Revolution #233, May 22, 2011
From a Revolution Books staff member
Promoting BAsics at the LA Times Festival of Books
In thinking back to the April 30-May 1 weekend of the annual Los Angeles Times Festival of Books, I first thought about a conversation I had a few days later on the bus with a young woman who had a beautiful baby girl. After helping her out with her stroller, she began to tell me she was heading to her mother’s. Without getting into details, she told me something that struck me. “You know it’s just one of those struggle days.” Only then did I realize what was in the stroller: a large bag and food all packed into this small stroller. I could only begin to imagine her personal situation. This had me thinking of the countless other mothers and their children and the people of the world and their suffering which doesn’t get counted in days but what feels like an eternity under this capitalist system. And the worst thing of all is that it doesn’t have to be this way. This fact, so little spoken to, is one of the points that came across to people that weekend as we introduced people to Bob Avakian and BAsics.
For two days, staff and friends of Revolution Books / Libros Revolución helped spread the word about BAsics to some of the 140,000 attendees, through distribution of the palm cards, enlarged quotes from BAsics that decorated our bookstore booth and our carts of materials, and Revolution newspaper. The festival crowd is of course made up of book-lovers and lots of critical thinkers, yet this did not make it any less of a challenge to get BAsics into people’s hands. But overall it was exciting and lots of fun, and we sold quite a few of the book. We had an opportunity to connect up with all sorts of people from high school & college students to teachers and professors, from artists to peace activists, attracted to the vision of a better world captured in the Revolution Books booth. Many people were introduced to this movement for revolution for the first time, while others had heard about the cultural evening in New York on April 11 through friends, or had attended the dialogue between Cornel West and Carl Dix at UCLA a few nights before and heard Carl Dix read from BAsics.
The breakthrough in getting books sold was using the book itself, literally placing a well-marked BAsics into people’s hands, allowing the quotes to connect and provoke people. We also used the quotes in the May 1st issue of the newspaper to give people a sense of what’s in the book and encourage them to get a subscription. The internationalism of BA’s leadership compelled people from different parts of the world to get a copy.
Often times and for good reason with genuine excitement we should have lots to say, yet in this case one quote can take it much further. Whether it was excitement in learning something new or appreciating how concrete and concise the BAsics quotes were, people wanted more. In one conversation a Black high school student was excited about what she just read from Chapter 1 but didn’t have the money to buy it. Her friend, noticing her disappointment, told her she would buy it for her. Another friend then said, “I need a copy, too!” They plan on reading BAsics together and sharing it with friends at school.
A Chicano couple stopped by to check out the booth. It turned out that he’s in the military, but doesn’t think the U.S. should be in Iraq or Afghanistan. We showed them quote #5 in Chapter 1 about the military serving the other 1%, the capitalist-imperialists. They really agreed with that, and came back later and bought the book. Other people felt suffocated looking at the destruction of the environment, with Japan as the most current example, and seemingly no means to end it. But some checked out what was said in BAsics, both about the system not fit to be the caretakers of the earth (Chap. 1, #29) and the vision of a new world in Chap. 2, and also picked up the book. A college student said she considers herself a communist, but didn’t like the “cult” of Bob Avakian. We talked about Chap. 6, #4 about leadership, and she agreed on the importance of recognizing such leadership, and her questions turned to how future society will be run. She ended up getting the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), and her brother, also a very politicized student, bought BAsics.
One thing I found helpful was connecting the book to building a movement for revolution. Many people who came by wanted a solution, an alternative, to the way things are and saw BAsics as a much-needed contribution toward that goal. Some were glad to also be given ways to further contribute by becoming a distributor or donating toward a copy for a prisoner. One person wanted to know how BAsics would contribute to making revolution and asked if it would be by getting the truth out and if the main point of BAsics was that it was true. I asked him to open up the book and read. After reading a quote I asked him if he thought it was true. He answered, “Yes! Yes it is.” He was surprised and drawn closer to getting the book with my reply. I explained that while I would say that what’s in this book is true, the main point, as I opened it up to Chapter 4, was that the book from beginning to end shows BA’s method and approach that “is both thoroughly and consistently materialist and thoroughly and consistently dialectical.” I also had him read quote #5 because I said, “We are trying to get somewhere with this.”
There were others who thought they didn’t need BAsics because they said they knew all they need to know about communism through reading Marx and Lenin. Here I got to use the quote from a prisoner about BAsics─“Word is you’re nothing unless you have a B.A. degree.” One example I’ll use to show the importance of going directly to BAsics was in a conversation with a father and son. The father said, “We don’t need that. I taught him Marx and Engels.” They had also read books by Bob Avakian and heard the 7 Talks. I asked them both to take a minute and read the quote we had enlarged in our booth (Chapter 1, #3): “The essence of what exists in the U.S is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.” The father turned to his son and began to tell him that this is what he has been trying to explain to him about this system. They both turned to me and asked, “How much is the book?,” and picked up their copy.
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