Revolution #274, July 8, 2012
The BAsics Bus Tour and the Revolutionary Potential of the Masses of People
The following is the text of a June 27 talk at the New York Revolution Books store. We felt the points made in the talk are important in relation to the efforts across the country around the next leg of the BAsics Bus Tour.
In May, the BAsics Bus Tour went to the South, kicking off from Atlanta and heading down to Sanford, Florida—the site of the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. Now it's getting ready for the next leg... kicking off from New York and going into surrounding areas. It will launch in 19 days. To appreciate what this can open up towards revolution, I want to get into some of what these efforts have begun to impact thus far.
One of the principles of the revolution is that people are the most precious resource. So as you see these pictures, and listen, think of the people who are being reached, the people who confront the horrors of this system, but had not until now had the opportunity to find out WHY this happens—that it is because of the workings of the system, not human nature, and that because of the work BA has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experiences of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal. And not only is such a revolution possible, but we ARE BUILDING a movement for this revolution which provides a way to begin working on that now.
This is what is beginning to change people as they step forward—in all kinds of ways big and small—to change the world. Through this bus tour and through the whole mass campaign to raise big money to project Bob Avakian's vision and works into every corner of society—BA Everywhere... Imagine the Difference It Could Make—people are being brought into the process of making revolution.
First, words from Bob Avakian—the leadership we have for the revolution we need. (See the collage slideshow here).
Now I want to play about 10 minutes of an audio interview Michael Slate did with a woman they met in Sanford at a speak-out in front of the Sanford Police Station. She bought BAsics and they arranged the interview for the next day in a barbershop where she brought several people to be there with her. (Slate interview starting at 44:35)
What transformed with this woman, Virginia, is an example multiplied all over. It is similar to what happened with the high school kids who wore a button with BAsics 1:13 to their graduation. You see this in the prisoner letters responding deeply to what's in BAsics and arguing with other prisoners about what they're living and fighting for. You see it in the young women taking part for the first time in fighting the power. You see it in the people in a neighborhood contributing to a stoop sale to raise money to reprint these palm cards as part of BA Everywhere. You see it in the hundreds who signed those banners all across the country... In all this, something is being cohered.
Watching these videos, reading these snapshots... I've been thinking very deeply about the revolutionary potential of the masses of people—the masses of people who are brutalized, degraded, oppressed, exploited and cast aside in our society. And who have that oppression in common with people all over the world. And I want to quote here from the last essay in BAsics, "The Revolutionary Potential of the Masses and the Responsibility of the Vanguard":
"One of the things that I see, something that I haven't lost sight of, is this: I see all the strength of the ruling class, but I also see all the way through all this shit, all the contradictions in society—I actually see a force in this society that, if it were developed into a revolutionary people, actually could have a go at it, could have a real chance of making a revolution, or being the backbone force of a revolution, when the conditions were ripe. I see a force of millions and millions and millions—youth and others—for whom this system is a horror: It isn't going to take some cataclysmic crisis for this system to be fucking over them. The ruling class, ironically, sees them too. It is those who once had but have lost—or those who never had—a revolutionary perspective...it is they who can't see this.
"So what I'm working on is all the things that are in between that revolutionary potential and its actual realization. How does this force of masses at the base of society get joined by people from other strata, how does it get allies broadly, how does it get 'friendly neutrality' among many in the middle strata—how does all this get developed into a revolutionary people that can become a powerful fighting force when the conditions emerge to fight all out for the seizure of power? How does all that happen not in a passive sense, but how do we work on bringing this revolutionary people into being, even if most of the changes in society and the world are not owing to our initiative but to larger objective factors? I actually believe there is such a revolutionary force in potential—I actually believe this, I see this potential—I believe that there is a force there that, if somehow (and the bourgeoisie knows this too) if somehow the bourgeoisie got into a real, deep crisis...
"Yes, these masses have got a lot of ideological hang-ups, and everything else—that's why we have work to do—but we should never lose sight of that potential."
How to work on bringing this revolutionary people into being with the kind of leadership required is laid out in the strategy statement from the RCP ["On the Strategy for Revolution"], the third essay in BAsics:
"All this [meaning what is spoken to in the full statement... Fight the Power, and Transform the People, For Revolution, strengthening the Party, learning from BA and spreading the knowledge and influence of his pathbreaking leadership and defending and protecting this rare and precious leader, wielding Revolution newspaper] can enable the revolutionary movement, with the Party at the core, to confront and overcome the very real obstacles in its path...to advance and grow, through ongoing work, and through a series of critical leaps in times of sudden breaks and ruptures with the 'normal routine'...to prepare the ground, and accumulate forces, for revolution—and have a real chance at winning. It is how thousands can be brought forward and oriented, organized and trained in a revolutionary way, while beginning to reach and influence millions more, even before there is a revolutionary situation...and then, when there is a revolutionary situation, those thousands can be a backbone and pivotal force in winning millions to revolution and organizing them in the struggle to carry the revolution through."
