Revolution #210, August 29, 2010

Taking the Campaign to the Farmworkers

Earlier this week, three of us took a trip to an agricultural area of California. In less than 24 hours, we got out about 9,000 statements and raised $165.

Our first stop was a festival, which drew thousands to the town square to look at art, jewelry and clothing booths, and to listen to Mexican mariachi and banda bands. We got out over 5,000 statements.

People listened and seemed curious, while some came up and asked what this was all about and what kind of revolution were we talking about. A lot of the bundles went to high school and college students and some to farmworkers.

One young woman's sister came up to us and asked what we were talking about. When she found out it was about revolution, she quickly pulled her sister to us and said that's what she always talks about. Her sister quickly took a bundle and said she hated everything about this system. She was more of an alternative type—wearing black clothes.

A retired fireman came to our table, drawn by the enlargement of "The Revolution We Need... ," which he spent time reading. He said one might think his life—living in a nice home in a comfortable suburb—would put him miles from considering revolution, but he explained that many of his relatives were immigrants without documents and without hopes of ever getting them. He expressed his disgust for the way immigrants are treated. Turning around, he pointed to the crowd in the park across the street, "These are the people who feed this country! And look at the way they're treated!" He ended up taking a bundle of 50 leaflets and said he would find places to get them out.

Some of the campesinos talked about working many hours for about $8.25/hour and not getting paid any overtime even after working 10 hours/day, and about a speedup with the machines, forcing people to work a lot faster.

A group of youth said the cops there harass them for no other reason except that they're Latino.

When we were done at the festival, we drove to scope out the scene in another area where the campesinos gather on their way to work. As we were doing that, we summed up the need for more directly putting Bob Avakian out there and the fact that the existence of his leadership greatly heightens the possibility of revolution in this country. And we summed up that not putting the challenge of fundraising directly to people is a reflection of a line that says that people can't contribute to this movement for revolution; that people can't take responsibility for changing the world and themselves in the process; and that we are depriving people of a means to contribute by not challenging people around money. We also talked about how people give a lot of money to the church, which is harmful because it only adds to continuing their oppression.

So we took this orientation out to the world.

The next day around 4:30 a.m., hundreds of campesinos were getting on dozens of busses in a huge parking lot, to be driven to the fields to cut lettuce. They got an early-morning surprise when we got on the busses and said, "We are building a movement for revolution and we have a leader, Bob Avakian, whose existence heightens the possibility for revolution. We have a strategy for revolution and we see the immigrants as a potential force for revolution—a force that the rulers of this country are afraid of." It was very inspiring to see their eyes light up and nod in agreement, taking bundles and digging into their wallets.

Some people started passing them out to their co-workers and said, "You can get some out too." A few bus drivers stopped their busses, took fliers themselves and invited us on to address the workers. One bus driver (who was wearing a Felipe Calderon campaign shirt) said the problem was women and we need to keep them "in check." We responded by saying the problem is capitalism, and the way it distorts feelings of love and crushes women in body and in soul. And that we need a revolution in which women are empowered and liberated. He disagreed. But it polarized the bus we were on and many women and men were nodding in agreement with the revolutionaries.

The agitation that really struck people was the fact that the rulers are afraid of immigrants as a potential force for revolution, and that that's a big reason for the anti-immigrant laws in Arizona. Some people would also ask, when we introduced them to Bob Avakian's leadership, "What's his name?" to clarify and make sure they got it right. Quite a few were really intrigued by the possibility of revolution and the existence of a strategy to fight and decisively win.

And on the question of raising money, we did much better in four hours with the hundreds of campesinos here than we did in six hours at the festival attended by thousands. This was because we were much more squarely putting the responsibility of people to be part of contributing to this movement for revolution...and people felt that.

As a general mood, people liked that we took the time to be on the busses so early in the morning and to bring this message to them. It had a sort of subversive feel to it.

We finished off the morning by reaching out to store owners in the area so that we could reach our fundraising goal and to ask them to take bundles of the statement for their customers.

We started by explaining to people where we came from and that we came down to the area to bring the revolution to all the people there, particularly the farmworkers. We told them of what we had done earlier that morning—reaching out to the campesinos—and that now we were reaching out to businesses to have them contribute $20 each so we could reach our goal of getting out one million statements.

The first store that donated was a small botanica (which sells a bunch of religious and spiritual paraphernalia and herbal remedies). The owner came out and we ran down our rap. We paused and waited for a response. After a little while she asked if we were religious. We said no, we're atheists. We paused and she thought about it. She asked why would we want a revolution if there's already violence and destruction. Wouldn't that bring down more violence and suffering? We responded by saying it's this system that's got us in the situation we're in and the revolution is aiming for communism—a world without borders, a world without classes, a world without the divisions between men and women. And we have a leader that makes this all the more possible. That's what we're fighting to bring into being and what we need these funds for. Based on that, she reached into the cash register and gave us $20. She asked how could she stay in touch and help get the word out. She asked if she could take a bundle.

On the basis of knowing what we are about, what this revolution is about, she contributed. This was a ten-minute conversation, not a one-hour speech. And the challenge was confronted directly: What does this movement for revolution need, what does humanity need?

In a music booth in a small mall, the owner, on the basis of seeing the leaflet headline and hearing, "This is about building a revolutionary movement," had the music turned down so we could talk. He was very intense when he said he'd never been part of any radical movement but had, of late, been thinking that some kind of radical change was needed, but he didn't know exactly what or how. When he was asked to give $20 to be part of building this revolutionary movement, he said he only had $10 in his wallet and gave that and took a stack of leaflets to give people coming to his booth.

As we drove home, we were really excited about the very positive responses especially from the farmworkers and what we had learned in taking out the statement. We almost reached our goal of getting out 10,000 statements and raising $200. By aiming high we made important connections with hundreds of people who now know there is a movement for revolution and a leader that they need to know about.

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