Editor's Note: The following is an article by Sunsara Taylor from Revolution Newspaper, 2/27/13. I am reprinting it here because this essay contains a wealth of powerful material for anyone who even entertains the idea of life being entirely different than the horrors that we see around us in the world today, horrors that are agonizingly real if we aren't blinded by xenophobia or other great power hubris. This is for those of us who think the ongoing murder by police and wanna be police of young black men and women is intolerable, who find the use of torture and mass incarceration of poor people, especially blacks, to be criminal, who recoil at the idea that women and girls should be treated as objects to be objectified, brutalized, raped, and murdered, who cannot accept a government that kills and tortures people, including young children, by drones and by unjust and immoral invasions and occupations, and who are alarmed that this system of capitalism and imperialism is endangering the very viability of this planet with, among other things, the heedless and reckless consumption of fossil fuels, producing a global climatic disaster. Taylor's article sparks off the page with both a passionate rejection of all of these calamities and more that authorities tell us "is the way that it is" and a fierce scientific spirit for solving problems. I was reminded when reading this of what it must be like when revolutionary movements in other places and other times faced the seemingly impossible odds that they did in going up against the powers that be, figuring out how to rouse and mobilize the people to come forward and fight the power. For those of you in or within reach of LA, the film that Sunsara refers to, "BA Speaks: Revolution - Nothing Less," is being shown on Saturday, March 16, 2013, at the LA Theatre Center, from 1 - 8 pm. Details on tickets and so on are here. The premiere is also occurring in NYC, Chicago, and San Francisco. This is an historic event and one that you do not want to, and cannot afford, to miss. - Dennis Loo
by Sunsara Taylor | February 27, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
One year ago yesterday, Trayvon Martin was still alive and visiting his father in Sanford, Florida. A little after 7 pm his life was cut short by a racist vigilante as he walked home from the corner store with his hoodie up to protect him from the rain. As millions around the world now know, George Zimmerman, the wanna-be-cop who admitted to having killed Trayvon, was not even arrested. It wasn’t until Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, and soon afterwards tens of thousands of others around the country stood up and demanded justice that Zimmerman was finally arrested. Still, today he is free and a whole year’s worth of media has been ratcheted up to “humanize” Zimmerman, to tarnish the character of Trayvon Martin, and obscure the basic facts of the case—like the fact that Trayvon was doing nothing but walking home talking on the phone to his girlfriend and if Zimmerman hadn’t been out acting as a wanna-be-cop who thought a Black youth in a hoodie must’ve been up to no good a young man would still be alive today.
Refusing to let the tremendous anger that had spilled forth from Black people as well as many others over this murder and all it concentrates, be swept under the rug, to be suppressed, refusing to let this case become yet another green light to any racist that they can go out and murder Black youth, and determined to lead people to fight against this outrage as part of building up the strength to put an end to this madness and as one means through which people transform themselves for revolution, I ran for the day with the Revolution Club through a full day of Remembrance, Defiance and Determination for Trayvon Martin.
Our day had several chapters, a lot of lessons, and a lot to build on and take further—through struggle.
Chapter One: Deep Potential Cut Short at a City University
Our day started at a university with a high concentration of Black and Latino students. Our plan was to hold a rally and speakout at noon. When we arrived we spent a few minutes going table to table in the cafeteria telling people it was the anniversary of Trayvon’s murder. A lot of people were appreciative, but they were also clearly in the mode of continuing their conversations and their lunches as opposed to getting up and joining the speakout.
We challenged these students. Often I would look right at the Black students at the table and say, “Let’s not bullshit here, right now this young man—like all Black youth in this country—has an active death warrant hanging over his head. It may or may not be carried out but it is always there—and you know as well as I do that if some racist cop, or some wannabe cop, were to murder this young brother, if the murderer were even taken to court (which rarely happens) it almost for sure would be deemed ‘justifiable homicide.’” Sometimes I would include further exposure of how Trayvon’s case had been handled—how the pigs had tested Trayvon’s body for drugs but not Zimmerman’s or other facts—but always I would continue to put the challenge to the students. “This is what it means—and what it has always meant to be Black in America. First slavery, then Jim Crow and now the New Jim Crow of police terror, mass incarceration and criminalization. As Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party puts it, that’s three strikes for this system. We need a revolution and nothing less! And right now we are building the movement for revolution. If this shit is not okay with you—you need to be part of standing up against it right now and you need to be digging into why this revolution is necessary and possible, learning how we can end all of this once and for all and bring into being a far better world.”
