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Thoughts on Reading: “State of Emergency: Chains on People Who Desperately Need to Be Free”

New York City, saturation at Caribbean Day Parade, Revolution Books tent.


New York City, Caribbean Day Parade    Photo:

When I first read this article by Bob Avakian (BA), the title really hit me. State of Emergency. BA is identifying NOW as a state of emergency and the particular focus is the chains on people’s thinking—the really ugly ways of looking at the world and other people, the outlook of “trying to make a mark by mocking and even murdering each other.”

Just as BA talks about how people who “stubbornly [refuse] to face the biggest reality” must be struggled with, those of us who are fighting to make revolution cannot stubbornly refuse to face and figure out how to transform the reality of how people are thinking, and we must also struggle with each other to do so. 

State of Emergency. This means that those of us who see that have to step up and do what people need. If there were a flood, we wouldn’t be informing people that they are waist deep in polluted water. We would be fighting like hell with them that they have to “get in the boat” and maybe have to leave their cat behind. We would be struggling with them that they can’t see it yet but the levees are likely to be breached upriver and it is going to get worse. But if they actually understand what is going on, there is a way out. Their lives are going to change dramatically and they can either climb into their attic, clinging to a dark future hoping they can survive the rising waters or they can begin to consider a whole different future, which will involve them doing things, with other people, they never thought possible.

We cannot just “appreciate” this article, we have to apply it.


BA says: “I know some people don’t like it when I say all this. But I am going to say it anyway, because as a revolutionary dedicated to the emancipation of humanity from every chain that holds people down, I recognize the responsibility to tell people the truth, even if it offends some, at first. And all you who also know this is true: you need to say it too—say it loud.” Are we fully recognizing our responsibility to “say it loud”? I didn’t even absorb this until the video on the RNL Show. It really cried out SAY IT LOUD!!” “And all you who also know this is true: you need to say it too—say it loud.”

That is not a recommendation, that is a challenge!

People, good people, who are very open to what we are saying about needing a revolution (“I agree with everything you are saying!”) often end the conversation—(note “conversation” not “struggle”)—with “I do what I can, I vote.” Do we say that is a ridiculous idea? Do we call it out as BEB —bourgeois electoral bullshit—just choosing this or that group of capitalist vultures, waiting to gloat over how they played you once again? Or do we essentially try and “talk them out of it” and think that if we “expose” each little example of how “voting doesn’t work” then people’s thinking will be “shaken up” and they will be convinced that we need revolution. Let’s learn from BA’s method and approach on this. He cuts to the heart of this—that this “ridiculous notion” of voting changing anything is bullshit, and more than that, this way of thinking is a real chain, binding  them to the very system that oppresses them.  

The Need to SAY IT LOUD to Tens of Thousands of People

Monday, Labor Day, was the West Indian Day Parade in Brooklyn. It is an annual event which has drawn more than a million people in recent years. The masses are overwhelmingly from the English speaking Caribbean or have their roots there, with a small but significant section from Haiti. The music is loud and the mood is festive. Dancing, food and revelry. It is a joyful celebration of West Indian culture and peoples. Not surprisingly, the parade itself is led with various incarnations of the repressive arms of the state—the politicians, the police, the correction officers—and then come the floats and finally the individual fabulous elaborate costumes of feathers and fabric which people spend all year preparing.

The revcoms in the form of Revolution Books and the Revolution Club seized this opportunity—with all of its challenges!—to reach out to these strategically critical sections of people—immigrants, basic masses, artisans, professionals, social activists and many others—tourists, progressive white people, etc.,—drawn to this parade. In thinking this past week about our experience at the parade I was measuring what we did, and didn’t do, against what was being modeled in this article. The point is not to bemoan what we did wrong, but to scientifically examine what actually needed to be done, why we did not do it, and on that basis to unleash our scientific imaginations to do what actually does need to be done as we fight to repolarize for revolution right now, and to rethink what we are actually striving to do. In short, to really dig into how this repolarization we talk about actually happens.

New York City Revolution comes to Caribbean Day Parade, man reads Declaration.


New York City, Caribbean Day Parade    Photo:

Thousands of people streamed by our tables and our agitators for hours during the afternoon—the overwhelming majority of them “indulging in trivial pursuits while stubbornly refusing to face the biggest reality.” As I said above, most of them were either directly from the Caribbean or had roots there. We analyzed ahead of time that the experience and history this audience had would be a “positive factor,” a reason the people would potentially respond favorably to our message of revolution and a whole different future. In retrospect, this was nothing but tailing spontaneity—and going right up against the correct analysis of the article about where the masses are “really at” today.

We focused on challenging people to get with and step into the revolution, but in spite of our “good intentions” it remained abstract and general because we didn’t struggle hard against the ways people are actually thinking. We did agitation about the horrors of this system, that we need a revolution to get rid of the source of those horrors, and we now have a rare time when that is more possible. And we said that we have the strategy, plan, leadership and blueprint for a whole different system—a new, emancipating way to live—and you need to be part of that. We chanted about break the chains, don’t live with and sing praises to the chains.

But we didn’t apply the analysis of this article! We didn’t do what we really needed to do: “bring it home,” offend some people, get under their skin! “Say it loud!” Not just go after religion in general but what if we had called out the crosses around way, way, way too many people’s necks, challenging people to not bow their heads down to some imaginary being—which only strengthens the degradation and suffering people actually experience in THIS world. Why do they have that symbol of death and oppression on their chest? WHY are they singing praises—on their knees!—to the chains every Sunday morning when they should be taking up a scientific method, breaking all the chains if they want to be free, if they want people like them all over the world to be free?

