Revolution #265, April 8, 2012
Report-back on an Emergency Meeting at New York Revolution Books
On the Strategy for Revolution and the Murder of Trayvon Martin
Seventy-five of us packed into Revolution Books on Wednesday night for an Emergency Meeting on the strategy for revolution and the murder of Trayvon Martin. As someone said later in the discussion, these are different times right now, and that was brought home on many levels in this discussion.
The night opened with a 15-minute excerpt of the "Eyes on the Prize" series focusing on the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955. This was not the sanitized and domesticated version of history many of us had learned; here we meet Mose Wright—Emmett Till's uncle who risked his life to testify against his nephew's murderers before an all-white jury set on finding these killers innocent. And we meet Mamie Till, Emmett's mother, who courageously refused to stay silent. She says, in this moving video, "If the death of my son can mean something to all the unfortunate people around the world, then for him to have died a hero will mean more to me than for him just to have died."
Next we watched the clip from Bob Avakian's talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, where he talks about the murder of Emmett Till, and the details he brings to life stand out even more—for what they meant then, and what they mean now.
Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper, opened up with a question: 57 years ago Emmett Till, a young Black man, walked into a store to get candy and ended up dead. We sit here today because a different young Black man, Trayvon Martin, walked to a store to get candy and ended up dead. What we saw 57 years ago and what we're living through today is intolerable, will it be the same in another 57 years?
After comparing the treatment of women depicted in the TV show "Mad Men" with the war on women today, comparing the Vietnam war to the war on Iraq and the threats against Iran, and comparing the destruction of the environment a generation ago to the accelerating destruction today, Sunsara asked the question again: "Do you want your children or your grandchildren coming together in another 57 years, talking about, 'We really have to do something to stop these outrages'?"
She put a call to everyone in the room—to the young people there who've just been getting into the movement for revolution, to the brand new people who were coming to Revolution Books for the first time, and to veterans in the revolutionary struggle—to ask themselves: Are you going to do something because it makes you feel better, just fighting the good fight and letting these horrors roll on? Or are you going to give everything you have to answering that question, to fighting to put an end to all this, even if—and even as—that includes making ruptures in your thinking and leaving your comfort zone?
Sunsara talked about the potential for revolution, and the significance of the work and leadership of Bob Avakian—forging a new synthesis of communism, which is building on the best of the previous revolutions and learning from errors and shortcomings as well as broader human experience since then. Revolution is possible, it's been done before and with the breakthroughs concentrated in this new synthesis, the leadership of BA and the Party he leads, we can do much better and take it even further.
She shared a new invitation from Bob Avakian to those who have begun to stand up in recent months, as well as to others:
"Let's go on a crucial journey together—full of unity against oppression and lively struggle about the source of the problem and the solution. Pursue your own convictions—that the outrages that move you are intolerable—to their logical conclusion, and be determined not to stop until those outrages have been eliminated. And if this, as well as learning about other outrages, and ideas about how this all fits together and flows from a common source—and how it could all be ended, and something much better brought into being—leads in the direction of seeing not only the need for bold and determined resistance, but also the need for revolution and ultimately communism, then don't turn away from that because it moves you beyond your comfort zone, challenges what had been your cherished beliefs, or because of prejudices and slanders. Instead, actively seek to learn more about this revolution and its goal of communism and to determine whether it is in fact the necessary, and possible, solution. And then act accordingly."
She read from the Revolutionary Communist Party's statement On the Strategy for Revolution and talked about the importance of revolutionaries acting in this moment to make real leaps and concrete advances in the movement for revolution. Specifically, she laid out how the April 10 Day of Outrage around Trayvon's killing, the April 19 Day of Action to Stop Mass Incarceration, and the plans to get BA Everywhere in the four days leading up to and including May Day, are key to doing just that. And then she called for people to grapple with all of this in a living way, commensurate with the challenge posed by the question of whether we will allow this to continue for another 57 years.
When she finished, the room filled with a heavy silence. Finally, a young Black man raised his hand. He told of how his mother had schooled him—more times than he could recall—about how to act when he encountered police. He told of being stopped and harassed by police over and over again and how his heart sinks when he is walking alone at night and encounters a group of cops. He wonders each time if he will live and he knows that if he doesn't the cops will never be held accountable. He insisted that we really do need a revolution and expressed how glad he was to have met this Party. All this goes on so much you start to get numb to it and you start thinking that this is how it will always be. Soon after, another young Black man raised his hand. He, too, told of how his mother schooled him about the police—to keep his hands visible at all times, speak clearly and in short sentences, and about how constant the harassment and danger is. He agreed that people feel numb to it, but also how stressful it is, and how that is part of the point—to keep people with their nerves wracked and a deep sense of hopelessness, to control them—generation after generation.
