Letter From a Reader

To the Campuses with the Special Issue of Revolution

January 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


Most students have returned, or are returning, to campus from the holiday break. We can't waste any time in getting out with and maximizing the impact of "You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future."

This special issue of Revolution is a tremendous political-ideological resource and tool in the struggle to "reset the terms" in the societal discourse around the first stage of communist revolution—and for re-polarizing for revolution. The point is driven home in the commentary on "history by memoir" that revcom.us recently posted:

One of the biggest elements of people's thinking that needs to be transformed...one of the biggest dimensions around which the political terrain needs to be radically reshaped...one of the biggest factors keeping people from seeing the necessity and possibility of revolution and the illegitimacy of the current system...one of the biggest things standing in the way of them getting with the movement for revolution...is that people, broadly, in this society do not know that a whole different world is possible, and/or they have accepted the idea that any past attempts to radically change the world through revolution has been a nightmare. In other words: The only actual solution to the horrors confronting humanity—the communist revolution—has been written off the agenda, and people broadly in society have no idea about decades of experience of that revolution in which humanity lived a radically different way than they do now. And people broadly in society do not know about BA's new synthesis of communism, which provides a framework for a new stage of communist revolution, for humanity to correctly understand and also advance beyond even the best of that previous experience. Again, all this keeps people locked into accepting and working within the confines of the capitalist-imperialist system. But getting this special issue way out into society has the potential to change that.

While these points apply to society as a whole, they also have particular relevance to the situation on campuses.

The special issue truly has the potential to transform the thinking of blocs of students and academics-intellectuals, with respect to: a) gaining a scientific understanding of the actual history, achievements, and shortcomings of these first socialist revolutions; b) the struggle over epistemology and method and approach for understanding and changing the world; and c) seeing the necessity and possibility for a "total revolution"—as opposed to the dominant discourse that incremental change within the existing order is the best and really only course for those who "care" about the world.

The title of the special issue is a scientific provocation...and that provocation really has to be the leading edge of how we go out with this issue. What people "don't know" is what these revolutions were really about and achieved, and how these revolutions actually show that socialism really is much better than capitalism... and that communism, as it has been developed and re-envisioned by BA, really will be a far better world.

Going out with this special issue is about re-setting the terms of debate and understanding—and aiming to win a critical mass of students and academics to see the whole historical experience of socialism and the question of communism in today's world in a scientific light.

This is bound up with big strategic questions of "transfer of allegiance." This is the phenomenon of sections of intellectuals coming to reject the political and ideological framework of the current order and beginning to see themselves as part of and contributing to the revolutionary struggle to create a new communist world. This is not something for the far-off future but something revolutionaries have to be working on for the "here and now."

The "brute fact" is: there can be no revolution without radical ferment among the intellectuals and students, and without a communist current exerting real influence in the campus milieu. And there needs to be "fire from below" coming from students that is "working on" the more established academics and intellectuals.

With this special issue, we have to have an "out into the world in a mass way" orientation. We can't let this semester trickle away without impacting the scene on some key campuses. So what does that call for?

There needs to be relative simplicity of plans in our initial outreach on campuses.

There needs to be consistency of work. That requires a regular presence on certain campuses, so that we can be influencing the scene and learning more about it. We should ask ourselves: where, in light of our objectives and the transformative potential of this issue...where can we make some breakthroughs? On what campuses is there a more positive basis to create an impact that can ripple out? Of course, we shouldn't put blinders on; if we can do some classroom presentations at some campuses that might not be part of an overall focus, let's do that. But there is this importance to establishing a consistent presence at some campuses.

And revcom.us has to pulse with experience and lessons in taking out the special issue, as well as ideas and recommendations for going further out with it.

1) Importance of debate. We should be stirring up discussion and debate, small-scale and large-scale. On the one hand, this should have an informal quality—going to quads, cafeterias, common rooms, etc, with the special issue. (Setting up tables has its role, but there should be this pro-active outreach.) On the other hand, there should be real efforts to enter into discussion and to intervene at formal programs and events where relevant questions are getting posed and taken up. I have also heard of some positive experience that people have had in speaking at various student clubs (debating societies, philosophy clubs, Black student groups, etc.); and we should seek out those opportunities. We should also explore openings and look to be creating conditions for big debates that would involve Raymond Lotta (and perhaps others) with major voices propounding anticommunist summations, anarchist and social-democratic summations, and so forth.

2) Classes. People have had positive experience in the past in making presentations to classes. Let's aim to do that widely. Begin looking at programs and courses in modern history, Asian history and Asian studies, Soviet studies, certain political science programs, social theory, comparative economics (or things like that), etc., to see where there might be openings—and reach out to professors (those we know and ones we don't). Be creative: if there are American history classes viewing Oliver Stone's film The Untold History of the Cold War (or using the book), then we need to be there with this special issue. Let's get quantities of the special issue sold in classes, etc. We can hand out the "But How Do We Know Who's Telling the Truth About Communism?" piece and get discussion going; make use of the "pop quiz" on the history of socialism (go to the "teaching resources" page at www.thisiscommunism.org), distribute BA's "Turner vs. Jefferson" article, etc.

By the way, there might be some high school classes where we should do some of this as well.

3) Professors and strategizing with them. We need to make determined efforts to get to professors that people know (and should get to know). We should encourage them to get into this special issue (I mean, really get into it!) and have discussion with them. We should strategize with them about the role they can play in opening up channels for this special issue—from bringing it to students to getting it into the larger intellectual world. Some of these professors are involved with or know about "brown-bag" lunch events—which are more informal gatherings where presentations are made and discussed—and Raymond Lotta will be available for some of that kind of activity as well. These professors might know of conferences where the special issue could be the topic of a panel, etc.

4) Media. Raymond Lotta will be doing interviews and going into the media. Inquiries and suggestions (both campus and bigger media) should be directed to settherecordstraight@hotmail.com

5) The international communist movement, foreign students and scholars. There is a great need—and opportunity—with this special issue to influence the understanding of radical-minded intellectuals and students from abroad. This bears greatly on initiating the new stage of communist revolution worldwide. We should have our antennae out for getting the special issue into the hands of foreign students and professors, talking with them about ways to project it internationally, enlisting assistance for translating the special issue into other languages, etc.

6) Once again: the importance of the revcom.us website. People need to be writing timely accounts, synthesizing questions and controversies, and pointing to new pathways for getting this special issue out and provoking debate. Encourage students to go to revcom.us to learn more: to make use of the interactive on-line format of the special issue, to encounter the new material going up (like the piece on "memoir literature"), to check out the section on the site called "Setting the Record Straight on Socialism and Communism."

Let's have an impact on campus this semester and create conditions for even greater impact as we go forward.

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