On Saturday, January 25th, 2020, the Boston chapter of FTP announced its launch by hosting a Free Store For the People in collaboration with the Lucy Parsons Center. FTP members arrived early that morning to sort, clean, and begin distribution of free clothes and home goods to the residents of Hyde Square in Jamaica Plain. We opened the doors at 10 am, and kept the service open until 6. Over the course of the day, we met and talked with dozens of individuals and families, gave them flyers and invited them to a general meeting if they seemed like they were interested in getting involved.
Prior to the Free Store, we collaborated with the Lucy Parsons Center to collect donated goods and promote the event on Facebook and Twitter. Donations were usually brought to the space after checking in with us over email or on social media, and people were generally very excited about the Free Store. Our flyering of the Hyde and Egleston Square neighborhoods, as well as our extensive online promotion, brought a fairly sizable turnout day-of, many of whom offered useful criticism which will help us in sharpening our efforts moving forward.
The majority of the goods we were able to distribute were clothing, of a broad and largely unsorted variety. This resulted in one of the consistent criticisms we received; going forward, we will ensure better organization of the free products, and work to involve the masses in their sorting and distribution. Eventually, we hope to turn over control of the entire distribution to the masses, and we have already seen considerable interest from community members interested in getting involved in that operation. The people also demonstrated their boundless creative power, and we received many suggestions on particular kinds of goods to source – mainly school supplies and heavier jackets – and plan to begin work on targeted solicitation of donations in the near future to meet the needs of the people.
Our initiation of the Free Store project was an excellent opportunity to begin strengthening relationships between our nascent mass organization and the surrounding communities. The fact is that, at the present juncture, relations between the communist movement and the broad working masses are essentially nonexistent. Only by demonstrating to the people that we are there to serve them, discovering their political line – rather than deliver one down to them from above – and sharpening it on the scientific whetstone of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, can we transform their initiative and power into a revolutionary struggle capable of toppling the bourgeois dictatorship. Our discussion with the masses on Saturday began that work; we learned more about their concrete struggles and helped to contextualize them within the broader capitalist-settler colonial system; we learned the names of landlords guilty of particularly egregious crimes against the people; we made new contacts and strengthened old ones.
We are excited to continue that work, and the people seem to share that excitement.