In other words, we didn’t rest with people being broadly supportive—we struggled with them over what this case really means, the larger reality it concentrates, the fact that there is a way out, the fact that there are concrete ways for them to act now to be part of changing all this and to be digging in to find out how to end it all for good. The film premiere and the need to fight the power were not “two different things we are doing that you might be interested in” but two powerful dimensions of a revolutionary strategy for how we transform conditions and people to bring closer and prepare to be able to seize on a revolutionary crisis when one opens up.
People went from casually supportive to very serious and even, in many cases, shaken. I could hear them struggling with each other after I left.
As others continued to go to all the tables, myself and a couple people from the Revolution Club went out to the crowded area where the speakout was to take place. We held up posters of Trayvon that said, “We are all Trayvon Martin—The Whole Damn System is Guilty!” and began agitating off the same basic points made at the tables. Quickly a young woman jumped up to join in holding up a poster. Asked why, she said, “Well, I’m Black and it could have been me.”
Most of the students in the area were listening intently and there was clearly a section that was gathering from a distance—you know how people sort of “lurk” nearby, clearly checking things out but not yet sure they want to conspicuously “join in.” A few students came and asked for posters that they could carry throughout the day with them.
But, before we could go further an opportunist from a profoundly non-revolutionary revisionist trend approached and began yelling over us about how the RCP supposedly supports the Democrats, distorting the very powerful and important work the Party spearheaded in leading people to try to drive out the Bush regime years ago. At first some of our crew responded by drowning him out and telling students he had nothing to do with real revolution. But they didn’t give a lot of substance and you could see many of the same students who had been getting drawn in starting to withdraw. It wasn’t clear to anyone yet what the political differences were and why they mattered and it can be profoundly demoralizing to new people when they see those who claim to be standing up for the people arguing with each other over what appears to be petty rivalries or egos.
Here it is important to note that opportunists and revisionists don’t really have to win the argument, they just have to succeed in turning people off from the real revolution. And, at a time when most people are not into revolution and have a lot of spontaneous aversion to the idea of leadership and especially individual leaders, these opportunists and revisionists have a lot of spontaneity going for them in getting people to tune out from the real revolution.
However, reality is what it is—the world truly is a horror and it is not due to human nature, it is due to the nature of the system and we have the revolutionary leadership and strategy to fight our way out of this and to emancipate all humanity and this is in the interests of the vast majority of humanity. Revolution really is in people’s interests, revisionism is not. In light of this, we quickly changed approaches and decided to let the guy run out some of what he had to say so the students could hear it and then hear our response to it.
He ran out a bunch of lies about the RCP supposedly having supported the Democrats and fostered illusions about elections and this system, he went into a spiel about how everyone needs to support the struggle of the working class, and then he insisted that students find out about “real Marxism.” After he had finished, we reset the terms by first noting that the one thing this guy never talked about, and the one thing that “real Marxism” is actually all about, is actual revolution. We described what a real revolution is and why one is needed—going back to the “three strikes” of this system as just one example of why we need a real revolution (slavery, Jim Crow and the new Jim Crow)—and how Trayvon Martin is one more example of this. This is why we need a real revolution and this is what the RCP and its leader Bob Avakian has forged the strategy and vision of and is actively leading people to prepare for and hasten right now. People standing up today around Trayvon as part of fighting the power and transforming the people for revolution and on the 16th people need to get into this revolution in its greatest substance and content at the premiere of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! We noted that a lot of what the guy had said about the RCP supporting the Democrats was just bullshit and lies, but also that they need to learn the real deal about the elections and why they are a trap and what it takes to bring about real and meaningful change and this is another dimension of what they will get from the film, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Repeatedly we underscored that only BA and this Party, and the Revolution Clubs acting to strengthen the movement for revolution led by this Party, have answers to how we get out of this and there is nothing more important that any of them could be learning about and contributing to than that.
This approach of actually opening up the debate, but refusing to respond on the petty and narrow terms of the opportunist, did begin to draw the students back in and was opening up bigger questions for them. Unfortunately, at this point campus security showed up in force, surrounded us and threatened to arrest us for daring to be on campus.
We had a big day before us and only 17 days till the film premiere, so we felt it wasn’t right to risk arrest. But, we also weren’t in a huge hurry to leave. As we were surrounded we led the students who had gathered in a mic-check about how they have a right and the responsibility to have these questions engaged on their campus and how they need to step in and be part of the fight to put a stop to the outrageous genocide being waged against our youth and to get into the source of this problem and its solution through revolution. We had a call and response about the importance of fighting for no more Trayvon Martins and for coming out on March 16 to hear BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! We didn’t leave before getting a way to stay connected to many of the students who had been drawn in by this point.
