Revolution #232, May 15, 2011
Reports from Revolutionary May 1, 2011
We received the following correspondences.
The scene on a corner in Harlem on this May Day conveyed the spirit of celebration and possibility. A table covered with a red cloth was stacked with dozens of copies of BAsics and Lo BAsico. Another table presented the special May Day issue of Revolution newspaper, and "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First"—a 40 by 60 inch enlargement of the centerfold of the special issue—greeted people. Red flags and balloons colored the landscape from over a block away.
All afternoon people in one's and two's wove through the displays, some stopping for long moments of reflection in front of pictures of the crimes of imperialism; others immediately looking for someone to talk to after reading one of the enlarged quotes from the new book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian.
A Dominican man who had bought Lo BAsico the day before had added this written message to the displays: "I'm happy you tell people about these things because it is truth. America invaded my country in 1965. I was a child but I remember. I came here. I work for nothing. This America they take everything—poor countries get nothing. For a long time, nada, nada. People must open their eyes wide open. I hope revolution is successful."
Hundreds of copies of BAsics 1:31 were distributed as people were invited to join the celebration of Revolutionary May Day, 2011 and learn more about this revolution and its leader, Bob Avakian:
"If you can conceive of a world without America—without everything America stands for and everything it does in the world—then you've already taken great strides and begun to get at least a glimpse of a whole new world."
Around the intersection copies of BAsics and Lo BAsico were open as people quickly turned pages looking for a particular quote to bring to someone's attention, or read to each other, or debated what had just been read.
"These imperialists make the Godfather look like Mary Poppins" ... "Every religion in the world believes that every other religion is superstition. And they're all correct" ... "There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth" ... "There is a great deal of misunderstanding and confusion about the question of communist leadership…" "In many ways, and particularly for men, the woman question and whether you seek to completely abolish or to preserve the existing property and social relations and corresponding ideology that enslave women (or maybe 'just a little bit' of them) is a touchstone question among the oppressed themselves ..." "The first great step or great leap in the road to communism is seizing power from the capitalists..."
These quotes and many more from BAsics were read with passion, determination, humor, and a great appreciation for their power over a sound system. The words echoed through the 20-story buildings of the nearby public housing projects and along 125th Street and were heard by many hundreds. During the week following May Day, people who had not come to the corner told us they had "listened to the revolution" from their storefronts and their apartment windows in the projects.
A Mexican poet who had recently bought BAsics stepped up to the microphone in mid-afternoon and recited in Spanish one of his poems. He spoke with anger and frustration of a world divided by borders and walls, and of the shameless ways ruling powers have separated people from each other, from ancient times down to the recently built wall on the Mexico/U.S. border. He spoke of the need for a planet without walls or borders.
A jazz trombone accompanied by noise-makers and a drum, shaped sound to in one moment evoke rage and in the next the joy and celebration of triumph, or the possibility of it. Then people started trading readings from the BAsics/Lo BAsico in English and Spanish, jamming together with the musicians—bringing something new and fresh and vibrant to eyes and ears.
A Black woman college student excitedly got off a city bus when she saw the festivities and recognized people from the People's Neighborhood Patrol. A few months earlier the police had threatened her and her boyfriend without cause, and she had been amazed when the Patrol happened onto the scene and called out this illegal and illegitimate activity by the police. Since that night, she said, she has wanted to know more about this movement. She stayed and talked for some time and bought BAsics.
One young man found himself a milk crate and sat down to read at the rear of everything that was going on. He buried his head in BAsics for over an hour, reading passage after passage. He chose a quote about the transition to communism from chapter 2: "A Whole New—And Far Better—World." He had met the revolutionaries marching through Harlem on May Day a year before. He thought communism sounded more like the way things should be, and he was glad to be finding out more about what it actually is.
A knot of Dominicans spoke to us in Spanish, with one older man talking about fighting the U.S. invasion in 1965. Cab drivers from around the world bought the newspaper at the traffic light. European tourists on a double-decker tour bus raised fists as they heard agitation challenging them to get with a new wave of all-the-way communist revolution. People from Africa and the Caribbean Islands, university students, visitors from France and Germany and people from the neighborhood stopped to talk: "Could revolution really be made here?" "Don't get me wrong—we need revolution—what your party does is good—but you have to have God in it somewhere." "Why don't more people know about this guy Avakian?"
