Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
In the past few weeks, nearly 100,000 copies of the special Revolution issue #244 on the book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian have gone out on college campuses. Hundreds of copies of the book have been sold. Hundreds of e-subs to Revolution have been garnered off this effort. New people have engaged with the work of Bob Avakian and the movement for revolution, and some have gotten actively involved. And, as the article on page 10 says, we are doubling down on this effort on the campuses in the coming weeks.
In October, we aim to do something similar in the communities of the oppressed. An opening foray during the week of September 14-20—and to involve some of the new students that we're meeting in this effort—took place.
During the week of September 27-October 3: a special effort to take the special issue #244 into the communities of the oppressed. Fan out on the streets, the bodegas and small shops, the barbershops and beauty parlors, the community centers and churches, the supermarkets and mini-malls, the soup kitchens and shelters, the subways and bus stops... everywhere people are. Go to neighborhoods where people know about the revolution, and where they don't. Get a pickup or other truck or a van—rent a cheap one for a day if you don't have it and festoon it with posters and make a "Revolution-mobile" to take the special issue, along with BAsics, the Bob Avakian image cards and T-shirts, the statement on the strategy for revolution from the Party, and other literature—including the newspaper—and get this out very widely. Bring copies of the DVD of Bob Avakian's talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About and show it on portable DVD players. Play "All Played Out" loudly—create a scene and get this out. Make this fun... and definitely, definitely let the new students who've given you their email addresses know that this is happening and that they are invited. And as we go out in these communities, develop new forms for people to join in... the people we will be meeting will have all kinds of ideas for how to get this issue out and into the hands of many more. And find the ways for people to work together with the students who are taking up this mass effort.
During this week, get BAsics out to high schools of the oppressed. Really get this into the hands of the students on the way to school (on the subways and buses and hanging out at the little restaurants nearby the school) and at school itself—and if you know friendly high school teachers see if you can get invited into class.
Again, more will be done in October. But not only will these efforts have value in themselves, they will prepare the ground for a more major "saturation push" in October.
Again: be SURE to raise money as you go... to put the book in people's hands and SELL it to them... to get people to sign up for e-subs and see if they want to be involved and how they want to be involved... Develop a rhythm where saturation alternates with getting to know people—who they are and what they think.
Take the revolution to the people.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Waking Up and Shaking Up the Campuses
It's been two weeks in some places—a bit more, and a bit less, in others—that the revolutionaries have been out on the campuses with the special issue of Revolution promoting the new book, BAsics, featuring quotations and short essays from Bob Avakian.
Among many of the teams that have been out, there is a palpable excitement. Knots of students engaging with quotes from BAsics together, around tables of revolutionaries. Dozens of students buying books after discussing a quote or two in their class. Students seeking out the revolutionaries to tell them they read what they got and want to know more. Professors welcoming revolutionaries into their offices, into their classrooms, or stopping by the tables themselves—many of them making clear, and seeming quite uplifted by the fact, that they've noticed how well the students are responding. Some snapshots of this experience—including creative ways of sparking off debate and exchanges—are available here, here, here, here, and here.
There is an undeniable openness on the campuses to Bob Avakian and his new vision of revolution and communism—his words are bringing to the surface and connecting deeply with the inchoate yearnings as well as more open and restless stirrings among students for a radically different and far better world. Further, as we've gotten out there, we've learned quite a bit about how to do even better at connecting Bob Avakian and his work, as concentrated in this special issue and even more so in BAsics.
Yet, what we are confronting—all of us, including this new generation of students—is a world full of horrors and a sick and dying planet. Every day this disease advances. Even where people are rising up, they don't know the way out. Bob Avakian has brought forward the revolutionary understanding and vision humanity needs to get out of this madness and he is providing the crucial leadership to get there. But people don't know this. It is urgent that his work and his leadership become a material force very soon.
In this light, it is not enough merely to have more very good engagements with students, or even to sell hundreds more copies of BAsics, nor simply to sign a lot of people up to get involved in some way. While all of those things are necessary parts of what we must do, even the best of our work thus far must be vaulted onto a whole different level and into a whole different framework. These good beginnings must be not only marshaled, but wrenched into a different dynamic, one where the movement for revolution and our leader, Bob Avakian, are becoming more and more widely known, engaged, and debated and where this movement and its leader are gaining an organized following.
In a sense, the door to the campuses has been pried opened an inch. Deep stirrings and powerful potential have been revealed. But whether this door gets pushed back closed by the press of people's lives and the weight of the soul-crushing routine of an imperialist order, or whether the door gets busted wide open with this revolution breaking through and breaking out... THIS DEPENDS ON YOU! Its time to double-down!
As of this writing, nearly all of the first run of 100,000 copies of the special issue of Revolution featuring BAsics for the campuses have gotten out into the hands of students nationwide. Ten thousand dollars is needed to print another 100,000 to really push this effort over the top.
Our plan is for everyone who can be mobilized to participate to spend the next week raising thousands of dollars, as well as getting out this current issue throughout society as many commemorate and reflect on the 10-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks. This should include, but not be limited to, a very bold presence on the campuses where we've been taking out BAsics. All this will synergize with the efforts begun on the campuses as well as have a much needed impact more broadly in society.
After that, it's back to the campuses with BAsics on a whole greater level.
Giving money is one of the most meaningful ways to contribute to the movement for revolution. Asking people to give money is one of the most important ways of inviting people into this movement and enabling them to make a meaningful difference in its strength and its reach.
What is the key to raising money? Its quite simple: you must yourself really grasp that this money is necessary, that making a real leap in this work matters tremendously to the world's future. On that foundation, you must go out and ASK FOR IT! Talk to people about why the money is needed—how we have begun to have this impact on the campuses and how there is the potential to take this out all over the country, but not without the money to print more. Giving money is one specific and extremely significant way people can contribute.
One team taking out BAsics at a public university where many of the students struggle even to afford their course books went from raising around $2-$8 dollars a day from students to $100 in one day. What was the difference? They spent the whole day ASKING FOR MONEY from EVERYONE who walked past. Most students gave a dollar or some change. A couple of people gave $5. But this is just the beginning.
Think what this reflects—that close to 100 students in one day felt enough affinity for the revolution to reach into their pockets and give. Think about how donations concretely increase the revolution's capacity to reach back out to these students and others like them. And on yet another level, think about how creating a mass movement of support among these students deepens their partisanship and is an actual means of mass involvement in this movement for revolution!
This needs to go on at many levels.
Take this special issue to professors—whether they've known the revolution for a long time or whether this will be their first introduction. Let them leaf through it. Tell them how it is connecting, as well as what we are fighting to accomplish and then ASK THEM TO CONTRIBUTE. Ask for a specific amount—for some this will be $200, for others this will be much more, for some it might be less—but make sure it means something. Again, this is one of the most meaningful ways for them to contribute to growing this movement for revolution. When they give, this also almost always occasions a deeper engagement and partisanship.
Do the same with others. Whether you are a regular reader of this paper or whether this is your first time, as soon as you finish reading this call three people (or more) and ask them to meet up with you to take a look at this special issue. Ask them to contribute.
Raising money is not an onerous task to be undertaken in order to get back to the "real work" of making revolution. Raising money is one of the most important means of introducing new people to this revolution, of organizing people into it, of deepening their partisanship and engagement, and of significantly growing this revolution's reach and its strength!
ACCUMULATE FORCES FOR REVOLUTION!
At the end of Chapter 3 of BAsics, the following is included in the Statement on Strategy, "there is a place and a role, a need and a means, for thousands now and ultimately millions to contribute to building this movement for revolution, in many different ways, big and small—with ideas and with practical involvement, with support, and with questions and criticisms."
Every need of the revolution is also a means through which new people can take up and become involved in this revolution. One of the most critical examples of this is what's highlighted above: fundraising! It cannot be said too many times that this is one of the most critical, most meaningful, and most impactful way for people to come into this revolution from the very beginning.
But the same is true of every need of this revolution.
However, finding the ways for new people to meet those needs almost never fits neatly into the routines of those who've been at this for a while. And that is just fine! We are not going to really break this revolution onto the scene simply by doing more of the same—not even more of the best of what we've been doing—or simply adding more people into that. Not only do most new people not want to do things exactly as those who have been at this for a while, but what is required is leaping and vaulting onto a whole new level and framework. What is necessary is to find and forge the means to involve many new people in forging the means to do that—which really will be new!
In recent months, our website has reported on some beginning new ways that new people have stepped forward as they have been getting into and being challenged and moved through getting into BAsics. The key lesson to draw from this—and to apply in many new and creative ways—is the method of taking BAsics and everything it concentrates as a solid core and unleashing tremendous elasticity, creativity, and new forms on that basis.
One of the most urgent needs right now—one which is within the realm of the possible, but which cannot be achieved without really straining against and transforming the limits of what now exists—is to really break through in this next couple of weeks in waking up and shaking up the campuses. Achieving this—creating a situation where many thousands of students nationwide are involved in echelons of engagement with BA that are mutually reinforcing and with an increasingly organized and partisan and growing core—will make a very significant difference in leaping this revolution to a different level.
This is what everyone reading this can, and should, put themselves to—write in your experience and ideas, send in and raise money. Where people reading this can sit down together with others, pull together even in the midst of continuing to push way out. On the foundation of what is being accomplished and what is being learned, knit your brows, act as teams of scientists, and fight through on forging the means—together with everyone you are meeting—to vault this tremendous beginning experience to a level that really breaks through and breaks out.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Make Plans and Get Ready for the Next Issue of Revolution
The issue of Revolution, publishing on October 3, will focus on BAsics 3:16.
An Appeal to Those the System Has Cast Off.
Here I am speaking not only to prisoners but to those whose life is lived on the desperate edge, whether or not they find some work; to those without work or even homes; to all those the system and its enforcers treat as so much human waste material.
Raise your sights above the degradation and madness, the muck and demoralization, above the individual battle to survive and to "be somebody" on the terms of the imperialists—of fouler, more monstrous criminals than mythology has ever invented or jails ever held. Become a part of the human saviors of humanity: the gravediggers of this system and the bearers of the future communist society.
This is not just talk or an attempt to make poetry here: there are great tasks to be fulfilled, great struggles to be carried out, and yes great sacrifices to be made to accomplish all this. But there is a world to save—and to win—and in that process those the system has counted as nothing can count for a great deal. They represent a great reserve force that must become an active force for the proletarian revolution.
Make plans and get ready for our next issue of Revolution, publishing on October 3, which will focus on BAsics 3:16.
This special issue will feature letters from prisoners, as well as others, in response to this appeal. Letters and visual art from those who are rising above the muck and mire can inspire and challenge many others—from the communities of the oppressed to students, teachers and professors, artists and others who agonize about the unjust society we live in—to question the way things are and think about the possibility of real revolutionary change. This issue will concentrate that powerful call and be a living challenge to all those who live day-to-day in the most desperate conditions to get into Bob Avakian, to know about and study his talks and writings... to defend and protect him... take up the leadership he is providing. And to join in this movement we are building for revolution to bring a new world into being.
This issue needs to get out far and wide... to communities of the oppressed especially. It needs to get into the hands of people living in the projects and neighborhoods, congregating in the barbershops, coffee shops and on the corners. It needs to be out on the streets and distributed to the homeless. Displays and posters should be made featuring BAsics 3:16 and the "Three Strikes" quote and serve as points of attraction... and gotten up and out everywhere. Take it out to the high schools and college campuses. And, because some fall semesters at college campuses will be starting up after October 3, continue to pursue your plans to take the special BAsics issue (Revolution #244, August 28, 2011) out to these campuses, and find the ways as you are saturating those campuses to make this issue available as well. Get it into the hands of a wide range of people from all walks of life with an eye towards breaking down all the divisions between people. And, as we broadly distribute this issue, we should also be selling BAsics, distributing the BA image cards everywhere. Seize the time to show clips from Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About to people who have gathered around... and to let everyone know they can watch the whole talk at revolutiontalk.net.
Continue to send in and gather up contributions for this special issue. And, as you do that, talk with others... think about who should get their hands on this issue and who can be enlisted to distribute it... make plans to maximize the impact of this challenge and call.
Raise funds in preparing to take the issue out, and wherever you go!
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
From Up Against the Wall to Up in Their Faces
You're young and Black or Latino. You're on your way out to have a good time, without a care in the world. Or you're going to or from work or school, or just hanging out in your hood. All of sudden cops descend on you. They make you turn out your pockets and show some ID; maybe they disrespect you in the process. If you're lucky, it doesn't go any farther than this.
But only going that far is still too damn far! And it happens all the damn time. The NYPD is on pace to stop and frisk over 700,000 people in 2011! That's more than 1,900 people each and every day. More than 85% of them are Black or Latino, and more than 90% of them were doing nothing wrong when the pigs stepped to them.
What gives the NY pig department the right to stop and frisk you just because you are Black or Latino? Who revoked the part of the constitution protecting people from unreasonable search and seizure for people whose skin happens to be Black or Brown? And these kinds of stops can easily go beyond harassment and humiliation. Remember Amadou Diallo, gunned down in a hail of 41 police bullets because they said they thought his wallet was a gun? This is intolerable! It must be stopped. WE ARE STOPPING IT, AND YOU MUST JOIN US IN DOING THAT!
NY pig chief Ray Kelly says his police don't practice racial profiling. The numbers show that Kelly's statement is a lie. Is he stupid, or does he think we're stupid enough to believe this lie. Policies like Stop & Frisk are why there are 2.5 million people in jails across this country. They have criminalized whole generations of our youth. This is intolerable, and it must be stopped. And we are stopping it!
Figures on marijuana arrests in NYC tell the same story. Despite the fact that NY decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana, more than 50,000 people were arrested in the past year on charges of possession of marijuana. Even though the government's own figures say the overwhelming majority of marijuana users are white, more than 2/3 of those arrested for possessing marijuana are Black or Latino!
WE ARE STOPPING ALL THIS—JOIN US IN DOING THAT! In the days leading into the Oct 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, the Network to Stop Mass Incarceration is calling for Stopping Stop & Frisk. We will target this illegal, unconstitutional policy with non violent civil disobedience.
If you are sick and tired of being harassed and jacked up by the cops, JOIN US. If you have had enough of seeing your brothers and sisters, your cousins, your aunts and uncles and fathers stepped to and disrespected by the cops, JOIN US. If you don't want to live in a world where people's humanity is routinely violated because of the color of their skin, JOIN US. And if you are shocked to hear that this kind of thing happens in this so-called homeland of freedom and democracy—it does happen, all the damned time—you need to JOIN US too—you can't stand aside and let this injustice be done in your name.
This Call is issued by:
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party &
Cornel West, professor, author and public intellectual.
Herb Boyd, author, journalist, Harlem, NY
Efia Nwangaza, Malcolm X Center, Greenville, SC
Rev Omar Wilkes
Contact Us to Get Involved and/or to Sign This Call:
Stop Mass Incarceration: We're Better Than That! Network
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
All Out on October 22, 2011:
You can be walking down the street, on your way to school, the store, work—minding your own business. If you're Black or Latino and in New York City—where every day, the police stop and frisk 2,000 people, mostly Black and Latino—you have a good chance of getting jacked up. Maybe you got a joint in your pocket, maybe you don't. But anyway, this could end up really bad. This system already don't offer you a future. But this could be the beginning of a horrible, brutal future under the U.S. [NO]Justice System. You might become one of the 2.4 million people imprisoned in the USA. Or you might just end up DEAD.
Look the "wrong way," say the "wrong thing," wear your pants the "wrong way." Or don't do anything even the police can say is wrong. Still, if you're Black, if you're Latino, and especially if you're young, you're automatically, already a criminal in the eyes of the police and the system they serve. You're a target for police murder and brutality. And they can get away with MURDER. They can RUIN your life. They can TAKE YOU AWAY from your loved ones, for something as small as a little bit of marijuana, or for nothing at all.
October 22, 2011 is the 16th National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. This is a day for people all over the U.S. to take to the streets, act in many creative ways, and let it be known: We will NOT TOLERATE what the police do every single day.
Look at these outrages listed in the O22 Call for 2011 NDP [www.october22.org]—from just this past year:
The KKK lynch mobs of the past have been replaced by the cops who occupy Black and Latino communities. In the days of Jim Crow, a Black youth could end up at the bottom of a river for looking at a white woman. Today a Black or Latino youth can end up beaten bloody or dead if a cop claims he thought a cell phone, or a bulge in a pocket was a gun.
Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation is part of a whole trajectory the system throws people into.
You're Driving while Black, Breathing While Brown, Walking while Black, Talking While Brown... Being Black or Latino and young. All CRIMES under this system. Guilty until proven innocent. But you probably won't get a chance to even argue your case. The cops, the courts, the prison system are all unjust, working against you from the git. You end up in prison, even for something minor. Things like "three strikes" laws and mandatory sentencing mean you'll probably get a very long sentence. Once in prison, you get "validated"—labeled a "gang member" on the most capricious, flimsy "evidence." So they throw you in solitary confinement subjected to what amounts to torture. IF you ever manage to get out, you're branded an "ex-con"—which means you can't get a job, access to public housing, food stamps, government loans for education, the right to vote, and more. All this is the result of conscious policies adopted by the ruling class.
The fact that THIS is the future for millions of youth in the USA is an outrage that shows the total illegitimacy of this system.
For a whole section of people in society the system is basically saying: You have NO rights, we can do all kinds of things to you that even under the stated laws of this country are illegal and illegitimate. The U.S. Constitution's Fourth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights and supposedly foundational to the American rule of law, protects against "unwarranted search and seizure" (that is, unreasonable search and arrest). The Fourteenth Amendment, passed after slavery was ended, says that rights under the law and due process apply equally to all, meaning that anyone accused of a crime is entitled to a legal process where they can defend against the charges, and no one is supposed to be punished (by the police or anyone else) when a crime has not been proven. All kinds of statistics and analysis show that these laws and rights do not exist for an entire group of people. For this group—African-Americans, Latinos, and other oppressed nationalities—there is the sharp edge of force, with no effective due process.
This is slow genocide that's getting faster every day. And as Carl Dix says, "If things are allowed to continue on this trajectory, the reality of millions of the oppressed penned up in the ghettos and barrios without opportunity or hope will intensify. Going in and out of jail will remain a rite of passage for millions of oppressed youth, many of whom already look to their immediate future and can see nothing more than prison or death." [Taking the Movement of Resistance to Mass Incarceration to a Higher Level Thru Unleashing Determined Mass Resistance, by Carl Dix of the RCP and the October 22nd Coalition, in Revolution #242.]
All this is being disguised with the lie that "the law is the law" and it's being equally applied—that Black and Latino youth are getting brutalized, murdered and imprisoned because they do more crime. But this is a LIE. For example look at the huge racial disparities in how marijuana laws are enforced, even though usage of marijuana is no greater among Black and Latino people than among white people [see centerfold in this issue].
All this needs to be exposed. Those who say "the youth themselves are to blame" must be challenged with the actual facts and truth of the situation. There must be powerful resistance to STOP all this.
Already many people around the world see the hypocrisy of a USA that goes around claiming to be the home of "freedom and equality"—while its armed enforcers gun down people with impunity, while it has the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Mass resistance to all this, right in the belly of the beast, can send a message to the world, exposing the ILLEGITIMACY of this system.
We need varied and creative expressions of determined resistance which demands an end to police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation. And which boldly confronts the powers-that-be. And within that mix of resistance and protest there needs to be a powerful revolutionary current. We need to: Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. We need resistance where people really stand up to, question the legitimacy of the current order and bring forward a different way things could be. And this can play a role in unleashing more resistance and among broader forces, including people who may not be ready to take such action and/or do not think revolution is the solution. This could dramatically transform the political terrain—uniting many different sections of society, and emboldening the victims of this brutality and murder who feel isolated and demonized.
People standing up and working to bring a whole new world into being, heartens other people and gives them a sense that they too can stand up and that such resistance could really matter.
As the RCP's statement, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," says: "The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be."
The O22 Coalition encourages people to: "JOIN US if there is already an October 22nd event in your area. CREATE one if you are in an area where there is currently no group organizing. For listings of activities in your area, check the website www.october22.org. To start building for an event in your area, email email@example.com"
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
In a statement dated September 2011, representatives of prisoners who went on a 20-day hunger strike in July at the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison in California, declared that the prisoners will resume their hunger strike on September 26. ("Tortured SHU prisoners speak out: The struggle continues, hunger strike resumes Sept. 26," San Francisco Bay View, September 13, 2011)
The hunger strike went from July 1 to July 20, with some 6,500 inmates in prisons across California taking part in some way.
The prisoners are demanding to be treated like human beings, that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) end their barbaric, inhumane conditions of imprisonment, particularly in the SHUs, including solitary confinement, which is a form of torture.
Many inmates put their health and lives on the line; many came close to death and experienced medical emergencies. Millions of people outside the prison walls in the U.S and worldwide learned about the torturous conditions these prisoners face and thousands supported the demands of the hunger strike in diverse ways.
Prisoners now write that the response of the CDCR to their just and reasonable demands has been completely unacceptable and that they "will continue to resist via peaceful protest indefinitely, until actual changes are implemented...".
The CDCR is not only refusing to meet the prisoners' demands—it is retaliating against those who participated in the strike and mounting a public relations campaign to defend the barbaric conditions in the SHU. CDCR officials have indicated in statements to the media that they won't allow the kind of mass defiance and solidarity exhibited by hunger strikers at Pelican Bay to happen again. This means the CDCR may attempt to quickly crush or isolate hunger strikers and crack down on other California prisoners to prevent the strike from spreading. This makes it especially crucial that everyone who cares about justice, who opposes torture, mobilize IMMEDIATELY and act in support the hunger strike and the prisoners' demands.
At the start of the hunger strike, prisoners issued five demands: 1) end group punishment; 2) abolish "debriefing" (where one of the only ways prisoners can get out of the SHU is to give information and names to the authorities) and the "gang validation" process where false and/or highly questionable evidence is used to accuse prisoners of being "associates" of prison gangs and send them to the SHU; 3) comply with recommendations from a 2006 U.S. commission to "make segregation a last resort" and "end conditions of isolation"; 4) provide adequate and sanitary food; and 5) allow basic human necessities such as one phone call each week and one photo per year, two packages a year, more visiting time, permission to have wall calendars, and sweat suits and watch caps (to keep warm in the unheated prison).
The response of the CDCR to the prisoners' demands has been to deny that the conditions the prisoners in the SHU face is torture—almost half of the SHU prisoners in Pelican Bay have been kept in solitary confinement for more than 10 years—to defend the process of gang validation as fair, and even to call for expanding the criteria under which prisoners can be sent to the SHU.
We encourage people to read the September 2011 statement. It exposes how the CDCR has refused even the most basic demands—including ones they promised to address when they negotiated an end to the hunger strike:
"We remain in SHU indefinitely, deprived of our basic human rights—based on illegal policies and practices, that amount to torture; torture of us, as well as our family members and loved ones on the outside. CDCR remains in denial, and continues to propagate the lies re: 'worst-of-the-worst' 3000 gang generals, etc.—in order to dehumanize/demonize us, so as to maintain the status quo, and 'continue to hammer us' per [CDCR Secretary] Cate's press statement earlier this year, and subject us to 'harsh' conditions per [CDCR Undersecretary] Kernan's Aug. 23rd testimony. These terms 'hammer' and 'harsh' conditions, are used in place of the word torture—and the fact is, CDCR's intent is to break us down, and coerce us into becoming state informants! A violation of international treaty law, period! This is not acceptable!"