Fighting the power... think of the struggle begun against mass incarceration and stop-and-frisk... all going to a higher level with the STOP "Stop & Frisk" defendants and growing mass resistance. Think of the fight to end pornography and patriarchy: the enslavement and degradation of women... to take on and defeat the vicious war on women through growing, defiant societywide struggle. Think of the people lifting their heads, opening up to the biggest questions... and think of all the people who will be getting involved in saving Revolution Books, raising money, organizing events, building up the pulsing engagement with revolution going on here. And think of ALL this—coming together with this campaign to get BA Everywhere and all those who will be reached and involved through this BAsics Bus Tour.
There are very significant beginnings. A powerful connection forged between sections of people and BA—the person and the leader. In beginning ways people are getting organized and a seething outrage tapped into... this is connecting deeply and must be built on. And the people who have dared to lift their heads, who have begun to allow themselves to hope, who are stepping forward into this revolution must be joined by many more—and they need to feel the impact they are having and the sense of being among many others like them stepping into this... learned from and cohered, amplified and made more broadly known... becoming a dynamic force for revolution, and for building a movement for revolution for real.
BA is the leading edge of all this, the person who concentrates the way out—just as Virginia said in the beginning, as others who are stepping forward are feeling... and the fact of many others also beginning to check out this revolution, to get their hands on BAsics, to take up beginning ways of making this revolution more known and stronger... all this makes what BA is about seem all the more possible—propels them further into it, and by going further into it and helping spread it they are changing themselves and becoming more and more capable of influencing millions and being organized and trained to lead millions as things develop...
In 19 days, the BAsics Bus Tour will launch its third leg, kicking off in New York City, spending time here and heading out to surrounding areas. This time out, there will be TWO RVs going out for TWO weeks, with AT LEAST TWO dozen volunteers plus. We have an incredible opportunity here and a great plan... and we have 18 days to make this what it needs to, and can, be. Now, 18 days is not a lot of time, but it is enough time, and everyone here—in whatever ways you can—has a chance to be part of something transformative, something that can inject a very new and needed thing into society.
Just think about New York—the global financial center for imperialism, a place of tremendous wealth and opulence... listen to this: the Upper East Side of Manhattan has a population that is 88% white and as of 2000, 75% of the population received a college degree. It has one of the greatest concentrations of individual wealth in the world.
But just hop on the 3 train and head south to Brownsville, Brooklyn. 90% of the population is Black or Latino, only 30% are high school graduates, and only 8% completed college. Just as Sanford, Florida, was ground zero in the murder of Trayvon Martin... Brownsville is ground zero for the NYPD's apartheid like stop-and-frisk policy, where youth are harassed and stigmatized, terrorized and brutalized. In Brownsville, there are 93 stops for every 100 residents.
Or the South Bronx... There is no sign of gentrification in the South Bronx—instead there is decades-old rubble and burned out buildings, like a bombed out city after a war. Up there kids play among filth, broken glass, rats and pollution... record asthma rates... what kind of system does this to generation after generation?
This area, and other places the tour will be going, is also crammed with people who have, to paraphrase Avakian, come here because the U.S. has fucked up the rest of the world even worse than what they have done in this country. As part of gaining their riches and power, they have made it impossible for many people to live in their own countries—places like Palestine, Lebanon, Mexico, El Salvador, Peru, Syria, Bangladesh, Turkey... people have come hoping to find work and to be able to send money back home. Once thrust into the American nightmare, these different sections of people are set against each other, not knowing their common oppression in the system of capitalism-imperialism nor realizing their common hope in being part of a movement for real revolution, aimed at bringing into being a radically different, and far better, world.
The BAsics Bus Tour will go right into this mix, reaching out especially to the youth who have no future under this system. Black and Latino youth who are tracked into the prison pipeline from an early age... immigrant youth whose parents' ways don't fit into this culture and who themselves are still often thrust into the shadows... young women who are pimped by boyfriends trained to view them as property to be owned and sold... youth who have never been told that all this is the product of a system, not of human nature... and that it doesn't have to be this way.
Right into this—volunteers of different ages, nationalities and life experiences will come together, piling into brightly decorated, 30-foot RVs to bring word of Bob Avakian. The leading edge of this will be BAsics—a book which lets people in on the biggest questions of the revolution, right from the start. Whether it be wrangling with a single quote—like the one on the foundation of this country in slavery—or gathering in a group to get into the statement on strategy. Whether it be opening up a debate over the questions of science, philosophy and the harms caused by religion—or being struck by, and forced to reconsider things, from the power of the quotes being featured in July: "American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People's Lives" and "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First."
Through BAsics—as well as the talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, which we will also be focusing on—people come to know BA and the leadership he is providing. There is a lot they get right away, and there is a great deal people can dig into over time. The importance of fighting the power and transforming the people for revolution, the truth that has been kept from people about the real history and liberating potential of communist revolution, big questions of morality and how to live a life that will really count for something liberating.
