The Revolution

I got off the Blue Line at Division and Ashland. I walked by the Strange Beauty Hair Salon. My appointment was for 4:30, but I did not have a watch. I figured I was early and thought maybe to sit down in a bar or café. I could ask the time and receive refreshment.

I continued down Ashland. It was cold and overcast. A winter wind was blowing up the wide avenue. There were only taco shops and vintage clothing stores. No bars or cafes. I felt I had gone too far and crossed the street and turned back towards the salon. On this side of Ashland I had noticed a bookstore called Revolution Books. I thought I might warm up inside, look at some books, and ask the time.

I stepped through the door into a one room bookstore. Two older ladies stood up from a table and welcomed me. They asked if I had been there before. I have not, I told them.

The younger of the two ladies stepped forward. She wore gold earings with a fashionable pink scarf around her neck.

“Do you know about the revolution?”

“I do not," I said. "But before I hear of this revolution, might you give me the time? You see, I have an appointment of great importance at 4:30.”

“Of course,” said the woman, pulling back her sleeve. “It is 10 minutes to 4.”

“Many thanks. You may now tell me of the revolution.” Certainly there would be time to hear of the revolution.

The woman entered into a long, jargon heavy monologue about what was the scientific nature of communism, how communism was coming to replace the oppression and exploitation and enslavements of the capitalists, and how it was simply a matter of educating people about it. The prior communist revolutions had been mistakes. Now there was science involved. The capitalists were doomed, she said. The scientific nature of communism meant their doom.

“And how will the revolution be conducted?” I asked. “How will the communists take power?”

“Science,” she explained. “By science it will happen. Our chairman, Bob Avakian, the chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has laid it out in this pamphlet.”

She brought down a thin book from the bookshelf and opened it. This section of the bookshelves consisted only of books by the Chairman Bob Avakian. I began to read through the table of contents as she spoke. There were many, many of the words I had just heard her use. I wanted to make sense of all this jargon.

“But how shall the communist state come about?” I asked. “Do you have guns?”


“Guns for the revolution.”

“No, no,” she said, “We do not have guns.”

“Then you will use the electoral process. Chairman Bob Avakian is running in the 2012 election.”

“Of course not.”

“What is the name of the Revolutionary Communist Party candidate?”

“We have no candidate.”

“You have no guns and you have no candidate?”


“Then how will the communists topple the State?”

“It will happen scientifically,” she said, just as simply and assuredly as she had said it the first time.

“But when a State is in its death throes it is often at its most violent and oppressive. It will kill or imprison anyone it feels threatened by. Will the communists not fight back then?”

“Here, I need to show you this,” she went behind the counter and produced a single sheet of paper. It was a proclaimation from Chairman Bob Avakian about the scientific nature of the coming revolution as well as a call to discourage violent action by lone individuals. It seemed to leave open the idea of mass violent action.

“Then you will take up guns. I urge you to get them and stockpile them now. They will be much harder to come by later.”

“No, no,“ she said. The woman started to read the paper to me. Clearly I had not understood it.

“Then you are pacifists. Ghandi was very effective. It is a most effective strategy to allow yourself to be beaten and killed as a group.”

“No,” she said, and continued to read from this paper. I had read the paper and wanted to change the subject.

“What will you do with the capitalist pigs after the revolution?”

“What do you mean?” she looked up from the paper.

“Will they be executed or will they be imprisoned?”


“Certainly the capitalists must not be allowed to walk the streets. Certainly an example must be made of those that stand against the revolution. Che Guevara personally carried out numerous executions.”

“Chairman Bob Avakian in this book talks about this,” and she pulled another volume from the shelf.

“Here look at this too. You should really read this.” As I began looking through the book she handed me a thin propaganda newspaper. It was three pages in length with large block text and cost $1.00.

“I can see that you can’t afford this so I am giving it to you.”

Clearly my long hair, uncut now for more than a year, bleached and damaged by South American sun, by wind and rain and sweat and filth, had given her the impression of dire poverty. I took the propaganda newspaper and did not contest my poverty.

Just then a black woman came into the bookshop.

“Can you spare some money please?”

“No, no,” said the communist woman. "We have no money. Please, please go,” she said, blocking the black woman from coming further into the bookstore.

“Just a little money so I can eat?”

“No, no, no,” she said more sternly.

The black woman left the bookshop.

The woman picked up another three page $1.00 propaganda newspaper.

“I know you do not have the money but you may have this one too. Inside you can read about the wrongful imprisonment of Fred Furster.”

“I have not heard of him. Is he a political prisoner?”

“He is oppressed. Oppressed by the capitalist state. Look at these pictures.” She directed me towards a bulletin board of photographs between the shelves. There was a photo of a man wearing a cardboard sign demanding the release of Fred Furster. I studied the pictures. There were pictures from other small rallies and demonstrations.

“Is the Revolutionary Communist Party legal team working to free these people?”

“We do not have a legal team.”

“Will you attack the prisons in which these people are held?”


“How will you free these people?”

“We are working to free them. That is why we are demonstrating.”

“Just look at that there,” said the woman.

I turned and through the window of the bookstore saw a Mexican man and woman pushing a shopping cart filled with what appeared to be the contents of their apartment. There were clothes, plates and glasses, a blender, two wooden chairs, sacks of unknown contents tied to the sides of the cart, and a queen sized mattress balanced upon the top. We watched the couple slowly push their possessions past the window.

And it was then, after they had passed, that I saw in the window display the latest book of poems by Kevin Coval called L-vis Lives. The book was displayed prominently in the window.

“Do you know this poet?” I asked her.

“Yes, of course. He comes here often. We hope to soon have him for a reading.”

“I once knew this poet.”

The woman brightened.

“But this poet was not so revolutionary then.”

The woman frowned. "He is quite revolutionary. Perhaps it is a different poet you once knew?"


"And what is the time, madam?”

“Oh yes,” she said and rolled back her sleeve. “It is 4:20.”

“I must be going. My appointment.”

She smiled and we shook hands.

“It was a pleasure to speak to you about the revolution.”

“No, madam, the pleasure was mine to hear of it.”

I left Revolution Books and I crossed the street to the Strange Beauty Hair Salon where Monica, a buxom dark-haired girl, originally from Duluth Minnesota, gave me the finest haircut I have had in years. I know so, because when I arrived home my mother told me I looked like a movie star.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous17.11.11

    just for the record i have never been inside the bookstore and have not even been asked to read there, however i am happy to have window display on ashland ave & i am certain you did look like a movie star... and oh yeah and those folks are batshit mad


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