Revolution #274, July 8, 2012
BAsics Bus Tour Through the South:
Alive With Bob Avakian's New Synthesis
In May, the BAsics Bus Tour went through parts of the South, starting in Atlanta and going to Athens, GA; Gainesville, FL; and Sanford, FL (where Trayvon Martin was killed in February). Go to basicsbustour.tumblr.com for reports, photos, and videos from that leg of the tour. The following is a correspondence from one of the bus tour volunteers.
"Think of the situation this tour is heading into... a region where the memory of public lynchings is still quite vivid in many people's minds and where modern-day lynchings are backed up by local authorities... a region where some of the harshest anti-immigration measures have been put into place, legalizing racial profiling and instilling terror in the lives of immigrants who have come here for survival for themselves and their families... a region where there have been hundreds of incidents of attacks on abortion clinics including arson, fire bombings and even the murder of providers ..."
—From Revolution #268
This is exactly what the BAsics Bus Tour through the South in May stepped into!
Atlanta, GA—the Neighborhoods
From the photographs of these neighborhoods, one gets a sense of the living conditions of hundreds and thousands of people in this country (but also throughout the world). People finding the ways to have time pass by, as one woman recounted. She mentioned that people hang outside to step outside of their home (for a minute). In the hot days, the BAsics Bus Tour hit the scene with a beautiful chant letting people concisely know how things will be different day one after the revolution.
I walked in there with trepidation—unsure of how (people hanging outside) would respond. There was a moment of silence/pause, and then the revolutionaries stepped in. Immediately the scene changed as pockets of people began to deeply interact with the revolutionaries. It was as though a dusty brown painting was splashed with colors of liberation (red, black, yellow, etc.). Life was brought into this oppressive hot day. I quickly realized how much people really wanted to engage this movement for revolution—specifically, its leader Bob Avakian. Stories began to pour out of people's daily existence (police brutality, mass incarceration, no jobs, mis-education).
One woman talked about wanting to "get ahead" in this world because in the neighborhood very little information gets filtered in. She talked about attending different free lectures—including one by Donald Trump. As she continued she didn't seemed convinced of everything she'd heard at these lectures—of becoming a "self-made man." I asked if at any of these lectures she heard of how the world could be different. She paused to think. I said, this BAsics Bus Tour is travelling through the South bringing the works and vision of Bob Avakian—a voice and a person that people need to know if they are struggling to understand why the world is the way it is; and it is challenging people to be a part of changing the world through revolution—as the back of the book says, "You can't change the world, if you don't know the BAsics." It seemed as though she still wanted to find an answer to my original question, and she responded with "the community church." But even then she was skeptical and recounted the church's financial problems. But her interest was sparked; she began to look through the beautiful displays (that were propped against a fence with quotes from BAsics). We went through a series of questions—including the type of morality religion promotes (because she raised disagreement with same sex marriage).
The biggest immediate lesson learned was people's openness to be challenged and questioned—in their thinking, but also with the challenge to be one of the thousands working on the revolution, to be emancipators of humanity. Also, it made me think deeply of the relationship between the superstructure (morality, ideology, politics, etc.) and the masses. In other words, so much of what people usually throw at us is in one way or another upholding this system, but it isn't solid. The people we met did not thoroughly uphold and defend the bourgeois class outlook. (This is further synthesized in "The Revolutionary Potential of the Masses and the Responsibility of the Vanguard," the last essay in BAsics.)
Also intertwined in the above is that people have not lost sight of their humanity. A lot of the people we met throughout the tour described the horrific daily living conditions, but even through all that, this system has not sucked out their humanity. And this is further reflected in Sunsara Taylor's articles (on basicsbustour.tumblr.com), in regards to the joy people had in meeting the revolution but also in their willingness to be part of this movement for revolution (even if in beginning ways).
"The 'Bible Belt' in the U.S. is also the Lynching Belt."
I knew the relevance of this quote from BAsics before the tour, but once arriving on the ground it hit hard how much religion weighs on people's thinking around confronting reality and the drive to change it. In Athens, GA a woman signed the banner thanking the revolutionaries and wanted a large stack of palm cards with the BAsics 1:13 quote to distribute in her building. As she was walking away, she began to preach about Jesus. So I tried to clarify that this quote is not about Jesus, that we're atheist, and we're saying the problem is the system not the youth. She disagreed, but thought it was important that others read this quote because it's talking about change.
Another way religious convictions found expression was with the statement "what can you do, it's all in god's hands." But when this notion of nothing can be done was sharply challenged (especially with quotes from Chapter 4 of BAsics), it would put people on edge—almost as though god was a conventional wisdom that everybody knew and accepted. But there was a real openness in having that challenged, and an interest in understanding why we didn't believe in god; and in understanding why the world doesn't have to be this way and why we need a revolution.
Overall BAsics 1:13 began to break through some of the heavy chains of religion and framed the problem and solution on a world scale.
Immigrant Neighborhoods: Atlanta + Athens, GA
In Atlanta we had a quick 30 minutes on a street corner—as the RV drove up and down a strip—playing Bob Avakian's "Why do people come here from all over the world?" (from his talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About) on the loudspeakers. We went to a laundromat, gas station, and a bus stop—focusing on BAsics 1:14. There was general excitement and we raised a couple of dollars from the masses.
