Revolution #205, June 27, 2010
Speech on 2nd Day at May 29-30 Conferences on the Campaign, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have"
Nearly a year ago, the RCP, USA launched a campaign around "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have." Anchored by a powerful Message and Call from the Party, the campaign has accomplished some important things. But the campaign has not yet broken through to its main objectives—popularizing to millions the need for, and character of, revolution; making the leadership of this revolution, Bob Avakian, a household word; and bringing forward a core of new fighters around this revolution and this leadership. To deal with this, the Party called conferences on May 29 and 30 in two cities.
These conferences were very successful. People came from a number of different cities, large and small. And they brought a wide range of experience with them—experience in different forms of fighting the power and, in many cases, in beginning to take out revolution. The chemistry that came through by having people with diverse viewpoints and experience wrangle with the purposes and goals for this campaign and then, on that basis, develop ideas and plans—and in so doing, constantly returning to those larger goals and purposes—brought forward something new. For the first time there was a sense of a national campaign; now the charge is to make that real, and take it all to a higher level. (The opening speech for the first day of the conferences can be found at: revcom.us/a/203/conference_speech-1-en.html)
So, today we are going to get further into this campaign. But it's not like, "Yesterday we did the big ideas... and today we are getting down to the work of it." We are going to do this by going back and forth between the practical dimensions of what we are undertaking and the larger strategic aims that all of this is for: making revolution, leading millions to seize state power, and advancing humanity as far as we can, as fast as we can, toward real emancipation, all over the world.
Our aim is to come out of these conferences with not only the plans and vision we need—but with a deeper collective sense of the dynamics to accomplish this, the ways we are going to make leaps to another level, and a new capacity to work as an overall team on a mission to—and capable of—rising to the historic challenge that was laid out yesterday of opening up a new stage of communist revolution for the world.
In laying out these plans, I am going to be drawing from a lot of the lessons we summed up through a recent period of investigation that the Party conducted. Many of you were part of this—either asking questions or being asked a lot of questions and getting into this campaign. And we learned more fully the impact we have been having, what has begun to be brought forward, what we need to more fully confront, and the ways for more people to contribute to this effort even as they are learning more about it and drawing closer in the process.
On one level, it's very easy to see the obstacles. We are a relatively small group of people. What we are fighting for—communist revolution—has been slandered, heaped with distortion, and suppressed. Many of those who most need this revolution are caught up in killing each other or in reactionary religion. Most progressive people are paralyzed and silent in the face of U.S. war crimes—like the massacre in Gardez that was spoken about yesterday as well as a whole host of domestic repression and fascist attacks on the people.
Further, even after several months of rather tireless work, we still have not broken through on our goals—making this revolution known society-wide... making Bob Avakian a household word... and bringing forward a core of fighters to initiate a new stage of communist revolution. Accomplishing these would actually be a break-out for our movement, and put our movement, and the masses of people, into a whole different position from which to go forward.
But, it would be very wrong to leave it at that. It would be unscientific—that is, it would not be an accurate reflection of reality—and it would therefore be damaging to our ability to go forward—if we did not recognize that there HAS been a lot we have begun to accomplish, a lot that we have learned, many thousands who have been introduced to this revolution and a great many who have contributed in different ways. There are, in actual fact, important seeds of this new movement for revolution.
One of the big charges of the conferences being held this weekend is to seriously and scientifically grapple with BOTH aspects of this contradiction—BOTH the fact that we do not yet have a campaign AND the beginnings we have made. We have to grapple with and develop plans for these seeds to be nurtured and how there can be cross-fertilization and synergies between new things that have begun to take root so that we can make leaps in establishing something that really goes societal.
This means really taking in the lessons and plans I am going to lay out and then, on that foundation, wrangling collectively over whether and how these plans will truly have societal impact and how they can be improved upon, fleshed out, further developed so that they DO lay out a way we can accomplish our goals.
In doing this, we should act like a team of scientists. By this I mean we should be looking for patterns, looking at the ways things are developing, struggling to identify both trends and countercurrents in society and our work. We should be working to identify the material basis for the things we are observing and seeking to transform. We should be looking not only at surface phenomenon, but what is moving and shaping things—or what has the potential to—beneath the surface. All of us together have to be struggling to ascertain the most accurate understanding of what reality is and how it has the potential to change through our work.
Each of us should strive to be right but not be afraid of being wrong. We should set aside preconceived notions and limits in our thinking and imagination. We should stretch ourselves to get into things that maybe we had always thought were for other people to think about. I don't care how long you've been in this—for a few decades or for a few weeks—we all need to contribute in this way to further forging our plans and our collective will in a way that none of us can do on our own.
The Campaign As Campaign
So, with that as orientation, the first lesson I want to get into is the importance of taking up this campaign as a campaign. During our investigation, a LOT of people told us they didn't even know we were doing a campaign. They said, "I thought you were doing what revolutionaries always do." Through this, we came to more fully recognize that while we had been doing many important things—putting Bob Avakian's Revolution talk online and promoting it, touring the campuses, spreading this movement to people in the basic communities, and much more—we hadn't been stitching them together and waging this as a campaign.