Leaving, we were very dissatisfied. There is a lot to sum up about the potential that was revealed and how to draw on this to transform the situation so that hundreds of students on that campus are actively thinking about and debating this revolution and dozens are beginning to get actively involved in real ways (which there is clearly the potential for right now).
Once we were outside the building, a couple of us heard a bunch of laughter and cheering going on somewhere out of sight. We followed the noise and discovered that there was a group of about 25 students, many of them part of a fraternity, gathered on the platform beneath the campus flagpole. They were dressed up in all sorts of ridiculous masks and costumes and one person was set up a distance from them with a camera. Turns out they were recording a YouTube of the “Harlem Shake” (for those who don’t know, this is something of a dance/joke that has gone viral on YouTube with many different people making their own videos).
I ran up and announced that it was the anniversary of Trayvon’s murder and showed them that I had about thirty signs with Trayvon’s face and asked them to all hold one and take a picture. With almost no debate, they grabbed for the posters. For a second they were going to do the “shake” with the posters, then one of them said, “Wait, the shake is really a joke and Trayvon is very serious,” so they decided to stop dancing and just hold the posters for a minute. After the picture had been taken, they gave the posters back, thanked us, and resumed their hilarity.
The story is worth telling because a big and ongoing struggle we have been having is whether it is sufficient to sort of throw out our revolutionary line and wait to see who it attracts, or whether we have to go out and fight for and put it in people’s faces and create a situation where they have to decide where they stand in relationship to it. While this was not the deepest engagement or even the most advanced expression of fighting the power, it is significant in what it revealed and what it gave expression to when we stepped to people with confidence and certitude and led them to take a stand right there on the spot.
By the time we all regrouped, quite a few more revolutionaries had joined us and we had a pretty big crew. It was essential that we took a few minutes to sum up our experience and to wrestle with how we were going to do better in our next round at the high school. This included going further into both what our message needed to be and how we would represent as more than just a bunch of individuals doing good political work with other individuals all in the same area, but instead as a real critical mass and social force for revolution.
It was brief, but there was some struggle over whether we should mainly unfold what we are doing through the particularity of Trayvon’s case and how to win justice for Trayvon, or whether we would come from what Trayvon’s case concentrates about this system and why we need Revolution and Nothing Less and the full mission of the Revolution Club.
One person argued that we should step to the youth by arguing that if it hadn’t been for the massive protest that George Zimmerman never would have been arrested and if we don’t stay in the streets around this George Zimmerman would almost certainly walk free. This was objectively different than what the leader of the Revolution Club had been arguing; that we not be confined within the terms of the struggle around Trayvon and then “add on” revolution, but instead how we need to step from what the case of Trayvon reveals about the fundamental nature of this system and how we need to fight around as part of building up the strength to put an end to this madness through revolution and for the same reason people need to be getting deeply into the revolutionary leadership and the answers provided for how we end all this for good by Bob Avakian in the film, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
We also wrestled with how to make the greatest impact with the numbers we had. This included our visual impact (pinning signs and slogans on all of us so we were clearly part of a collective force) as well as some division of labor (some agitating, some with the DVD set up to show clips of BA, some with the newspaper and all of us responding to and acting together when led to by myself or the Club leader).
Then we set up in a park that a lot of students come through after they get out of school. As soon as school let out, we began agitating and holding up our signs of Trayvon and many students took a very serious interest. A few stopped for a minute, but most gave their approval and kept streaming by us. One member of the Club said, “We have to start marching,” and so we took off marching in the same direction as the flow of students and many of them began chanting with us. Still, when we got to the other end of the park, these students kept going and we were back to our same crew.
At this point it was very decisive that we had talked through actually acting as a collective force and not just a bunch of individuals like we often do. A couple of people set up with the sound-system on a ledge and began agitating as students continued to stream by. Not far from them was a crowd of students hanging out and goofing off and not in a hurry to go somewhere. These students could hear the agitation, but they were clearly on the “outside” and would have to decide to leave their friends to join in the rally. We quickly pulled the agitators off the ledge and brought them over to this crowd of students. Applying the lessons from the experience of the Harlem Shake crowd, we went right up to this group of students and fought for them to take up the fight around Trayvon and the need for revolution.
This, in combination with the kind of agitation and orientation we had struggled over, had an immediate effect. All these students knew about Trayvon and once we began speaking passionately and substantively about this case—and as we gave them signs and a way to take this up on the spot—almost all of them joined in. Still, as we agitated they were sort of “in and out” in their attention and we were struggling keep their attention. One of them started yelling, “When I say Trayvon, you say Martin. Trayvon!” and his friends responded, “Martin!” We recognized that this was giving people a way to take part and picked up on this chant with him. This gave further shape to the crowd as people saw their friends joining in and also saw a way to do the same. A few of the young guys put their arms around each other and started marching around in a circle. A few young women started yelling out things like, “Stop treating us different because we are Black! We have rights!” Other students who were still streaming by took a more active interest.