This was an important part of this discussion and an important thing that has to go on in society—oppressed people speaking bitterness about the reality they face. This is part of fighting the power—getting these too often unspoken truths out there can have an important impact on society, laying bare the systematic character of the slow genocide happening to Black and Latino people and exposing the actual brutality of this so-called "best of all possible worlds." It also changes people themselves—helping them see "it's not just me" that faces this, that "it's not my/our fault" and it has an impact on those who don't face this kind of brutality as part of an oppressed people, to force the questions about why this happens day in and day out in this society.
There was also debate and discussion about how to view the source of the problem—is it that people just aren't listening to and understanding each other? Is it because of money and greed? Or is there something deeper, a state power enforcing a system of capitalism-imperialism which has white supremacy and the oppression of Black people built into its very fiber—from its founding until today.
People got into both the need to forge unity through coming together to fight the power and the need to struggle with people, especially at this moment. There are lots of people arguing for different responses to the murder of Trayvon Martin—many arguing for the people to cool out their outrage and wait for the courts to settle this. If revolutionaries are joining his kind of struggle about what's really needed, it's a good thing because it enables people to compare and contrast different lines and different programs.
One person talked about how important it is that right now that numbness has worn off, that what is normally kept scabbed over is now raw. Right now, there are sections of people who are outraged and want to resist—and this has to be given leadership that is not going to mellow this out, or lead it to be subsumed right back under this system. Why did the world finally take notice with the murder of Emmett Till? Because Mamie Till stood up and said no, she said she would not be numb, and not allow others to be numb. And why have people paid attention to the murder of Trayvon Martin? In no small part, because his parents courageously stood up and fought for society to take notice. And now others are standing up and saying no.
But this has to go further forward—and right now that means making April 10 a meaningful day of outrage and protest, demanding justice for Trayvon Martin.
Also, it means making April 19 a powerful day calling out the direction of all this, saying no to mass incarceration, the slow genocide which could turn into a fast genocide if it is not stopped. A day that draws national attention and outrage against the context and full picture for why a 17-year-old young man on his way from the candy store looks "suspicious"—because Black people have been systematically stigmatized in every realm of society.
And it means making a big leap in the campaign to raise big money to project Bob Avakian's voice into every corner of society—BA Everywhere! Imagine the Difference It Will Make. There will be four days of focus around this from April 28 to May 1, with the BAsics Bus Tour hitting the road in early May. The fact that a radically different world is possible, and that we have the leadership needed to wage the struggle towards that goal—makes the world as it is even more intolerable. This is something people need to find out about and it is something people need to be given the opportunity to be part of—through contributing funds on every level to make this known. The movement for revolution needs to—quickly—become a contending force on the terrain. A quantum leap towards that is possible in this next six weeks.
This BAsics Bus Tour will be going right into the thick of the struggle in a particularly hot area in this country, it will be bringing the message of revolution to places where people are beginning to fight the power and defy the authorities. It will be bringing the answers people so desperately need about the way out of all this, introducing people to the leadership they have in BA, raising money as it goes and it will be tremendously fun. A call was put out for volunteers to be on the bus tour and to help build it (and if anyone reading this wants to volunteer, contact your local Revolution Books).
This is key to be bringing to everyone everywhere—people will not ask the larger questions about the legitimacy of this system if there isn't a force contending, and pointing to the legitimacy of a different system—a revolution, and the socialist transition to communism. At the same time, fighting the power alongside people, and leading in that, is essential to forging an alternate authority today, to forging new relations among people, and to repolarizing for revolution.
In closing, Sunsara referenced again the invitation she read earlier from BA, and picked up on some of the points made by people throughout the evening. Someone had said, "At moments like this, people should be asking, 'What kind of system is this?'" and, "People should be questioning the whole legitimacy of this system!" and, "People should be getting into BAsics and BA!" Sunsara agreed with these points, but then put it back to people in the room, "Whether millions in society start asking those questions and acting on their answers depends to a very great degree on whether people in this room determine to lead and to compel them to do so. Revolution is a really good idea AND it reflects a deeper reality, but it must be more than that. The movement for revolution must make real leaps in becoming a material force that is contending throughout society. And we must do so in the next six weeks."
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