Revolution Online, October 13, 2011
BAsics at Burning Man
Revolution received the following correspondence:
There was a very important advance in promoting Bob Avakian, BAsics and the New Constitution at the Burning Man Festival in the high desert of northern Nevada. Breaking new ground, some followers of Bob Avakian set up "Revolution Camp" and hosted discussions on a variety of subjects, all with the intention of digging into what is necessary to actually make revolution in the world. The presentations were diverse, ranging from the "Local Farm Movement," "Social Permaculture" and "A Nuclear Weapons Free World" to discussions led by camp organizers, including "The Vibrant and Visionary Communism of Bob Avakian," "Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?" and "Ending Women's Oppression: Fighting for Revolution and a Whole New World."
Both in the discussions we led, and in the discussions in which we participated, we drew from the quotes featured in the special issue on BAsics, and quotes from BAsics. Seventeen hour-and-a-half discussions were held over a six-day period, with well over 400 people attending, with at least 46 coming back more than once. 122 signed up for e-subs to Revolution and to help plan for a bigger revolutionary presence next year.
The slice of society that attends Burning Man is quite significant. In a large discussion group of 60 people, the presenter, an anthropologist, asked of the gathering how many had Bachelors degrees. All but two raised their hands. When she asked about advanced degrees (Masters or Doctorates), over 2/3 responded. This is indicative of the demographics at Burning Man.
But among these very educated people, only a very few people had heard of Bob Avakian or the Revolutionary Communist Party—and this is no doubt true of the many throughout Burning Man. That is, until we got there.
In previous years, there has been a lot of de rigueur rejection of communism as a "well- intentioned utopian idea" that turns out terribly bad. And the idea of leaders, and especially a communist leader, certainly did not get much of a hearing! But as people were digging into quotes from BAsics and the New Draft Constitution, it really raised revolutionary communism and the need for leadership in a different light.
The discussions were hot, with people digging into questions they have never discussed before. Some confronted their own ignorance of the communist movement and its history and the accomplishments of previous socialist societies. Others grappled with the vision, and all the complexities of the new synthesis of BA and whether it was possible. There was a healthy and contentious back-and-forth around big questions, like violence vs. non-violence and the hope that the big corporations and the financiers could be reasoned with; the responsibility to stand with the people of the world vs. settling for individual escapes or small group reforms; and there was lots of struggle about basic materialism vs. idealism.
Here is one example. One presenter didn't show up. His discussion was titled "The dirty business of Intellectual Property." There was a sizable group of people there ready to engage. So, we led it. We opened up with BAsics 1:16, "I'm a self-made man." People were tearing into this from the jump. How ideas are standing on the accumulation of human history, and are not one's "own ideas" and even if someone has a "new" idea, it is only just an idea—unless and until it is transformed into reality. There was a lot of struggle, back and forth, of how under capitalism, an idea for a product has to go through the nexus of profit (and exploitation of labor) to even be realized. People brought up how capitalism has no interest in the human value of an idea, but only the bottom line, and how truly pathbreaking ideas which would really benefit humanity can not be realized under this system. One guy spoke up. He didn't like the direction of this discussion. He said, "You all are talking about me. I am a self-made man! I came up here in a big motor home, and next year I'm bringing a bigger one!" ... Well, thanks for sharing!
The next day, this same guy came by to shake our hands. "I have never been in a discussion that was so stimulating. Thank you so much! It made me look at a lot of things differently. I guarantee you that I am going to check into this Bob Avakian guy and your Constitution when I get home. And I'll be back next year!"
While the numbers of special issues we got out were small compared to the 60,000 attending the event (1,500, including back issues of Revolution), the effect of our presence was significant. Many people thanked us and expressed to us how much they appreciated bringing revolution and communism to the desert, and how they now are very interested in communism as a viable alternative, and that they intend to find out much more about Bob Avakian and dig into the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). Bundles of the special issue were left in the Center Café, and copies snapped up. Many people could be seen studying it on the spot. Others, who didn't make the discussions, told us that they first heard of Bob Avakian when they read in the official event program handed out to all the 60,000 participants upon their entrance. The program listed the discussion on "The Vibrant and Visionary Communism of Bob Avakian." People stopped at our camp to enquire about the huge image of BA that was posted in front (and on the long highway leading to the event). Others stopped to read the enlargement of BAsics 3:1: "Let's get down to basics: We need a revolution, anything else, in the final analysis, is bullshit..."
All in all, while we had a vision of what we could accomplish by introducing BAsics and Bob Avakian at Burning Man in this way, we were totally blown away by the hunger that people showed for this very radical, but eminently reasonable, vision of another world, a communist world.
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