New York:

It Is Quite a Scene When the Van Tour Rolls Up

August 25, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a volunteer with the BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Van Tour in New York:

It is quite a scene when the van tour rolls up: A large colorful banner with the full title of the film, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live on a stand-alone frame; A large-screen TV was on a table with projecting sound and chairs for people to sit on as they watch. An almost life-size poster enlargement of the "Three Strikes—That's IT for This System!" poster and stacks of smaller sizes for people to take. An agitator with "This is one part of this intolerable situation most of humanity is in, there is a way to solve this, stop and get into the film playing on that TV: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!"

We chalked messages on the sidewalk: "Stop & Frisk Is a Crime, Don't Mend It, End It!" "We don't need another civil rights movement, we need revolution-nothing less!" "It's not in god's hands, it's in our hands!"

Youth watching BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! DVD in Montclair, New Jersey. Photo: Special to Revolution

Along with the table playing the film, we had another table with Revolution newspaper, BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, palm cards and posters with quotes from BAsics, including the Three Strikes quote, and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). And jars for contributions people make as part of all this.

We didn't just wait for people to come to us. We challenged and struggled with people to stop what they are doing and read the Three Strikes poster and sit down right now to watch the film. In Harlem, the Bronx, and a Spanish-speaking area of the city, we've had about 50 or 60 people a day stop to watch some of the film—sparking further questions, exchanges, conversations, debates and dialog with the revolutionaries on the van tour. Sometimes there have been four or five people gathered around the large-screen TV, and someone else with earphones and a portable DVD player listening to a different part of the film. Altogether, a sense that the revolutionaries are here—with people listening to and engaging the leader of this revolution through the film!

* * * * *

Some brief vignettes:

* Scene: in front of a hospital that serves mainly Black people, and for many who work there, it was a conscious decision of serving where people don't have enough health care. Carl Dix had joined the tour for a little while, with the message "We do NOT need another civil rights movement, we need REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!" urging people to get into the film. Over 60 people stopped to watch the film here, hospital workers and many basic people from the neighborhood. Between 15 and 20 stopped to watch for 20 minutes or more. This sparked a lot of conversation and exchanges.

People watching the BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! DVD outside the Montclair Jazz Festival. Photo: Special to Revolution

One exchange was particularly notable. This guy who worked at the hospital watched part of the film for nearly 30 minutes but could not get his head around the idea of revolution—sweeping this system of capitalism-imperialism away and replacing it with a radically different and far better system—instead constantly bringing it back to getting the system to "listen" to the people or be "forced to do better." This is pretty common thinking among people who really feel there is no real alternative to this system.

We initially spent time "explaining" that it's not about lots of change within this system but getting rid of this system, going into how society is organized (capitalism is a system of producing our clothes, our food, everything, on the basis of exploiting human labor all over the globe for individual profit, with all the consequences of that we see in the world today), and the need to get rid of it. But this did not break through his framework of looking at things—till we mentioned there's a whole worked-out way this new society should and can be organized after the revolution, articulated in the Constitution for a New Socialist Republic of North America (Draft Proposal)—which is based on the work BA has done in forging a new framework, building on the lessons of past experiences of socialism, both its achievements and its shortcomings. That got his attention and began to crack the way he looked at what was necessary, possible, and desirable—revolution.

We told him these van tours are part of a campaign, BA Everywhere, to raise the funds needed to put this out so that you won't be able to live in this country and not know something about BA and this revolution. He hadn't wanted to take any posters or anything before this, though he did want to watch more of the film. Now he took a stack of Three Strikes posters, agreeing that people need to know about this. Plans were made for him to see more of the film and to pull together others to get into this.

* The question of how do you make a revolution with "people as they are now" (not in a revolutionary frame of mind) was a big question that came up constantly.

For example, a couple of guys, who were old enough to experience the struggles of at least the 1970s, insisted that revolution would mean people need to be willing to sacrifice, with the implication that they're not now, and that the best we can do is kind of tread water until more people feel that way. A younger proletarian guy in his 20s said, "I don't see how any of this can change until we use force." And that most people won't listen, won't be with it. So, we spoke to this, drawing from the film.

Yes, not people as they are, but transformed—transforming the thinking of blocs of people is the key part of our strategy "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution." BA—and this film—is the key part of that. Without this, humanity has no chance. This is what we are doing with the van tour.

We also made the point that there are particular times in society when people's thinking gets shaken and unsettled and where it can happen even more—like in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict and all the big questions it posed on the very nature of this country and society, and where does the oppression of Black people come from and what it will take to get rid of it.

We took the time to struggle this out and it took some work.

For example, this older guy didn't watch the film just then, but he bought a copy of it and made plans to join us to watch it and show it to others, including plans to pass the hat and raise $200 for the BA Everywhere campaign.

With the younger guy, we made the point that revolution is serious business, and there is a whole strategy here for making revolution and winning when the time is right, when there is a revolutionary situation with the system in crisis and millions of revolutionary people—pointing him to disc 3 of the film. Talking more about the strategy, we said we can't just say "people aren't with this now," we have to be doing the work now—of transforming their thinking and how they look at things, what is necessary, desirable and possible, Revolution—Nothing Less!, and what they do with their lives so that there are millions of revolutionary people and the necessary leadership as we hasten toward the situation when we can get rid of this system once and for all. In contrast, in Egypt, people are in the streets with serious sacrifice, but there is no revolutionary force or understanding. We also made and came back to the point that the film addresses the basic question—when the time is ripe, could we really win, could we meet and defeat the forces of the old repressive order? Watch this film and get with the revolution. He was moved, but wasn't able to stay right then to watch the whole of disc 3, but plans were made so he will in the very near future.

* One woman with her daughter walked by as BA, on the screen, was talking about religion, "You'd have to ask what's the matter with the boy" (talking about the lord or god). She stayed and listened to that section, and on leaving said "interesting." We told her that's good but not good enough. If she likes that, she knows we clearly have some work to do for this revolution to have a chance. She didn't have time to talk right then but left us her contact information.

* Two young women who at first were just going to keep walking, stopped and read the Three Strikes poster. In the exchange that ensued we told them of people watching the movie Fruitvale Station and then asking but not knowing what can be done about this, the epidemic of police killings of Black and Latino youth—now Trayvon Martin. (Fruitvale Station is a film about Oscar Grant, who was killed by police in Oakland in 2009.). We said it's about not letting people's anger getting channeled into the dead-end of a civil rights movement and instead "get into revolution." They immediately felt this answer needs to be everywhere. Plans to watch the film and get connected with the Revolution Club were made right then.

* We also learned through our shortcomings. For example, one person stopped for a minute and told us "I hope you're protecting that guy." Our response was we are, but in talking about it collectively later we decided we needed to stop that guy and put it to him, "WE are, but what about you? You recognize that's a problem to deal with. You and a lot of others need to step in to make sure he can keep doing what he's doing. It doesn't happen any other way. We're building a movement for the revolution he's talking about. You're drafted!" This was a lesson learned.

We took on and argued both sincere questions and backward shit about BA being a "white" leader—can he lead a revolution, including what this reflects about people's thinking, their epistemology—how they are thinking about this and how they can change their thinking. Because BA is not Black that doesn't mean he cannot feel and be deeply outraged by the oppression of Black people—even if not quite in the same way as someone who experiences this personally and directly. And more importantly, BA is applying science to get at the roots of the foundation of this oppression of Black people and all oppression, to understand where it comes from and what it will take to get rid of it—and he is taking responsibility to lead the struggle to end it as part of emancipating humanity.


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