On the Significance of RiseUpOctober: Building on Strengths, Overcoming Weaknesses... And Fighting to Actually Put an End to Police Terror and White Supremacy Through Revolution
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
November 30, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
RiseUpOctober, RUO—the mass demonstrations against police murder that took place in New York in October—represented a significant advance in the fight against this terror, and the overall fight against the oppression of Black, Latino. and Native American people of which it is a key part. The three days of action—the march and rallies on the 24th, the nonviolent direct action to shut down Rikers Island prison on the 23rd, and the reading at Times Square on the 22nd of the Stolen Lives, those killed by the police—each in its own right and taken together had a powerful impact on public opinion. The controversy that raged afterward in the media, mainly with the filmmaker Quentin Tarantino’s comments at the march and the defense of Tarantino by others, kept the issue squarely in the public mind, with people representing the action making the point to millions: murder by police must stop—Which Side Are You On?
RUO brought forward and together the voices and participation of people from different sections of society, including students and prominent voices of conscience,around the “reasonable” demands to Stop Police Terror and the police murder of unarmed youths, and convicting and sending the killer cops to jail. On the 24th of October, the march of nearly 4,000 people was bold and defiant, with contingents from different campuses and organizations, and people from Chicago, Baltimore, Boston, and as far away as Texas and California. There were students from the historically Black colleges, the elite colleges and community colleges, along with those from the bottom of society, those “who catch the hardest hell,” joined by activists and others from the social movements and the broad progressive middle strata, all declaring to society, “Which Side Are You On,” STOP Police Terror.
Family members of those killed by police. New York City, October 22, 2015. Photo: Phil Buehler
This political and moral challenge was underscored by the parents and family members of the Stolen Lives, those killed by the police, who came to NYC from across the country, reading the names and telling the stories of their loved ones together with prominent voices of conscience at Times Square on the 22nd. Their powerful and courageous truth-telling was part of bringing home the hard and horrible reality of police murder. The workings of this system and the conscious policies of its rulers seek to keep people divided, and the most bitterly oppressed feeling isolated—and these manifestations of RUO broke through that barrier.
RUO was a powerful political and moral response in opposition to and as part of the political battle over the legitimacy and the right of the police to blow away lives without any consequences or justice. RUO was a necessary intervention to change the terms of discussion and to influence public opinion at a critical juncture. All summer the rulers of this system were on the offensive, attempting to re-seize the initiative after the uprisings of Ferguson and Baltimore had put the question of police terror on the societal agenda. They were posing as the victims, and defending and asserting the right of the police to continue raining terror and murdering people in genocidal proportions.
RiseUpOctober hit back hard at this, speaking the truth and mobilizing people, and as the 24th approached, the powers that be hit back in turn. It is no mere coincidence that Obama and James Comey, the head of the FBI, spoke on the 22nd and the 24th of October on these issues, defending the police in no uncertain terms. Nor is it coincidental that directly after the mass demonstration, the New York Post, Fox News, the PBAs (“Police Brutality Associations”), NYPD chief Bratton, and the rest went on a rampage.
Eve Ensler, Carl Dix, Cornel West, Quentin Tarantino, on march with family members. Photo: twitter.com/tuneintorevcom
Carl Dix, who along with Cornel West co-initiated RUO, hammered away at this legitimacy, and from this perspective, pointed to the real role of the police in enforcing the oppressive system, and brought alive the solution in communist revolution to get beyond this and its leadership in Bob Avakian (BA), while at the same time working to get everyone he could to get involved in this fight. Other people came together with Carl and Cornel, and this variety of voices and perspectives and the lively debate that ensued added to the strength of RiseUpOctober and modeled something very important for people.
RUO forged and advanced a much-needed and defiant pole of genuine resistance and struggle, giving people a way to act commensurate with the horrors and outrages of the all-too-common stories and videos of police terror and police murder. RUO also included the nonviolent direct action to shut down Rikers Island, a torture chamber and hellhole of a prison right in the middle of New York City, housing mainly Black and Latino inmates—and this action of resistance and struggle is a real leap toward what is needed to end the New Jim Crow, the program of mass incarceration.
