statistics, "I should also be in jail" but "I'm lucky I'm here" and was trying to figure out how to help his brother. He asked about the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund and about sending his brother the Away With All Gods! book in jail. We talked to him about getting a whole thing going on the campus.
We met a young woman student who recognized the statement because she had seen us in the projects a few weeks back and had gotten the newspaper. She remembers hearing the statement and agreeing with it but she thought Joe Veale's voice was the voice of MLK! So, we played it for her again and told her what this was and what it was all about. She also liked the part on the youth and agreed with much of it. She had read the article in Revolution newspaper about the racist arrest of Henry Louis Gates. She seemed new, did not know too much about socialism and communism, but was open to becoming a part of this.
There are more stories but I wanted to highlight these people we made contact with, and also our experience shows how the message and call—and Bob Avakian—are starting to get out there in society (not just on campus) on some level and something we need to build on and make further leaps on.
We also got some back and forth with the reactionaries. At one point we had a student wearing a "Jewish Defense League" shirt and so we got a debate going but in the main they didn't come out and get loud—at least not yet. We should probably have a sign that calls on people to debate us and to try to refute us...and to the revolutionary students—to join us and to sign up here! (The Libertarians had a table out on Thursday and had a sign that said: "Libertarians and Conservatives Sign Up!") I do think our "You've Been Lied To..." display did play a role in the buzz and made people do a "double take" and we should continue to use it.
A few patterns we noticed: there were a number of students that came up and said they considered themselves socialists. I think we need the stickers that explains what socialism is because some who said this were coming at it from the point of view that Obama is a "socialist" and others were more "democratic socialists" so we have to make sure that we clear up any confusion on this and not assume we are talking about the same "socialism." I was watching Glenn Beck today and he had Horowitz on the show attacking Obama as a "socialist" and saying the Democratic Party has been taken over by "communists"! I wonder how much this is related to students saying they're socialists. We should keep our ears open in regards to this and speak to it more sharply.
We also ran into a number of sociology and film students that came to the table to get literature and papers. (We had put up posters on bulletin boards in those departments.) One film student had gotten the flyer the night before (on her car window) and came to the table and ended up buying the Manifesto [Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage] from the Revolutionary Communist Party. She said she had read the original Communist Manifesto by Karl Marx and wanted to know what the new one was all about. She was open, but also a feminist and has a different idea of what the problem and solution to this society is, but was supportive.
Week 2 at the same campus:
On the Spot Organizing
One important development since last week's experience was that at least 4 students joined us in distributing the short version of the "Revolution We Need... the Leadership We Have" flyer to other students on campus. We were trying to sum up and proceed with the orientation that people don't have to be in 100% agreement with all of it to join in the effort of putting this on the map (even while they grapple with and as a part of sharpening the questions up for themselves). In the editorial on "Bringing the Revolution to Campuses" it makes the point that students should see why getting this out is an important part of breaking things open on the question of revolution and possibilities. The students who joined us varied in their understanding and agreement and came at it from different places, but felt this was important to get out to students for this reason. One young Salvadoran student joined us for a short time because she liked what we were saying; but part of what was driving her also was the fact that she wanted to see our literature that spoke positively "about communism" circulating more on the campus than the "fascist" literature (as she called them) of the "libertarians and conservatives" and the "La Rouche-nuts." Then there was another student who went to the bookstore and recent fund-raising picnic for Revolution newspaper with his girlfriend who joined us for about 30 minutes (after hanging out around the table and talking for an hour) to distribute the message and call. Even though he tried to engage people he mainly passed out the flyer and the palm card and did a good job at going up to everyone. He commented it was a good thing that people had said they had already gotten the flyer before. We seized on this to draw him out more on his thinking on the statement and our aims and objectives with this campaign. We talked about how it is important to hear and learn more from students who had already gotten it –we wanted both comments and disagreements. He said he personally agreed with the thrust of the statement and liked the beginning indictment of capitalism and imperialism and the need to tell people the truth. We learned that one of the things compelling him was the need to want to "educate young people" to make better "choices" (or the correct one) instead of what happened to him as a younger man who didn't know about "another choice" and ended up in the military. He remembered how he once was pumped up about fighting the so-called "terrorists," which he realizes now was "all lies." He got injured; we're not clear on whether he went overseas or not. Regarding the special high school issue he wanted to take it out to his former high school (in a more Latino and poorer area of a suburb) where he feels students are faced with the same decisions to make and feels that access to this newspaper issue will help them make the "right choice." So, this was, in part, where he was coming from and what was motivating him. He's also starting to grapple with Bob Avakian. He has been posing the question of wanting to know more about why the promoting of Bob Avakian is a key part of what we are doing. We told him this is the question we want millions more asking themselves and getting an answer to. And if this happens it could potentially have a big impact on the political terrain in terms of the thinking of millions of people and how they see the possibility of a better world, what they are willing to do and doing what needs to be done now in preparation for when it is time to go all out for revolution and state power.
