Revolution #263, March 25, 2012
An interview from the BAsics Bus Tour:
Shaking up the scene with BA Everywhere
The following is an interview with someone who was part of the core of people involved in the recently concluded BAsics Bus Tour pilot project.
Q: You were part of a core of people who dedicated two weeks of their lives to go out on the BAsics Bus Tour and bring BAsics and Bob Avakian, his work and his vision, out to places where people had never seen anything like this. What was the political landscape you encountered?
A: Since we didn't know most of these areas, it was all very fresh and new. I remember rolling into Fresno and seeing how big of a city it is, but also how isolated it was. And then somewhere like Santa Ana which is just one exit on the freeway and that's it. I mean, on the superficial level it would seem like there wasn't any political landscape. You come from particularly a big city and you're sort of jaded by people having a voice or having a stand on something. You didn't really get that in some of these areas. The best way I could capture it, even metaphorically, it was like people were just sort of walking with their heads down, walking with sort of no end in sight. It was just sort of depressing in some sense how isolated these areas are but then also like people just sort of going about their daily activities in a way that's just dragging them. And you can see that in people's faces, but people would also say that. That was something that was pretty unexpected. It just kind of hit you in the face.
But there was also a real openness that this could connect. The BAsics Bus Tour came splashing onto the scene and splashing out with BAsics. It cut through people's daily existence of whatever sort of thing they were thinking about. It's not like people didn't have opinions on things. But you could tell that this was something that they'd never seen before, an RV fully decorated with BAsics, the front and back covers in English and Spanish. You had music, you had these multicultural people stepping off these buses and very alive with revolution, alive with a vision of a new world, but really wielding this book BAsics. It was something unexpected, it was something very new, but it was also something very welcome.
People at this Mardi Gras Festival in Fresno were running, especially youth near the end, running up to us and like, "What is this about?" "This is so cool, people who took two weeks off to like do this." "I could do this," or "I could see myself doing this," and things like that. It was like we brought color to it, color in the sense of the splash that we made on this black and white painting that was there. And it was with substance, and people saw that.
Q: Let's talk about the impact of the tour.
A: The impact of the quotes from BAsics: I think that was a very sharp awakening as to the potential of this BA Everywhere campaign, as far as introducing people to BA's work, and the content of that, people being sort of transformed as they're reading these quotes and really kind of getting inspired.
Specifically I remember the one about "Why do people come here from all over the world?" That just sort of had a transformative effect on individuals, on families, and really kind of saying, that's actually true. The world is fucked up and people are being dragged into different parts of the world and specifically into this country. It really gave fire to all those kind of repressed sentiments or feelings that something's going on, something's not right. But then when reading these or when engaging with some of BA's work, the content of BAsics, it was just sort of a switch, where people got angry that this was the reality of this, but then also felt inspired, like, "How do I stay connected with this?" Or "How do I keep in contact with this?"
And I felt for others it was more like they felt compelled to like argue their points out, even as we're going back and forth there's some real engagement. Especially on campuses—"This is what I've learned about this country," not in those words, but about this country and what it does to the world and really putting forward a position of like, well things can't change. But even when we sharply cut through that and said, actually things can be radically different. They have been. A whole other world is possible because of what BA has brought forward and because of what is concentrated in this book. It was sort of a mind trip for folks, like it took some time to even walk through that process.
It was very interesting on these college campuses especially because of that. Because, it was sort of the landscape of not having this movement for revolution be out there, on a continuous basis or whatever, the freshness of that. But then when introduced to it, or when challenged with it or kind of confronted with it, it sort of brought something out in people, they didn't even know they had sort of consolidated in their thinking of how to understand the world and how to go forward and what's possible and what isn't.
I think that was sort of the edge and the vibe and the feel throughout the whole tour, this lack of revolution out there, no revolutionary pole in society. I feel like that's sort of the thing, imagination being locked and being confined to this putrid culture and system. And through the engagement we had with people, then it was a thing of people kind of clearing the fog a little and really being inspired in one way. But then also really challenged and really provoked to figure out what this is all about and how they can be a part of this. There's sort of a different edge that this BAsics Bus Tour has because of what it objectively represents and how it's speaking to things that nothing else is speaking to.
In the Watts area, that was really interesting too because we were set up not too far from one of the high schools in the area and all these youth who ordinarily would kind of brush us off or whatever felt because of everything, because of sort of the crew that was out there and because of the revolution that was out there and people were mixing it up and engaging with it, really felt compelled to like get at this. And one of their friends was talking to us. It was a mix. Everybody was all over the place and all over the spot in all these multiple conversations, and all being guided by BAsics. And really some of the arguments, like the Scarface mentality being put out there but when that was sharply challenged, it was, oh, like I've just got to revert back to my own ideas and not like—I've got to stop engaging this or something. It was interesting because it was split. All of a sudden you had a clique of friends that were repolarized in some sense, and then some were more vibing or jiving with what was being said and others were that whole thing of like, "Well, I think I have to stop this conversation, 'cause I don't think I can argue further my position in what you're saying."
