Revolution #174, August 30, 2009
Bringing Revolution to the Campuses—A Strategic Mission of Any Revolution Worth Making
“And, despite the good intentions of many teachers, the educational system is a bitter insult for many youth and a means of regimentation and indoctrination overall. While, particularly in some ‘elite’ schools, there is some encouragement for students to think in ‘non-conformist’ ways—so long as, in the end, this still conforms to the fundamental needs and interests of the system—on the whole, instead of really enabling people to learn about the world and to pursue the truth wherever it leads, with a spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity, education is crafted and twisted to serve the commandments of capital, to justify and perpetuate the oppressive relations in society and the world as a whole, and to reinforce the dominating position of the already powerful. And despite the creative impulses and efforts of many, the dominant culture too is corrupted and molded to lower, not raise, people’s sights, to extol and promote the ways of thinking, and of acting, that keep this system going and keep people believing that nothing better is possible.”
Anyone who has thought seriously about revolution knows that the role of students and youth, as well as the overall ideological, intellectual, and political life of campuses as a whole, is of strategic significance. Young people have always been catalytic in revolutionary change—they are less weighed down by tradition and the suffocating limits of what is deemed “reasonable.” They are lifting their heads to the world around them and figuring out what role they will play in it. When students step forward to engage new and revolutionary ideas it helps to realign broader sections of intellectuals and it creates more space for—and synergizes in multiplying and transformative ways with—those from among the most bitterly exploited and oppressed sections of society to also engage in revolutionary ideas and actions. Students also play a role in sparking ferment and inquiry generally, insisting that old truths stand up to renewed challenge and bringing to light new truths in all kinds of realms.
Today, however, young people are mainly NOT playing this role. This cannot be separated from the fact that every young person today has been weaned on the BIG LIE—regurgitated, not only by outright reactionaries but also, outrageously, by progressive and “radical-minded” people—“that there is no other way than this system—or that attempts to really make a different way, through revolution and advancing toward communism, have brought about something even worse.” (The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have)
Consequently, even the best impulses of this new generation—to understand the cause of the world’s many horrors, to change the world for the better, even to imagine the future—remain strait-jacketed within the logic and confines of the current U.S.-dominated capitalist-imperialist order.
Radically changing this—starting right now—is a strategic question for the revolution and a key part of the campaign now under way by the Revolutionary Communist Party around The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have. What follows are some ideas for how to approach this. Note: All of this is something that people of ALL AGES can take part in, even while young people should play a particularly active role.
Starting freshman week, we must be on a mission to bring revolution to the campuses—overturning the verdict on communism, introducing a new generation to the leadership of Bob Avakian, cracking open mass debate and ferment (including what kind of future is possible and what is the role and responsibility of students to humanity as a whole), and organizing a new generation into the movement for revolution.
Saturate Key Campuses
Starting with a few key campuses, dorms should be systematically blanketed with the statement and the statement should go out to professors and freshman seminars. The statement in both its long and short versions should be everywhere—and helping make this happen is one of the first ways students can get involved.
At the same time, there should be consistent and high-profile open-air distribution/agitation sites on or near campus in areas where students hang out and pass through. Big enlargements of the photos in the issue of Revolution which ran the full statement (#170, July 19, 2009) should attract attention and ground people in the real horrors humanity is currently being forced to live through as well as the revolution we need and the leadership we have in Bob Avakian.
The agitation should be hard-hitting and lofty, consistent with the content and style of the statement (this should include reading sections of the statement) and should embody and bring to bear the positive attractiveness of what communist revolution is all about. Students should be organized on the spot to join in getting out the statement, to take stacks to their dorms and classes, to understand why this matters to prying open the possibilities and ferment over real revolution in these intolerable times. Students should be drawn into discussion and debate, the idea being to create a site of tremendous revolutionary ferment—where knots of people are drawn in, both those who are attracted to revolution or at least learning more and those who are repelled by it but cannot just walk by.
Emphasis should be given to dispelling the BIGGEST LIE OF ALL, getting into how “The wretched of the earth have made revolution and started on the road to communism—first in Russia and then in China—and they achieved great things in doing so, before they were turned back by the forces of the old order. We are here to tell you that not only has this been done before, but we can do it again—and even better this time. This is the truth that is covered up and lied about, but we have the facts and the analysis to back this up—tremendous historical experience has been summed up, scientifically, and is there for us to learn from and build on.”
Bob Avakian: “A Great Champion and a Great Resource”
Another section of the statement that should be given great emphasis: “Bob Avakian has developed the scientific theory and strategic orientation for how to actually make the kind of revolution we need, and he is leading our Party as an advanced force of this revolution. He is a great champion and a great resource for people here, and indeed people all over the world. The possibility for revolution, right here, and for the advance of the revolution everywhere, is greatly heightened because of Bob Avakian and the leadership he is providing.”
All the questions about the revolution we need, whether that is necessary and what it is all about, get concentrated up in taking out Bob Avakian straight up—and the most concentrated answers to those questions are also embodied in him and his work. This must be a leading big strength and attractive force of what we are doing, and definitely not something that is regarded as a “controversy to avoid” or “save till later.” People should feel compelled to engage his works and learn about his life—reading his memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond (have copies on hand!), and viewing his talk, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, which will be available online. This film must become a “must-see” for anyone who takes themselves seriously—or is taken seriously—about changing the world. Pluggers and other materials should be all over and one important way that students can contribute is to help get this out and to go viral on the net.
