By Enrica Nicoli Aldini
It is International Women’s Day, and Revolutionary Communist Party supporters are gathered at Revolution Books, a small volunteer-run bookstore in Noble Square, to discuss the “rampant degradation of women” and share the belief that no social change is ever achieved by traditional politics.
As volunteers pass around a basket asking for $2 donations in exchange for pins that read “Stop thinking like Americans! Start thinking about humanity!!!,” dialogues and readings over the emancipation of women swiftly turn into stern condemnation of the traditional structure of politics in America.
The November elections are just a few months away, but most revolutionary communists are not going to vote. Participating in the elections, they said, would only mean upholding a capitalist system that perpetrates inequality and the oppression of underserved communities across the country.
“Elections are not a way to change anything worth changing,” said Jay Becker, a Revolution Books volunteer. “If anything, elections teach people how to put a stamp of approval on an illegitimate system in America. We’ve got a lot to work on that’s not getting out to vote.”
Headquartered in Chicago, the Revolutionary Communist Party finds its spiritual leader in Bob Avakian, a political activist who founded the party in 1975 to bring about a revolution and the upheaval of the traditional system in America.
As the signature campaign pitch of Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders, the word revolution has partially motivated the current election cycle. However, Avakian’s followers stressed that the revolution they are advocating has nothing to do with the political change the Vermont senator is promising his Democratic voters. As revolutionary communists, they simply do not identify with any of the current presidential candidates, and they are not seeking representation in the Democratic Party.
“Just as young people are starting to think this whole political thing in America is fishy, Bernie Sanders is trying to entice them,” said Martha Conrad, who attended the International Women’s Day event at Revolution Books. “But that is not what the revolution is about.”
For Lou Downey, realizing a real revolution means dismantling the current system to build a new political and economic structure altogether. He said Sanders’ socialism is simply not serving the same purpose. “When he talks about reducing income inequality, what does he mean? Sharing wealth? Where does that wealth come from?” Downey inquired, suggesting that Sanders is only promising to redistribute corporate income, without challenging the real foundations of capitalism.
Asked whether not voting in the general elections means renouncing an essential civic responsibility as an American citizen, Downey said the real responsibility “for the future of humanity” is challenging the basic tenets of an electoral system whose only role is to channel people’s discontent.
“The elections do not reflect the will of people,” Downey said. “Decisions are made in a very different place.”
Lisa Richards said elections only fool people into believing they can accomplish what they hope for in terms of issues and the future of the country. She said she was concerned that no politician is truly advocating for improving the condition of women, as not even a female candidate like Hillary Clinton is actually interested in liberating them and safeguarding their reproductive rights.
“She’s been saying yes, we need the right to abortion, but her actual role has been that of conciliating with the Republicans,” Richards said. “I don’t care who gets to the White House. They are only going to represent the system and the interests of the capitalist supremacy.”
Norman Larreta, who has “always been for a revolution, and never voted in any election before,” echoed Richards’ concerns that traditional politicians will never achieve what they promised the electorate.
“Look at Obama, he promised things on immigration that he never lived up to,” Larreta said. “The really important issues in society don’t get resolved by politicians. They are long-term goals that need actual changes in the system in order to be accomplished.”
Refusal to vote in the general elections, however, does not mean that the revolutionary communists of Chicago will not mobilize to speak up against some of the current presidential candidates.
As Becker wrapped up the celebrations for International Women’s Day at Revolution Books on Tuesday, she invited all the attendees to come together and protest what she called “the fascist rally” that Donald Trump is set to hold at the University of Illinois at Chicago on March 11.
“If you want to put the the revolution in there,” Becker said, “then come with us.”