Still, the students with us were “in and out” in terms of their attention and even some of them were wandering away. I took the bullhorn and spoke very briefly to the stakes of this case, but even more this time I spoke to how righteous it was for these students to take up these chants and to take up this case. I called on them to speak about why they were doing this. I went to a young Latina who had been yelling and invited/encouraged/challenged her to tell people why this mattered to her.
She took the microphone and began telling the story of how her cousin was killed by police. All her friends got really quiet and listened intently as she described how he was accused of having a gun but really it was an inhaler, how he left behind a wife and twin babies he never met, and how they still have never seen justice in his case. After she was done, we upheld how courageous and important it was for her to have taken the mic and we called on her peers to show her some love. They did this and you could see how the group dynamic was changing further. Others who had been resisting the idea of speaking when I first posed it were starting to get the sense that it would be something that their peers would uphold and see as righteous and so then a young Black man stepped forward with less hesitation.
He spoke about how he knows a lot of people who have been mistreated by the police. He said, “I don’t want to stereotype, but I don’t think the government likes Black people.” He described being followed going into stores and treated like he must be up to no good. He also spoke about how the government kills people like Martin Luther King and Gandhi, even though they are non-violent. One of the most important things that he did, though, was to challenge some of the other students who were leaving, calling them out by name and telling them to get serious. Perhaps he would have done this anyway, but my sense is that he was much bolder about this precisely because we had established a dynamic where the youth were reinforcing each other for stepping out and speaking and joining in.
While he was speaking, a group from another school came over to see what was happening. They yelled some things out about discrimination but looked like they were going to keep walking. An older revolutionary challenged them that they had to join in. It took a lot of struggle. Finally, one of them spoke about how Latinas are stereotyped and treated like they are just stupid and catty and that is not true.
As important as all this was, it still had the dynamic of sort of a rolling group of people stepping into something the revolutionaries were doing. We had to do something that would take all this somewhere—it was time to march!
We called on the youth to take this anger into the streets and wake other people up. It was a fight—and far from everyone who was gathered decided to join in—but some of the youth took off with us chanting loudly back and forth as we went, “When I say ‘Trayvon,’ you say ‘Martin,’” and, “When I say ‘revolution,’ you say ‘nothing less.’”
Off we went on one of the most defiant and joyous marches I can remember. A group of young women were up in the front literally jumping up and down screaming out the chants and waving their arms around. Before long, they took over leading the chants and were playing with the tempo of calling out Trayvon’s name. This freed many of us up to run along the sides and call on others to join in. A good number did. And everyone stopped and stared and cracked open a big smile. The energy of these youth was infectious—both their rage and their joy.
About half way down the first block, one of them who had been joining in the response part of the chant ran up and took the microphone. She wanted the other chant and began yelling, “When I say revolution, you say nothing less!”
By the time we were on the second block, passing and gathering the attention of many basic masses along the way, another young woman took the mic and began singing the chants with an extraordinary voice filled with passion, hurt, and defiance. The feel of the whole thing, as the youth were more unleashed and creative in taking the lead, as they absorbed and were buoyed by the responses they were getting, and as we were agitating along the sides and sometimes with all of them, was transforming and the march was becoming a real political force.
We stopped after a couple blocks on the corner of a major hospital and held a rally and speakout. New people had joined in during the march and quite a few people from the hospital and the street were drawn in. The revolutionaries took turns with the youth. We’d get into what the whole case of Trayvon concentrates, the need for revolution, the tremendous importance of the upcoming premiere on March 16 and the righteousness of people standing up to fight the power today and transform the people for revolution. The youth would speak bitterness about their own lives, give expression to their dream of seeing a world where people are treated all the same, and tell people how good it felt to be part of standing up. In between different speakers, the woman with the incredible voice would sing and lift up everyone’s spirits and fill people with pride.
A Black woman in a wheelchair who was coming out of the hospital was among those who gathered to listen. I could tell as I watched her responding to the youth that she had something to share so we brought the microphone over to her. She spoke with tremendous anger about the case of Trayvon and explained how she is afraid for the life of her own son, how this fear drove her to send her son out of NYC so that he is less likely to get caught up in the kind of trouble that could steal his life. She spoke of remembering Emmett Till (we had been agitating about his case and how little has changed and how this shows the need to not only fight but to WIN this time, to make REAL REVOLUTION) and agreed that nothing had fundamentally changed and she hoped it was true that we could end this.
