Fighting to make breakthroughs in taking Bob Avakian and the new communism to a university campus—some recent experience

February 5, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper |


From readers:

We are writing from a team that has been doing work on a major campus aimed at making Bob Avakian and his work known throughout the campus and bringing forward cohorts of students, including graduate students, who are engaging with and spreading this work to many others—inspired by an appreciation of what it would mean if this was known and contending in society overall. We took a multilayered approach to this—with radical simplicity—developing forms that are centered around bringing people directly to BA’s work and then posing the contradiction to them to solve: that people do not know about this work and need to, and what they do know is far too filled with dismissal without having engaged it at all. We’ve stepped with the orientation spoken to in “BA: A Contended Question.

Overall, our work has been a mix of sometimes just doing the mass flyering aiming for a real saturation and other times going more deeply in discussions with people with an approach of active social investigation.

This means talking with people about BA and the revolutionary breakthrough concentrated in the new communism, talking about the basic questions of problem and solution... and exploring how they see this and other questions. And then going back and forth, joining struggle over important differences but also posing contradictions and questions and pointing people back to BA’s work.

We are also actively seeking people who are awake or awakening to the burning political questions of the day and aiming to link up in united struggles... going back and forth with people about how they see the current situation and unite together to discuss things we can do together going forward (joint programs on campus, at Revolution Books etc.).

We’ve also tried to learn more about the political and ideological terrain on the campus: What are the questions people are debating, how to understand them, what are the questions we should be speaking to... on every level and in every sphere?

On materials:

* We really encourage people to get BA’s work directly into people’s hands. Whether it be books, articles, quotes, or film clips—this is the single best way to introduce people to this revolutionary leader. In addition, we encourage people to be getting into—and getting out to others—the interview with Ardea Skybreak, Science and Revolution: On the Importance of Science and the Application of Science to Society, the New Synthesis of Communism and the Leadership of Bob Avakian. This is not just something to learn from (as important as that is!!), but also to get out to others. This is an incredible introduction to the significance of BA’s work and a basic and exciting overview of the new synthesis of communism, and the leadership of BA, and what difference it can make in the world. Skybreak challenges wrong assumptions and common prejudices about the state of the world and what kind of change is needed, and what kind of leadership is needed for that change. She’s also a living and vibrant example of a high level intellectual working in the framework of the new communism, and that comes through the interview as a whole.

Copies should be sold to professors and students, in particular to grad students.

In our broad work, we also made sure that people took a copy of a brochure from The Bob Avakian Institute that explains its mission and talks about who Bob Avakian is and lists his key works. (For copies, contact them through their website.) We included flyers from Insight Press for The New Communism and Science and Revolution: On the Importance of Science and the Application of Science to Society, the New Synthesis of Communism and the Leadership of Bob Avakian, an Interview with Ardea Skybreak, as well as a palmcard for BA’s new talk. We’ve also been sending links to the official bio of BA, that’s available on The BA Institute website.

In terms of materials, it’s important to set goals and evaluate how you’re doing in relation to them all the way through.

With those as foundation, here are the other aspects of our plan:

* We’ve worked to develop a good understanding of the lay of the land—a good map of the campus and student housing, where departments are, where students hang out between classes, where they live and dine and spend their weekends and nights—the feel and flow of the life of the campus. And we’re also working to learn more of the terrain politically... who’s coming alive to the urgent political questions of the day, where do they go to get involved in things, what are the intellectual debates and discussions on campus, what professors and grad students are doing important work, etc.?

* Every day, important and thought provoking quotes by BA were posted on bulletin boards and kiosks all over campus—different ones—day after day. The first ones we posted were BAsics 4:10 and BAsics 3:22. This took a small, dedicated street team. 400 copies of each quote would go up. These letter-size posters also told people where to come for an informal discussion, at a café on campus for instance. We also experimented with making an eight-foot A-frame display with a whole series of quotes that promoted a screening of BA’s talk The Trump/Pence Regime Must Go! In the Name of Humanity, We REFUSE To Accept a Fascist America. A Better World IS Possible. This was sort of like a portable wall of quotes. We thought it would stop people more than it did, but we want to experiment with graphics and other eye catching displays.

