Last weekend in LA, there was a huge international art event called Frieze. This drew crowds of thousands of people including artists, art lovers, academics and art school students, museum curators, art dealers and many of the world’s wealthiest collectors. Vanity Fair described this as LA having “its gilded age moment” with lavish private parties where literally oil barons and movie stars hung out with the art world.
The revcoms had a small team that went out to learn more about the scene, the people there and challenge them to support the revolution. International Women’s Day 2023 (IWD) had just been announced on revcom.us, and we were looking forward to taking out the revcoms' IWD Call and the call to raise $100,000 to put revolution on the map—raising funds right there on the last day of the fund drive—and also talk to people with the means to contribute on a whole other level.
While we learned some things by going on the first day, we changed our approach on the second day, stepping straight up with the need for people to contribute to put this revolution on the map. We raised over $900 from over 30 people!
These are the times when the system itself is disturbing lifelong-held beliefs, is tearing up the norms of a bourgeois-democratic process that this stratum has counted on and is forcing people to confront deeply disturbing realities. Fighting for a real impact and serious engagement among this stratum is necessary to making revolution, and making it a revolution that's really about the emancipation of all humanity.
Frieze was held in a former airport and we didn't know what kind of freedom we'd have in terms of the space. We had anticipated all kinds of restrictions at this private event and planned to be on its perimeter catching foot traffic from the public street. But it made a big difference that we had a crew determined to push the envelope, and got onto the walkway that everyone had to go through to enter the show. We made a case to the event organizers for why we should be there, and they agreed.
While a number of people would stop to take pictures of our eight-foot-tall banner that read “Women Are Not Bitches, Hoes, Incubators, Sex Objects, or Breeders. Women Are Full Human Beings!” and appreciation for our banner on abortion, there was not a bold statement about revolution and very little engagement of the kind we knew was necessary.
When we were able to stop people, we went straight to our core message—the need for revolution, the objective possibility for this and the leadership we have, letting people know who Bob Avakian, BA, is and about the series of Interviews he just did on The RNL—Revolution, Nothing Less!—Show. A couple of academics originally from Italy were deeply concerned about fascism and the violence all around them. They were happy to meet us and challenged by what BA is saying about the potential for a revolutionary situation to develop in these times. One said she was worried that people would not be able to get over their fear of repression including herself, saying, “I know that I am very afraid, but I also see how we may not have a choice....” Two women, one a law student at Columbia, both Black, were open to the need for an actual revolution. The recent police murders made them question the possibility of any meaningful reforms, agreeing on the fundamental role of the police that BA describes, and also very concerned about the potential for a civil war fomented by white supremacists. Both of them talked about the problems with identity politics because it just took people into a kind of “mental trap.” We gave them a copy of a collection of BA’s essays, Important Articles By Bob Avakian Opposing “Woke" Distractions and Obstructions. A man from London working on producing the event said that he had only recently learned the bloody history of the British empire. He was surprised to hear the same from Americans and thanked us for coming.
While all this was important, we could see there was much more potential. So we returned on day two with a different, and much bolder, plan.
On the second day, we sharpened up our message—deciding to much more sharply step out around International Women's Day and the need for funds. We made new signs with the main slogans: Break ALL The Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution!; Capitalism and Patriarchy—You Can’t End One Without Ending the Other; Abortion On Demand and Without Apology; and Forced Motherhood is Female Enslavement. We brought a big enlargement of BAsics 3:22.
We also moved directly onto the road going into the show, not off to the side but literally “on the road.” A property manager came by shocked that we were there, saying we had to move—we never did because we recognized the freedom we could wrench out of this situation. While again there was a lot of ignore-ance with people avoiding engagement, this time there was a steady stream of people stopping to read the signs and talking.
We had a good sound system and we ran the fundraising livestream that was happening at the same time and heads turned. We made a poster thermometer to show people we had a goal to raise $500 as part of the $100,000 and challenged them to contribute—we had a big Venmo QR code and people responded!
We told people that donating was the first thing people could do to be part of putting revolution on the map. People responded, dropping money into our donation bucket and taking out their phones to donate on Venmo, and as they did this, we would announce the new amount raised. We also marked the number of donors on our thermometer. At one point we were only $29 away from raising $500, so we announced that, and a woman rushed over, scanned the QR code, and celebrated with us. We still had two more hours, so we raised the goal to $1,000!
A woman from China said she came to this country because she wanted democracy and is shocked by what is happening here. Another said she was angry with the women’s movement for not fighting seriously for the right to abortion, and said she expressed this in an email to them that reflected a desire to bring the whole system down. In response, they blocked her emails! An artist offered her space for a gathering. Other artists signed up on Instagram with ideas on making bold art for IWD.
It was important to ask people to read the slogans for IWD and many times this is what got them to share their thinking. One of us asked everyone who stopped to talk to read BA’s quote on Breaking the Chains which is what set the terms for the discussion that followed.
Many responded to the ways in which women around the world were rising up and the violent reassertion of patriarchy everywhere. It was important to talk about how BA gets into this in the Interviews—the changes taking place in the role and position of women by the workings of the system itself and the explosive contradictions this was creating, and the fact that this is going to be resolved radically one way or another—radically reactionary or radically revolutionary. One woman bought the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America to understand what it would mean to have state power in a society aimed at ending all of this oppression and how the secondary shortcomings of past revolutions are addressed by the new communism. A woman said she was on the board of Planned Parenthood and when challenged about their capitulation she said, “I have to admit you have a point but I don’t agree with what you are saying about capitalism.” Interestingly, though, that slogan got favorable comments from many others throughout the day.
There was one lively discussion with a group of three people about the rare time when revolution has become more possible. People had not thought about this before, but interestingly they knew some things positively about the Russian and Chinese revolutions and talked about what went into making those revolutions possible. They were interested in what it meant to be scientific in actually making revolution and had questions about leadership in all of this. They were intrigued by the possibility that BA qualified as someone whose work is on the level of Marx and thanked us for introducing him to them. They said they would definitely watch the Interview and consider donating.
We were creating a scene with people participating in different ways. An agitator would read out the slogans, and often young women would shout “hell yeah” or “that's what's up!” when walking by, opening up ways to unite with that sentiment and getting people involved on the spot.
A man stopped by the table who wanted to know what this was all about. He actually wasn't there for the art show, but this was a place where he normally took walks. He said he was very outraged about the attacks on abortion and read the flyer. He donated $400 on the spot and took a copy of BAsics and Break All The Chains by BA. This took us close to our $1,000 goal, and we quickly sent a message to the national livestream to share with everyone who had come together to reach our $100,000 goal.
We learned a lot from this experience and as one person on the team put it, the key lessons were: “go broad, be bold AND clear about revolution, persist, and ask for money!”