Many prisoners who participated in the strike were issued a disciplinary memo that states they are being held responsible for "leading and/or participation in a strike, disturbance or work stoppage is a violation of the director's rules. On or about July 1, 2011 you were identified as having participated in a statewide hunger strike event along with in excess of 6000 other CDCR inmates in support of perceived overly harsh SHU housing issues originating from within the security housing unit at Pelican Bay State Prison. ...Your behavior and actions were out of compliance with the director's rules and this documentation is intended to record your actions; and advise that progressive discipline will be taken in the future for any reoccurrence of this type of behavior." ("Pelican Bay threatens hunger strikers," San Francisco Bay View, August 24, 2011)
The CDCR conducted a tour of the Pelican Bay SHU for the media, which were not allowed to speak to any prisoner who participated in the hunger strike, only to those who have cooperated with authorities and "debriefed." Many news accounts of the tour basically parroted the CDCR and reported that SHU conditions are not that bad.
The CDCR has continued to lie about the hunger strike—saying it was organized by gangs and attacking representatives of the strikers and others, depicting them as the "generals" of the prison gangs and the "shot-callers" who order other prisoners to engage in gang violence.
Delores, whose son has been in the SHU for 10 years, said, "If that is their [the prisoners'] way of thinking, then why did they just conduct a hunger strike, willing to risk their own lives, to suffer on a daily basis in a non-violent demonstration that spread across California prisons involving thousands and thousands of men crossing all racial lines? It's because they are human beings, they do have dignity and they want to be heard."
The courageous prisoners at Pelican Bay are doing everything they can, in the most isolated, inhumane conditions, to refuse to be treated like animals. And because of this, a light is being shined on the torture and inhumanity going on behind these prison walls.
People on the outside have the moral responsibility to act in a way commensurate with the justness of the prisoners' demands and the urgency of the situation. What people on the outside do will be a big factor in what happens when the prisoners resume the hunger strike.
What would it mean if people on the outside don't stand up, support these prisoners by taking political action, and do everything they can to make sure these prisoners don't die, to really fight for these prisoners to be treated like human beings? What would this say about our humanity? But also, what will it mean if hundreds and thousands of people do stand up together, wage a determined struggle for the just demands of these prisoners, and in this way, assert our own humanity?
As a statement from prisoners in California State Prison, Corcoran, put it: "It is important for all to know Pelican Bay is not alone in this struggle and the broader the participation and support for this hunger strike and other such efforts, the greater the potential that our sacrifice now will mean a more humane world for us in the future."
Support the hunger strike and the demands of the prisoners:
Widely distribute Revolution newspaper, on the street, in schools, among all sections of the people. Post articles from the paper online including on social media such as Facebook.
Stay tuned to Hunger Strike Coalition website (prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.wordpress.com) for updates on the strike and mobilizations in support of the prisoners. Wherever you are, organize demonstrations or press conferences, including outside prisons, in support of the prisoners.
Ex-prisoners and family members: Come together, form networks of support for the hunger strike, speak out.
Students and professors: Make the strike a major issue on the campus—everyone needs to know about this. Reach out to those studying and working on issues of mass incarceration, prison conditions, criminal justice, police brutality, racism and national oppression—encourage them to take this up. Organize and demonstrate in support of the strikers.
Many more statements of support for the hunger strike, including prominent people and academics, are urgently needed. Send to Revolution newspaper at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit a comment at revcom.us.
Many more religious forces, including those who have spoken out against torture, need to be mobilized to speak out and oppose the conditions in the SHU.
More human and legal rights organizations need to get involved in this issue and struggle. It is unconscionable to stand aside from blatant torture going on within the U.S. while condemning other regimes around the world.
CDCR must give journalists full access to the prisons and the prisoners, including hunger strikers—in order to report the truth about the conditions in the SHUs and the prisons, and so the voices of the prisoners can be heard. Students, photographers, and journalists: contribute to Revolution's coverage—sharing photos, research, suggestions and correspondence.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Race to Incarcerate, Marc Mauer, 2006
Smoke and Horrors, Charles Blow, New York Times, October 22, 2010
"Marijuana Arrest Crusade: Racial Bias and Police Policy in New York City, 1997-2007," Harry G. Levine, Deborah Peterson Small, New York Civil Liberties Union, April 2008
"New York's Stop-and-Frisk Database and Privacy," Electronic Privacy Information Center
"Report: Minorities Much More Likely to Be Frisked by NYPD," WNYC News, May 13, 2010
"Black Men's Jail Time Hits Entire Communities," NPR.org, August 23, 2010
Whites Smoke Pot, but Blacks Are Arrested, Jim Dwyer, New York Times, December 22, 2009
"Escape From New York," Charles M. Blow, New York Times, March 18, 2011
"Why New York City is the Marijuana Arrest Capital of the World," Ethan Nadelmann, Change.org, July 19, 2010
"Pot acceptable? Not for young and nonwhite" Stephen Gutwillig, California state director, Drug Policy Alliance, Special to CNN, November 5, 2009
"All of Us Use Drugs, but Only Some of Us Go to Jail!" Tony Newman, Communications Director, Drug Policy Alliance, Huffington Post, May 20, 2010
"Arresting Blacks for Marijuana in California: Possession Arrests in 25 Cities, 2006-08," Harry G. Levine, Jon B. Gettman, Loren Siegel, Drug Policy Alliance, LA, October 2010.
"Targeting Blacks for Marijuana: Possession Arrests of African Americans in California, 2004-08," Harry G. Levine, Jon B. Gettman, Loren Siegel, Drug Policy Alliance, LA, June 2010
"Arresting Latinos for Marijuana in California: Possession Arrests in 33 Cities, 2006-08," Harry G. Levine, Jon B. Gettman, Loren Siegel, Drug Policy Alliance, LA, October 2010
"Truth in Sentencing in State Prisons," Paula M. Ditton, Doris James Wilson, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics, January 1999.
"Prisoners in 2007," William J. Sabol, Ph.D., Heather C. West, December 11, 2008, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics
"Prisoners in 2009," William J. Sabol, Ph.D., Heather C. West, December 21, 2010, U.S. Department of Justice, Bureau of Justice Statistics
"Gender and Justice: Women, Drugs, and Sentencing Policy," Marc Mauer, Cathy Potler, Richard Wolf, Sentencing Project, November 1999
"The Punitiveness Report--Hard Hit: The Growth in the Imprisonment of Women, 1997-2004," Institute on Women and Criminal Justice, May 2006
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
We received the following correspondence about going out to an elite school with BAsics and a very large artist's banner/painting of the world with information about imperialist penetration of different areas, and quotes from BAsics.
Today we went to an elite campus with the orientation of taking engagement with Bob Avakian and BAsics to a different level. We sold nine BAsics, one Manifesto, 47 copies of Revolution newspaper #245, and got out 75 of the special issue on BAsics. We raised $47 towards a new run of the BAsics special issue. We got 21 e-subs, which include people who want to meet with a representative later, and be contacted about events. We saw a few people we'd met before, and met many new people.
We moved our "spot" to a stretch of the wide main street a little away from the campus entrances, which gave people a little more time to see our display without having to rush inside, and gave us more room to stretch out an amazing piece of artwork loaned to us. A pair of artists painted a 17 x 8-foot canvas with a map of the world, highlighting the crimes of U.S. imperialism, and using four quotes from BAsics, and a drawn image of the cover of the book.
The first quote, reading from the left, is "The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism."
Immediately when we rolled it out, people began to stop. About 10 percent of those who studied it pulled out their phones and recorded it completely. Once one person stopped to look, others would be curious, and several times during the day more than a dozen would be studying the map. There were really too many to talk to in depth, and we found that people liked being able to read the map without interruption, but then often wanted to talk about the map and the quotes. Some people walked away not liking what they saw, but surprisingly few wanted to make an argument for why.
We were emphasizing #245 of Revolution, concerning 9/11. It may have been the 9/11 anniversary that made people more interested in talking about the world...or that they read the quote, "Internationalism: The Whole World Comes First." We would say, "This is the book these quotes came from" and hand people a copy of BAsics.
In this way we met students and others from every continent. One had arrived for grad school from Afghanistan days ago. Other students, from Ghana and Nigeria, were surprised to find, first, their countries on the map with pertinent information; and then, that there is a movement for revolution here. One Black businessman emphasized how this country was built on slavery, and no one will admit that. He was glad to find BAsics starting with "There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery" and bought it, and the paper, while walking away, saying, "The revolution will never happen." An elderly Black woman in the antiwar movement was moved to tears about the wars coming out of 9/11, bought the paper, declined to buy BAsics, and then came back, saying that the idea of internationalism is so needed, she felt she should take BAsics to her book club, "even though they won't read it." An older white elevator repairman said that he is a Christian, but wants to work with anyone who would bring about a world where people will be kind to each other, so he bought BAsics and came back to film the map.
Quite a number of people said they "already knew" about imperialism, because they had talked about it in class. We would ask them if they knew there is a revolutionary leader in the U.S. who says there can be a new wave of socialist revolutions; a new society here that would immediately close U.S. bases in other countries? A "peace studies" professor wanted to keep in touch and got a copy of #245. One of our team overheard a guy walking by, saying to another, "There's the BAsics people. They're in Chicago, too."
As we were packing up the last parts of the table, and after the map was rolled up, a young Black woman pushing a stroller and waiting for the bus nearby inched over and asked one of us, "Is that Bob Avakian on your T-shirt?" Yes! "I just love Bob Avakian. He just wrapped me around his finger with his book Away With All Gods." We dug out a copy of BAsics, and she immediately dug out $10, and then another dollar for the paper. She said she sees the Revolution guys on the corner near her building, and sometimes they get in touch with her. She's graduated college, and wants to become a criminal defense attorney to protect people's rights. She ran to catch the bus, saying, please, please keep in touch with me. I want to get that paper in my email, and I'll read BAsics right away.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
On Sunday, September 11, Tayshana Murphy was shot to death in the Grant Houses, a public housing project where Tayshana lived in Harlem. She was a high school senior, a legend on the New York City basketball courts, and a nationally ranked point guard. Over a thousand people attended her funeral.
Tayshana Murphy had a basketball tattooed on her forearm. She played basketball from the time she was five, often the only girl on a court full of boys. She hoped to play professional basketball and earn enough money to move her family out of the projects.
News reports quoted friends and family saying the shooting was a result of a feud—that several men from another housing project were out to settle scores with other people, and Tayshana Murphy was mistaken for one of them.
The tragic death of a young Black woman with so much potential, someone who seemed to be on track to be one of the few who had a chance to "make it" out of the projects, has provoked widespread agonizing and searching for answers. In one online discussion, a young Black woman posted, "WE'RE LOSING OUR BABIES ...THE ONES DYING AND THE ONES COMMITTING THE MURDERS!"
New York City tabloids have railed against "violent thugs." And this tragic death is being used to call for more police, who already storm through New York City's oppressed communities like an occupying army.
Others are trying to understand the connections between violence among the youth, conditions of massive unemployment, fascist police stop-and-searches, and a culture of despair and desperation. Within this are voices promoting the CeaseFire model developed in Chicago—that attempts to mediate disputes to prevent violence among the people, an approach promoted in a recent documentary film titled The Interrupters. A central tenet in this approach is that stopping the violence among the people is the necessary first step to changing the larger economic and social conditions among the oppressed masses without changing the fundamental economic and political relations of society.
The article "The Plague of Violence Among the People—and the Real Solution." (Revolution, July 31, 2011), speaks to the basic question: "How did we get into this hellish situation where parents watch young children shot down in crossfire, kids grow up haunted by nightmares of gunfire, sure they won't make it past 18? This is a horror for the people—with a feeling of desperation that comes from knowing it's your neighbors, cousins and friends doing this to each other. And it gives rise to a deep despair that this is an endless spiral with no way out."
And it poses: "The violence people commit against each other is the symptom of a larger problem—but if you don't diagnose the problem correctly and if you don't know what caused it, then the treatment you attempt to come up with will actually make it worse."
The article goes deeply into the root causes of the epidemic of violence among our youth—the economic, social, and ideological factors, and how they are products of a system. And the article explains how and why "There is a way out of all this today—sweeping this system aside once and for all, through revolution and bringing into being a radically different system—socialism on the road to a communist world."
We strongly encourage readers to circulate this article in the midst of the pain and questioning going on in the wake of the killing of Tayshana Murphy, and wherever people are asking what will it take to really stop the plague of violence among the people.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
September 9-13, 1971—Attica State Penitentiary in upstate New York: 1,200 prisoners dared to rise up and declare to the world, "We are not beasts and we do not intend to be beaten and driven as such." Their heroic actions and the way they conducted themselves showed that people who had been condemned as the "worst of the worst" could rise above the muck and mire, and transform themselves in ways that pointed to the possibility of radical social change. On September 13 New York governor Nelson Rockefeller unleashed the state police who massacred 43 prisoners and guards and brutalized the prisoners who survived the hail of bullets.
This year, people around the country commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Attica Rebellion. A program in Los Angeles included people from the neighborhoods as well as others, from different walks of life and perspectives. On September 9, between 1,000 and 1,200 people gathered at the Riverside Church in Harlem for a program titled, "Attica is All of Us." We received the following report about a march and rally in Harlem called for by Carl Dix and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network:
On September 13, 2011, a spirited procession of a dozen people went through the streets of Harlem carrying a banner with "Remember the ATTICA Rebellion! Fight Back!" and the BAsics quote 1:13, "No more generations of our youth..."
Chants of "Attica! Attica! Fight back!" pierced the daily routine, and especially older people who remember the Attica Rebellion welcomed the march. They recalled the courage of the prisoners with pride, and remembered the massacre carried out by the system with anger and bitterness. One brother in his 60s said, "It's real good to see young people talkin' 'bout Attica! Attica!"
The commemoration started in a popular Harlem park where a lot of youth were getting out of school. On a "Wall of Outrage," people wrote comments. One 16-year-old wrote, "I wish the prisoners would have gone further." Another person wrote, "The system and its dogs are the beasts." One brother who joined the march and rally, after hearing about it the day before, wrote, "To all the Brothers we've lost: You will never be forgotten. But you shall always be remembered!!!" He signed his comment "10 long years in Clinton Correctional Facility."
The crowd, mainly high school students, watched a young step team do a routine in honor of the Attica Brothers. As feet stomped and hands clapped in complex rhythms, faces young and old lit up. Ekho, a young poet, read one of her poems about the weight of oppression in the lives of Black youth. Carl Dix introduced James "Doc" Benjamin, one of the Attica Brothers who had played an important role in the Attica Rebellion.
On this day we declared that the defiance and courage of the Attica Rebellion must be remembered, learned from, and taken further.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Check It Out:
Posted Thursday, August 25, 2011
We received the following "Check It Out" from a reader:
Many people have remarked on the very first quote in BAsics: "There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth." Some people read that and say, "I gotta have this book!" Others read it, frown, and ask, "Is that really true?"
There are two important books that demonstrate just how true this statement is. The first is Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery by three reporters from the Hartford [CT] Courant. The second is A Slaveholders' Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic by George William Van Cleve.
The Hartford Courant authors began an investigation of the role of New England insurance companies in the slave trade. They soon found that not only did New England companies profit from the slave trade and cotton trade (based on slavery), they were central to the whole institution, while slavery, in turn, formed the basis for the rise of capitalism in the U.S. As the authors point out:
This economic integration and the power of the slave-owning class in the newly independent United States found its expression in the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. This is the theme of A Slaveholders' Union.
The economic clout of the slave-owning class became concentrated as a result of the American Revolution. In 1774, the major slave colonies in North America represented 10 percent of the population and 14 percent of the wealth of the British Empire. With the formation of an independent USA, the slave states constituted over 50 percent of the population and over 50 percent of the wealth of the new country.
The principal source of wealth for the colonies was the export of slave-produced agricultural products from the South and the export from the North of foodstuffs for slaves in the West Indies and rum for the slave trade in Africa. These were instrumental to the primitive accumulation of capital in the United States. As the result, a series of behind-the-scenes deals were brokered during the writing and ratification of the U.S. Constitution.
First, the northern colonies gave up a profitable (to shipping interests) treaty with Spain in return for southern colonies agreeing to maintain the ban on slave labor (thus guaranteeing wage labor) in territories north of the Ohio River.
Second, the new Constitution guaranteed the states equal representation in the Senate (that is, veto power for the slave states) and extended constitutional protection for the importation of slaves for 20 years (both of which were explicitly exempted from the amendment process in the Constitution).
Third, the southern states, whose free white population was smaller than in the northern states, were given inflated voting power through the counting of 3/5 of the slaves in calculating congressional representation.
Fourth, the Constitution required the return of runaway slaves.
In addition (although this is not dealt with in Van Cleve's book), the federal capital was moved south into the slave states in return for the South agreeing to have the federal government assume the revolutionary war debt of the states (debt principally owed to northern banking interests).
The result was a slaveholders' union that held together until the slave system and the political stranglehold of the southern states on federal political power became too great an impediment to the growth of capitalist production. But by then it had shaped the America that exists today.
* Why did the slave colonies in the West Indies import food for slaves from New England? The answer is that sugar cane was such a fantastically profitable crop that no land in the West Indies could be wasted on growing food for slaves. One horrible result is that during the American Revolution, when this trade was interrupted by the British blockade, thousands of slaves in the West Indies starved to death. [back]
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
6,000 Prisoners Resume Hunger Strike in CA
A very just, very significant and very courageous battle is spreading rapidly in California’s state prisons. On Monday, September 26, prisoners at Pelican Bay State Prison in the Security Housing Unit (SHU) resumed their hunger strike. These prisoners in solitary confinement face horrifically inhuman conditions and had been on a hunger strike from July 1-July 20. Now they are resuming their hunger strike in the face of threats of retaliation and an ongoing campaign of vilification of prisoners by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR).
Thousands of prisoners in other prisons have already joined them. On September 28, lawyers and mediators of Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity’s mediation team reported that at least 6,000 prisoners throughout California were participating in the hunger strike.
In a Thursday, September 29 statement, the CDCR admitted, “As of today, 4,252 inmates in eight state prisons have missed nine consecutive meals since Monday, September 26, 2011,” and that state prisons at Calipatria, Centinela, Corcoran, Ironwood, Pelican Bay, San Quentin and Salinas Valley, as well as the California Substance Abuse Treatment Facility and state prison in Corcoran had all reported inmates on hunger strike. (The CDCR doesn’t acknowledge that someone is on a hunger strike until they have refused nine straight meals.)
The Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity website says: “We know that hundreds of prisoners in the general population at Calipatria are joining the hunger strike for one week in solidarity with 200 hunger strikers in Calipatria’s two Administrative Segregation Units (Ad-Seg & ASU), bringing Calipatria’s numbers up to 500-1,000 hunger strikers.
“Family members have also reported prisoners are striking at CCI Tehachapi’s Security Housing Unit (SHU), demanding that the five core demands written by hunger strikers at Pelican Bay be implemented for all SHU-status prisoners in CA. Prisoners at Centinela have also joined the hunger strike again in solidarity with SHU-status prisoners across the state.” (prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity)
There are also reports that the strike is spreading beyond state prisons to county jails. The Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported that 50 prisoners in the West Valley Detention Center in Rancho Cucamonga, east of Los Angeles, are refusing to eat in support of the hunger strike in the prisons. (9/27/11)
Thousands of prisoners had joined the hunger strike between July 1-20—at the height, 6,500 were participating in some way. The prisoners at Pelican Bay suspended their strike when prison officials said they would meet some of the prisoners’ demands and address the main issues the prisoners were raising. But the prisoners say that the response of the prison authorities since then has been completely unacceptable. (See “Hunger Strike to Resume September 26—Support the Just Demands of the Pelican Bay Prisoners” in Revolution #246.)
Now these prisoners are again putting their lives on the line, demanding to be treated as human beings—demanding that the CDCR end the barbaric, inhumane conditions of imprisonment throughout California prisons, particularly in the “Security Housing Units” or SHUs, where thousands of prisoners are locked in solitary confinement for years, sometimes decades. More than 500 prisoners have been in the Pelican Bay SHU for more than 10 years. Seventy eight have been in the SHU for more than 20 years—locked in a small cells 22-and-a-half hours a day, unable to talk to anyone other than a prison guard who barks orders and subjects them to all sorts of brutality and humiliation.
The prisoners’ demands include an end to group punishment, abolishing the CDCR’s gang status and “debriefing” policies, ending long-term solitary confinement, providing adequate food and expanding constructive programming and privileges. (To read the prisoners’ five demands go to: http://revcom.us/a/237/Prisoners-announce-hunger-strike-en.html.)
Prison officials were deeply shaken by the breadth and strength of the July 1-20 hunger strike. This courageous action brought to light the horrific conditions of solitary confinement—which amount to torture—and there was broad support for the prisoners’ just demands. Now prison authorities are attempting to prevent this from happening again and threatening severe reprisals against hunger strike prisoners. Undersecretary of Operations for the CDCR, Scott Kernan said in a recent interview, “If there are other instances of hunger strikes, I don’t think the Department will approach it the same way this time around.”
The CDCR’s September 29 press release states that it “will not condone organized inmate disturbances. Participation in mass hunger strikes and other disturbances will result in CDCR taking the following action:
“Participation in a mass disturbance is a violation of state law, and any participating inmates will receive disciplinary action in accordance with the California Code of Regulations; and
“Inmates identified as leading the disturbance will be subject to removal from the general population and be placed in an Administrative Segregation Unit."
Matthew Cate the Secretary of CDCR, interviewed by KPFA on September 27 threatened prisoners saying, “If they still want to be on a hunger strike then there will be some consequences to that, because you can’t shut down prison operations with no consequences.” Cate went on to repeatedly describe the hunger strike as a “mass disturbance” and compared it to a riot. In attempting to justify why the media are not allowed access to the prisoners on strike—who are risking their lives to demand an end to inhumane conditions—Cates said it was “the same reason that we don’t allow media to have access to Charles Manson.”
On September 27, CDCR issued a memo to all prisoners stating: “Information has been received that a number of inmates have engaged in behavior consistent with organizing a demonstration/hunger strike event. The Department will not condone organized inmate disturbances.” The letter said that “participation in mass disturbances, such as hunger strikes or work stoppage will result in the Department taking action.”
In particular, the memo threatened all participants in the hunger strike with “disciplinary action in accordance with the California Code of Regulation.” Such disciplinary actions are used to deny prisoners parole, privileges, or other forms of punishment.
The letter said that those identified as “leading the disturbance” would be “removed from the general population and put in isolation in an Administrative Segregation Unit.” Administrative Segregation is another type of solitary confinement in California prisons. They have not stated what the punishment will be for prisoners who are already in the SHU.
Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity reported that “a number of prisoners lost their jobs as added punishment for supporting the strike in July.”
Stop and think about what all this reveals: Who is defending crimes against humanity? Who is lying and justifying criminal violence against human beings? What does all this show about the utter illegitimacy of the California prison system—and brutal nature of mass incarceration in the USA? For prisoners subjected to the most isolating conditions, sitting in their cells and refusing to eat is labeled a “mass disturbance.” Their demands simply to be treated as human beings—are met with lies and threats of even more violence against them. This is completely outrageous and intolerable!