For two weeks, there will be full-time volunteers on the ground... but there will also be all kinds of people joining up for day trips throughout the two weeks. Join the tour as they set up neighborhood screenings of the Revolution talk... be part of making a big deal out of the distribution of BAsics 1:13 and other BAsics quotes... if you are a musician, bring a crew of others and play street-side to inspire people and help stir things up further. Bring a dance crew or a bunch of graphic artists... organize a cultural event in a neighborhood or town along the way... come with us as we are invited into people's living rooms, community centers, have neighborhood picnics and BBQs. And for those across the country, this will also be reported in near-real time so people everywhere can follow the bus, learn as it's learning and participate wherever they are. This is the leading edge of what will further cohere this movement nationally... as people all over will themselves be finding out about BA, responding to BA's quotes and voicing their support for and participation with the movement for revolution, and what the revolutionaries are doing right now on the ground in the rotting apple and surrounding towns.
One of the questions people have had as we've talked with them about this tour is how this won't just be a flash in the pan, what will we leave behind? This is an essential question and something this Party is serious about solving, but that also needs to be put back to you. This Party and this movement is too small... This revolution faced a worldwide defeat first with the Soviet Union in the 1950s, and then with a coup in China in 1976 which reversed socialism in that country and instated capitalism... which we've seen the brutal effects of today. Since then, people have suffered through 30 years of a counter-revolutionary assault against communism piling on lies and distortions about this liberatory experience. But in the face of this defeat, and going up against the "verdict" on communism—Avakian has forged a new synthesis of communism. This provides the foundation on which to go forward, it is rooted in the real world contradictions we face in making revolution, and emancipating humanity, this work provides answers... and a framework and foundation with which to forge answers to what we don't know... this provides the basis for this revolution to succeed—but that takes YOU being a part of it.
Because of the situation, I described, there is a big gap right now between the need for revolution, and the vision, strategy and leadership that exists for revolution concentrated in the new synthesis of communism and the leadership of BA. This gap needs to be closed and this revolution needs to be made a material force through coming to feel all the ways people are stepping forward into this revolution... and being sustained in how they're stepping forward and how that interacts with people just like them all across the country.
This brings me to another part of the RCP's statement on the strategy for revolution:
"For those who have hungered for, who have dreamed of, a whole different world, without the madness and torment of what this system brings every day...those who have dared to hope that such a world could be possible...and even those who, up to now, would like to see this, but have accepted that this could never happen...there is a place and a role, a need and a means, for thousands now and ultimately millions to contribute to building this movement for revolution, in many different ways, big and small—with ideas and with practical involvement, with support, and with questions and criticisms. Get together with our Party, learn more about this movement and become a part of it as you learn, acting in unity with others in this country, and throughout the world, aiming for the very challenging but tremendously inspiring and liberating—and, yes, possible—goal of emancipating all of humanity through revolution and advancing to a communist world, free of exploitation and oppression."
This tour—and this BA Everywhere campaign as a whole—is meeting a need and providing a means, finding a place and a role for thousands now and ultimately millions to contribute to building this movement for revolution, in many different ways, big and small—with ideas and with practical involvement, with support, and with questions and criticisms.
The significance—and world changing potential—can't be underestimated. The world is crying out for revolution... just thinking about the places this tour is going—there is no fucking reason people have to live this way... except that we live under a system whose economic and political functioning requires it. This is outmoded, it is a relic of history... a far better world is possible—a society, again from the strategy statement, "where human beings everywhere would be free of relations of exploitation and oppression and destructive antagonistic conflicts, and could be fit caretakers of the earth. But to make this a reality, we need revolution." And that is what all this is working towards today.
And I'll add this—working towards this in the ways I've discussed here, along with joining in mass resistance, is a part of shaping that terrain and repolarizing society towards revolution.
But making this tour happen—and making it known throughout society—will take a lot of energy and creativity, it will take a lot of money and a lot of support of different kinds, it will take housing, places for the RV to park, reporters and bloggers to make this known, participation from people in the neighborhoods the tour is going to, volunteers riding the bus and volunteers joining for a day outing here or there. It will take a lot of advance work in the neighborhoods—learning from people where the tour should go—the residents, social workers, teachers, librarians, store owners... everyone... and what it should do while there, it will take a lot of food, meeting places, musicians and artists of all kinds participating. There are a great many needs to fill... and every single need—from the bake sale to the video editor to the empty couch to the two-week volunteer is an opportunity to involve people as a conscious dynamic force.
The next 18 days need to crackle... with contributions pouring in, fundraising house parties and salons among different strata, word of this tour spreading via Twitter, online and on the streets, join the tour for a day or write a volunteer application to join for one or two weeks... be part of garnering media coverage, legal support—because this tour is going to where things are hot, reaching out to artists and others... helping with the whole logistical setup to get this on the road, and keep it on the road. Be part of designing beautiful eye-catching displays, helping with the advance work in the neighborhoods and towns the tour is going to, be part of the extensive phone banking that will be going on... there are a multitude of ways for you—and all your friends—to be part of making this happen.
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