Then there were students who this week (and last week) took small stacks of flyers to distribute (including to get out in the dorms). A young woman who sat in on a discussion around Away With All Gods at a high school near another major university where we've spoken in the past and is now a freshman in college took a stack of the short version of the message and call to distribute to one of her political science classes. Before we mentioned it, she had already decided to do that on her own to help spread the word.
Like we summed up from last week, we are on the map to some degree on the campus. We are running into people who have read the flyer and a small (but important to note) handful who have begun to watch the Revolution talk online because they got the palm card (or heard the agitation on the bullhorn or saw a short clip of it when we were projecting it on the wall) last week. One white foreign student had gotten the palm card last week and went to check it out online and came back this week to talk about it. He introduced himself and told us he was happy to see us on campus. Before we knew that he had seen the Revolution talk we spoke about the campaign around the statement. He said he agreed with what we have said so far but thought that revolution was not possible in the U.S. but it would be possible in the "third world"; he talked about Belize where, "people are living in socialist ways working the land and getting back what they need in order to survive." We got into the aims of this revolution—to emancipate humanity and to bring into being a communist world. We read from the statement "the ultimate goal of this revolution is communism..." not just providing people with basic needs as many people tend to perceive this from the lens of Cuba. This revolution is about more than that: yes, it is about overcoming the wounds and scars of the past, but it is also about bringing the masses forward with the knowledge and means for really understanding, and acting to change the world. He followed this up with, "I'm with you so far but how do you intend to make this revolution when this system is very powerful." We asked him to think about that as we read the section in the statement that got at the heart of his question around the strategy we have to make that revolution. We also handed him the Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, which he didn't buy, but we did get to talk about it. We talked about the "the long darkness, the scientific basis and political and ideological questions confronting this revolution," and particularly, we raised the importance of a recent polemic against Alain Badiou. That got his attention because of how we were comparing and contrasting the two lines.
Having an impact on those who are attracted in different ways to the Message and Call:
Another student (who joined in and got flyers out with us and also donated $20) is someone who is grappling with some of the bigger questions and being challenged by what is being brought to them. In other words, what we are unleashing on campus is having an effect and an impact on those gravitating to revolution and we shouldn't overlook that. Even though this is a beginning and more work needs to be done to fully break things open broadly on campus. This student in particular seemed to be saying the following: "before I ran into the revolutionaries I was just going along with things and I had no idea there was something like this and now that I met this movement I like it and I have questions." In other words, he's starting to re-evaluate what it is that he's doing with his life up until now and it seems to us is thinking about how to relate to this revolutionary movement and organization and leader. He made the point that he agrees that this "for profit" system is fucked up and he was asking questions in regards to what happens after the revolution and what will this new society look like, to which we highlighted the excerpts from the Revolution talk in issue #176: "Imagine What the Future World Can and Will Be Like." In part, this question is coming from the fact that in the short time he got flyers out with us he was asked some of these questions about socialism and communism (and because he has these questions and is trying to work through this). So, I think this "living a life with meaning" and the quote from Bob Avakian in issue #176 about your life will be worth something or nothing is something that students who are honestly and seriously engaging this (or are more rapidly attracted to this on some level) are coming up against right away and are trying to answer—and we need to help them answer this as we go out there and continue to change the world!
