Revolution #90, May 27, 2007
Taking Out the Special Issue on Bob Avakian
A Half Million Papers. . . and A Step Into the Future
The “conventional wisdom” says that fundamental change is unrealistic, even impossible. But in reality, the most “unrealistic” thing in the world is to hope to touch things up around the edges, to put your trust in official channels and established authority, while things continually get worse. If a different--a better--world is possible, you’ve got to struggle to understand how and fight to bring it into being.
That demands leadership. And that is where Bob Avakian comes in. (Revolution #84).
In the last weeks of April, several thousand people, coming from many different perspectives, stepped forward to distribute more than a half million copies of a special issue of Revolution introducing Bob Avakian to people across the country. In major metropolitan areas to cities and towns in Nevada, North Carolina, and a dozen other states, the paper went out all over. It was read, discussed, and passed hand to hand by basic people of all nationalities in the ghettos, barrios, and workplaces; by professors and students at universities like Columbia, Berkeley, and UCLA to small colleges and junior colleges in many different cities; by professionals, artists, writers, and intellectuals; by prisoners, and by many more people from all walks of life.
These are dark times, compelling people to confront hard questions--including what kind of world they want to live in and how to get there. In such times, revolutionaries need to be urgently taking Bob Avakian’s leadership to the masses of people on the bottom of society as they struggle to move beyond this madness, so that there is a real buzz about this and a growing connection. And more broadly in society, for the academics, intellectuals, artists, and others who are deeply concerned about the course history is taking, what that means for humanity, and what to do about it--Avakian’s analysis of the situation, his vision of the future society and his very method and approach must be seriously engaged and wrestled with. Getting to this kind of situation--where many, many more people in these different sections know about Bob Avakian, where there is a real following building up, and where what he’s all about is much more part of the “societal conversation”--can change the whole equation of what people think is worth living and dying for, what people think is even possible. It can contribute to--indeed, it is an essential element of--re polarizing the current lineup of society into one where many more positive things could find expression and where revolution could come onto the agenda. And making a big, even qualitative, step in this was the central aim of this effort.
To be clear: there are many important things that go into a revolution, all kinds of struggles and mass outpourings and debates which require effort and attention from those who want to make fundamental radical change. But visionary communist leadership is the crucial element in the whole mix--and this leader is a rare and unique one. The special issue, which drew on and publicized comments from a whole range of people, as well as quotes from Avakian himself, and which summed up some of the key elements of his contributions, let people see that.
Spreading the Word
Taking out this special issue of Revolution newspaper could not be done on either the scale or the scope needed without bringing forward scores of people and unleashing and relying on them to take this paper into all corners of society. And indeed, thousands did take up this call!
Revolutionary minded youth aiming to build a communist movement took them into their schools and neighborhoods. Professors and high school teachers took papers for their classes, some because they want their students to be exposed to different and controversial ideas and to think critically. Store owners from Harlem to Little Village (Chicago) to Watts stuffed them into the bags of their customers. In NY, a man who works in a cultural center/café took thousands and not only distributed them to all those who came into the café, but got out thousands in that barrio to residents. Two young Black women in South Central L.A. took 50 English papers and took them out in a mall, telling people, “We gotta change the world.”
Circles of proletarians discussed the article in the paper, made plans and went into their neighborhoods, getting them out broadly to people on the streets, asking stores to distribute them, and joining with others to get them out on college campuses. Spanish-speaking immigrants went out to African Americans to get them the paper--and African Americans took stacks in Spanish to distribute. A Black man in his forties who said “we’re blaming ourselves and it really is the system” took 70 papers (half in Spanish) to distribute and gave $5. His son, a “kid who had done everything right,” had been shot in the back. He said, “People die every day over bullshit and we need revolution.”
Participants in Earth Day protests, people attending a rally for Obama in Georgia, and members of church and community organizations took stacks of papers to distribute. The effort culminated with 20,000 copies of “The Crossroads We Face, the Leadership We Need” going out at the music festival at Coachella--and thus finding their way into communities across Southern California and around the country and to Mexico, Canada, and Europe. Everywhere, the extreme conditions in society are challenging people to think about things in a new and different way, and to give some things they took for granted another look. As one student told someone who was selling the paper: “I’ve been hearing about communism in my class, but the communism you’re talking about doesn’t sound anything like that.”
