Revolution #171, August 2, 2009
I want to share some experience we had last weekend when we took out the new issue of the newspaper with the Message and Call from the RCP, “The Revolution We Need...The Leadership We Have.”
Into the Neighborhoods
Over the weekend, a crew of us headed into some of the neighborhoods that are home to hundreds of thousands of Blacks, Latinos and others. There are sections with small neighborhood grocery stores, barber shops and little restaurants, but also miles of tiny houses and crowded apartment complexes jammed together, filled with people who are just struggling to get by. This part of town is not far from an area where the cops have killed 5 people in the last year. The opening sentence of the Message and Call–that “this is NOT the best of all possible worlds ¼and we do NOT have to live this way”–captured a lot of what we aimed to bring to life for people.
We were young and old, men and women, of all different nationalities. Everyone had on black t-shirts with the beautiful full-color Revolution newspaper masthead splashed across the front. And we rolled in with a sound truck blasting a dramatic reading of the short version of the RCP statement, as well as the Ghetto Remix hip-hop sampler that includes a short clip from RCP Chairman Bob Avakian on what this system does to the youth. Wherever we went, we got people’s attention, stirred up some controversy and began creating a buzz that the revolutionaries had arrived.
Our first stop was home to a lot of small Black-owned businesses. Right away we got a bundle of 50 papers to a woman with a hair salon that regularly gets the paper. This was an area that overwhelmingly jumped on the Obama bandwagon, but a Black poet we know spoke to some of the disaffection beginning to develop when he said that “Obama is just another operative of the system.” A middle-aged Black store owner listened to the dramatic reading of the statement. He had some disagreements with us around Obama and god, but agreed that the system is intolerable and said “I want people to know about this! I can get this into my 3 stores.”
We made our way into more proletarian areas, stopping at busy intersections and corner strip malls. The sound truck helped set the tone. A number of people stopped to hear the statement over the loudspeakers, then stepped forward to get papers. An older Black woman got a bundle of papers, saying “I have gotten this paper before and people need to know about this revolution.” She wouldn’t give her name or a way for us to contact her, but took 10 papers and said she knew where to find us if she wants to.
4 Latino youth in the street gang scene drove up, tattoos of teardrops on their faces. One called out, “Is this the communists?” We said yes. They took 3 papers and handed us $5, then said “good luck to the revolution!” and drove off before we could say anything more or even find out how they knew who we were.
A young Black woman who lives out of town, but was in for the weekend stopped to listen to the sound truck. Her mother was urging her to go to their hair appointment and she said, “Stop, Mom, can’t you hear they’re talking about revolution?” She bought a bundle of 20 papers for $5 to get to her friends.
A middle-aged Black man stopped to listen to the recorded statement. He said he was a revolutionary and there were others like him in this area, that he was serious and didn’t know about Bob Avakian, but wanted to check this out. He agreed that capitalism was at the heart of it, but said so many are caught up in this money thing. He gave $5 for a bundle of 20 papers and said he had friends who were considering revolution as well.
A Black Iraq war vet said he was against the war and open to revolution, but disagreed with Marxism, saying it didn’t take into account that people are individuals. But he handed us $20 and said we should give this same talk to 20 other brothers in a downpressed Black and Latino area of the city where he’s from.
Stirring Up Controversy in the High Schools
Several of us went to some of the high schools, passing out flyers with the more concise version of the Message and Call in the morning and then coming back in the afternoon to reach people with the full statement in the paper. We got out about 600 flyers at one high school. School administrators came out front but didn’t seem to know what to do, and the school cops looked pretty dumbfounded in the face of large numbers of students hanging around and listening to our agitation on a bullhorn.
When we came back that afternoon, there were already several cop cars parked in front. One of us stood in front of a market across the street with stacks of bundled papers, and two more of us went over in front of the main entrance and started agitating as students were streaming out. School administrators showed up and demanded we move back onto the sidewalk, and before we even knew what was happening, two cops grabbed one of the agitators from behind and handcuffed her. There were tons of students watching, and she kept agitating as long as she could, while the other person gave out all the papers she had. The cops cited the first person for interfering with school and unlawful acts on school grounds, but it was clear that what they were freaked out about was students listening to the agitation, saying she could have started a riot against them.
