Sunday at Standing Rock: Bouncing Off "Overthrow—Don't Vote For—This System"

October 31, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper |


October 30—Sunday at Standing Rock, we woke up to a black, charred hill adjacent to the main encampment. Later, we learned from someone that it in fact was an act of arson. There is a climate of intimidation towards the encampment that is being fanned by the police, the private oil company mercenaries, and armed white racists in the area, and so an incident of arson was alarming. But people here are righteously standing up for their land, their people, and the planet itself, and have no intention of backing down. The situation is intensifying by the minute.

As we made coffee and breakfast at our camp in the early morning hours, two youth, one a student and the other a recent graduate, both from L.A., came by and told us that they drove 25 hours in rotating six-hour shifts to be there for the day. They came to talk to as many people as they could so they could get the word out about what was happening on the ground. Neither were journalists but felt strongly that more people needed to be on the ground reporting to the world what was really going on there.

We talked with them about our mission here at Standing Rock, and they united with a lot of what we were getting into—how this system is set up to benefit just a handful of people; the question of so-called “democracy” and the fact that the masses of people do not determine larger decisions made in terms of the direction of society, whether or not to enter into wars for empire, etc.

Read the entire HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution HERE

We read the first paragraph and the first two sentences of the second paragraph from the "What We Need To Do Now" section from "HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution":

To make this revolution, we need to be serious, and scientific. We need to take into account the actual strengths of this system, but more than that its strategic weaknesses, based in its deep and defining contradictions. We need to build this revolution among those who most desperately need a radical change, but among others as well who refuse to live in a world where this system spews forth endless horrors, and this is continually “justified” and even glorified as “greatness.”

We need to be on a mission to spread the word, to let people know that we have the leadership, the science, the strategy and program, and the basis for organizing people for an actual, emancipating revolution. We have Bob Avakian (BA) the leader of this revolution and the architect of a new framework for revolution, the new synthesis of communism.

We talked about how the Get Into the Revolution Organizing Tour 2016-2017 will be coming to Los Angeles. At one point in the conversation, she said that after reading "HOW WE CAN WIN—How We Can Really Make Revolution" and the Constitution for the New Socialist State in North America, she wanted to get involved and asked how would she do so. We traded contact information. 

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We had a much longer substantive conversation, getting into questions of objective reality versus relativism, the crisis in physics, how under a different kind of system scientific findings could actually be unleashed and put into the service of the people, and more! They took the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America and we made an appointment with them to meet up and get into this before they leave.

Victims of the Police Attack on the Winter Camp

After this, two more people came across our camp—an older woman and a young guy, who had just gotten out of jail, literally with their bag of belongings on them.

They were arrested when the sheriff's deputies attacked and cleared the Winter Camp on Thursday. This camp was set up, outside the main encampment, to directly challenge the pipeline construction, and was an important, inspiring act of resistance that drew support from all kinds of people around the country and the world. And it was seen as intolerable by the oil pipeline company and the system overall.

Late last week, scores of pigs in riot gear drove protesters out of the encampment. According to news reports, there was one standoff beside a bridge known as the Backwater Bridge, where protesters set fire to wooden boards and signs and held off the police for hours. By Friday evening, at least 142 protesters had been arrested on charges, including engaging in a riot.

There were different forms of resistance and action at that camp. The people we talked to were held in jail for three days for participating in a peaceful prayer circle and got slapped with three charges, including one felony charge. They told us their stories about what led them to come to the encampment, where the two of them met, and felt through the whole process that they had become family.


People at Standing Rock resisting police violence
People at Standing Rock resisting police violence.
(Photo: Mike McCleary/The Bismarck Tribune via AP, file)

The older woman described how the women were humiliated in jail, sleeping on concrete floors, being held in cages that they and others called dog kennels, and subjected to cavity searches. And those with children were threatened by the authorities in a television news story that their children might be taken from the camp and put into their custody. She also described growing up not living a Native life, because her parents feared her being stolen from them and forced into boarding school. She understood why they had done this and felt very connected with this struggle because of this. She as well as the young guy both felt strongly that they would go through the whole ordeal again and had no regrets.

Bouncing Off “Overthrow, Don’t Vote For, This System”

In the afternoon we hung out with a large group of Native youth, including youth who were a mixture of Chicano and Native heritage, for a number of hours. The group also included some white youth that had come to stand with them. The Native youth were from different tribes from all over the country, with some growing up together and others just meeting here at the camp, all working together, collectively.

One of the youth described the experience they are all going through as a process of healing. He talked about how their people have gone through hell, with many people becoming addicted to substance abuse—and what a difference it has meant that they are coming together to fight this pipeline, and how this is changing them.

Several youth told us they were about protecting the water, that "water is life," and that ultimately this was about protecting the planet. One of them commented, "We shouldn't be fighting for water in 2016.... It's crazy that we have come to the point that this is our last resource.... Someday there will be no water." In addition, they all articulated a view that this struggle must be peaceful.

