Revolution #277, August 12, 2012
Outrage at the Horrors, Joy at Hearing the Truth and the Significance of BA Everywhere
The neighborhood was lively on this late Sunday afternoon as we went from housing project to housing project talking to people in New York City. It was the last day of this leg of the BAsics Bus Tour, and a few of the volunteers were doing a final push with BAsics and making sure we had ways to get back to people the tour had met. It became clear, just being there a short while, the tour had left a mark.
The sky threatened rain but groups of kids ran through the project courtyards climbing on the single jungle gym. One boy, about 10 or 11, ran up to a volunteer—“I’m with the BAsics!” he said proudly. Earlier in the week, he had been given a stack of palm cards with quotes from BAsics which he, like others in the neighborhood, had passed around. These cards were a familiar sight to many. This young boy also asked the volunteer if he had any more whistles. This is now another familiar sight in the neighborhood.
A few days earlier, the BAsics Bus Tour held a speak-out and march through the neighborhood where they passed out whistles. These are part of a call from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network for September 13 to be a day to “blow the whistle on stop-and-frisk.” They are calling for that to be a day where no stop-and-frisk happens in silence. (See the article, “March & Speak-out in the Neighborhood: Angry…Inspired…Uplifted.”)
I talked to a young man walking into one of these housing projects. He took a palm card and I asked him to stop and read it. This card had BAsics 1:13 printed on it: “No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that.” I told him we were with the BAsics Bus Tour and told him about who Bob Avakian is. Then I asked his thoughts on the quote and he said he wasn’t sure how to put it into words, but he agreed, adding that it’s terrible out here for the youth.
He said that he’d been seeing us out here and wondered what we were doing. And that today, he was just coming from church. He said that he’s not really the church type but that’s where he was coming from. I asked why he went, and he answered with a sad shrug of his shoulders, “You gotta believe in something, right?” I put a copy of BAsics in his hand and opened it to 4:18: “Let’s call this what it is—it is a slave mentality, with which people are being indoctrinated. All this ‘Thank you Jesus!’ is slave mentality.”
He smirked, holding back a laugh and looked me in the eye, “You can’t argue with that.”
I partly expected an argument, but like many we met during this tour, this was someone who seemed to be seeking. I encouraged him to leaf through the book, that he wasn’t just holding any book but the basic handbook for revolution and human emancipation. He opened to the first page and read the quote that opens the book, “There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.”
He looked up at me, surprised he was holding a book that stated this plain and yet always unstated truth so clearly. He looked again at the cover and back cover, and I emphasized the point on the back cover, that you can’t change the world if you don’t know the BAsics. He said that was true, and I asked him to expand on why he agreed. He said the way he saw it, you had to start with the simple, the basic truths and build up from there. I told him more about connecting up the leadership of BA with people and he wanted to know more about who BA is. He knew something about the Black Panther Party so he nodded when I said that BA worked with them in the 1960s, but also that he’d gone deeper when those movements ebbed, that he’s brought forward a strategic approach to revolution in this country and he’s studied the experience of previous revolutionary societies, and brought forward a new synthesis of communism.
I asked what he thought of what I was saying. He said that it was funny because he’s really been thinking for the last couple months that we need some kind of movement, that people are fed up. He went on that it’s just getting to be too much with the police harassing people all the time and it feels like people don’t want to take it anymore. I asked him what he feels has changed and he said he’s not sure, but he’s really been sensing some kind of boiling. He also said he’s worried about where it’s headed. That without some kind of direction, he’s not sure what will happen. I told him I appreciated what he was saying and this was something we’d been taking note of too. We talked about the whistles, which he said he’d been seeing everywhere, and the slogan, “fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.” And I pointed him to the statement in BAsics, from the Revolutionary Communist Party, “On the Strategy for Revolution.” He raised a couple of questions about whether revolution was possible, and I had him read the beginning of the statement and another quote from BAsics which explains what a revolution is.