A big crew went back the next morning with a banner and agitation across the street from the school. There was a buzz because of the day before and almost everybody took the flyers. The comrade who got arrested the day before was agitating about what we’re doing with this statement and how we’re building the revolution, said we’d be going out the next day to a neighborhood where the cops have killed a number of people, and said there are many who are very angry about this. A young Black man who works in a warehouse passed by and raised his hand and said, “I’m one of them” and held up the newspaper. There was also a lot of debate about the role of the military, with a number of youth thinking about joining. When the person doing agitation contrasted what kind of future the youth have under this system and what kind of future the revolution is about, a young woman student interrupted and said she likes the military and wants to join. We opened up the paper to the picture of the dead girl in Iraq and right away the young woman said, “I wouldn’t do that,” and we said, “yes, it’s exactly what you would do,” and talked about what this military is actually doing in the world and what people have to become when they join it.
Challenging People to Take Responsibility for the Revolution
While there were lots of people that were interested and got a copy of the paper, we were especially looking for people who wanted to take this to others and do their part to bring a revolutionary movement into existence. Part of that meant sharply challenging people to see the stakes of what we’re trying to do and the difference it can make for humanity if they throw in with the revolution.
One of the killing things about this capitalist-imperialist system is the way it pits people of different nationalities against each other. For example, one comrade talked to an older Black woman who has seen us out with the paper in the past and said it made her happy and excited to see us out with so much enthusiasm to take revolution to people. She has a lifetime of hatred for what this system does. At the same time, she has a lot of wrong thinking about immigrants, arguing that they come here and take jobs from Black people, get into gangs and crime, and have no sense of the history of the US and end up getting played by the system and doing a lot of damage.
The comrade struggled with her to watch the section of Bob Avakian’s “Revolution” DVD on why people come here from all over the world, how they are driven here because of what US imperialism has done to their home countries. That it’s the system that pits people against each other and the answer isn’t developing nationalism, but something way more radical—revolutionary communism. And the comrade read her the ending section of the statement on how its up to us to make revolution and transform the world. She ended up saying she wants to get 100 papers, including 50 in Spanish because she thinks this needs to get to Latinos.
A couple of us sat down to discuss the statement with an Iranian woman we met during the course of recent demonstrations in support of the anti-government struggle of the people in Iran. She had relatives who were killed under the Shah, and later others killed by the Khomeini regime, and is very drawn to revolutionary politics. But she also has a lot of questions about communism. One thing we focused on was the section from the statement on The Leadership We Have, and why Bob Avakian’s leadership and his pathbreaking contributions to communist theory makes it much more possible that there could be a revolution in our lifetime. And we challenged her to become part of this movement, get into Bob Avakian’s work, and help distribute this issue of the paper. She ended up taking a bundle of 50 papers to get to others.
Someone met with a young community college student who has seen the paper before and was involved in revolutionary International Women’s Day events. She read the heading and started looking at the pictures. She has not been exposed to communism or revolution before, but said she does feel it’s going to take a revolution. As she read and got to the part on the leadership of Bob Avakian, she said “I really do need to read more by him, when I’ve read the excerpts in the paper they are very thought provoking.” She commented that she had not heard about this paper before this year and wondered why, and they talked about the section in the statement about how the rulers try to keep this from people, but also that the RCP has not been bending every effort to get it out as broadly as needed. She thought about that and they talked about this issue and it being the kick off for building a revolutionary movement and the vision of getting it into every corner and section of the people. She said that’s what needs to happen. She was challenged to take a bundle of 100 papers, but was weighing it because she is the only one in her family with a decent income. She ended up getting 50, says she wants to get it out to some of the stores in the area where she lives, and said she’d pay for the bundle as soon as she’d sold them and wants to go out with us to distribute papers as well.
A Black man who runs a small store motioned one of us in to talk. He and the owners of the 2 stores next to his had already gotten single copies for a dollar each. One of us asked him why he hadn’t taken a bundle, so he put in $4 more and got a bundle of 20, saying he’d like to let others know about this revolution and that he’d talk to the other store owners about putting the paper in their shops as well.
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