A Revolution Club discusses the “High Stakes in Baltimore” and getting organized for an ACTUAL revolution

May 18, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

The Revolution Club in my city hosted a discussion of the Revolution newspaper article “High Stakes in Baltimore.” This was a vibrant and fun discussion where we got a chance to seriously wrangle with what is breaking open in society right now and the role and responsibility of revolutionaries. There were varying levels of familiarity with the strategy for revolution from the Revolutionary Communist Party, but a thread running through the discussion and struggle was what it means to apply it to this situation to make the greatest advances towards revolution as possible, to get organized for an ACTUAL revolution.

Over a dozen people gathered, some who had been in the movement for revolution for some years and others who were newly checking it out. We opened by showing a clip from the film, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! The clip was titled "Revolution Is Possible: the Strategy for Revolution." Then the person leading the discussion read the whole article, “High Stakes in Baltimore.”

The article says that there are high stakes in what happens in Baltimore for the powers-that-be and even more, for the revolutionaries. The discussion leader asked everyone how they see that. What are the stakes in this for the powers-that-be?

The discussion was rich and most everyone participated and contributed in one way or another, and here I can only capture some of the key points (and what is in quotes below is taken from my notes, not word-for-word what people said).

Early on in this part of the discussion, someone asked an important question: Doesn’t the fact that the ruling class made a concession to the uprising of the people in Baltimore and brought charges against the cops who murdered Freddie Gray, create false hope that the system is working? Is this what the ruling class wants? The person who posed this said, “I have mixed feelings. It is righteous to fight for justice. But what if the cops end up getting 20 years? That would be the minimum they should do, but it's not going to stop police murder. So will that pacify people; will the whole thing stay intact? How will the revolutionaries handle that in the mix of fighting for justice? In calling for the cops to be indicted and convicted, are the revolutionaries raising false hopes among the people? How can the revolutionaries put this in the context of what the system really is and the revolution we need?”

People spoke to this from different angles. A young woman answered, “I don’t think it's false hope. There are righteous things to fight for, like the right to abortion. We should fight for justice. But the battle isn’t over if we win a victory. We should not forget why we started to fight in the first place. And if we don’t fight, things could get much worse.”

Someone else joined in and said, “People need to see they are fighting as part of changing the world in a bigger way. If we don’t fight against police murder, the pigs will feel like they can get away with anything. Convictions of these pigs won't come down without a serious fight from the people, which we have to be part of. Through that, we shouldn’t give people the illusion that this will solve everything, but through the fight we should train conscious fighters.” Part of what this means is putting to people the need for revolution front and center, and then getting into any one particular struggle in that context.

People also spoke to the contradictions among the rulers themselves. There is this hard-core fascist social base that is cohered around white supremacy as one of its main things. They do not want to see the slightest brake being put on the right of the police to kill with impunity. So if another section of the bourgeoisie feels they have to give a concession to the people to go all the way to a conviction, that could really sharpen this divide among the rulers themselves and we will see more of the fascist pig forces coming out. They used the analogy from Bob Avakian about how living in this system is like living in a big open-air prison surrounded by a very high wall. That wall seems impenetrable from a surface look, but if you look deeper, you can see cracks in that wall. The charges brought down on the pigs who killed Freddie Gray are like a crack in the wall, and we have to hit at that crack with everything we've got. And if we go at it this way, all throughout exposing the deeper problem and solution of communist revolution, this can contribute to de-legitimizing the system as a whole.

Building on this, someone else talked about how if this system has to put the pigs in jail, it will inspire people to really see their own strength. It is true that as long as this system has police, they will keep killing people, but if this system is forced to charge cops for it, it can have a huge effect on the people themselves who fought for that, in helping them see the effect they can have on society.

Another person talked about there being a basic issue of justice involved, a question of morality: if you break someone’s neck, you should go to jail. If things like what happened to Freddie Gray are accepted by people, “you are sending the message that this is OK. The system wants people to think they can’t do shit to change anything. There never would have been any indictments without a rebellion, and a lot of people know this. This emboldens people.” She also walked through the necessity those ruling this system are facing: they're fucked if they do send the cops to jail and fucked if they don't. “They lose either way. They actually don't have a future for Black and Latino people and have a great need for social control and violent repression of Black and Latino people and youth in particular. So they can't really let go of that. And yet, the more they do this, and the more people resist it, the more this exposes the illegitimacy of the whole system.”

To emphasize this, one person spoke to the fact that this is not a situation in which the ruling class has it all together. They are not offering indictments as a calculated ploy in a situation in which they have everything under control. Far from it! “The pigs and the system don’t have their shit together.”