A middle-aged Black man who was holding a three year old son took the mic next. His comments were brief, just explaining that he has seen too much racism in his life and didn’t want his son to have to live through all that too. Everyone melted when his son started babbling something about his dad into the microphone as his father spoke.
Here on the corner, we went even further in talking about what the case of Trayvon concentrates and why we need revolution, how we are out there as part of a strategy to fight the power and transform the people for revolution, to organize the thousands who will influence millions and be trained to lead millions to make revolution when there is the emergence of an all-out revolutionary crisis and how we have the leadership and vision to take this all the way and establish a whole better society leading to a communist world. We challenged people to get serious about being part of this, that there is nothing more important than getting into these answers and engaging this leadership. We talked about BA and had people do a call and response about the date and the title of the upcoming film premiere.
Before leaving we sold a bunch of newspapers and got a lot of contact info (including not only from the woman in the wheelchair but also her young Black male attendant and many others).
We thought we were done and so I called the students together and told them they have to get into the Revolution Club. One of them yelled back, “I am IN the revolution club!” I said that was righteous and that she should see that through as well as the rest of them and introduced them more formally to Noche Diaz, explaining a little about his case (he is facing 4½ years for non-violently observing and protesting police brutality) and then Noche told them more about the club. They all signed up. But they weren’t done. They wanted to march some more.
So, we all took off again and repeated the same march back to their school. This time they led all the chants up until about half way back. Then one of them grabbed the mic and brought it back over to us and said, “I think you should tell everyone why we are here.” They recognized the need for some things to be gotten into for those we were passing that they couldn’t yet break down.
When we got back to our starting point, the young women wanted to speak out one more time. But this time a group of guys started approaching them on an entirely different basis, asking things like, “Do you have a boyfriend?” or, “Hey you look good.” This threw them off from what they were saying and a young guy from the Club stepped up and did some agitation about how woman are human beings and our comrades in the struggle for a better world, not objects to look at. He spoke powerfully about how a cornerstone of this revolution is the full liberation of women and how we are against catcalling and objectifying and abusing women. This opened up a whole new and final round to our rally as a couple of these young women picked up on what he had said, saying, “I am not just something to look at, I am a human being and a freedom fighter.”
Finally, we pulled people together one last time. It was noteworthy that as this march and rolling speakout went on, not only did this crew get forged into a collective force, they also got more seriously interested in the bigger ideas that we revolutionaries were putting forward. They had sort of listened in the beginning as we broke down what real revolution was and where all this needed to go, but by the end they were asking questions about revolution and discussing seriously what it would mean to be part of the Revolution Club and the importance of attending BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
They suggested that we come into their school and we made plans to work to do that. But we also made a point of going into what is said in, “BA: A Contended Question.” We explained how BA concentrates the most radical remaking of this world and because of this many people love him and some people hate him, precisely because of what he concentrates. We told them they should take this to their progressive teachers and there is a very good chance this will go well and we would love to come in. But, they shouldn’t be thrown off if some of them are not so favorable or even if some of them say things like, “It is good to be concerned about these issues, but don’t get into BA or get with those people.” We reiterated that there is nothing more important than the questions BA is answering and they needed to get into them for themselves and if they run into anything that they can’t answer, new questions, positive responses and negative responses, they need to come back and get into them with us because this is what humanity needs from us all.
When they finally left, we had a brief summation. A lot of what we summed up are things that have infused the way I have recounted this—the decisiveness of us going straight up to the youth and creating situation where they had to delineate themselves in relation to the revolutionary pole we were planting (as opposed to just doing our thing near them and hoping they came over), the effect the youth had on each other—and on all the others in the area—as they stepped into this, the beauty and creativity that poured out of them as they stepped into this in their own ways, and the way that they got more serious about the bigger questions we had been posing about revolution as the day we fought things through both in leading them to fight the power and in continuing to fight for them to lift their heads to these bigger questions.
There is one particular exchange from this summation that I really want to highlight though. Towards the end, one of the Club members spoke with great appreciation for the determination and spirit of especially the young women in taking the lead throughout this afternoon, for their singing and their stories, for their determination and their seriousness. He capped it off by saying, “I just have one word to sum up this experience: unleashing!”