But, no, we are not "doing what revolutionaries always do." We are doing what revolutionaries do when they finally are shaken awake from revisionist slumber and look out at a world that has been ravaged by decades of an imperialism that arrogantly declares itself an unchallengeable "best of all possible worlds"—and when these revolutionaries come to appreciate what it means that we have the leadership we need to lead the masses to make revolution to get out of this nightmare—and to really fight to bring forward a new stage of communist revolution.
So, we undertook a campaign—and now, through these conferences, we intend to really make it a campaign—to really put revolution back on the map, to make Bob Avakian known throughout society and to bring forward the beginning cores of this movement for revolution.
These three goals of this campaign are not just "good things to work towards"... or, as some people said to us, "It's always important to have goals." They are three interrelated, dynamic components of a way that a new dynamic can begin to be forged—beginning to bring forward a new stage of revolution and communism, within a finite and rapidly shifting time and terrain, to the point where the revolutionary movement representing this is much more of a contending force in society and in a qualitatively different position from which to hasten, while awaiting, the development of a revolutionary situation.
Flowing from this, people who meet us through this campaign should not weigh their own possible participation in this campaign in terms of whether they want to adopt what probably strikes them as a rather demanding but perhaps ethical lifestyle.
No, they should be led to grasp that they have a role to play in whether the possibility of real liberation gets opened up and whether people will be able to seize it when it does. And one thing we've learned is that, right from the outset, people can grapple with this campaign—and they can relate to and contribute to this campaign—if they know it IS a campaign.
Why should someone take a few extra—or a few hundred extra—copies of the Message and Call when we knock on their door in the projects or in their dormitory? Only if they have closely studied it and agree with all of it? Or because they want to see the possibility of revolution open up in the real world and learn more about it—and the leadership we have—themselves? Yes, people need time to absorb this message; but frankly, they are more compelled to dig into it because they realize this is not a one-on-one conversation, but about changing the whole world.
Why should a professor or a student step out and advocate that people should engage Raymond Lotta1 even as they fear academic repercussions? Because it is the intellectually honest thing to do? Yes! But along with this and compelling people to be true to their intellectual principles, they should do this because there are stakes for humanity in opening up an honest debate and engagement over the communist project on the campuses, stakes that have to do with busting open that ferment more broadly in society at a time when the world is hurtling towards greater disaster and yet a force is on the scene that is working to change all of this.
The MORE that people understand each important component of this campaign as part of a campaign AND the more they see the campaign in the context of really initiating a new stage of communist revolution—getting in position so that when the time is right we can actually MAKE revolution, seize state power, and set about emancipating humanity... the more people see this, the more they will want to and can find the ways to contribute to this, even as they themselves are still learning more and wrestling through their own questions about this revolution.
The second major lesson about this campaign that we need to really deeply grab ahold of is the tremendous importance of the statement, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have."
This Message and Call is the glue and the pivot of this campaign. And there is a LOT packed into this statement.
This statement speaks to people's conditions of life and dissatisfaction—and grounds this in a system that is not permanent. As the very opening of the statement makes clear: "This is NOT the best of all possible worlds... And we do NOT have to live this way." It addresses the biggest obstacles in people's thinking—from religion to Obama to the idea that people are too messed up... to questions of strategy for revolution. It gives people a basic definition of communism and lets them know we have a liberating history we are building on and an even more liberating future to make real. It boldly puts forward the great champion and resource for people here and worldwide we have in Bob Avakian. It pledges to the masses of people that there IS a force—a Revolutionary Communist Party and a revolutionary movement it is leading—that will not turn our backs on those who need this revolution.
And it challenges and invites people to get into this revolution.
We ourselves need to be much more constantly returning to this statement, digging into and drawing guidance from it, measuring our work against it and the vision it lays out.
But one thing we have found is that people don't get all this out of the statement from just one read. This is not a problem of the language of the statement—in fact, we have found that when people actually stop and read just about any sentence in it, it provokes them to go further into the whole thing.
But the substance of this statement is dealing with things that people don't think about in their day-to-day lives—at least not yet. As one person said at a program at Revolution Books in New York, most people—and he was including himself in this—go all year without considering if and how the world could be different or what it would take to make it so.
We've also learned that it's not enough for people to encounter this statement just once. They have to see it—and other signs of this growing movement for revolution—bubbling up in many different directions, over and over in regular ways that they come to rely on and in ways and from people they didn't expect.
This is why we've focused on saturating key areas with this statement—and this will again be an important part of our plans coming off this conference. We are going to focus on this nationwide for a concentrated ten days coming immediately off these conferences.
Now here, I need to make clear: saturation does not mean "get out a lot of fliers." You know, I hear people talking about, "We saturated this neighborhood and we saturated over there on that campus." No you haven't. Speaking scientifically, there is only one place in the country that we know of where we have actually saturated and that was at the University of Chicago in the run-up to Raymond Lotta speaking there. And, you know what? It had a really big impact. By the final days leading up to his speech, students were saying to us constantly, "I got your flier EIGHT times already!" They were saying, "I had been seeing your fliers all over the campus, but then I read what you posted in the bathrooms about the education system and it really got inside me—let me get that flier again." Reactionary defenders of capitalism were using sidewalk chalk to argue against the constant presence of our fliers and student associated websites were beginning to discuss the flood of information about this upcoming speech. When we sat down to take a break and have lunch, we could overhear students talking with each other about the communists and their propaganda that were all over campus. And all of this continued over the course of a couple of weeks—with fliers and agitation and posters in all kinds of unexpected places and table tents and announcements in classes and at events.
