IMPORTANT REPORT: Meeting and Planning with the Revolution Club at NYC Revolution Books

November 2, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper |


About 20 people came to talk over what the experience has been in going out to the most affected areas and more broadly, and what to do to bring to the surface not only the exposures of how those on the bottom are suffering, but also building the resistance to this, bringing out the basic problem and solution... it does not have to be like this and we are building a movement for revolution NOW, providing leadership and direction. The group was a mix of veteran revolutionaries and about 10 newer people, most of whom have been out in the communities with the Revolution teams and a couple of brand new people.

This group finalized demands proposed by the NYC Revolution Club.

The NYC Revolution Club led the gathering. People described their experiences—in two different projects. There are long lines of people now getting water and food, often not even mainly for themselves but for the people who are trapped. They heard a story of an 8-month pregnant woman who carried her mother down the stairs on her back & NY City Housing Authority (NYCHA) people said, "We're not helping, it's your fault you didn't evacuate." People in these projects were not told to evacuate and where do they go when the centers are 70-80 blocks away and there's no mass transit?

There is some food distribution being organized by FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] as well as the Red Cross and some churches in some areas, as well as Occupy and some community groups. Many parts of the affected area are still in desperate straits.

People in the projects in Manhattan feel very isolated and forgotten especially for living in "Manhattan." People in other areas of Manhattan don't know what is happening [in the projects]. The projects feel like stories people have heard from the Warsaw Ghetto in World War 2. People in these projects remember and have been active in October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation; one woman they met participated in 9/13 Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk day. NYCHA employees stand around, waiting for orders and don't want to go into the buildings. People are afraid—no lights. Even people who live there don't want to hang out inside—you could fall and hurt yourself. People stay outside between 12-5 PM. There are stories of rapes and one young woman with the Revolution Club spoke about the desperate and ugly relations between men and women that are intensified by something like this, and others spoke about how only the revolution has the solution for this. At the same time, it was recalled how 90% of the stories of ugly rapes and crimes coming out of Katrina were later shown to be lies.

Lower Manhattan, Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, a museum of the history of squatting and community gardens in NYC, uses a bike generator from one of their exhibits to generate electricity for people in the neighborhood.
Photo: Special to Revolution

Someone had brought a load of 400 bananas to the projects. Kids waved them at the cops: "See it's a banana." "People are distributing goods, but it's not drugs today, it's bananas." You could see most people helping each other out. Those who were still there—elderly trapped in their apartments, and youth hanging out. One guy: "We are the best-kept slaves."

They ran across something called "Urban Museum"—old squatters who had set up stationary bicycle pedaling to generate electricity for people to charge phones, they were giving out food.

One newer young person talked about being in Coney Island. National Guard was there with one truck full of food & water and 8-9 humvees full of guys standing around. They were giving out MRE's [Meals Ready-to-Eat]—people thought this was BS. He described how the area is devastated, sand is all over, bulldozers are pushing sand back. Basements are destroyed, people have nothing left, people described walking around in flip-flops until their neighbor gave them shoes (it is now 40 degrees in NYC). One person described building after building, 14-story high projects with no lights, the devastation is extreme—water came up to second floor. Yet, across the street from the projects is a private nursing home that is fully functioning on generators. This was not hard to do, it just took a generator!! Where are the generators!!

People in Coney Island are being told there is a 6 PM curfew and police said people would be beaten if they were out after curfew.

The team was invited into a Coney Island building: People described in both places a lot of anger, but people are very weighed down with just getting through the day, internalizing "It's our fault, it's what we expect," people want something to be done but how?

In Coney Island there are also middle class people, also some white people live in the projects there—the middle class people are also devastated but have expectations the government is responsive, but people in the projects don't expect that and yet they have no concept of political action, how to do that.

There were various ideas in the room ranging from banners to discussion groups of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian and the new Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.

Revolution Club people pointed to how the crisis is being handled, revealing deep oppressive relations—and how to bring a new revolutionary authority forward. Yes, let's have discussion groups but let's lead people to bring forward something new and bring forward different elements—get people who are not affected to go to Coney Island, the downtown projects, etc. The oppression of women—no one else will bring this out this way.

There was a heavy story of a professor going with a veteran revolutionary to Rikers and writing to that veteran revolutionary about people who don't feel worthy of respect, someone who said, "We expect to be here." She wrote, above all else, these are human beings! She was deeply troubled and wanting to do something about this. This is not a professor we know well.

An important neighborhood newspaper near Revolution Books asked for a piece about what we are learning from being out among people. People are figuring out sending them excerpts of the correspondence and asking them to direct readers to for stories every day.

