Revolution #262, March 11, 2012
BAsics Bus Tour:
New Connections, Challenges, Controversy
The BAsics Bus Tour (Pilot Project) wrapped up its two-week, 1,000-mile tour through California with a day at Berkeley High School and several days in Fresno. Throughout the two weeks, we were bringing to people hungry for change the message that the world today is a horror for billions of people, and that “You can’t change the world if you don’t know the BAsics.” We were challenging people to “Get into BA!” by connecting them with his book, BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian.
Berkeley High School (BHS)
Students we met were told that Bob Avakian had attended BHS, and the principal of the school, who heard this from someone, came out and asked us if this was true. It is, and Bob Avakian devotes an important section of his memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, to his days at BHS and the fond memories he has of those days; so taking his book to the current students at BHS was, in a way, “taking it home.”
We were invited by teachers to four classes where we told the students what the BAsics Bus Tour was all about.
We read quotes from BAsics, which opened up serious discussions where the students challenged us, coming up with big questions on how the world can be changed, and grappling with the truth of the quotes. The classes were lively and fun and the students were doing some critical thinking around what was being posed to them. More questions came from students who thought that people act the way they do due to human nature.
In one class, an important discussion around the oppression of women followed the reading of BAsics 2:8, when a young woman in the class asked what the part that says “Come on, enough of this ‘bitches and ho’s’” has to do with communism? At first, some students responded in a negative way. One guy said he likes “women getting low.” Another said that if you don’t allow music artists to use the words “bitches and ho’s” you would be “stifling creativity.” A Black student said that some women can only pay for college by stripping. This was turned around when we read BAsics 1:10 and the reasons for why women are forced into prostitution and pornography. This reading changed the terms of the discussion and gave space for those who did not agree that women are not oppressed. A woman student from the Middle East and a Black woman said they thought it is good to be able to understand that the oppression of women IS real because then you can understand why it is not by choice that women get into pornography or prostitution. Even though the discussion did not get into the full answers for ending the oppression of women, using BAsics 5:18 on why ending the oppression of women is a touchstone question for men was important for challenging the young men.
We were also asked how and why we decided to do this and how we got involved and became revolutionaries.
These students had big questions about revolution, socialism, and communism. They have never heard people advocating for this. What they heard from us was different from what they had been told about the Soviet Union and China while they were socialist. And one of the other teachers in the school had even passed out a “cheat sheet” with questions they should pose in the discussion, like, “Isn’t communism when the government controls everything?” And then, they had questions of their own: Isn’t this when things get distributed equally but the thinking is stifled? How can you prevent a revolutionary government from going corrupt? Do people have any rights under socialism? Wasn’t socialism an economic failure in China and Russia? We weren’t able to get into all of these questions, so we challenged the students to use and study BAsics to get the correct answers to the lies that they have been told about communism.
Fresno, California, is the largest inland city in the state, and has a diverse population of more than 500,000, with a large Latino population. It is located in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley—the center for agriculture in California.
The bus went to a Black church where we were warmly welcomed by the minister. While he is into legislative reform and not revolution to solve the problems the people face, he agreed to let us give a short presentation to the congregation. We showed the clip “Postcards of the Hanging” from Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian. One woman said that no one is saying what BA is saying and he is not getting the recognition he deserves. She was glad to see the tour putting him out there.
The bus went to a Mardi Gras parade where we challenged people using quotes from the book. A Black woman and her daughter responded to quotes 1:1 and 1:31 on conceiving the world without America by saying that this is something that people need to read. But when we put out quotes about religion, they had disagreements, saying that they did not believe that religion was harmful or that it promotes a “slave mentality.” The daughter told us that she did have some criticisms of religion, particularly how people use the Bible to justify hating gay people and opposing gay marriage.
Fresno has a huge homeless community and we decided we would give the book to the homeless who wanted it, and then raise the funds to pay for them from others. There was a group of four homeless who got one book to share with each other. At one encampment, we met a woman from Oaxaca, Mexico, who told us she had lost her son crossing the border, and her husband and daughter had died once they got inside the U.S., leaving her with only one daughter. They now spend their days on the streets of Fresno trying to eke out a living.
At Fresno State University, we were able to drive the bus onto the central quad of the campus. Univision and CBS News covered the tour on the campus, and a host from the Pacifica Radio station contacted us for an interview. We were told by a professor that the campus was very polarized, with the racists setting the terms and intimidating those who are progressive. We came face-to-face with that polarization. As some students stepped forward to buy BAsics and talk to us, and asked us to keep in touch with them, others were angry that we were “dissing America” and tried to run us off the campus. We took these people on by using quotes 2:9 and 2:18 and we talked about the fact that previous socialist societies have accomplished great things. One professor told us it was very good that we were on the campus inspiring those students who are looking for alternatives.
We discovered that there are many pathways to this book. In Fresno, there were those who are part of the large Armenian community who bought BAsics because of the author’s name and because of the national identity they had with his name.
On this Bus Tour, we learned that the quotes from BAsics can and should stir up a lot of controversy and we need to be challenging people in a good way in taking on their incorrect thinking. For example, quote 2:1 that communism is “Not ‘The Last Shall Be First, and The First Shall Be Last” created a lot of controversy where people we were meeting were saying to us, “Why shouldn’t those of us on the bottom be first?” So it was important for us to grasp the truth in what we were saying in the Revolution #258 article on this BAsics Bus Tour that by the time the pilot tour is over, “It will have provoked controversy and have challenged many of those who are met to go deeper, to look into the revolutionary work that Avakian has been doing for the past four decades…”
The tour ended with a celebration at Los Angeles Revolution Books/Libros Revolución.
The BAsics Bus Tour (Pilot Project) was an excellent beginning for one of the six big ideas for 2012 to “Get BA Everywhere,” where we learned a lot in order to launch a national Bus Tour later this year. We are beginning to discover the truth that there are people who live in outlying areas who are hungering for the voice of BA and BAsics, which concentrates 30 years of Avakian’s work on everything standing between humanity and complete emancipation.
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