Evaluating Strengths and Weaknesses
In evaluating an initiative like RUO, from the standpoint of its objectives, the criterion is its effect on the political terrain, on favorably changing public opinion and people’s thinking in line with the actual reality and putting an end to police terror, and organizing forces in the struggle and movement for this. Let’s remember: the point of RiseUpOctober is to STOP police murder; everything it does is designed to contribute to making that fight as strong as possible. And part of the thinking that went into this is that, in order to STOP this, you will need millions and millions of people feeling compelled to choose sides... and compelled to STRUGGLE AGAINST THE SYSTEM that gives rise to such murder and repression.
RiseUpOctober represented a significant advance, and this struggle and its organization, Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN), needs to be carried forward, grow and politically escalate, especially as people are righteously standing up in Chicago, Minneapolis, and other cities against police murder, and on campuses against racism and white supremacy.
At the same time, all of these advances—from bringing together different sections of society in struggle and resistance, in questioning the legitimacy of the police and the system of which they are objectively the enforcers, and the heightened profile of Carl Dix on the political terrain, as a revolutionary communist leader and follower of BA and courageous truth-teller about and fighter against police terror—need to be built on with strategic perspective to hasten the time when a radically different system and society can be brought into being through revolution, and this, as well as many other horrors, can be ended once and for all.
In this context, there were some secondary shortcomings to be looked at, interrogated, and solved going forward.
First, we needed more of an organizational and infrastructural core at the heart of the initiative. We also needed to have raised more funds for advertising and promotion, so that many more people would hear of and be able to participate actively in this resistance. Even though RiseUpOctober did have real and powerful impact, had the RUO movement been able to solve these problems that impact could possibly have been even greater. This is a collective responsibility for the movement as a whole, and we should grapple with others on how to solve these problems, and really grow SMIN with vibrant chapters nationwide.
Bringing Out the Need for Revolution and the Leadership of Bob Avakian
Second, as revolutionary communists, while we worked hard on fulfilling and bringing to life the key objectives of RUO, all too often we lost sight of WHY we take part in these struggles. On the one hand, we hate this outrage with all our might; many of us came into the movement for revolution through this and related battles, and the more that we have understood how deeply interknit it is into this capitalist system and how utterly unnecessary it is, the more—not the less—angry and outraged we have become.
At the same time, unless and until there is a revolution, this horror will go on. It’s that simple. For that reason, we unapologetically lead and participate in these struggles with that larger goal in mind, drawing the links to the system whenever we can and pointing to the solution in revolution and the leadership for that revolution in Bob Avakian (BA).
It is in this regard that we think we fell down some and did not fully enough carry out our responsibility. And a lot of this got concentrated around not letting people know about BA—maybe letting people know some things, but not consistently giving people the full picture of who he is, what he’s brought forward, and how he leads. To put it another way, not stepping off enough from the scientific fact that the outrage of police murder is made all the more unbearable by the fact that it doesn’t have to be this way, there is another way possible through revolution, and there is leadership for that revolution in BA, and the Party he leads.
This is what people need most from us. There is a lot more we could and should have done in bringing to all the need to study and follow BA’s leadership, and becoming part of the process of helping to realize this revolution, including through following revcom.us, the official website of Revolution newspaper, and the main way for people to get the ongoing leadership of BA and the Party.
BA and the Struggle to Uproot the Oppression of Black People and All Other Oppressed Nationalities
In speaking of BA in particular, a lot of people don’t know that he’s been a fighter on this question since way back in the 1960s, going back to the earliest days of the Black Panther Party, whom he worked closely with. People should check out the “TIMELINE—Political Activism and Revolutionary Leadership of Bob Avakian (BA), During the 1960s-1970s, and Continuing to the Present Time” at revcom.us to learn more on this. But it goes way beyond that.
Bob Avakian, over many decades of work, has scientifically shown how the oppression of Black people, since the time of slavery, has been central to the history of this country and integral to the workings of this system of capitalism-imperialism, interwoven into the economic, social, cultural, and ideological fabric of this country. Because of this, the system and its rulers have no solution, no answers to all of its horrific manifestations, from police murder to mass incarceration to rampant discrimination in jobs, housing, and all other areas of life.
Do you know anyone else—any person or organization—that has managed to bring forth an actual PLAN for a radically different society, in all its dimensions, and a CONSTITUTION to codify all this? — A different world IS possible — Check out and order online the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
He has done the work to show that with a radically different system, a different economic and political framework, and social relations and ideas that aim to get beyond all exploitation and oppression as part of a worldwide process, there IS a solution, there IS an answer, and we can put an end to the horrors and get to work on rooting out the inequalities of this system. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) goes into this very concretely. This Constitution is a concretization of the work done by BA on what such a society should look like, and an application of the new synthesis of communism which he has developed over decades, a whole new framework and a world-historic contribution to the science of communism and the emancipation of humanity.
