Revolutionary Contingent at San Francisco Earth Day

May 1, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


From readers:

Hundreds of people marched in downtown S.F. for Earth Day on April 19th in an Action Parade and Rally called by The march ended at a big Earth Day Festival sponsored by corporations, smaller companies and environmentalist groups, attended by thousands.

In the march, students, teachers, environmental activists, and others came together to oppose fracking, global warming, the killing of elephants, environmental destruction, and the environmental dangers facing the planet. It was positive that so many people came out to protest because it reflects the understanding of broad numbers of people that the planet is in danger and people must act to stop it. Some wore T-shirts that said, "I pledge to get arrested to stop the Pipeline XL."

But broadly there was a phenomena of many people organized to oppose specific environmental dangers, with not anyway near enough focus on the severity of the overall situation and possibility of looming catastrophe that threatens the whole planet.

Earth Day San Francisco 2014

A revolutionary contingent wearing "Revolution—Nothing Less" T-shirts made a significant impact with our banner, "This Capitalist System is Destroying Our Planet. Revolution is the Only Solution." High above the banner floated a beautiful blue earth helium balloon that was breaking out of chains, symbolizing the world that humanity needs and that is possible to get to through revolution to free the world from capitalist exploitation.  Our plan in going into this Earth Day was to have an impact through getting out the message of "This capitalist system is destroying our planet and revolution is the solution" and to get out materials and raise funds for BA Everywhere campaign.

The banner and balloon attracted attention, with lots of people taking photos of it. Our chants, "Global Warming—What's the solution? Revolution, Revolution; Extinction of Species—What's the Solution? Revolution—Nothing Less! Capitalism Made This Mess, What we need is Revolution—Nothing Less!" stood out. Revolution newspapers and BAsics cards got into many hands.

There were many different views about the problem and solution. Some people thought a revolution was needed because the system was causing the problem and got the paper and BA Everywhere materials.

There was back and forth with some people from the group We asked them what they thought about the fact that CO2 concentrations were at 400+ ppm and going full speed ahead—how did they see the problem and solution. Their main argument was that the problem was the oil companies—so if you can stop them, you take the first real step in stopping global warming. There were several others who focused on the development of solar power and green tech as the key, and seemed focused on gains in alternative energy sources—especially in Germany and China, while not really engaging the fact that mass carbon fuel emissions continue largely unabated and unrestrained.

Bill McKibben from was the featured speaker at the big Earth Day Festival and we got out the Four Points for Bill McKibben by Raymond Lotta as he was speaking. Among those listening to him, there was some sentiment for deepening the debate about what it will take to save the planet.

There were also several people in who argued that revolution was not realistic. Instead, they thought the climate crisis could be resolved in a step by step way by first stopping or restraining the oil companies from building the XL pipeline. They did not see the environmental crisis stemming from the system of capitalism, and thought it could be changed through protests and things like increasing solar energy.

In talking to people about revolution, we needed to repeatedly clarify what kind of revolution we are talking about because many people think we're talking about the same things that they're already into, working for reforms or living an alternative lifestyle.

This event attracted a lot of people who sense the seriousness of the environmental crisis and are looking for some alternatives to the way things are, but whose thinking is constrained by a capitalist framework. For example, one woman thought things like permaculture could reverse global warming (though she thought it might have to come down to a revolution, and if that were the case, asked whether it had to involve violence).

Another woman said she agreed with revolution, but what she meant was consensus decision making democracy. She asked if the revolutionary movement was based on consensus and when it was explained that in order to make a revolution, there needs to be a party whose organizational principal was democratic centralism with revolutionary leadership, she said revolutions in the past had failed and that unless a movement is based on consensus, it will only replicate the same capitalist system.

There was some searching for deep answers to the environmental crisis. One young woman said she came to the festival wanting to hear this problem taken up in a serious way, but she was let down by so many of the booths just promoting one kind of product or another which made profits (although they were green products), and she thought that didn't deal with the problem, so she wanted to look into revolution.

