A Step Forward in Harlem

June 18, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

Yesterday, we took a challenge and invitation to the people of Harlem: Enlist in the revolution.

We stepped out with large posters of the 5 Stops and set up on a corner and agitated to hundreds who walked past and many dozens who stopped to listen and sometimes join in. We asked people to imagine what it is like right now for the immigrant children—2,000 of them in the last six weeks—who have been torn from parents’ arms and experienced that terror and worse because they are locked in cages and camps, because their parents’ arms are in shackles and cannot comfort them, because there is no security and no safety to come, there is no end in sight.

People slowed down and listened—some faces widening with shock because they didn’t know this was happening, others nodding with furious recognition. As we agitated about this and drew the beginnings of a crowd, a Black woman shouted out, “They don’t care now, like they didn’t care during slavery.” Exactly! And we got into this too. During slavery, Black parents were shackled in chains, too, as their children were torn from them and sold on the auction block. This is America. It is a system that cannot be reformed, but which must be overthrown. The white supremacy, the heartless exploitation, the cruel degradation and terror being unleashed today against immigrants like it has been unleashed against so many before them and so many more now, is woven into the foundations of this system. It cannot be ended as long as this system rules over us, but—and this is the most important thing—it can be ended through an actual revolution.

One thing I want to highlight about our experience is that we made a very conscious effort to go further than we have in the past in bringing out not only the outrages and unreformability of this system, but of the need and real possibility of getting organized and prepared for an actual revolution that overthrows this system at the soonest possible time—and to enlist people in this on the spot.

We held up and drew from every major theme in Part 2 of HOW WE CAN WIN. As we made clear that we were talking about the actual overthrow of this system and the dismantling of its violent forces of oppression and repression, a Black man threw both fists up in the air and let out a cheer. Others gathered. We called on them to not only take up the HWCW pamphlet themselves, but to stick around and join in getting it out to others. Several did so, watching and approaching everyone who stopped or turned their head to the agitation going on.

At one point, we went into all the bullshit being spewed by the lying politicians and ruling class media mouthpieces about how much of a tyrant Kim Jong-un is in North Korea. While making clear we are not fans of his, we called out the howling hypocrisy of the U.S. pointing a finger at others when it comes to tyranny, mass murder, and terror. The USA is #1 in backing death squads to murder revolutionaries and freedom fighters around the world! USA is #1 in mass incarceration! USA is #1 in invading and subjugating other countries, in carrying out torture; #1 in white supremacy and slavery in many forms. It was clear that there were about a dozen people listening. Then the agitator went further—calling out how we are supposed to salute the flag and thank the troops and all that bullshit, and saying no, we don’t thank them for their service bombing weddings in Afghanistan, refueling Saudi warplanes that are pounding civilians in Yemen and plunging eight million to the brink of starvation, setting up black sites and torture dungeons like Abu Ghraib, killing babies in Vietnam, dropping nuclear weapons on civilians... No, we say FUCK YOU for your service. With this, it became clear that many more on the street were listening than had previously been apparent—people 30 or 40 feet away busted out laughing and several drew closer.

One guy who drew closer told us he had been a Marine and seemed to consider for a minute getting into it with us, but then he dropped back and listened instead as we laid into how he and others like him were used by a system that doesn’t give a damn about them. We said straight up, there is no pride in serving this system, in fighting and killing for it—but there is pride in joining the fight to put an end to this system.

An older Black man who’d been listening stepped to the mic and added that the U.S. is the richest country in the world because it goes around and bombs and steals from other countries around the world. He said they kill women and children and babies with no discrimination. With that, he passed the mic back. But he stayed nearby listening for quite some time, and every now and then if he caught something being said from someone walking past, he would gesture for the mic and add his voice to underscore even more fully the crimes of this system. As this went on, a Black woman who had joined in talking to people and working to get them into the revolution on the spot also started speaking out. Every time the older man would speak, she’d come right after him and add a sentence or two—one time about the U.S. troops killing babies and coming back crazy with PTSD and another time to ask people in her own words to join with the revolution.