I think it was, you know, it almost seemed like things were on the terms of this system, right? It almost felt like that's what people thought was the only solution to things. When this thing of you can change the world was brought more into it through the works of Avakian, it's almost as though people had closed that idea off. The world, you can actually change the world? Then it became well what do you mean by that? What do you mean you can change the world? And then, revolution? What kind of revolution? What are you talking about? And then the thing of you actually have a leader. Well, for most people there was a lot of "Mao was a horror," and "millions of deaths."
So we put an emphasis on chapter 2 of BAsics ["A Whole New—And Far Better—World"]. A lot of the quotes in there and really even the first one like, communism, the emancipation of all humanity and not the last shall be first and the first shall be last.
Q: So this was part of that downpressed imagination you talked about in terms of what people think is possible.
A: Yeah. I think so. On the one hand you understand these are the choices that the system offers people and you can get down to that. I guess that's sort of the impact of no revolutionary pole in society. People are then just sort of arguing with what exists and trying to find accommodations within that. Even if not consciously. You had a lot of youth who were just sort of like, well, the oppression of women, yeah it's bad, but it's not that bad. Or like the stuff that happens to youth in the neighborhoods or things like that. It's not that bad. Even one of these youth from Watts said well, you just gotta watch out for yourself or whatever.
It's like so that's what's there. So then you've just gotta work with that. You've gotta find amends with that. You've gotta find your own place within that. I felt like even with a lot of students, like that's the struggle with, "What am I going to do with my life? Am I going to go onto this field or am I going to go into that field?" I felt like that was the thing of like, that's it, and that's where your creativity gets stifled and that's sort of what you think is possible. And beyond that what you think other people should also think. Then reiterating that throughout society. Even these youth who work with other youth, or other community organizations or whatever. And then we come and say "No! That's not it. And if that were it, that's fucked up." So this is the thing of BAsics, and really connecting that up because of what exists.
Before going on tour, you could understand it theoretically, there's no revolutionary pole, people don't know of BA, there's no whole new generation of revolutionaries. But in a concentrated time of two weeks that just sort of slapped you in the face because that is exactly what is out there.
It can be very frustrating, but on the other hand I think there was a lot of like continuous wrangling even with the immediate situation that we dealt with in these individual places that we had to go to. And it shows the urgency of both this campaign of BA Everywhere but then the larger campaign of really bringing into existence a whole new stage of communist revolution.
I think that feeling—I've never been confronted with something like this—I feel like that was sort of the impact, that you could see that, like people were just, "What?" "What, something else is different? This isn't all that we can live under?" I feel like that was just a sharp edge in people's daily routine, even daily understanding of things. No other way would they have thought of this, I feel honestly—just because of the way it's captured in these quotes. Because of the way BA brings it out very sharply but also very simply for people to get through these quotes.
Q: What kind of response did you get to boldly bringing out Bob Avakian and the importance of his leadership in the world today?
A: I would say that in one sense it wasn't something that people were like, "No leadership or leadership," because of the newness of it. But in another sense it was a thing of like, leadership, and the leadership that is alive and that is guiding this. And then it became a more sharply posed thing of, well, what is it that makes this leader so great? Why this person? When things were put in that context—and people were being honest, it wasn't like trying to challenge you—when put in the context of the importance of what BA represents and the work he's developed, the leadership he is providing, the crucial leadership that he is providing now, it's just sort of the thing of people stepping back and getting in some sense that this is really serious, this is really different.
I had this one student just run away from me, 'cause he felt like it was too much. But on the other hand when it was in like the neighborhoods, it was deeply appreciated that you had this leadership still alive. People would ask questions about where is he? Things like that. And when you got it reframed in the context of what this system is capable of doing to leaders, and what the system has done, this thing of really taking that serious and understanding that this leadership cannot be lost.
I felt that was more the terms that needed to be shifted. This isn't just like whatever. This is someone that needs to be engaged because of the urgency ahead of humanity, but it's someone that also needs to be protected. That was more of the common thread that would come up.
Q: You mentioned this big hole that exists in this society, that there's no revolutionary vision and no revolutionary pole. What impact do you think this BAsics Bus Tour had in terms of starting to change that?
