A Day on Campus

February 17, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us



From a member of the NYC Revolution Club:

It was a busy afternoon at a major college in a big city, a lot of students from the bottom of society who’ve grown up in projects or immigrant communities. Word spread through the cafeteria as a flier went out that read “REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!,” letting people know about the upcoming premiere of the film of the new talk by Bob Avakian. We challenged people that Obama has been worse than Bush and called on them to listen to the new interview with Bob Avakian on The Michael Slate Show. We invited students to come out to the steps to listen together. A group of Black women argued how there’s no way this could be true about Obama because “Bush tore this country apart.” In another corner of the cafeteria a cluster of young men wanted to know, “Why do communists think that abortion is not murder, why do you think opposing abortion has to do with keeping women down?”

Then two young women, freshmen, stopped to ask for a flier, one African-American, the other Asian. One said her friend told her about Marxism but she’s not really sure how to know what’s for real because there’s all these different ideas. We talked some about how it’s important to search for the truth, that right now on campus there is not enough contestation of ideas like there was in the ’60s when people could hear different points of view on what the problem and solution is and many were lifting their heads to be part of changing things. That’s not the case now, but we need to create that, and students like them need to be part of changing things with the Revolution Club as they learn more. Little did they know they were about to get a taste of that contestation.

At 1 pm we went out to the steps and arrived to a scene that unfortunately is far too much of the status quo—three young women holding court on why students need to come to bible study—“everyone is full of sin…but the good news is that god forgives you for these sins if you pray to him and ask for his forgiveness.”

We dove in—

“We’re the revolution! We say you don’t need prayer, we don’t need to get down on our knees, we need to make a revolution. The reason people suffer is not because they’re sinners, it’s because of this system! The reason Black youth are harassed by the police and incarcerated in mass numbers is not because they sag their pants or ’cause of sin. It’s ’cause a system has taken their jobs, criminalized them, and is carrying out slow genocide. We need a revolution to solve all that, and it’s possible! Some of you came to hear Bob Avakian and find out about how the world could be different. We’re gonna play an interview with him and people need to hear it!”

There was definitely a section of students that welcomed the challenge. The religious forces chimed back in, but before they could make their point another student, a guy from a group called the Spartacist League (one of so-called “left” groups that’s only about dried-up dogma, to paraphrase BA in his spoken word piece “All Played Out”), was running some bullshit slander and attacks on the Revolutionary Communist Party and Bob Avakian, spewing out nothing but lies and distortion that won’t help people to actually compare and contrast different programs. Just to give a sense of the shamefulness of it, as we were there challenging people to not get with Obama, his program, and the system he is the commander-in-chief of, but to be part of working on the revolution (all of which this guy had absolutely NOTHING to say about), he was claiming that the RCP leads people to get behind the Democratic Party and then running the tired old narrow shit that if workers strike then society can’t function, and that someday, somehow this will simultaneously happen and somehow lead to a revolution that is not about emancipating humanity but furthering the rights of workers. This doesn’t have anything to do with reality or actually making revolution in the world today.

To this, we called straight up, “Everything this guy says is BULLSHIT!” and the debate broke open on another level. One of us got up and challenged people that if they are serious they need to compare and contrast the different programs, look at what’s being put forward and think about what’s really going to lead to liberation. Clusters of students on the stairs were listening and drawn into all this. People liked the controversy and wanted to hear what it was about. They wanted to hear what each side was arguing and figure out where they fell out. This was no longer business as usual on campus. A crowd of another 20 students came out of the cafeteria and gathered around at the bottom of the stairs watching and talking among themselves. A young artsy looking Black guy in a funky sweater started holding up his flier promoting the fashion and culture that he’s into. Others got out their cell phones to capture the debate. A young woman sitting with a couple friends near where the debate was happening started giving direction. She wanted to actually hear the arguments being made, so if one side would start to interrupt the other, she would hold up her hand and tell them to wait, and when people wanted to respond she would call on them to make sure they would be heard. She became our moderator struggling for an atmosphere where people’s arguments would be heard, and threw into the discussion herself.

We brought out how there’s something wrong with the method of claiming to be an authority on something and then spreading lies, but not actually dealing with what’s going on in the world, or raising principled differences with the actual line of the RCP. We read from BAsics 2:1, “Communism: A Whole New World and the Emancipation of All Humanity—Not ‘The Last Shall Be First and First Shall Be Last.’” We brought out the slogan “Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution,” and read BAsics 3:1 about how “We need a revolution. Anything else, in the final analysis, is bullshit.

In the midst of the debate the guy with the sweater had put down his flier and was fixated on the back and forth, and chimed in, “Wait, do we make revolution here or is it all around the world, because you said emancipators of humanity, so I’m just confused about what you are referring to.” This is very different than the 1960s when there was a widespread sentiment among students and others of an internationalist stand of American lives are not more important than other people’s lives. We opened up the Revolution centerfold with BAsics 1:13 and the image of a girl sitting atop a heap of garbage, holding her baby brother while her parents search through the trash for items to sell. This image sharpened things up. One woman in the cafeteria had asked, “How am I supposed to care about that when we have our own problems here?” This American chauvinism is pervasive.

