Rise Up October:

Lessons Learnt For Work Among Students—And Much More

September 28, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

Strategic Commander—Communist Statesman: This is the vantage point from which I’m straining to proceed from. As part of the national student task force for Rise Up October, I’ve learned very deeply that every step of the way, we have to be straining against the limits of what we think is possible while drawing in many different people into the process of making revolution and emancipating humanity and mobilizing and wielding all positive factors. Both for the immediate aim in drawing in tens of thousands of people to flood the streets of New York City on October 24 (and push forward in the fight to get free) and in the longer sense of leaving behind revolutionary organization that’s not just about fighting on one front but fighting for the whole thing. And I think there’s a tension here that if we’re not being thoroughly materialist and scientific, we can lose sight of what we’re fighting for.

The first week

As part of the national student task force, we’ve set a much-needed goal of mobilizing and wielding (at least) 500 campuses. If we’re just looking at what’s in front of us, this seems like an impossible goal (or at best idealist). But if we’re proceeding from reality and the roiling contradiction that’s hitting us every day (video after video... statistic after statistic...) of the utter illegitimacy of this system (and specifically the enforcers of this system), then what’s objectively crying out to come forward is our leadership.

What do I mean?

Through the process of this past week, I’ve had to learn how to lead and organize masses on a whole different footing. I want to share a couple of stories that help to distill what I mean.

A young woman who recently graduated from an Ivy League school was walking around and noticed a Rise Up October palm card on the floor. She pursued her conviction and looked through the website and decided to contact the national SMIN office. We quickly talked on the phone and she described how much she agonizes and hates what the police are doing to Black people (and other nationalities). So when she saw the card on the floor, she saw it as a sign to act. I described that there are a lot of teams throughout NYC that are distributing materials. So she might of missed the crew in her area. By the time we talked, she had taken pictures of the palm card and sent them to her friends (students) and wanted to get print copies. I said “yes, absolutely,” but then I described what I was a part of and the goals required to bring forward tens of thousands of people to NYC on October 24 (with my particular focus on students). Then I posed the reality that there is nothing more important that she could be doing for the next couple of weeks than making this powerful demonstration happen. She was briefly silent and then said, “I think you’re right.” With that we made beginning plans. She had two free hours and connected with another volunteer and postered the entire building she still had access to. She’s continued to connect with the student task force and is headed to Philly this weekend with plans to connect up with all sorts of students and friends.

What We Must Do To STOP Police Terror and Murder (excerpts)

With this experience, I could have easily settled with giving her the materials she asked for or giving her general ideas to pursue. But it actually took posing the very real contradiction that Rise Up October cannot happen without her and asking her to throw all in. And I’ve had similar experiences to this where I’ve put forward very boldly that if you’re serious about STOPPING POLICE TERROR then you need to seriously get with Rise Up October. And have had to lead people organizationally to take the first steps to make that real (including doing things they’re unfamiliar with like going out, talking, and struggling with other students; and wielding their strengths). In addition, I’ve had to think quick on my feet: are there networks that are intersecting, can we tap into the dynamics of cross-campus life, and are we seizing on every opportunity (no matter how small it seems)?

Agitation and Organization

I had learned a lot from an NYU student who is organizing an event on her campus October 1. She has a lot of moral certitude that anything short of organizing to STOP POLICE TERROR stands in the way. So with that, I talked to a professor who is trying to organize an event on his campus. Immediately I got the list of real logistical contradictions for how difficult it is to organize an event on his campus. And the realness that there’s been a chill on anything political or radical in academia. But, instead of settling with “oh, the bureaucracy! It makes things impossible,” I had to return to (the point of) why we’re doing this. Is it true or not that we’re up against a vicious system that is systematically criminalizing, incarcerating, brutalizing, and murdering our people (predominantly Black and Brown)? And I had to agitate (to someone who’s partisan) of why this is true and why we cannot lose sight of that. Then, OK let’s get back to the bureaucracy; yes, we’re going to get a lot of roadblocks but we have to insist that people take a side. And re-set terms: “Are you going to be the institution of education that prevents students to have access to understand why police terror happens and how to act to stop it? And if you are, then what does that say of the kind of world you’re fighting for?” (And on a serious tip, if this happens, we better make it known that a campus is censoring a program.) This professor was not expecting this discussion. By the end of our call he had changed his position and said, “You’re right; I can’t take no for an answer,” and was determined to book a room and set a date by early this week.

The contradictoriness in people’s thinking

I spoke up at a campus program and posed a serious question to the panelist about the need for revolution and challenged them to be part of Rise Up October. A Romanian immigrant student immediately came up to me after I finished my comments and wanted to be part of Rise Up October. She had a lot of enthusiasm and was glad to hear someone put forward the need to ACT to STOP POLICE TERROR. On the spot we made initial plans for how she could begin to organize for Rise Up October and exchanged contact information to follow up. A day later, I gave her a call. She posted the links for Rise Up October on social media and received little to no response. This reinforced everything that this system is constantly drumming at people that there’s really nothing you can do to stop the horrors of this system like POLICE TERROR. And then she went on to rationalize why nobody cares: “white people are so passive”; “they’re not acting because it’s not happening to them.” I could have said, “Yes, that’s true but, you know, there’s the basis to change that,” which would of been OK. But instead, I had to return to how we met: “You’re someone who cares, you’re someone who hates police terror,” and asked, “Are you going to wield that reality and challenge others to do the same?” And I went on to describe the simple things she could do to bring others forward to act (see riseupoctober.org/students). The call fell silent and then she responded, “I guess I need to try what you’re saying.” We’re developing plans for this upcoming week and are working to forge a grouping of people on her campus.

The hate...

At a recent Revolution Club meeting, we were speaking very earnestly of what we’re up against and struggling through the transformations needed. At a certain point, someone very honestly said they were being attacked by some haters and they hesitated to speak their mind because they didn’t want to reinforce the stereotypes that revolutionaries get accused of, that of “co-opting, taking over, etc.” And we were correctly summing up, fuck that, we can’t be afraid of stepping on people’s toes, we can’t be afraid of disrupting people’s spaces, we can’t be satisfied with the terms people set, and we can’t be afraid of being disliked. Why? Because we represent the seven billion people on this planet. We represent the fighting chance of humanity getting free. We know enough to know that the world does not have to be this way. We know enough to know that anything short of revolution is bullshit. And we know enough to know that there is the leadership (that of this Party and BA) needed to have a strategic chance at winning.

So to return to how we should be stepping

We have to set and re-set terms all along the way and on that basis draw out the strengths and insights of the masses. This takes work but it is what’s required because we have to lead and organize people to bring in a whole new world without this genocidal oppression, through revolution, and as a crucial part of that build up a powerful Rise Up October.




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