Being bold, breaking with old routines, doing new things
There has to be an edge to what we're bringing that'll attract the advanced and infuriate the opposition (reactionaries and "liberal" anti-communists). Some of the things we did this week (along with showing the Revolution talk on the wall of a building on campus last week) were important. For example, we did some agitation on the bullhorn that worked well, especially when there was a mass of students going to class and they would pass by the agitation/distribution spot. And, so far we've had some freedom on the campus in terms of sound. The big visuals (banner with the title of statement, the placard that said "you've been lied to...," and a few other things) and the bullhorn helped us sharpen things up for the students, including the points in the "Bringing Revolution to the Campuses" editorial where it talks about how students have played a catalytic role but right now they are not and that needs to change. We also challenged students to see that they've been "lied to," that there is no alternative to capitalism because the reality is that we have done this before and we can do it again and even better because of the leadership of Bob Avakian. It seemed that many took the flyers and came up to the table when the agitation was connecting. More students wanting to know why we think they have been lied to about communism. One person said that the only other thing on campus that has gotten attention as much as we have has been the Christian fascist nut that once a semester comes with a really big sign saying homosexuality is a sin, etc, etc. So, this is interesting because it tells you that all other trends have "collapsed" and that most of what you got out there are tables from libertarians and conservatives and "La Rouche-ites" and the only thing causing noise in a provocative (and reactionary way) is the Christian fascist guy. So, there seems to be a thirst for something revolutionary and bold like what we are bringing in the style of "being completely outrageous and eminently reasonable" and attracting students who want to see this get out there and want to be a part of getting it out there. There is a need to systematically work with people we are meeting through this process and bring them around the Party.
We are beginning to attract more of these questions from both honest people and others, including reactionaries. A 17-year-old student (in college already) said she read Animal Farm by George Orwell, and that made her question communism and whether it could work. She also posed a question in regards to the "gulags" and whether, for example, someone like her father (who is libertarian) would be jailed for disagreeing with communism. In this we used Avakian's interview on the Michael Slate radio show where he discusses Stalin and also Raymond Lotta's article which responds to the New Yorker article about how intellectuals and artists back then were seduced by Mao but now "we know better." ["The New Yorker, Mao, and Twisting the Numbers"] These are important articles to read and use and they provide a basic orientation and method for getting into these questions. Otherwise you'll get drawn into a whole discussion about "numbers" killed on their terms based on lies and slanders and with no context. There was a white Christian student who had a worked out thing on Mao and Stalin and on his lap top had a page on Stalin ready with numbers and figures about how many died in the gulags and "labor camps." This student wanted to get into the numbers of people that Mao and Stalin killed—under Mao it was between "15-60 million" and under Stalin it was some other bigger number. And he was also putting forward that communism was the same as nazism and this was ridiculous! In a discussion with Raymond Lotta, some important points were made about the numbers and gulags and the "labor camps" and it would be good to return to these with everyone going to the campuses since this is bound to come up more by both friend and foe.
In the Dorms
Another new thing we did was to go to the dorms on this campus. There we talked with a group of Black students (some of them had seen us earlier so when they saw us again they said, "Oh, yeah, the communists!") The person who talked to them summed up that they were open to the question of revolution; apparently they said something to the effect of: "Yeah, we're down with revolution, but what do we do now?" From this we were grappling with how to make the "revolution REAL" as it says on the front page of the special high school/middle school issue #176. How to make it real on the spot. In other words, when they see us, they need to see the revolutionaries who are against all this bullshit (including police murder and brutality) and we are taking this shit on as a part of making revolution (and not reform). Even as they are grappling with communism and revolution, we need to be fighting the power and they need to become a part of that right now. We need to discuss the point on the back page of that issue about how the time should be long past when they can keep doing what they are doing and the masses are not organized and inspired to put a stop to this.
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