Revolution #243, August 21, 2011
BAsics Plan to Shake Up and Wake Up the Campus
The last year has been one of stirrings of unrest and change in the world. Youth at the forefront of mass social movements bringing about regime change in Egypt and other countries in the Middle East; rebellions in England, encampments in Madrid and fierce protests and strikes in Greece; a debt crisis roiling the capitalist markets; unemployment, home foreclosures and poverty at extreme levels in the West; governmental budget cuts for health, education, social welfare and anything else that matters for the well-being of society; for those who put their hopes and expectations in Obama and his "change you can believe in," the beginnings of a profound disappointment/disillusionment and inchoate yearnings for something far different, even if not clearly understood or articulated.
It is a time of churning in the world. All of this objectively is counterposed to people's belief in the permanent necessity of existing conditions—and potentially constitutes fertile soil for questioning, for seeking answers to why things are the way they are, and whether they can be different. At this moment, more than ever, the world needs and is ready for BAsics—as a critical and leading edge of a whole revolutionary ensemble, to crack all of this open, to spark and foster much-needed political and intellectual ferment, to bring these questions to the fore, to shake up and wake up the campuses, to forge a revolutionary pole and a different ethos.
As the editorial in Revolution #242, "100,000 Run for Special Issue on BAsics: A Plan to Shake Up and Wake Up the Campus" states, "we actually have answers for what people face—the only real answers—and we have the leadership to make those answers real, if people take those answers up and follow that leadership. This leadership is concentrated in Bob Avakian, and the Party he leads." (August 14, 2011)
Methodologically, this leads to an important point of orientation: let BAsics, its quotes, its essays and the book as a whole, speak for itself, let it serve as the entry point to a radically different outlook, another and a better world, and an understanding of who this revolutionary leader is. Let this be a portal to a whole process of engagement with BA and the revolution he leads and envisions. Put the book in people's hands. Let them browse—its quotes and its essays. Make these widely accessible—on Facebook and emails, through posters, in chalk on walkways, and Xeroxes on bathroom stalls. Saturate the campuses with the special issue—an eight-page all-color issue of the paper that will introduce people to BAsics, appearing August 22, and focus on quotes from BAsics and quotes from people who have read BAsics and have something to say about it. Let this become a matter of interest, of curiosity, of provocation, and of debate. BAsics, and the special issue, is a certain kind of intervention in the normalcy of campus life.
Readers of Revolution should concentrate effort to "bust onto the scene" the first two weeks of school, with BAsics as the leading edge of the revolution on campuses, and gather as much momentum as possible.
We aim to unleash a process. Most students who hear of or even buy BAsics are not going to get active in the movement for revolution immediately. But familiarizing thousands with BA and a taste of BAsics; having hundreds buy the book; and of those, a core of students who read it, live with it, let it work on them—in the context of a consistent presence of the revolution on campus; e-subs to Revolution newspaper; and an overall access to the movement for revolution—creates the necessary conditions to jump-start and unleash a process of deepening engagement with this leader—at different levels and in diverse ways, a process one could call an echeloned engagement with BA and the movement for revolution he leads. This in turn will unleash people to contribute in different ways to building this movement for revolution.
Below are elements of a vision for these two weeks. The approach should be one that has elements of both "busting onto the scene" (for the two weeks)—and forms that people can join with that can be carried through consistently the rest of the semester, for the work of popularizing and defending BA, his leadership, his work, his method and approach and Revolution newspaper, for the whole revolutionary ensemble, for accumulating forces and building the movement for revolution. We should also really experiment, be creative and be open to the new.
• Saturation with the special BAsics issue of Revolution; popularization/sales of the book.
This is the critical aspect of this special effort, ensuring that all and sundry on campus have encountered this at least seven times, in one form or another. It is indicative of achieving goals when a vast majority start saying, "I have already received/seen this."
There are many elements to this, starting with the very simple—get the special issue to everybody! This does not require a lot of forces as much as a good plan to execute and just handing it out to everybody. There are the other visual elements: posters with quotes everywhere possible, on bathroom stalls, and hallway boards. Chalking quotes on walkways where allowed, but also in selected places where new quotes could and should appear for the rest of the semester—a "BAsics Quote of the Week." Another key element is the actual reading of quotes from BAsics—from individual and collective browsing and reading to more creative forms like "call and response" at different public places. Projections of the BA image and BAsics quotes on walls can be made simple with a laptop/projector combination.
In all this, the basis for the popularization and actual sales of the book should be significantly heightened, and opportunities for doing so should be sought out and not squandered. Groups of students can often pitch in and buy a book to share. Actual sales of the book is a critical objective—through familiarizing thousands with the book and selling hundreds of copies on campuses, we aim to jump-start the process of engagement through the medium of this book.
Fundraising through this whole effort is integral. Who can contribute funds? In a sense, everybody, from student donations as we saturate to administrators and professors as we knock on their doors with BAsics and the special issue. Put the needs of the revolution to the people in asking for contributions. Fun fundraising parties need to be back in vogue, before and during these weeks, and throughout the fall semester.
