Revolution #178, October 4, 2009
Spreading Revolution and Communism
Taking Revolution and Communism to the Campus
Readers of Revolution will find eye-opening, thought-provoking, and often surprising experiences, inspiration and insights from readers at the “Spreading Revolution & Communism” section at revcom.us. Recent posts include a report on a celebration (in Spanish) of the publication of a Spanish edition of Bob Avakian’s book, Away With All Gods!… a letter on revolutionary exercise at a Curves gym… and correspondence from readers on watching Bob Avakian’s film, now online, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About … Several substantial letters share experiences taking out “The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have, A Message, and A Call, from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA” (Revolution, #170, July 19, 2009) at venues ranging from the inner city street corners and high schools, to the Warped Tour. Following is an excerpt from a posting describing experiences spreading revolution and communism at a university.
From “Taking Revolution to the Campuses” (posted September 13, 2009)
…One of these students gives the example: “How many movies have you seen, or cards or commercials, where the image of ‘love’ is depicted by two lovers running towards each other on a beach?” But then, he goes on to explain, that idea of love that everyone is raised on doesn’t really correspond to how people really experience love in their lives. And it is this gap between the ideal and the reality that causes people to feel anguish and suffer.
I tell him that not only do I think he is grappling with something important, but that I think it is extremely important that he is striving to get to the root of the problems, not just dealing with things on the surface. But then, I go on to explain that while it is true that there often is a gap between societal ideals and what people’s real lives are and that this can be a source of suffering, that there are much deeper and more defining contradictions than this. For instance, I pose to him, why are the societal norms (or “ideals” as he put it) what they are in the first place? Why, for instance, was it considered “ideal” for whole sections of white people to become slave-owners and plantation-owners at a certain point in this country’s history? And why did that “ideal” change? Further, even when that was the ideal, the real problem was not that there was a gap between that “ideal” and the reality of many white people’s lives—it was the system of slavery itself that gave rise to that ideal that was the problem.
The guy listened really intently and asked for clarification at several points. Then he made clear that he thought slavery was a true horror, but that perhaps I wasn’t seeing that, “People create systems like slavery, or launch wars, or do other destructive things because they are unhappy because they cannot achieve an ideal that is defined by society rather than just being defined in relationship to themselves only.”
I wanted to make clearer that he was getting these two things inverted (that really the “ideals” of any society and the gap between those ideals and most people’s lives, flow from and are shaped by what kind of system there is, not the other way around). And the more he laid out his thinking, the more it got me thinking further, so I gave a different example. I told him that sometimes what is considered “ideal” changes, including sometimes people fight to change this and sometimes the projection of new ideals does not add to people’s suffering, but helps to uproot it. I gave him the example of the Model Operas that were developed and performed during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. In particular, I focused on how women were portrayed in those works—as strong revolutionary fighters and leaders. For a country that was coming out of hundreds of years of feudalism where women were viewed as less than human, these new ideals—together with the new revolutionary society that corresponded to those ideals—were part of enabling women to be free in ways before unimagined.
He paused for a moment as he considered what I was saying and he said he’d never heard anything positive about the revolution in China. So we talked for a while about what this revolution was and how it changed things for a billion people. And we got into how that revolution was reversed in 1976, to make clear that we are NOT upholding the kind of “sweatshop of the world with pockets of obscene wealth” that China is today. I told him that this experience was the most liberating humanity has seen yet and he has to find out the truth about this that has been kept from him. Then I told him about how Bob Avakian has deeply summed up the experience of this and other revolutions —both the tremendous achievements and the shortcomings, as well as broader spheres of human endeavor—and advanced the science of revolution.
My statement that revolution and communism are a science brought out a whole new host of questions and controversies with him. He brought out questions about early childhood development, about how it is that young people get the message about what it means to be human or to experience different emotions. He wondered whether we are really in a position to say that the girl in the battery factory in Bangladesh is really unhappy if that is all she has known and maybe we are just imposing our own “ideals” on her. I told him this was completely outrageous and told him that, while it is the case that you will put up with a lot of horrors if you don’t think anything else is possible, it is not the case that any humans find it to be fulfilling to have to send their children into dark and dangerous slave-like work conditions or watch them starve to death. I went further and talked about how many people we’d met over the summer out in the ghettos and barrios who had looked at the picture of a Black man being brutalized by the police and said, “That’s what they do to us.” During all this I was rather sharp, not unfriendly, but I challenged him to really confront the implications of what he was saying.
From here, he disagreed when I said that the conditions the majority of humanity is locked in are truly oppressive, degrading and squandering of human potential and happiness. He said that may be my opinion, but there is no such thing as an objective way to evaluate the conditions of humanity. So, I responded by starting with a basic fact: there are approximately 6.3 billion people on this planet. He acknowledged this. Over 2 billion live on less than two dollars a day. He agreed. In 28 countries there have been food riots in the last year and a half. True, again, he agreed. Many of these countries actually were food-producing countries and had plenty of food but wouldn’t give that food to their people because it was for export in an imperialist-dominated global economy. Here, he seemed at first like he was starting to get uncomfortable. Then, he said, “Okay, I get what you are saying. Those things are mathematically true.” So we continued, at each step I would take him deeper into what causes all this to be the case—and at each point I made him acknowledge that my statements were of the type that could be verified by examining reality.
This last discussion, about whether objective reality actually exists and, further, whether we can understand it scientifically has proven to be a big recurring theme among many students. One big way this has come up is that over and over again we have struggled with students that there is a relationship between understanding why the world is as it is and figuring out how it can be changed. That communism is not just “our thing” that we want to convince people of—or that they should wish us luck with. But, that there is only one way to liberate humanity —communist revolution—and this is a statement they cannot dismiss because it sounds “dictatorial” of us to insist that only we have the answer. Instead, they have to actually examine what we are saying and hold it up against the real world—not in a simplistic or superficial way, but in a scientific way.
We went back and forth on this for a while and you could tell that this guy was enjoying the exchange as much as I was, and that he was coming at it from a genuine place of concern for humanity and the planet. In the meantime, many new people had been passing through and now several stopped near the table. He gave a donation for the paper and his phone number and email and hung around listening for a little while longer as I began to talk with the others...
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