You Can't Recycle Capitalism, Throw It in the Trash!

Taking the Revolution to Climate Striking High School Students



From a member of the Get Organized for an ACTUAL Revolution Tour

Note from the author: These are some thoughts and ruminations, mainly from experiences right before the news hit around the impeachment inquiry, so much of this does not reflect how the developments may have impacted these same youth and others.

The National Revolution Tour has had some back-and-forth with a number of high school students leading into the September 20 Climate Strike (sometimes in groups of half a dozen to a dozen, sometimes even more) but in particular we’ve been working with two or three students who were engaged and challenged and provoked and a beginning form of organization has begun to develop, although very fragile. It’s interesting that these two or three students originally stopped after seeing the “Question and Challenge“ from Bob Avakian (BA), the leader of the revolution. We had an enlarged version of it on a placard the first time we went out. “Could that happen, could Trump really decide not to leave office if he loses the next election?” one of them asked. Many students seemed aware of what was meant by “Puerto Rico style” protests and reacted favorably to the idea (in the days before and immediately after the Climate Strike).

These students (seniors) only know of “socialism” from Bernie Sanders and see this in a favorable way. But right away, I kept probing and went deeper into the real problem humanity faces (the whole system of capitalism-imperialism) and the real solution (a real revolution that overthrows this system and replaces it with a radically different system (see the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America). They were attracted to the simplicity of the 5-2-6 and the Points of Attention for the Revolution. One said, “My teacher really cares, but mainly advocates recycling.” They were getting a sense that the problem was much bigger and could not be solved simply by recycling (especially as we did exposure of where exactly do the plastic bottles that people recycle actually end up). As they learned more from the exposure, it got them to see in a basic way how capitalism-imperialism was actually the source of all this and why only a real revolution gives us a chance of actually saving the planet and humanity.

The day before the Climate Strike we had a whole cool scene outside Revolution Books in Harlem of people making banners and attracting attention to the bookstore. It just so happened to be the Harriet Washington event at the bookstore later that evening too, and we let more people know about that. Anyway, during a back-and-forth around slogans and statements for the banners, these students eventually came up with the statement (which they put on a placard): “Metal straws will not lead to fundamental change. But Revolution will,” and another along the lines of “You can’t recycle capitalism. Throw it in the trash!” They were beginning to measure other “solutions” that are non-solutions to what’s actually needed in order to deal with the environmental emergency. They were also attracted to the exposure around Bernie and agitation against American chauvinism, and when we posed: How come Bernie never talks about where does the wealth he wants to “redistribute” actually come from?... they said, “I’d never thought of that before,” but it was starting to click, in particular the stark difference between democratic socialism and revolutionary communism. I showed them the trailer to BA’s speech Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution, which they connected up to the “5 Stops” from the special 5-2-6 issue of Revolution (the trailer highlights how these things cannot be reformed under capitalism).

This sparked thoughts from the students about all the negative stuff they hear about communism in school (from teachers and other pro-capitalist students) and cited one teacher who has some kind of display in the classroom that “justified” U.S. involvement back in the day in order to defeat and “contain” the spread of communism, the politics of “containment” and the prevention of the “domino effect.” These students were impacted by the exposure of what the U.S. did in Vietnam (murdering two million Vietnamese people). I sensed a beginning skepticism and a “questioning” of what the teachers have been telling them about history and about what’s the problem and the solution to these things, especially as they engaged more with the revcoms about the American Crimes and the source of all this (the BEB issue of Revolution and the 5-2-6 issue are very good tools).

To be clear, it is not yet the ’90s RATM-type (Rage Against the Machine) “Fuck You I Won’t Do What You Tell Me” and even less the 1960s counter-culture and rebellion, but there are elements within all this (the sentiments and mood of the youth and students) that are in that spirit and ethos but not yet that... and it could be on an even more than “that” (qualitatively and quantitatively beyond the best of the 1960s) if/as we revolutionaries have even greater impact and growing influence. There was a 16-year-old from Queens I met at the Climate Strike who was really feeling like Greta, what difference does it make to keep going to school when we might all die (I’m paraphrasing). I got the sense at the Climate Strike and since that many students are thinking this way and that they’re being held back by the “grown-ups” and their “greediness” and “laziness” preventing them from doing something about this emergency situation... but that there are larger forces (which the youth obviously sense but don’t fully understand) looking to keep this contained and re-routed and hemmed in.

This young person from Queens tuned in to the Tour Livestream with Raymond Lotta and said “humanity is really going to suffer and most likely end because most people want money when it won’t really matter.” Later, she asked (paraphrasing), “How will you defeat them when they’re really powerful and have a lot going for them?” This got me to think about this: in the absence of scientific hope (versus illusory hope), will these youth turn to nihilism? It reminded me also of a homemade poster at the Climate Strike that said something along the lines of “we’re all doomed, so welcome to the zombie march.” A lot of this can go in the way of despair and varied nihilistic expressions or it can go another way, towards hope and daring on a solid scientific foundation as BA has put it.

These youth and students and others acting now are very quickly (to echo BA on this) running up against a mighty power they don’t fully understand and all other class forces with the strong winds of spontaneity on their side are fighting to channel all this, feeding people BEB (Bourgeois Electoral Bullshit) and all kinds of other reformist bullshit. Let’s not underestimate the power concentrated in the title of the National Revolution Tour, and the two slogans! These are:

“You Think You’re Woke... But You’re Sleepwalking Through A Nightmare—

This System Cannot Be Reformed, It Must Be Overthrown!