These threats of retaliation against the hunger strikers must be exposed and opposed immediately by people on the outside.
Carol Strickman, an attorney who recently visited Pelican Bay, told Revolution that there are other ramifications if prison officials declare the hunger strike a “mass disturbance”:
“They could do lockdowns. That would prevent family visits. That means everybody in the prison can't have visits. That would be another example of group punishment, and abolishing group punishment is one of the prisoners' demands. So what they would be doing in response to the prisoners’ demands is to crank up group punishment—the behavior that is being protested. It means people can't go to the law library, people can't get medical visits, can't do classes and programming. In women's facilities they can't go do their laundry. You can't go to canteen. There are a lot of things that flow from a lockdown. That is a serious threat.” (At this writing there are reports that many prisoners are now being denied family visits.)
Strickman said that prisoners are receiving serious disciplinary write-ups, usually reserved for serious rules violations, for things like talking in the library or not walking fast enough. She said that some of the prisoners who have been negotiators are being singled out, threatened with transfers, and subjected to cell searches.
Summing up the retaliation and threats against the prisoners, Stickman said, "We're saying they are torturing the prisoners and we want them to stop the torture. The prisoners are so concerned about it that they are going to stop eating. If the response is to increase the torture, then they are just proving who they are and what their values are. This is a human rights issue and they are proving that they don't see the prisoners as human.”
* * * * *
Our brothers and sisters are locked up and facing the most horrible and inhumane conditions. Yet they have risen up—with great courage, unity and vision. They’re setting an example for everyone who hates injustice. They urgently need our support. Their struggle can—and must—reverberate and gain support across the U.S... and the world!
As Revolution has said: “People on the outside have the moral responsibility to act in a way commensurate with the justness of the prisoners’ demands and the urgency of the situation. What people on the outside do will be a big factor in what happens now that the prisoners resumed the hunger strike.”
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
On September 26, as prisoners in California prisons resumed their hunger strike, students at Hastings Law School in San Francisco organized a teach-in to expose the conditions that prisoners face and to mobilize support and action in support of the prisoners’ demands.
More than 90 Hastings students attended the teach-in, which was sponsored by Hastings Race and Poverty Law Journal, Hastings Prisoner Outreach, National Lawyers Guild - Hastings Chapter, La Raza, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, Black Law Student Association and Hastings Criminal Law Society.
Speaking at the teach-in were Marilyn McMahon, Executive Director of California Prison Focus, law professor Hadar Aviram, Keramet Reiter, JSP candidate at Boalt Hall Law School, and Dorsey Nunn, Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, himself a former prisoner. While these speakers brought forward information on the conditions in the SHU and the history of solitary confinement, a big focus was on the need for people to get involved and use their legal training and their position in a way that can make a difference.
Dorsey Nunn gave an impassioned challenge to the students: "You can't do mass incarceration and put 2.4 million people in prison and 7 or 8 million under the control of the criminal justice system without torture and killing people questionably. It's almost like it is a natural extension. I don't think you can do all of these things and say that somehow as a society that we are not accountable—for all of us. So I don't think we can say it happened outside the public eye. We were all aware that we were locking up Black and brown people in these extremely large numbers. It's almost like saying Dachau was outside the public eye."
One of the students who organized the event told Revolution, “It's about relevancy. There are a lot of students here who want to make their work relevant so that what they are doing is in line with their values."
Brooke, a Hastings student, is organizing law students to travel to Pelican Bay, a seven-hour drive from San Francisco, to meet with SHU prisoners and document their conditions. She told Revolution, “It's really inconvenient, especially for law school students to take that trip and miss class. But what you really have to think about is whether missing a lecture—how far back is that going to set you compared to what these people are facing? How important is it, in comparison to get their voice out? I try to make clear to students that magnifying this voice, especially through a law school student who, for whatever reason, society has given more legitimacy, is so much more impactful than going to a lecture that you can get notes on from someone else.”
The students at Hastings have put together a PowerPoint presentation that they are making available to other students to use in organizing support for the prisoners.
Many diverse actions are being organized in support of the prisoners—and much more is needed.
San Francisco Press Conference: On Monday, Sept. 26, supporters of the prisoners organized a press conference in San Francisco. Speakers included former prisoners, attorneys, law school students and scholars. The Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition website announced that meetings were organized in Toronto and Vancouver on Monday and that there was a protest in Los Angeles at a fundraiser for Obama.
Bannering during rush hour: On Tuesday, six people took a huge banner supporting the hunger strike to a busy freeway on-ramp in San Francisco during afternoon rush hour. The on-ramp was across from a homeless service agency. Many of the people there had either been in the California prison system or have friends and relatives incarcerated. One Black man told us that he had been in the Pelican Bay SHU when guards “washed” a mentally ill prisoner in scalding hot water till his skin fell off. Reportedly the guards joked that "It looks like we have a white boy now!"
Upcoming actions in the San Francisco Bay Area include a protest at CDCR headquarters, 1515 S St., downtown Sacramento, on Wednesday, October 5, from 12 noon -2 pm.
For some of the ways you can support the hunger strikers: go to http://revcom.us/a/246/prisoner-hunger-strike-to-resume-en.html and prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Several blocks from the financial center of American capitalism-imperialism, hundreds of mostly young people are occupying a private park in an action called OccupyWallStNYC. The occupation began with a march of 3,000 on Saturday, September 17 and since then, up to 100 have slept in the park every night. The occupation was called by Adbusters: "20,000 of us will descend on Wall Street, the iconic financial center of America, set up a peaceful encampment, hold a people's assembly to decide what our one demand will be, and carry out an agenda of full-spectrum, absolutely nonviolent civil disobedience the likes of which the country has not seen since the freedom marches of the 1960s."
The OccupyWallStreet website (https://occupywallst.org) describes it like this: "Like our brothers and sisters in Egypt, Greece, Spain, and Iceland, we plan to use the revolutionary Arab Spring tactic of mass occupation to restore democracy in America. We also encourage the use of nonviolence to achieve our ends and maximize the safety of all participants... Occupy Wall Street is a leaderless resistance movement with people of many colors, genders and political persuasions. The one thing we all have in common is that We Are The 99% that will no longer tolerate the greed and corruption of the 1%."
From the beginning of the occupation 10 days ago, thousands of New Yorkers and tourists from around the globe have been moved to visit and millions are following it online. Similar actions are being organized in cities across the U.S. and around the world.
Last Thursday, several hundred from the occupation joined many others to march through the streets of downtown Manhattan for several hours, in defiant protest of the legal lynching of Troy Davis. Several were arrested.
Then this past Saturday, an anti-Wall Street march of many hundreds organized by the occupation was viciously attacked by the police. AlterNet described it: "A group of protestors from the camp ventured outside the park and marched on Union Square Saturday morning, and around 100 of them were arrested. Police sprayed peaceful protestors in the face with pepper spray, threw them to the ground and assaulted them with elbows, dragged a woman around by the hair, jumped over barricades to grab and rough up young people, and, when all was said and done, laughed to themselves triumphantly. This is exactly the sort of violence and brutality American authorities routinely condemn when perpetrated against non-violent civilians demonstrating for democracy in Middle Eastern dictatorships, even as they employ horrifying cruelty right here."
Far from crushing the occupation, people became even more determined, and more came to join and support the encampment. The police are now declaring that the encampment must end and are amassing an enormous presence surrounding the small park. Any attacks on the encampment or on demonstrations organized by the occupiers must be met with firm and determined political opposition.
Revolution newspaper distributors and readers have been spending time at the encampment, joining the street demonstrations, getting out the special issue of Revolution, "You Can't Change the World If You Don't Know the BAsics" and other issues of the paper, and the BAsics book by Bob Avakian. They sent this report:
For the past 10 days, the encampment has been the center of a festive and determined, defiant spirit. The occupiers have included many students, but many older 20- and 30-somethings also come in and out on their off hours from work. Older artists we ran into on Sunday who had kind of given up on the younger generation were just glowing to have found the kind of energy, community, and cooperation forming in the park. Neighbors from well-off nearby neighborhoods are stopping by with food and bringing cash. A nearby pizza place has had to hire extra cooks to accommodate the online orders for pizza pouring in from people around the world wanting to support the occupation. Their Mexican bike delivery person struggles with huge piles of pizzas. He doesn't speak English, but grins and says, "hasta la victoria siempre!" An African-American woman, laid off from a Wall Street job, looks ready to serve a dinner party, with earrings and apron all correct, as she organizes the makeshift buffet line that serves delicious, healthy food to the occupiers and to the homeless. Work groups voluntarily collect garbage. A garden of hundreds of hand-written signs lines one side of the park and grows daily—and none are ever trampled or defaced. The park, which before 9/11 was a drug sales point for Wall Street workers, is now a drug-free zone by intention.
Like millions around the country, especially students who had been active in trying to stop the execution of Troy Davis, occupiers were shocked, angry, and outraged that the state killed him. People who had just heard about the case at OccupyWallStreet felt like this, too. One young woman wailed on Thursday, "How could they do this. One million people signed petitions! I thought that would be enough." Most gripping was a well-dressed young Black woman who stood in the middle of 300 people at Union Square the day after the execution. "My friends and I have been told that if we stay in school, study hard, and follow the program, we can make something of ourselves. We are following all the rules. But now, this feels like a stab in the heart. You do all this correctly, then they kill Troy Davis. And you look around, and you feel 'They just want to kill us.'"
Rather than demoralizing the occupiers, the police attack on the Saturday anti-Wall Street march was an education. "They'll need more than pepper spray to push us out of here. We're not leaving," said a young woman when released. Sunday, a large sign read "Capitalism is a Violent Monopoly." People are also wrestling with real and basic questions: "Why did the police do this? Don't we have a right to protest?" Quotes from Bob Avakian, including the Bob Avakian quote on the back page of Revolution on the role of the police were read, and were controversial and clarifying.
We are learning more about the deep alienation and void youth feel. A woman in her early 20s, very conventional looking, said she'd never been to a protest before. She heard about this, and said that in thinking about her life, "I look ahead to what my life is going to be—the idea that I'm spending my whole life just paying debt is frightening." They see the enormous wealth and here they are struggling, not finding careers or even jobs, remarking that even white middle class people can't survive the recession.
Many of the occupiers know, in great detail, about how endangered the global environment is. One woman from an arty neighborhood in Brooklyn described how she never spends money with a global corporation if she can help it, buying only at thrift stores, farmers' markets, and trading with friends. She feels hope in those actions; she sees that the problem is huge, she knows there's more to life than consuming; she is interested in what a communist revolution might open up. The sense of possibility in the word "revolution" is embraced by many in this scene.
One young man said he was thinking of quitting his office job and working on a sustainable farm. He said he just couldn't stand it; working was like being complicit with all that was going on. One of us read him the quote from BAsics about living in America being like living in the house of Tony Soprano ... and the epistemology quote about how it's unacceptable to refuse to believe what is true just because it makes you uncomfortable. We told him there was a way out of this prison. He wanted to know what to do: we showed him the essay on reform and revolution on fighting the effects or uprooting and getting at the cause. He, like many others, wants to stay in touch.
We have found, from the beginning, a real openness and interest in talking about the biggest questions, including why the world is the way it is, and what it will take to change it...not only from the occupiers, but among those who have been attracted to the scene.
In the ten days since the occupation began, hundreds of copies of the special issue of Revolution newspaper, "You Can't Change the World if You Don't Know the BAsics" and other issues of the paper have been distributed to occupiers. The paper is getting known to people there and it's not unusual for people to come ask us for it. Dozens of copies of the BAsics book by Bob Avakian have been sold to participants and to others coming to support or learn about the action. We have taken turns at soap-boxing, and have spent time jumping in to the thinking—contesting ideas—that goes late into the night hours.
Most people in the occupation see the cause of the great disparity in the world as the greed of the banking system and rich people; some are very influenced by conspiracy theories that situate the problem in the monetary system, the federal reserve and so on. An understanding of capitalism-imperialism as a global system of vast exploitation and oppression, centered in the U.S., is new and different. We are using what Bob Avakian expresses so clearly in BAsics, in chapter 1, to open people's eyes to the basic problem: A global system of private expropriation of labor with corresponding social relations and ideas.
Saturday evening and Sunday, the BAsics map (a large artist's canvas with a map of the world and quotes from BAsics about worldwide oppression and exploitation) anchored an end of the "sign garden" as groups of a dozen or more gathered around it. So many conversations began with the basic truth of the map. "What can I say? It's true!" said a professor who invited us to come by his class.
A young guy was looking at the map for a long time, towards the back of the line of people at the edge of the map—alone. He began talking about how outraged he was about the Troy Davis execution. He was looking for community. He said he worked in a "corporation" but spent all of Thursday writing in his blog against the execution. He talked about how really upset he was that his whole family and social network didn't say a word about the execution. Then this morning, he had gotten a snotty one liner from a cousin on the "religious" side of the family about his being an "arm chair activist." He couldn't believe that people didn't understand what it meant that this innocent person was murdered, executed. What kind of society is this? We got into how this was not just about the whole worldwide system of oppression, but how Bob Avakian has gone into the 20th century history of communist societies, written about his new synthesis, we read BAsics quote 2:2 about communism—that there is a vision of a new world and strategy to get there. He got the paper and special issue and said he would read it and especially look into the book.
One young woman who is a student at a fashion college is very frustrated with people who just care about fashion and superficial things. She had never been to a protest before, but this touched something. She felt like "we [young people] can do something, we're going to, I have to be there." One of us ran into two young women on the subway talking about the occupation. They were visiting NYC as part of fashion week—they are workers in the luxury goods industry and came across the encampment by accident. They thought what was happening was so cool, interesting, positive, they went back a second time. They were stunned by the massive police presence.
We are finding that the encampment is tapping into the deepest feelings people have of not wishing to resign themselves to the way the world is. This kind of rebellious, joyful, curious and determined expression from among young people is a significant and welcome breath of fresh air. Any attack on it has to be determinedly opposed and turned into a massive political defeat of the powers that rule such a world of hurt and oppression.
|Wall Street, September 24
Copyrighted Peter Harris
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Troy Davis—Presente! He's Here!
This system executed Troy Davis—no they murdered him. They delayed his execution a few hours while the Supreme Court considered and rejected a last-minute appeal from Troy's lawyers. The court issued a one-sentence statement explaining why they refused again to reopen his case and look at the mounting evidence of his innocence. It might as well have said Black people have no rights that we are bound to respect! The content of what the system has told us in this case, as they told us in the case of Shaka Sankofa eleven years ago, is that innocence is no bar to execution.
The powers that be say this country is the homeland of freedom. They tell the world that they're the greatest defenders of human rights. Then they turn around and railroad Troy Davis to jail on trumped up evidence, refuse to even consider the mounting evidence of his innocence and execute him on the basis of that railroad.
This was a legal lynching, plain and simple, sisters and brothers. It didn't matter to them that there was no physical evidence tying Troy to the murder of the cop or that seven of the nine witnesses against Troy have come forward and said that their statements were lies, several of them claiming they were coerced to lie by cops who were dead set on frying some Black man, any Black man, for the killing of one of their own. No court has even bothered to reopen the case, listen to the witnesses recanting their statements against Troy, and consider the police coercion that went into his conviction! What else can we take from this but that they're telling us—"We railroaded him, fair and square, and now we're going to strap him down and fry him."
What can you say about a system that would do all this—railroad a man to death row, ignore mounting evidence of his innocence and go ahead with his execution in the face of widespread international protest? The truth is that this system is rotten to the core, and needs to be done away with through revolution.
And this ain't just about Troy Davis. I was at a protest in Harlem the other night, the night of Troy's execution, and during that protest a number of people who were hearing about Troy's case for the first time told me, "This system does that to Black people all the time." That's very true. The legal lynching of Troy Davis concentrates the way this system treats Black people. This system has criminalized our youth, treating them like they're guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive their encounters with cops to prove their innocence, and if they can avoid being framed up in the system's kangaroo courts. Their cops get away with brutalizing and even murdering people, all the time. This has been going on for too damn long. It is intolerable, and it must be stopped!
The future this system has in store for many of our youth comes down to either crime and punishment or joining their military and killing people to keep their global empire in effect. Again, what can you say about a system like this except that it's rotten to the core?
But things don't have to be this way. We could end all the horrors this system inflicts on humanity through revolution, communist revolution. We could get rid of this rotten system and bring into being a society and a world that serves the interests of humanity. And we in the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) are building a movement for revolution to do just that. Get with this movement, sisters and brothers. Join it to help spread revolution everywhere and to mobilize people to "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution." There are 2 important things going on right now that you need to get involved with as part of doing this.
First, get your hands on BAsics, a new book by Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party. This book concentrates more than three decades of work Avakian has been doing studying the experience of previous revolutionary societies and grappling with everything that stands between humanity and its ultimate emancipation. With this book, we can introduce people to the leader we have for making revolution and bring to a new generation the new and revitalized understanding of how to make revolution and bring into a being a viable and desirable socialist society that Avakian has developed. If you want to see an end to the legal lynchings like we just witnessed in Troy Davis' case, an end to the way that Black people are beaten down and oppressed by the system, and everything else foul this system inflicts on humanity, then you need to get your hands on BAsics. And you need to help spread the word about BAsics and help other people to get a copy of it. If you don't know about Avakian, you need to learn about him, and you need to let other people know about him. Cause you can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics.
And second, Cornel West and I have called for a day of non-violent civil disobedience to Stop "Stop & Frisk." This day is going to be in the week leading into the October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality. The execution of Troy Davis underscores the need for determined resistance to the way this criminal injustice system mistreats Black people. And this day of Stopping, Stop and Frisk that Cornel and I have called for is going to be exactly that kind of resistance, determined resistance.
As the RCP says in its Message and Call, "The Revolution We Need ... The Leadership We Have", "... The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be." We have to unite people from many different backgrounds and of different races and nationalities to stand together and say in a loud powerful voice that we refuse to stand by and let them continue to violate people's rights in the way that they've been doing. So get with us around this day of Stopping Stop and Frisk.
Now to get connected with this important action, go to stopmassincarceration.tumblr.com or you can call us at (973) 756-7666.
Go to the website www.revcom.us for coverage on the execution of Troy Davis and to get more information on everything that I've talked about here.
I hope to see you in October when we can stop Stop and Frisk.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
On the Execution of Troy Davis
At 10:50 p.m. on September 21, the State of Georgia injected a deadly mix of poisonous chemicals into Troy Davis, a 42-year-old Black man who had been on death row for the last 22 years. Davis turned his head to look directly at the family of the police officer he was convicted of shooting and according to witnesses said: "I am innocent. All I can ask... is that you look deeper into this case so that you really can finally see the truth. I ask my family and friends to continue to fight this fight." At 11:08 p.m. Troy Davis was dead.
This legal lynching took place in the face of overwhelming evidence that Davis was innocent. It took place after one million people signed a petition to stop the execution, after worldwide protests involving many thousands of people. While some prominent public figures, including ex-President Carter, former FBI director William Sessions, and Pope Benedict, spoke out against the execution, President Obama didn't do or say anything—except to have his press secretary issue a statement that said: "It is not appropriate for the president of the United States to weigh in on specific cases like this one, which is a state prosecution." But in 2008 Barack Obama had no problem speaking up on a state prosecution case when he told people in NYC to accept the outrageous acquittal of the cops who murdered Sean Bell.
The case of Troy Davis went through many levels of state and federal appeals courts that cynically refused to examine powerful evidence of innocence. The U.S. Supreme Court, after the execution was delayed for over three hours, could have halted the execution to allow time to review the evidence of innocence. But instead, it gave the final green light for Troy Davis to be strapped to a gurney and put to death.
This is a barbaric, racist system—ruled over by monsters who have NO RIGHT to have power over anybody—no right to take away anybody's life.
This was a barbaric and calculated murder by a system that cares nothing about justice. Indeed the arrest, imprisonment, trial and conviction—and then execution of Troy Davis—had nothing to do with justice. NO: This execution was a demonstration of the bloodlust of those who rule over us—which they see as crucial to maintain power. This execution had everything to do with reaffirming the power of life-and-death the system holds over the oppressed, a power wielded every day on the streets with police "stop-and-frisk," brutality, murder; with 2.3 million people in dungeon-like prisons, many on death row.
Troy Davis was charged with murdering Mark MacPhail, an off-duty police officer doing security at a Burger King in the Savannah, Georgia area. Davis was one of many people in the parking lot when a fight broke out. One man pulled a gun and pistol whipped the other, at which point Davis said he fled the area. MacPhail came on the scene and was shot twice by a man with a gun.
Though there was no physical evidence against him, the police quickly went after Davis as their target. Many witnesses said the shooter was Sylvester "Red" Cole but the police never pursued him as a suspect and to this day it is unclear whether Cole is innocent or guilty. The police never interviewed Davis' pastor, who spent four hours talking to him before he surrendered. As Davis' trial lawyer said,"the entire focus of this investigation was not in deciding and finding the truth of this case as to who actually committed these crimes ... but it was to find evidence to convict [Davis] of these crimes." (Amnesty International report, "'Where is the justice for me': The Case of Troy Davis, Facing Execution in Georgia" at https://www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR51/023/2007/en/909e39f7-d3b6-11dd-a329-2f46302a8cc6/amr510232007en.html).
All this is reminiscent of lynch mobs in the South, which after a real or imagined crime against a white person would go looking for a Black person, any Black person who happened to come in their path, to be savagely strung up from a tree.
The police put together a series of witnesses who testified either that Davis shot someone earlier in the evening; or shot MacPhail in the parking lot; or confessed to them afterwards. Nine people testified for the prosecution at the trial as eye witnesses, fingering Davis in some way. Cole was a key witness against Davis.
Davis' attorneys lacked the resources to really counter these testimonies and do everything needed to put together a good legal defense. The railroad of Troy Davis was in effect from the start. For example prosecutors concealed a letter from one of these witnesses soliciting favors in her own court case in return for testifying against Troy.
On August 28, 1991, a jury took just two hours to convict Davis and seven hours to agree to sentence him to death. From death row, Davis began a series of legal appeals that would last 22 years.
Over the next 11 years the original case against Troy Davis completely fell apart. His conviction was based entirely on eyewitness testimony, but by 2002, seven out of nine of the original witnesses had recanted their testimony, with six of the seven swearing that police had coerced them to lie about the events that night. (See "How Testimony Against Troy Davis Was Coerced")
Nine witnesses signed affidavits implicating "Red" Cole as the person who shot and killed MacPhail. The only two witnesses that have stuck to their original stories are Cole himself, and a woman who had only testified about the color of Troy's shirt. Three of the original jurors swore that they would never have voted to convict Troy Davis had they had full access to this evidence.
Think about this: Troy Davis was put to death on the basis of TWO testimonies, period, end of case. One from a person who others say was the shooter. The other, who ONLY testified about the color of the shooter's shirt. This is American-style justice.
The U.S. government brags about its system of "checks and balances." There is supposed to be a distribution of power among the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government—to prevent control by any single branch. The judicial branch is given the power to interpret laws, including the U.S. Constitution. And in the case of Troy Davis it was very clear that an enormous travesty of justice was about to take place. But not a muscle was moved on the part of the executive (Obama administration) or legislative (Congress) branches to do anything to stop the completely unjust and barbaric execution of Troy Davis. And the U.S. Supreme Court gave the final go ahead for the execution.