He—like many we spoke to in these two weeks—took what I was saying very seriously, and he was weighing it. While BA is someone he’d just found out about, he was struck by the few quotes he’d read thus far and by looking at the table of contents, examining the breadth of this book. He said thoughtfully, “Maybe we just need the right kind of leader, and maybe this is it.” I put to him a rough paraphrase of this new quote from BA, that the RCP has a very developed and inspiring vision for a radically different way the world could be, a very developed strategy for making revolution, the highest level of leadership we could have in BA, the core of leadership concentrated in the RCP, but what is missing is YOU. “I hear you, I want a change, now I’m going to get into this,” he said.
He got the book with a pledge to pay for it within a week, and gave me a way to reach him. He also took a small stack of palm cards which he said he’d give to people he knows and we talked about the Revolution Clubs which he wanted to know more about.
This was just one exchange, one copy of BAsics in someone’s hands. Multiply this by many, many dozens and you get a taste of the powerful beginnings forged through the BAsics Bus Tour.
Throughout these two weeks… the hot days and sleepless nights… the hoarse throats and tired feet… the volunteers forged a powerful connection with the work and voice of Bob Avakian and people this system keeps locked on the bottom… people with painful stories that could fill a lifetime of telling. People who are told day in and day out that this is just the way the world has to be, that they’re crazy for thinking otherwise, for hating what they’re up against, but who feel—palpably and painfully—that there is no way out. But when the volunteers piled out of the boldly decorated RVs, when they stepped with boldness and revolutionary energy, with their voices loud and defiant and put BA’s work directly into people’s hands, took it to people in a way that is consistent with its revolutionary content… something very powerful began to take hold.
This was taken very seriously. People stopped, talked, listened and argued. There are several stories of people beginning out angry, even belligerent, who ended up buying the book because they were challenged in a way they didn’t think possible. And through these two weeks, as people got more into BAsics, as they read the book, some passing it hand to hand, or watched parts of Avakian’s talk, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About… something in them began to change—being told there is a way out, the vision and concrete framework for a different society, the strategy for revolution to get there… and the leadership we have for this in BA. And being told there are ways to begin working on that now… being told there is a place and a role for them in this movement for revolution, and given a concrete means to be part of this today—taking a stack of palm cards, watching the Revolution talk with friends, being a part of a Revolution Club… this is a beginning, it won’t advance in a straight line… but it is powerful and precious, what BA himself has called “a source of hope and of daring on a solid scientific foundation”… the significance of this can’t be overestimated.
But it’s also not just what came forward in these neighborhoods of the most oppressed or the multinational sections of immigrants the tour reached out among. This can also be seen in the whole network of support that was forged to make this tour happen, including among different strata. The predominantly Spanish-language food pantry which provided food to the volunteers, the social service organizations who opened up their space for meeting places and coordinating centers, the women whose sons and nephews were killed by the police who cooked dinners for the volunteers, people who made sandwiches and the range of people who opened up their homes. And who through this whole process, have themselves been introduced to Avakian and are digging into BAsics. A talk given at a Revolution Books fundraiser halfway through the tour made this important point in relation to this: “This is the kind of support that makes a revolution. This is the kind of support that enables an underdog to be victorious in a fight that nobody ever thought they could win. This is what has been done in history. This is what could be done in the future, in different circumstances.”
This was all made possible, and will be further amplified, as part of a national movement of revolution. Fundraisers took place in cities across the country—in parks and jazz clubs, through phone banking and one-on-one meetings. People contributed their art, their voices, their pennies, and those with more means contributed larger amounts. And through this powerful effort, again, people deepened their engagement with BA’s work. In this instance, a lot of this unfolded around the BAsics quotes being promoted in July: “American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People’s Lives” (BAsics 5:7) and “Internationalism — The Whole World Comes First” (BAsics 5:8). I encourage people to check out basicsbustour.tumblr.com for the range of responses to these quotes—from high school students writing poems inspired by these quotes, artists at Burning Man, kids met on the BAsics Bus Tour, immigrants, Black youth and many others.
There will be much more to say in upcoming issues of Revolution newspaper about this last leg of the BAsics Bus Tour… but also much more to take further with the whole effort this is a part of to raise big money to project Bob Avakian’s vision and works into every corner of society. With the glimmers in people’s eyes, the outrage finally spoken at the horrors of what is, the smiles from considering what could be, the joy in hearing the truth told… you see once again the significance of what we’re in middle of: BA Everywhere… Imagine the Difference It Could Make!
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