That is what it means to saturate. And it makes an ideological statement. This is not optional. Too much is at stake. Others are starting to talk. You, too, must form an opinion.
And so far as I know that is the ONLY place we have actually achieved saturation yet during this campaign.
By saturating we aren't just trying to get out a lot of materials and we aren't trying to become fixtures on the scene. We are working to push this enough into people's worlds that they have to engage this and have their assumptions challenged by it and to create a situation where people are wrangling with each other about it—and where we are operating in that whole mix. And by concentrating our efforts in key areas we are not really just trying to impact those areas—the point is to get this to have a big enough social effect in a concentrated place it can start to have broader impact. It starts to get blogged about and debated and make it into the news and spread to other places.
So, starting this upcoming Friday after this conference we are going to have a 10-day concerted national saturation push to really put this campaign onto the map in key areas and to get some momentum for the summer. Our goal is to distribute a million of these statements over the course of the summer—and to get out 200 in 10, that is, 200,000 nationwide during this first 10-day push.
We are going to do this as a national effort and with every area having goals and calling in their numbers each night. Each day we will tally up where we are at—giving everyone a sense of the growing momentum and what they are contributing to. Lessons will be quickly summed up and popularized on the We ARE Building A Movement For Revolution page of Revolution's website. And we are going to do all this in a way that draws in and involves many hundreds of people—this means as soon as we get home from this conference getting on the phone with everyone we have met so far through this campaign and this means quickly organizing and involving all those we meet through this 10-day saturation period.
Next I want to walk through the key areas of focus that—while they are not the limits of what we should be thinking about—they are the areas this conference is going to take up in workshops. Even as people will be focusing on different components, it is important for everyone to have a sense of the whole picture and to be thinking about ways that there can be cross-fertilization and positive synergies between different elements of this campaign. This is part of getting a campaign—as opposed to separate, discrete efforts that are good, but frankly don't add up to something larger.
These workshops include: 1) campuses and youth, 2) making Bob Avakian a household name, 3) Revolution newspaper, 4) the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund including the fight to overturn the ban on Revolution newspaper at Pelican Bay and other prisons, and 5)—very importantly if we are going to make good on any of the rest of our plans: Fundraising.
I will begin by discussing the campuses. We have done a lot of things on the campuses—with the statement, with the major speaking tour by Raymond Lotta, "Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong: Capitalism Is a Failure, Revolution Is the Solution," as well as the tours by Sunsara Taylor and Carl Dix. Rather than going through each of these efforts, I am going to try to extract some overall lessons.
One of the biggest things we had to struggle out in taking revolution and communism—taking this campaign—to the campuses is again, what are we seeking to do? This is a question we have to keep asking ourselves in all that we do. Get a few people around "our thing" and hope to somehow avoid all the anti-communist lies people have ingested? Or open up a new stage of communist revolution which means really going frontally up against these verdicts in order to open them up as contested ground in a societal way?
And do we grasp that there is a strategically favorable dimension to going at this on the campuses which do, after all, at least to an extent and in principle train people in critical thinking and at least claim certain standards of intellectual honesty? It is worth noting that at every campus we have found students resonate deeply with what is written in the Party's Message and Call: "And, despite the good intentions of many teachers, the educational system is a bitter insult for many youth and a means of regimentation and indoctrination overall. While, particularly in some 'elite' schools, there is some encouragement for students to think in 'non-conformist' ways—so long as, in the end, this still conforms to the fundamental needs and interests of the system—on the whole, instead of really enabling people to learn about the world and to pursue the truth wherever it leads, with a spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity, education is crafted and twisted to serve the commandments of capital, to justify and perpetuate the oppressive relations in society and the world as a whole, and to reinforce the dominating position of the already powerful."
One of the most significant things we have learned so far is that the more we are completely outrageous and yet eminently reasonable, the better.
Let me say that again: completely outrageous... and yet eminently reasonable.
The more we have been able to provocatively challenge the pillars of anti-communist so-called authority while at the same time backing those challenges up with substance and counterposing a far greater vision for humanity's future... the better. This is very different than incrementally grooowiinnnggg a moooovement.
When you sharply and radically challenge institutional anti-communist pillars, you reveal and clarify the polarization that exists. You create a situation where students can't just continue to go along as they did before—they increasingly have to decide if they want to defend those pillars or be a part of challenging them, and this means they have to think about and rethink things they used to take for granted. This is the kind of situation where those fighting for the truth and for the highest interests of humanity can increasingly gain advantage.
Anyone who attended Raymond Lotta's talks, for example, will recall the audible gasp and nervous laughter that followed his damning exposure of the LIES that are given a scholarly gloss by people like Roderick MacFarquhar of Harvard University, who are considered major authorities on communist revolutions. Students who were so confident on their way in to the event that Raymond Lotta was exaggerating when he said, "EVERYTHING you've been told about communism is wrong" were shaken. Then they have to ask themselves, "If one of the most respected and widely cited authorities in academia was peddling lies and no one was challenging him... how deep did it go?"