Two closely related legal principles are supposed to underlie the U.S. criminal justice system. One is "innocent until proven guilty." The other is that the standard of guilt must be "beyond a reasonable doubt." And these two principles are supposed to be even more strictly adhered to in capital cases, since death is an irreversible sentence. An extensive system of appeals courts, clemency hearings and even executive pardons is supposed to insure a fair application of justice.
But what happened to Troy Davis reveals that just the opposite is the case. The whole apparatus of the U.S. system of [in]justice swung into motion to suppress examination of new evidence, to uphold the original outrageous sentence, and to railroad Troy Davis to the death chamber.
Here is how a 2007 article in Time Magazine described what happened:
"The system of appeals can still stretch out over decades, but in Davis' case, many of those appeals are now being denied for procedural reasons. In his 2004 petition to the federal district court in Savannah, Davis presented recanted testimony, most of which involves witnesses who say police coercion caused them to wrongly implicate Davis. He also presented nine individuals' affidavits that suggested that the real murderer was actually the former acquaintance who first accused Davis of the crime [Coles].
"The federal judge rejected the petition since, under the current law, the evidence must first be presented in state court. But Tom Dunn, the executive director of the Georgia Resource Center, which helped represent Davis, says that funding trouble prevented the center from presenting the evidence in state court in the first place. Tracking down witnesses costs money, but in 1995, just as Dunn's colleagues had been preparing Davis' appeal, Congress eliminated $20 million in funding to post-conviction defender organizations like the Georgia center, which lost 70% of its budget. Six of the center's eight lawyers left, as well as three of its four investigators, and Davis' case became one of about 80 that Beth Wells, then executive director, had to handle with her co-director.
"'The work conducted on Mr. Davis' case was akin to triage,' Wells wrote in an affidavit, ‘where we were simply trying to avert total disaster rather than provide any kind of active or effective representation... There were numerous witnesses that we knew should have been interviewed, but lacked the resources to do so.'" (Time—July 13, 2007, Will Georgia Kill an Innocent Man?) [Emphasis ours.]
In the twisted, totally unjust logic of the U.S. "justice" system, being poor, working class, a minority, without resources to get adequate legal representation can actually become part of a legal argument for why your trial should NOT be reviewed by the courts of appeal—even when there is evidence of innocence. So one of the reasons Troy Davis was denied the chance to have overwhelming evidence of his innocence reviewed before he was put to death...was because he did not have the money and other resources that were necessary to put together a real defense at his original trial.
Further on March 17, 2008, "the Georgia Supreme Court denied Davis' appeal, stating that the recanting witnesses 'have merely stated they now do not feel able to identify the shooter,' that the trial testimony could not be ignored, and that they [that is, the Court] 'in fact, favor[ed] that original testimony over the new.'" (Amnesty report) [Emphasis ours]. Apart from simply lying about the content of the recantation affidavits (leaving out the accounts of police coercion, the identification of another shooter, etc.), the Court's argument is basically this: That witnesses who are threatened by the police and sign statements they haven't even read are more "reliable," whereas the court completely disregards the fact that these same people, risking perjury indictments, have now testified that what they said before was actually a lie—and that they DID NOT see Troy Davis shoot McPhail.
As Bob Avakian has pointed out in discussing the concept of "equality before the law":
"This is supposed to mean that the same laws are applied, in the same ways, to everyone, regardless of what their 'station' in life is, how much money they have, and so on. Experience shows, however, that this is not how things work out in reality. People with more money have more political influence—and those with a great deal of money have a great deal of political influence and power—while those with less money, and especially those with very little, also have no significant political influence, connections with political power, and so on. And this plays out, repeatedly, in legal proceedings, right down to the way in which those presiding over legal procedures (judges) look—very differently—at different kinds of people who become involved in legal proceedings. But what is even more decisive is the reality that the laws themselves (and the Constitution which sets the basis for the laws) reflect and reinforce the essential relations in society, and most fundamentally the economic (production) relations of capitalism." (From Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, Part 1: Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right)
These are the rules and workings of the U.S. judicial system that led to the legal lynching of Troy Davis.
Troy Davis fought to prove his innocence to his last breath and his courage and determination brought forward in the fight to prevent a enormous and horrendous injustice. First dozens, then thousands and ultimately millions came to know about his case and growing numbers spoke out against the execution. Not only did thousands take to the streets around the world to prevent the execution, but in the spirit of Troy Davis' final call to "continue this fight," many hundreds of youth and others took to the streets again in the days following his murder.
When this system killed Troy Davis, this raised deep questions about the legitimacy of the U.S. justice system, and of the system as a whole. And the movement to save Troy Davis has itself been inspiring to even more people, moving many to see the need to refuse to accept this great crime by the system, as well as the daily outrages this system throws down non-stop.
The growing protests, in the U.S. and around the world, from all kinds of people, did not stop the execution of Troy Davis. This system cares nothing for what the masses of people think—except in so far as it threatens their legitimacy and rule.
But the lesson here is not to give up. The struggle to free Troy Davis actually dealt a blow to their set-up, tore large holes in their mask of "legitimacy," and awakened many more people to political life and struggle.
Our hearts ache in the wake of the state murder of Troy Davis—and this system must be made to pay a high political price for this horrendous crime against Troy Davis, his friends and family...and the masses of people as a whole.
The struggle must continue to vindicate Troy Davis, and should increasingly be part of the larger struggle against the death penalty, against mass incarceration, against police terror, all of which should be taken to the streets in a major way in the days leading up to and on October 22, the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation.
And all this must be a part of the movement we are building for revolution—to get rid of this whole illegitimate system and bring into being a whole new power. Things don't have to be this way—we don't have to have the system that killed Troy Davis. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) put out by the RCP includes a detailed plan for a new socialist society, including a socialist judicial system—a future truly worth fighting for. Through revolution, the people can bring into being a whole new state power—where the laws and judicial system are actually about getting to the truth of things and delivering justice. Where the different branches of the government serve the goal of emancipating all of humanity, getting to a world free of oppression and exploitation.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Here are two accounts from signed affidavits of prosecution witnesses in the Troy Davis trial:
Darrell Collins, a 16-year-old friend of Troy Davis, was with him at the Burger King where the shooting of cop Mark MacPhail took place. In his affidavit (Darrell "D.D." Collins Affidavit, 11 July 2002), Collins says that 15-20 police came to his house, "a lot of them with their guns drawn," and took him in for questioning:
"When I got to the barracks, the police put me in a small room and some detectives came in and started yelling at me, telling me that I knew that Troy Davis... killed that officer by the Burger King. I told them that ... I didn't see Troy do nothing. They got real mad when I said this and started getting in my face. They were telling me that I was an accessory to murder and that I would pay like Troy was gonna pay if I didn't tell them what they wanted to hear. They told me that I would go to jail for a long time and I would be lucky if I ever got out, especially because a police officer got killed... I didn't want to go to jail because I didn't do nothing wrong. I was only sixteen and was so scared of going to jail. They kept saying that ... [Troy] had messed with that man up at Burger King and killed that officer. I told them that it was Red and not Troy who was messing with that man, but they didn't want to hear that...
"After a couple of hours of the detectives yelling at me and threatening me, I finally broke down and told them what they wanted to hear. They would tell me things that they said had happened and I would repeat whatever they said."
Larry Young said he was pistol-whipped by a man who then shot MacPhail (Larry Young Affidavit, 11 October 2002):
"After I was assaulted that night, I went into the bathroom at the bus station and tried to wash the blood off my face. I had a big gash on my face and there was blood everywhere. ...When I left the bathroom, some police officers grabbed me and threw me down on the hood of the police car and handcuffed me. They treated me like a criminal, like I was the one who killed the officer. Even though I was homeless at that time and drinking and drugging, I didn't have nothing to do with killing the officer ... but they just locked me in the back of the police car for the next hour or so. ... They then took me to the police station and interrogated me for three hours. I kept asking them to treat my head, but they wouldn't.
"They kept asking me what had happened at the bus station, and I kept telling them that I didn't know. Everything happened so fast down there. I couldn't honestly remember what anyone looked like or what different people were wearing. Plus, I had been drinking that day, so I just couldn't tell who did what. The cops didn't want to hear that and kept pressing me to give them answers. They made it clear that we weren't leaving until I told them what they wanted to hear. They suggested answers and I would give them what they wanted. They put typed papers in my face and told me to sign them. I did sign them without reading them.
"I never have been able to make sense of what happened that night. It's as much a blur now as it was then."
People should read the Amnesty International report (cited above) and review all of the affidavits of the recanting witnesses for yourself.
The prosecution's case was based ONLY on the testimony of witnesses, many who said they were threatened and coerced into saying what the police wanted them to say. Seven of the nine witnesses have recanted, saying their testimony fingering Troy Davis was a lie.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
The whole way Troy Davis was arrested, railroaded in court, put on death row and then legally lynched by the system is very much in line with policy shifts, new laws, and court decisions taken by the ruling class throughout the '80s and '90s—which have been used to imprison millions of more people, including many on death row.
Over the last several decades, this system has cranked up a whole program of mass incarceration, especially of Black and Latino youth, and sought to make the death sentence not only frequent but almost irrevocable. And as part of this, access of convicted prisoners to lawyers and to the courts has been increasingly constrained and curtailed.
Since 1989, more than 250 people in 34 states who were convicted of various felonies have been exonerated through post-conviction DNA testing (see InnocenceProject.org). Since 1973, 138 people awaiting execution have been exonerated by various means (see deathpenaltyinfo.org). How many more people have spent decades behind bars for crimes they did not commit? But far from welcoming the cases where a huge injustice was reversed, the system views this as a problem.
A 1993 U.S. Supreme Court ruling stated that even if "a truly persuasive post-trial demonstration of 'actual innocence' would render a defendant’s execution unconstitutional and warrant federal habeas relief," the threshold to trigger such relief "would necessarily be extraordinarily high because of the very disruptive effect that entertaining such claims would have on the need for finality in capital cases and the enormous burden that having to retry cases ... would place on the States." (Herrera v. Collins, 506 U.S. 390 (1993). [Emphasis ours.] That is, slowing down the execution process to prevent innocent people from being murdered is considered unacceptable, a "burden."
Then in April 1996, Bill Clinton signed the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA), which greatly narrowed the scope of judicial access for convicted inmates. In the words of a prominent attorney, AEDPA "represent[s] a decision that results are more important than process, that finality is more important than fairness, and that proceeding with executions is more important than determining whether convictions and sentences were obtained fairly and reliably." (Stephen B. Bright, John Randolph Tucker Lecture, Volume 54 of the Washington and Lee Law Review, p. 1 (Winter 1997). [Emphasis ours.]
At the signing, Clinton said: "I have long sought to streamline federal appeals for convicted criminals sentenced to the death penalty... For too long, and in too many cases, endless death row appeals have stood in the way of justice being served... from now on, criminals sentenced to death for their vicious crimes will no longer be able to use endless appeals to delay their sentences." (Amnesty International Report: "'Where is the justice for me?' The Case of Troy Davis," Feb. 2007 www.amnesty.org/en/library/asset/AMR51/023/2007/en/909e39f7-d3b6-11dd-a329-2f46302a8cc6/amr510232007en.html).
Today’s globalized world, with the U.S. at the top, is a world of lean-and-mean capitalism, of wars of empire, and deep economic crisis. And the situation of Black people in particular, as well as other people of color, is especially acute. For literally centuries, the highly exploited labor of Black people—first as slaves, then as sharecroppers, and then in the worst jobs in factories and mills—has been the source of vast wealth for the rulers of the U.S. But changes in the economy as well as conscious racist policies of the ruling class have squeezed huge sections of Black people, especially the youth, out of the job market altogether. Now, having deprived these youth of a future, the rulers increasingly fear them. The ruling class is increasingly relying on the open use of violence and repression to force people to accept conditions of life that are truly unacceptable. And while other sections of society are affected by this, the main focus of this amped-up repression is Blacks and Latinos, especially the youth. The death penalty, wielded, as Clinton emphasized, swiftly and surely, is an integral part of all this.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Revolution received the following correspondence:
Cupcakes: $2 for white students, $1.50 for Asian students, $1 for Latinos, 75 cents for African-Americans, 25 cents for Native Americans, and 25 cents off for women of all races. This was the UC Berkeley College Republicans’ idea of a provocative statement against Affirmative Action and in particular, a California State Senate bill that would allow (but not mandate) California public universities to consider race, gender and ethnicity in admissions decisions. See, white people and men are being discriminated against, just like with Affirmative Action! And these undeserving minorities are getting things practically for free! What an outrage! NOT.
One would have to be completely ignorant of the history and present day reality of this country to buy that line of reasoning. As a flyer from the Revolution Club put it: “The Real Price... Native Americans: Near genocide; cultural annihilation; and broken promises. African-Americans: Millions of lives in the Middle Passage; whips, nooses, and slavecatchers; segregation and KKK terror; employment discrimination; mass incarceration and demonization; systematic police harassment, brutality, and murder. Latinos: Stolen land; ruthless exploitation, terrorized by the migra and forced to live in the shadows; systematic police harassment, brutality and murder. Women: Half of humanity treated as “less than,” degraded, demeaned, beaten and raped, looked at as sex objects or nothing more than a breeder of children.” And you want to say that white people and men are being discriminated against by Affirmative Action?!
As soon as the Republicans set up a public Facebook page for their “Increase Diversity Bake Sale,” students were outraged. An emergency meeting was called and hundreds of students, almost entirely students of color, attended. Students felt angry, hurt, under attack, their struggles mocked, their experiences ridiculed. One Black student wrote on his Facebook page:
“Since my years in college the world has just really veered its disgusting, racist head directly into my chest! This has just been one week of complete tomfoolery. First, Black UC Berkeley students get threatened with water hose after being denied entrance to a UC Berkeley white frat house party while standing on public property. Second, Troy Davis is executed with no physical evidence.... Third, at my very own regressive institution of higher learning the Berkeley College Republicans WILL host a ‘Diversity Bake Sale’ in dishonor of affirmative action by literally devaluing minorities with the sale of cheap cupcakes. They feel no remorse.... If there was ever a time to shake off the dust of complacency and stand for something, it is NOW! Needless to say enough is enough. EMERGENCY TOWNHALL MEETING in response to the ‘Diversity bake sale’ @ 6 PM tonight.”
Another student wrote:
“It’s clear that soooo many people who walk around UC Berkeley's campus and the US, thinking that they are some of the most brilliant thinkers and leaders clearly have a distorted view of America's social, economic, and political history. therefore it allows them to make extremely racist comments and engage in racist demonstrations because they have no reason to challenge the status quo which protects their privilege--they have no incentive to do so. I AM TIRED OF WORKING TO INSTIGATE A CONSCIOUSNESS IN A GROUP OF PEOPLE WHO ARE UNWILLING TO HEAR! Post Racial Society?! Right...how can anyone even fix their mouth to say something like this! This Country is just as racist as it was before, only it’s become privatized like this University is gradually doing. They may not call me and my folks niggas to our face but they cast us out of schools from the playgrounds in elementary to Sproul hall here at UC Berkeley...sounds like the same song to my heart, just in another key!”
After California proposition 209 (banning Affirmative Action) passed in 1996, UC Berkeley saw a 50% decline in admissions for Black, Latino, and Filipino students. And now, between the tuition hikes and the budget cuts (targeting departments like ethnic studies), things have only gotten worse. A toxic, racist environment is brewing on the campuses, and many students of color feel under siege.
But on Tuesday, September 27, the day of the “bake sale,” people had enough. The protest was called “The Affirmation.” Many hundreds of students, mostly Black and Latino but also others, wearing all-black, walked silently, holding hands, into Sproul Plaza where the Republicans were selling cupcakes. When the clock struck 12 noon, students lay down and covered the plaza with bodies, dramatizing the fact that they weren't going to be stepped on any more. Students lay there on the ground for an hour, in the hot sun, as volunteers came around offering sunscreen and water. Others held up signs that read “Don't UC us?” and “UC us now!” At 1pm, students got up, raised their fists, gathered into a circle and did a call and response, getting louder each time: “It is our duty to fight for our freedom, it is our duty to win, we must love and protect each other, we have nothing to lose but our chains!” Check it out here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lwhjSRAU4c
Despite the national media attention that magnified the Republicans’ smug little bake sale, and limited attention that the opposition got, there was widespread support on campus for the protests. A group of Native American students made a banner that talked about what the U.S. has done to the indigenous people of this land. A prominent political science professor tried to buy out the College Republicans' cupcakes to put an early end to their bake sale. Other students gave away “conscious cupcakes.” But most significantly, the normal oppressive campus climate was punctured by a powerful student protest, that literally stopped traffic for an hour through Sproul Plaza . In this scene revolutionaries distributed many copies of the special issue of Revolution newspaper about BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, a flyer from the Revolution Club, and a card with the first quote from BAsics, “There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.”
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
This article was originally published on Gender Across Borders as part of the series Tsk Tsk: Stigma, Shame, and Sexuality (http://www.genderacrossborders.com/2011/09/22/in-defense-of-abortion-on-demand-and-without-apology/). Revolution thanks Gender Across Borders for permission to post this at revcom.us.
|Photo: Gregory Koger|
Several years ago, I was approached by a young woman after giving a talk examining how patriarchy is at the core of the world's dominant religions and calling out the Christian fascist movement to criminalize abortion. As she told me of her abortion, her demeanor suggested she was rather settled about it. But then suddenly she stopped talking, her face flashed with emotion, and she burst into tears.
I tell this story precisely because this young woman was a confident and articulate atheist. She had been raised pro-choice and still was. Her boyfriend was supportive. She received great medical care. Extremely important: she made clear she had never felt guilty.
So, why was she sobbing?
She explained, "Until today, I have never in my life heard anyone say that it is okay to have an abortion and even feel good about it. For two years I have gone around feeling like there must be something wrong with me because I never felt any remorse."
Stop for a moment and think about that. She didn't feel bad about her abortion. She felt bad about not feeling bad!
I responded very firmly that there is nothing wrong with her. There is nothing wrong with a woman terminating her pregnancy at any point and for whatever reason she chooses. Fetuses are not babies. Women are not incubators. Abortion is not murder.
There is, however, something profoundly wrong with a society in which millions of young people have grown up never having heard abortion spoken of as something positive and liberating. There is something deeply wrong not only with the movement which has viciously and relentlessly fought to criminalize, terrorize, and demonize those who seek – or provide – abortions, but also with the mainstream of a "pro-choice movement" which has repeatedly conciliated and compromised with this madness.
Lets be clear, the notion that women are full human beings capable of participating fully and equally in every realm of human endeavor together with men is historically an extremely new idea. It is also under extreme, and increasing, fire. The fight to not only defend, but to expand and to destigmatize abortion and birth control, must be seen as a central battle in the fight to make good on the full liberation of women.
What's the big deal about abortion, anyway? Together with birth control, abortion enables women to not be enslaved by their biology. It enables women to delay, restrict, or forgo altogether the decision to make babies. It enables women to explore their sexuality free of the fear that an unintended pregnancy will foreclose their lives and their dreams. It opens up the possibility for women to enter fully and equally into every realm of public life and human endeavor together with men.
Of course, the possibility of full equality for women doesn't exist merely because of the technological, or even the legal, existence of birth control and abortion. These reproductive rights would not have been won – and wouldn't have had the earth-shaking repercussions they've had – without the tremendous struggles of women demanding their liberation. Despite popular misconceptions, it was this righteous struggle, together with the broader revolt of the 1960s and 70s – not some sudden flash of enlightenment on the Court – that most influenced the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion.
Further, the liberation of women requires more than reproductive rights and a radical shift in the culture. The need for an all-the-way revolution that goes beyond even the best of the revolutionary experience of the last century – including as pertains to challenging traditional gender and other chains that bind women – is a key element of Bob Avakian's new synthesis of revolution and communism. Explicating this more fully goes beyond the scope of this article, but interested readers can learn more by reading, A Declaration for Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity.
But even the specter of women's liberation – and the important advances that were made – were too much for those who rule this country. The backlash really coalesced and gained initiative under Reagan. The reassertion of the "traditional family" became an indispensable part of not only reasserting patriarchy but also stitching back together the reactionary fabric of society that had been significantly frayed. Christian fascists – people fighting for the laws and culture to conform to a literal interpretation of the Bible, including its insistence that women bear children and obey their husbands (1 Timothy 2:11-15) – were given powerful backing by ruling class forces and unleashed to hound and harass women who sought abortions. They bombed clinics. They killed doctors. They pushed the shame and ignorance of abstinence-only education into the schools and went to war on the scientific fact of evolution.
Through this period, the most mainstream elements of the women's movement came to be identified broadly as the only outlet for those concerned about the oppressed status of women, even as this bourgeois feminism more and more subordinated itself to the ruling class, and the Democratic Party in particular.
To quote from the above-mentioned Declaration, "This absorption of the 'official women's movement' into the Democratic Party, and its utter subordination to the confines of electoral politics, has done incalculable damage. For over two decades now this 'feminist movement' has encouraged and influenced progressive people to accommodate to a dynamic where yesterday's outrage becomes today's 'compromise position' and tomorrow's limit of what can be imagined. The defensiveness and cravenness of this 'movement' in the face of the Christian fascists in particular – its refusal to really battle them on the morality of abortion, to take one concentrated example – has contributed to the disorientation of two generations of young women, and men as well."
What has this looked like? It looked like Hillary Clinton implying there was something wrong with abortion by insisting it be "safe, legal, and rare" and then these becoming the watchwords of a "pro-choice movement" that even removed "abortion" from its name. It looked like spokespeople for NARAL and Planned Parenthood repeatedly insisting they are the ones, not the Christian Right, who prevent the most abortions, even as women scramble nationwide to access the dwindling abortion services. It looked like a strategy focusing almost entirely on the most extreme cases – endangerment to a woman or fetus's life, rape or incest – rather than standing up for the right of all women to abortion.
It looked like the 2006 congressional elections where the Democrats insisted that to beat the Bush-led Republicans they had to run hardline anti-abortion candidates like Bob Casey. And while many registered complaints, not a single major national pro-choice "leader" called for mass mobilizations of protest in the streets. It looked like broad "feminist" celebration of President Obama even as he, too, insisted on reducing abortions and finding "common ground" with fascists and religious fanatics. Now he has now presided over the greatest onslaught of abortion restrictions introduced at the state level since Roe v. Wade.
All this is why a new generation has, almost without exception, never heard anyone speak positively about abortion. This has led to thousands of women feeling guilty or ashamed of a procedure which is necessary for women to live full and independent lives. This has let to a situation where activists fight piecemeal at the edges of each new major assault while losing ground overall.
If we do not seize the moral high by boldly proclaiming the positive morality of abortion, if we don't begin now to change hearts and minds among this new generation in particular, if we do not refuse to be confined by what is deemed "electable," then not only will we fail in fighting back the restrictions, we will compound this legal defeat with an ideological and political defeat as well.
Millions and millions of women feel absolutely no remorse about their abortions; it is time for all of us to speak out boldly in support of this attitude. Its also time we stop bending over backward to validate the feelings of guilt or shame that some women feel over their abortions. Millions of women feel guilty and ashamed after being raped, but while we acknowledge their emotions, we also struggle for them – and everyone else – to recognize they have done nothing wrong and have nothing to be ashamed of. It's time we do the same around the stigma that surrounds abortion.
