Field Notes on Taking Science to the Masses During the COVID-19 Crisis

Report from a Member of the National Revolution Tour



On Tuesday we went out principally with the Coronavirus Communiqué #1 to South Central and an immigrant community, finding and engaging mainly Spanish-speakers. We started at the welfare office in the morning, which was closed due to the virus, but people were showing up who didn’t know that. In the afternoon we went to a busy grocery store line, then to an area with a lot of street vendors. We had a sound truck with us for the afternoon, from which we did some agitation on the basis of the flyer.

One thing very striking in most of our conversations was the lack of science people have access to. People have no way of knowing what’s true or not true and so it’s all a mystery and they don’t know what to believe. Many people explicitly told us they don’t know what to believe. This is scary and unnerving to people, it gives rise to seemingly endless conspiracy theories in an attempt to make sense of what’s happening when you know the government and authorities can’t be trusted, and there is a strong pull to rely on religion for stability. In terms of people’s conditions, people are just beginning to be affected in terms of losing jobs or being exposed to risk. There are both inclinations to act in the interests of humanity in this situation and to look out for self or turn frustrations against others who are perceived to be (or actually are) acting selfishly. Sometimes these seemingly contradictory inclinations are felt and expressed by the same people.

In our agitation we were saying: 1) we need science and facts to understand what is happening with this virus and how to act in the interests of humanity, 2) the priorities under this capitalist, profit-driven, me-first system are not the care that people need, and Black people, Latinos, etc. will be harder hit and face more repression, and 3) things don’t have to be this way. And we were reading much of this section in Communiqué # 1.

In many conversations we were continually trying to walk through how to know what’s true. Viruses have been studied and there are patterns to go by. For example, even if it is not known 100% for sure how this one started, it follows a pattern of viruses jumping from animals. When viruses are new to humans, there are no immunities, so that’s part of why it spreads so much and is so deadly. Researchers know some things about how this virus spreads, so that’s why measures like handwashing, etc. are effective.

A lot of people were grateful that we were bringing basic knowledge about the virus, with an orientation of serving the people, and many agreed that oppressed sections of people will be disproportionately affected. Part of our orientation was in relation to the paragraph from HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution, “The organized forces and the leadership of this revolution must become the ‘authority’ that growing numbers of people look to and follow …” and that people should be asking “who are those people and who is this leader Bob Avakian,” and getting a sense of people working for an actual revolution and a movement for revolution to be part of and contribute to.

There were about five people who took flyers to distribute to others, and two of those gave their phone numbers to stay in contact. Those who gave their numbers were people who engaged the full content of what we were saying: things don’t have to be this way and why, including the leadership of BA and people taking up that leadership. When told they could and were needed to be part of working on the problem of bringing forward a movement for revolution among the people, they wanted to know how. In both cases, we read the last paragraph of the communiqué: “We are getting out this communiqué as one part of preparing for that revolution. Help get this out to others … let us know what comes up when you do and what needs to be investigated and spoken to … be part of this movement. And learn more about this movement for an actual revolution at,” with emphasis on really learning what is coming back from others as part of the ability to lead people, and they agreed to help do that. They took flyers and gave their info. One said he would take it to the transitional housing where he worked, and said he has been wanting to get involved in something for the people.

We learned a little bit about people’s conditions related to the savage inequalities of this system.

  • At the welfare office, people were mainly taking the closure in stride. There were notices on the door with a phone number to call and people were capturing the number and leaving. One man who was more upset said he had gotten a notice in the mail that his food stamps were going to get cut off unless he came in to the office, but now he can’t go in.
  • Women who work for a community clinic (that provides all kinds of services including birth control and prenatal care) were upset that their clinic has no way to test people for coronavirus and they have no information they can tell people about how to get tested.
  • Restaurant workers are losing their jobs and being told to apply for unemployment.
  • A UPS worker said the workload is comparable to Christmas because of how much online ordering is going on and he’s worried about being exposed to the virus through handling packages.
  • We saw a video of street food vendors being shut down.

In several conversations, people went to religion/god.

  • A young Black woman said everybody just needs the word of Jesus and that’s it. She wouldn’t engage at first, including even basic realities like people needing to wash their hands to not spread disease. Later, after an older woman entered in more rationally (maybe her mother), the young woman started making an actual argument, saying people die all the time anyway of all kinds of diseases and other things, there’s nothing you can do about that, God decides that. She also said she doesn’t believe gloves and masks will work and we’ll just have to see if they make any difference. Through the back and forth, walking through what we know about why the virus is spreading so quickly and people don’t have immunity to it, and what we know about how it spreads and what precautions can be taken to slow the spread and why that matters, the older woman—who had engaged a bit and had a sense this was a revolutionary movement (she referenced Malcolm X as something similar) started to see why it matters for people to have an understanding of this and ended up taking a stack of flyers to get to others.
  • In South Central, there were people who said, I don’t know, I just leave it to God, and we can’t do anything about it anyway, only God can. We engaged people on what we know so far and how we know it, why it is possible to know, and that it is we humans who can do something about any of this.
  • There were other people who referenced plagues in the Bible and said this is written.

Many people wanted to know why is there so much hype over this disease, when diseases are always going around. And didn’t know the difference between particular actions to prevent the spread of this particular virus vs. general advice about spreading germs. This is feeding into theories that there is some other reason behind all this. People had many variations of conspiracy theories.

  • The only people who really know where the virus started are the people in the lab who created it. It’s a distraction from other issues we are fighting around (e.g., mass incarceration).
  • The Chinese government created this virus to aid its competition against the U.S.
  • I haven’t heard of any cases in Russia, so I think the virus came from Russia.
  • The virus is political, being used to keep the Republicans in power because people will think Trump is taking care of them by providing sick leave, etc.
  • The virus is a plot to kill us off, that’s why it’s coming at the same time as the census, so they know how many of us to kill.
  • This is a way for the grocery stores to make a lot of money.
  • This is a way for the elites to kill off a lot of poor people while they stay safe in their bunker-condos guarded by armed guards.

Some people talked about how others are being selfish by buying up so much stuff from the grocery stores that there’s not enough for others, or by even going out to grocery stores and other places instead of staying at home like they’re supposed to. Some people saying this were themselves out at the grocery stores. Others have been staying indoors and feared that people disobeying directives is going to be the cause of a repressive clampdown, i.e. the national guard coming in.

One thing that would be important to address in the next (or future) communiqué is some compare and contrast of a scientific method to understanding this and knowing what’s true vs. false pattern recognition or believing in this or that authority or assuming things can’t be known for sure except by higher (imaginary) beings. And why that matters. I also think it would be good to have a box of the basic things of what people can do to avoid contracting and spreading the virus like what is currently on the resource page about this. Also, how would a new socialist republic approach this problem. And maybe more explicitly how do people go up against “look out for number one” now and act in line with the interests of humanity. (I think the point in the last one about being prepared to stand with those who fight for decent care, etc. is an example of that, but could be even more explicitly in contrast with self-first. But also, paying attention to not spreading it, sharing the communiqués, etc.)

Communiques from the Revcoms

For more about the National Get Organized for an ACTUAL Revolution Tour click HERE

See also:

An Overall Orientation:
Thoughts from a Reader on the Coronavirus COVID-19 Epidemic

Read more

The Coronavirus Pandemic — A Resource Page


  • What is the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease, and where did it come from?
  • What happens to people if they are infected with the coronavirus?
  • and more...

Read more

Model of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 disease.




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