The National Get Organized for an ACTUAL Revolution Tour

There Is a Way Out of This Madness!


“Let’s get down to basics: We need a revolution. Anything else, in the final analysis, is bullshit.—Bob Avakian

The reality (as I understand it) is that people much more quickly “these days” (versus in the 1960s) run up against the full power of what we’re up against and in an overall sense there is less distance to travel before you hit right up against the real obstacles and the barriers standing in the way of humanity and the planet being fully emancipated and truly free. This poses real immediate challenges but is full of tremendous potential (I might be “tripping out” too much here). So, after some back-and-forth I posed to the young woman from Queens why was she not scared or feared revolution? I’m paraphrasing but essentially she said, “I fear more the end of the world and humanity going extinct than a revolution which might give us a chance to save humanity and the planet.” Again, leaving aside her doubts about the possibility for others to do this (it’ll be hard for people to overcome fear therefore let’s start people off doing little things like “planting trees” and “recycling,”) or her concerns about the mental shackles on some of the young people in her community (who only seem to care about doing stupid shit and “making money”), her comment about what she feared most was insightful. It’s kind of the reverse of young people in “recent times” more inclined and equipped to imagine the end of the world (as in Young Adult books like The Hunger Games) than having their sights lifted to imagining a better world; it’s worth thinking about how quickly this could change (or begin to transform in that direction) at this moment. It does seem that the authorities and school officials giving the “OK” to the students to participate (with a permission slip from parents) in the Climate Strike was perhaps, in part, aimed at undermining such rebelliousness from coming into fruition and blossoming... more to think about on this. How to uncork all this? How to get going a radical revolt against a revolting culture? How to get a vibrant, radical, rebellious new movement for revolution that’s an attractive force to all the youth and students who want to break RIGHT NOW out of the confines and are pushing and aspiring in that direction?

Anyway, at one point (outside the high school) a hardcore Bernie supporter came up and was making all the arguments we’d been polemicizing against and even the students got in on it. One of them said, “But isn’t Bernie also BEB?” (BEB = Bourgeois Electoral Bullshit) The Bernie supporter had been arguing that Bernie was different than the Democratic Party, that she was not a Democratic Party supporter, she was a Bernie supporter which she felt was a different thing. Anyway, we’d given the students the BEB issue prior to this and had walked through some of the crimes of U.S. imperialism under both Democrats and Republicans; in fact one of the students said she had read a book talking about how there was no need for the U.S. to have dropped the bomb on Japan during WW2 and yet the U.S. did it anyway and that she had to argue this in class with students who didn’t believe her.

The following Friday, I went with another person from the Tour to City Hall where some of the youth had called for continuing the weekly Climate Strike as put forward by Greta. There were dozens of youths and some adults (about 60 people). Some of the student leaders and others are very much feeling the need to act but seemed more inclined to think that we could do it through policy change and legislation. One young student said, “Revolution is just going to take too long,” that the U.S. has always been capitalist so it’s going to be difficult and take a long time to change this country into something else and really “couldn’t we just pressure the people in power to change things now?” Others were arguing similar things, although very open to engagement and struggle, especially when you walked them through the substance of why this system cannot be reformed, what are the “rules of the game” so to speak, and how does capitalism-imperialism actually work.

It is interesting that some of these students have since started following us on Instagram and have been looking at many of our posts, which leads me to believe they’re curious about the revolution and perhaps on some level are being impacted by the substance we’re putting out. As an aside, I do think the Tour Livestream on “capitalism is destroying the planet...” featuring Raymond Lotta was a “new thing” that we should not fail to fully appreciate. It was definitely not all that’s possible, however, there were important elements that came together that point in the direction of solving some big problems of the revolution. I thought the team that co-hosted did a good job, including highlighting lessons for the viewers (and inviting them to pose questions related to the topic) and Raymond Lotta brought crucial and hard-hitting facts, exposure and agitation. And there were, although very small, some brand-new people (including high school students) that tuned in and watched some or large portions of it. One particular student, as mentioned above, made an insightful comment and posed a challenging question.

Now imagine 100s and soon 1,000s tuning in, many of them just like that young student from Queens, getting provoked, challenged and inspired... and invited in to be part of solving the big problems of the revolution and getting organized into this. Thousands tuning into the regular National Tour livestream, with an edge of “completely outrageous and eminently reasonable” as one important way we’re building and leading a national movement for an actual revolution. How do we get to this point?

We did find, not surprisingly, anti-communism among some of the high school students, including among those concerned about the environment and among those who hate Trump and are opposed to the fascists. Others said they’ve heard bad things about it but don’t really know what to think about it, how to judge whether it is good or not. One student said it was a good idea but there is the danger under communism for “the government to have too much power,” and she went on to argue for reforms, for incremental change because most people would not support “revolution” (something drastic), and since we need to unite everyone in order for change to happen, we need to appeal to most people and “incremental” is something many people could support.


Spread this trailer everywhere.

How Would the Revolution Deal with the Climate Crisis?

A Q&A with Raymond Lotta

from the National Get Organized for an ACTUAL Revolution Tour in NYC, 9/26/19

Share this video of the meeting.

American Crime

See all the articles in this series.



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