Another person spoke to the positive impact concessions can have on the spirit of the people: “When we make the system indict the cops, people see, ‘We made them do that? What else can we do?’” At the same time, the person went on, we need to lead not with the goal of putting cops in jail, but with the fact that a better world is possible, and yeah, as part of that, we have to fight to put these murdering cops in jail. We can force them to back down and that is important, and important for people to feel.

There was more said in the discussion: about the precedent it would set for the pigs to NOT have a green light to kill Black and Latino people with impunity, and would that raise people's sights to an expectation that this system couldn't really keep meeting—charging and convicting the pigs every time they murdered someone?; and also about the problem for them when they go all around trying to dominate the world in the name of “freedom and democracy” and the reality of their system gets exposed. People talked about how the oppression of Black people is built into this system—economically and ideologically—and how they can't do away with it at this point. In that context, what gets exposed when even after a Black president, a Black attorney general, and now in Baltimore a Black mayor and prosecuting attorney and even Black pigs, Black people still can't get justice under this system? But if they do move to convict these police, that would exacerbate major contradictions among the ruling class, including outraging the fascist, white-supremacist social base in the U.S. Someone referenced how there are already sharp divisions between these fascists and the section of the ruling class represented by Baltimore City State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby. Or you could see that in the divide between the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, and Patrick Lynch, the head of the NYC pig union. These pigs threw down in opposition to the slightest whiff of criticism, so imagine how they'll react if they actually get charged with murder?

People also talked about the social role of the police as armed enforcers of this system. This is why the system so rarely brings charges even in the most outrageous cases (and then even when they do that, almost never end up with convictions), because killing Black and Brown youths is an essential part of their job and overall social role. If these Baltimore pigs are indicted—which will be a MAJOR fight in its own right—will there be a wave of illusions coming off that? Probably, but that’s part of the process that we have to lead people through as part of re-polarizing all of society for revolution.

Part of what was important in this discussion was that people were wrangling with the complexity of the whole situation, the necessity faced by a range of class forces to deal with what is a major fault-line contradiction of this system, and really coming to see that those in power do not have it all sewn up.

Moving on from there, we got into a discussion of what the “even higher stakes” are for the oppressed and revolutionaries. In this, we took off from a really important point from the article: “What revolutionaries do in situations like Baltimore can play a big role in making revolution.”

Some of what had already been put on the table in the meeting around this point helped frame things—first, that we actually DO have an answer to the howling contradictions that are opening all this up in the first place. We actually can bring about a society that does away with the systematic oppression of whole peoples and the wanton murder by police. This is completely possible with a radically different state power brought about through revolution.

Also, earlier in the discussion, someone talked about the orientation in the slogan “get organized for an ACTUAL revolution,” and had posed this in contrast to people who've been fighting hard to end police murder but whose concrete demands are “not so different from the Democratic Party.” Another referenced that revcom.us had raised that we should see ourselves as “strategic commanders.” “It’s not like we should only go out with a bullhorn and agitate. There’s more. We have to expose the system, but we also have to be strategic commanders, we have to be aiming to lead the whole thing.”

After some further discussion, the person leading helped frame what we were getting into by talking about the concrete situation in Baltimore, including all of what's led up to this since the cop murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. I won't recap that here, but it's really important that we understand the actual specifics of the concrete situation we are in and the significance of what this opens up. The fundamental illegitimacy of this system has been exposed to millions, and thousands are opening their eyes to it: tens of thousands who have been ignorant of this reality up until now and tens of thousands who experience it but who thought they were alone. The person leading talked about the reality behind the analysis in Revolution newspaper that out of the contradictions opened up since Ferguson, interpenetrating with other contradictions, an actual revolutionary situation might emerge. And what it means to now be working to “prepare the ground, prepare the people, prepare the vanguard... get ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all out, with a real chance to win.”

Agreeing with this, someone said, “Protest itself won’t lead to a new economic and social system. It takes a revolution. There is a Party with a strategy and a leadership. The revolutionaries need to do more than protest. They need to bring their analysis into the situation. ”

But what is the content of that?

One person put the question this way: “We need to get into BA. He talks about hastening while awaiting. We need to boldly put out our demands, but also what needs to be done to make revolution...”

In wrangling with this further, someone asked about being in Baltimore in particular and what kind of work we would have to be doing.

This was a good question and we got into it. First, there are two unifying slogans in the Revolution Club: “Humanity needs revolution and communism” and “Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.” How would all this be made known and be applied in this situation?