At the University of Chicago students were busy googling "Bob Avakian" on their iPhones during the presentation or trying to look up new statistics to try to stump Raymond. The more he exposed, the harder they tried and the harder they tried, the more he exposed. And where did that leave people? One student wrote, "If all your facts and predictions are true, I think I agree with you. But I am wary of human nature, practically." Another student told us she now realized that she'd never investigated what she'd been taught about communism and now she had a lot of new reading to do.
Even if people go into this reading and debate with the aim of proving we are wrong—reality is reality and communism has been profoundly liberating and will be even more so in the future due to Bob Avakian's new synthesis—and people who are honest will increasingly have to confront this. Besides, if we are wrong in any element of our understanding, we are not afraid of that—we want to know that and welcome being held to those standards.
We saw some of this as well in Carl Dix's tour, "From Buffalo Soldier to Revolutionary Communist," where he took on people's illusions about Obama and, drawing from his own life story and transformation, posed instead a revolutionary way out for Black people and all of humanity.
And we saw this approach—of being completely outrageous and yet eminently reasonable—in something as simple as the title of the tour Sunsara Taylor did, "From the Burkha to the Thong: Everything Must, and Can, Change—WE NEED TOTAL REVOLUTION!" When students and professors all over the country began raising, "Who is she who grew up in this country to criticize the burkha?" she did not seek to avoid this controversy, but instead took it head on, incorporating a polemic on this in her speech and then—as you can watch on YouTube—being eager to take this on when people came to her event to argue for the veil.
People were attracted to this and inspired by this and whatever they thought they couldn't get it out of their heads and were debating it for days. Along with this, they were attracted and inspired by the fact that Sunsara Taylor was confidently putting forward a solution to this madness, and was recruiting people into a movement for revolution that welcomes women's anger and impatience and is modeling a whole different morality NOW.
There are young people on these campuses who are searching for a way to contribute to changing the world—but they don't think communism is the way to do it. If we are going to provoke them to not only rethink but to get into this—we need to build on and do even better at both hitting hard at their deeply held assumptions in ways that cannot be easily dismissed and speaking to people's highest aspirations.
So, this workshop on the students and youth needs to get into these lessons and how we can go even further with this approach, and it needs to grapple with how do we do something we haven't done thus far—really get a dynamic going where people from among the most oppressed sections of society are coming onto the campuses and mixing it up and these students who are starting to get into the revolution are coming out into the neighborhoods and learning from the people there and helping spread the revolution.
And this approach of being completely outrageous and eminently reasonable must infuse this campaign as a whole.
One key nodal point in this will be the U.S. Social Forum to be held June 22-26 in Detroit. Many thousands of people who crave a better world will be attending and yet, they too, are filled with anti-communist assumptions. Various writers for Revolution newspaper will be holding workshops ranging from the environment to a debate over sex work, to the real truth about communism, and more. This is also taking place in the city where 7-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones was just murdered by police, and at a time when the horrific oil spill will still be going on. All this means we want to go in there and really stir things up and introduce many people to this revolution and this campaign but most of all the fact that we have a solution to all this, we know the way out, and we are recruiting people into the movement for this revolution NOW.
We're going to be doing the same thing on some of the concert tours going on this summer. And, of course, this is going to be controversial. But, look—the only people who are afraid of controversy, who want to seek to avoid controversy, are the people who think that the way things are going right now is just fine. The way people are thinking is just fine. The ways they are acting is just fine. The massive crimes being done to the people all over the world and to the planet itself are just fine. I'm sorry, that's not acceptable!
Making Bob Avakian a Household Word
Next, I want to get into the biggest strength that we have: our Chairman, Bob Avakian.
The second objective of this campaign—and one that has a tremendous amount of dynamism and frankly defines the character of the other two objectives—is to make Bob Avakian truly a household name, someone whose work and talks and life story are being broadly debated and deeply engaged. Someone whose existence is known by millions and who people have an opinion about. Someone whose reputation and mystique is both a force of attraction and inspiration as well as opposition, even fierce opposition.
Really pushing Bob Avakian out there in a big way—and really struggling with people who are provoked by the idea of revolution to get deeply into his work—this is going to make a critical difference in accomplishing all three of these goals. And here I want to reference everything that was in the speech yesterday—about who Bob Avakian is... the role he has played... and the role he is playing... and say that we all have to continue to get an ever more deeper grounding in this, learning more, even as we are very aggressively popularizing him.
First, I want to talk about this incredible new image.
Obviously, this is HOT. This is intriguing. This is challenging. This is celebratory. This has an edge. This is SERIOUS. This is clearly something going on.
Implicit within this image is the fact that this leader is of a caliber that belongs on a shirt. And that the people who are into this leader are not pleading with you to [meek voice] "maybe... please think about what he is saying... if you don't mind... and if it doesn't offend you"... but are making a statement: "This is the shit—if you don't know, you better go find out." It's a radical challenge.
Imagine this image bubbling up from the underground—really taking off in the youth culture this summer... popping up in unexpected places... imagine concerts where a third of the crowd is wearing this image and the rest are trying to figure out where to get one... imagine kids leaving eager to be the first among their friends to show up in this new shirt... Imagine those who have felt too alone until now starting to feel that they'd be hooking into a spreading counterculture. And it's not just a "counterculture" that is alienated with the world the way it is, but a counterculture aiming to become the dominant culture that upends the way the world is.