Late Sunday afternoon a team that had spent the day taking Lo BAsico, Avakian and revolution and communism into the immigrants' rights demonstrations downtown joined us Uptown. By the end of the day, altogether hundreds of the special May 1st issue of Revolution and Revolución and the RCP's Message and Call, "The Revolution We Need, the Leadership We Have," along with numbers of BAsics and Lo BAsico, had gotten out in the city. People came together for the evening at an Uptown club in a high finish to the day's struggle and celebration. Folks relaxed, shared stories and experiences from the day, and enjoyed good food and live jazz. Many of the patrons of the club—African Americans, people from half a dozen African countries, a couple from the Czech Republic, another from Japan, local artists—and the staff and musicians—welcomed the message, "The Whole World Comes First" and wanted to talk about where things are in the world and how they can change. A few had already heard of Avakian and the revolution; others were introduced for the first time. Several bought copies of the BAsics book.
At the end of the day: revolutionary spring was in the air.
Revolutionary May 1st, 2011 and nearly 40 people arrived that evening for the celebration. As people entered, they were greeted by music (including "All Played Out," the spoken word piece by Bob Avakian, accompanied by William Parker on bass). There was a delicious spread of food and lively conversation about many things, certainly about the big questions that are being thrown up by the upheavals we've seen this year and the challenges posed.
More than a few of those attending came fresh from the streets, having just taken part in an important May Day march in support of immigrant rights where they joined up with the Revolution contingent. For example, a couple from Eastern Europe met up with the revolutionaries for the first time, the man asking right away to carry the contingent's super-sized red silk flag. Others came to the celebration after participating in a rally of a thousand people that rededicated the Haymarket Martyrs Monument at a cemetery west of the city. We'd also boldly taken out our aims of revolution and communism to that rally and also to a Cinco de Mayo celebration numbering in the thousands. All told, a couple of hundred copies of Revolution newspaper, (including the statement from the RCP "On the Strategy for Revolution") got out on May 1st, as well as palm cards about and copies of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
There were people who came to the May 1st celebration who have been getting into BAsics, or the Constitution, some very intensely, but others were only beginning to check these things out. Some wanted to hear from those who'd traveled from Chicago to Harlem on April 11, "On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World." During the course of the evening, all these different people came together in celebration.
We were treated to poetry and clips of music and film (Ghetto Remix and Next Stop Revolution). One young man was particularly provoked by Bob Avakian's declaration: "I say no more... No more generations of our youth here and all over the world whose life is over...whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion." And our sights were lifted, as together we heard a selection of quotes from BAsics with the very pronounced theme of "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First." You could see that people in the room were intensely listening. At a certain point, there was heartfelt applause when the room heard Bob Avakian's emphatic statement that "American Lives Are Not More Important than Other People's Lives." A comrade at one point laid out the situation we are in and the important challenges for this year and beyond, saluting the people who heroically stood up in Egypt. She talked about how we have a strategy for revolution how we are building a movement for revolution and called on people to get into BAsics, be part of promoting it and get connected to the movement for revolution.
Then the recording of a song by the late, great Nina Simone came on where she sang, "I wish I knew how it would feel to be free." At the end of the program, we stood together and sang The Internationale‑many for the first time, having just heard it movingly read in Farsi and Spanish.
On May 1st a very multinational, multi-aged crew, sporting red flags and banners in English and Spanish: "We Don't Have an Immigration Problem—We Have a Capitalism Problem," participated in a May 1st march and rally in Houston's heavily Latino Gulfton area. BAsics posters lined the march route and businesses in the area had taken palm cards and books to sell. People loved our banners, many coming up to snap photos. One Green Party member held one for awhile, before jumping over to his GP group.
Many in the march and along the streetwere reaching out their hands to get Revolution newspaper and BAsics palm cards. They wanted to know what it was all about; some took extras to get out. A number of people smiled when they saw the BA quote: "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First." Half a dozen youth said they really liked our BA t-shirts, and wanted to get them, some of them then asking "Who is that?", wanting to find out more about Bob Avakian.
The march itself was spirited and colorful. Police were there in force, defending the handful of Minute Men reactionaries who, with no success, showed up to intimidate and harass the immigrants.
That night we celebrated at a café where a lot of progressive people hang out, and sang The Internationale, accompanied by a supporter blowing a bass clarinet.
We found throughout the day and in the days leading up to the First, a new interest in communism, our Party's vision and strategy, and Bob Avakian, among a variety of people from Latino youth, one wearing a hat bearing a hammer and sickle, to FMLN supporters, to a Libertarian-minded activist who, wanting to know how we could really have a society that truly represents the interests of the people, bought the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
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