We brought out “Time To Get Organized for an Actual Revolution” and read the first paragraph of that in the middle of the discussion:

The problem: this system. This system drives refugees and immigrants into exploitation, horror and death. This system wages brutal wars of slaughter. This system destroys the environment. This system locks down generations of Black and Brown youth, brutalizing and incarcerating them and even blowing them away—or else setting them up to fight and kill each other, when they should be fighting the REAL enemy. This system conditions men to disrespect and brutalize women, when the fury of women must be unleashed for revolution. This system—capitalism-imperialism—must be overthrown.

People were bouncing off what we were saying: that America was NEVER great, and overthrow, don’t vote for, this system. One woman, who was saying the important thing for people to know is that the encampment is peaceful and about prayer, at the same time also said, "America was based on genocide and slavery. Everything about the American flag is evil. It's used to conquer people. Right now they have us living in fear.... But there are more of us then them."

At one point, in response to being asked why people should come to Standing Rock to stand with the people, she said, "Why would you not come? It's a generational problem. People are here standing up.... The U.S. Constitution (actually, it’s the Declaration of Independence) says if you don't agree with the government, you can overthrow it." She went on to say that the system is like a machine and that the police attacking them are not the enemy, they are people like us. She put forward that we have to change the people that run the machine and this has to be done peacefully.

We’ve been contrasting that constitution, based on slavery and genocide, when Native people weren’t considered human beings, with the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. And in a number of exchanges, we read BAsics 1:22 to try to set some terms:

In a world marked by profound class divisions and social inequality, to talk about “democracy”—without talking about the class nature of that democracy and which class it serves—is meaningless, and worse. So long as society is divided into classes, there can be no “democracy for all”: one class or another will rule, and it will uphold and promote that kind of democracy which serves its interests and goals. The question is: which class will rule and whether its rule, and its system of democracy, will serve the continuation, or the eventual abolition, of class divisions and the corresponding relations of exploitation, oppression and inequality.

One woman expressed that people in positions of power just needed to be convinced to do right. And in relation to that, she talked about how much she liked Bernie Sanders—that he empowered people and inspired her to run for office. We’ve been pointing people to the 5 Stops* and struggling with them to judge different programs by how they hold up in relation to these real, intractable contradictions that this system and ALL its representatives have no answer to.

Someone said that America can change, that Black people stood up and fought and now they had a Black president, even though they are still struggling. We came back with what IS the reality with Black people these days? They are being murdered by police over and over, and nothing ever happens to the police. That this system has no future for many people. Some walked away, but other people were attracted to it and bounced off it in different ways.

A young man talked about how great Bernie Sanders is, how he woke people up to all these problems in society. At the same time, he said that if Sanders had been elected, of course on Day 1 his whole program would have been shot down! In response, we tried to get to the bottom of why that is—why they couldn’t do all the things that we get into in the “If You're into Bernie Sanders...” article at

The way Hillary Clinton’s office refused to accept a letter from the youth at Standing Rock has had a big impact here. (See “Cold Shoulder and NYPD at Clinton HQ…Pepper Spray at Standing Rock”) One guy told us he had been into Hillary Clinton but denounced her for how her campaign treated the Standing Rock Sioux youth delegation that went to deliver a letter to her at her campaign headquarters in Brooklyn, NY. He said she is no different than Trump.

We tried to take that outrage and sense of betrayal to another place—getting to the nature of the system. We got into how capitalism works, and what the rulers are forced to do by their nature, including with the environment—we drew on what we had learned in the polemic against Bernie Sanders’s program at

One of us was wearing the "America was never great! We need to overthrow this system" sticker. A couple of the youth were really into these and took one each to put them on right away, and took a handful for their friends.

We asked what they wanted to tell people about why they should come to Standing Rock, and one young woman put a challenge to the world: "If you see something on Facebook, don't just cry. Do something about it... Don't be a witness to genocide. Don't be the person that says, 'I saw genocide against a whole race.'... Our future is fading by the hour... we are destroying more things than we're creating.... The way things are going, we won't be here in 500 years. We have no more time. We're hoping to fight to the end. We have something worth dying for."

When things started breaking up and people were heading out to get more wood, get ready for dinner, etc., we put to people that we wanted to talk seriously with them about what is in the “HOW WE CAN WIN” statement, and so we set up a time to meet back up with them to dig into this. A lot of these youth were excited and looking forward to this, and as we left a number of them were flipping through the pages.


* The “5 Stops” refers to the following demands that reflect key concentrations of social contradictions. (This is available in poster and leaflet forms at

STOP Genocidal Persecution, Mass Incarceration, Police Brutality and Murder of Black and Brown People!
STOP The Patriarchal Degradation, Dehumanization, and Subjugation of All Women Everywhere, and All Oppression Based on Gender or Sexual Orientation!
STOP Wars of Empire, Armies of Occupation, and Crimes Against Humanity!
STOP The Demonization, Criminalization and Deportations of Immigrants and the Militarization of the Border!
STOP Capitalism-Imperialism from Destroying Our Planet! [back]


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