Watching the Film Disruption and Engaging People Going to the Climate March

Get on the Buses Going to People's Climate March September 21

September 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


Yesterday afternoon, I was in Revolution Books talking with some friends. A young man came in and started browsing. I asked him what brought him in and he said that he was with the Great March for Climate Action and they were coming through our city on the way to the big People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21. He said he had looked up the bookstore because he and some of his friends on the Great March for Climate Action were feeling that something radical is required to stop the destruction of the environment. And he was looking for answers. I explained that we agreed with him completely that something radically different is necessary and I introduced him to Bob Avakian (BA) and the movement for revolution we are building. We talked for a while. He was jazzed and bought the RCP’s Climate EMERGENCY pamphlet and a copy of Revolution newspaper. He said that the place where his group was staying locally was going to show a film that night, Disruption, produced by the environmental group to build support for the People’s Climate March. He invited those of us at Revolution Books to come.

After he left, we had a scheduled film showing of a clip from BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! When that ended, I asked if anyone in the store wanted to go to the showing of Disruption and follow up with these marchers for climate action. Everyone else said that they had things they needed to do. I decided that whatever I had to do, it was less important than bringing revolution to these front-line fighters in the battle against climate change. So I went to the film.

I think the same approach needs to be taken to the People’s Climate March itself. For at least some of us, nothing should be more important than bringing BA and revolution to those on the buses going to NYC. Information about buses can be found at – click on People’s Climate March and then Transportation.

The hunger for answers among many of the younger people struck me as soon as I arrived for the film. A number of them warmly welcomed me and said that they had already heard about the revolution from the young man who had come into Revolution Books. And they wanted to make sure I would have time to talk with them after the film showing.

There were about 40 people at the film showing with maybe a 50-50 split between young and older. Some were marchers, others were local people. The film makes a very powerful case for how far we have traveled down the road to climate disaster and how urgent it is to act now to stop it. And it argues that it will take millions in the street to do this. It repeatedly goes back to the giant anti-nuke rally of the early ’80s and the huge civil rights rallies of the ’60s as the yardstick for what will be necessary to change things today. And it calls on everyone to be in the streets in NYC on September 21 to deliver an equally powerful message to the UN.

After the film, there was a discussion in which a whole range of ideas came out about what it will take to stop this climate disaster. An older guy from started out arguing that the key thing to do right now is to ensure that the Democrats keep control of the Senate. Others argued that more people needed to grow their own food. Fairly early on, I spoke and made a few points – starting with uniting with the urgency everyone felt – and which the movie so clearly conveyed: that the destruction of the environment has to stop right now. And exactly because the stakes are so high, we have to seriously dig into what is actually causing this crisis and what it will take to stop and reverse it. I explained that only a revolution that replaces capitalism-imperialism and its dog-eat-dog competition for profit with an economic system based on meeting the needs of the people and being fit caretakers of the earth can accomplish this. I agreed that massive outpourings of resistance are extremely important. But I argued that equally important is what these massive outpourings are trying to accomplish. And this is where the film Disruption goes off the tracks. The argument in the film – both implicitly and explicitly – is that if this NYC climate demo is just big enough it will scare those in power into changing their policies and saving the environment. But if you just think about what is presented in the film itself – this is clearly not true. Yes, there was a huge anti-nuke rally in the ’80s, but nothing fundamentally changed and today the U.S. is still nuked to the gills (which the film conveniently does NOT mention). Yes, there was a massive MLK-led march on Washington in 1964, but today schools in the U.S. are more segregated than they were back then and life continues to be hell for the large majority of Black people – as so powerfully demonstrated by recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. We can’t settle for “easy” answers that don’t take us out of our comfort zone or challenge our illusions about what this system is really all about. We have to be so determined to actually stop this pending disaster that, as we are standing together to fight against all these attacks on the environment, we are also willing to dig into and struggle over whether a revolution is necessary to solve this.

Putting the need for a revolution on the table changed the whole character of the discussion because people now felt they needed to respond to that. One woman attacked it – arguing that nobody will listen to “the far left” and what is needed is locally controlled communities in the cities. Another guy defended the idea that something radically different is required to solve this problem – and that is definitely not capitalism. Some people picked up on the need for everyone to unite in struggling against climate change. One guy argued that there was a spiritual basis for people to “come together as one.” Another woman went out of her way to say that she was all for the unity part, she did not like all the disagreement and struggle – and she felt that people should be accepted for who they are.

As the discussion wound down, I made one more point because I was worried by how the framework for many people’s remarks was what “we should do in America.” I pointed out that the U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population but consumes 25 percent of the world’s wealth and that no approach to solving the climate problem that leaves that grotesque lopsidedness intact will produce anything good for the vast majority of humanity: another reason why we need a total revolution aimed at liberating all of humanity.

As the meeting broke up, people came over to talk to me and get copies of the leaflet “People’s Climate March: A Call to ALL those Who Want to ’Change Everything’” and the issue of Revolution newspaper (#350-351) with the Cornel West/BA Dialogue on the cover. 

People wanted to know more about this revolution. A local couple who are sociology professors are taking a group of students to NYC as part of a project to poll young people and learn what they are thinking about the climate crisis. And a lot of their questions have to do with whether people see this as a product of the capitalist system. We talked about this and I asked if they had questions that probed how people understand how capitalism works. I pointed out that a lot of the “Occupy” generation have a sense of there being a super-rich 1% that owns everything and amass great wealth from corporate profits. But do they understand that as rich as these folks might be, they must continually battle to get even richer or they will get swallowed up by some meaner, leaner capitalists? That’s why you can’t make the rich “play nice” or the capitalist system function on any other basis than “expand or die.” They thought this was an important question to add to their survey and they invited me to come and visit them on campus and perhaps speak in their classes.

At a certain point we had to leave the main room, so a number of the youth asked me to stay longer and talk in a smaller room nearby. Here we dug more deeply into who BA is and what the revolution is all about. The question of epistemology (how do we understand what is true) was a central part of our discussion. BA’s breakthroughs on epistemology – with his emphasis on leading the masses to be able to distinguish between what is and what is not true about the world – all this was very attractive to a number of these young people. Especially since they are feeling the need to really go out and struggle with people to put aside a lot of illusions and confront the truth about this climate crisis – to confront the fact that something radically different has to be brought into being and there is very little time left to act if we are going to avoid a complete disaster for humanity. They are having less patience with “well, most people don’t agree with you” and solutions that are the equivalent of fighting a raging forest fire with a bucket of water and a teaspoon. And there was some sharp struggle with one person who was making a lot of assertions about things that they really didn’t have much knowledge about.

At a certain point we had to end. But they inquired if I would be available to meet with them again before they left and have more of a panel-type discussion of the problem and solution. I told them, sure, and will be in touch with them to work out where and when.

People were eager to learn about both the crew of revolutionaries who have been down in Ferguson since the start of the uprising there, and the Abortion Rights Freedom Riders who have been on the front lines fighting for women’s rights in Texas. I also made sure that everyone I talked to got info about the really historic Cornel West/BA Dialogue coming up in NYC on November 15.  Some asked how to get tickets and one person said right then and there that he was going to be in NYC at that time, so he was definitely coming. 

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