At one point someone from the Revolution Club stepped up and called on people to get with the club and be part of taking up the slogans “Humanity Needs Revolution and Communism” and “Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.” They challenged people to go on the cell phones right then to hear the interview with BA at revcom.us, and some of them looked up the site. One of us put the interview on for a young white guy with long hair, jeans and a black T-shirt a la ’90s grunge, who came to the steps with his friend. He is someone that wants to see radical change, and expressed to us that he was not too impressed with what he heard from other groups on campus before. He was very excited about the back and forth. At first he said he would rather listen to the revolutionaries there who were agitating. We said, “Oh no—you’ve never heard anyone like BA,” and that BA is on a whole other level and when you get into BA you learn about the possibility of revolution today. This won over this student to listening to a big chunk of the interview right there.

As all this unfolded we went up and down the steps and through the crowd getting out palm cards about the BA interviews on the Slate show and with Cornel West. A Black woman in her 40s was drawn to the debate. She told us, “What you are doing is good, but aren’t you daunted by how people think here?” She was challenged to hear that we are out to erect a revolutionary pole over the next six weeks building for the premiere of the film. She bought a copy of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), and we talked about how she could be part of this message spreading on campus.

The guy from the Spartacist League made several comments about how the women in the pornography he’s watching don’t look like they’re suffering and they seem to be enjoying it. We took on what this opportunist fool said, upholding the putrid culture and enslaving oppressive relations of women while alleging we are against sex and want to repress people. “Yes, we’re against pornography—if you can’t imagine sex without porn, you’re fucked! It fuels rape, and it’s not about sex, it’s about sexualized violence against women. It’s degrading; it’s happening in the context of a society where one in four women in college will be raped or sexually assaulted, where violence against women is rampant, where a whole war on women is going on. We’re for the full liberation of women and ending all oppressive relations through revolution.”

This kicked off a whole other round of debate. At one point there was a cluster of people going back and forth on pornography and the oppression of women overall in a heated exchange with the revolutionaries, including with a guy who felt compelled to come down the stairs and make his argument to the communists, that went from pornography to human nature, to “if communism is so right, why did the Soviet Union fail?” As this was going on several groupings of students were talking among themselves, while two guys were listening on a phone to the interview with BA. There was a palpable energy from this ferment that stopped passersby and that everyone who was part of it will remember. Many people, the majority on the steps, stayed through the entire discussion.

The terms of the argument people made around women’s oppression and porn were largely that this is a question of people having the “choice” to watch what they want to watch or be in pornography if they want to be in it, and even that this can be empowering for women. The “moderator” made clear that she liked a lot of what we had to say, but on this she had to disagree. One guy had been listening the whole time but was very quiet, didn’t say much himself. Afterwards he came up to us and said, “I think I agree with you more.”

As much as people liked the debate and responded positively, they knew very little about the reality in the world, and very often proceeded from “this is my point of view” and “we all have different points of view.” There was repeated struggle for people to look at the reality in the world. We asked, “How many people here voted for Obama?” A young woman in the back nodded, and everyone on the steps was listening intently. “When you voted for Obama did you vote for children in Pakistan to be killed by Predator drones? Did you vote for him to continue the war in Afghanistan?” There was a fight for people to see that what we were bringing was not just “controversial ideas” or “our thing” but a movement for revolution, and the leadership we need to actually get to a whole different world. And who are the forces for revolution? If you want to hear a real analysis of the forces for revolution, listen to Cornel West’s interview with BA, listen to part 3 of the interview with BA by Michael Slate at revcom.us.

Towards the end, our moderator said that she wanted to hear more about all this but that she was “Switzerland.” “No you’re not!” we replied. “When it comes to what the reality is and how we’re going to change things there’s no such thing.” Again we opened the centerfold of the newspaper. “When it comes to how we’re going to end this, there is no neutrality.” This was another trend throughout the day—many interested students claimed a position of neutrality, but there’s no such thing! Not when your government is murdering innocent civilians through Predator drones, or the right to abortion is increasingly being lost, and all the horrors of this system continue throughout the planet. I wouldn’t say she was won over, but she responded positively to this challenge.

About two-thirds of the way through all this, we noticed the two young women from the cafeteria sitting towards the top of the stairs taking all this in. The young Black woman said she was trying to sift through all this. It’s an important thing when people begin to contrast different lines.

All this was not in an immediate sense what we were planning or thinking about for that day, but this is exactly what we need to be doing. This is what happens when we plant a pole of revolution, when we take on all the false pathways and so-called solutions that lead people to be part of tightening the chains of oppression and the world staying intact. Everyone, from the religious forces, to the backwards opportunists, to the students that are searching, to the people who the day before weren’t even thinking about any of this, are compelled and impelled to relate to the revolution. Something got opened up, something was stirred—and now this has to be taken forward. It was a new day on campus.


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