While there certainly was a lot of unleashing that had gone on, and while it was clear that there was no replacing the irrepressibility and infectiousness of the energy and spirit of those youth, it was actually not correct to boil the experience down to “unleashing.” Really, it is correct to describe the afternoon as a process involving two words: leading and unleashing. And there is a dialectical relationship between those two elements. I spoke about—and I recommend to all reading—the section of Grasp Revolution, Promote Production—Questions of Outlook and Method, Some Points of the New Situation by Bob Avakian where he deals directly with the dialectical relationship between leading and unleashing. Really, you cannot do one without the other—just like there is a dialectical relationship between leading and learning. Both those dialectics were involved in the advances we wrenched out of the afternoon—and both of those dialectics will be essential to taking all of this somewhere (actually organizing people into the revolution and continuing to plant the pole more broadly, as opposed to letting this be just a “good thing we did once” and letting all the people and momentum wash away).
It seemed people quickly recognized that this was true. One person who had been quiet up until then made the poignant comment, “Yeah, those women who led all this, I saw them right before that tell [one of our comrades], ‘No, I am not going to do that.’” These young women who were so unleashed were the same young women who only minutes before were thinking that they couldn’t and shouldn’t and didn’t want to be any part of this revolution. Transforming that and unleashing what was suppressed within them took leadership! These dialectics, between leading and unleashing and between leading and learning, were very much at play throughout the day and need to be much more consciously recognized and applied to everything we are doing. If we think we are leading just because we are saying the “right things” off to the side and not fighting to really unleash the revolutionary potential that is suppressed within people, we are going to leave the masses on the sidelines. Similarly, if we see only the initiative and positive qualities of the youth when they step out and fail to recognize how decisive our leadership is in uncorking that—and how essential it will be to not only continue that in the streets but to accumulate forces for revolution—we will allow this (and other) advance(s) to dissipate and once again leave the masses on the sidelines and leave the world fundamentally unchanged.
Next we rolled down to Union Square where a rally had been called by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network for 4 pm and where Trayvon Martin’s parents had announced they would be at 6 pm. Word of this gathering had been getting out all day on NPR and 1010 WINS radio as well as, presumably, other places so we were determined to make our collective presence felt and to plant a very powerful pole around Revolution—Nothing Less.
When we arrived there were already a hundred or so people gathered. But they were milling about and nothing organized was yet happening. Off to my left I could see one of the young revolutionaries getting into conversation with someone and quickly drawing a small knot of people in who were listening. Off to my right I could see the same thing happening with another young revolutionary. The scene was tense and people were eager for leadership, but our crew was once again acting more as a bunch of revolutionary individuals all doing “good things” but not amounting to what was actually possible or needed.
Myself and the leader of the Revolution Club called people together but people took their time, finishing up their conversations and getting drawn into other things. Figuring that it was wrong to let these important, but dispersed, interactions set the limits for what we were doing and figuring that once we started something different the rest of the Club would catch on, we stepped out and did a mic check. Immediately the rest of the Club came together and amplified this and a crowd began forming. First it was about twenty, then forty and soon there were at least a hundred people crowded in around us repeating what we were saying.
We again agitated about what this case of Trayvon means — all that it concentrates about this system and why we need real revolution, we got into our strategy of fighting the power and transforming the people for revolution, how fighting today fits into this, why it is righteous that people came out but also why people have to go further, to get to the Magic Johnson theater on March 16 for BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! to dig into the biggest questions of our time and the answers provided by BA as to how we can not only fight but actually win so that a generation from now people are not still mourning the murder of Black youth, the raping of women, the bombing of people around the world, the destruction of the environment (if we make it that long, given how this system is burning up the planet), and why people need to get into the Revolution Club and join us in taking to the streets after the vigil with the parents.
Different members of the Revolution Club took turns agitating and the crowd drew bigger and bigger. Soon, we had to give them some direction to disperse and regroup on the edge of the steps so that the speakers could be up above and the crowd could be below so that everyone could see and hear. The crowd was won to this very quickly and soon we regrouped the whole affair in such a way that we could easily speak to and be seen by hundreds of people who had gathered.
People were hungry for leadership—for the kind of penetrating indictment we were making of this system, for some concrete form and expression to the otherwise atomized individuals that had shown up, for the ideological challenge we repeatedly made to people about the need for them to confront and follow through on what the real implications of Trayvon’s case are. It was uneven in our agitation, but what came through as a whole was not merely letting people know that we are revolutionaries and that we are into BA and a hope that this would turn them on. We put forward the challenge to them that even if communist revolution sounds extreme, the extreme of the actual genocide going on right now demands that they engage it with an open mind and a sincere heart. We upheld the righteousness of how much oppressed people and others have fought for liberation for generations, including the generation that stood up around Emmett Till—but that this generation needs to be the generation that goes all the way and ends this, nothing less is acceptable and that BA has summed up the lessons of how not only to fight but to win, and not just win in the sense of defeating and dismantling the armed repression of this state (its courts, military, prisons, police forces, etc.) when a revolutionary situation emerges in the future, but also wins in the sense of brings into being a revolutionary state power that is uprooting all this exploitation and oppression and transitioning to a whole better genuinely communist world free of all forms of exploitation and oppression. Everyone here, we said, has a responsibility to seriously get into this. There is nothing more important and while it is absolutely essential that people came out to fight on this day, we have to get serious about going all the way or we are betraying the very things that moved us to be in the streets. I could see the faces of people in the crowd as they were nodding and taking this very seriously. We led people to again repeat the date and the title of the film premiere, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! And we got into why it was important that we not go home, but instead march into the night, after the parents of Trayvon held their vigil. We held a rally in this way for probably 45 minutes, including welcoming up others to speak bitterness about their own experiences of police abuse.
