Revolution #146, October 26, 2008

From a reader

Work on Campus and in the High schools

I began with the alternative high schools. A lot of the students are involved in the criminal “justice” system in some way. I talked with an administrator we have worked with (a Pan Africanist) and one of his teachers about doing a presentation in the class. Before getting into that I want to lay out the administrator’s take on the new Constitution. He wanted to know who wrote it because he felt it was put together really well and that it was very scientific in how it summed up the communist movement, particularly the post Mao area and that they needed to do this as well in Pan African movement because the world has changed and you have to continue to analyze those developments, while there are differences. I get the sense that he really appreciates the method and approach the Party took in both summing up the experience and in writing the Constitution.

I told him what it was that we wanted to do with this particular issue on “The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of the System, and the Revolution We Need” and that I would be going to different schools across the city, getting it to students and professors and trying to speak in their classes. He thought that it was a really good idea and reminded me that he still wanted us to come in to do weekly or bi-weekly discussions of the paper and that this issue would be good to start with. One of the teachers where we will speak also thought it was a good idea, but won’t be able to begin for two weeks.

At another alternative school, the administrator I know was not there the day I stopped by, so I left 25 papers and a way for him to reach me. He called me the next day to get more details around what it was that we were trying to do. After our discussion he set up a time for me to come talk with the teacher whose class I would be talking in. I met with the teacher for a little over two hrs. He is 34 years old and is someone who is not quite sure what his philosophical view is. He says he is still looking. He, like most of the teachers I’ve met at these alternative schools, does seem to have the interests of these kids at heart and they all seem to employ different methods of trying to reach the youth. This teacher was brought up as an orthodox Muslim, and says he is now a spiritual person, but not a religious one. He says he’s mainly a Rastafarian, but checks out Marxism, Pan Africanism and other ideologies.

He said he only had a chance to glance over the paper and wasn’t sure how to approach it or how to begin. I gave him overview of what the article was about, the historic sweep and the scientific approach in looking at the oppression of Black people in this country and how to end it. I went into some of the polemics it was addressing in the side bars and the discussion took off from there. He told me some of the questions that he thought would come up from the students (but these are the questions of many people, including teachers like himself). One was the central question addressed in “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation.” Others were: “How could Black people ever trust white people?” “How could young people be involved in the revolution or dedicated to it when they’re struggling to survive? They need to work to be able to take care of their families.” The question of self determination came up as well in the course of our conversation. Another one was around the state—“If you make a revolution how do you know if things are going to work for the people because you have these same people working for the new system?” I told him that these are questions we run into all the time and dug into some of them. The role of the new state and the Chairman’s new synthesis, the dirty little secret, where do white people’s true interests lie? And “Some Crucial Points of Revolutionary Orientation.”

I talked some of about welcoming these questions and that it was a good thing when the students are engaging these questions.

He said that one of the methods he uses in teaching his class is that he accepts the fact the most of these kids are part of the street tribes and he pointed to the symbols of two of the street tribes and said he tries to use these to bring his kids back to the original conception of what the these street organizations were all about. He also used the Black Panther Party’s Ten Point Program. He felt that, if there was to be a revolution, that this section would have to lead it. He was talking about youth between 14 and 20 who haven’t been weighed down by work and family. I agreed that the youth would be in the forefront of the struggle but that working class and its Party would have lead and went into why. I raised that, as noble as the intent of the street tribes may have been, it’s not what these youth need today—to go back to the good ole days—and that what they need to do is get up out that shit and get into revolution.

He also suggested that either myself or someone else Black come back and do the discussion and that the students would be more open to what they had to say. I told him that I would be the one that came back, but the key thing was not what color a person is but whether or not what they are saying is correct and we should struggle for people to engage the content of what they are saying on that bases.

We set up to speak at the class and possibly doing another one with large group which consist of 140 students. I invited him to both events at Revolution Bookstore and brought up O22.

At a different school neither the principal or vice principal were in. It’s connected to a Catholic church. Someone in the office did introduce us to one of the teachers who she felt would be interested in having us in her class. When the teacher walked in the office and saw the paper she was very excited. We told her why we were there and what it was that we would like to do. She said that she teaches a hip hop class and that revolution was one of the things that she was focusing on in this class and thought that it would be great for us to speak in that class. We thumbed through the pages of the paper and talked some about the side bars. When we got to the ones on religion and education she agreed with these and said that she also teaches a class on religion and was looking into material that exposed the students to views around this question. We told her about Away with All Gods, and she would like to get it, look through it, and decide what topic to focus on and would like someone to come in and discuss that as well. We told her that we would be getting the paper out there on a weekly basis and would be raising funds for its cost, and she told us that she has another class that takes up fund raising projects and goes out into the community and raises funds as a way of involving them with the community and the community becoming involved with the school and that it was something that we could present to them. She also commented that someone else also drops off the paper there once a week, but never has had or sought to interact with the students there. We set up to speak in the class. We also raised O22 and she said that we should send her the flyer and she would make copies and get it out. I told her that one of the administrators had told me that when I was over at the school to make sure that someone showed me their wall of shame. I was pretty impressed by it. There were pictures of Black men hanging from trees, African art work made from beads, pictures of the Panthers, Malcolm X and Kwame Nkrumah, over two of the little water fountains the words written coloreds only and above that pictures of the white and blacks only fountains. A couple of closet doors representing bathrooms also read colored only.

