Revolution #244, August 28, 2011

BAsics: Snapshots of some initial forays

Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011

We received the following correspondence:

First is a short correspondence on the first day out in a major university neighborhood. Followed by a few short excerpts from correspondences on experience in preparing for the "Wake Up and Shake Up."

Initial Foray:

An initial foray to the area of a major private university was made Wednesday afternoon. The main school is not yet in session and move-in isn't until this weekend. But students and faculty are starting to filter into the area, and smaller schools nearby are in the midst of first-year orientation. We set up an eye-catching table at the entrance to a park which serves as the crossroads of the campus neighborhood, with lots of the BAsics books and enlargements of some of the quotes. Roving distributors went through the park reading quotes out loud to groups of folks hanging out in the bright afternoon sun and passing out the special BAsics issue of Revolution newspaper.

The object was to get some experience in getting out the special issue and the book. In total, 600 papers were distributed and four BAsics books were sold, plus one Away With All Gods, and one Revolution and Communism: A Foundation and Strategic Orientation pamphlet, and we received contributions of $13.

A couple of things were learned. First, while we all felt the difficulty of penetrating the "i-zone" of younger people tuned into electronic devices, there was actually a higher acceptance rate of the paper than with previous materials at this campus. One person distributing with another reading the quotes with flair and projection was very effective. We estimated that 35%-40% of people took them when this was done, which is a very high rate for this campus area. All ages and nationalities took them. Foreign-born academics and artists, and Black masses who work in the area were especially interested. In some cases, people started applauding after the readings. A few people read the special issue on the spot and went to talk at the book table as the roving distribution team moved on through the park to reach more people.

Second, we want to experiment with a smaller table and a larger graphic presence. Teams in our city need to be mobile and able to carry or roll their table and supplies. Our table was too big and it limited what else we could carry. A smaller table, a very large, light-weight display that people will stop and read (front and back cover of the special issue, these are now either produced or in production), a large hand-made sign or chalkboard with something inviting and provoking like: "Ask me about the BAsics of Revolution and Communism"—and equipment for playing audio such as "All Played Out" (which we did not have) would be the essentials.

At the Revolution Books open house when the new special issue arrived, there was a demonstration of "how to sell the BAsics book." It was a very simple demonstration: watch who is interested in the visuals and the readings and conversations. Put the book in their hands and let them look through it. Get it?? In our experience those who bought the book had, indeed, had it put into their hands and started to read parts of it. We later summed up that where people were sitting on park benches, we should have just passed the books out down the row, and asked people to open it up and read from any page.

* * * * *

Professor who has ordered BAsics as a course book:

A professor at a major private university ordered BAsics as a course book for her class of 15 students on the prison system. We need to learn more about this but we do know some initial things.

She has done work on the topic of diversity and the need to unearth all of our prejudices where she conveys a viewpoint supporting unity of all the respective identities against systemic white supremacy, patriarchy and even capitalism. 

She was already ordering her other course books through RB, including The New Jim Crow. She said she read most of BAsics and even has notes in the margins, but apparently her colleague—a Black professor she co-teaches this class on prisons with—borrowed it so she didn't have it with her when we met. While she said that she agrees with what's in the book, we had trouble learning why, or what she likes about it. She was supportive of the plans for the 8-page all color issue getting everywhere to shake up and wake up the campus, having conversations all over the place on BAsics as this handbook for this movement for revolution. She wonders "how can we really shake up and wake up this student body which has been anything but woken up outside of their immediate personal concerns." We have had previous conversations about how she sees that only a few students are actually seeking some way to make a difference in the world, and then only on a small and localized level.

It was on the basis of wanting to see the students engaged and wanting to support this vision and handbook for revolution and communism reaching them that she is including BAsics in the syllabus. She wants to have a speaker come in to class to specifically address BAsics when it is discussed, and we discussed other ways she will support her students learning about and connecting with this movement for revolution as well.

* * * * *

Rally against attacks on Libya:

We took out Revolution #242 to a significant rally in opposition to America's "illegitimate war" against Libya. The front page of #242 is the Chicago police shot 42 headline. We were speaking to the police and national oppression in our agitation along with shaking up and waking up the campuses with BAsics.

The principle organizers of the rally were Nation of Islam and nationalist forces. People came from all over the region, including a couple of significant contingents of youth. But most of those attending the rally were older.

There was outrage about the U.S. attacks on Libya and anger and disappointment with Obama. A significant number of Muslims bought the newspaper. One musician we know came by and donated $5. He expressed skepticism about waking up the campuses but was glad we were undertaking the push. This was a theme: "the people are asleep and I hope what you are trying to do works." 

We made it a point to ask everybody to contribute to raising $10,000 to shake up and wake up the campuses. We got about half the $98 we raised while we were selling the paper and the rest as we were distributing the Message and Call. After we sold all the papers we had (several dozen), we went to saturation mode with the Message and Call, aiming to get it to everyone as they were leaving toward the end of the event.

The agitation included telling people to give a donation when they crossed the street. On the other side of the street was one person distributing the Message and Call and collecting funds, and a second person with a big bag decorated with pictures from the newspaper who was only collecting money.

Several of the remarks indicated the disaffection with Obama. One Black man in his 30s: "Anybody who is still defending Obama after this is completely lost. I am through with him!" He made it clear that he was one of those who had supported and cheered for Obama when he was elected. Many people in the rally thought of Obama as being "mis-guided" by those around him. And that he is not speaking for Black people but trying to curry favor with others. As it was said by one woman, "He don't realize that what he is could only have happened with all of us!" I even heard someone say that he has "helped the gays and the unions but he hasn't stepped for the interests of Black people!" And that this is concentrated in the attacks on Africa.  The person didn't explain how they thought he'd helped gays and unions or what this perception is based on.

* * * * *

A fundraising experience (from before the publication of the special 100,000 BAsics issue):

I have raised $150 from two people I know, and probably $50 from a third, toward the Shake up and Wake up campus issue. One thing that keeps coming up in conversation among folks who are older (they are 66, 65 and 42 respectively), is what is addressed in the editorials on what difference it will make if the students get with this revolution. This was decisive in their deciding to donate (and these are people who I've known for a long time but haven't often donated before)—the fact that we are going to reach out to students from Boston to Honolulu with this revolution and its leader (and the scope of the project was important). They have differences around promoting Bob Avakian, but in spite of that they know that with him and this revolution in the mix things will get shaken up in a good way. They are concerned about the malaise and deafening silence of today's students and youth and they are super-concerned over consumerism. Most of all, they are concerned about the environmental emergency and think that if students don't play a leading role in reversing this then humanity is doomed. So they see our effort in building this movement for revolution as positive (they have read Revolution #199, the special issue on the environmental catastrophe). They also responded to and liked the term "shaking up and waking up" and are encouraged by the upsurges in North Africa and London. I pointed out what difference it makes that we have Bob Avakian and that he is leading this movement for revolution that we are building. It was on this basis that they decided to support this effort.


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