A Few Thoughts and Some Experience in Sealing People's Commitment to Come to BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!

March 10, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

It is of great importance that we win many people to actually attend the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and that we do so on the right basis! Even in these final days a lot can be done to effect this. This includes continuing to go out very broadly to the masses in a mass way, involving people on the spot and forging/involving cores of people to come together, and it requires systematic fighting through with all we are meeting to really seal their commitment to come and to come on the right basis. What follows are thoughts on approach to this final dimension—on working with people to seal their commitment to come, and on the right basis.

These are some reflections off my own experience and that of others I have heard about—it is not comprehensive or meant as a "script" but it should provide some helpful experience for people working to do follow up and hopefully will also spur more people to sum up and synthesize their experience so that we can work together to maximize these last few days.

As has been stressed a number of times through various things published at revcom.us it is really important to present this film as what it actually is. This is described well in the words of the film-maker, "Yes, this is a film, but that is not its essence. This is a daring, substantive, scientific summoning to revolution. 6+ hours that can change how you see the world and what you do with the rest of your life." We should present this, along with the basic substance (often, actually quoting) the other information on the palm-card, and very early in our discussions we should focus people up on the question and answer provided in the following:

"Why go to this film premiere? Simply: It's by far the most important thing people could be doing that day–it's dealing with the most important thing there could be–because it's about the real possibility of bringing into being a radically different world, where all this madness, all the oppression and injustice, all the abuse and degradation that is so much a part of life now, would be done away with. If anybody can think of anything more important than that–let's hear it!"

It is important to actually stop at that point and give people a chance to process this invitation/challenge—and then to respond to IT. Resist any pull to fill in any silence after this to try to soften the challenge. Let people respond to it.

Many people respond by saying, "Wow, that is so true," or something to that effect. Others kind of acknowledge it on one level and then pretty quickly get back to something like, "What is more important? Paying my bills. I got to work that day." Obviously, there are other responses, but these typify some of the directions people go.

When people seem interested but they raise obstacles—including real-world difficulties like having to work or having trouble finding child-care or whatever else—it is worth it to fight through with them to CLEAR THE DAY and get their ticket (sealing their commitment to be there) to experience this film, but it is essential to not let the obstacles of life set the terms for this discussion. Instead, what is needed is to deepen people's engagement/understanding of what the film actually is about—the real world possibility of putting an end to all this madness—and to fight through obstacles in the service of winning them to make this commitment to come and hear this film together with others.

What is in that key paragraph quoted above is very true, but it is also not what people are thinking about most of the time and I have found that it can take a few times of being redirected for people to really let what is being posed sink in. The more that people understand what this film actually is, the more they will be able to weigh the importance of fighting through the obstacles in their life to be there.

If you are really listening to people's responses, you can start to understand what it is they think you are posing and deepen this where it is correct, struggle with it where it is off or incomplete, and struggle with people over their priorities where this becomes clearly delineated. It is also only in this way that you can assess whether they are serious or not and whether it is worth your time to continue struggling with them.

I will give a couple of examples.

Several people I spoke to about getting tickets posed, "I know, I agree these things are important. I am talking about them all the time. But I have to do [work, school, etc.]. Can't I just watch it later on DVD?"

I always go back to the fullness of what BA is actually answering in this film. "It is very good you think about these things a lot, but what BA is going to lay out that you don't know—and I'm not picking on you, no one else has these answers, that is why this is so important—is how we put an END to all this madness for real. Not just fight, but actually WIN."

I have had to pose a similar thing several times when people tell me that they are involved in a struggle of one kind of another, against Stop and Frisk or for the rights of undocumented immigrants, or other things. I have noticed a tendency at times for people building for this film to get into a discussion of why one strategy versus another is correct in these important struggles but I don't think this is the way to go. Rather, it is important to acknowledge and even encourage their desire to fight around those questions (here I am talking about sincere people, not opportunists) but to refocus their minds on the big problem that BA has actually solved—how to make real revolution and emancipate humanity!

Often, to try to get people to really "hear" me, I would give an example like how today there was Trayvon Martin, 50 years ago it was Emmett Till and that they should think about their future grandkids. Will they be watching their grandkids live through the same horrors and worse? Or will we be able to tell them that we ENDED all this, and their grandkids growing up wondering how the hell human beings ever lived this way for so long?

Giving an example like this—and there are many, many more that could be given—has proven helpful in my experience to kind of jolt people into hearing that this isn't like things they've heard before. It is not just about fighting. It is about ENDING all this oppression and bringing into being a far better world.

I have gone back and forth between deepening this sense of what the film is really about with people and acknowledging very openly along the way, "This is why I am really fighting for you to make the commitment to be there with others, to get your ticket today, you really should not miss this." And working for them to actually buy their tickets on this basis.

Throughout all this, however, I do not try to replace what BA does in the speech. I am telling them what he is going to get into and answer and why these things are unique and really matter. I am not trying to answer all their questions or differences myself (none of us will do this as fully as BA in this film which is precisely why people should come and hear IT) as a prerequisite for them to come.