During this time, people were setting up nearby for where the parents were going to show up and that rally began to take shape. We broke up the rally we were holding and all went over and joined in. As we did this, people from the crowd came up to us to thank us for what we had done and to sign up with the Revolution Club.
During the official vigil, some of the lawyers and others put forward a very different message than we had been. Some claimed that the murder of Trayvon had nothing to do with the color of his skin. Others recognized that this was about his race but claimed that America is the greatest nation on earth and has been being healed by the response to Trayvon’s killing. Trayvon’s parents spoke passionately about their love for their son and the tremendous pain of losing him as well as the strength they feel that so many are out to remember him. At 7:17, the moment of Trayvon’s murder, people lit candles for him and then his mother led them in all blowing them out at the same moment. There was a prayer that cried out to a non-existent god and claimed that Trayvon was in a better place. Jamie Fox spoke from the heart about being the father of a 17-year-old and having to confront the pain of what it would mean if she had been the one taken and expressed a lot of love and support for Trayvon’s parents.
All of this was very tightly organized and controlled and when the candles were blown out they all very quickly left.
Once again, there was a situation where things could have just dispersed and wound down for the night. We were determined that wouldn’t happen.
Immediately we began a mic check again and dozens of people joined in and the whole park could hear us. We upheld the courage and determination of the parents to be out here in the streets and of everyone else for being out too, but we went immediately and directly at the lie of the U.S. being the greatest country in the world. “No it is NOT!” we yelled, and many joined us in response. We talked about slavery and Jim Crow and the New Jim Crow, we talked about the drones and the wars, the rape and violence against women. We called out again the need for Revolution—Nothing Less and got the crowd chanting that in a call and response. Then we called on people to join us in taking to the streets.
We chanted and marched and a sizeable section of the crowd came with us. Two of the chants they particularly liked were, “The whole damn system is guilty! The whole damn system is guilty!” and, “I sag my pants, I rock my hoodie. NYPD keep your hands off me!”
Once again, it was striking that a number of young women stepped to the front and were jumping up and down screaming at the tops of their lungs. Tons of cops lined this march as we set off through the Village in the night, clearly nervous about the energy of the crowd and the receptivity of those we were passing. Others joined in and the march was loud as fuck.
At a certain point I went through the crowd and asked people, “Have you gotten connected to the Revolution yet?” I held out a clipboard and have never had such eager response among a march of people to want to stay connected with this revolution and who were so clear that we were talking about communist revolution and the leadership of BA. It was not at all that most of them knew who BA is or had a strong favorable opinion about communism, but it was clear to them that this is what we were about and they were very attracted to what they understood about this and the ideological challenge that they get into it as well as the expression that their anger was being led to take in this defiant march.
I don’t have it in me to write with as much detail the whole dynamics of this march as I did about the one in the afternoon (and you probably don’t have it in you to read about it in that much detail), but as we went some new people joined and some people dwindled. But a core stayed with it the whole way and was angry and joyous and very attracted to what the Club had been putting out. By the time we decided to wrap up, we gathered for one last mic-check and speakout on a corner. We told them again about the revolution, about the premiere and had everyone chant the date and title and then we invited them to join us in a near-by fast food restaurant.
A core of young people who had been with us all evening came with us. We spent the next hour and a half getting into a rip-roaring discussion, learning what had drawn them out to the protest and what had further attracted them to the revolution, debating questions of whether Cuba was a revolutionary model (it is not), what real socialism is and why that matters to be grappling with that now, questions of human nature, questions of strategy for revolution, whether we need “horizontalism” or a communist vanguard to make revolution and various other controversies coming off of Occupy, why the previous revolutions were defeated (and why they didn’t fail) but also why humanity needs the new synthesis of BA, the importance of people attending and helping build for the premiere, and much more. As all this was going on, others from the fast food joint got drawn in.
