Revolution #269, May 20, 2012
Going Out Boldly and Broadly to Raise Funds for the Bus Tour
Revcom.us recently posted a correspondence from a reader who wrote about going out to some professors and others for donations to the BAsics Bus Tour, and raising $1,200 in a concentrated period of time (“Going All Out to Raise Funds for the BAsics Bus Tour Through the South”). Revolution felt it was important talk to this person about how they approached people in taking out the Bus Tour and BA, how people then found their way to expressing their support, what was found out about people’s thinking—AND how a significant amount of money was collected. There’s a lot for everyone to learn from this experience as people go out to take the BA Everywhere campaign even higher and raise big money to project BA’s voice and work into every corner of society.
Q: What was your approach in doing this fundraising?
A: First off, I realized that we had to go raise money for this—it was so critical for this bus tour to happen. When I asked for money, I asked for big money, especially from people who can afford it. I asked several people for $1,000—I didn’t get that, but I got some donations and pledges that were large.
Q: The people you talked to were coming from different perspectives, but they were responding to how this tour, and the whole BA Everywhere campaign, is about getting BA’s voice and leadership out in a much bigger way in society.
A: There were different sections of BAsics that I cited in talking with them, including 1:13, “No more generations of our youth…,” which I understand is really going to be used in this bus tour. I’ve also had discussions with people on the essay at the end of Chapter 1 of BAsics, “Reform or Revolution: Questions of Orientation, Questions of Morality.” This has drawn the most interest from professors who would like to see the system “do the right thing”—but from reading Avakian, they are questioning their own beliefs about that, and saying: gee, maybe this Avakian guy has a point; I don’t believe what he’s arguing for yet, but I think he should be heard, he should be read by young people.
The essay makes very clear the two approaches: Avakian’s approach that says the system is unreformable and can only be dealt with through revolution, with the goal of a communist world, versus trying to make this system work. So we’ve grappled over that essay, as well as other things from BAsics. And people see, “So this is what you’re bringing down there, this is what you’re going on the tour with.”
Q: Talk about the breadth of the response you got.
A: There’s this back and forth with the people I’m approaching, and I’m learning from their perspective, about their insights on what difference it’s going to make, that this tour goes to this section of the country. The Freedom Riders of the 1960s came up. The fact that people felt this bus tour is going to reach a lot of alienated youth, a lot of people who have a lot of rage and anger—this got translated into people saying, “I want to support this.” Only one of the people I talked to would say their proclivity is toward communism. Each of them have different areas of agreement and disagreement with Bob Avakian and the RCP. They feel like they’re a part of this effort, in a very real way—and seeing the money they donated is sponsoring the volunteers, to buy the food, etc. They’re hoping the bus tour reaches many, many people who need to hear the message it’s bringing.
Q: Can you talk about the word of the bus tour going out more broadly?
A: Painting a picture of what’s envisioned for the tour, and using support statements from people for the tour, is part of not only building anticipation for the tour but also building a community. Since I wrote the letter I’ve taken it out much wider, from the few dozen I spoke to at first. Some of the professors have put links to the bus tour Tumblr blog (http://basicsbustour.tumblr.com) on their blogs. The other day, a law professor came up to me and said, very angrily, “The fucking Democratic Party is not speaking to these people [in the South]. You guys are. I tip my hat off to you, even though I disagree with most of what you say.”
We’d also been taking out a fundraising raffle, which was a way to reach a lot of students. Just in the last five days of the raffle, we increased the money we raised ten-fold, to $1,000. And a large part of that was going to the classes, speaking to students, setting up a table—and the students themselves taking this up, and feeling very proud to support this. I’ve also been taking out “An Invitation” from Bob Avakian, about “Let’s take a crucial journey together…”. It has moved people to the point of rethinking their lives, like at a Puerto Rican Culture class where the professor has been encouraging his students to think about what kind of world they’d like to live in and work to make it so.
Q: Your experiences point to the potential for breaking through on a whole different level with this bus tour and in getting BA out there in society.
A: There’s a real visceral feeling people I talk to are getting of the difference the bus tour is going to make. And this is exactly what has to be conveyed across the country. Somebody said that it sounds like “a rolling revolutionary organizing machine.” I said, you got something there. We can make the needed breakthroughs, if we take this out in the way it needs to be. There’s nothing magical about it—it’s concentrated in BAsics. For example, the two slogans used on May 1st, which we’ve been bringing to many professors—“Internationalism: The Whole World Comes First” and “American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People’s Lives”—people hear that, and they start dreaming: Could we really change the culture in this country that’s so hateful and mean-spirited? Is a different world, a communist world, possible? Yes! You do see the potential for that to flower. But it’s not going to happen by itself. You have to sit down with people, grab them by the shoulders and say, you have to check this out. It’s incumbent upon you as someone who thinks and cares about the world, to see that this movement is being built.
Q: Checking out BA and the movement for revolution, yes, but also becoming a part of this movement in concrete ways, and giving money is a crucial way.
A: A lot of times we go to people and say, “Become emancipators of humanity.” We should be no less first string in asking people to donate money. That is part of building the movement for revolution, which is not going to be built without millions and millions of dollars being raised. Like the 1,100 copies of BAsics that have so far gone out to prisoners, the only reason that happened was money was raised from many people for this. The same for this bus tour—and others to come. We should tell people what difference it’s going to make if the bus tour has, say, 5,000 of the palm cards with the “No more generations of our youth…” quote to get out, or 50,000. People should never be bashful about asking for money. The worst that can happen is you’ll get a no. Actually, asking for money tends to bring out people’s deepest questions—which we welcome.
We’re not asking people for their “help.” This is people taking up and becoming participants in the movement for revolution in a very real way. Be part of changing the world with us—that’s what we’re asking people to do. We have our ideas about how this can happen, and you may not agree with all of it. But we are taking responsibility for leading the fight to change the world. People respect that, and respond to that. It’s made a big difference in people donating, and becoming part of this effort themselves. In a couple of cases, people have said they want to be part of future BAsics bus tours. One professor said, “I’m going, and I’ll pay my own way.”
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