The discussion got more concrete and focused around bringing out new revolutionary authority and what the demands have to do with this and how. These demands manifest what every human being deserves and how people are not a priority under this system—but problems can be solved a different way, with a different system and way of relating to each other, with a revolutionary leadership for this. We need to start with a core now and manifest this now. Call the media: "Come get this story, where the fuck are you!" (One local news channel has started taping angry people.) The Revolution Club will embody this.

There was a turning point in the meeting from "talking with people about doing something" to an orientation of gather people and manifest, now. The demands and the basic headline provide orientation, and then yes, with this, get into the BAsics, the Constitution, the postcards with quotes from BA. If we meet someone today who wants to act—you are drafted! As you are, and with a code of conduct: no disrespect for the sisters, no taking anything for yourself. This happens NOW. What if reporters see THAT emerging from amongst the "thugs and looters." This goes up against the other narrative that is being crafted—"NYC is coming back, we are resilient, the authorities have everything under control and the problem is the criminals (and the people who were too stupid to evacuate)."

We got to a point through this wrangling where we were understanding that while we have to mobilize around the demands to meet people's basic needs, we are also focusing on big contradictions and the solution: Why are people sweeping up rats when there are places to live with heat and water all over the place? Why is this fine and logical? But there is a force building a movement for revolution to get rid of this! Don't Think Small! Think about how this is seen in the world if the masses stand up and an emerging revolutionary movement is seen at its core! We DO have this leadership and party and this WILL NOT and CANNOT turn out the way it did with Katrina—coming out of this, people will have something to compare this system to, a real alternative, a real movement for revolution.

The functioning of capital, based on exploiting millions around the world, is key in this system. How quickly they move resources to do something like invade Iraq! But there's not that much effort now. They are not fit to rule. If this is how they respond, get the fuck out of the way.

There are many middle strata people who have suffered as well from the impact of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath and in general people are very concerned about the handling of the crisis and the global climate change emergency.

We recognized that when those on the bottom begin to raise their heads and straighten their backs in this situation, it has an effect on the middle strata and, yes, even more on those on the bottom who think they can't do anything, who are used to their kids being fucked with by the police. This is very galvanizing. As BA said when he was interviewed by Cornel West, "Everybody knows" who the backbone force of the revolution is—those on the bottom. We have to lead and give life to alternate authority, lead people to organize themselves and others around fighting for and meeting people's needs and representing and manifesting that people do not have to live this way.

This was an important shift in the room from "talking about" and not seeing a way through the weight on people, to manifesting and bringing forward a different way. Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.

There were quite a few ideas as a result. The basic core plans:

Marathon expression: there is a lot of anger that the NY Marathon is being given big resources to show how "NY is Back!" and to cover up the reality of continuing suffering. A team is developing a simple conception and plan for having people out there with enlargements of the demands and main slogan, easily done by many people on their own and brought to the water stations along the route, in the boroughs by people who are there—along with the demands and main slogan, signs saying something like: "ask me about living in the hell holes of America during Hurricane Sandy." We expect this could capture the imagination of many people and some media.

Harlem expression—people in Harlem are organizing a food drive and to get the food delivered by a revolutionary mass delegation to projects most affected, this weekend.

Rikers—a small team is anchoring this and many people who might have information about what is happening, or who are being barred from knowing what is happening, can be asked to feed in to the paper and this team.

Projects—Two large teams were organized to go out right away, one for downtown projects and one for Coney Island projects. Each had 7-8 people including younger/newer people. The Revolution Club people were developing further plans which include reproducing the demands by self-reliance and donated copying in areas with power. Harlem people described shop owners taking initiative to xerox copies of the call to correspond and posting them and this is the kind of thing we need to tap into and develop. The idea is to call an on-the-spot speak-out and meeting/protest in each area and there were ideas for political expressions to be raised, worked on and implemented together with people in these areas.

Banners will be made in neighborhoods with the "We are human beings…" slogan to put on buses to Rikers and to take elsewhere.

Revolution Books will be open as a center, people can check in, bring stories, and get hooked up with teams. Each team will keep the store informed.

The store will anchor organizing volunteers who are at home to push out coverage. People who can do this where they are, who can't or won't be getting out. All the ways many people can act—develop networks around this.

Some people have contact information for journalism students—they will send out the links to the coverage and invite them along to these places.

One person described the media stories about the lengths people are going to get to work—walk two hours, across bridges, etc. You can go shopping! Victoria's Secret is open and the schools are closed!! People are going to BS jobs—instead, say, you are drafted for the next 3 days! Some people have no school or work so lots of people can participate and would want to. Even being with the movement for revolution and following, [this person] didn't have a sense of what the conditions are like until she heard the stories in this meeting. People will want to hear this and contribute and we should be bold about getting people to be part of being out and help the Revolution Club.


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