And yes, there will be polarization with this as well—people who put on the shirt will come under attack, and some will take it off and we will have to struggle with them to put it back on again. But the question will be getting opened up and spreading. Many thousands will be getting on the internet and the question will emerge broadly as to what and who this is all about.
And all this will synergize and interact with other ways people are running into this campaign—propelling them back into the statement or to check out the Revolution Talk online or to give money when they are asked or to come out to a bookstore.
Another key dimension of this work to make Bob Avakian known is BAsics. This is a back-pocket-size pamphlet coming out in early fall made up of 100 key powerful quotations from Bob Avakian, introducing people to this leader BA and giving them the BAsics of revolution. This will include concentrations of method and truth that are principles to live by and fight for, that provide a framework for understanding and changing the world, that provide a materialist source of inspiration and daring, that provoke and challenge, and provide a standard to measure everything and everyone by—including this Party and its leadership.
There will be promotion and ads for this publication and many of the people seeing the image will want to get their hands on it. It will be a major way into this revolution. And we want to raise the funds to send 2,000 copies of it into the prisons for free right away.
The third big component of the immediate plans around this second objective is the Revolution Talk by Bob Avakian. This really is a thorough revolutionary education—why the world is the way it is, how it can be radically transformed and emancipated through revolution and an introduction to the leader of this revolution.
One of the things that has been summed up in Revolution newspaper is that this talk hits people on a lot of levels. It is extremely accessible and there is a lot people can get right off the bat, but also, what he is saying is outside people's thinking... it is challenging and they need to do the work to get into the whole thing...
One person told us that they had to watch the talk three times to really begin to understand it. It was just too much and too different from anything he'd ever heard for him to even really take it in the first two times. But when he finally made it through the third time he felt he was beginning to understand the world and appreciate this leader in a whole different way. Another person wrote in to our paper and admitted that the first time they watched the "Imagine" section of that talk, it struck them as just another politician promising things—until they went through the entire film and spent additional hours talking it over with others, they really didn't begin to see how he wasn't just promising, he was laying out something that there was a material basis for and how it could be accomplished and why it must be.
So, we need to be getting this Revolution Talk out everywhere—on palm cards and posters, showing it outdoors in parks all summer, and making a really big deal on a whole other level about this talk online. And as we go very broadly, we also have to be challenging people to not make a facile judgment—but to really go through it deeply.
Now, I made the point that Bob Avakian is the greatest strength that we have. Not surprisingly, Bob Avakian and our promotion of him has also provoked the greatest, and the most stubborn, controversy. But this kind of controversy can actually be very positive. Wrapped up in this controversy are the key questions that people are going to have to grapple with and work through in order to come to a revolutionary stand. Do the masses of people actually need to make the kind of total change we are talking about, that is to say, do they need to make revolution? Do we need leadership to do this—and if so, what kind of leadership? And why is Bob Avakian's leadership in particular—in particular, the new synthesis he has forged of communism and his method and approach—so absolutely crucial to making revolution... and keeping it a revolution worth making? So finding the ways to provoke this kind of controversy and, once provoked, to jump into this—this is something that we all need to be putting our heads to.
So I want to clear something up. The people who are saying these things about there being a cult around BA—well, this accusation isn't original. This accusation isn't original. All this is is mainly the voice and the strength of the bourgeoisie that has been hammered into people for decades being given voice through the people themselves.
Now some of the people who say this stuff about a cult DO know better, and they are just counter-revolutionaries. But most of the people saying these things don't have even a clue what they are talking about. They haven't watched the whole Revolution Talk and really worked to wrap their minds around it. They didn't wrestle with the Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, where Avakian's contributions are laid out in their world-historic context. They haven't read BA's memoir to get a sense of what his life has been and continues to be about.
No. They are just repeating anti-communist "conventional wisdom." And this conventional wisdom is shaped by—and reinforces—the horrors of this world, the very world that you correctly want to see changed. A lot of you read the resolutions on leadership put out by our Party coming into this, and the commentary that went with that.2 These actually speak very deeply and very boldly to these questions, and I want to suggest to everyone that we return to these, using them ourselves and going over with them with others who have this question.
And we need to be very clear in answering when people say that we shouldn't promote Bob Avakian so much, for whatever reason. We should just tell them: Given what we understand about what BA actually represents, what he has brought forward and the role he plays, and what this means for the masses of people, not only in this country but throughout the world, and for the future of humanity, it would be HIGHLY IRRESPONSIBLE if we DID NOT promote BA as fully as we could. In fact, the real problem is not that we are promoting BA too much, but on the contrary that we have not yet been able to do nearly enough to promote him; and this is something we are setting out to change in major way, like it says in the Message and Call.
And we should tell them this too: everyone who comes to understand what we understand about this should also contribute whatever they can to this effort. If you don't have that understanding, but you get on a basic level the importance of what he's doing, then you should contribute what you can to making him and his work much more widely known; and at the same time, you should more deeply engage with what we are saying about BA, and with his body of work and method and approach.
If you are proceeding from humanity's need to get free it can ONLY be a good thing that there is a leader who has solved or pointed the way towards solving the biggest problems of the revolution.
If you are proceeding from humanity's need to get free—you will be EAGER to get into this leader.
Now some people think they are being really clever and say things like, "I don't want to hear what BA has to say... I want to hear what YOU have to say."