A: Thinking back to that piece in Revolution on the BA Everywhere campaign of what difference it could make, it's sort of the beginning of cutting through that. It's sort of like that. Because on the one hand, it's these very concentrated areas, like in Orange County there were smaller cities that we went to. We even happened to like crisscross some people who had seen us on campus one day or had seen us somewhere else and then they were like, I have to just stop and talk to these people and find out what this is all about.
So that was on the one hand, the concentration of that. We also went to places like Fresno. One person who had met us at some gay rights protest a while back and had bought the DVD [Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About] and had watched it and it just left this sort of impact on him. When he saw us again, he was like, "Whoa, you guys are here again." Another young woman in Fresno saw the DVD, maybe the first 15 minutes of it, and her immediate comment afterward was, "Whoa, I can tell this person is under-appreciated. And I can totally understand why you are on this bus to get him out there everywhere, to get him out there because he does need to be out there for what he's saying."
So I feel like that's the immediate sort of crisp to that, that it introduced people to this leadership. It introduced people to who BA is, through a multifaceted way, through videos, through displays, through engaging with the revolutionaries, things like that. But I also feel that those who did sort of make that initial step of getting some of these materials, the book, or signing up with us or things like that, like, there's a sort of yearning to want to stick with this, or want to continue this.
We've raised the level of the thing of like what is possible, what is obtainable. I think that's sort of the reshifting of things. Putting the potential not only of humanity but the potential of individuals to be a part of bringing that into existence. Putting that into that level, that a whole other world is possible is really raising questions as to what I usually can surmise to be possible, what I've been told is true, like it's not vibing no more. So it's a cut but it's a very important one.
At one of the homeless encampments we went to in Fresno I spoke to a group of Spanish speakers, immigrants I would imagine, and I really put out, read these quotes, and one quote was read out loud, about if you can see the world as it is, there's two roads you can take. So after he finished reading it he was saying, "I like this. I like this because it says we can be a part of changing things. This is about bringing something different." Just captured in that quote. And then somebody else read the one about "bitches and hos," and at first they giggled that even those words are in there, but then they were like, I agree, we do need something different. This very basic capturing of something different. We need something different and you're right. At whatever level and whatever understanding. And people sat there and read this special issue of the paper [on BAsics]. And the one group that I did leave Lo BAsico with were more like, I want to take this to other people and I want to share this, to people within their own encampments, but then to whoever else they met. And so they took a stack of the papers and they took a copy of the book and they were very appreciative. They were appreciative of the fact that we had come and talked to them, but then that we had talked to them about this. And by that they mean what we're talking about, BAsics.
Q: This was a pilot project for a national tour; have you thought about the impact of this going all over the country?
A: The thing about these shackles or these weights being lifted off of people. You know, I feel principally, that was something that we weren't necessarily prepared for, but as it unfolded, you really saw the thing of those hungry for something different, and those that didn't even know that they were hungry for that, but when confronted with this, were just like, you could see sort of something change into something different.
This was just one state. But if you think about that on a nationwide scale and going to all these places where this movement for revolution has never touched before, and what it's coming with. I don't know. It just seems like things can uncork in a way of people even vying for something different. And even within that, even those who thought they knew what revolution and communism was about like totally being confronted with what it actually is about. And then there being the sort of like, sort of the image that's painted—well, I've been reading such-and-such and what do you think about that? What do you think about what BAsics says, or what BA says, or what BA says about, you know what a whole new world is going to be about, or the socialist transition to communism—you can definitely see that really transforming and happening. And I think that even the impact in a very concentrated time, the impact of people really on a mission to change that and to do that, and standing on that. Not for like showmanship or whatever, because it actually is based on this whole new way that humanity can exist and the connection and the urgency of that coming into existence and people being a part of that. I feel like that captures it, these sort of shackles or these weights being lifted off of people. Not that everybody's just going to transform or whatever, but even like the resetting of terms, the repolarizing for something different in society.
And then the possibility of that, I think today, anyway, I'm thinking about this thing of preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution. And the difference it would make if you had cores of people in all different parts of this country that were studying BA's new synthesis of communism, that were engaging with BA's work and that were really sort of transforming, even not necessarily directly connected to us. You think of the thing of like a revolutionary situation arises, and then the heightening possibility for the establishment of a new socialist state, and for even taking that further, into the emancipation of humanity, communism.
That gets back to the impact that it did have on folks, like Whoa! Whatever way it got manifested I think the basic understanding that you do have a people on a mission to build a movement for revolution, and I need to check it out, I need to look in that direction, or I need to get into it a little bit deeper. I need to be a part of that. I feel like that was some of the mix of the sentiments.
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.