Report From the DNC in Charlotte
September 15, 2012
A contingent of revolutionaries went to the DNC in Charlotte, North Carolina to put revolution and Bob Avakian on the map in the midst of a very politicized atmosphere. March on Wall Street South, a coalition of activist groups, organized a rally and march through downtown Charlotte on Sunday, September 2nd, a few days before the official start of the convention. Charlotte is the finance capital of the south with the international headquarters of Bank of America and the East Coast headquarters of Wells Fargo, two of the four largest banks in the country. According to march organizers, these banks have some of the highest foreclosure rates as well. Duke Energy, also headquartered in Charlotte, was another focus of the protest. Duke Energy is the largest utility company in the country, and one of the most damaging to the environment, with dozens of coal-fired power plants, most of which burn coal from the devastating method called mountaintop removal mining. Duke also has many nuclear power plants.
The march through downtown was very vibrant with lots of signs and banners. Chants rang out from different parts of the march that stretched for several city blocks. Downtown Charlotte looked like a police state. Police barricades lined both sides of the entire march route. There were more police than protesters. Police were on foot and on bicycles. The bicycle cops had their bikes lined up end-to-end, forming a second continuous barricade on both sides of the march, inside the metal barricades. Convention delegates and on-lookers were lined up watching the march go by from behind the barricades. One of the largest and most colorful contingents in the march was the immigrant’s. They wore butterfly wings with the words “Migration is a Human Right” written across the wings. The “Undocubus,” a bus that had traveled across the country for six weeks starting from Arizona, brought dozens of undocumented people to the DNC with “No Papers, No Fear” painted on the side of the bus. They were joined by many other immigrants from around the region and country. World Can’t Wait brought a model of a Drone that really stood out and got a lot of attention, and the Stop Patriarchy contingent had quite an impact, particularly with their stickers which a number of the spectators along the route were wearing, “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology” and “If you can’t imagine sex without porn…You’re fucked.”
The BA Everywhere contingent was small but noticeable. We all wore the t-shirt “I AM PART OF THE THOUSANDS WORKING ON THE REVOLUTION,” and we carried oversized enlargements of the front page of Revolution Newspaper “Obama Has No Future For The People…The Revolution Does,” the front cover of BAsics, the image of BA, and September’s quote from BAsics 1:3, “The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.” We were able to get out a thousand palm cards of BAsics 1:3 and promoting the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) to the people watching the march, reaching out to them over the police barricades.
On Monday, September 3rd, a music and street festival called Carolina Fest was held on closed-off downtown streets. A free annual festival, this year it was billed as part of the DNC festivities, and it attracted thousands of people to downtown, including delegates, Democratic Party activists, and a cross section of Charlotte area residents. And the Revolution was part of the festival too. We set up on the street with the large images that we had carried in the march the previous day, and we put a plastic milk crate upside down on the ground in front. One person got on the milk crate and did some loud agitation, while we got out thousands of the palm cards and sold copies of Revolution Newspaper, BAsics and the Constitution. The agitation started with “The Republicans are no damn good, but the Democrats are no damn good either. Humanity and the planet need Revolution!” and then ran down what the Obama administration has “accomplished” while in office: accelerated mass incarceration, police murder of the people, disregard for the environment, attacks on fundamental rights as well as abortion and birth control, deporter-in-chief of immigrants, expansion of the wars/drones, foreclosures and unemployment, etc. It definitely stirred things up! A lot of people turned their heads or stopped in their tracks to listen. Some people didn’t believe what we were saying but were willing to check out the facts in Revolution Newspaper. Others agreed with our exposure of Obama but were caught up in the “lesser of two evils” trap and focused on how horrible Romney would be. Some hardcore Obama supporters only wanted to talk about healthcare, or actually spoke favorably about what the U.S. is doing around the world. There were right-wingers appalled that we were promoting revolution and communism. And there were some people who were very surprised but refreshed to come across a group that was out there in the middle of the DNC exposing the Democrats and posing a radical alternative, who engaged around BA’s vision of communism, checked out BAsics and the Constitution, made small donations and took palm cards to distribute themselves. At one point, there was an intense exchange between two friends, two young Black women who had stopped to listen. One woman wouldn’t have any of it – didn’t want to hear anything against Obama, and was pulling on her friend to keep walking. The other woman started arguing and said that she had spent a year in the military in Iraq as a medic, and everything we were saying about the wars and the drones was true. She told her friend to go on without her, and yelled “don’t call me on my cellphone either!” This was no everyday scene. People stopped to take pictures. Reporters asked for interviews. We engaged with all viewpoints, sold a lot of newspapers as well as some BAsics and Constitutions.
