Organizing on the Spot – Some Experience

June 11, 2018 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

We were out at an intersection in a neighborhood that is mixed Latino and Black, with youth coming out of high school and middle school and many others either shopping or coming from work. This is a place that has been very contentious for the Revolution Club. On the one hand, we've faced open attacks from reactionary vets who want to attack the revolution and celebrate America and their own role in carrying out the dirty work of this empire, and also from some students from nearby Catholic school who were staunch about putting it all in god's hands, and not wanting to hear anything from people who were not talking about god. On the other hand, this is also one of the places we have found where many people stop, listen, and think deeply about the agitation of the club, and there have been some people who've engaged seriously. But we also found it is a place where our efforts to organize people has been very ineffective. While this is still very much a work in progress, there was a different scene we had the last time we went there which seemed to have some elements to learn from, so I wanted to share this experience and some thoughts on why.

First, while we actually had a smaller crew than we often have at this spot, I think we had a larger presence. In addition to working on sharpening up our spoken agitation, and wrestling with the role of that in bringing forward and organizing people, we had a much bigger visual presence. We had all 5 of the “5 Stops” panels set up together (accordion like) in front of the agitator's box. I think it's worth noting that these panels, too, are a form of visual agitation, that synergizes with the spoken agitation when used well.

That is the other point, the visual agitation does have to be wielded as well. Just setting them up may draw some attention, but they actually can play the role of an organizing tool in how they are wielded. For example, we had several instances where people were not just stopped by the spoken agitation, but also where the agitator walked people through or called on people to themselves look through all 5 of these “stops”. At one point there was also an example of a young Black man who came up and initially was put off by the idea that non-Black people were speaking about things affecting Black people. Some comrades had a round or two of struggle to re-set terms, and he seemed to honestly be listening, but couldn't get out of some of this. After just setting some terms with him around “for whom and for what” and getting serious about revolution, the challenge to him was to just read through the 5 Stops, because we are talking about how to END those through actual revolution, not who gets to speak about what. This changed a lot of the terms, and broadened things up to what is happening to humanity and how we deal with THAT, and this guy ended up staying with us and spending about 90 minutes summing up with us and 3 others who joined us that day on the spot where we talked a bit about HWCW [HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution], questions of sacrifice, leadership, and watched the video BA Through the Years - 1969, 1979, 2003.

The second thing I wanted to identify was the role of a team on a mission working together. The agitator does some heavy lifting in terms of bringing out core message and challenging/inviting people to be enlisted in the rev, and both giving people a sense of what they can do now, and how this fits in with HWCW and what WE need to do now to work for revolution. However, what the team does is still essential and needs more attention and thought beyond just signing up those who are drawn to the agitation. On this outing, a number of people were not only talking with individuals who were stopping, but they were drawing out their questions and then bringing them up to the agitator, where those questions could be part of a whole scene. Some questions that came up were “How do you actually end the mass incarceration?” and “Why are so many people caught up in killing each other?” and “What does it mean to join the revolution?” Of course the answers to these questions are important, but I wanted to highlight the aspect of making people's questions mass questions in this way, putting them to everyone else listening, and then speaking to them. The other thing we were able to do is at one point there was a Black man who had joined us on the spot and spent the whole time standing with us and helping to reach out to people and hold signs and even getting on the mic, and a very young Latino man stepped forward wanting to get into the revolution. In addition to having an exchange with the agitator and the young Latino, we had both him and the man who had been running with us talk with each other on the mic about stepping into the revolution together, and the agitator highlighted the importance of this on the mic. This even made the question of what are YOU going to do a mass question, and highlighted the positive steps people were taking.

At the end of this outing we were able to sit down with about 4 people who had met us right there on the spot and spend some time talking and summing up, as described above. There was probably more we could have done with that, but this too is something I think is an example to build on. There's more to the details of what happened that day, and the different people who stepped into things in different ways, but I wanted to highlight some reflections and thoughts that I thought could contribute to everyone working on this.




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