Introducing People to Bob Avakian and the Revolution at Printer's Row

June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader in Chicago:

This year at Chicago’s Printers Row Lit Fest, Revolution Books (RB) made big plans for our booth, aiming to boldly project out to thousands of people that “We ARE Building a Movement for Revolution” and to introduce them to Bob Avakian (BA), the leader of that revolution. We had a lively scene going on around the booth, with everyone on staff sporting their REVOLUTION―NOTHING LESS! T-shirts and engaging in lively discussions and interactions with people who came by and were attracted to the bold message the booth put forward. There were a lot of levels of our work at the Lit Fest: more in-depth conversations, sales of our core literature, introducing people to RB and the movement for revolution more broadly, and broader outreach and raising the recognition level of the store. While uneven, there was good work on all those levels.

We set out with the idea of doing this with the active involvement of some of the newer people who are getting involved with the movement for revolution, and to do it in a way that would make a qualitative leap in our relationships with them—as part of actively accumulating forces for revolution. A key qualitative lesson was that the time we spent beforehand calling on people to come and volunteer was time very well spent. We should emphasize this even more in the future. We had 7+ volunteers who came to actively help at the booth: some African-Americans and some white people, including a Revolution Club member, an ex-prisoner, a student, and several others. This was a really important experience for the volunteers who came and it had a big impact in creating a strong and lively presence there.

Overall Atmosphere

There were a few people who came by the table who had been to Revolution Books before and were excited to see us out at the Lit Fest. But overwhelmingly the people who were attracted to the booth were very new people, many of whom had not thought about revolution as a way out of this horrible system, or even seen it as a system. Most had not heard of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) or BA. The majority of the people who were attracted to the RB booth were white, more young people than middle-aged (with a few older ’60s-generation people). The contacts we made were mostly among the younger people, mostly white, some African-American and Latino.

We featured the REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN at the table and invited people to the Sunday brunches at Revolution Books, where clips of the Dialogue would be discussed. Many of the young people chose not to buy the DVD of the Dialogue but instead said they wanted to watch it online. People who engaged seemed refreshingly ready to contemplate a revolutionary solution. One ’60s-generation woman had been active in the movement in Chicago in the early 1970s. She ended up buying the DVD of the Dialogue because she said she saw that the movement was picking up again; she said she wanted to hope that there could be a change this time. This question of hope that there is a way out, a solution, was echoed in a lot of the sentiments that people voiced.

Another aspect that attracted people to the Dialogue was the notion that a revolutionary Christian and a revolutionary communist could find common ground. A white guy in his 40s was clearly disturbed and emotional at the Stop Murder by Police banner we had on display showing the faces of dozens of people who had been murdered by the police. He criticized the reforms he’d seen proposed (police cameras, etc.) as not getting to the fact that they just have to be made to STOP murdering people. He expressed his strong moral objection to being “the kind of white person who is not involved, because they say it’s not happening to me.” He talked about his main area of concern, a shelter he volunteers at through his church. He said that he was frustrated that the oppression people faced was so much larger than what this effort could address. We talked to him about the new synthesis of communism that BA has put forward and pointed him to the Dialogue. And then we posed the scenario: “suppose there was actually a cure for cancer, would you be the kind of person who, if confronted with someone who had cancer, would just wipe the brow of this patient and try to comfort them? Or would you bring them the cure?” He became more and more excited that there was hope for transforming this, through resistance and by transforming the thinking of people. We walked through the slogan “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.” He said he wasn’t sure about revolutionary communism but something was needed and he wanted to learn more, and wanted to come to a Sunday brunch (he already had decided not to buy the film, but to watch it online).

Quite a few people were attracted to the Constitution, Laws, and Rights compendium of BA’s writings, and in turn to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) (CNSRNA) . We returned most often to the CNSRNA and BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian in response to the most common questions: How are you going to make a revolution, and what are you going to replace it with? The student who was volunteering at the booth was especially strong in promoting BAsics as a “dope” book, how BA has been working on these problems for a very long time; he put BAsics and the CNSRNA in people’s hands. People responded: there was a sense of outrage at what’s going on under capitalism-imperialism, and that we need a different kind of world, and some dug it when we brought out how the CNSRNA presents a concrete vision of such a world that’s both scientifically grounded and visionary.

In many discussions, these two books (the compendium on Constitution, Laws, and Rights and CNSRNA) were so complementary that we ended up selling at least one set as a pair (we decided later to offer a discount for buying both). One woman I spoke with was studying constitutional law and was very interested in both books. She was intrigued by the comparison of the Constitution of the U.S. under capitalism-imperialism and that of a socialist constitution based on and providing the structure of a society not based on inequality and the buttressing of the horrors in today’s world. We also talked about how the U.S. Constitution has been interpreted over time. At first she was saying how interesting it was that the U.S. Constitution had only been amended, I think, 27 times and she hadn’t thought about the interpretation of the Constitution to meet specific challenges the ruling class faced in relation to maintaining its system.... The deepest discussions I had with people were on the CNSRNA and compendium.