It is absolutely a great thing for women to have – and to exercise freely – their right to abortion. The doctors who provide these services should be celebrated! There is nothing "moral" about forcing women to bear children against their will, but there is something tremendously moral about enabling women to determine the course of their own lives. This is good for women and it is good for humanity as a whole.
It is time to declare boldly: Abortion on Demand and Without Apology!
Sunsara Taylor is a writer for Revolution Newspaper, a host of WBAI's Equal Time for Freethought, and sits on the Advisory Board of World Can't Wait. She has written on the rise of theocracy, wars and repression in the U.S., led in building resistance to these crimes, and contributed to the movement for revolution to put an end to all this. She takes as her foundation the new synthesis on revolution and communism developed by Bob Avakian. Her most recent campus speaking tour – "From the Burkha to the Thong; Everything Must – and Can – Change; WE NEED TOTAL REVOLUTION!" — made stops at Barnard, UCLA, UC Berkeley, University of Chicago, NYU and other campuses.You can find her impressive verbal battles with Bill O'Reilly and various political commentary on things from abortion to religion to cultural relativism by searching "Sunsara Taylor" on youtube. Contact her about a new movement to "End Pornography and Patriarchy; the Enslavement and Degradation of Women" at email@example.com. Read her blog here.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Revolution received the following correspondence:
A group of us went to a Mexican Independence Day parade and festival with BAsics. We asked everybody for money, and hundreds of people donated. Bob Avakian, and donating to spread the word about BA, and to wake up and shake up the campuses, became a social question along the parade route. We were specific and concrete in telling people what the funds were for—the need to print 100,000 more papers to get to the students, and that we had a goal for the day of $1,000. People understood the necessity of going out to the students. They had to think about the receptivity to BAsics among the students and what’s in this book.
We sold 6 books, got out 1,700 (Spanish) of the special issue on BAsics, raised $283, and got 11 new contacts. People, overwhelmingly, gave us $1 or change. We got a few $5 or $2 contributions, but we didn’t make the case for people donating $20 (we did ask, though it was uneven).
Some people came back to ask about BA, “who is this leader?” Others, when they heard “this depends on you,” came back and put something in the bucket. On the parade route there was some back and forth with people who argued for capitalism and the need for greed as a motivator.
At the festival, we had the display of pictures from the RCP’s Message and Call, and displays of the Revolution centerfolds of people killed by the police, and the centerfold from the 9/11 issue. (Revolution #245, September 11, 2011) There were also large displays of the BAsics cover and quotes in Spanish. The pictures were riveting; people stopped again and again at the picture of the little girl being carried by her grandfather. People asked about Aiyana Stanley-Jones, who she was. On the Message and Call pictures, we had the quote about borders not being sacred, and American lives are not more valuable than other lives, and the BAsics 1:9 quote about choices.
In the evening, after the parade, one person did agitation near the displays, mainly calling on people to get to know this leader, this book, and donate to wake up the campuses. One young woman came up at the end, asked “how much is the book?” and bought it.
When we got there in the afternoon, the sheriffs told us we couldn’t use sound, couldn’t block pedestrian access with a table, etc. In the evening as it got dark there were so many people in the streets that the attempts of the authorities to keep things in order broke down and they couldn’t enforce all their rules. This created a real opening for us to speak to thousands with our agitation.
People who stopped to buy or look at the book had a lot of questions—is revolution possible, questions about the strategy and the new theory of what communist revolution and socialist society is like. Some saw communism as a good idea that’s not working right now; we talked to them about the need for state power, and about BA’s New Synthesis of communism and bringing forward a new vision. One question was what kind of revolution. Is it only for white people? Backward religious people argued that we can’t change the world. Some people said, this is dangerous, the government here is dangerous.
Towards the end of the day we sold 4 books, opening by saying that BA’s work has made possible a new stage of revolution and socialism and communism and showing people the table of contents in the book. A woman who had stopped to read 1:9 responded to that by saying that she thinks the whole system needs to be changed, her daughter is at an elite East Coast college now learning to be a doctor because she wants to help people, we showed her the essay on reform and revolution – while you’re alleviating pain for a few people the system is destroying millions of people and the planet. She went and got $10 from her husband, came back and bought the book. A young man asked if the socialism we were talking about is like Cuba. The discussion went to imperialism, the parasitism of imperialism and the need to liberate humanity worldwide from this system. He went to the ATM, bought a book in English and in Spanish. Another person who bought the book seemed to be checking out all kinds of alternatives to this society. A young woman who heard the agitation came up and bought the book. We summed up that the possibility of a new stage of socialism and communism was speaking to many of the people we met. We were learning that by challenging people that the advance of this revolution to emancipate humanity “depends on you” was resonating with those who bought BAsics.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Revolution received the following letter from a Spanish-speaking reader on taking Lo Básico out to Mexican Independence Day–written in Spanish and translated into English:
Everybody carried a bucket and went out to double-down at the Mexican Independence Day celebration. But first I want to talk about our orientation.
We had two very good orientations where we talked about the necessity of $10,000 to cover the cost of the other 100,000 copies of the special BAsics edition of Revolution. We talked about how it was a very revolutionary way that the masses could contribute their money to this movement for revolution. We talked about how the door of the universities had opened a little when it met up with the leadership of our chairman, Bob Avakian, and with BAsics and we had to redouble our efforts to shake up the universities. That the students were debating the quotes with revolutionaries, teachers and roommates. There were presentations in the classes of these teachers. All of this was a scientific analysis that the vanguard of the future had achieved by its dedication and pledge to submerge itself in the works of the chairman of our party, Bob Avakian. This is the truth like the chairman says, the truth is the truth, the truth doesn't have class character, the truth is the truth, no matter who says it.
Our goal for this day was to collect $1,000, but before that we had proposed collecting $200 and we had struggle over this goal that did not represent the necessity that we confronted and especially that in this celebration of the independence of Mexico, tens of thousands of immigrants would be there. So from $200 we jumped to $1,000 that day. That was a more visionary goal that did represent the necessity that we had to meet.
We got to the event with a truly communist leadership, all of us full of communist energy and understanding about what our goals were for the day. A comrade started agitating powerfully with a bullhorn at full volume, talking about how we were revolutionary communists and the 100,000 copies that we had distributed in the universities and to donate $20, $10 and $5 for the doubling of this edition on BAsics. The masses were listening and observing the powerful words that came out of the bullhorn of this comrade. We went around with our buckets distributing the new edition and started to ask for donations and also explained what these dollars that would be donated were for. Dollar bills and five-dollar bills started to fall in the buckets, some change but the $20s and $10s never did fall in our buckets. This was one of the contradictions that we ran in to, that the masses might have donated more generously. All of this was very vibrant, full of energy. In the whole afternoon we reached hundreds of immigrants with our buckets and the new edition on BAsics.
A female came running up to our comrade who was agitating at the beginning of the long day saying,"I've seen you on television in Guerrero, Mexico, in the marches that we've participated in." Our comrade told her that she was confusing her with someone else, that she had never been in Guerrero. Afterwards her mother came up, very happy that we were there, that this system tells us just to consume, consume; that they had been part of an organization in Guerrero and we had to keep on fighting. She gave some money and at the end of the day she gave us some mango jam made in Zihuatejo, Guerrero, very delicious.
One youth and her partner were reading the quote from BAsics 1:14 where Avakian says, "Now I can just hear these reactionary fools saying, 'Well, Bob, answer me this. If this country is so terrible, why do people come here from all over the world? Why are so many people trying to get in, not get out?'...Why? I'll tell you why. Because you have fucked up the rest of the world even worse than what you have done in this country. You have made it impossible for many people to live in their own countries as part of gaining your riches and power." I asked them what they were reading on the sign that had some quotes of BAsics and she pointed to the quote. I told them about the DVD, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About and that they should buy BAsics. They didn't buy it, but I remembered about the audio CD that we have that talks about why people come here from all over the world and I explained how Avakian speaks scientifically about the question of immigrants around the world. She was more interested in this and bought the CD for $1.
Another young woman came up to me asking how much the book cost and if we had it in English. I told her it cost $10 and she gave me a $20 bill. With our mission of the day I talked to her about the $10,000 that we needed to pay for the 100,000 copies of this edition, and asked if she could donate the other $10 left over, but she said that it was her husband's money. Later her husband came up and I talked with him about the need for the donation, but he didn't want to do it. She said she went to Canyon College and was very interested in reading the book.
We raised $300 in one dollar bills, a few $5s and some change during that Sunday afternoon and got out 1,700 copies [of the special BAsics issue] to the hundreds of immigrants and sold six copies of BAsics in English and Spanish. We didn't meet our goals of raising $1,000 and selling 30 copies of BAsics. The goal of distributing 2,000 copies we almost met, because we got out 1,700. Something that we did learn from this experience is to ask the masses for generous donations of $20, $10 and $5 and although the $20s and $10s didn't fall in our buckets, we did learn to ask for them from the masses and not to look at them as very poor people who didn't have money and had a hard life. They are capable of finding the ways to get money needed to reach the immediate goals that we have and we have to inspire them with the understanding so that they feel that they are part of the movement for revolution, for the emancipation of humanity.
Donate generously to reach the $10,000 that we need now, not tomorrow.
Greetings from a comrade that is fighting for the emancipation of humanity
Todos con cubeta en mano, llevamos el doblete a una celebración de la independencia de Mexico, pero antes quisiera hablarles sobre nuestra orientación.
Tuvimos dos muy buenas orientaciones donde se habló de la necesidad de esos $10,000 para cubrir el costo de otras 100,000 copias de esta edicción especial de Lo Báscio. Se habló de que una manera muy revolucionaria era que las masas contribuyeran su dinero a este movimiento para la revolución. Se habló que la puerta en las universidades se habría abierto un poquito por donde se habría metido la dirección de nuestro presidente Bob Avakian con Lo Básico y que teníamos que redoblar esfuerzos para sacudir las universidades. Que los estudiantes estaban debatiendo las citas con los revolucionarios, maestros y compañeros de dormitorio con presentaciones en las clases de estos maestros. Todo esto era un análisis científico, de que la vanguardia del futuro había logrado, por su dedicación y compromiso a sumergierse en la obra del presidente de nuestro partido, Bob Avakian. Esa es la verdad como lo dice el presidente, la verdad es la verdad, la verdad no tiene caracter de clase, la verdad es la verdad no importa quièn la diga.
Nuestra meta de ese dia era recaudar mil dolares, pero anteriormente habíamos propuesto recaudar doscientos dolares y tuvimos lucha sobre esa meta que no representaba la necesidad que enfrentabamos y especialmente que en esta celebración de la independencia de Mexico llegarían decenas de miles de inmigrantes. Entonces de doscientos dolares nos brincamos a mil dolares ese día que era una meta más visionaria que sí representaba la necesidad que teníamos que lograr.
Llegamos al evento con una dirección verdaderamente comunista todos llenos de energía comunista y entendimiento de lo que eran nuestras metas de ese día. Una camarada empezó agitar poderosamente con un parlante a todo volumen hablando que eramos revolucionarios comunistas y de las 100,000 copias que habíamos distribuido en las universidades y que donaran de $20, $10 y de $5 para el doblete de esta edición de Lo Básico. Las masas escuchando y observando las poderosas palabras que salían del parlante de nuestra camarada. Nosotros con cubeta en mano y distribuyendo la nueva edicción empesamos a pedir donaciones y tambièn explicando para qué eran esos dolares empezaron a caer los billetes de dolar, cinco y monedas pero los de viente y diez dolares nunca cayeron a nuestros cubetas. Esa fue una de las contradicciones que encontramos que las masas donaran más generosamente. Todo esto era muy vibrante, lleno de energía, toda la tarde de ese día pudimos alcanzar con nuestras cubetas y la nueva edicción de Lo Básico a cientos de inmigrantes.
Una muchacha llegó corriendo a donde estaba nuestra camarada que estuvo agitando al empezar nuestro largo día, diciendole yo te he visto en la televisión en Guerrero, Mexico, en las marchas que hemos participado. Nuestra camarada le dijo que la estaba confundiendo que ella no había estado en Guerrero. Después llegó la mama de esta joven diciendo que estaba muy contenta de que estuvieramos aquí, que este sistema nos dice que consumamos muchas cosas, puro consumir. Eran parte de una organización en Guerrero y que tenemos que seguir luchando. Nos donaron algo de dinero y al terminar nuestro día nos donaron una mermelada de mango hecha en Zihuatenejo, Guerrero muy sabrosa.
Una joven y su compañero estaban leyendo la cita del capitulo #1, cita #14 donde Avakian dice, “Ahora ya puedo escuchar estos reaccionarios idiotas diciendo ‘OK Bob, responde a esto: Si este país es tan terrible, por qué gente de todo el mundo viene aquí? Por qué hay tanta gente tratando de meterse en vez de salirse?...Por qué? Yo te voy a decir por qué. Porque han cagado al mundo aun peor que lo han cagado a este país. En el proceso de adquirir su riqueza y poder, ellos lo han hecho imposible para mucha gente poder vivir en sus propios paises.” Yo les pregunté qué es lo que estaban leyendo en el cartelón que teníamos con algunas citas de Lo Básico y ella señaló esta cita. Les dije de su obra “Revolución por qué es necesaria, por qué es posible y qué es” que deberían de comprar Lo Básico. Pero no lo compraron y me recordé de este audio que tenemos donde habla por qué viene gente de todo el mundo y le espliqué como Avakian habla cientificamente de la cuestión de los inmigrantes alrededor del mundo. Ella era más interesada y compró el audio por $1.00.
Otra joven vino a mí diciendo cuanto cuesta el libro y que si estaba en ingles, le dije diez dolares me dio un billete de $20. Con nuestra misión de ese día le hablé de los $10,000 que se necesitan para pagar los 100,000 copias de esta edicción, que si podría donar lo $10 que le sobraban pero ella dijo que el dinero era de su esposo. Después llegó su esposo y le hablé otra vez a él sobre la necesidad de la donación pero no los quisieron donar. Ella dijo que iba a Canyon College y que estaba interesada en leer el libro.
Recaudamos $300 de billetes de un dolar, cinco y monedas durante la tarde de ese domingo y 1700 copias fueron distribuidas entre cientos de inmigrantes y 6 copias de Lo Básico se vendieron en ingles y español. No logramos nuestras metas de recaudar mil dolares y vender 30 copias de Lo Básico, La meta que casi alcanzamos fue la de distribuir 2000 copias de esta edicción, porque distribuimos 1700 copias. Algo que sí aprendimos en esta experiencia es a pedir a las masas donaciones generosas de $20, $10 y de $5 aunque los 20 y 10 no cayeron a las cubetas pero aprendimos a pedirselo a las masas a no verlos conque son muy pobres que no tienen dinero que su vida es muy difícil. Ellos son capaces de buscar las formas cómo buscar el dinero que se necesita para lograr estas metas inmediatas que tenemos y tenemos que inspirarlos con ese entendimiento para que sienta que son parte del movimiento para la revolución, para la emancipación de la humanidad.
Donen generosamente para lograr los $10,000 que se necesitan ahora, no mañana.
Saludos de un camarada que lucha por la emancipación de la humanidad.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
The following was posted on September 26, 2011 at: prisonerhungerstrikesolidarity
Today, Prisoners at Pelican Bay’s Security Housing Unit (SHU) & Calipatria’s Administrative Segregation Unit (ASU) resume their hunger strike.
The strike this past July exposed the conditions and practices of Pelican Bay’s SHU. Referring to the first round of the hunger strike, Mutope Duguma (aka, James Crawford), a strike representative in Pelican Bay’s SHU writes, “This is far from over and once again, hopefully for the last time, we will be risking our lives via a peaceful hunger strike on Sept 26, 2011 to force positive changes. For 21 1/2 years we have been quietly held in Pelican Bay State Prison solitary confinement under some of the most horrible conditions known to man. So we continue to struggle to be treated like decent human beings.”
Now over 100 hunger strikers at Calipatria State Prison, in solidarity with the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay, are risking their lives to expose the conditions of the ASU at Calipatria. According to Calipatria ASU prisoners, roughly 80% of the prisoners in the ASU have been given indefinite SHU terms, and are placed in this isolation unit to await transfer to one of California’s three other SHU’s for men, namely Pelican Bay. Most of the prisoners currently in Calipatria’s ASU have been waiting transfer for 3-4 years.
ASU prisoners at Calipatria have also reported that prison officials have not been implementing the changes addressed by the five core demands written by the hunger strikers at Pelican Bay even though the demands refer to all SHU-status prisoners throughout CA, not just at Pelican Bay. The prisoners at Calipatria are furthering the struggle to stop the torture and mistreatment of SHU prisoners by insisting the five core demands be effectively implemented for all SHU-status prisoners no matter what prison they are located in. Since many of the programs and privileges for prisoners varies from prison to prison, Calipatria hunger strikers have amended Demand #5 to include TV & radios as well as P.I.A soft shoes, privileges not already in place at Calipatria’s ASU.
In preparation for the hunger strike, Calipatria ASU prisoners have sent in medical requests for liquids while on strike, after having been denied liquids during the first round of the hunger strike in July. ASU Prisoners have also prepared by sending Calipatria’s warden their five core demands with their amendment to the 5th demand. According to letters from Calipatria ASU hunger strike participants, who prefer to remain unnamed, the strike is “a peaceful protest against CDCR’s inhumane solitary confinement and their insufficient and abusive [gang] validation process.”
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
"We Are All Troy Davis!"
Revolution received the following correspondence:
On Wednesday, September 21, at 11:08 pm, this system legally lynched a Black man. Troy Davis was executed by the State of Georgia. After the execution had been delayed for over three hours, the Supreme Court refused to stop this killing and Troy Davis' life was ended. Words can barely capture the injustice and outrage of this—which is a sharp example of what this thoroughly racist and utterly criminal system does to Black people and Latino people every single day.
People had carried out a long struggle to prevent this legal lynching. Then, the day after the execution, the question was posed: Are we just to be frustrated, devastated, and end up taking it again or would this be a day to resist, for people to stand up, and that began to happen in downtown New York City on Thursday, September 22. People did not accept this and would not let this go down without political resistance. They took to the streets with defiance. This hasn't happened in some time now and it was about time!!!
After a night of taking to the streets in the rain in Harlem, protesting against the legal lynching of Troy Davis, calling for this to be stopped, then the faint hope of a possibility that they would not go through with this, and then the shock and outrage of his unjust and horrific murder at the hands of the state, people were fed up and ready to act.
As the news of the execution spread, some people were calling it a "day of outrage," getting organized to act. The following afternoon a speak-out took place at NYU, where a multinational grouping of students, faculty, and administrators, along with volunteers from Revolution Books and several student groups, spoke bitterness and challenged the students to act. They gathered up a crowd to march into Union Square. People were chanting, "Enough Is Enough. Stop the Legal Lynching" and "The Whole Damn System's Guilty."
Hundreds of people were gathered at Union Square speaking bitterness, many drawing the larger lessons about what this says about this society and system. Several speakers exposed the outrageous illegitimacy, immorality and racism of the death penalty. Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party spoke and sharply exposed the systemic nature of the oppression of Black people and that this whole system has to go. People cheered, with many fists in the air when he announced that he and Cornel West would be calling for a day to STOP "Stop and Frisk" in New York this October.
After exposing the many outrages that were part of the legal lynching of Troy Davis, Travis Morales from Revolution Books quoted Bob Avakian saying, "Let's get down to basics: We need a revolution. Anything else, in the final analysis, is bullshit." [BAsics 3:1] When people heard this they clapped and cheered. Morales then called on people to act on their convictions and march when the rally concluded. This call for people to march was taken up by many and was resoundingly asserted by a defiant young student who called on people not to believe anyone who says you can't change things and that it matters that people came out to say no to this injustice and that it was time to march!
People came out into the streets, several hundred, possibly a thousand at the height of it, as many joined in, chanting, "We're all Troy Davis" "Whose streets? Our streets." The march was overwhelmingly youth, very multinational, and there was a feeling of long pent-up anger pouring out. People broke through the constraints and restraints. There were several attempts by the NYPD to block off, deter, and repress the demonstrators. Each time people fought through to deliver a message of opposition to this and condemn the murder of Troy Davis, with great determination that they had every right to come into the streets and do so. People held their fists in the air, and their heads high. Very early on, when police attempted to get demonstrators back on the sidewalk, a decisive message was sent that this was unacceptable, as marchers surrounded police chanting, "We Are All Sean Bell, NYPD Go to Hell." People put something on the line and each time they were confronted with repression, they found a way to break through. The march snaked through the West Village and all the way down to Wall Street where an "Occupy Wall Street" encampment protesting corporate greed has been going on for more than a week now. Thousands and thousands of people throughout Manhattan witnessed the protest. Many people of all ages and different races joined in, some heard the protest from inside and rushed down into the streets. Students and others skipped class, missed work and changed plans. At Wall Street, the march was greeted by the Wall Street encampment with cheers and celebration at what had been accomplished and further condemning the killing of Troy Davis. People got a taste of no business as usual and held their heads high. This is the spirit that needs to be carried forward and we need to build on.
This case showed not only that the State of Georgia is racist and murderous, as so many have correctly pointed out, but that the whole damn system is guilty. This case exposed not only the illegitimacy of the death penalty, which so many have correctly pointed out, but also that this whole system is illegitimate. The killing of Troy Davis is an horrific outrage, but what the determined spirit of "Enough!" of this protest portends is that there is the potential for the system having to pay a political price for the great crimes they commit against the people, especially if people draw the right lessons, and get organized and into the movement for revolution as well as broader resistance spreading and taking hold.
There are great stakes in this. Will this message the government tried to deliver prevail: that people's resistance doesn't matter, the truth of a case doesn't matter, innocent until proven guilty and the right to a fair trial can be thrown out the window, there are no rights for a Black man this system is bound to respect in the courts or on the streets? Will all this serve to demoralize, demobilize and crush people's spirits and further cement-in an intolerable way of life? Or, will people come through this drawing the deeper truths about the nature of this system and the need for resistance now, as part of building a movement for revolution to get rid of this system as soon as possible?
This needs to be the start of an autumn of resistance. People need to stand up and fight against the New Jim Crow, the criminalization of a generation, and the intolerability of this whole society and system. People need to know that "The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be." ["The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have"] They need to be finding out about, engaging, supporting and getting with the movement for revolution; finding out about Bob Avakian, and the viable, vibrant communism for today.
Things don't have to be this way, there is a way out—get with the revolution, fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution!
More will be reported on these new stirrings of resistance and the lessons and the impact that the movement for revolution has had on this.
Update: The struggle has continued with mass arrests and brutality against a march from the Wall Street encampment back to Union Square on Saturday, September 24. More correspondence to follow.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
On September 23, the Palestinian Authority will ask the United Nations Security Council to recognize a Palestinian state.
The UN resolution poses critical questions of the nature and role of the state of Israel, the root causes behind the oppression of the Palestinian people, and what it will take to achieve justice and liberation for a people who have suffered generations of subjugation and brutal occupation.
