Revolution #180, October 25, 2009

Carl Dix Campus Tour Kicks Off at Atlanta University Center

"From Buffalo Soldier to Revolutionary Communist"

From readers in Atlanta:

October 1 was a seemingly normal Thursday night at Clark Atlanta University [Clark AU], a campus in the complex of Historically Black Colleges in Atlanta that includes Spelman College and Morehouse College. It was Homecoming Week, with a hip-hop concert in the stadium and students gearing up for parties and the football game on the weekend. But something quite unique also took place that night on campus in the Thomas Cole Science and Research Center Auditorium—the kickoff event of Carl Dix's campus speaking tour, "From Buffalo Soldier to Revolutionary Communist."

Announcement flyers were leafleted broadly at Clark AU and the adjacent campuses for several weeks, along with the statement "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have." Professors from a number of campuses and departments, including History, Political Science, Philosophy, Religion, Women's Studies, Psychology, Media and English, had encouraged their students to attend, with some inviting Carl Dix into their classrooms in the days leading up to the event.

Carl Dix was also on the airwaves in Atlanta, including an interview on Clark AU's TV station and engaging with various radio audiences in promoting the tour—six shows on community radio station WRFG, with focuses ranging from revolutionary Black nationalism to the labor movement, LGBTQI [Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning and Intersex] to metaphysics to progressive news. WRFG also played an hour of the July 14, 2009 Cornel West/Carl Dix dialogue in Harlem during the prior week. Carl Dix was also interviewed on Derrick Boazman's Too Much Truth talk show on a mainstream Black radio station with a huge audience throughout the metro area. (Derrick Boazman is a very popular radio personality, community activist and former Atlanta City Councilperson.)

Another factor creating a buzz for the tour was an event held the week before at Georgia State University in downtown Atlanta, where 80 people packed a meeting room to watch the DVD of the Cornel West/Carl Dix dialogue.

The speaking event was hosted by the Political Science Department at Clark AU, and co-sponsored by the Ma'at chapter of the Groove Phi Groove fraternity at Morehouse. The president of the chapter, Cory Farmer, co-moderated and greeted the crowd of 125 people by saying, "The Ma'at chapter stood in solidarity with the RCP on this because I feel as though a lot of times within our campus environment revolutionary discourse is shunned, and me being a representative of an organization that likes to challenge all the hegemony of all of these forces working against us, I feel this would be a good time to come together and look at the different possibilities we have for our future."

The crowd was predominantly students, from Clark, Spelman and Morehouse, as well as some from Georgia State. Several professors attended, and a good number of people came from the broader community, directly off of the radio interviews. While the auditorium was not totally packed as had been hoped, a number of people, including professors, commented that it was a great turnout for an event like this on campus, and more than they expected.

Carl Dix gave a half-hour presentation, followed by an hour and a half of Q&A with the audience. He started by explaining what the title of his presentation was all about, breaking down the myth that being a Buffalo Soldier was something to be proud of. When Black soldiers fought in the Civil War to end slavery, that was a great thing in the interests of Black people and humanity, but when they stayed on in the military and were sent to fight in the "Indian Wars" in the West, they had no business killing other oppressed people for the system—and that is exactly the same thing that the U.S. government wanted him to do when they drafted him to fight in Vietnam. He told his compelling story of how he came to the decision to refuse to go to Vietnam, and how he spent his tour in Leavenworth military prison. He said that taking this step was what eventually led him to becoming a revolutionary and a communist, a path he is still on today. He talked about how his story is applicable right now, with the wars for empire the U.S. is fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Obama's appeal to Black youth to fight in these wars—that it was wrong to fight in the war for empire in Vietnam, and it is wrong today. He went on to talk about the need for revolution to get rid of the system that exploits and oppresses the great majority of humanity, and what the revolutions in Russia and China accomplished. He introduced the audience to Bob Avakian's path-breaking work on communism, the need to build a revolutionary movement now with an expanding core, and the importance of resistance, and particularly making a leap in resistance against police brutality on October 22. He wound it up by pointing to the crucial role of intellectuals and the need to break open the discourse and ferment on the campuses, to spark critical thinking throughout society about the state of the world and the needs of humanity.

The Q&A

The Q&A was both deep and wide-ranging. People spoke from the mic and submitted written questions on cards, and there were far too many to cover. The first question was from a Spelman student who wanted to know, "Would communism create a classless society? I learned in a college course that it is theoretically possible to eliminate race if classes were abolished. What are your thoughts on how economic factors play a role in racial and cultural separation and how people might respond when faced with a new social order?" Another questioner said that while he was for revolution, his understanding of past revolutions was that the rich had to be coerced to give their property to the poor because they wouldn't do it voluntarily, and in a country like the U.S., with such a large section of privileged people, how would that work? To illustrate his point, he asked the audience, "How many people have cars?" Lots of people raised their hands, and then he asked, "How many of you would give up your car to help people out?" and, to his surprise, just as many people raised their hands! He responded by saying, "Wow, that is a lot more people than I expected." Carl Dix then got into why so many people have cars, that widespread mass transit is not profitable under this system, despite the destruction to the environment. People clapped. He explained that the approach of the revolution wouldn't be to just take cars away, but to put to the people the question of how to protect the environment and deal with the transportation system in that context.

One of the written questions asked, "The USA looks like they are gearing up to strike Iran, with the same premise they had in Iraq, (WMD,s Global threat), how can we combat this?" Others included: "What role would spirituality play in the revolution?" "The word communism has a very strong connotation outside of its definition. Is calling the revolution a communist one going to impact the general understanding of what the revolution really is about?" "Why should Black people be a part of another movement? Like the women's movement and the voting rights movement, Black people's numbers were used until the majority got what they wanted and Blacks were again left marginalized." A student dressed in military fatigues argued that it was important for Black people to be represented at all levels in the U.S. military to establish legitimacy of Black people in society. A middle-aged Black woman asked if the revolution was only seeking oppressed Black people, because she was a successful small businesswoman and wanted to know if there was a place for her in the revolution. And an intense small debate broke out outside the auditorium as people were leaving, on Cuba's role in Africa vs. China's role under Mao.

Continuing the Dialogue

At the close of the event, people surrounded Carl Dix to meet him, introduce themselves and continue the dialogue. On the way out, many commented that this type of event was greatly needed and should be spread. Several groups of students expressed that "We came here because our professor offered us extra credit, and we thought it was going to be boring, but it actually was really good and interesting." Others said that Carl Dix's perspective was totally new to them, and they learned a lot with new information they had never heard before. Some older people who had come from hearing about it on the radio said they agreed with most of what Carl Dix had to say, were impressed that there were so many students there and glad the students were exposed to these ideas, but dismayed by the low level of understanding among the students.

A striking aspect of the launching of this speaking tour was the openness and support among professors. With varying levels of personal agreement or disagreement with Carl Dix's message, many showed enthusiasm for this kind of discourse and took initiative in the interest of providing students an opportunity to be exposed to an ideology that challenges their basic assumptions. As one professor who attended the event put it afterward, "This is exactly what the university experience should be providing for students. We should be bringing world-class physicists to campus, as well as world-class revolutionaries, like Carl Dix."

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