And we needed to apply that same “State of Emergency” approach to the other chains BA identifies—the ME, me, me and the MONEY, money, money—MISOGYNY and PATRIARCHY. We should have taken up sharply how Jay-Z and Beyonce with their “billionaire” poison are tightening the fake gold chains around people’s necks. We needed to be prepared to really go after the bourgeois politicians—Chuck Schumer in person, floats for Mayor Eric “Black Giuliani” Adams, and Governor Kathy Hochul—parading by as exhibit #1 of BEB—bourgeois election bullshit. They are the living personification of the “bourgeois (capitalist) vultures” preying on the masses, and playing the masses here and all over the world. We needed to figure out how to put that ugly reality to people so that it was undeniable.

And we have to put forward very boldly that there is another future, far more liberating future, that is possible, that THEY need to be a part of fighting for, and there is a force which is organizing for that future, which THEY need to be a part of. What if we had planned to “represent” for that force, even with small numbers, gathered our forces, and with the bold determination of "We Are The Revcoms!"—marched in formation next to the parade declaring our intentions and challenging the masses, chanting creative and lively slogans which concentrate the last paragraph of this article: “It is time, and long past time, to break these mental chains, to get in position to break all the chains of the modern-day slavery of this system of capitalism-imperialism. It is time to take up the scientific outlook, method, strategy and program, morality and values that can lead people to finally get free: the new communism. It is time to become revolutionary emancipators of humanity. Hard truth, liberating truth.”   

It would have taken real struggle to do this—struggle ahead of time and at the parade both… and struggle with each other as well as the masses. But even with all the crowds, the noise, the partying, there was the potential for some to say “Who are those people?” We would have been working to solve a different contradiction than just trying to “be heard” or “getting the word out” to thousands of people. We would have been working on how do we actually recognize that this is a State of Emergency, and that we need to crack the “chains on people who desperately need to be free” in the way this article is leading us to do. And this would have involved struggle with each other to break the chains in our own thinking that idealize the oppressed.

And what if we had handed out the flyer of BA’s article to people, as part of carrying it out, and challenged them to get into the article and the leader?

We Need, We Demand: A Whole New Way to Live, A Fundamentally Different System


BA’s Leadership

Another chain which BA doesn’t speak to directly in this article is the chain of refusing to engage BA because “he is white,” because “he is one leader,” because “he is a man.” In fact, there is plenty of material in other articles BA has written, and plenty of analysis for why all of this is another deadly chain, destined to keep people in thrall to the system that is the source of all of this bullshit. We not only need to take this on, raise it to people when they don’t pose it spontaneously. We need to call bullshit on this straight up and sharply and in a few words talk about what this leader has done that no other leader in this country has ever done, and no other leader is doing in the world today! BA is providing the precious and unique analysis that means there is a strategy for making this revolution and the masses need to know about that! They not only need to know about BA, but they need to become followers of this communist leader if humanity even has a chance to have a different future than a destroyed planet, continuing enslavement of women through forced motherhood, fascists in and out of uniform gunning down Black and Brown people in the streets, at supermarkets, in churches, LGBTQ people and immigrants being denied their very humanity, the bloody history of this country with slavery and murderous wars against Native peoples and Mexico being whitewashed. People can cling to their ridiculous “sensitivities” about leaders, or leaders that “don’t look like them” and face that future or they can raise up their heads up from looking at their fucking phones and think about humanity and what emancipating humanity will take—taking up and following the scientific leadership of BA.

And here too, what if we had taken “BIPOC Leadership: There Is No Such Thing” to this parade? 

No other leader is challenging people to actually raise their heads to become emancipators of humanity, not get lost and swallowed up in their own petty grievances and dreams of revenge. And all of those of us who do appreciate that, and all those further who can be won to that, have to take very seriously the "decapitation" strategy of the capitalist-imperialists and protect, defend, and promote BA with the content and orientation in the article Bob Avakian A Radically Different Leader—A Whole New Framework for Human Emancipation.

Let’s get to work!

We are faced with the necessity of internalizing and applying BA’s method and approach of sharply and ‘frontally’ going after the very harmful ways people are thinking—right now. BA says in the BA Interviews on The RNL Show that things are best understood by comparing them to their opposites. So let’s pose some opposites:

  • We can’t just “educate” people and hope that as things get worse people will gravitate spontaneously to revolution. We have to really fight with what they are thinking and how they are thinking or way too many of them will cling to the values and the ways of thinking of this system, and the fascists will maintain their momentum and win some of them over as they are also working on repolarizing all of society, but for fascism, and right now they have the initiative. They are proving that yes, people do change, and not always for the best! State of Emergency!
  • We cannot be satisfied with “we tried our best.” The stakes are too high. We have to fight to win, not just not to lose. We are already in a very telescoped and intense objective situation. As we say, we can’t afford wasted trips down the court. BA has modeled some very sharp and biting agitation which gets at the reality of what people are actually thinking. So let’s get in there and go after these chains! Let’s actually be the force put forward in "We Are the Revcoms." And pose the truly liberating future that is in "We Need and We Demand: A Whole New Way to Live, A Fundamentally Different System."
  • We cannot read the articles BA is writing, get very excited about them, and then set them aside to think about later. No! We have to in “real time” really dig into this. What is actually being said here? Why? What is it being posed against? How do we take what is being posedvery sharply!in this article and apply it? And how do we take it directly out to masses of people and struggle with them over the content? This is guidance the leader of the revolution is giving us and we either turn away from it or we take it upthere is no middle ground.
card we are the revcoms


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