To understand the backdrop for this UN resolution, it is necessary to start from three basic truths:
|Special Issue on Israel
Bastion of Enlightenment... or Enforcer for Imperialism:
The Case of ISRAEL
#213, October 10, 2010 revcom.us/israel/israel.html
The first is the origin of the state of Israel in 1948 on the land of the Palestinian people, whose roots in the land go back hundreds of years and whose existence as a nation in what today is Israel go back to the emergence of nation states in the region. At the end of the 17th century, there were 230,000 Palestinians (Muslim and Christian) and 2,000 Jewish people in what today is Israel. Two hundred years later, in 1800, the picture was similar—268,000 Palestinians and 7,000 Jews. Even after waves of Jewish emigration from Europe to Palestine, on the eve of the establishment of Israel, Palestine was home to about 1.3 million Palestinians and 630,000 Jewish settlers.
The state of Israel as a Zionist entity was born through the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population. This was concentrated in the wave of terror known as the Nakba (Arabic for "catastrophe") in and following 1948, through massacres and terror such as occurred in the Palestinian village of Deir Yassin. On April 9, 1948, Jewish soldiers burst into the village and sprayed the houses with machine-gun fire, killing many. As one historian wrote, "The remaining villagers were then gathered in one place and murdered in cold blood, their bodies abused while a number of women were raped and then killed. Fahim Zaydan, who was twelve years old at the time, recalled how he saw his family murdered in front of his eyes: 'They took us out one after the other; shot an old man and when one of his daughters cried, she was shot too. Then they called my brother Muhammad, and shot him in front of us, and when my mother yelled, bending over him—carrying my little sister Hudra in her hands, still breast-feeding her—they shot her too.'" (see The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by Ilan Pappé)
Massacres like this drove almost a million Palestinians from their land, villages and homes. To ensure that there would be nothing for the Palestinians to return to, their villages and even many olive and orange trees were thoroughly destroyed. Former Arabic village and road names were given Hebrew names. Ancient mosques and Christian churches were destroyed.
Theme parks, pine forests (trees not native to the region), and Israeli settlements were built atop many of the old Palestinian villages. All to wipe out any physical evidence that the land belonged to Palestinians and give finality to the Nakba. The Zionists and their backers claimed that there never was a Palestinian people! And that Israel was "a land without a people for a people without a land."
On the blood and bones of such massacres, and justified with such lies, the state of Israel was born and built. And all this is not "ancient" or even just "modern history." It frames the daily life of every Palestinian, today. (see "Bastion of Enlightenment... or Enforcer for Imperialism: The Case of ISRAEL" Revolution, October 10, 2010—available at revcom.us, and/or test these assertions by doing your own research and investigating many sources.)
Second, Israel was sponsored by imperial powers, and today by the United States, to serve as a global enforcer for a world of sweatshops, environmental devastation, exploitation and oppression. Whether that has meant an alliance with the apartheid regime in South Africa, playing a key role in the slaughter of 200,000 indigenous people in Guatemala, or constant wars against other countries in the Middle East, Israel has operated as an attack dog for U.S. imperialism. And this forms the heart of the "special relationship" between Israel and the U.S. (see "The U.S. ... Israel ... and Crimes Around the World.")
And third, there is no moral justification for these ongoing crimes based on the Holocaust, which was a horrific crime of this same system of imperialism. The real lesson of the Holocaust is that nobody can be excused for standing aside in silence when terrible crimes are being carried out—like those being carried out today against the Palestinians by Israel. (For an in-depth exploration of the factors behind, and lessons of the Holocaust, see "Revolution Responds to Question on Nature of Holocaust," Revolution, October 31, 2010—available at revcom.us)
In a world of great injustices and horrors, the establishment of the state of Israel, and its unending brutal oppression of the Palestinian people stands as a towering crime.
Since being driven from their homeland, the Palestinian people have been penned in and confined in refugee camps, living under military occupation in the few territories that they managed at first to hold onto.
In the West Bank region of Palestine, Israel's Apartheid Wall slices and zigzags for 400 miles, rising as much as 25 feet into the air, topped with prison-style watchtowers. It carves up an area home to 2.5 million Palestinians, cutting off neighbors from neighbors, farmers from their plots, people from schools, hospitals and jobs. It is patrolled by occupying soldiers and monitored by unmanned aerial drones which enforce a 75-foot "no go" zone against the civilian population. It protects hundreds of thousands of highly armed religious fanatic illegal settlers.
In Gaza, 1.5 million Palestinians live amidst schools and hospitals destroyed during Israel's massacre in 2008 that killed some 1,400 people—overwhelmingly civilians. The buildings cannot be repaired because Israel's blockade keeps out building materials. Last year, Israeli commandos attacked the Turkish boat, the Mavi Marmara in international waters to prevent it from breaking the blockade—murdering nine unarmed activists on board.
Millions more Palestinians in diaspora—forcibly exiled—live in refugee camps including many in squalid conditions, without legal residency, ability to travel, work or visit family members. In 1982, Israeli troops oversaw and orchestrated the massacre of as many as 3,500 Palestinians in the Sabra and Shatila refuge camps in Lebanon.
From the inception of the Zionist project, there has been courageous Palestinian resistance. In the 1960s, Palestinian guerrilla organizations launched armed struggle against Israel with the aim of creating a democratic, secular (non-religious) state throughout Palestine. After this high tide of mass resistance ran into obstacles it was unable to surmount, the Palestinian people continued to find ways to protest and rebel, including two Intifadas (an Arabic word meaning "to shake off") that pitted stone-throwing youth, with wide support throughout Palestine and around the world, against occupying Israeli soldiers.
The UN resolution proposed by the Palestinian Authority (PA), the entity that administers a small section of Palestine, calls for recognition of a Palestinian state consisting of the Gaza Strip, the West Bank, and East Jerusalem. That is, a relatively tiny, discontiguous Palestinian state, surrounded, chopped up, choked, and controlled by Israel in a form reminiscent of the nominally "independent" Bantustans sponsored and controlled by the apartheid regime in South Africa.
And inherent in, and explicitly, the resolution accepts and actually would work to legitimize the state of Israel.
As such, the UN resolution is not a step towards liberation for the Palestinian people, practically, symbolically, or morally. Instead, it represents and reflects the long-time position of the PA of accepting and legitimizing the theft of the Palestinian people's land while bargaining, in exchange, for recognition as client-administrators of an Israeli-dominated mini-state.
Even though the UN resolution actually represents accommodation with Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people, the U.S. response has been positively thuggish. First, the U.S. and Israel have thrown themselves into trying to prevent the resolution on Palestinian statehood from even coming up for a vote on the Security Council. And the U.S. has announced it will veto the resolution if it passes.1
But there is more: Deputy UN Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo declared, "Let there be no doubt: symbolic actions to isolate Israel at the United Nations in September will not create an independent Palestinian state." In other words, it doesn't matter how many countries in the UN vote to recognize a Palestinian state; if the world's sole superpower doesn't approve, it's not gonna happen.
And this logic and tone has been directed against any country that defies U.S. wishes in the UN. U.S. ambassador to the UN Susan Rice warned that countries that would vote for Palestinian statehood would "have a responsibility to own the consequences of their vote." And these threats have been accompanied by talk of cutting off the meager U.S. aid to the PA that allows it to function, even defunding the UN itself, along with other forms of retaliation.
One factor behind this opposition is that UN recognition would open legal venues for Palestinians to challenge Israel's illegal actions in international criminal courts—including illegal settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank or the blockade of Gaza.
But on a more basic level, this resolution is unacceptable to the U.S. and Israel because they insist on the "right" to impose ever-changing "conditions" on the Palestinians through what they cynically call "the peace process." This "peace process" has been a long history of forcing the PA to accept Israeli demands for land and other concessions, only to have Israel come back with more, and more egregious demands. Most recently Israel demanded that the Palestinians recognize Israel as a "Jewish state"—that is, an overtly Jewish theocracy that would enshrine the institutionalized subjugation of the Palestinians within Israel, and further legitimize a Zionist state. And, as we see time and time again, fervently and strongly supporting Israel—whatever it does and whatever it demands—is a basic litmus test for all politicians and elected officials in the U.S.
And most fundamentally, this resolution is intolerable to the rulers of the U.S. because their unilateral domination of the Middle East, in large part through Israel, is a crucial pillar of the U.S.'s role as the world's sole superpower. Any perception that the U.S. is not the only shot-caller in the region could serve to undermine that in the midst of all kinds of other challenges to U.S. domination, ranging from Islamic fundamentalist forces to people rising up demanding freedom.
And, any perception that the U.S. and Israel cannot simply impose their will on the peoples of the region could trigger more protest and rebellion among the people of the region, including the Palestinian people.
None of that is acceptable to the rulers of the U.S.
While the U.S. imperialists, from their logic, have compelling reasons to pull out all the stops to block the UN resolution, opposing the UN resolution presents real problems for them.
Coming from the perspective of the interests of the U.S. empire in the Middle East, the NY Times wrote: "A veto of the Palestinian bid for full membership would serve as another blow to American credibility in the Arab world, as the Obama administration tries to place itself on the side of protesters in Arab autocracies seeking freedom, justice and a notion of dignity. For many in the region, the plight of Palestinians, under more than four decades of occupation, encapsulates those ideals." ("Abbas Says He Will Seek Palestinian State at the Security Council," 9/16/2011).
The shameful complicity of these regimes with Israel's oppression of the Palestinian people has long been a source of seething outrage throughout the region. An inspiring and important dimension of the uprisings throughout the Arab world has been opposition to the complicity of pro-U.S. regimes in Israel's oppression of the Palestinians. This was manifested powerfully on May 15, in commemoration of the Nakba (the 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine), when tens of thousands of protesters converged on, and in some cases heroically crossed the borders of Israel from Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
And on September 9, thousands of youth stormed the Israeli embassy in Cairo, battering a hole in the wall, entering the compound, tearing down the Israeli flag and replacing it with the Egyptian and Palestinian banners. (see "Cairo: Battering down another brick in the wall," 9/12/2011, reprinted at revcom.us)
But even as upheaval in the region makes the U.S. unequivocal support for Israel more problematic, it also makes it more necessary. With its nuclear arsenal, high technology, and with a substantial section of its European-based Jewish population currently identifying and aligned—in many cases quite rabidly—with the Zionist project, the state of Israel is a critical bedrock of U.S. imperialist domination over a strategic region of the world.
As we wrote in the special issue of Revolution on Israel: "It has not proven easy for the U.S. to broker a settlement that would integrate the Palestinians into some semblance of a stable situation, and, at the same time, satisfy what the Israelis see as their need for unchallenged domination and a thoroughly Zionist state. This has remained a sore point in the region and around the world, and as Israel resorts to more and more extreme measures to lock down the Palestinians, this contradiction becomes sharper.
"And yet, in profound ways, the U.S has not only stuck by Israel—it is stuck with Israel. Despite real problems and even significant differences at times, the unique 'strategic relationship' between the U.S. and Israel continues because, from the perspective of U.S. imperialism, there is no real alternative on the chessboard in terms of the role Israel plays in the Middle East and throughout the world."
While the UN resolution is not going to lead to anything close to liberation for the Palestinian people, it comes at a time when there is much instability in the Middle East and North Africa, at a time when the legitimacy of regime after regime has become the burning question for millions. In the face of threats by Israel and the U.S. to retaliate against the Palestinians, and in the likelihood of new outbreaks of mass upsurge in Palestine and beyond, there is a critical responsibility for political resistance—particularly by people in this country—to oppose any moves by the U.S. and Israel to further ratchet up the oppression of the Palestinian people and to support their just struggle. Such resistance is a moral imperative.
The coming showdown at the UN is bound, in one form or another, to draw many people into struggle and debate—in Palestine, in the Middle East, and around the world.
Through all this, millions will be pulled into the swirl of political engagement and struggle, from many directions and raising different demands. Revolutionaries need to jump into the fray, uniting with those who are raising these demands to oppose the U.S. actions and demanding justice for the Palestinians. And in that mix, debating and struggling over the critical questions of the nature and role of the state of Israel, the root causes of the oppression of the Palestinian people, and what it will take to achieve justice and liberation for a people who have suffered generations of subjugation and brutal occupation. With the active participation and struggle of revolutionary communists, the whole dynamic can potentially be a powerful element in bringing forward a global movement to wrench a world free of all oppression out of the horrors of the current world order.
After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel.
*Volunteers around the country assisted with research for this article. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or write to RCP Publications, PO Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654 if you would like to help with research, photography or other aspects of work on Revolution newspaper.
1. The five permanent members of the UN Security Council—the U.S., the UK, France, Russia, and China—have veto power over all substantial decisions of the UN. Since 1972 the U.S. has been, by far the most frequent user of the veto, mainly on resolutions criticizing Israel. Most recently, the Obama administration vetoed resolutions condemning illegal Israeli settlements that are a particularly egregious form of extending Israel's ongoing violent ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people from their homeland. There has been speculation that if—as is almost certain—the U.S. vetoes the resolution in the Security Council, the PA may seek a lower level of recognition from the UN that is not subject to U.S. veto. [back]
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
A Fight for the Future, the Struggle for a Different World
October 22, 2011 will be the 16th year people have taken to the streets in cities all over the U.S. on the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation.
An epidemic of police murder and beatings, courts of injustice, mass imprisonment, the demonization of Black and Latino youth... All this is not just still going on. It's getting WORSE. With no justice in sight. With no sign this system is gonna put the brakes on any of this without determined struggle by the people.
In 2009 we saw how Oscar Grant was murdered by a cop in Oakland, Calif.—shot point blank as he lay on a train platform. Hundreds of people witnessed it, cell phones captured it, YouTube brought it to millions more. A blatant, cold-blooded murder caught on video. People took to the streets demanding justice. And the system couldn't just let the killer cop Johannes Mehserle off... right away. So they had a trial and, in a highly unusual move, found Mehserle guilty of manslaughter. BUT THEN... after only 11 months he walks out of his prison cell, free. People take to the streets to protest this outrage and are attacked by the cops.
That same month: TWO MORE young Black males are murdered by cops in the SF Bay Area. One of them, 19-year-old Kenneth Harding, shot because the police say he was running away after not paying a two dollar train fare. Shot and left bleeding to death on the sidewalk as the police stand around him in a circle with guns drawn. As Harding writhes in pain and gasps for air, the cops prevent anyone from coming to his aid. Prevent anyone from even holding his hand.
Nineteen years old. And you breathe your last breath!? And for what? Why? Because some cops decided you fit some "profile." AND they knew they could get away with it.
An aberration? A few bad apples in a barrel of good cops? The system will deliver justice? NO WAY. This is going on—and accelerating—in cities and towns throughout this country.
Look at Chicago where the cops have shot 47 people so far—just this year—mostly youth of color, including 13-year-old Jimmell Cannon, who suffered four bullets entering his body. You might ask... Or maybe you already know the answer: Have any of these cops been charged with murder or assault? Yes... the answer is NO.
Any description of the USA in the year 2011 must include these phenomena:
Mass Incarceration, 2.3 million in prison... Police Murder and Brutality... Black and Latino youth, criminalized and demonized... harassed and humiliated by the police who "Stop & Frisk" them every single day... prisoners in horrendous solitary confinement, kept in windowless cells and denied human contact—kept in conditions so torturous they go on hunger strike to demand an end to this inhumane treatment... executions, no matter the facts.
Today, this whole trajectory—enforced by cops, courts, laws, and government officials—is a main and intensifying way Black and Latino people are oppressed by the system. And this repression also affects poor whites and working class people more broadly.
The police occupy Black and Latino communities they treat like "enemy territory." If you're young in these neighborhoods, they're gonna stop you, harass and humiliate you... and IF you're lucky, you won't end up brutalized, arrested, or dead. It doesn't matter what you're doing, if you've got anything in your pocket, if you do or don't got weed. In New York City the police are on pace to stop and frisk over 700,000 people in 2011! That's more than 1,900 people each and every day. And guess what—more than 85% are Black or Latino, and more than 90% are found, even by the cops, to be doing nothing wrong.
"Stop & Frisk" is carried out by the police in many different cities. And what is being done with this goes up against the government's own stated laws. This whole, systematic policy, in effect, is a practice in which a whole section of people are denied constitutional rights.
They tell you in school that the Fourth Amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, is foundational to the American rule of law. It's supposed to protect against "unwarranted search and seizure" (unreasonable search and arrest). We're told the Fourteenth Amendment is another thing that "makes this country so great." Passed after the formal end of slavery, it's supposed to guarantee that the law and due process will be equally applied to all—which means anyone accused of a crime is supposed to be entitled to a legal process where they can defend against the charges. And no one is supposed to be punished (by the police or anyone else) when a crime has not been proven. BUT these laws and rights DO NOT EXIST for an entire group of people. Statistics—year after year, city after city, official and unofficial—show that for African-Americans, Latinos, and other oppressed nationalities, there is no effective due process.
The Bill of Rights is supposed to apply to everyone, including non-citizens. Yet ALL of these things are being done by the U.S. government. This is totally UNLAWFUL and ILLEGITIMATE.
We need mass resistance, including nonviolent direct action, to put a STOP to the whole policy of "Stop & Frisk." And this can be a powerful way of connecting up with and feeding into October 22.
A call put out, "From Up Against the Wall to Up in Their Faces: STOP 'STOP & FRISK'" says:
"In the days leading into the Oct 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, the Network to Stop Mass Incarceration is calling for Stopping Stop & Frisk. We will target this illegal, unconstitutional policy with non violent civil disobedience. If you are sick and tired of being harassed and jacked up by the cops, JOIN US. If you have had enough of seeing your brothers and sisters, your cousins, your aunts and uncles and fathers stepped to and disrespected by the cops, JOIN US. If you don't want to live in a world where people's humanity is routinely violated because of the color of their skin, JOIN US. And if you are shocked to hear that this kind of thing happens in this so-called homeland of freedom and democracy—it does happen, all the damned time—you need to JOIN US too—you can't stand aside and let this injustice be done in your name."
Signatories to this call, so far include: Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party; Cornel West, professor, author and public intellectual; Herb Boyd, author, journalist, Harlem, N.Y.; Efia Nwangaza, Malcolm X Center, Greenville, SC; and Rev. Omar Wilkes.
The system carries out systematic campaigns of oppression that clearly target Black and Latino people. And then they argue, through their politicians and media mouthpieces: "How can you say this is discrimination? The law is the law and it's being equally applied. More Black and Latino people, especially youth, are getting arrested and end up in prison because they do more crime." This is what they want you to think because they want, and they need, the people to get behind and not oppose what they are doing.
Night after night, we got "COPS" on TV; we got people like Bill Cosby saying the problem is youth are making "bad decisions"; we got preachers who get up and say the youth are to blame and when someone gets gunned down by a cop, this is "god's way." We got prison officials talking like those locked up are animals—and using this to justify torture.
But all this is a BIG LIE and a BIG DISGUISE. A way for the system to target, discriminate and oppress people of color—without making it look that way.
Just look at the "war on drugs" and "drug laws." Equally and fairly applied? NO WAY!
As we exposed in "Marijuana Laws in a World of Oppression and Discrimination" (Revolution #246):
"Over the last 30 years the 'war on drugs' has been the main instrument through which the U.S. government has carried out mass incarceration and the demonization of Black and Latino youth. And a major focus of this war on the people has been arresting people for marijuana. The prison population in the USA went from about half a million in 1980 to 2.3 million in 2006—an increase of over 450 percent. And a huge number of those put behind bars during this prison boom are African-Americans and Latinos, males and females—convicted of minor drug violations, but in many cases given long sentences."
More than 1.8 million people are arrested every year on nonviolent drug charges. From 1985-2000, drug offenses accounted for about two-thirds the increase in the federal prison population, and more than half of the increase in state prisons. Nationally, African-Americans are 13 times more likely to be incarcerated on drug charges than whites, despite similar rates of drug use. From 2006-2008, major cities in California arrested and prosecuted Latinos for marijuana possession at double to nearly triple the rate of whites. Despite equal rates of drug use proportionate to their populations, Latinos are twice as likely as whites, and equally as likely as Blacks, to be admitted to state prison for a drug offense.
And then there is the system's "war on gangs," which also targets and criminalizes the youth. This too is portrayed as something that "fairly prosecutes the law" and is about stopping violence and drug dealing. But this is NOT what the "war on gangs" is about.
Look at the way "anti-gang injunctions" are used in places like Los Angeles. These court-issued restraining orders name specific "members of gangs" and sometimes include a list of "John or Jane Does"—other, unnamed "members" of a gang. A "No Association" clause in many of these injunctions prohibits all kinds of activities, including: standing, sitting, walking, driving, bicycling, wearing certain clothes, making certain hand gestures, acting as lookouts, fighting, drinking, using drugs and gathering or appearing with any other defendant named in the injunction or any other known "gang member" within a specifically defined area/neighborhood/section of a city. In other words, if you're named in one of these injunctions (or become a Jane or John Doe), there's lots of completely legal things you're not allowed to do. And if you do one of these things, you're charged with violating a court order which carries a six-month jail sentence.
In Los Angeles, by 2008 there were 37 gang injunctions covering 57 gangs and 11,000 people (that the cops claim are gang members). In 2010, the State of California had more than 150 gang injunctions.
Through all this, "law enforcement data bases" are built up—even on people who haven't committed any crime—and used to further criminalize the youth and lock them up. This is part of Big Brother. And it's about more than just spying and keeping an eye on people. It is Big Brother who fears potential resistance and rebellion. It is a system that needs clampdown, control and censorship to maintain an unequal and unjust status quo.
The "war on drugs," "war on gangs," "stop and frisk," "mass incarceration"—all work together, are all part of a whole trajectory, in which millions of people, especially Black and Latino youth in the inner cities, and others as well, are entrapped in a whole web of the unjust, unfair, illegitimate and repressive U.S. judicial system—from juvenile detention, to imprisonment, to the torture of solitary confinement, to the branding of "ex-cons" who are systematically denied jobs, housing, financial aid, and the right to vote
This year's National Day of Protest (NDP) comes at a time when mass incarceration continues to ruin the lives of millions of prisoners, and deliver heartbreak and misery to millions more who are denied fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. This year's NDP comes in the wake of the execution of Troy Davis, at a time when the system is pressing forward with its barbaric use of the death penalty—evidence and innocence be damned!
This year's NDP also comes in the midst of an intense and inspiring struggle by prisoners against the cruel, torturous treatment of solitary confinement.
For 20 days, from July 1-July 21, prisoners at the Security Housing Unit (SHU) at Pelican Bay State Prison in California went on a hunger strike—demanding to be treated like human beings, demanding the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) end their barbaric, inhumane conditions of imprisonment.
These prisoners risked their very lives, in the most isolated and repressive conditions, to let the world know about their struggle. And they were not alone. Some 6,500 prisoners in facilities across the state took part in some way. On the outside, there were rallies, press conferences, statements, and other expressions of support for the prisoners' demands. And all this shined a bright and indicting light on how this system is torturing prisoners, not just at Pelican Bay but in solitary confinement prison units all over the country.
When the hunger strike was suspended, the CDCR said they would review the prisoners' five demands. But prisoners now say the CDCR's response to their just and reasonable demands has been completely unacceptable and the hunger strike is set to resume on September 26.
These prisoners are waging a courageous struggle against the barbaric reality of what mass incarceration means in the USA. This inspiring fight from behind prison walls can be a spark and model for the movement against mass incarceration, police brutality, and repression. And it needs to be amplified and connected up with the struggle and goals of October 22.
