Revolution can be a picnic
While most Los Angeles residents celebrated the Fourth of July by throwing parties, attending fireworks displays and expressing their national pride via red-white-and-blue accoutrement, another group had a different theme: revolution.
The Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) hosted an “Anti-Fourth of July Picnic” in Echo Park today. It was one of many held around the country. People gathered to eat food, listen to speakers, as well as participate in games.
The picnic roughly marks the one-year anniversary of the RCP’s “The Revolution We Need… The Leadership We Have” campaign, which centers on the party’s chairman Bob Avakian and laying the groundwork for revolution.
RCP member Clyde Young says the campaign has three objectives: to “put revolution on the map,” make Bob Avakian a household name and organize people who are committed to the cause.
Young became a revolutionary in the 1960s when he was exposed to the works of Chinese leader Mao Zedong through members of the Black Panther Party. He says this year is important for the party as they are focusing on the works of Avakian, who, according to the RCP, has developed a scientific approach to Marxism, revolution and communism.
“We are trying to build a movement for revolution, but now is not the time,” said Young. “You can only do that when there is a crisis in society.”
According to Revolution, the RCP’s newspaper, when that crisis occurs, “people in greater numbers [will] come to deeply feel and understand that the present [ruling] power has no authority.”
Although the goal is revolution, Young was quick to point out that the failings of previous communist movements. He says these revolutions only got to a certain point, what is called a “dictatorship of the proletariat,” then rolled back into a capitalist system.
“We are learning from the strengths and weaknesses of previous revolutions,” he said.
Another theme to the picnic was the campaign to lift a ban placed on Revolution by two California prisons in February. According to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF), a non-profit organization that distributes revolutionary material to prison inmates, authorities said the RCP newspaper “promotes disruption and overthrow of the government and incites violence to do so.”
The PRLF disagrees with prison authorities, citing the many letters they have received from inmates that speak of racial brotherhood and a newfound sensitivity to women after reading the organization’s literature.
The trouble started for the PRLF when Revolution ran a special issue focused on the U.S. prison system and its inhumane treatment of prisoners. RCP members say it is the subject of this issue that is at the heart of the matter.
The RCP and PRLF are currently trying to get the ban on the newspaper lifted.
KPFK radio host Michael Slate spoke at the picnic, calling the RCP a “real” revolutionary party. He discussed the prison system, saying the only future for people of color tends to be either prison or death.
“They are expendable people to [the system], but not to us, not to the revolution,” he said.
Slate cited the police killing of Aiyana Jones, a 7-year old girl in Detroit. Police raided her home searching for a homicide suspect. They used flash grenades during the raid and fatally shot the child.
“What kind of heathen criminals are these people?” said Slate referring to the police.
RCP members read letters from prison inmates who have been inspired by revolutionary literature. One such letter, entitled “The Fourth of July Don’t Mean a Damn Thing to Me,” was read by Rachel Figueroa, a high school student and self-described revolutionary. The letter states that the Fourth of July is the celebration of a theft from Native Americans.
“When you rejoice or celebrate by shooting fireworks in the sky,” read Figueroa, “you are saying that you are okay with stealing, lying, murder and exploiting anyone you can just to make it to a top position in this so called ‘land of the free.’”
As if to counter the concerns of prison authorities that the RCP newspaper and other such works are divisive, the letter ends with the inmate writing, “One love, one blood, one people!!!”