A Revolutionary Intervention at the Youth Climate Strike in Chicago

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From the Revolution Club, Chicago:

Hundreds of high school students took off a school day and gathered in downtown Chicago to march and rally at the nationwide Youth Climate Strike on May 3. They were there because they felt an urgent need to fight for the future. They know that the UN report last October showed an environment accelerating towards horrific consequences for the world in 12 years or less if there are not drastic changes to greatly reduce the release of greenhouse gases. And they know that the current government in the U.S. is explicitly anti-science, denying the science of climate change, and making things worse. They organized their friends, made signs, and came from faraway schools by bus and train.

The students marched through downtown, held 11 minutes of silence for the 11 years left before catastrophe, and rallied at the federal building. The climate strike march and rally mobilizing these students shows something powerful in potential, especially when you pull the camera back to see that it is part of an international movement. But there are powerful forces, like the Democratic Party, working to channel that power into a dead end: the trap of electoral politics and the capitalist system that is the cause of this nightmare. The Chicago Revolution Club went to be part of this march and to have an impact on it with the revolution that is actually the way out of this nightmare, and to bring forward people on the spot to take up and organize for this revolution. This started out with us spreading the word a bit, but later that came together with a dynamic intervention that had a major impact.

At the beginning of the day, while people were gathering in Grant Park, we displayed an enlarged poster of the Points of Attention for the Revolution (POAs) and walked around showing it to groups of students, asking them to read it. Most didn’t say too much about it but took the flyer we were passing out, which had the POAs on one side and on the other an invitation to be part of a fundraising party for the National Revolution Tour. Some discussions were going on in ones and twos. As more people started gathering, we spoke over the bullhorn to have a more mass impact. Even though some people listened intently, nodded along, filmed with their phones, and grabbed materials, still not many people said much. During the march a few people around us joined in when we chanted, “Revolution is what we need, there is no Planet B,” and “This system can’t be reformed, it must be overthrown.”

Once the rally started, we posted up on one edge of it and listened to the speakers. A student spoke passionately about how the adults who are the responsible ones are not doing their jobs and it is up to us to demand a change. Then, after a few different youth representatives, the featured speaker was introduced with much fanfare, Democratic senator Dick Durbin. Dick Durbin, the “liberal” senator who has spent the last two+ years normalizing the fascism of the Trump/Pence regime and the Republican Party, like: meeting with Trump to “make a deal” on immigration, and going along with the farcical Kavanaugh hearings where he only protested procedural questions but never disrupted the process of confirming an outright fascist to the Supreme Court. THAT Dick Durbin got up and criticized the Republican Party for not believing in climate change, then told students what they can do is to start a campaign and get behind a candidate‚Ķ In other words, the same exact bullshit that has gotten us exactly to the mess we’re in!

A member of the Revolution Club, standing with three other members in Revolution Nothing Less T-shirts and next to the #BEB banner, interrupted Durbin’s speech, calling out “BULLSHIT!” over the bullhorn. She then spoke about how these Democratic candidates are not doing anything for the people of the world, they are part of dominating over the people of the world and destroying the environment. While she was speaking, Durbin said a few more things and ended. A group of students began chanting “GREEN NEW DEAL” in response to the Revolution Club member and to try to drown her out. She responded with substance about what is actually in the Green New Deal and the American chauvinism embedded in it, including it doesn’t say or do anything about the fact that the U.S. military is the single largest consumer of oil of any institution on the planet. The students got silent as they listened to this. Then a group of them began chanting “BULLSHIT” while some older people yelled at us to “be quiet” and some other students kept chanting “Green New Deal.” Again the Revolution Club member took this on with substance. She said, read the Green New Deal and see what it says, see what it says about humanity, because that is not what it’s about. A student shouted out “what’s YOUR plan?” She responded that capitalism is the problem and we are working now for a revolution to overthrow capitalism at the soonest possible time, and she invited students there to become part of organizing for revolution.

This interruption and exchange, which lasted a couple of minutes and then the rally continued, changed something at that rally. Hundreds of people saw and heard contention that challenged their thinking and projected that there is a force that represents and is fighting for something radically different than politicians and legislation and American interests. Most of them had already gotten a copy of the Points of Attention for the Revolution that spell out the methods, goals and principles of this revolution.

