Revolution #229, April 15, 2011
Taking out the Statement On the Strategy for Revolution at the National Science Teachers Association Convention:
We received the following correspondence from a reader:
The week started with a small group of us going out to the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) national convention. This 4-day conference was attended by thousands of scientists and educators from all over the world and included presentations and symposia on climate change, nutrition, engineering, life science, earth science and space science. (Go to www.nsta.org/conferences for more info on this conference.) There was a special session devoted to teaching evolution "when students, parents or administrators make claims that evolution is not a science." There were major addresses given by astrophysicist Jeff Goldstein, NASA astronaut Bernard Harris and evolution expert Eugenie Scott.
We set up outside the conference center with enlargements of BAsics, On the Strategy for Revolution and the cover of the special issue of Revolution on the environment, and a table with these issues of the paper, the Message and Call ["The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have—A Message, And A Call, From The Revolutionary Communist Party, USA"], Bob Avakian's memoir From Ike to Mao and Beyond, Away With All Gods, 7 talks, Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon, the Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy pamphlet, the Revolution Talk, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) and the Manifesto.
We approached people with the BAsics card and On the Strategy for Revolution statement together—emphasizing that these represent a scientific plan and theory for making revolution and getting to a whole new world. A good percentage of people took these... like maybe 1/3. Some took the materials and started reading them in the foyer or would stand to the side and flip through the statement. Some would pass by—take a look and walk away—others would more politely say that they had to go because they didn't want to be late for their next workshop. And some stopped to talk. Overall we felt that there was a certain openness to checking it out, and within the openness, some contention over various topics would surface and the engagement would deepen. The idea that we were talking about making a revolution to uproot the whole status quo and replace it with a whole different society that's not based on profit in command/commodity production and relations struck many people as something that they had never considered before—but were willing to poke into examining. Overall, it was evident from just short comments we got that there was a unsettled feeling coming from different angles—the extremeness of the attacks on education, attacks on teachers like the union busting "trend setting" in Wisconsin, and suppression of critical thinking in the academic arena. One phenomenon that we noticed was that a high percentage of the Black teachers took the materials and responded with agreement. My sense from some conversations with Black teachers is that they feel that they are especially isolated and under attack. For one thing, the percentage of Black teachers in most school districts is low and decreasing.
Here are some highlights of conversations:
One young white woman was excited by the literature, the revolutionary strategy, the Constitution. The whole perspective of struggle for a completely new society and world really hit the spot for her. She is working in a district with a lot of non-white kids and it was challenging, but it was where she wanted to be. She said that she was working with people there who were like-minded and would all be excited to hear about what we are doing—and would like to use some of these materials in the classroom.
One middle-aged teacher from the Middle East came by. At the beginning, there was a lot of unity around the importance of the uprisings going on—that this represented a blow to a repressive setup of the U.S. and the potential for a new day. But when we pushed further into the issue of what kind of society the world needed to move towards, sharp differences emerged. He held to the view that the autocracies needed to be discarded but his model was a multi-party democracy. He had come to the conclusion that communism had failed, and cited the collapse of the Soviet Union as the evidence that convinced him. We had some back and forth with him, but in the end, he said that he had made up his mind…and refused to get any of the literature.
A Black woman science teacher in her late 30's from Alabama expressed a lot of agreement around the issue of the attacks on teachers and education and also agreed that the problem went deeper than reactionary public policy. She expressed agreement that the system itself was corrupt and that there is a need for radical change. She was seeing education in her area as being undermined and said she saw a bleak future for the youth. She took the issue with the statement On the Strategy for Revolution and contributed a few dollars.
One middle-aged, rather well-dressed teacher came up and was interested in talking. While there was a lot of agreement that there is something basically wrong with society, as the conversation unfolded, it became clear that he saw the essence of this as corruption and a conspiratorial cabal, the Illuminati. Once again, there was back and forth and he seemed to bend away from his position at times, but did not embrace the view that we were advocating. However, he did take the Strategy for Revolution issue to read and we later saw him in a restaurant reading it.
A group of people came by from Wisconsin, wearing Wisconsin sweatshirts. We talked to one of the women in the group and she was of the view that things were moving towards some kind of general strike in her state. She also agreed that the problem was deeper than public policy and united with the view that the system itself was fundamentally at fault. She and some of her colleagues took the Strategy for Revolution issue and other literature.
We had an interesting conversation with a teacher from Lebanon who bought the Manifesto. He got the Strategy for Revolution issue and said that he had never heard that there were revolutionary forces right here in the U.S. preparing for revolution. (He's been here for 10 years.) His comments were sprinkled with comments about the devastating and brutal effects of imperialism in the Middle East and his spirits are now lifted by the uprisings going on. He seemed to be very inquisitive about how to make a successful revolution in the midst of the resistance. We got into the example of the 1917 experience in Russia. He was also drawn towards checking out Bob Avakian’s new synthesis and how it can be applied—this is what drew him towards getting the Manifesto.
Overall, many important questions came to the fore off of stretching a line to these forces. It was a very worthwhile experience and it was good that before going we had reviewed the section from Part 2 of Birds and Crocodiles [by Bob Avakian] about the intelligentsia and communist revolution.