Bringing this society into being will take a revolution, and BA has also developed a strategy for this revolution, and is the leader of this Party implementing and leading this strategy. This strategy of course takes in many, many questions—the oppression of women, the wars waged by imperialism, the destruction of the environment, the persecution of immigrants—and shows the real living links to the capitalist society we live in, and the need to get beyond that. As part of this strategy, he has scientifically analyzed the oppression of Black people as one of the crucial fault lines of this system, one that goes to its very roots and foundations. From his earliest and formative political experiences in the 1960s, the centrality of the oppression of Black people in this society, and the resultant vulnerability of this system on this question, its “Achilles heel,” has been a hallmark of BA’s leadership—that has been scientifically deepened through decades of theoretical work and leading the revolution in the U.S., including deeply examining the struggles of Black people for liberation, and being part of and drawing the correct scientific lessons from the most advanced revolutionary experiences of the 1960s with the Black Panthers.
BA has shown how bringing growing numbers of people into motion around this crucial fault line of this system can deepen and widen the cracks of this system, doing this in a way that hastens the moment when the whole thing can be brought down and a radically different world brought into being through communist revolution. Concretely leading these struggles to end police murder and terror, and its manifestations in SMIN and RUO, are an application of this, with the perspective and goals of advancing the objectives of communist revolution—again, a revolution that can and goes to work on fundamentally resolving not only the oppression of Black people, but of women, of immigrants, and bringing to an end this country’s wars of empire and its destruction of the environment, within and as part of a radically different system aiming for and working towards the emancipation of all of humanity.
And people should definitely know that it was BA himself, as leader of the Party, who is responsible for the Party taking up this initiative, and others like it, going back decades. If you want to check out his thinking on the importance of initiatives like SMIN and RUO, and how they relate to getting to a world where things like police murder and white supremacy really are no more, check out his essay, “The Mass Initiatives and Our Strategic Objectives”.
The Problem... The Solution... And the Process
Why is this important? As people struggle and fight the power, bigger questions are posed such as what is the source of these injustices, what is the relation to other horrors such as the oppression of women and immigrants, the wars and the destruction of the environment, and can we end these and what will it take? There ARE answers to these questions, and it is the responsibility of the revolutionary communists to not only bring the answers to the people, but lead a process for them to increasingly get a scientific approach to society and all of reality, one that is denied the vast majority of people by the workings of this system, and organize them into the actual revolution.
The more people understand the common root of these injustices in the system of capitalism-imperialism, and the fact that these horrors are completely needless and can be done away with through revolution, then the more people’s sights are raised to a radically different world that is necessary, possible, and desirable, and the more people are impelled and compelled to fight even more ferociously—and with an increasingly conscious goal, in thinking and organization, of getting beyond this. This, after all, is the point of fighting to put an END to these horrors, and this takes leadership concentrated in science and a thoroughly scientific approach to society. At this moment in history, the most thoroughly scientific approach to society and the most advanced science of the emancipation of humanity through communist revolution, the solution to all this madness, the way out, is concentrated in the work and leadership of Bob Avakian.
In the little more than a month since RiseUpOctober, this struggle has further intensified, with both RUO, the Revolution Clubs (which are led by the Party), and Party members like Carl Dix right in the middle of it. This must not die down, but must instead go forward. We will be working as hard as we can to build this struggle as broadly as we can, and to do this as part of preparing for revolution, putting an end to this horror. And we look forward to participating with all the people in RUO and many more besides to make this winter and spring a time when the question “WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?” resounds even more powerfully, throughout this society and the whole world.
For more on Bob Avakian, go to:
- BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian
- REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN
- Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy
- BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
- Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible and What It’s All About
- From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, a memoir by Bob Avakian
- “TIMELINE—Political Activism and Revolutionary Leadership of Bob Avakian (BA), During the 1960s-1970s, and Continuing to the Present Time”
For more on how the Party views and participates in mass struggles and their relationship to revolution, see BAsics, Chapter 3, especially 3:1, 3:2, 3:3, 3:30, and the Party’s statement on strategy which supplements that chapter.
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