Observations and a Vignette from a Day Running with the Revolution Club:

Agitating and Organizing for an Actual Revolution

May 7, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


From a reader:

I went out with the Revolution Club to agitate, organize, and recruit people into the movement for an actual revolution. We focused our work around the pamphlet: HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution. What follows are couple of reflections and observations on the deep receptivity to the full message of revolution, and the need to struggle with people and for people to actually run with and take up spreading the revolution because there is the leadership, strategy, and vision to defeat this system, but only if we get organized and start changing things now.

These notes are meant to give a sense of the potential when we go out with revolution straight up, and to provoke revcom readers to be a part of more and more transformation in how we go out and build the movement for revolution. These observations should be seen not as the “final word” on exactly what to do, but as a contribution to what should be a living scientific process of changing the world—impacting and recruiting people who want revolution—and then summing up and sharpening and deepening our approach to doing so.

  • Recruiting people into the revolution cannot be an add-on, it has to be integral to our agitation and throughout every engagement. After a while out, a comrade expressed to me that he is having a hard time getting even people who are really feeling the agitation to step into the revolution. A young woman had responded very deeply and talked for a while, but when he put to her that she has to join the revolution, she brought up her work schedule, her family responsibilities, other constraints. She gave her number and said she’d think about it.
  • We wrestled with this a bit, and while what I am about to say does not fully solve the problem, I believe it is an essential part of the solution. Recruitment cannot be something we pose to people after we develop “sufficient unity”—it has to be posed right from the start and it must be integral to all our interactions all the way through.
  • For example, in talking to a young guy who stopped to listen to the agitation, we put the HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution pamphlet in his hands right off the bat. We agitated briefly about why we need a revolution (Part 1), made clear that what we are talking about is the actual overthrow of the system when millions are ready and prepared to fight (Part 3), and then put it directly to him that today we are recruiting people to take up the urgently needed Part 2 (“What We Need To Do Now”). We opened to page 4 and agitated about the real strengths, but also the strategic weaknesses of this system, and read out how we need to be on a mission to “spread the word, to let people know that we have the leadership, the science, the strategy and program, and the basis for organizing people for an actual, emancipating revolution.” And we posed to him that the strategy for an actual revolution includes him—and many others we are meeting right now—joining in this mission today, even as they are getting into it themselves. We continued to walk through that section as a guide to his active involvement now, not as an explanation to abstractly consider. In the middle, he got a phone call and wandered off for a bit. I thought maybe he’d wandered off completely, but then he came back and asked, “So, what is it that I am supposed to do?”
  • The point I want to draw from these two examples is that the first example was a bit stage-ist—like, first we have to win you over to the revolution, then we have to win you to getting involved. And, by the time the woman was weighing getting involved, she was considering it from the perspective of her life and its constraints. In the second example, everything the guy was engaging was part of the argument for him to step in now because there is a real path to change this world of horrors that depends on him and people like him now. When he was weighing how to get involved, he was thinking together with us about getting people organized and prepared to be able to defeat this system of horrors. We spoke concretely about who he would share the pamphlet with, what to expect and how to respond, and most of all that he needs to report back to us so we can get into what he runs into and keep working on this together.
  • Again, I want to be very, very clear—the second example is not “the model” or certainly not the limit of how to bring people into the revolution. There are real limitations of this being still too much a one-by-one process. Also, you cannot judge the correctness (or incorrectness) of an approach just by how a few individuals respond to it. But, I think there is something important in the element that is being highlighted and contrasted here, of really meaning it when we say, “We ARE building a movement for an actual revolution,” and leading people to relate to that—not to the idea of whether or not they might want to be involved in something that expresses a desire for revolution.
  • We need to do better at both projecting this revolution as a collective force—and recruiting into it as a social process. More thought and preparation needs to go into even basic things like visuals. We need big displays and signs that people can see coming down the block, that open them up to wanting to hear the agitation as they get closer. Even things like bringing a bucket or milk crate for the agitators to stand on, projecting a greater seriousness and expectation that people will stop and listen, make a difference.
  • We need recruitment and the strategy for revolution and the leadership of BA much more integrated into the agitation all the way through—not added on to the end. The challenge to get into the revolution needs to be real, concrete, right now. And we need more thinking on and experimentation with concrete forms for people to join in on the spot—not to consider for later. Some things which occur to me (but by no means the limit) are: stickers about the revolution that people can put on right then to represent, signs for people to join in holding up to make a larger social force that is projecting and attracting, BA Speaks: REVOLUTIONNOTHING LESS! T-shirts for people to purchase and put on (someone asked us for one but we didn’t have any), materials for people to help hand out. And all this needs to feel less like a bunch of people doing one-on-one work with individuals they are meeting, and more like an overall collective projection of revolution and social, mass process of getting into it now.
  • A few further thoughts on really working as a team (both on the spot, and across the country) and of grasping the tremendous importance of agitation. It is important for our teams to be oriented outward, to the masses of people we are reaching and bringing into this revolution—but at the same time, we should be working at this collectively. This means listening to what is being done through the agitation, learning from its strengths but also observing how things can be strengthened, learning the impact that different things are having on the masses, measuring constantly against the orientation and guidance provided in HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution. When someone is agitating, it is important that there are other people on the team watching the faces of the people going by and going up to those who clearly are feeling it. If, instead, everyone is just scattered and doing their own thing, the impact of the agitation is being squandered. Also, it is very important that we raise challenges we are running into in real time, with a spirit and orientation of solving them together in real time. It was good, for example, that the comrade raised the trouble he was having bringing people into the process of the revolution and that a couple of us spent three minutes on the street trying to come up with a better way to go at it—not just tactically what to say or do, but in terms of orientation and method. It is also essential that we share summation and experience through this website!