One lesson we learned about agitating for people to contribute money: one teacher went by us—took one look at everything and said... "Yeah, yeah... I know all about that" and walked away. One of us said loudly (actually talking to our group), "Well if he knows all about it... then he should stop and get some multiple issues to take out and contribute some money." The teacher heard this comment, stopped in his tracks and doubled back and said "you know, you're right... I'll take some and here's some money."
Notes from a March 14 protest against education budget cuts in Sacramento:
We made plans for this a month prior to the protest at our first Revolution brunch gathering. At that time… We discussed how this would be a significant outpouring to pay attention to and make advance plans for. Then... the issue with Statement on the Strategy for Revolution came out and the promotional material for BAsics. So—we thought—this is great timing! We took guidance from the Strategy for Revolution statement itself and were motivated and inspired by the quote from our Chairman in that issue. Our approach was to really push out with the two mainstays [Ed. note: the two mainstays are a culture of appreciation, promotion and popularization of what has been brought forward by BA and what he represents, and our Party's newspaper as the "hub and pivot"—and the scaffolding—of the movement we are building for revolution]—concentrated in various kinds of materials that we brought up there—and apply what we learned during the campaign about the impact of really saturating the crowd. We took the Statement on Strategy for Revolution, 2,000 of the Message and Call and back issues of the paper on Egypt and an old issue about the student protests at UC Berkeley.
So—we were hastening our preparations and awaiting with anxious anticipation for this event. Our crew, again only a small group, read the new article on the significance of Wisconsin that was online in Revolution on the way up there. We were a bit worried about the rain... How much this would dampen things in terms of turn-out.
The youth didn’t let some rain stop them! At first, just a few hundred started coming in from the right side of the Capitol… But a little later... We heard drumming, loud chanting of 7,000 youth from ages of 17 to 23 years old streaming down Capitol street—heading straight for the steps of the Capitol. We quickly got right into the midst of the stream—and started getting out the two twin materials of the Strategy for Revolution statement and the BAsics card. Many youth started grabbing for these—some would put their hands into the plastic bags and get a whole bundle to pass out... When we would say the word "Revolution"—this caught their attention... they would say things like: "Yeah... Give me that" ... Or "Yeah... It's about time for that!" "Oh... You actually have a strategy for making a REVOLUTION?!" In the pouring rain, we were literally surrounded and rushed by a whole tsunami of youth from all over California (Sacramento, San Jose. 30 bus loads from San Francisco City College, Fresco, Evergreen College, Diablo Valley College, Los Medanos College, Monterey, Chico, Los Angeles, San Diego, Cabrillo College, Modesto City College, Mendocino City College. Alameda College, Skyline College and Dominguez). These were fresh, vibrant and full of a fighting spirit multi-national youth that we're NOT going to let these cuts go down without a loud and emphatic statement. And for some reason there were groupings of older Chinese workers in the midst of this young crew.
When we talked about communism, there were responses of earnest inquisitiveness... Wanting to know exactly what that is and how can that kind of vision be realized out of the present situation... We didn't encounter a whole lot of counter strategies... Mainly a desire to know what this one was all about. After we ran out of the Strategy for Revolution statement, we got out the Message and Call and other issues of the paper. We would see clusters of youth opening up the paper... and reading it.
Examples of how these materials were circulating and percolating in their minds came out in several different experiences: In one instance, a Latino student came up to the table and looked at the Message and Call and said... "Hey, I know you guys... You're from Revolution Books in Berkeley…" He then took up a whole stack of the Message and Call and said that he would get them out into the crowd and turned around to his friends and told them... "You gotta see this stuff... It's from the RCP and Bob Avakian... This is the SHIT!" Other students came up to the table saying... "I want THAT"—pointing to the revolutionary strategy statement.
One woman had gotten the statement from someone else and approached the table and said... "I want to know what this is ALL about." When I started to get into the revolutionary strategy piece more… she said… "No… I said I want to know what ALL THIS IS About—THIS WHOLE revolution thing." I gave her a brief overview of the WHOLE thing... And highlighting the important leadership role of Bob Avakian to this WHOLE thing. She looked down at all the literature on the table and scanned each one... and said... "Let me think about that" and walked away. About 10 minutes later...she came back with questions about what the revolutionary overthrow of this system would really mean. After some discussion she walked away and came back with another question: "But how about afterwards—Will there just be another set of exploiters/oppressors replacing the ones we have now?" I showed her the new Constitution—which she looked through. Then, she looked at the image on the T-shirt... And asked—"how's he going to be a different kind of leader of the future society than what we have now?" We introduced Bob Avakian to her using the section in the paper and the table of contents of BAsics. She ended up saying that she is not ready to take up any multiple issue of anything yet... But picked up the revolutionary strategy statement, the Message and Call, the statement on Egypt by Bob Avakian, the BAsics card and a couple of issues Revolution newspaper as if she was in a candy store and stuffed it all into a plastic bag and said... "Yeah... lots to read and think about..." There were other engaging conversations that surfaced.
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