Revolution #277, August 12, 2012
From the Road: Voices from the BAsics Bus Tour...
Interview with E, BAsics Bus Tour volunteer, young Latino guy
Revolution: I'm trying to get a sense of the diversity of experiences and people who are part of this tour. If you wanted to just talk a little bit about how you first met this movement for revolution, and what brought you on this BAsics Bus Tour?
E: When I was first introduced to this party [the Revolutionary Communist Party], I was like doing a lot around prison reform and like the juvenile justice system. And it was actually my younger brother who found out about this party before me. And the way I used to view it, I was like, "Damn, my younger brother's getting into a fucking cult and following this white leader, Bob Avakian. I have to go to these meetings!" And I first started coming to the meetings just to argue against him, just to show him, "Well no, you're leading down the wrong thing," but as I started to get deeper into this and coming to the meetings, I started realizing I agreed with a lot of what they were talking about. You know, I had a lot of contradictions around religion at that time, but that's when I first started getting involved.
And in terms of the BAsics Bus Tour, it was like a couple of years of transformation that made me see the need for this revolution. I always think about the Rise Against song that they have, "Reeducation Through Labor"—how they switched the words at one point and they start saying, "I won't crawl on my knees for you, I won't sweat another drop for you." And that's what I always think about. I'm sick of living under a system where people are just constantly working just to get by and everything just keeps on—you know, that whole point, "capitalism keeps on humming in the background." When I saw the significance of what Avakian has, I wanted to be part of this tour. And even in the couple of weeks that I've done this, I feel like I've made ruptures. At first, it was very—very like formulaic, how I did it with people: "Well, first today I'll get you the newspaper, then tomorrow we might get into the DVD, and then the next day I might challenge you on your religious views or your patriarchy and stuff." But being a part of this tour, it's just made me realize: When you give people the full program of what we're about, what it is we have, the strategy for making a revolution, the fact that this is a whole new advanced theory of communism that Avakian has developed at a time when nobody else did it, that's something that has really come to light. And when you see people sort themselves out based on that, it's just amazing. Yeah, there's still a lot of work on us to have to organize people right on the spot, to figure out what it is they can do, either big or small—handing out some palm cards, or taking the even bigger leap of wanting to be in the Revolution Club. And it's just, it's changed. Like I'm just shocked at how people respond to this. And it's kind of had me thinking, "What the fuck have you been doing this whole time?" you know. I mean, "Yeah, you've been thinking about revolution and you've made a lot of ideological ruptures, but in terms of practice? You've fallen off on that point. And I feel like this tour has definitely changed that, you know? And it's had me thinking, "Why have you been spending so much time flipping through your phone trying to figure out how to waste the next hour or two hanging out with a friend who has some consciousness but no real encouragement to change the world?" It's just had me thinking, "Why haven't you been out testing different areas of your neighborhood or different areas of other outlying cities to figure out: how are people responding to this?"
Revolution: This is what you've been feeling and saying to yourself, you're saying?
E: Yeah. It's been a real rupture with myself. And it's a rupture that I think wouldn't have happened if I didn't go on this bus tour. The ideological meetings and struggles are important, I'm never going to undercut that need, it's important. But when you actually take it out into practice, and then you're constantly going back and forth—and in this situation, just imagine a room full of sweaty, mosquito-bitten, itchy scientists [laughter], social scientists trying to change the world, that's what we went through in this BAsics Bus Tour. On the road 24/7 with this movement for revolution and with what Bob Avakian is all about, and it's just been mind-blowing to see the potential that exists out in the world. And it's just really brought this thing to life for me. I've always seen the potential for revolution, especially when I got into the strategy for revolution by Avakian, where he talks about it's gonna take a revolutionary crisis and the fact that this system puts itself in those crises just off its basic functions—things like unemployment, or things like the contradiction around "We're the land of the free" yet warehouse 2.4 million people—like these are unresolved contradictions that can be driving forces for revolution. And I've seen that in an ideological sense, but once I've seen the potential, that whole point that Avakian talks about, why he doesn't tail people—because they have the ability to change the whole goddamn world, you know. He hates the way the masses are treated but he doesn't feel bad for them because he understands that potential. And I feel like that's really come to life for me: They can take this up—people who don't know shit about communism to people who have their criticisms because of the lies they've been told, and when you give them the book [BAsics], when you put it in their hands, when you—I got a little cheat sheet in my back pocket, and somebody else in our group developed like a full cheat sheet. You know, like a whole worked out little thing for each quote, where it's at, a little idea of what it talks about, and you utilize this—not in a dogmatic sense, but in a very lively way—and when people see that, people would buy the book just off seeing three questions that they had answered in this book. They might not agree completely with the answers that were provided, but when they saw the seriousness of it, that just amazed me, that people who would walk up and say, "We need Jesus," and then I'd read them [BAsics] 3:17:
[E recites BAsics 3:17 from memory]: "People say: 'You mean to tell me that these youth running around selling drugs and killing each other, and caught up in all kinds of other stuff, can be a backbone of this revolutionary state power in the future?' Yes—but not as they are now, and not without struggle. They weren't always selling drugs and killing each other, and the rest of it—and they don't have to be into all that in the future. Ask yourself: how does it happen that you go from beautiful children to supposedly 'irredeemable monsters' in a few years? It's because of the system, and what it does to people -not because of 'unchanging and unchangeable human nature.'"