People on the outside have a moral imperative to NOT stand by while such immoral, inhuman acts are being committed against these prisoners. Broad support for the hunger strikers needs to be built among many different kinds of people in society, including students.
Protest and determined political resistance against the total illegitimacy of "Stop & Frisk," the outrageous injustice of mass incarceration, the systematic criminalization of a whole generation; and support for the prisoners who are rebelling in the darkest, most horrible dungeons of this system must come together and find forceful and creative expression, leading up to and on October 22.
This horrible system brings horror down on the people. This system criminalizes the youth and offers them no kind of future. For that alone, there is a need to resist and fight the power, with the goal of putting a STOP to all this and bringing about real change.
Many people look at this world, this society, and despair at the situation of the youth. There is deep concern for a whole generation of Black and Latino youth who can't get an education, who don't have jobs, who spend their whole life caught up, beaten down, in a web of police, courts, parole officers and prisons. They worry about what this means for the future of the people as a whole.
Indeed, the struggle against "Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation" has everything to do with what kind of future we will have. This struggle is part of fighting for a different world—where brutality and murder by the police, the barbarity of prison solitary confinement are things of the past. Where the youth and people of all nationalities and ages actually have a future, a way to be productive in society, to be intellectually stimulated, to contribute to humanity with their full potential. To be a part of the struggle to emancipate ALL OF HUMANITY.
As we said in Revolution #246:
"We need varied and creative expressions of determined resistance which demands an end to police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation. And which boldly confronts the powers-that-be. And within that mix of resistance and protest there needs to be a powerful revolutionary current. We need to: Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. We need resistance where people really stand up to, question the legitimacy of the current order and bring forward a different way things could be and people could relate to each other. And this can play a role in unleashing more resistance and among broader forces, including people who may not be ready to take such action and/or do not think revolution is the solution. This kind of resistance could dramatically transform the political terrain—uniting many different sections of society, and emboldening the victims of this brutality and murder who feel isolated and demonized. People standing up, working to bring a whole new world into being, heartens people and gives them a sense that they too can stand up and that such resistance could really matter." (See "All Out For October 22, 2011: National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation")
October 22 needs to be a day to connect all the pieces of the whole "war on the people" being waged—to powerfully expose and speak out against all these elements in the accelerating repression coming down, especially on Black and Latino youth. In the past, high school students have walked out of school on O22 and college students can play an important role in organizing such actions. Teachers and professors should hold discussions and invite people to come talk about the significance of this day and the importance of this struggle. Churches should open their doors for speak-outs. And very importantly—in the weeks ahead as we go all out to build for NDP, we especially need to get out to the high schools and colleges. There is a tremendous amount of potential here to mobilize people to manifest on October 22. And these youth and students can add a whole lot of power and energy to NDP.
On this day, in the streets, coast to coast, we need big and resolute expressions of our determination to really STOP the many ways this system brutalizes, represses, criminalizes, and imprisons the people.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
On Tuesday, September 6, John Collado stepped out the front door of his apartment building in the Dominican neighborhood of Inwood at the north end of Manhattan in New York City. According to accounts of neighbors, he saw an unidentified man grabbing a young next-door neighbor. Suddenly, the unknown attacker pulled a gun and shot Collado. That attacker turned out to be an undercover cop.
John's older brother, Pablo Collado, told NY1 news, "My brother went to help and said 'Get away from him,' and I guess he grabbed the guy, my brother grabbed him. He didn't know he was a policeman." Neighbors told us, "El oficial nunca se identifico y que la policía siempre encubrió los hechos desde el primer día." ("The cop never identified himself, and the police always act to conceal their deeds from the first day.")
But the outrageous crime was not over yet. Collado's niece, Banayz Teveras, heard the shots and came out to the street. As she told Daily News, "I look out and see my uncle with a gunshot wound on the floor." Banayz, a month away from becoming a registered nurse, rushed to provide emergency medical care for her gravely wounded uncle. But the cops—now on the scene in force—not only denied her access but arrested her and held her overnight.
Collado was taken to a hospital and died 12 hours later. What words had he spoken, if any, that might shed light on that deadly encounter he had with the police? What was his condition, and how was he treated during those 12 hours? None of this has yet been revealed, let alone independently verified, because the police denied his family any access to him during that period. Collado's family is demanding an independent autopsy.
The police attempted to justify the shooting by claiming that Collado had the undercover cop in a chokehold and the cop fired in self-defense. However, the Collado family's lawyer has announced that they have obtained surveillance video of the scene that night, and that it clearly shows that Collado was not choking the undercover cop.
This shooting comes less than 11 months after the NYPD killed 24-year-old Emmanuel Paulino, just four blocks away.
On Saturday, September 18, there was a protest organized by John Collado's family and neighbors. For many, this was their first act of resistance. Some voiced that they had long supported the police but that the NYPD's murder of a well-respected person like Collado really shook their sense of the legitimacy of the system and its enforcers. Many carried a poster/sign made by family and neighbors organizing the march with John Collado's photo above the words "Please be advised that the abuse of authority by the NYPD is claiming innocent lives! Stop the abuse!"
What began as a march of 100 grew to over 200 as the protest went through the community to the notorious 34th Precinct. For some people, this was their third march to this precinct to protest a murder by the police. This sharply posed the question: How many more such murders are we going to protest before we STOP this? How many more lives are going to be stolen by murdering cops? The words of the RCP's Message and Call "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have," which we distributed on the march, speaks to that:
"The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all around the world... when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness... those days must be GONE. And they CAN be."
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Talk by Bob Avakian—available online
Over 400 pro basketball players have now been "locked out" by the National Basketball Association team owners. The NBA owners had the most profitable season ever last year, pulling in a record $4.3 billion in revenues. But now the NBA is demanding that the players union make significant concessions in contracts, and the players have so far refused. The lockout has resulted in the cancellation of some pre-season games, and there is talk that the whole regular season may be cancelled if there is no agreement soon. These developments are bound to open up discussion and debate around the role of big-time pro sports in the U.S., professional athletes, and in particular the status and role of African-Americans in basketball and athletics.
In light of this situation, we wanted to bring to our readers' attention a talk by Bob Avakian, "The NBA: Marketing the Minstrel Show and Serving the Big Gangsters." Whether or not you're into basketball, this talk will open your mind to some revealing truths—through humor, anecdotes, and science. This talk is one of the "7 Talks" by Bob Avakian, pathbreaking explorations in communist theory and its application to a broad range of questions. The "7 Talks" can be found online at bobavakian.net and revcom.us/avakian.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
With an op-ed piece published in the September 22 Harvard Crimson and an Open Letter to the Harvard community, Raymond Lotta is kicking off a major effort to create a big splash at key college campuses around the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Lotta and others are at Harvard this weekend (September 24-25) to call out a conference co-sponsored by Harvard Law School and the Tea Party Patriots. The conference is about amending the U.S. Constitution. Lotta's open letter challenges progressive people attending this conference to reach forward to a different Constitution, to a different world, to a different future—rather than reaching back and trying to make something good of the U.S. Constitution and the capitalist-imperialist system that have only meant unending misery for humanity.
Revolution Books in Cambridge is helping to organize and involve people in mass leafleting, selling the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), getting Bob Avakian's BAsics out, going into dorms and stirring discussion. Already, controversy is breaking out in the Harvard Crimson in response to Lotta's op-ed. People wanting to help out this weekend and next week should contact Revolution Books at email@example.com, or leave a message at (617) 492-5443.
At Harvard and elsewhere over the next few months, Lotta will be entering into public debates, giving talks, engaging in discussions with students and professors, taking part in high-profile dialogues, and going to the media. The theme is: "A world of misery is coming apart...capitalism is a horror and failure...but there is an emancipatory and viable alternative."
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA is that very concrete alternative; it is an inspiring application of Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism. And it must be impacting the intellectual-political scene big time.
Below is Lotta's Open Letter to the Harvard community:
An Open Letter from Raymond Lotta to the Harvard Campus Community
The U.S. Constitution: An Exploiters' Vision of Freedom Vs.
The Constitution for a Viable and Liberating Alternative
A disturbing conference is taking place this weekend. It is called the Conference on the Constitutional Convention. Harvard Law School and the liberal Fix Congress First are joining forces with the Tea Party Patriots to weigh the merits of a constitutional convention, because "democracy in America is stalled."
Under the rubric of dialogue and debate between the "Left" and Right about amending the U.S. Constitution, this conference will further legitimate the reactionary Tea Party movement. I'm talking about flag-waving, angry mobs in Arizona, overwhelmingly white, threatening immigrants...the Muslim-bashing mobilizations in New York City against a "ground zero mosque"...the theocratic outrage about the "removal of God from the public square"...the racist-encoded pronouncements in defense of "states' rights."
To Lawrence Lessig, the director of a Harvard center for ethics, I pose the question: how can you lay claim to ethical concern and act in concert with a proto-fascist movement?
1) The stated purpose of this weekend conference is "to discuss the advisability and feasibility of organizing towards a Constitutional Convention," because "our Republic does not work as our Framers intended." OK, let's go to "original intent"...
The U.S. Constitution upheld and institutionalized slavery. Its framers were representatives of the two dominant classes in the new republic: the slave-owners and the rising capitalist class of merchants and small manufacturers. The Constitution enabled these two dominant classes to accumulate wealth on the backs of the slaves and the workers, and to continue to exterminate the original Native American population.
I challenge the sponsors of this conference to dispute this simple and basic truth from Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA: "There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery."
2) The call for this conference states that "special interests" have "captured government." This is profoundly wrong.
These are not "special interests" at work, but a system of capitalism-imperialism. Part of the "genius" of the U.S. Constitution is that it is a charter that appears to treat everyone the same while concealing and reinforcing the profound inequalities, disparities, and class divisions at the heart of the capitalist economic, social and political system.
I challenge any of the speakers at this conference to debate the following proposition: A Constitution that protects the right of any corporation to exploit and lay off workers, while denying the basic right to eat, is economically, socially, and morally bankrupt.
3) The call for this Conference speaks of "inertia" in Congress and forces that are "blocking change."
Inertia? The system is working quite effectively in funding America's imperial wars and sanctioning rendition, torture, and domestic spying. There's no logjam in Congress when it comes to imposing massive spending cuts that will hurt the poor and people of color the most. No gridlock when it comes to enforcing a legal-penal system that has put 1 of 9 young Black men in prison—based on a racist "war on drugs," unconstitutional "stop and frisk" laws, and unequal sentencing.
A WORLD OF MISERY IS COMING APART, A BETTER WORLD IS POSSIBLE
The U.S. is waging unjust imperial wars. The ecosystems of the planet are endangered. Here we are: the know-how and technology exist to produce enough food for everyone on the planet; meanwhile close to 1 billion go hungry. Capitalism is a horror and a failure.
But a far better world is possible...and the vision and viable plan for what a new revolutionary society could be is contained in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (available at http://revcom.us/socialistconstitution/). On the basis of making revolution, this is what will be forged:
This is not only a vision and plan for a better society, but for a society that is in motion towards a whole other world without oppression or exploitation...towards a future where people could finally live as human beings. This is a vision grounded in and made possible because there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward by Bob Avakian.
Raymond Lotta and others are in Boston to stir discussion and debate about this new Constitution.
For more information contact Revolution Books, Cambridge • firstname.lastname@example.org • 617.492.5443.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Below is a slightly edited talk given on September 11, 2011 by Andy Zee, spokesperson for Revolution Books in New York City, on the 10th Anniversary of 9/11.
Maher Arar, a Canadian engineer, was traveling home from vacation in Tunisia in September of 2002 and had a brief layover at JFK airport in NYC. He was immediately detained and held in solitary confinement for two weeks by U.S. intelligence forces and denied any meaningful communication with a lawyer. Although the U.S. authorities had no evidence against him, he was whisked onto a plane and taken, rendered—not to Canada which had raised concerns about him—but to Syria.
In Syria he was placed in an underground grave—a 3-ft. x 6-ft. rat-infested underground cell with no light. He was let out only to be tortured repeatedly, brutally interrogated, and worst of all kept in his solitary underground coffin without recourse or communication with the outside world. After 10 months, 10 long months, he was released and returned home. No charges filed. None. Arar is irrevocably scarred psychologically from this. His wife and young child put through their own hell. This never goes away. Eventually the Canadian government paid restitution for their conveying mistaken information. The U.S. has refused to accept any responsibility—declaring secrecy—including and continuing under the Barack Obama administration.
AMERICAN LIVES ARE NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN OTHER LIVES
Syed Fahad Hashmi is a 30-year-old Muslim American citizen. He came to the United States from Pakistan with his family when he was three and grew up in Flushing, Queens. He became a U.S. citizen and graduated from Robert F. Wagner High School in 1998 and Brooklyn College in 2003. He then went to England where he earned an M.A. in 2005.
In June 2006, he was arrested by the British police at Heathrow Airport (he was about to travel to Pakistan, where he has family) on a warrant issued by the U.S. government. In May 2007, he was extradited to the United States, the first U.S. citizen to be extradited under terrorism laws passed after 9/11.
Under both the Bush and Obama administrations, Fahad was held in solitary confinement here in New York City at MCC [Metropolitan Correctional Center], just blocks from "ground zero"—under conditions that were Kafkaesque in their absurd brutality. He couldn't read a newspaper that was less than a month old, he was kept in solitary with no access to fresh air, monitored 24 hours a day, locked down for 23, with one hour in a cage. The restrictions on his life were so egregious that theater artists held vigils outside MCC.
Fahad was not charged with a violent crime, only that someone who stayed with him stored ponchos and socks in his apartment that were allegedly for use by terrorists.
Fahad was tried under conditions that were so militarized and so unfair right here in N.Y. that he eventually pled so that he would not spend the rest of his life in jail.
Fahad is a political activist for Muslim causes, and this was one of the reasons that Eric Holder, Obama's Attorney General, went after him with such vengeance—to perpetuate and intensify the chill against dissent that was a hallmark of the Bush administration, which has been increasingly codified by the Obama administration.
AMERICAN LIVES ARE NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN OTHER LIVES
There is an irony in that Fahad actually is a U.S. citizen, but he, along with thousands of other Muslims and people of South Asian descent, have been castigated and rounded up—quite literally. The message that continues, and has been reinforced this 9/11 anniversary weekend: "There are foreign enemies living amongst us." Racist attacks, including murder, have been carried out against Arab and Muslim people all over the country.
That Fahad is a U.S. citizen matters not—even more true under Obama than during the Bush regime. For President Obama has arrogated to himself the right to execute anyone anywhere in the world, simply on his say so, including U.S. citizens. Last April, the Obama administration took the extraordinary step of authorizing the targeted killing of Anwar al-Awlaki, who they said had become a recruiter for a terrorist network—no matter where he was found, no matter his distance from a battlefield, and with no due process of any kind, no charges, no trial. How dare the U.S. rulers and their parrots in the media criticize Islamic states for their fatwahs.
This extraordinary fascistic policy is a logical extension of the doctrine of preemptive war—whereby the U.S. gives itself the right to attack any country in the world, to go into any sovereign country and carry out a military mission unilaterally simply because the U.S. decides that someone, some group, or some government might—in the future—do harm to U.S. interests. All this under the signboard of protecting American lives.
"AMERICAN LIVES ARE NOT MORE IMPORTANT THAN OTHER LIVES."
When Bob Avakian first spoke these words, he did so as part of an insightful, prescient talk: "Bringing Forward Another Way." As we look back today and reflect on the last decade since September 11, 2001, there is nothing we should want to do more than to bring forward a whole other way that the world could be.
Barack Obama has said repeatedly that it his "...belief that we need to look forward as opposed to looking backward." Why? Because, he said: "... part of my job is to make sure that, for example, at the CIA, you've got extraordinarily talented people, who are working very hard to keep Americans safe. I don't want them to suddenly feel like they've got to spend all their time looking over their shoulders and lawyering." Here Obama expresses precisely two of the key foundations of post-9/11 America—unbridled and unrestrained permanent war—open and covert—on a whole other level unrestrained by even the formalities of international law. And, at the same time, he joins the chorus of mockery of the rule of law by the all-too-familiar cop show complaint of defendants "lawyering up"—even as in this instance Obama is worried about his CIA assassins being constrained by the law. Obama won't look back because to defend and extend the murderous empire he is currently commander-in-chief of, he needs to do more of the same—rendering people to torture, murdering from the sky in the dead of night, prosecuting ever more violent war and occupations of whole countries, while increasing the police surveillance state apparatus at a moment when so many here in the U.S. are living lives of deprivation and desperation.
No. We are looking forward to a whole different future, through revolution. Part of getting there is understanding what has happened and why, and through doing so seeing not only the great crimes of this system, but discovering its fault lines, leading people to see their interests lie in resisting what their government is doing in their name, and coming to see and act on the understanding that this empire, like others before it, can end, and that there is a new world to be won and a way to get there.
Put simply and directly, the "War on Terror" was never anything other than a War for Empire. There is a better world possible through revolution.
* * *
Five hours after the WTC towers fell, Donald Rumsfeld said: "Go massive...Sweep it all up. Things related and things not." And, right from the beginning he instructed his Pentagon staff to begin drawing up plans for invading Iraq as well as Afghanistan.
In the view of the neo-cons in the Bush administration, the whole Middle East was a swamp that had to be drained. After the fall of the Soviet Union, this section of the ruling class perceived that the U.S. had an opportunity and real necessity to assertively establish itself as the sole superpower broaching no rivals. The "War on Terror" was the perfect rubric for this, especially as the terrorists, who Bush called the "evil doers," invoking his own Christian fundamentalist trope, were (and still are) whoever and whatever they say they are. A War on Terror is never-ending.
The current issue of Revolution summarizes:
"What is really behind the so-called 'war on terror' is a grand strategy aimed at reshaping the whole world, beginning with the Middle East and permanently establishing the U.S. in a position that has never before existed in the history of empires in the world—unchallenged and unchallengeable, in every dimension, on a scale never before seen in history. Their objective has been to violently recast international relations and make the U.S. the unchallengeable ruler of the world."
More, these aims and goals were on the agenda before 9/11—even as many of the plans were aggressively put in place in the days and years after September 11, 2001. As far back as 1992, when this neo-con foreign policy crew of Cheney/Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz , who were then part of the outgoing Papa Bush administration, wrote a paper called "Defense Planning Guidance" which argued that the U.S. should ensure "that no rival superpower is allowed to emerge in Western Europe, Asia or the territory of the former Soviet Union," and that these objectives should be accomplished by preemptively attacking rivals or states seeking "weapons of mass destruction," strengthening U.S. control over Persian Gulf oil, and refusing to allow any international law or coalitions to inhibit U.S. freedom of action.
In September 2000, their "Project for a New American Century" wrote that "[T]he process of transformation [of America's global posture], even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event—like a new Pearl Harbor."
On the night of September 11, 2001, Bush wrote in his diary, "The Pearl Harbor of the 21st century took place today."
So, all of this was in motion before 9/11. Soon after September 11, the Committee of the RIM [Revolutionary International Movement] made the following observation, summarized here by Bob Avakian that still has great relevance:
"[I]n the murky world of intelligence, where duplicity is the currency, it may be impossible to ever know exactly who was behind September 11. Who, actually, is Osama bin Laden? Of course, he's the villain of the week, or whatever. Remember it used to be Noriega and then it was 'Saddam, The Dictator' (and don't forget Milosevic). But who knows exactly who Osama bin Laden is and with whom and for whom he is actually working? All of this stuff is impossible to tell, but it does seem at least quite likely that there were real forces—not the proletariat, not positive forces, but other reactionary forces—who actually hit out at U.S. imperialism for their own reasons. Whether the U.S. ruling class knew that this specific thing was coming and decided to let it go for their own reasons, or whether they knew in a general sense that some kind of attack was coming against them, inside or outside the U.S., but they didn't expect this (which is quite possible), whatever the truth of that is (and again we may never be able to sort all this out) the point is that there is both freedom and necessity for them in this situation."
And, as we learned in 2004, Bush received a memo on August 6, 2001 warning of a "Bin Laden attack in the U.S."
What the U.S. did in response to 9/11 was extraordinary in their open declaration of preemptive war, their open dismissal of international and U.S. constitutional law, in their revival of a jingoistic, swaggering cowboy rhetoric of "Wanted Dead or Alive." But it was not extraordinary, not out of the ordinary on the level of action, an aberration. This indeed is the history of the U.S., founded in genocide, slavery, and a doctrine of Manifest Destiny, a nation forged on the blood, bones and suffering of people the world over. Water boarding was so routine by U.S. forces in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War at the end of 19th century that soldiers sang a ditty about it. The U.S.- trained and -sponsored death squads have scarred the body politic and even the soul, if you will, of countries from Central America to Africa—there is not a continent (save perhaps Antarctica) or a year in the last century and a half where the U.S. has not left its bloody imprint somewhere on the planet.
This is a history too oft forgotten—especially when it matters. When it doesn't matter, people say, I know all that. But, when the ruling class goes into overdrive to pull people back into their political process of affirming their choices for who will guide the ship of state... when it comes to the beckoning of elections for the head of this empire—whether with Kerry in 2004 or Obama in 2008 and now 2012—people tell themselves a pleasant fairy tale that disguises the reality, persuading themselves that this time it will be different. That this time it is different—look at the specter of the lunatic fascists. And thus put their stamp of acquiescence on the whole process. And humanity and the planet continue to be ground up.
The basic truth is that the promise and reality of America has always been nothing other than genocide, slavery, coups d'etat, invasions and wars of conquest. Make an argument why that is not so. If you can't, then tell us why we don't need to and should not build a movement for revolution to put an end to such a system.
The "War on Terror" has not been all smooth sailing for the imperialists. They have unleashed what Bob Avakian, right after 9/11, called a "cauldron of contradictions," which holds the possibility of two extremes: devastating losses for the forces of revolution in the world and a great strengthening of imperialism, or, on the other hand, to the opening up of pathways for revolution—as well as all the possibilities in between these extremes. This plays out still.
Yes, they can have their suburban warriors in a Langley, Virginia office park launch automated drones and murder dozens of people halfway around the world. But, in doing so they are both incurring the wrath of millions, and more are unleashing forces and contradictions way beyond their control. Even a cursory look at the real situation in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan reveals how what they have wrought could potentially be their Achilles Heel. Even the upsurges in the Middle East, with all their democratic illusions as well as the maneuvering and direct intervention by U.S. and NATO military, has, nonetheless, unleashed millions of people's positive aspirations as well as given initiative to social forces that could be very problematic for the continued stability of imperialism.
This has not been and is very far from being a great decade for U.S. imperialism. They are not riding high. If you look deeply at the situation, there is a profound strategic basis for revolution, even as that basis lives within a currently unfavorable political and ideological alignment. This is what we are, and must, work to transform.