Widespread Discussion, Welcome Debates and Sharp Challenges
On the streets, in classrooms and living rooms, debate swirled around this leader and the question of leadership. Do we need leadership and what kind? Who is he and why don't we know about him? What kind of change do we need, and how do we make it? Does the emphasis on one person stifle the initiative of others? Do the leaders of the people always go bad--or inevitably get murdered by the powers-that-be? Religion, the sharp and killing conflicts among the masses themselves, women's liberation, the character of democracy--they all came out and they all got taken up. In the course of all, many people stepped forward who want revolution and revolutionary leadership, and are finding in Bob Avakian a leader who has not sold out and who continues to challenge people to take up the cause of revolution and communism and to give them the understanding, the method and approach to do that. Others see some fundamental problems with this society and have different analyses of the world and how to change it, but feel it is important now to open up the debate and get into what Avakian is bringing forward. And this is exactly the kind of conversation and debate that needs to broaden and deepen.
And many people--of all nationalities, ages and strata--who are beginning to engage with Bob Avakian and know well the nature of this system, raised that the state will try to silence this leader and take him from the people. They grappled with what it will take to defend and protect him, beginning with the challenge to spread the word about this leader to those who want a different, better world. And this too is a question to be seriously taken up by many, many more people.
A Big Step to a Different World
What has begun with the introduction of Bob Avakian to hundreds of thousands is a step towards bringing a different world into being. In key areas of major cities and on some college campuses, there is recognition of and talk about this leader--and this reverberates, not only through these areas, but much more broadly in society. People across the country have stepped up to spread the word of what he is saying and doing. This is the beginning of a movement which must take shape and form and which must spread much more broadly in society.
Now the engagement needs to go broader and deeper. Those who took out this special issue of Revolution need to get down with the ideas this leader is bringing forward and bring others into wrangling with what BA is saying in an organized way. The key way right now is to take up and go to others with the special offer of Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About (a DVD of a talk by BA) and 10 issues of Revolution for $25. By doing this, we enable thousands of people who got interested by the special issue to get more deeply into the wide-ranging presentation of the big questions and main points of revolution and communism that is on the DVD. And we get them relating to the newspaper every week, where they can see how all this applies to the events of the day and can also continue to engage with new work by Avakian. This kind of crucial followup means that people will draw closer over time, on a mass scale.
At the same time, we need in this next month to launch a “mass movement” of DVD showings. This requires getting out postcards and flyers and posters about it to hundreds of thousands, and finding the ways to sell it very, very broadly. It means people getting together in classrooms, rec centers and libraries, barbershops, cafes and clubs. Living rooms and laundromats. In groups that come together to discuss it, or informally when people drop in or hang around. The many places that became outlets for the special issue must now become centers of distribution of the DVD (and other works of Bob Avakian), as well as Revolution newspaper. And the revolutionaries, radicals, and critical thinkers who took the special issue to these outlets need to get back with these folks and sum up how it went, learning from their experience and working with them to do better.
This good beginning now has to go much further. As one Chicano youth who organized at his school to distribute the special issue put it, we need to “set a revolutionary mood in society and…be more creative and go to people who do music and art, people who are looked up to in our neighborhoods and try to win these people over. We need to reach out broader and make this real…. It’s not hard, we’re just lagging it.”
This big push with the DVD can broaden out and intensify the ferment that was begun with the special issue. It can strengthen the trend where the possibility of the revolutionary communism that Bob Avakian is talking about is not ruled out of order, but is seen as a necessary part of the debate. And it can strengthen what must be an essential component of preparing the ground for revolution: a growing core of revolutionary forces who have been taking up the path being pointed to by Bob Avakian; a core that is looking at all the events in society and the world from the point of revolution and how to get to a different and better world; a core that is bringing this viewpoint and outlook to others and winning them to that position through all the twists and turns of events and struggle in society, spreading the revolutionary movement and working to bring a revolutionary people into being.
And for those who got the special issue and who really “got it”--it is time to draw closer…to get more deeply into it. To get organized, and to organize others. There is nothing more important to do right now than digging into this and wrestling with it, and getting it into the hands of others.
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