Taking Revolution to Chicago Climate March

December 7, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

November 29—About 250 attended the rally and march. It started at Dearborn & Adams and marched up Dearborn to the Chicago River and then over to Tribune Plaza. It was mainly an older crowd – probably half were over 50. But there were a range of younger people too. It was also overwhelmingly white, but with a few Latinos and Blacks. I was by myself and I initially focused on getting everyone two flyers – the exposure from Revolution newspaper on how the upcoming Paris Climate Conference was not about saving the environment and the recent RCP, Chicago Branch statement on the police murder of Laquan McDonald. The latter had the listing of upcoming BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! showings at Revolution Books on the back. Almost everyone there got both of these. There were maybe a dozen people who declined to take them once they saw Revolution at the top. So I was getting out these flyers during the initial rally. The speakers were from various local environmental groups. I wasn’t able to pay close attention to what they said, but some of it was pretty narrow (like the need to support solar energy or to elect new leaders). The final speaker focused on what climate change meant for the people of the third world, and this conveyed more of the price that humanity will pay for this accelerating environmental disaster.

A few of the protesters wore Bernie Sanders buttons. I asked two middle-aged white women, one of whom had a Bernie button on, what they thought it would take to stop the destruction of the environment. The Bernie supporter said “more disasters” and went on to explain that it would take things like that to shake enough people into the level of mass action to get “our leaders” to change course on climate change. I asked her how these leaders were going to change course when their entire system of global production and exploitation is based on using fossil fuels to send stuff all over the world. She just kept arguing that you had to find the right leaders and vote for them. She asked me who I was voting for and I said no one because they all represent the same monstrous system that has done so much harm to humanity. This not voting thing was a little too much for her and she said that she didn’t want to talk any more. But her friend, who had been listening to all this, said she wanted a copy of Revolution newspaper to learn more of what I was talking about.

Another guy in his 50s was carrying a sign about the importance of listening to what the scientists were saying about global warming. I told him that I really agreed with his emphasis on applying science to solving this problem and asked him if that approach wouldn’t lead him to recognizing that the rulers of this system can’t solve this climate emergency because they have to live by the commandment of “expand or die.” But he wasn’t going for applying science in that way. He said that this upcoming conference in Paris was going to be the “first step” in actually reversing the damage. I asked him how this was different from all the previous climate conferences that were supposed to be “the first step”—yet things have gotten worse? Oh, he said those weren’t really the first step, but this one will be. I asked him how he was any different from people at those previous conferences who had argued “this is the first step” but instead had been played for fools? He didn’t want to talk any more.  

But there were also a number of people—mainly younger people—who quickly got the connection between the epidemic of police terror and the environmental crisis because they both reflected how deeply fucked up this society is. There were six teenage Black girls who came with one of their mom’s. I explained to them that it is the same system whose police murder Black people with impunity that also cares nothing for the environment because this system is all about the dog-eat-dog fight for profit. People and natural resources mean nothing to them, except as a way to make money.  And that is why we need a revolution and they need to get into Bob Avakian (BA), the leader of this revolution. They were listening intently and their head were bobbing up and down, and then at one point I referred to the police as the Blue Klux Klan and they all just fell out laughing and yelling “Yes, Yes.” The mom was also agreeing and they all got copies of Revolution newspaper. Just then a woman who was trying to get people to write their congressmen came over and gave her pitch to this crew. The kids listened politely. As she finished, I jumped in again and said if they wanted to write their congressman, go ahead. But they should not fool themselves into thinking that will change anything—any more than writing to congressmen has stopped this system from murdering and brutalizing Black people for hundreds of years. The kids were all—Yeah, you got a point. And the mom was right with them on this too.

During the march I talked to a woman who had just started teaching at a prestigious local university. Her focus is anthropology, so I asked her if she thought that you can scientifically understand human society. She thought and said that she tended to think not because there are so many grey areas and nuances. I asked her if you couldn’t say the same thing about quantum physics – tiny particles zipping around and no one knowing where they actually are at any given time – yet scientists have come to understand its basic dynamics. She thought about that, but responded by saying that there is just so much that people don’t know about how societies work. I agreed, but said that, in a certain sense, is always true about everything – there is always more to reality than human beings know at any given time. But does that invalidate what we have been able to scientifically determine to be true. This got us into a discussion about the difference between our knowledge at any given time being relative – meaning not being complete or absolute – and the philosophy of relativism which argues that no one can really know the truth (or even parts of it). She was quite familiar with relativism, but did not agree with the idea that everyone has their “own truth.” I asked her if she knew how relativism came to have such a prominent place in academia today. She didn’t. I explained that in the ’60s it was pretty much unknown. But its promotion on university campuses since then was payback against young intellectuals for rebelling in the ’60s because one of the things that characterized many student’s thinking back then was a growing certitude that America was an imperialist monster and needed to be gotten rid of (even if people were not clear on how to do that). Relativism was an attack on that scientifically grounded understanding about reality and the moral clarity that flowed out of it which led so many youth to stand up and oppose the rulers of this country.

At this point she mentioned that she is teaching a class in Marxism. I told her that this was even more reason that she needed to get into BA. I told her about BA’s new synthesis of communism and especially the leaps he has made in terms of epistemology (the theory of how one understands the world). This was all new and extremely interesting to her. She asked if what BA has done was based on Marx. I said definitely yes, but it also represented a further development of Marx’s scientific method and approach, based on leaps that were previously made by Lenin and Mao. I described how BA had more thoroughly broken with tendencies in the history of Marxism to think that communism was inevitable. I explained that another important rupture by BA was his rejection of the notion that some groups of oppressed people automatically know what is true about the world. And breaking free of that false notion allowed BA to put the collective pursuit of the truth much more at the center of the new revolutionary society – imbuing it with much greater vibrancy and critical thinking.

This was all going on in the middle of a climate crisis march, so the discussion could not go on forever. I went back to the question of whether we can have confidence in things we do know and asked her if she would agree that it is true that capitalism is the cause of all the misery that humanity now faces. Her face kind of lit up and she said, oh yeah that is definitely true. I told her that I wanted to come talk to her more – both to talk to her personally, but also to get her thinking about how we can bring forward a new generation of revolutionary intellectuals, because without them, there will be no revolution. She said that she too very much sees the need for new revolutionary intellectuals. So I told her we would have a lot to talk about.


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