Okay, so picture back in the day, someone coming up to you and saying—holy shit man, you gotta hear this guy, he does this stuff on the guitar that will totally blow your mind... no one's ever heard anything like this before. His name is Jimi Hendrix.
Would it really be appropriate for you to say, "Well, I don't want to hear how Hendrix plays the guitar, I want to hear YOU play"?
Obviously, the whole idea is absurd. There are people who are just better at certain things—and you have to check THEM out.
And yeah, I get that we are making revolution—and this is different than playing rock and roll and it's important that other people be able to get into and break down the science of revolution and be part of applying it. But there ARE people like that—there is a whole Party that went through a Cultural Revolution and has taken up the framework BA has developed and is out applying it and fighting for it in the world. But the point is, to the degree we are doing this—it's because we've gotten deeply into BA. And, he is still head and shoulders ahead of us—and that is a very good thing.
But for those of you who are newer—you don't have to be able to break down everything the way BA does. It's fine to tell people, I am still learning about this myself—but I know enough to know I have to get into it and that you should too.
Then there are people who say things like, "You act like Bob Avakian has the answer."
Well, find out. Has he developed breakthrough answers to very sharply posed and crucial questions of making revolution? And, beyond that, has BA further developed the scientific communist method for continuing work to develop answers to still further questions...while continuing to put these questions out there for others to grapple with, too, in the ongoing process of understanding and radically transforming the world?
And let's be real. You don't determine whether or not he does, you don't determine whether anything is true or not, by taking a poll—do your friends all agree or not. You determine what is true by going deeply into it—and measuring it up against reality.
No one would take you seriously if you saw one high school production of one Shakespeare play and started passing facile verdicts on his entire body of work. Well, the work that is concentrated in this talk is much more challenging and much more exhilarating than that and we need to be very upfront on setting the standard broadly that you actually have to get deeply into this. So... GET INTO BA!
Everyone needs the space to go through this and engage it at their own pace—but not the space to refuse to pursue this.
Those of us who are fighting for this need to know the difference—so I am going to say that again:
Everyone needs the space to go through this and engage it at their own pace—but not the space to refuse to pursue this.
Now, I want to speak directly to anyone in this room who is still up against this yourself—if this question of the so-called cult is still tugging at you:
Don't turn your back on the fact that you finally found a movement and a leader that not only speaks more powerfully than anything you've heard before about how completely intolerable this present world is, but also how unnecessary it is. A movement and a leader that poses a way out that has inspired and moved you. Sure, you don't yet know for sure that it can work. Sure, you don't know that it won't somehow go bad despite people's good intentions. Fine, you don't know. But that's exactly the point: you don't know. But you were attracted to this for a good reason and before you turn your back on the things that compelled you to get this far, before you turn your back on the chance that humanity can actually be led out of this hellhole of a world, before you turn your back on the opportunity—and, yes, your responsibility—to contribute to that, you had better go deeply into it.
There is a place where epistemology meets morality, and not acting on what you know to be true—and not pursuing something that holds the potential to liberate all of humanity to find out whether or not it really is true—just because you don't like the potential ramifications to you and your life, because it is unpopular or risky or because it goes against the tide—is immoral and unacceptable.
As it says in the Party's statement, "It is up to us to get with this leadership... to find out more about Bob Avakian and the Party he heads... to learn from his scientific method and approach to changing the world... to build this revolutionary movement with our Party at the core... to defend this leadership as the precious thing it is... and, at the same time, to bring our own experience and understanding to help strengthen the process of revolution and enable the leadership we have to keep on learning more and leading even better."
Revolution newspaper is the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party and it is the collective organizer of the whole movement for revolution. It lays bare the truth about what is developing in the world each week, it draws out the need for revolution from that, and it shows what such a revolution must be about and how it can be made. And as a big part of that it introduces people to Bob Avakian whose work is featured every week.
In line with all this, the paper and its website have a very critical role to play in this campaign. The more we make advances with this campaign, the more we put this revolution and Bob Avakian out in society—the MORE people are going to be turning to our newspaper, particularly online, to really find out about and get organized into this revolution.
The work to bring more volunteers into working on the paper, writing for it, fact checking for it, laying out the articles, doing research, giving feedback, and translating things into Spanish has been one of the very important seeds in this recent period and it needs to be built upon.
Soon, we will launch a new website for Revolution newspaper and we need to bring many more people into making this a vital and buzzing center for revolution and making this site increasingly known and debated over throughout the net. This website will be one of the main places people go when they decide to seek out this movement. And all of us must be able to increasingly go to this website and find the signs and the lessons of a growing movement for revolution being summed up and shared—through the Spreading Revolution and Communism section as well as in other ways.
This paper must much more become the scaffolding of the movement we are bringing into being. That means you, and people like you, voicing their ideas, writing on what you are learning, what we are accomplishing and what obstacles we are running into—so that we can all learn better and more quickly how to accomplish our objectives and advance the movement for revolution.
Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund and Overturning the Ban of Revolution
One of the most powerful examples of just how big a difference it makes for people to be systematically reading Revolution newspaper are the letters from the prisoners who subscribe and this brings me to the fourth workshop we are holding.
Now, before I get into this—let's just reground ourselves in what we are really talking about.