What happened after this exchange is, first, a couple of students came up right away wanting to learn more about the revolution. A mother and daughter who had talked with us earlier in the day and had taken copies of the Points of Attention to spread in their area were upset about how closed-minded the students were who were yelling at us and they left soon after. Then, at the end of the rally, we got back on the bullhorn and invited everyone over to where we were set up to come talk with us, to get a copy of the article we have about the Green New Deal, and talk with us about how to really change all this.

A number of people right away came over to get copies of the article, and we distributed about 20 of them. And then groups of students came up to discuss and debate about what is the problem and solution and what can we do now. There were about six students from one high school, two from a college, others in ones and twos. A libertarian came over to argue against revolution. An activist supporter of the Revolution Club who is not a communist came over to join in the debate in defense of what the Revolution Club is about. There were about three or four discussions and debates happening at once and this went on for about an hour after the end of the rally, with students moving from one discussion to another.

The students wanted to hear what we were saying, how we see changing things, and it seems maybe some also came with some thinking off of having read our Points of Attention. One student came up saying his parents were from Russia and communism is no good. Another said his grandparents are from Poland and communism was no good there either. We started with, first of all, everything people think they know about communism is wrong, and there is a new communism developed by Bob Avakian that is concentrated in those Points of Attention. We talked with them about what is the root of the problem we now find ourselves in, how capitalism actually works and why it has given rise to this nightmare for humanity. How this can’t be reformed or voted out and why it takes an actual revolution to do this. We showed them the display of the 5 STOPS to illustrate this. They had lots of thinking and lots of questions. The 5 STOPS really resonated with all or most of them, and they were not particularly attached to the idea that voting for the Democratic Party or anyone else, for that matter, is the answer to any of this.

A couple of the students at times broke off from the bigger debates to have deeper discussion. A snapshot of one of those discussions:

The student, whose grandparents are from Poland, was really challenged and intrigued by the whole discussion. He liked what it says in the Points of Attention and the idea of being able to have a new society based on those principles, but he wasn’t sure there was any way to actually make that happen. I talked with him about how in starting to live by and fight for those principles now, he can be part of organizing thousands and influencing millions for revolution that is based on and fighting for this. In addition to posting and sharing the POAs, I walked through a couple of examples of how to live by and fight for this, including like when you are around people who are objectifying women or insulting people who are from other countries, calling that out and putting forward a different standard for what kind of world we should be fighting to bring into being. He asked if in the new society we are talking about, would the things we say we don’t tolerate be outlawed and people punished for doing those things. I started to say the new socialist republic would not be a repressive society and he jumped in and agreed that it should not be, and said instead he thinks it should be a society where people will start to want to fight for those principles. I agreed with this and I told him about the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.

He was really struck by the fact that there is already a plan, that ideas have been worked out already about how to do this, and he took a promo card for the Constitution with the website on it so he could go read it online. He then said that he really wanted to think about all this, that he felt he had a lot to learn and look into. I said to him that he should look into all this more deeply, but that even as he does, he should know that it is not neutral to keep going along with the way things are. I opened up Revolution newspaper that shows the great crimes this country has carried out and continues to carry out against the people of the world. He was very moved by this and said he understands that if he does nothing, he is letting all that continue. However, he still was not ready to commit even to taking up the POAs or giving a way to get back to him.

By the time the discussions were ending, a group of the students debating and discussing decided they wanted to take a picture with the #BEB banner. One gave us a way to follow up with him.

In the next couple of days, we reached out to the people we had ways to follow up with. The woman who had left the rally early with her daughter was excited to hear about how things went with the students after they’d left. She and her daughter had felt that the closed-mindedness of the students yelling “bullshit” in response to our agitation was a frustrating indication of the situation we’re in and how much we’re up against in trying to make this revolution. She was animated to hear that something was opened up in all this and she wanted to know what those discussions were like and wanted her daughter to hear about it too. We sent them the picture the students took with the #BEB banner and then set up to meet with them to sum this all up further and talk further about how they can be part of organizing the people needed to transform the terrain and hasten revolution.

Students at the Youth Climate Strike in Chicago engaged in debate and discussion. After one such discussion, the group wanted to pose with the #BEB banner.

 

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