Speaking to a Class of 300, Getting into Big Questions, and Getting Organized

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From a member of the Revolution Club, Los Angeles:

A young professor, who heard about the #UCLA5 case, invited two of us from the Revolution Club to come speak to his large ethnic studies class. He said he wanted to hear from us about our activism, movement building, guiding philosophy, and encounters with state repression. This professor is very familiar with the fascist assault on academia—how “free speech” has been (mis)used to bring fascist speakers onto campus, while left wing professors are harassed and even forced out, and ANTI-fascist speech is criminalized—so he was eager to bring voices like ours onto campus.

The prof opened up the class, saying he wanted students to understand the current moment, with a resurgence of white supremacy and fascism. Then he played a video of himself protesting at a Trump campaign event over 3 years ago—he doesn’t hide his own position on things, and encourages students to take a fact/evidence-based approach to understanding the world and figuring out for themselves what they’re going to do. He then introduced us as people who are continuing that fight.

Watching the prof’s video, I was reminded of the anger and passion so many people felt back then, and the need to bring that spirit of defiance back! So I asked the students to raise their hands if they were in high school when Trump was elected (almost everyone); if they protested back then (about 1/3); if they walked out (about 1/10). I asked them to reflect on that feeling they had back then, like being punched in the gut, of having someone who said such disgusting things about women and Mexicans and Muslims be elected president of the United States. And then to reflect on everything that’s happened since—the Muslim ban, the concentration camps and family separations, ripping up environmental protections, Charlottesville, El Paso, etc.—and how yesterday’s outrage has become today’s new normal. We told them we were here to talk to them about a plan, beginning October 19, to end this Trump/Pence nightmare.

The two of us, we said, came from different backgrounds—one of us a college graduate, the other from the hard streets of South Central—but we both got involved in the Revolution Club cuz we came to understand that this system can’t be reformed and must be overthrown. We explained that we’re talking about an actual revolution based on the new communism developed by Bob Avakian, and that this is completely different from what people like Bernie Sanders are talking about. When we made the point that the Republican Party is fascist, but the Democrats are also a party of war crimes and crimes against humanity, we could see some students nodding in agreement.

As the “solid core” of our presentation, we played the trailer from Why We Need an Actual Revolution and How We Can Really Make Revolution and Bob Avakian’s response to people who complain about immigrants, which speaks with a lot of science and heart to the horrors this system causes in the world and how this is leading to the rise of fascism.

We re-emphasized the points BA made in the trailer about these “5 Stops” being built in to the system of capitalism, and that the only way to stop them is by getting rid of this system, and replacing it with a completely different system. We told them that the floor was open for questions and comments about all of that, but that we wanted to focus on this question of fascism.

We asked them how they would define fascism. Someone yelled out “Trump!” Others said “dictatorship,” “authoritarianism,” “scapegoating minorities,” “not wanting to transfer power.” We asked the students if they’d heard about Trump’s refusal to comply with the impeachment inquiry, and how do they relate what’s happening now to this definition of fascism. One student explained that what Trump is doing completely violates the Constitution, since impeachment is part of the legal process laid out in the Constitution. Another student referred to how much has already been normalized, and warned about fascism taking hold “step by step.” We underlined his point by reciting the famous Pastor Niemöller poem, drawing out the logic of “at least it’s not affecting ME yet,” and underlining that the point is to fight for humanity and act now, before it’s too late!

This was important, because students were grappling not only with the atrocities perpetrated against different groups, but also how fascism is a different form of rule, in which power is concentrated in the executive and democratic rights stripped away. And there was a collective sense in the room that this is happening, and that it is serious, and a feeling of working together on a common problem.

At this point the professor asked the other Revolution Club member, “As a kid from South Central, how did you get into this?” My comrade spoke to the anger about oppression that he grew up with, and that he was looking for answers for how to end it—not just going with whatever is to “my taste.” So when he first heard about BA, even though he was skeptical about him being a white guy, he really looked into it and found that there are answers.

A student asked, “What do you tell people who say that you’re too radical and extreme?” Another student asked, “What do you say to students who are really passionate about these things, but don’t know what to do?” Another student expressed concerns about the bloodshed involved in an actual revolution. We talked about how the word “radical” actually means getting to the roots. And like any problem, if you don’t get to the roots you can’t really solve it and it’ll just keep coming back. This revolution is about getting to the roots of what’s causing all this unnecessary suffering, digging up this capitalist system, and building a whole new system that overcomes all these inequalities, without turning out the lights on dissent and debate. What’s truly “extreme” is the world we’re living in! And what’s crazy is to allow this system to perpetrate its bloodshed here and around the world—and for masses of people to senselessly shed each others blood—for even one more day!

We called on students who are passionate about all this to look deeply into the cause of these problems, and the solution. At the same time, we called on everyone who refuses to accept a fascist America to unite now, to do what they did in Puerto Rico and Hong Kong, and get in the streets demanding Trump/Pence OUT NOW! We ended by speaking to the crucial role of students, either burying their heads in their books while the world burns, or bringing their energy and creativity to the forefront of the struggle.

The students gave us a round of applause. And after class about 12 stayed to talk. Some of them had an almost uncontainable excitement about meeting us, and each other. One student said she’s constantly thinking about these things, but doesn’t have anyone to talk to about it. She really thinks we have to go out there, stir shit up and make people uncomfortable, but has felt kind of helpless to do that on her own. Another student, originally from Mexico, said that after Trump was elected her mom told her to stay inside and play it safe, which she thought was bullshit. This group had a lot of questions about how to have an impact, given how hard it is to convince people to act, when most people are just looking out for themselves. But through the conversation they came to see how acting together as a group, and not just through one-on-one conversations, can change the equation. Almost everyone raised their hands when I asked people if they were planning to be there October 19. Then I asked people to raise their hand if they wanted to be a Revolution Club “organizer.” Four students enthusiastically raised their hands. Each of them took pictures of all the sign-ups, and they made a plan to start a group chat and a Facebook event. Since then, they’ve been in touch with each other and are working to get people from their school to the action on the 19th.

The professor had a lot of good questions—about revolutionary leadership, the experience of the Black Panther Party, the new communism vs the old communism—which we got into over Thai food after. He was really happy about how things went, most especially because of how much students participated, and how unleashed they were afterward.

Trailer from Why We Need An Actual Revolution And How We Can Really Make Revolution
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