The prison system in this society is a concentration of everything ugly and wrong with this system. 2.3 million people are locked away in these dungeons. Think about that number. And think about what that means—1 out of every 8 young Black men is locked away like this. Whole generations of our youth in the inner cities grow up expecting to end up locked away and written off. Inside the walls is like a nightmare world of brutality, rape, humiliation and torture—from the guards and to the way that prisoners are set against each other by race, by rival gangs, by fundamentalists of all stripes who prey on and reinforce people's ignorance, machismo and fear. Tens of thousands driven to insanity in solitary confinement—ongoing conditions that meet and exceed the international standards of torture. These plantations of concrete and steel are made to erase and to break whole sections of people—think what that says about this system... and think what it means that even in the darkest cells in the most inhuman conditions there are prisoners who have risen above this muck and mire. Prisoners who have defied everything this system has done to them and tried to turn them into—and instead dared to lift their heads and get into Revolution. Who have learned through the pages of Revolution about all this system has kept hidden—from the science of evolution to the science of revolution and the incredible resource and inspiration of the leader of this revolution, Bob Avakian.
And think what it means that when given the opportunity to contribute to this movement for revolution, when asked to write in to this newspaper from behind the walls, we were flooded with hundreds of letters—of these human beings struggling in the most inhuman of conditions to give whatever they could to the revolutionary fight to emancipate all of humanity. Do we really get just how precious this is?
Do we get how unconscionable it would be to allow this to be snuffed out—for this connection between these prisoners and this movement for revolution and this leader to be cut off? And do we get how powerful this can become—how this is a seed not only of a revolutionary movement that can grow in the prisons but the impact this can have throughout society if it is known about and its influence spread?
The workshop on the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund needs to take up many dimensions of this fight: the legal battle, forming mass committees, and an idea that is already in development of staging theatrical readings across the country of the letters from prisoners.
But a critical dynamic of this fight is something our Party has referred to as: revolution, counter-revolution, more revolution. That is, how do we take this attack and not only turn it around—but do so in a way that draws many more people into this revolutionary process? How do we make this ban become something that Mao Tsetung described as a great big rock the other side picked up to hurl at us, only to drop on its own foot?
Let's take up this fight in a way that introduces all of society to these revolutionary prisoners and to the paper and leader that they are connecting to.
The other workshop topic and goal I want to discuss is Fundraising.
This is a big part of our plans—it needs to be if we are not going to stay on the margins.
At one of Sunsara Taylor's events, someone in the audience asked—how can you be a communist and claim to be against capitalism but yet you ask for money?
Well, here's the answer: this revolution is not about modeling a new lifestyle or trying to make a statement about how committed we are or just removing ourselves from capitalist structures (as if that were possible). NO! The point is to seize state power and radically change the whole world and nothing less than that! That's what this campaign is for and we mean to win it. This means raising BIG MONEY so we can have BIG IMPACT.
And we need to take this up with EVERYBODY. Look, there is still too much of an attitude that some people don't have money so we can't ask them and that other people have money and so by definition won't be interested in the revolution. Not correct. Yes, this system has people scrambling and hustling to survive, but these people are capable of grasping that there is something bigger here. There was a write-up on Spreading Revolution and Communism about a team that raised money in the projects not by asking people to only give what didn't hurt them, but by telling them why it mattered, giving them a vision of the campaign. Off this, even people who didn't agree with everything pulled out bills because they could see that this important effort needed support from people like them.
And, there are many, many people of greater means who have deep dissatisfaction with the world, with the lack of intellectual ferment and radical imagination, with the horrible acquiescence in society... people who do aspire for more and better, and who need to be struggled with but also given a way to contribute to this.
When people give money it has a real impact. Whether or not we can make reams of stickers for the youth, whether we can put T-shirts on promotional teams at concerts and tours over the summer, whether or not people feel that this is bigger than us and them, bigger than the projects they live in, bigger than one city, this is part of a nationwide effort that is aiming to seriously impact the whole world and they can be part of that. It is not every day that people get the chance to do something like this. In fact, most have never had this opportunity in their lives. People can grasp this and contribute to it. They are needed and we shouldn't sell them short by not asking, not struggling with them, not giving them the opportunity to contribute in this meaningful way to the campaign.
Besides, fundraising is a way for people to get organized—and to take part in the revolution with others in a way that breaks the isolation and grows the revolutionary culture. This includes high-level salons in people's homes and it includes making a big revolutionary celebration out of the anti-4th of July fundraising picnics we have planned across the country. Everybody we meet through our efforts at saturation should be invited to these picnics and we should start making a really big deal about them everywhere we go—letting people know that they'll be a place to meet others who are getting into this and to together raise the money to help REALLY put this on the map in an even greater way.
Finally, I want to step back from the workshops and even from the campaign as such and talk for a minute about the larger objective world.
This campaign is to build a movement for revolution to really impact and change the whole world. It is not a self-contained process—and we need to be interacting with the quickly and sometimes sharply changing larger world.
Things like the police killing of Aiyana Jones in Detroit, or the Nazi anti-immigrant laws in Arizona or the BP oil spill still gushing in the Gulf of Mexico or Afghanistan surge or something like the assassination of abortion provider George Tiller one year ago this weekend—what is our attitude when these things erupt?
Do we tell ourselves and tell the masses, "This just proves we've been right to be fighting the good fight and we'll keep it up..."?