A young Black woman with Greenpeace said she agreed that only revolution could save the planet and would welcome that revolution and fight with it when it came, but in the meantime she worked with Greenpeace "for today." We struggled with her that we needed to be preparing now for that time and gave the example of Egypt, where there was a revolutionary people but without a clear revolutionary understanding, plan and leadership, and she said agreed that was true because without those things, there will be only "chaos" with no good outcome.

There were some discussions about the BA Everywhere campaign, linking the environmental crisis to the need for revolution and the role BA has played in making path-breaking developments in summing up the experience of socialist revolutions so far, and how he is leading this movement for revolution that could actually win. A couple of people made small donations and one wanted to read the info and get back together to talk further.

Among some of the older movement crowd, BA was known by several people and was quite controversial. A few said that communist leaders were just power hungry and corrupt like the capitalists—look at China—and others said that socialism had been an environmental disaster and that BA's communist revolution was just not the answer.

However, several people said that they did know of BA and were impressed by the fact that the Party was making a very big issue of the environment and felt that it was true that capitalism was the problem and that socialist revolution should be seriously engaged with, because it seemed like there was no other solution within the framework of capitalism. Among some of the younger people in particular, there was real interest in revolution, though many people felt that communism "had failed" and some of them got the environmental issue and the special issue on communist rev. Questions also came up about human nature from some of the younger people.

Our presence through the contingent and getting out our materials planted a strong pole for revolution. It introduced people to BA and this movement for revolution and changed the political atmosphere in a beginning way by engaging people over the questions of revolution as the only way to save the planet.

At the event, $139 was raised from selling baked goods that were made and donated by people in the neighborhood— see the following report:

Earth Day Bake Sale for BA Everywhere

The night before a major Earth Day event (expected to draw upwards of 10,000 people), a group of us from the Revolution Club, along with others got together to bake cookies, brownies, and banana bread to raise money for the BA Everywhere campaign. We were a diverse group of men and women alternately speaking English and Spanish, including a mother and her 6th grade boy who both donned aprons. We set up an assembly line of mixing, cooking, wrapping, and washing dishes, everyone taking part.

But we began with a reading of parts of the statement from the Harlem/Bronx bake sale featured in Revolution paper, which spoke of making this vision of a better world a reality. A question arose as to what the money would be used for, and one of us pulled out a picture of a huge billboard which had advertised the film debut of BA Speaks: Revolution-Nothing Less! as an example of what had already been done for Bob Avakian Everywhere. The 6th grader shouted he remembered seeing the billboard next to a sports arena.

As we baked, we had lots of lively discussion. Some of us recently took part in a bookstore discussion on the chapter of Revolution—Nothing Less! which dealt with the material origins of patriarchy and class oppression, resulting in one of the women to say "yeah, women were the first slaves." In fact, as we discussed everything from the TV series Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey to Latin musicas, we began to feel a collective accomplishment by the end of the night.

On the next day's march and rally, we had a second selling crew organized and ready. With 9 loaves of banana bread, several dozen cookies and brownies, sales started slow but picked up briskly when the march pulled into the plaza. While some of us leafleted with May Day leaflets and BA Everywhere brochures ("The World Needs to Be Radically Changed. Here’s Step One."), others were shouting "buy cookies and donate to BAE," while agitating using the BAsics 1:29 quote ("these people are not fit to be caretakers of the earth.")

It was clear that many in the crowd were searching for solutions deeper than electric cars and solar panels; so although we were selling baked goods, we also had a buzz buzz going on around us among those who felt betrayed by capitalist solutions. Several people were pretty sure, for example, that Obama was NOT going to veto the Keystone XL pipeline.

A group of friendly anarchists came up to our table and one fellow remarked "you're the only table taking that on over there (pointing to a Chevrolet booth)." Ironically, despite being against "hierarchy" (which we took on, of course, bringing out why vanguard leadership is essential for a real revolution), the young man donated extra money to BA Everywhere.

We sold out of our baked goods. One man who came from the hood to be in the selling team stayed with us the whole day, despite his recent leg operation. He had a big smile at the end of the day and suggested we "do it again." On the way home, he kept saying that the whole experience was "meaningful" to him.

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