Revolution #235, June 12, 2011

BAsics and Revolution at the 25th Annual JazzReggae Fest at UCLA


A small group of revolutionaries had an impact at the recent JazzReggae Fest at UCLA in Los Angeles. Especially with summer concert season beginning, here is an experience and some lessons to share.

This was a very cool event taking place over two days on Memorial Day weekend. Featured bands included hip-hop artists Lupe Fiasco and Talib Kweli, Swedish electronic sync-pop band Little Dragon, roots reggae band Steel Pulse, and numerous other performers. The audience included UCLA students and a diverse audience from well beyond the campus.

We featured the new book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian and distributed Revolution newspaper, especially issue #233 which had a great cover article on the significance of the Freedom Riders 50 years ago. We sold 27 BAsics books, over 150 newspapers, and distributed 4,000 BAsics palm cards. We collected funds for the 30-30+100 campaign, off a nice visual display.

A collective effort of a relatively small group “synergized” and made for a significant impact. There is a lesson here: we lined the walkways into the concert with colorful displays of quotes taken from BAsics; a couple of people focused on getting out hundreds and hundreds of BAsics palm cards while others put up a small book table featuring BAsics and Revolution newspaper outside, and sold Basics as their starting point. Some people went inside the concert and also distributed hundreds of BAsics cards and sold copies of BAsics and Revolution, wearing sandwich poster boards with quotes from BAsics.

Thousands of people read the quotes as they walked into the event. Quote 1:1 “There would be no United States as we know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.” Quote 2:1 “Communism: A Whole New World and the Emancipation of All Humanity─Not ‘The Last Shall Be First and the First Shall Be Last.’” Quote 4:13  “There is not one human nature. There is not some uniform and unchanging way that everybody is and how everybody sees the world. Human nature has different meanings in different times and for different classes and groups in society.” Quote 5:3 “The whole point of principle is that you have to fight for it when it is not easy to do. There is no need for principle if the only time it is applied is when it doesn’t matter.” Quote 5:4 “‘Western morality’ and, for that matter, the dominant morality in all parts of the world, wherever society is marked by class division and exploitation, patriarchy, and other forms of oppression—has always been a rationale and justification for oppression.”

We also included a couple of quotes on religion, and the promo quote, “You can’t change the world if you don’t know the BAsics,” struck a chord.

One student, when asked why he bought the book, said he wants to know the world and change the world for the better, and “You can’t change the world if you don’t know the BAsics” piqued his interest. Another young man walked up to us and said, “You know, these subjects taken up in these quotes are quite taboo—I want that book." Others toward the end of the event said the quotes they’d read going into the event really stuck with them and when we were outside offering to sell them the book they jumped at it. A Black couple said, in looking at and thinking about some of the quotes that they’d never seen or heard anything that resonated quite the same way when it came to understanding their experience as Black people. We also shared that Avakian has been developing the strategy for revolution and for ending exploitation and oppression, including, importantly, the long history of oppression of Black people in the United States.

Several UCLA students had been to the Cornel West/Carl Dix dialogue at UCLA. The impact of that event continues to reverberate on the campus, and beyond. To be blunt, after seeing that event… readers of Revolution newspaper have read about it, but if you were there… well… all we could ask these students who attended is “WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! Check out BAsics, which Carl Dix read from and encouraged you to read at that program.” A number of them did. There is more work to do to reach all the UCLA students with BAsics who have been impacted by that spectacular program (work we are systematically carrying out).

BAsics is a handbook for revolution in the 21st century and surely thousands at this event were open to revolution and did not at all like the direction of society and the world. Among some youth, including some who especially came to see conscious hip-hop artists Lupe Fiasco and Talib Kweli, one could sense a sort of righteous impatience and yearning for solutions to big problems facing this world and were drawn to BAsics because of that. Among some veterans there was a trend that it may be too late, “everybody is brainwashed.” We took this seriously; there is a lot of brainwashing this system does and it is “late in the game” to put it a certain way. But we also shared with them what difference Bob Avakian and a genuine vanguard party makes in unleashing conscious revolutionary struggle (see Chapter 6 of BAsics)… and posed the importance of this in the context of recent developments like Egypt and the Middle East. We have the specific objective of getting BAsics into the hands of a new generation of revolutionaries who could be at the backbone of revolution involving millions, and we brought to people this understanding.

We showed many people the RCP’s  “On the Strategy for Revolution” supplement and struggled over what is said there: that revolution is possible (but, of course, revolution cannot happen with conditions and people the way they are now; revolution can come about as conditions and people are moved to change because of developments in the world and because of the work of revolutionaries….). The key strategic principles forged by the RCP and Bob Avakian─which can be found in BAsics ─do represent, for the first time in the history of the United States, a viable, scientific strategy for preparing the ground politically and ideologically for revolution and making revolution when conditions arise. This is a very important part of the book that addresses the profound question on the mind of not an insignificant number people in society, young and old:  “…Is revolution possible…?”

Very serious people, some speaking softly but with agonizing directness, asked  “What about the nuclear problem…” referring to both the thousands of nuclear weapons the imperialists point at the earth’s people, and reliance on nuclear energy in some areas of the world and what we are seeing as the major, catastrophic, implications of this. BAsics quote 3:3, taken from  “Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon,” can help wrestle with what is a profound challenge in not only making revolution but going on from there to put an entirely new system into being.

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