In relation to police murdering Black and Latino people, in some respects the atmosphere was less charged than two years ago, when the Fest took place while George Zimmerman was on trial, but there was a quite broad thoughtfulness and, on some people’s part, alarm about the never-ending stream of police murders and non-prosecutions. So in that sense, maybe this represents a deeper awareness and recognition that the problem is profound and intractable, and this is happening across the whole country. Many people—especially Black people, but not only—looked at length at the Stop Murder by Police poster and large banner on the fence by the booth. A few people just put money in the donation box and thanked us, others asked what we thought was at the root of the problem, what could we do about it, etc. In a lot of cases, we pointed to Revolution newspaper and as the key backbone of the movement for revolution that was necessary to put a permanent stop to police murder and the oppressive exploitative society that depends on such an occupying force and all the other crimes.

There was mostly favorable polarization around the question of murders by police, but also some backward jumping out. Several white men asked about “Black-on-Black crime” in antagonistic voice and one guy asked why wasn’t there a poster of cops killed by criminals. We didn’t engage in long conversations with these reactionaries (nor did they stick around to argue), but we did have a few decent conversations with more backward, but not antagonistic, people who raised the crime issue. When we countered these lines, it created more freedom. For example, a white man argued that these people were criminals, ever since they “came here.” We said they were dragged here in chains, and he just said “B.S.” A middle class Black woman was walking by and started smiling at this exchange, and walked right over to the booth.

Many people were very concerned about the environmental crisis and the urgent need to do something about it. The RB flyer listed our upcoming author event on environmental issues, which gave rise to a lot of conversations and interest in Revolution Books as a center where the climate emergency was taken up as a systemic issue, and the possibility of socialist sustainable development was put forward; this was another angle where people were introduced to the CNSRNA.

There were many interesting author events at the Lit Fest and we went to several in the course of the weekend, where we passed out palm cards for the Dialogue, and one or two people went inside to listen and engage. Where we had the opportunity, we spoke up during Q&A, connecting with things the panelists were discussing and promoting the Dialogue. At the Tavis Smiley event, which was one of the largest, we had three people outside with the huge banner on Stop Murder by Police and the call to action on October 24, and we made sure that everyone got a Dialogue palm card. This created a scene, and we made three important contacts. Of note is that the struggle to end police murder was referenced at almost every panel we went to—OK, we gravitated to many of the progressive ones, but clearly there is a marked change in the terrain compared with past years.

We thought this Lit Fest was a great opportunity to promote the RCP Publications fund/sustainer drive, and we made some advances in putting the role of RCP Publications (Revolution newspaper,, BAsics, etc.) in front of many people and challenging those who were attracted to this to donate money. People were interested that the paper goes to prisoners and how it goes out to basic people, and gave on that basis. Some raised the usual objections to communism, and we pointed out the special issue, You Don’t Know What You Think You “Know” About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future, and sold several. Some people looked at the display and put money in the donation box, some gave an extra donation for the Stop Murder by Police poster (more than the $5 donation requested). On Sunday, we displayed a large banner of this poster, which attracted a lot of people and led to discussions about the importance of RCP Publications in bringing forward a solution—revolution. And off of this, people donated to support the newspaper/website. We raised $103 for the RCP Publications fund drive.

There are some important things to learn from how we approached preparing for this effort. Overall, Revolution Books is developing a certain rhythm of reaching out to people who’ve indicated an interest in the store and we have begun to systematize outreach to contacts. This lays a stronger foundation for drawing forward more support from people, in lots of forms. For example, a retired environmental activist who came to the Dialogue premiere at the end of March and was inspired by the film, contacted RB a few days after the Fest, saying she has a lot of books she wants to donate; she also came and participated actively in the author event on the environment, and reported positively about it on her Facebook page.

Our preparation of the flyer and displays were important to making the booth attractive; we planned well in advance and the logistics went much more smoothly than the last two years at this Fest. We passed out about 2,500 flyers for Revolution Books at the Fest. A lot of material was sold and RB came out with $500 net income after all the expenses. We met about 15 people who were interested in being contacted.

At this Fest, the people are not typical mainstream middle strata: they tend (obviously) to be book lovers, and many are intellectuals, people who work with ideas. One of the newer volunteers at the booth was able to use this fact in her agitation: when people didn’t stop at the table or even stop to take an RB flyer, she told them: “You are here at the Lit Fest because you appreciate critical thinking, so why aren’t you opening your mind to Revolution Books, which is a center for critical thinking!” Overall what rose to the surface in our outreach and discussions was a yearning among a section of middle strata people who attended the Lit Fest to see a better world come into being, and an openness to BA and the solution he opens up. These people, not the majority at the Fest of course, but in sizeable numbers, have been paying attention and think the world is a horror, and are considering what it will take to make profound change happen. The outreach we did was crucial to bringing some of these people to want to be more involved into the movement for revolution, and now we have to consolidate that by reaching out to these contacts.



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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

Do you know anyone else—any person or organization—that has managed to bring forth an actual PLAN for a radically different society, in all its dimensions, and a CONSTITUTION to codify all this? — A different world IS possible — Check out and order online the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).

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.

Special Issue

People need the truth about the communist revolution. The REAL truth. At a time when people are rising up in many places all over the world and seeking out ways forward, THIS alternative is ruled out of order. At a time when even more people are agonizing over and raising big questions about the future, THIS alternative is constantly slandered and maligned and lied about, while those who defend it are given no space to reply.

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