Bring on the Controversy and Debate
Controversy and debate—focused around the actual content of the statement—should be welcomed and encouraged. What we will be bringing will be attractive and will very powerfully reach inside many of the students, particularly freshmen who are wondering what their lives will mean, at a time of transition in their lives and for the world, and for whom we can offer a life with meaning—a real way to understand and act on the many outrages, hypocrisies and unnecessary cruelties that many of these students sense but do not deeply understand. At the same time, this goes straight up against the conventional wisdom on almost every topic that these students have been indoctrinated with. That contradiction should be a source of ferment and engagement.
Students should be left feeling like they can’t go about their lives as they used to without pursuing what has been revealed to them, reading the statement, watching the Revolution talk and/or reading the memoir, and going for themselves to the Internet and friends to find out if all this is really true, and coming back to pose further questions to the revolutionaries who they should also be able to consistently find (i.e. the revolutionaries must have a regular presence). We envision a movement where students can find their way in through many different doorways and relate on many different levels: checking out the revolution, comparing and contrasting it to other ways of understanding and changing the world, just getting their feet wet if they want or plunging in at the deep end if and as they become convinced.
Further, revolutionaries should be sitting down with groups of students, hanging out late into the night in coffee shops and dorm rooms, exploring and learning more about how students see the world and their role in it and getting deeper into revolution, communism, and the work and role of Bob Avakian. It is critical that this begin the very first days we are on campus even as we continue to push out with a very bold presence on the campus as a whole.
Those who do not like what is in the statement—students and professors, both the outright reactionaries or the smugly anti-communist “progressive” types—should NOT be able to dismiss or ignore this. They should feel compelled to come debate. And the revolutionaries should be eager and able to take on what is posed in a lofty but sharply challenging way. The atmosphere should be one of “taking on all comers” and being very bold and very confident that anything short of revolution, in the final analysis, really is bullshit. We should not pretend to know things we do not know (and there will be many things that people know more about than we do and we should learn from them) but we should never lose our bearings on what we DO know and must reveal to others and lead them to act upon: that humanity needs revolution and that we have in Bob Avakian the leadership to make the most liberating revolution in the history of humanity.
Through all this, students—and we, ourselves!!—should learn a tremendous amount, including about what it means to be an emancipator of humanity, differentiating different lines as well as different methods, different aims, and different moralities. As one measure of all this, the whole experience should be a lot of fun and extremely invigorating. This, too, should be part of what attracts people to keep coming back and digging in deeper.
Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA provides a framework for what we are doing and should be promoted among students. There should be a standing atmosphere of challenging anyone who wants to dismiss the communist project or run out some “conventional wisdom” or more “sophisticated” anti-communism, to debate us and answer to what is in the Manifesto. The recent polemic against Alain Badiou should be promoted in relation to all this as well.
A centerpiece of these efforts to bring revolution to the campuses will be a major speech by Raymond Lotta which will powerfully indict the whole system of capitalism-imperialism and reveal why it is utterly unreformable and irredeemable, how the actual history of socialism has been tremendously emancipatory, and how the future of communist revolution is both viable and desirable owing to the leadership and ongoing role of Bob Avakian. Lotta’s speech will be substantive and potentially transformative for all who hear it and it must be made a VERY BIG DEAL. The buzz should spread about a revolutionary who is serious about overturning the verdict on communism and has the facts, the analysis, and the passionate commitment to humanity’s liberation to back it up. Those who are attracted to the idea of communism but who’ve been told “it can never work” should know this is the place to come and ask their toughest questions. Opposition from reactionaries should be turned around and made part of the growing controversy and sense that Lotta’s speech must be heard and engaged. All those who consider themselves progressive critics of the current order but who use their “radical” or even “Marxist” credentials to rule real revolution off the table should be compelled—by the overall atmosphere and expectations created campus-wide—to bring their best arguments and put them up against what Lotta will have to say.
A New Approach to Cracking Open the Atmosphere
Through all this, the aim for revolutionaries must not be just to “meet some radical-minded students,” to “fill a quota of statements to be distributed,” or even to “build a successful event on the subject of revolution and communism.” Our aim must be to radically transform the life of the campuses as a whole. The universities should be places of truth-seeking, rebelling against the fetters set by the received wisdom and the narrowing of commodity relations. We must overturn the verdicts on communist revolution for this generation as part of putting it back on the scene in society and the world as a whole. We must bust open widespread radical ferment broadly and organize within that—and as an anchor to that—a growing core into the movement for revolution at various levels and in a myriad of ways.
All this should be propelled forward by and contribute to amplifying the work throughout society more broadly to spread the Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have.
At the same time—what we are undertaking on the campuses and with this campaign overall—is something new. We must not merely refashion things we did in the past or “do better” at what we have done before. As the statement puts it, referring to how the Party itself has not been consistent enough and bold enough in getting the word out and acting on it: “We are changing all that, starting now.” We must be bold, substantive, creative and daring—and we must learn and share as we go. It is very important that we hear from people working on this in real-time, about every experiment that people make in this, every new thing they try and bring forward, every advance to be built upon and every setback to be learned from. Send in reports to Spreading Revolution and Communism (http://revcom.us/a/online/taking_rev.html)
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