Do we freak out and say, "Oh shit, I was already behind on the 27 things I am supposed to be doing and can't deal with one more"?
Or, do we act like revolutionaries and communists and people who can't wait for the world to fundamentally change? Do we recognize in these crimes the moments when it is both necessary and possible to lead the masses to stand up against these outrages and to fight the power and transform the people FOR REVOLUTION? Do we see the need and the increased basis to pose our revolutionary aims and objectives to thousands or even millions?
Do we jump in the car with as many other people as we can rustle up—as Carl Dix recently did after the police murder of Aiyana Jones—and drive all night to be out in Detroit, standing with the people in their righteous outrage and insisting, "The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world... when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness... those days must be GONE. And they CAN be."
Do we grasp how much seething anger there is among the basic people over this police terror—and are we straining to bring forward the necessary resistance and to forge increasing sections of the basic people, and the basic oppressed youth in particular, into the backbone of this revolution?
Do we recognize the potential, right now, to bring forward a section of truly radical young women and men who are completely fed up around the increasing assaults on women's rights and their lives—from the brutal and perverse portrayals of women as objects to be plundered and tortured and thrown away that saturate society to the increasing criminalization of and shame on abortion and even birth control. Are we stepping into this with urgent and revolutionary outrage as well as bringing forward a powerful contending vision and liberating morality that corresponds to total revolution?
Do we see openings in these flashpoints to pose a contending revolutionary legitimacy and alternate authority, the specter of a new state power that would do away with these outrages and a movement for revolution concretely struggling to get closer to that day—up against the completely illegitimate and unjust authority of this capitalist ruling power?
Are we constantly posing to the masses of people, "We need state power! State power representing, rooted in and mobilizing the masses, led by their vanguard which could right away put an end to the worst of these outrages. We have the understanding and leadership to lead the masses to both hold onto this new state power, preventing the overthrown exploiters as well as new capitalist forces from restoring this imperialist nightmare, while unleashing a process that is full of mass participation and struggle, ferment and space to go to work at overcoming the backward attitudes and relations and thinking that take more time."
And are we constantly ourselves grappling with the contradictions—as well as the method and framework for resolving those contradictions that has been developed by this Party and its leadership—that come with state power? An important thing to take note of in this regard is that soon the RCP will be publishing a new constitution of the future socialist state. This is something we are all going to want to dig into and make a really big deal out of—it will be a means for popularizing and making even more real for all of us what this new state power will mean.
The final point I want to make is that, in every thing we do, we need to make a real leap in really doing what it says in the end of the Party's Message and Call—"giving people the means to become part of this movement, and organizing into this movement everyone who wants to make a contribution to it, who wants to work and fight, to struggle and sacrifice, not to keep this nightmare of a world going as it is but to bring a better world into being."
We need to be much better in quickly following up with people we meet, learning what they think, getting them into the Revolution Talk, finding ways for them to contribute and not giving up on them or writing them off if they don't come forward in a straight line. It is not possible to know in advance where each person will end up. Again, the more that we grasp this campaign as a campaign that is building a movement for revolution—and the more we let people know that is what it is—the more we will be able to find many different ways of involving many different people.
All of the workshops should discuss this question of how we are bringing people—particularly people from among the basic proletarian masses—into this movement for revolution. Every workshop should also get into how this Message and Call fits into its work, how each element contributes to—and is strengthened by—the fight to make Bob Avakian a household name, how we will be raising money through all of our work and how each of these elements being focused on fits into and contributes to the campaign as a whole.
So, I have gone through a lot of lessons and some vision of plans and some of this I have done in quite a lot of detail. But it's important that, even as we are dealing with a lot of details and making a lot of plans, we do not lose sight of the forest for the trees.
The trees are important—but the forest is the whole new world we are fighting to bring into being. This is a world where never again does a Black family have to bury their 7-year-old child after the police murder her and then brutalize and lie about her family. A world where a hero like George Tiller, who courageously risked his life to enhance women's lives, is not demonized, hunted down and killed—but celebrated, cherished and joined by many more. A world where the warnings of scientists are not ignored and suppressed, and the natural environment is not destroyed in the deadly competition for ever greater profit.
As the Message and Call puts it, "The ultimate goal of this revolution is communism: A world where people work and struggle together for the common good... Where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings... Where there are no more divisions among people in which some rule over and oppress others, robbing them not only of the means to a decent life but also of knowledge and a means for really understanding, and acting to change, the world."
"WE HAVE WHAT WE NEED TO FIGHT FOR THAT WORLD, THAT FUTURE. IT IS UP TO US TO GET WITH IT AND GET TO THE CHALLENGE OF MAKING THIS HAPPEN."
1. Raymond Lotta has been on a speaking tour, "Everything You've Been Told About Communism Is Wrong, Capitalism Is a Failure, Revolution Is the Solution." [back]
2. The 1995 Leadership Resolutions on Leaders and Leadership. Part I: The Party Exists for No Other Reason than to Serve the Masses, to Make Revolution (revcom.us/a/Leadership_Resolutions/revolutionary_leadership.htm); Part II: Some Points on the Question of Revolutionary Leadership and Individual Leaders (revcom.us/a/Leadership_Resolutions/revolutionary_leadership_points.htm) [back]
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