You get these folks to take a step back and be like, "Oh, shit." Yeah, they didn't leave Jesus right there, yeah, they didn't break with religion right there, but they saw a level of seriousness that they don't have. And when they were confronted with that, they're just like, "I have to know more."
Or they'll bring up something else: "Well, you know, communism was a horror." And all of this other shit. And then you flip to another quote. You talk about: well, what is actual communism? What has this new synthesis brought forward? And when they read that quote, people want to know more. And that shit has just come to life for me.
Revolution: I've noticed that you've memorized several of the quotes, and it strikes me as a really important way of wielding BAsics and wielding the leadership of Avakian, and maybe you could talk a little bit about the importance of that as you've gone out to the masses with this and actually being able to get into these quotes on the spot with people.
E: Well, a lot of these quotes I memorized because—I mean, being an artist, I'm really good at memorizing shit, and watching that DVD [Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian] has just been very amazing, getting into the quotes and the potential that they have—it's important to wield these quotes. Not to religiously or dogmatically just say 'em as if they have no substance, but they do have a substance, and when you say that quote to people and then you get into this movement for revolution and how it's trying to do these things, it's just amazing. And through this whole thing, it's just been highlighting the importance to just wield the book, wield the quotes each and every single day to like combat the bullshit that people are up against. They need to know about these quotes, and it sends a message to them. When they see somebody had memorized the quote, they're like: "Goddamn. He handed me the book and opened the book and then he just literally recited it to me without reading it. There's something here."
And I mean it's important—you gotta know the substance, you gotta know where the quotes are at. If you really want to wield BAsics, you have to know where the quotes are at, you have to be able to direct people: "You have a question about the youth? Well you need to check out 1:13: "No more generations of our youth..." Oh, you don't like the police? You need to know about [BAsics 1:24]... "The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation..."—see, I don't know them all by heart. It's a process—you get 'em, and when you wield it that way, it becomes a live thing to people.
Something that we kept running into—a contradiction that we were trying to deal with: How do we show people that this isn't just an educational campaign? How do we show people that this isn't just another book of literature. We were struggling with this guy who was a basketball coach who, every time I kept going to the book, he would be like: "No, no, I want to know what you think, I want to know what you think, not what this guy's telling you, I want to know what you think."
I'm like: "Look, it's based on what he's saying that I've developed the understanding that I have now, and you need to know about this quote! And I'm going to read it to you! And if you don't want me to read it from the book, I'm a fucking recite it to you and then point to it, and then—'Bam!' Now you're just like, 'Oh! Damn, he still gave me the quote!" [Laughs]. So that was a part of the struggle too of having to memorize these quotes: "Alright, you don't want me to flip through the book, it seems too 'religious' to you or whatever contradiction you might bring up? Well, I'm a recite it for you, so you're gonna hear it." [laughs]
Revolution: I know you're already speaking on this, but maybe you could talk a little bit more about this point—it seems like you're saying you really feel you learned a lot in these two weeks, in a lot deeper way, about what it means when people connect up with this leadership, and the potential of what gets unleashed as a result. I know you said some about that, but I don't know if you wanted to say any more, or bring out some of these experiences? I know you've been sharing a lot of stories.
E: When people see the seriousness of this, when they see that it's not just another person telling you how fucked up the world is, but we have a strategy for making a revolution, and when we link that up with people, we see their potential—people want leadership. Like we were talking with this guy the other day who wanted to be part of the citywide Revolution Club. And he started talking about—he had a lot of contradictions about what people are up against, he started saying, "A lot of these people are ignorant! They're stupid!" And he said, "It's sad to say, but a lot of them are gonna just be stuck in this situation. And that's it. You're not gonna change 'em."
But when I started getting into the quotes, especially that 3:17 one—and he still had a lot of reservations around it, but when he started talking about it, he was like, "Man, I definitely agree with that, but it's gonna be hard work! It's not like it was in the '60s. People have just accepted the way things are." And he was putting a lot of blame on the masses, so then I asked him, I was like—I was going to show him the clip on the DVD, in the question and answers [disc 4], around bringing forward a new generation of revolutionaries, where he talks about things like the '70s and social approbation and stuff...
So then I told him, I was like, "So, what do you think about what happened, what went wrong?" And then he started saying, "Well, it's leadership. We don't have leadership anymore." And that's something that was amazing, and when I introduced him to the strategy for revolution and he listened to BA in the DVD, he changed the conversation to saying: "How can I get involved in this movement for revolution?"
And it made me think about that "crucial journey" point [that Avakian makes in An Invitation]: If you know this stuff, if you know the world is fucked up and you know there's a strategy for making a revolution, then you need to get down with this movement.
Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian, available online or as a DVD set
An Invitation, by Bob Avakian
If you like this article, subscribe, donate to and sustain Revolution newspaper.