In Athens, GA a local activist gave us some insight into the layout...it took searching to find immigrant neighborhoods, and as suggested by the local activist we stayed at a neighborhood convenience shop. While it seemed like there weren't that many shoppers, the convenience shop was shaken. We talked with every single person (including the store owner). The masses constantly told us, "I work from morning til night, I don't even have time to put together my thoughts let alone think, but what you're saying sounds good." We sold copies of Revolution newspaper, a copy of Lo BAsico, and raised some funds, and people took small stacks of BAsics 1:14 quote cards. We also went to the immigrant neighborhood (close by) and fanned out briefly. (Note: We approached these neighborhoods more low key so as to not draw unnecessary attention; as the activist suggested—no displays or RV.)
Part of what we were trying to grapple with was—what effect did the relationship between "the harshest anti-immigrant measures" and the daily "back-breaking work" (partly stated in BAsics 1:15) have on the masses; because it seemed as though there was an ideological stifling. While many people appreciated us being there, it was difficult to draw people out and speak bitterness about the horrific living conditions. As one person put it, "I knew coming into this country I would have to work two jobs to stay alive." Instead of anger there was an acceptance to that reality (even when challenged).
Sanford, FL—Immigrant Masses
In Sanford things were more sharply challenged. We spontaneously went to a park that had a sizable number of immigrant masses. I was the only Spanish speaker in our crew, but we had the large banner with BAsics 1:13. We began to get the same response of "sounds good," but with the synthesized approach of breaking-down BAsics 1:13, I proceeded to do that. When I mentioned Trayvon Martin, encouraged people to sign the banner, and explain why the bus tour came to Sanford, conversation broke open. One man said, "The response (protest) would not of been the same had it been a Latino youth because Black people are more organized." Others mentioned that they wanted to be part of the protest but were unable to because of work. We encouraged people to sign the banner, but there was a noticeable hesitation. The more backward voice set the terms by saying, "What's the point of signing this banner if nothing is going to change." We struggled this out by drawing from the "We Say 'No More'" statement—and clearly drawing the line of demarcation; this is not a "Black issue," this is a matter of injustice, and all those who stand against injustice need to stand in opposition to the modern American lynching; and (while doing so) struggle to understand how to put an end to this horrific reality—especially since there is a way out. Again there was a hesitation, and a person proclaimed, "I'll sign the banner because I think what she's saying is correct." And while this still divided out, the resetting of terms allowed people to come forward who did want to sign the banner.
Overall this experience was brief but it brought some clarity to the statement "sounds good," though I think there still needs to be a lot of struggle to rupture from the "my country" (i.e., Mexico) or this isn't "my country" (i.e., U.S.) to the "whole world comes first/emancipators of humanity."* Two people each gave a $10 donation and thanked us for coming to talk to them; they said, "Had you not come here to talk to us we would of never known about the revolution and Bob Avakian—now we have a lot to think about."
*One way to speak to this would be to compare/contrast with quotes from BAsics that speak to the contradiction of "why do people come from all over the world" and "Internationalism--The Whole World Comes First."
Sanford, FL—Goldsboro and the Movement for Revolution (Nationwide)
In Sanford we heard Joe Veale's message: it was inspiring and situated the Bus Tour historically in its role in this movement for revolution—specifically, that of getting BA's vision and work out into society. While in Sanford, I also had the opportunity to sit and read the blog and was deeply moved to understand (and take in) the nationwide support for this bus tour—from fundraising correspondence to photographs to statements of support to the send-off in Atlanta, GA—it truly captured a vision of the hundreds on this tour.
Sanford/Goldsboro was an unforgettable town—from the small segregated (all Black) neighborhoods to the dense poverty. When the RV hit the scene it changed the dynamics of everyday life. From cars stopping mid-street to speak with revolutionaries to clusters of people seriously engaging this movement for revolution. Our aim was to not leave any stone unturned (and it seems we were successful). And while the speak-out seemed small, it actually concentrated the hopes and aspirations of everybody we met in Sanford and throughout the bus tour (including the hundreds nationwide). From one woman jumping with joy when the bus tour arrived to another woman asking "Where have you been—why are we only finding out about this now?" This city captured and concentrated humanity's hunger for a radical understanding and solution to the world. Many were interested to know who BA is: from one man wanting to look at his picture to many asking "who is Bob Avakian?" When people discovered more about his history (how he became a revolutionary and then a communist), people were glad to know he was alive and leading this movement for revolution. And all were introduced to BAsics and the Revolution talk, and in beginning ways people joined this movement for revolution.
The BAsics Bus Tour
This bus tour was alive with Bob Avakian's new synthesis of revolution and communism. From ongoing deep discussions into his latest interview to political discussions in the RV, many of us transformed in a very quick and concentrated time. The far-sighted leadership provided to the tour set terms and aspirations that all of us should strive to emulate but it also challenged us--from down-on-the-ground tasks to the decisiveness of line in leading a communist revolution. This was somewhat different from the pilot project of the Bus Tour in California—in that it seemed to be more consciously led. Also, the unevenness of the volunteers became our strength, because it mirrored the method of a "team of scientists" working on this bus tour being successful.
Overall I think the importance of this bus tour being the current leading edge of the BA Everywhere Campaign sheds light on the difference getting BA's vision and works out in society is making (especially BAsics and the Revolution talk)—particularly amongst those who catch hell every day. There's the need to continually find the ways and forms so that people can make leaps in their understanding and better enable humanity to change the world. It's crucial to not lose sight of how important BA is to humanity and the difference/paradigm shift of the "Join Us—Twelve Ways" in building this movement for revolution—because the emancipation of all of humanity is counting on the thousands leading this movement for revolution to break free of this system of capitalism-imperialism and begin the first great leap in the direction of total emancipation.
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