A Vignette

After spending several hours on a busy strip in a major center of Black life in our city, we spent the evening in another part of town at a major museum and its monthly free celebration, which is incredibly diverse. A guy we’d met earlier in the day had studied the pamphlet and came down to join us. As most of our team got out to the crowds, we decided to sit down with this guy and really go through the strategy together. Before long, one of our comrades brought over another young guy who was interested in the revolution, and then another one. Soon, two of us were leading a deep discussion with three new people about the strategy for revolution, with each of them bouncing off the pamphlet and our agitation, as well as what each other was raising. They had questions about communism, about religion, about whether it really would be possible to defeat this system and its full power, about why there is so much disrespect towards women, and what socialism really is and whether it is a deep enough change. We listened and engaged what people said, working to apply exactly what is laid out in HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution, where it says: “We need to approach everything—evaluate every political program and every organized force in society, every kind of culture, values and ways of treating people—according to how it relates to the revolution we need, to end all oppression. We should unite with people whenever we can, and struggle with them whenever we need to, to advance the revolution.” In this way, we would explore different things they raised, but in relation to—and while continually bringing things back to—the solid core of the pamphlet HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution.

After a bit, we decided we should act to impact the crowd more as a collective force, so we broke up our discussion and joined the rest of the team. Someone from the club led some chants and people formed up to march around in front of the museum where many people were mingling in the warm spring evening. Heads began turning and people reached out for literature. Some took pictures. When we got to the other end of the plaza, a young guy who had been performing on his own sound system to a crowd of people stopped to see what the commotion was about. One of us started agitating to him and to those within earshot, explaining and making the case for what we were doing. He began to nod, so our person asked if they could get on his mic for a minute. He agreed, so then our person jumped on the mic and did a rap for the whole crowd—exposing the crimes of the system and the need for a revolution, promoting BA and making clear we are recruiting on the spot. She ended by calling on everyone who was feeling what she was saying to put their fist in the air—at first no one did, but she persisted and one after the other, fists started raising up. She gave a shout-out to the guy who lent his mic, and then went out with others to recruit everyone who had put their fist up.

By way of constructive criticism, some of the team hadn’t really paid much attention to who had responded and it took a bit of struggle in the team so that we had a way to identify and then get with all who seemed interested and go to work to recruit them. One young guy took a large stack of pamphlets, explaining—after he got a sense of our mission and strategy—that he lived in a building with 22 floors and he wanted to put them under all the doors. He also asked if he could bring his 16-year-old niece to a BA film showing we have scheduled in his neighborhood in just a few days. One of the new people with us pulled out their camera to record and later remarked, “That took a lot of courage to do!” It gave him a further sense that we really are serious.

As the sun set, our whole team—decked out in BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! T-shirts and with stickers all over our bodies—went inside the museum. We were not allowed to hand things out, but throughout the night people were coming up to us, asking to take our pictures or wanting to know more about the revolution. As we walked through an exhibit of art from radical women from Latin America, the guy who had joined us for the first time that day turned to me, “You mean, you guys are into art as well? I can’t believe this, this is perfect!” He ran into friends who he introduced to us, and we all got into the revolution deeper. Later, he and another member of the Revolution Club were discussing a series of self-portraits by women and getting into the origins of the oppression of women near a glass doorway at the entrance to the exhibition. Just as we were getting into the roots of oppressive gender roles, sexual shaming of women, and the origins of class divisions, an older white gender-nonconforming person opened the glass door and threw their arms out, announced loudly, “OK you guys, group hug! I absolutely LOVE your stickers and shirts.” So we all hugged, and the young Black man who had joined us that day took off a sticker and put it on our new friend, and our conversation expanded.


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