We kept weaving back and forth between the nightmares this system causes and how it cannot be reformed and must be overthrown, and how it can be overthrown and how that must be prepared for now by enlisting today in this revolution. And, through our team, we worked not only to sign people up, but to get them started in spreading the revolution on the spot.

Several people listened—and/or joined in—for over an hour, and their presence influenced others to stop and listen as well. One brother who had been rapt for a long time told us when we approached him: “You can see it in my face, can’t you—I am feeling what you are saying. I hate this system and it’s just like you said, you can’t vote someone else in who can change it, it is deeper than that.” He had spent eight years in prison for a nonviolent crime and is living on the street, but he was serious and posed right off the bat that the system cannot ultimately be ended without violence, but if you start talking about or preparing for that they will come and crush you. This led to a deep discussion of all three parts of HWCW and how they relate to each other, and what it is that must and can be done now (Part 2).

In the middle of this conversation, a very narrow Black nationalist who seemed to be peddling socks started yelling at all of us to take our “Caucasian asses” out of Harlem. The Puerto Rican brother immediately stepped between him and the revolutionaries, saying, “It’s got nothing to do with Black or Caucasian, you are part of the problem.” A Black woman and her teenage daughter who’d been listening for at least half an hour and had taken a stack of pamphlets to spread started yelling, “Go sell your socks on another corner.”

Before we took a lunch break, we made sure everyone was signed up and had a real assignment as well as knowing where to join up with us next. A man who’d been with us for an hour or so went around with the clipboard and helped another man who couldn’t write because of a broken finger get his name and contact information entered. Before leaving, he took several large posters of HWCW to post up in the Bronx where he was headed next.

Over our lunch break, a leader of the Revolution Club observed that we had in fact done better in terms of really taking HOW WE CAN WIN as the solid core of what we were agitating about and organizing people into. She contrasted this with a recent experience where they noticed a tendency to get shrill on the microphone out of frustration over all the people who didn’t bother to stop. Without realizing it, they had begun to let those people’s backwards side set too much of the terms in the team’s own thinking and agitation, and it had actually reinforced the backwardness. This time, we were bringing our core message—all of it—and speaking to those who were most advanced and holding their attention, which in turn drew forward more. This was a very important observation. Later, someone else watching some of the footage of our agitation observed that, while we drew more from all of what is in Part 2 of HWCW, we still could have done even better if we had directly read from it at times—bringing alive where it is coming from and training people to use it themselves. This, too, is very important.

After lunch, we set up on a different corner. Right from the start we noticed “lurkers” listening from a distance. A Black man stood with his teenage son 40 feet away listening for 10 minutes as we broke down what BA says in BAsics 1:24 and how this shows that the system cannot be reformed but must be overthrown, as we got into the strategy, and as we brought alive the importance of BA’s leadership and of the Constitution he authored. After a bit, the father sent his son over to get copies of the pamphlet. A Black woman listened for a while before going into a store to do some shopping. When she came out, she had purchased four sandwiches, one fresh salad, and a huge bag of healthy grapes and set it down as a donation to the revolution. She also gave a cash donation and purchased a copy of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. Not long after, one of us noticed someone we had met a couple times downtown at cultural events and called him over. He couldn’t stay long but was thrilled to see the revolution out in action in Harlem. When asked for a donation, he threw $100 in the jar. Two young friends, a white woman and a Black man, stopped in their tracks when they noticed that the agitator was talking about an “actual overthrow, yes, the overthrow of this system—clearing away, defeating, and dismantling its armed forces of oppression and repression during a revolutionary crisis, and the replacement of them with revolutionary institutions, as envisioned in the Constitution written by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party.” Their faces went wide with disbelief and excitement at what they were hearing, and they stuck around to talk to someone from the Club.

In sum, a good step forward.

How Can We Win? How Can We Really Make Revolution?

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The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and the order that enforces all this oppression and madness.

Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:24

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