* We set up a table with nice displays—passing out these same quotes and announcements, but with some focus on getting into deeper discussions, having key works available at the table, and asking people on the spot to engage with the work and invite others into this. We found two cafés that we set up outside of that had large outdoor areas as well (we’re somewhere with good weather!)—one next to the main 24-hour library and the other at a key intersection of the art, music, and anthropology departments, and the law school. (There’s another busy intersection by the science departments we want to go to as well.) The idea is that these could also become places where people bring others and meet each other, where informal scheduled discussions could be held and the cohorts would take on a kind of physical presence as well—along with other forms this might take as people reach out to others in their circles. We are also experimenting with the dorms and other kinds of student housing for the weekends... doing a table outside around brunch time... and finding what other kinds of social life we could be in the midst of.

* In the discussions we’ve been having with people—one on one or in small groups—we have been learning from the Skybreak interview. This is a model for anyone who sees the need to contend around BA’s work. There she wields the content in a real living way, joined to the key questions of the revolution epistemologically, politically, and ideologically, and does so while principally driving people to get into BA’s work in its own right. There’s really nothing that replaces this.

In this, we are also really aiming for different kinds of group discussions: people inviting us into their dorms, to their student groups or social groups, to their housing co-ops... aiming for much more dynamic ferment.

And this is key: organize people at every step. We realized early on that we weren’t sufficiently putting the problem to people: BA’s work is a world historic breakthrough for humanity, and even as people are just finding out about it and may end up having important differences, this needs to be known and engaged in every corner of society... how can they be part of this? And in this, as we mentioned above, we also talk with people about why BA is controversial and why that’s a good thing.

* We found that nighttime projections have a special impact. We did projections of quotes and video clips on a building next to a row of restaurants that are packed with people on weekends. We ran clips from the new film on the Trump/Pence regime. The projection of quotes combined with a powerful image available on here―with music (in this case John Coltrane) in the background really drew people in and people would spend time going over the quotes and then would want to talk.

* We also enlisted the help of a few volunteers who haven’t been able to join us on campus. They’ve helped to amass email lists for professors, graduate students, lecturers, etc. We wrote to those teaching classes this semester with a request to make a classroom announcement about our next screening or discussion. A number responded that we could, and we also got some interesting comments back from professors that are important to follow up on, aiming for deeper discussions. They also created a spreadsheet of classes with instructors and days and times that could be sorted—so we could both flyer classes and talk to the profs about coming back to do announcements. We worked together to develop simple announcements—reading the quotes or posing the question that would be the topic of the discussion and including a short announcement about who BA is: the architect of a new communism. We also found good buildings where many, many students would be waiting to go into the classrooms and you could get the flyers out broadly and catch people coming out.

* A calendar of on-campus events was put together—finding announcements on bulletin boards and researching department websites for panels, forums, film screenings, etc. We put it on Google calendar so anyone could access it. We did some simple but substantive preparation for the event, learning about who the people were, with some discussion ahead of time of how we might want to intervene, while being open to learning from what happens at the event itself. We also made conscious decisions about what key materials to bring. We went to them and participated in the open discussions, bringing BA’s works into this in important ways. We listened to what people were saying at these events and weighed in with substance. There were those who would disagree and others who welcomed what was said and wanted to know more.

* It’s also worth reading the daily student newspaper on campus... you’ll get a feel for what’s happening on campus and how the political and ideological questions are being posed. It’s also worth looking for good op-eds and articles and contacting those students. You can also submit op-eds yourself on key questions, but even better would be to work with students to do this.

* While the main emphasis has been on reaching students (including graduate students), there was some going out to professors—with a focus on those we thought could have a major impact if they engaged the work and contributed to the mission of The Bob Avakian Institute, of making BA known to the broadest possible audience. We are working to set up meetings with a representative of the Institute, and would like to work towards more collective discussions as well. Roundtables with grad students and profs... more official department brown-bag lunches, etc. And talking with people in centers and departments who are scheduling events, panels, etc. for next semester.

* Finally, and this is something we were not able to implement but we need to do: Get this going on social media. Sign people up right away... there should be a lot of spreading of the work and getting people to come to informal discussions by the people we are meeting.

We realize there’s a lot here... and you shouldn’t feel you have to do every piece of this. But more arguing for this kind of multilayered approach—both aiming for broad impact and deep, active social investigation.

Through this, we have to keep stepping back to what we’re aiming to accomplish and measuring things against that. It’s pretty easy to fall into a more aimless approach, so we need to keep measuring everything we’re doing from the goal of having a mass impact with the actual engagement with BA’s work, and bring forward cohorts of followers—all setting out to radically transform the terrain and the discourse with the new communism.


Volunteers Needed... for and Revolution

Send us your comments.

If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.