This kicked off a whole new round when two young men, one Black and one Latino, argued in favor of stop-and-frisk as the only reason people like them and others they grew up with aren’t carrying guns more often and killing more people. We got into a very deep debate where we read BA’s quote, “On Choices... and Radical Changes,” and into what it is really going to take to get the youth out of killing each other and how the only answer is making revolution and drawing them into making this revolution. Blaming them for their bad choices only reinforces their oppression. These guys were indignant of the idea that these youth aren’t responsible for the bad choices they make, but as we went deeper—especially utilizing that quote from BA and breaking it down and making them respond to it—they didn’t get won over but they continually had to admit that the larger critique we were making of the system and the context for these youth’s choices was true.
After a lot of wild struggle over this, we queued up the section of the Revolution Talk where BA gets into the example of the prisons in California and the Corcoran SHU. New people from other tables gathered in to watch and everyone laughed and got into the agitation BA did about how the youth aren’t “regulating shit” on the corners, while understanding why they get into it also struggling with them to see the bigger picture and to be about fighting for the emancipation of all humanity.
One young woman who comes from a background where the youth are into that kind of life and who is part of the initiative to End Porn and Patriarchy, has been interested in watching this DVD with me but we keep postponing due to various scheduling conflicts. This was her first time seeing a clip, and her first time meeting the Revolution Club. She commented that BA was hilarious and she was now even more interested in watching more. Others in the restaurant gave their contact info to us. The two friends who were still defending stop-and-frisk said they found BA very serious and were definitely going to be at the premiere in Harlem. And a bunch of the folks from the march made plans to join us at Revolution Books on Thursday when we are getting into the section of Michael Slate’s interview with BA on, “Is it crazy to think you could make revolution?”
We cannot take for granted that any of this will happen if we do not continue to lead this process, but all of this opened up and revealed and began to transform the tremendous potential that exists for people to relate to and get active with even as they are learning more about this revolutionary line if we take it out as what it actually is.
I wasn’t able to stick around to be part of the Revolution Club’s summation of the day or to be part of their planning for what comes next. Nor am I able to sit down with all of you who are reading this and fighting to be part of applying the RCP’s strategy for making revolution, including right now by actively and aggressively building for the upcoming premieres of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
But it is absolutely critical that we do not underestimate the tremendous potential and hunger for real revolution that exists when we go out with it as what it is and when we actively apply our strategy for revolution, including fighting the power and transforming the people for revolution, lifting people’s sights to see what is at stake and what is actually possible, challenging people ideologically on their responsibility to act in relation to all this and to dig in deeper, and when we give people meaningful ways to begin doing that on the spot.
None of what I describe in this one exciting day is “the formula” of how we should do our work. There were ways that openings presented themselves yesterday that are different than what we will encounter the next time we go out. But the potential of yesterday would never have been revealed if we had not acted on it in a living way—rooted on our firm understanding of the need for Revolution and Nothing Less but also fighting at every point to identify both the obstacles that needed to be taken on and the potential pathways that were being revealed. I also in no way think that what we accomplished yesterday sets the limit for what potentially could have been accomplished—or for what we should be aiming for as we go forward.
Also, there are big obstacles in our path to making this revolution that we have to collectively wrestle with as scientists, rooted in and applying our strategy and on that foundation thinking critically and creatively about how to solve problems. We have to make breakthroughs on the campuses and even as much potential has been revealed we have not yet forged a dynamic where that potential is being tapped and transformed into a growing pole and force. We have to make breakthroughs in actually bringing new people into the movement for revolution—into the Revolution Club and into other forms of organization where people are both part of changing the world and themselves, including right now especially getting into BA and building for the premieres and seeing the difference these can make in society and in their own commitment to follow through on their concerns for humanity.
One of the biggest lessons of the day, and one which had to be fought for repeatedly and which remains very important to continue to fight for, is the need for us to really pull together as communists and as scientists to identify, wrestle with, and solve the problems of making this revolution. This requires wrestling not simply in a formalistic way with “what should we do” or “what should we say,” but with what are we learning as we apply our line and as we probe reality with our line, what are we transforming, what is being revealed and what do we make of it, and how do we take all of this further—involving PEOPLE every step along the way—to build this movement for revolution.
In short, the “seventh chapter” really isn’t a chapter. It is a challenge. And it is one that is on all of us and requires all of us. Success in these premieres could change a tremendous amount—in the terrain and in the organized strength and influence of this revolution—at a time when the world really is crying out for revolution and the new synthesis of communism. Whether you are brand new or been at this for a long time, let’s pull together with all our science, our passion, our collectivity and our determination to really make every single one of the next 16 days count.