Revolution #238, July 3, 2011

From a Reader

BAsics... and “indispensable”

People in our crew have different levels of literacy. A few can read the BAsics without too much difficulty, but most of them tend to rush through a sentence, stumbling over but ignoring words they don’t understand, just to get to the end of the sentence. One day when we were talking about the 4th of July (kind of planning for an anti-4th event) and T said he would celebrate it not for what things were but because Black people are now free. I asked what does free mean and M, T’s wife, said that being free means they can walk out their door.

I said let’s look at the BAsics quote (1:8) about the “greatness of America,” so everyone read that, struggling through the vocabulary—for example, what is “ingenuity”? What is “indispensable”? “Indispensable” is in the sentence in that quote: “Slavery has been an indispensable part of the foundation for the ‘freedom and prosperity’ of the USA.” So then we spent ten minutes on what is “indispensable” and what does it mean. And then we tried to get into the BAsics quote, “If you could imagine a world without America...” and we got as far as the word “imperialism” and people wanted to know what imperialism is, so we went to quote 1:6 and the questions came up: What is “parasitic”? What is “financier”? Anyway, through reading and struggling over all these words, people in our crew got a different understanding of whether or not we are free now.

The next day the crew was taking a trip to a blues festival. On the way up to the event, T said, “Roll up the windows and let’s read.” So we all took turns reading the poem “America the Terrorist” by Oyewole from that issue of Revolution which was very cool. After enjoying the festival, on our way back I read out loud a letter to the crew sent from K in the prison. (K is a friend of T’s who got introduced to the movement for revolution when T was in the prison with him earlier. K had some college education.) Parts of K’s letter, when talking about BAsics, said, “One of the most impacting things in my viewpoint that makes me a revolutionary is that slavery has been an indispensable part of the ‘freedom and prosperity’ of the USA. Literally spoken it affected me!” Our crew all caught that K used the word “indispensable” from BAsics in his letter and M exclaimed, “‘Indispensable’—that’s that word! Your glasses are indispensable. My eyeballs are indispensable.’” So that was really cool.


There is a semi-official narrative about the history and the “greatness” of America, which says that this greatness of America lies in the freedom and ingenuity of its people, and above all in a system that gives encouragement and reward to these qualities. Now, in opposition to this semi-official narrative about the greatness of America, the reality is that—to return to one fundamental aspect of all this—slavery has been an indispensable part of the foundation for the “freedom and prosperity” of the USA. The combination of freedom and prosperity is, as we know, still today, and in some ways today more than ever, proclaimed as the unique quality and the special destiny and mission of the United States and its role in the world. And this stands in stark contradiction to the fact that without slavery, none of this—not even the bourgeois-democratic freedoms, let alone the prosperity—would have been possible, not only in the southern United States but in the North as well, in the country as a whole and in its development and emergence as a world economic and military power.

Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:8


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