At one of the junior colleges, one of the young men who attended the discussion on the oppression of Black people and the crimes of the system at the bookstore came out with me. We were able to talk with one teacher there who wants to read the article before getting it out to his class. He raised if we were looking to get subscriptions for the paper; I told him that’s certainly a part of this and that we wanted to engage with students around this important question. He said to come back on Wednesday and if he has no problems with it we could set something up. He also noted that generally speaking he has no problem with having different views being represented particularly if it’s going to get the kids to engage. He also expressed some reservations about not having a counter view being expressed. We got out about 25 to 30 papers to students and collected 9 dollars; most of the students there was crying broke which was not so much the case when we went to another J downtown. We summed up the outing and talked about some of the questions that we were running into and a young man who came to store discussion raised some of his own. I won’t try to sum up that discussion here, but highlight the questions he and others I’ve talked with raise. He argued that greed was a part of human nature at the same time arguing that he disagrees that capitalism can’t work. He thinks it could work if you could get the capitalists to be more humane. He also raised that he felt that if someone came up with an idea, and it benefitted society, he didn’t see why that person shouldn’t get paid in the sense that they should turn a profit and that is an incentive for people to work. This question has come up in other ways as well and sometimes is concentrated in the Bill & Bill [Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton] line that welfare has made Black people lazy. So, how are you going to get them to work under socialism. Sometimes this view is expressed from the uppity standpoint of—I pulled myself up by the boot straps and others can do same, and some times I think it comes from despair and hopelessness. We need to stop blaming the white man, we don’t need leaders, we need to go back to the old ways and technology is bad. What’s going to stop the new people in power from becoming corrupt? And I’m sure there are others that I can’t remember right now.

At the first JC, I got out about 20 papers there and collected 13 dollars. I met an older student who was familiar with our paper when it was called the Revolutionary Worker. He said that he had gotten a Wanted T-shirt when someone was there before and wanted to get another one. He raised a couple of the questions like I wrote about above on leadership and incentive as well as the need to reach the youth and he wanted to know how we could actually make a revolution in this country... he said that he had become political while in prison. And wanted to know if we had meetings and discussions. I told him about Sunday discussions and he said he would try to be there. I wasn’t able to connect with any teachers there and I have been there twice.

There are 3 speaking appearances in class rooms.

One last point. The pictures from this issue of the paper that were displayed in the book store is being put up at three alternative schools, I think there is real basis for our paper and for the Party to be much more active in these schools and we should figure that out.

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Part 2

We thought things at the alternative high school went well and so did the teacher. She told us that a couple of students who normally sit in class without saying anything was engaging. She asked us to come back to do a panel discussion, students were told to pick ten questions from both “The Oppression Black People” issue and issue 145 on the “Financial Hurricane...” to ask the panel. We asked a young student who came to the first discussion around “The Oppression of Black People...” article [at the bookstore] to join the panel. He came to the discussion along with one of his friends, and raised some questions concerning education at that meeting. Key questions that came up and were struggled over included leadership, which the teacher asked them to write a paper on, reform or revolution, does how we think affect what we do, the economic base and the superstructure. And it’s our fault—with a different twist on it.

In the beginning only a few of the 15-20 students were engaging and the teacher called some of students out of the class, but before doing so she made it clear that all were to participate. She went outside with 4 or 5 of the students and when they came back in the teacher asked a member of the panel to tell the class who he was. We were sitting in somewhat of a circle and this member of the panel had been sitting behind us taking notes, so this made some of the students uncomfortable. Once they found out who he was, they asked him what made him become a revolutionary and this broke the ice. There were 4 students who set the tone for the others (2 females and 2 males) and good deal of the struggle broke down around gender. One young women raised that it’s wrong what this system does to Black people, but it’s our fault too, because we let them, this stuff been going on all this time and nobody is doing nothing to stop it. One of the young men disagreed and said that the problem was that we don’t have no Black leaders and didn’t feel like Obama would change anything. It was either this young man or another one who talked about what happens to strong Black leaders, that they’re either killed or locked up. This led to more debate over whether or not we need leaders. The main argument was that if people came together and work collectively to get things done, you won't need no leaders. I talked some about why there is still a need for leaders and how people develop unevenly and that some people emerge out of the struggle who come to represent the best of the best who concentrate and can articulate the way forward. And I talked some about Avakian and encouraged them to check him out.

One person was saying that we need Black people in different offices and then you could make some changes. The teacher asked the students to give a definition of capitalism. One young woman answered it’s a economic system based on exploitation and I talked about its dirty little secret. The teacher asked the students to give other components of a system, they were quiet for a moment then she wrote the word culture on the black board and asked them what are some of the things that come under this heading. They said art, food, education, and government which included the armies and police. I commented that this is what we would call the superstructure which would also include the media. The teacher asked the young man if the government was of an exploitative system, why would you look to it for help, and why wouldn’t you change it? Other students began to weigh in. One wanted to know what we meant by revolution. I talk about what that meant and some people felt that it would never happen, that people were too fucked up. One young woman argued that if people came to understand that it’s the system that is the problem they could come together to get rid of it. She argued that people act on their understanding. The class period was coming to an end and I talked about people getting the paper out broadly in the community and to continue this discussion with their families and friends. I will write more later.

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