Revolution #157, February 22, 2009

Raising Money for Revolution:

Welcoming the Tough Questions Indeed!

Dear Revolution,

I wanted to share some experiences approaching people to contribute to the bold, mass initiative to transform the reach, role and content of Revolution newspaper in major ways.

A number of people I contacted were people who signed up to get involved at a Revolution Books event. Rather than wait for those people to forget what inspired them to give us their numbers, a few of us divided up the names and called people the next day. I reached several people and set up appointments with many of them. Some had not heard of Revolution newspaper or the RCP before this event, but they had signed up to get involved. I learned what they thought of the event, and used the beginning of the “Bold Initiative” editorial (Revolution #147) to explain what I was calling about. By the time I got off the phone with each of them they had a basic idea that this is a revolutionary communist newspaper and heard some case for why it is so important for them to support it now.

Not all of the people I met with donated, which I think is the way it should work—if everyone we meet with donates, we’re playing our hand way too close to the chest. But a number of people did donate, and a couple agreed to sustain Revolution on a regular basis. Several agreed to help out on the fund drive beyond donating themselves, and have done so—including encouraging others to donate.

In meeting with people, I tried to really think about, learn from and apply the method and approach captured in the headline of the article in Revolution #151, “Interview on Fundraising Among Professors: Welcoming the Tough Questions.” This article is available at, and I really encourage people to re-read it. The point about welcoming the tough questions—not ducking or dodging them, or seeking to “make a deal” with people on the basis of what they agree with -- came alive to me through my experiences. It was through engaging and struggling over differences that energy got unleashed, and even what it is that people themselves, from their own perspective, like…and love…about this newspaper became more clear and compelling to them. I think it’s important to put our arms around people broadly, giving them as much of the big picture as we can, and engaging deeply and with substance around things, and then invite them to bring all their own perspectives and insights into the revolutionary movement. In these discussions, I felt like we were working together with people that we were meeting with as if we were a team of scientists trying to figure out what the world needs, how to get there, and the role of this newspaper in that.

I met with a wide range of people from different walks of life, and different political perspectives. One thing I encountered is that the analysis and exposure of Obama in Revolution is attractive to a section of people (who are aligned around forces like the Green Party, the 9/11 Truth movement, and other forces). Some people I met with are, as Mao used to say, outraged at the “corrupt officials,” but not yet ready to rebel against the “emperor.” That is, they see Obama as caving in to the corporations, or selling out—they don’t fully see that he is the commander in chief of an imperialist system. But they are not hearing the kind of substantial critique of what he represents that is in Revolution week in and week out from anyone else. And they are inspired by things like the “Uncle ‘Bam Wants You….Just Say NO!” poster (Revolution #153) and the work we did in D.C. during the inauguration exposing Obama’s actual role and agenda, and challenging people to stop drinking the Obama’laid.

With everyone I met, I presented the bold initiative around the newspaper in the context of COMMUNISM: THE BEGINNING OF A NEW STAGE: A Manifesto from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA– I did this more or less formally—showing people each of the sections and reading the subheads to them. And, donate or not, everyone I met with bought the Manifesto. This was important in its own right, and really helped frame our conversations in the context of the state of the world, the world communist revolution and where it needs to go now. I pointed out each section of this Manifesto and encouraged people to really study it, and then presented the main points in the bold initiative, and the budget of funds we need.

One “tough question” with some people was Israel. I got turned down by someone who had agreed to meet to discuss donating, but would not do so because I insisted on arguing that Israel is a product of ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people, a violent outpost of imperialism, and that the U.S. props up Israel not because the Israeli lobby controls the US government, but because it is perceived by the rulers of the U.S. as a critical factor in preserving and expanding their domination of the world. And, therefore, that there is no “legitimate right of self-defense” for such a state. This person supports liberal forces in Israel, and is also influenced by phony “communist” (revisionist) politics. They sent the article from Revolution, “It’s Not About the Israel Lobby, and Not at All About “The Jews…” Israel Is a Hitman for the IMPERIALIST Interests of the United States,” (Revolution #153) to a friend who is in a revisionist “Communist” party in Europe. That person wrote back a long letter discouraging this person from contributing to Revolution, framing their case in a pseudo-”left” argument that the author of the article in Revolution didn’t realize how influential special interest groups like the Israel lobby have corrupted the Obama administration. Through the course of discussing this, it became clear—at least—to both of us that a critical difference between revolutionary communists, and this person’s “communist” (revisionist) friend, is that revolutionaries see the system as the problem and revolution the solution, while revisionists see perfecting the system as the solution. This person declined to donate, but they bought five back issues of Revolution, started reading the Manifesto, and I have had several email and a couple of phone exchanges with them since.

Perhaps the most exciting discussion I had was with a respected activist who reads the paper, and who ended up making a substantial donation and has been encouraging others to do so -- something that likely will mean that they catch some flack from others in the movement who right now are insisting revolution not be on the agenda. This person expressed tremendous respect for the role of the RCP over the years, and loved the Party’s work in D.C. during the inauguration. They said that we agree that communism and revolution are needed, and hanging by a thread, but this person sees revolution getting back on the map by hitching itself to movements that are leading the masses. After some discussion of the Party, the Manifesto, and Bob Avakian’s new synthesis, this person said they do not see Bob Avakian as “another Mao.” Based on what I knew about this person’s work, and political views, I suggested that one way to come at this might be to dig into Avakian’s work on religion as a way to get into the differences they have with what he has been bringing forward, and examine this together to figure out where the revolution needs to go. This person argued that people would make revolution and then come to see that religion was an impediment, but that for now, even Islamic fundamentalist forces could play some kind of positive role. As we dug into this, what emerged and what we got into were themes in the Manifesto that contrasted what is needed for humanity to be liberated, with conceptions that have been very influential in the communist movement, and have even to various degrees hindered the best of that movement, that the spontaneous strivings of the oppressed are sufficient for them to liberate themselves and humanity. And how an important element of Bob Avakian’s work is identifying the need for a much greater emphasis on ideological work, including struggle with people over questions of morality, and this includes struggle with the masses around things like religion. And I pointed out how many of the things this person really likes about Revolution—including the way it challenges readers around Obama, the impact it has on prisoners, and certainly those pithy, provocative quotes from Bob Avakian himself that they love—are expressions of a method and approach that Avakian has brought forward and is fighting for. They agreed to go back and read their copy of Away With All Gods!, something I’ll check in on soon.

As I noted, the question of the risks involved in becoming part of the revolutionary movement—including through sustaining Revolution newspaper—came up in various forms with a number of people. One thing that emerged from this was the importance of the revolutionary movement defending people who come under such attacks. And it is extremely important to fight for the right to read, distribute, and support Revolution newspaper. But even more fundamentally, when people raised the question of risks (and of financial sacrifice), it was a door to, once again, go back to the “tough questions” of what does humanity really require of us.

Early in every discussion I put the concrete situation with the newspaper, and the budget for the first phase of this bold initiative to expand it’s content and reach, on the table. In almost every case I suggested a substantial amount that the person I was meeting with could and should donate. But I did seek to respond to things like “I’m broke” by bringing the discussion back to what humanity needs right now, and the role of this newspaper in that. And the more we dug into “the tough questions,” the more we were able to figure out ways they could contribute to make that happen.


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