The other point that I have taken the time to focus up with people is that, while they can watch this on their own and they definitely should if they do not come, it really makes a huge difference to be there with others. The point of all this is to CHANGE THE WORLD TO END ALL THIS MADNESS. While they will definitely learn a lot from this and need to learn a lot from BA (we ALL do!), this isn't fundamentally just about educating people. Acting as individuals, even if we know the way out (which, again, they do not know), we cannot effect it. We have to do that together. This is why it makes a huge difference for people to come together to connect up their curiosity and concern, or their passion and anger, or their determination and commitment with the actual answers and experienced leadership that can take this somewhere. It makes a huge difference for people to experience this film together, hundreds of people around the country on a single weekend so that we can get into this together and go out and actually change the world!

Of course, by coming to the film they are NOT committing to play any particular role in this revolution—and there will be a lot of different ways people respond to this film and things they do off it—what I am asking them to do is to make a commitment to come and hear the case made for how we can be part of the fight to emancipate all humanity, why this is needed and how this could actually be won. This is something that people around the world need so badly and they have a chance to hear it and really should not turn their backs on this—it really matters.

Throughout all this, it is essential to listen and draw out people's responses. If they are dismissive towards this, we shouldn't spend time continuing with them. But if they are responding to this and taking it seriously, even if they are not fully decided, it is worth it to really lead them to think this all the way through.

Another point that came up quite a bit with some of the younger people I spoke to was a sort of attitude of, "I am down already and I am committed." Granted, this is far from the most widespread response (most people are not yet thinking about the questions of how to change the world, something we are fighting to change), but for those who are, there are some important points to bring to bear in BA's interview with A. Brooks. In that interview, What Humanity Needs Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism, BA makes the point that there is too much arrogance in the culture these days, including among those who are new to political life in this new generation.

He makes the point that it is wrong for young people to think that if they are just really committed in their hearts that they will be able to go further than things went a generation ago. A number of times I had to tell people straight up, "Let's be real here. It is very good that you are committed and passionate about this and determined not to accept this world. But if you think that the '60s generation lacked commitment, willingness to fight and to sacrifice—people gave their lives, they fought so hard, they changed so much... for a time, but if you think that what was missing is commitment you are really mistaken. And that mistake—if persisted in—will have great and negative consequences for humanity. What was missing in the '60s was the scientific understanding and leadership to take that fight all the way—to really make real revolution and END ALL THIS MADNESS. That is what was missing then and that is what BA has brought forward and that is what your anger and passion and commitment needs to be brought together with, or else it becomes really nothing but a way of making yourself feel better in a fucked-up world. Again, what BA has made possible is CHANGING THE WHOLE WORLD AND EMANCIPATING ALL HUMANITY."

Throughout all of this, I was uniting with and underscoring the importance of their positive impulses and sentiments but really sharply delineating what they need to come together with to be part of emancipating humanity and why any notions that impulses and sentiments alone are sufficient is really wrong. It is important not to put down these positive impulses and qualities and by recounting this I am NOT encouraging in any way an approach of telling people that they aren't doing anything important or thinking about anything important if it seems they are sincere in trying to make a positive change. But there is a point of challenging them to really think about the possibility of all this horror and injustice being ENDED and engaging what is needed for that to be made real.

It is very important, as a point of method throughout all of this engagement and struggle, to actually let people respond to the substance of what you are saying. Not just to make the points and keep moving. But really draw them out in relation to what you are saying. You learn a great deal through doing this which should be shared with the Party and others working on this effort. Also, it has a big impact on the person to actually have to work through their thinking in response to what objectively are not only new ideas but very different terms than they are used to dealing with. And you discover quickly and along the way if they are taking the struggle and stakes seriously (in which case it is worth it to continue) or if they are not serious (in which case you can put this challenge to them once as what it is and tell them it is their choice what they want to do in relation to that and wrap it up). And, finally, you actually have the best basis to seal people's commitment to attend the film through buying the ticket.

More on getting people to the premiere on the right basis

Finally, two quick thoughts on "on the right basis."

Once someone purchases their ticket we should see it as a very big priority to make sure that they begin some beginning engagement with BA even before the film. The Cornel West interview with BA is a very good way, as are viewing clips of BA from the Revolution talk and there are other ways. But the more that people begin this engagement the more they have a deeper sense of what they are coming to and the more they will be able to take it in as what it is and stay through what is a lengthy and substantive presentation. It is really worth the time to make sure someone gets the links to some of these materials (or gets them in hand) and then to talk with them a little about them before the film. Again, this should be done in a way that does not seek to replace the upcoming film, but does help get people in deeper and prepare them to be thinking about the biggest questions.

The other point I want to end with is the great importance of "BA: A Contended Question" (See Revolution # 278, August 19, 2012, available at revcom.us). It is important, especially where people get excited and want to go talk to their friends or their progressive professors or the people they know who might be more involved in activism, to go into the substance of that piece with them. BA is very contended precisely because of how radical and thoroughgoing the revolution he has re-envisioned is. This is not a bad thing, it is a very positive thing—but only if people are prepared for what they might encounter and are provided a basic framework and approach to evaluate what they might encounter—and an inviting and open connection to someone who can talk through questions that might come up as they begin to engage with BA.

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