• Anchoring presence for wide reach. Perhaps in the form of a Revolution Books table, which is both a scene and from which people fan out and return to. This should be marked by a sense of revolutionary élan and fanfare—a visual presence with centerfolds and back-page posters from Revolution, banners, enlarged BAsics quotes, the BA image, an audio presence with BA's "All Played Out" playing on a boom box, alternating with students and others reading quotes. A place where students can stop by, meet the revolution, ask questions, engage in dialogue and debate. We should make use of previous posters and materials.
The table should be an organizing center and anchor in two senses.
First, it should organize students and others on campus. The table should have sign-up sheets for students and others either showing interest in or wanting to actually volunteer on any number of initiatives and projects of the revolution. But organizing into the movement for revolution has to comprehend that students and others will contribute and be involved at different levels of participation and partisanship and in a diversity of ways, some not yet known to us, and planned for by those organizing for this effort. It is critical that we solicit ideas on how students would like to contribute. We could have a sign-up sheet column that says "other ideas" on how they would like to contribute.
Second, the table should serve as a focal point for all those who can join us in this special effort on campuses. "There are many people who would want to contribute to this bold vision of dramatically introducing BA to this generation of students..." (BAsics editorial, Revolution #242) For all those who want to contribute and join us, even if for only an hour during their lunch break, this should serve as a "meeting place." This includes basic masses who should be invited to come and watch the revolution engage and interact with students, and if they'd like to, to talk about their daily lives and experiences with students, a feature: "ask me what it's like to live in this hell-hole called America" (It has been our repeated experience that due to the stark divides in society, most students at elite campuses often know little of the conditions of those at the bottom of society, and are both shocked and moved by it.)
• Accumulating forces—prepare minds and organize people in growing numbers—for revolution. Throughout the weeks, and the rest of the semester, this will be an area of significant focus. What is needed are diverse forms that facilitate and deepen engagement and activity with the movement for revolution, and as a decisive aspect, to unleash a process of echeloned engagement with BA.
Starting the first days we are out on campus, we should begin with the simple: talking to and systematically following up with everyone we have met, sitting down with individuals and groups, in coffee shops and the campus quad, and as communists, bringing to them our understanding of the world and how it could be different, and from that vantage point, being open to the new and learning from them. We need to learn much more what students are thinking, the political, the intellectual, the artistic trends, the controversial questions. We need to learn what is being debated out, but also the state of social relations, of campus culture and how they conceive of this world, and finding meaning and forging purpose—"What's on your mind?"
We should organize a regular presence of revolutionaries and communists on campus, where students can stop by, "Ask a Communist" any question, and talk about any topic they want. A previous experience to learn from: a weekly showing of BA's Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About at a café near campus, where students would stop by, watch a section or two of the DVD, and engage in discussion about what they'd watched, but also range more widely. There were some students who checked it out only once or twice, but slowly a smaller core of more regular viewers developed—almost self-selectively. It can be similar with BAsics discussions where anyone can walk in to discuss a quote or essay from the book. We can and should involve students in various projects and initiatives of the revolution, including in the movement against women's oppression and pornography; in organizing determined resistance against mass incarceration. These are some embryonic forms that can and should be initiated, forged and built the first days on campus.
While these are necessary and correct, they are not sufficient. What is also sorely needed are forms that break out of the mold of students participating in "what we do," either on or off campus—even while this is very much needed, and needs to grow bigger, more organic in its relationship to students, and thereby much more a vibrant pole of revolution forged on campus. As the previous editorial noted, there have been students who have "checked out the movement for revolution for a time and decided to step away from it, at least for a while." We need to really understand better "why," learn from this phenomenon of discontinuities, and experiment with new forms that can continue and facilitate a process of echeloned engagement.
This is an objective to keep in mind this fall and to really aim to be open to experimentation and the new, especially ideas from students and others on campus, on "what they would like to do," "how they would like to contribute"—and "forms" for and "on-ramps" to the movement for revolution that unleash and facilitate this process described above. And as the previous editorial noted, we need "some ideas on forms for ongoing engagement on the campuses. Again, your thinking and input on this: most welcome, most needed. We want especially to hear from students and recent students..." and from others on campus, as they witness and learn, pick up on what is new and see the potential for new forms to flourish.
In terms of orientation, a last word: Revolutionary Élan, Contestation and Joy.
Stepping out as revolutionaries, representing the future of humanity that could be, that has been made possible with Bob Avakian, his leadership and his re-envisioning of communism; modeling an approach that embodies the morality; determination, purpose and certitude that the revolution is necessary and possible; the curiosity and the openness to learning; all that is comprehended in the approach of solid core with a lot of elasticity. We need various types of debate and polemics—big and small, with individuals, groups of students and organized trends, in oral form and in print—with anarcho-thought, Badiou and Žižek adherents, the NGO-ists, on what will really change the world. And there is much joy to changing the world, especially with what we have in revolutionary leadership concentrated in BA and the Party he leads. There is nothing greater one can do with their lives at this moment in history. Students should "feel this."
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