Over the two days, we got interviewed by over 10 media outlets including the Charlotte Observer, Charlotte TV news, NY Times, London Times, Al Jazeera, Havana Times, Australian Financial Times, National Post from Toronto, and a Florida A&M student media project. A French reporter who came up after he saw the BA image poster said he knew about Bob Avakian because he had attended UC Berkeley.
Throughout the rest of the week, there was an un-permitted anti-war march, an Occupy encampment in a local park, and a civil disobedience action where several of the undocumented immigrants bravely got arrested in front of the arena where the convention was being held. Revolutionaries were invited to go to several college campuses in the area during the week, which was a great opportunity to get out hundreds more of the palm cards as well as newspapers, and deeply engage with students on these campuses.
The most striking observation throughout our time in Charlotte was how thick and pervasive ugly American chauvinism was. Not only was it being unleashed from Obama and the top representatives of the Democratic Party at the podium inside the convention, but it was also taken up unquestioningly by the ordinary person in the street, and the “America first” mentality even defined the framework of many of the oppositional groups protesting outside the convention, with concerns narrowly focused on how the issues affect Americans. The one palm card that we wish we had brought in addition to the other materials was the one with BAsics 5:7 and 5:8 – “American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People’s Lives,” and “Internationalism – The Whole World Comes First.”
BA: A Contended Question at the DNC Protests
The short orientation piece in Revolution #278, “BA – A Contended Question,” was very helpful in preparing to take the BA Everywhere campaign into the mix at the DNC protests in Charlotte. A very noticeable development was that BA was much more known among a variety of people we encountered from a number of different cities – an indication that the BA Everywhere campaign is having an impact. And the range of viewpoints on BA that we encountered covered the gamut of those mentioned in the “Contended Question” piece – the two extremes and everything in between! Here are some examples:
- A student from a college in North Carolina who had heard about BA on his campus and had watched some BA clips at revolutiontalk.net came up and said he had two questions: Why do we make such a big deal about BA, and why do we say he has developed Marxism further? He said he had also been checking out Worker’s World and was interested in what the differences were. This led to pointing out the Three Alternative Worlds essay in BAsics, and posing the contradictions in socialism that BA has wrestled with – how to hold onto power while making sure that power was worth holding onto. The student said he had never thought about that, and was going to check out the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) online to further the discussion.
- A community organizer from a city in the northeast who was into hip hop culture said he had read BAsics and really disagreed with the quote “Let’s imagine if we had a whole different culture. Come on, enough of this ‘bitches and ho’s’…” saying that BA doesn’t understand hip hop and needs to make a distinction between hip hop and rap, which are two different cultures.
- A “doofus” made a snide remark while walking by, saying he wasn’t interested because he wasn’t religious (meaning that he didn’t worship BA), to which one of the revolutionaries responded, “We’re not religious either, we’re scientific and if you are, you should check out BA too.”
- An anarchist who was fresh from the protests at the RNC in Tampa took the palm cards and said, “Yeah, I’ve heard of Bob Avakian before.”
- A reporter from France came up when he saw the large BA image poster and said he knew about Bob Avakian because he had attended UC Berkeley.
- An Australian reporter took a photo of the BA image and bought a BA button after a wide-ranging discussion that included him describing a family member who had been involved in the debates between “Stalinists” and “Maoists” in Australia in the 1970’s.
- An independent activist wanted to understand the difference between all the socialist and communist groups at the protest, which led to a conversation about BA’s theoretical contributions in developing a strategy for revolution and envisioning what a socialist society would look like that was truly on the road to communism, and he walked away with a copy of the Constitution.
- Several people came up after seeing the BA image poster and asked, “Who is that guy?” That question always presents a great opening to introduce people to BA and his new vision of communism.