In reflecting on this, and in reflecting on what the work of the Revolution Club has been, one person said, “Well, we are good at chanting, but are we good at being tribunes of the people, like Lenin called for?” (This is from a major work by Lenin, What Is to Be Done?, where Lenin differentiates revolutionaries being “trade union secretaries,” meaning good organizers of the mass struggle, from being tribunes of the people, bringing masses a broader understanding of the world and what is the problem and solution.) They talked about how people need to see from us that we are the leaders of a future socialist state, that we are serious about seizing state power and we know what to do with it... we are about the emancipation of all of humanity. People need to see that seriousness and purposefulness from us wherever and whenever we're out.

People agreed with this, but still, what is the larger work to accomplish this?

One person raised an important contradiction that if we were in Baltimore, the situation would be really intense, and how would you handle it if people, especially the youth, didn't want to stop and talk? Could you really get people to read revolutionary theory in that situation? Disagreeing with this, someone else argued that people will read in that situation, and some may read even more because there are new questions posed and people are seeking answers to things that before “they would otherwise accept.”

We got into the whole ensemble of the kinds of work we need to be doing, and in this context underscored the importance of another article in Revolution: “Watching clips from the Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian in West Baltimore.” Someone in the discussion talked about the significance of people starting to hope getting connected up with appreciating how serious BA and the Party he leads are about making revolution... and what that opens up in their thinking. At the same time as we do have to continue fighting the power in real and meaningful ways, there needs to be ongoing, mass defiance to the crimes of this system. In this context, someone in the discussion referenced a statement from Carl Dix from around Christmas of last year, “Murder By Police Should Not Be Tolerated!.”

The whistles are also a really important form of mass defiance, enabling people to act together, fighting collectively in a situation where otherwise people are so atomized and separated off from others. This too is part of forging a revolutionary people.

But overall, as long as people don't themselves become conscious fighters and increasingly conscious emancipators of humanity, they will be led into one dead end or another. The person leading the discussion walked through some of the core contradictions that getting into BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian speaks to: What is the problem? Is a radically different world possible? Is revolution possible and how would you go to work on that now? What is a scientific method to actually know what's true and to be able to learn about and evaluate all of reality, including all different kinds of analyses and programs? How should people be living, and treating each other, today in line with that future? Is there leadership for this? What is my role and responsibility to all that? BAsics is a handbook for revolution and all those who hate the hellhole they're forced to live in today need to be getting into it along with the film of the Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian, and also be consistently reading (and getting organized around) revcom.us and Revolution newspaper.

There was some struggle about all this: What is the synthesis here? What is the relationship between “preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution?” There was also struggle about why we shouldn't just rest content with being a revolutionary force within mass protests (as important as that is), but need to be working to change the thinking of whole blocs of people in a revolutionary direction.

There was some important and beginning wrangling with what it would mean—if in this situation right now in Baltimore and in general—for the Revolution Club be going to the hood in some new ways, and helping the masses get organized for an actual revolution. People were bringing different kinds of broader social experience to bear on this. One spoke to experience as a labor organizer, giving people a sense of organization, finding and recruiting leaders among the masses. Someone else referenced having been in the U.S. military (and coming to reject all of that) but that there were things that could be learned about getting organized, the need for people to work together and trust each other, the need to get organized even from that.

There were different experiences cited that can be learned from in this new context: marches in the hood; canvassing and going door-to-door; showings of the film of the Dialogue, and BA Speaks: REVOLUTIONNOTHING LESS!; getting up the “Stolen Lives” poster; building networks of organization around the newspaper Revolution; fundraising BBQ’s; and the need to contend with other class forces and lines about what is the problem and solution and about BA's work.

This discussion took place far from Baltimore, but everything we were wrangling with still applied. As the Revolution article said, “what happens in Baltimore, cannot stay in Baltimore.” Coming back to the clip we opened the discussion with, you got a sense of how all this really was part of “hastening while awaiting” the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people... how all this contributes to transforming the larger, overall terrain... through struggle and contention, re-polarizing for revolution.

As people left the meeting, a lot was going on in their heads and hearts. A big challenge was put on the table: serious revolutionary possibilities opening, time to think and time to act, time to rise to the challenge.


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"The film brings you up close inside Cornel West's and Bob Avakian's dialogue: the passion, the audacity, the science, the morality, the revolutionary substance. Two courageous voices modeling a morality that refuses to accept injustice – pouring heart and soul into standing together challenging all of us to fight for a world worthy of humanity."

Andy Zee,
co-director of the film


BA Speaks

"No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that."

BAsics 1:13

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What Humanity Needs

At the beginning of 2012, an in-depth interview with Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, was conducted over a period of several days by A. Brooks, a younger generation revolutionary who has been inspired by the leadership and body of work of Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism this has brought forward.

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Contains Interview with Raymond Lotta, Timeline of The REAL History of Communist Revolution, and more...