The U.S. rulers also have not had a clear field for their crimes here at home. Their whole "War on Terror" has not been without, at times, significant resistance here—even as for now it has been contained, suppressed—with people stuck in a state of disconnect and paralysis. Right after 9/11, as people gathered in Union Square in NYC, people wrestled with how to bring positive change out of the deaths of so many innocent people. The art project and street theater, "Our Grief is Not a Cry for War," was among the first public protests, pictures of which went round the world. In the summer of 2002, a Statement of Conscience, "Not in Our Name," was pulled together that soon involved hundreds of public intellectuals—with full-page ads appearing in papers all across the U.S., and this in turn led to the first major protest of 25,000 in Central Park. Then, protests in Washington grew, and by the winter of 2003, 15 million protested around the world. The mother of an American killed in Iraq camped outside Bush's house and became a symbol of resistance. Protest continued at the political conventions in 2004 and 2008. World Can't Wait/Drive Out the Bush Regime was formed and is now hounding the war criminals as they tour NYC and the country with all too much impunity. Vets have resisted, often at great personal cost. These are the vets who are heroes. Tonight is not the occasion to sum up the resistance and analyze the obstacles it faces from the repression of the ruling class to the illusions, delusions, and demoralization of the people. But, it is to take serious measure that there has been resistance and that this can and must be amplified as part of building the movement for revolution.
The draconian surveillance and police state repressive measures that have been put in place are, in a perverse way, a recognition of the actual and potential for mass resistance. They can aptly be seen as a certain admission on the part of the ruling class of the unjustness of their rule—as well as their intent to preserve it no matter the crimes they have to commit to do so. Yes, these repressive measures have real teeth and effect, but they also put right on the people's side. And, do not discount the many here and around the world who recognize this. Indeed, the very point that I began with: "American lives are not more important than other people's lives," expresses a morality that many people in this country agree with and want to live by. That, by the way, is one of the positive legacies of the 1960s.
On the back page of this week's Revolution newspaper, there is a quote from BAsics that originally comes from "Bringing Forward Another Way":
"The interests, objectives, and grand designs of the imperialists are not our interests—they are not the interests of the great majority of people in the U.S. nor of the overwhelming majority of people in the world as a whole. And the difficulties the imperialists have gotten themselves into in pursuit of these interests must be seen, and responded to, not from the point of view of the imperialists and their interests, but from the point of view of the great majority of humanity and the basic and urgent need of humanity for a different and better world, for another way."
And, the thing is, a different and far better world is possible. There is a vision and viable plan for what a new revolutionary society could be. It's here, in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), issued this past year by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Let me read Article II, Section C-2:
"In keeping with this purpose and role, and in accordance with its internationalist orientation, the New Socialist Republic in North America will dismantle all remaining bases of the former imperialist USA in other countries and will renounce all treaties and agreements, military and otherwise, which were imposed by that imperialist state on other countries and peoples or which in any case served to impose and enforce the domination of the imperialist USA. The New Socialist Republic in North America renounces all wars of aggression and domination, and all occupation of other countries in pursuit of such domination and aggression, and will not station its forces, nor establish bases, in another country, except in circumstances where this is clearly in accord with the wishes of the masses of people in that country and where such action would actually be a manifestation of the internationalist orientation and other fundamental principles and objectives set forth in this Constitution and would contribute to the advance of revolutionary struggle in the world in accordance with these principles and objectives."
Do you, do we realize what a weight this would lift off the people of the world? To those progressives who chatter on this anniversary weekend about how 9/11 was a "police matter" and that there is a better way to make America safe, lift your sights and look at America as it really is, and check out this liberating vision that humanity really needs.
This is but one clause of a concrete conceptualization of a radically new state power. One that, as Revolution newspaper put it this week, "involves making common cause with—not wars against—the oppressed of the world. A future that breaks free of all fundamentalism and blind, my-nation-first patriotism, and involves fostering the critical spirit and an inclusive vibrancy in culture and politics that cannot even be imagined within the constraints of today."
This is not a pipe dream of utopian vision. There is in the world today the material basis to feed, clothe, house every person on the globe. There is the understanding and the science to save the planet and protect other species. But the barrier is that the world today is organized on the basis of capitalism and imperialism—for the furtherance of the demands of empire and profit. Most decisive, there is the understanding of a different, better system and how to get there. There are answers.
This Constitution really is a doable, whole other way the society could be organized—a different economy based on what humanity needs, a different government that fosters cooperative relations among the people while mobilizing society to overcome the legacies of national and women's oppression. A society that is working to overcome the great division between those who from birth have been forbidden from participating in and enjoying the life of the mind and those who have such privilege today. A society with a morality based on eliminating all oppression. A society with an ethos of cooperation that protects the rights of the people in ways far beyond the much vaunted Bill of Rights of the exploiters' U.S. Constitution that established law that at its inception protected chattel slavery and that exists to perpetuate and enforce wage slavery. Not only is the vision and plan in the new Socialist Constitution a far more desirable and just society, but it is one in motion towards a whole world without oppression or exploitation. This is a future where people could finally live like human beings.
This is a vision grounded in and made possible because there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward by Bob Avakian. Because of the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experiences of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal.
The world is in a lot of hurt. Ten years after 9/11, many people feel it. But they don't really know why. They don't know that there is a way forward. People haven't heard of Bob Avakian, and those who have do not know much about what he has brought forward. They need to know that there are answers and there is leadership to change the world and a vision of that world that is worth fighting for.
So when you go home tonight and turn on the TV and listen to the politicians and the priests and the high priests of the media poison minds with their chatter about the enduring resilience of American values, the American spirit, remember all we have talked about here.
As heart-rending as the deaths of innocent people in the attack on the World Trade Center was, think of the horrors of the one million Iraqis killed, the 3.5 million refugees cast off from Iraq in revenge to protect and extend the strategic interests of U.S. imperialism. Think, too, of the bombing of Libya. Do not step away from the images of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo in your memory. Think of the thousands of Muslims and South Asians still being scape-goated. Do not forget that in their wild ambitions to reshuffle the whole deck beginning in the Middle East, the imperialists have set loose a cauldron of contradictions that may well not secure their permanence, but which holds great potential for what we must be all about.
This is a world where the U.S. is waging permanent war. Freshmen entering college this fall have lived in a country at war since they were in first grade, with no end in sight. Torture is "normal." The government's right to know everything about you is normal. This is the world we live in. Those who rule this country are not going to do better, or be compelled by reason or votes to do better. You are not going to hold Obama's feet to the fire so that he can do what you have deceived yourself into imagining that he really wants to do. There isn't someone else in the wings of their setup, something-somewhere-somehow that is going to rescue us out of this horror. Over three decades ago, speaking in Washington D.C., Bob Avakian said: if we want to get free, we are going to have to emancipate ourselves.
To find out what that is all about, to be a part of bringing this into being, get a copy... no, get three copies, of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. One for yourself, two for a friend, three so that the PRLF [Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund] can send to a prisoner. You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics.
Don't say that the kind of vision of which I've been speaking can't work until you've read the draft proposal for a Constitution for the New Socialist Republic of North America.
No one should be complicit with what this system, this government, is doing here and around the world. World Can't Wait got it exactly right when it placed a full-page ad in the New York Times that said: SILENCE + TORTURE = COMPLICITY. Join with those who are protesting the war criminals who are touring the country with all too much impunity.
Tonight, through the art work, the testimony of the vets who spoke earlier, and by digging deeply into all that, we really must remember and learn well from September 11, 2001: We can flip that omnipresent, odious ode to snitching—"if you see something, say something." Indeed, we have seen something, so we should say a lot more here tonight, and then go out in the world and say more and tell others—bring people the real deal about this system, the need to resist, and the movement for revolution that is being built to bring about a whole new world. Thank you.
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Revolution newspaper encourages people all over the US and the world to join in protests against this horrible and unjust outrage. Send reports and photos to email@example.com.
* * * * *
Revolution received the following report from Atlanta on Wednesday morning:
At 9 AM Tuesday morning, Sept. 20th, the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles issued a terse statement denying clemency for Troy Davis, whose execution is scheduled for 7 PM Wednesday, Sept. 21st. This outrageous decision, from a Board made up of ex-prison officials and prosecutors, is the latest in a series of rulings by the judicial system going all the way up to the US Supreme Court, hell bent on executing Troy Davis for the killing of a cop in 1989—despite the lack of physical evidence, the recantation of 7 of the 9 witnesses at the trial, including some who have now stated that their original testimony was coerced by the police, and 3 of the original jurors who have publicly stated that they would not have voted for conviction if they knew then what they know now.
As we write this Wednesday morning, there is a last ditch effort to stop the execution through appeals to the Board to reverse its decision and to the district attorney in Savannah where the case was tried. The number of people worldwide who have signed the petition to stop the execution has now topped 1 million, and there have been outpourings of anger and resistance in different cities.
In the streets of Atlanta Tuesday night—24 hours before the scheduled execution—several hundred people gathered in Woodruff Park, in the heart of downtown for an impassioned speak-out organized by the FTP movement. The crowd then marched loudly thru the streets of Atlanta to join a gathering of over 1,000 people at the State Capitol, organized by Georgians for Alternative to the Death Penalty, Amnesty International, and the NAACP. After the rally at the Capitol, a contingent of mainly youth took to the streets for a spirited march throughout downtown. Today, people are preparing to travel to Jackson, Georgia, the site of the planned execution.
The slogan "I am Troy Davis" seen on t-shirts and signs throughout the protests speaks to the felt impact and widespread sweep of the massive incarceration of Black people. "Not In My Name" was another main slogan—with people wanting to make a clear moral stand that the government's actions do not have their support and do not rest on a popular mandate.
The speeches at the rally at the Capitol represented a range of different views. There was sharp exposure of the injustice and the need for there to be mass resistance, mixed with calls to rely on "a higher power" and reassurances that whatever happens will be "God's will." The most enthusiastic responses from the crowd were when any of the speakers called for stepped up resistance and continuing the struggle. One speaker did a moving challenge to those who will be involved in the execution process to "not follow orders." Another speaker called out those who have not taken a public stand on this case, emphasizing "your first Black president."
The pushing forward to execute Troy Davis, despite the lack of real evidence of his guilt, is an extreme move and some ruling class forces have felt it necessary to oppose it. This case has become a focal point of the battle around the death penalty in the US—around which there are divisions among the rulers of this country. This week the liberal pro-imperialist New York Times has editorialized against the death penalty and the execution of Troy Davis. Today's New York Times's editorial says: "The Davis case in Georgia is further proof of the barbarity of the death penalty." Jimmy Carter, Bishop Desmond Tutu, Pope Benedict XVI, and former head of the FBI William Sessions have all spoken out against the execution of Troy Davis. Meanwhile, Texas Governor Rick Perry was cheered at a recent Republican candidate debate for championing an unapologetic commitment to the death penalty even if some innocent people are executed.
The family of the police officer that was killed has been all over the mainstream media, demanding "justice," "closure," and saying that "they know Troy Davis is guilty." "Victim's rights" are being presented as equal to or trumping the rights of the defendant. The importance of physical evidence has been dismissed, with unreliable and coerced witness testimony deemed more than sufficient to prove guilt. And perhaps most significantly, the "burden of proof" and "innocent until proven guilty" has been totally reversed. The arguments supporting the denial of clemency have reversed the principle of innocent until proven guilty, saying things like "Troy Davis has failed to prove his innocence," or "overwhelming doubt has not been established."
Revolution distributors talked with a cross-section of people downtown to find out what they thought about the Troy Davis case. We talked with Black and white people, young and old, a mix of proletarians, professionals and students. Here are some of the responses:
Below are quotes from the demonstration:
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Stop the Legal Lynching of Troy Davis!
On Wednesday, September 21—just a couple days from now—Troy Davis faces execution in Georgia—a legal lynching for the death of a policeman in Savannah, Georgia. In the face of compelling evidence of his innocence, the governor signed his death warrant. After his conviction in 1991, the struggle for justice for Troy Davis spread worldwide and three earlier execution dates were halted for judicial review of the evidence and circumstances. There is no physical evidence linking Davis to the killing of a Savannah cop in 1989 and seven out of nine witnesses at his trial have since recanted their testimony, some claiming they were coerced by police. Now the last chance for justice is in the hands of the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles which will sit for Troy’s last hearing on Monday, September 19. The board has the power, as a part of the executive branch, to grant clemency and commute his sentence to life in prison without parole (also an outrage.)
This struggle has inspired people around the world to declare "Too Much Doubt to Execute!" As the clock is ticking, 633,000 supporters signed petitions that were delivered to the Board of Pardons and Paroles on Thursday, September 15, in lots and lots of boxes, calling for a halt to the execution. Troy Davis’s sister, Amnesty International, the NAACP and some online activist websites initiated the collection of the petitions, which to date total 800,000. Ten thousand signatures were collected from door-to-door canvassing in Savannah, Georgia where the incident occurred.
On Friday, September 16, a Global Day of Solidarity for Troy Davis was called by Amnesty International, thousands of people from around Georgia took to the streets of Atlanta, marching from downtown to Ebenezer Baptist Church, home church and center of Martin Luther King Jr., for a prayer service which packed the church to the gills. Across the country, there were three hundred events, as well as events that took place around the world, all ringing with the chant “I am Troy Davis.” Starting on Sunday afternoon, September 18, a 24-hour vigil took place outside the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles, with others joining in on Monday morning to have a presence outside the building while the Board was hearing the case. While waiting for the decision from the Board, more demonstrations are planned for Tuesday, September 20, and on the day of the scheduled execution, September 21.
The resistance to this outrageous injustice is very broad: National and local civil rights organizations, students and exonerated former prisoners, anti-death penalty activists and elected officials, faith and community leaders; Martina Correia and other members of Troy's family; artists and prominent figures like Jimmy Carter, Desmond Tutu and even Pope Benedict have come out in support of clemency.
Stay tuned for updates.
Below are the two slogans Revolution readers took to the Troy Davis demonstrations. They were very popular, with many people asking where they could get a sign.
STOP the Legal Lynching of Troy Davis!
The Whole Damn System is Guilty!
STOP the Legal Lynching of Troy Davis!
Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
The following letter was sent out by Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director, ACLU. Revolution is bringing this to the attention of its readers because of the importance and urgency of this case and the need for people to immediately join efforts to stop the execution of Troy Davis:
I rarely write to you about issues of life and death, but I do so today because a grave injustice could soon occur.
The state of Georgia is scheduled to execute Troy Davis at midnight on September 21, even though he is very likely innocent.
But the Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles can stop this from happening. They will either take into account compelling evidence challenging Mr. Davis's guilt or choose to ignore that evidence and allow his sentence to stand.
Act now. Urge the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board to grant clemency to Troy Davis before it's too late. (Do not forward: This link will open a page with your information already filled in.)
An African American, Davis was convicted of the murder of off-duty Savannah Police Officer Mark MacPhail in 1991. No physical evidence links him to the crime, and he has steadfastly maintained his innocence.
His conviction was based solely on the testimony of witnesses and there was no other evidence against him. And, since his trial, seven of those witnesses have recanted — changing the story they told in court. Some witnesses say they were coerced by police. Others have even signed affidavits implicating one of the remaining two witnesses as the actual killer. But due to an increasingly restrictive appeals process, none of this new evidence has ever been properly reviewed in court.
Stand for justice. Urge the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board to stop this egregious injustice with a grant of clemency.
Most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his death row appeal. It ended any real chance Troy Davis had that the courts will stop his execution. He is now at the end of the road. The state of Georgia has set his execution date.
The last chance for remedy of this outrageous injustice is an appeal for clemency to the Georgia Pardons and Parole Board. Clemency in Davis's case does not mean setting him free but instead converting his death sentence to life in prison without parole. If his verdict is ever reversed he will be alive to see it.
The case of Troy Davis highlights all that the ACLU finds problematic with the death penalty such as the risk of innocent people being executed, inadequate counsel and racial and geographic disparities.
To execute someone when there is so much doubt about his guilt is a deep affront to justice. Let's make clear our sense of outrage. Please act right now.
Anthony D. Romero
Executive Director, ACLU
© ACLU, 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor, New York, NY 10004
Send us your comments.
Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Report from DC Tar Sands Protests
From August 20 to September 3, 1,253 people were arrested at sit-ins at the White House in Washington, D.C., in protests opposing the development of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
The actions were initiated by environmentalist Bill McKibben, author Naomi Klein, climatologist James Hansen, actor Danny Glover, and others (see www.tarsandsaction.org ) 350.org (www.350.org). The Sierra Club and other environmental groups supported the protests.
The Keystone XL would double the amount of oil flowing from the tar sands in Alberta, Canada to the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast—at a time when the planet's environment has already been taken to the precipice of major disaster. This includes the real danger of approaching tipping points that could trigger runaway climate change.
Tar sands oil is extremely dense petroleum mixed with sand and clay. The petroleum has the consistency of thick tar, requiring either strip mining of the deposits or using large amounts of steam and solvents to force it to flow to wells. Tar sands oil extraction and burning is extremely energy intensive, producing three times more greenhouse gas (the main cause of global warming) than conventional oil production. Production of tar sands oil in Alberta is causing vast destruction of forests and spoiling ecosystems, land and water sources with toxic waste products.
The tar sands projects in Alberta are already the "world's largest energy project, the world's largest construction project and the world's largest capital project," according to Andrew Nikiforuk, author of Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent. Organizers for the protests called the pipeline a "fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet."
President Obama is expected to decide on whether or not to allow the pipeline to be built sometime this fall.
The D.C. civil disobedience actions represented the most significant environmental protest since the demonstrations at the Copenhagen Climate Summit in December 2009. The tar sands protests were motivated by the need to expose and confront the extreme environmental situation and danger to the planet. This is extremely important given that this is something that is either not widely known and acknowledged among people broadly in society, or if people do know about it, they aren't acting in a way that is commensurate with the seriousness of the problem.
The D.C. actions were largely ignored and censored by the mainstream media, contributing to the general ignorance and inaction in society about the environmental crisis. On the other hand they did succeed in breaking into a few major mainstream news sources, and so millions may have heard for the first time about the danger of the tar sands and that there was active opposition.
A team of us went from the West Coast to join in with the sit-ins and spread revolution.
Through the course of the days of protest, the momentum built to a point where 243 people were arrested on the final day while hundreds more rallied in Lafayette Square Park. Taking part in the sit-ins were prominent scientists; environmental, religious, and indigenous leaders; former Obama staffers; Hollywood actors; and activists. Among the well-known figures arrested were James Hansen, Daryl Hannah, Margot Kidder, film director Josh Fox, Bill McKibben, and Naomi Klein.
The actions drew people from coast to coast, including many people who have been impacted by extraction of natural gas through fracking,1 which is poisoning waters, land and people in major portions of the American "heartland." There were people from mainly rural areas in Pennsylvania, Colorado, Montana, Texas, Nebraska, Georgia, Arkansas, Kentucky and many other places. Teri Blanton, with an environmental group called Kentucky Rising fighting mountain-top removal and strip mining for coal, told Revolution, "We're destroying the planet earth... Imagine if all our voices were echoed here together at one time, the power our voices could have."
There were a number of indigenous people who spoke about the destruction of their lands in Alberta and elsewhere from tar sands and other energy extraction projects. Kandi Mossett with the Indigenous Environmental Network spoke about the pipeline's threat to the Ogallala aquifer, one of the largest sources of fresh water on the planet. She movingly spoke at a rally about how she and countless friends, and relatives of friends are sick, and some have already died from cancer, due to the poisoning from energy projects taking place where she lives in North Dakota, and in Canada.
Many others came deeply disturbed and compelled to stand up against what they understand to be the killing off of earth's ecosystems through climate change—and with a deep feeling that the entire future of the planet and humanity is on the line. A woman in her late 20s from Sebastopol, California told Revolution she had traveled all that way and gotten arrested on the same day of her young daughter's first day in school. She felt she had to do this because otherwise there would be no future for her kids. She, like others, told us that for years she had composted, recycled and did everything she could think of to "live green," but had come to realize that this was not enough and that the danger represented by climate change had to be actively confronted. In a similar way, an "eco-mom" writing on the tar sands action website said that she has now realized that she was being manipulated into complacency by her previous "lifestyle" approach and that "I am responsible if I don't stop it. I honestly don't believe I have any other choice. I don't want the responsibility for destroying our planet on my head."
Josh Fox, director of the Oscar-nominated film Gasland, told Revolution, "This is one of the most important things anyone could do in their life.... We're seeing a changed planet earth right now and we need to move out of that as fast as possible. We don't need this oil. We don't need gas from fracking, we don't need coal from mountain-top removal, we don't need oil from deep water drilling. We don't need that. Those are oil companies that are putting the whole planet at risk. It's like they're putting a gun to your head, and they're doing it for profits. And the fact of the matter is that we can start to replace all of that with renewable energy and we need to start doing that in a hurry, we need to do it right now."
The D.C. protesters were people who deeply cared about the earth and are moved to stand up in its defense. Many were acting in ways they never had. A woman in her 50s from Massachusetts told Revolution she had petitioned, written letters to the editor, marched, and rallied, but never done anything like getting arrested, which was "way out of my comfort zone." People were moved by a deep sense of purpose. At the same time the actions were characterized by real illusions on people's parts about expecting Obama to "do the right thing."
During the days of action, people from far-flung areas hooked up, exchanged information and contact info, and made plans for more actions. There were important discussions and debates about the environmental dangers and what must be done. As we talked to people, a picture emerged of how this system of capitalism, which is putting the whole planet in danger with its assaults on the environment, is also intensifying the ripping apart of the environment and the poisoning of people in the imperialist heartland—from the mass destruction of boreal forests (sub-arctic evergreen forests in the northern hemisphere) and immense toxic ponds of water contaminated with tar and chemicals in the Alberta tar sands, to the massive spread of fracking throughout the U.S., to the destruction of wildlife habitat, mountains, and forests through coal mining in the Southeast U.S. especially.
There were important beginning debates over the role played by Obama and back-and-forth over the causes of and solutions to the situation that people very much realized is an emergency. There continue to be, frankly, deeply seated and profound illusions held by most, including among those who see the tremendous dangers, about what it is we actually confront in moving to stop this planetary devastation. Time after time we heard from people who, despite acknowledging the many ways Obama had failed to protect the environment as they had hoped, still thought that the point of these protests was to either pressure or provide him with the backing to "stand up as a leader, do what he had promised and protect the environment" by ruling against the pipeline. As we engaged and struggled with people over how Obama was acting as the chief representative overseeing an exploiting and planet-destroying system, there was also movement in people's thinking and a real openness to the ideas presented in Revolution's special issue on the environmental emergency (issue #199), including the article "Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development," and interest in engaging with the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the RCP.
We passed out the recent piece from Revolution, "Barack Obama and the 'If Only' Blues," which includes this paragraph: "The real Obama IS fighting—against you, and the fundamental interests of humanity. He IS doing what he thinks is right—right for the system over which he presides, the system of capitalism-imperialism. And he is doing what he believes in—which is the continued defense and expansion of that system."
This point was underscored directly in the course of the protests when Obama refused to meet with or even acknowledge the protests—in the meantime, his State Department gave the go-ahead for the Keystone Pipeline XL. Then on the last weekend of the protests, Obama announced he was going against his own Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) by refusing to enforce stricter ozone pollution standards that he had promised to enforce and instead sticking with Bush-era standards. On top of this, in just the past month the Obama administration also tentatively approved drilling for oil in the Arctic and opened up 20 million more acres of the Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling.
These realities highlight the need for people to understand and confront what we are up against in stopping and reversing the environmental emergency, and to work for building truly massive political resistance to environmental destruction now, linked to building a movement for revolution.
1. High-volume hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, uses high-pressure injection of water, sand, and chemicals to release trapped natural gas from deep in the earth.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
A Call for Volunteers: Come to Boston, September 23-25
Revolution Books in Cambridge is calling for volunteers to help to stir up the scene at Harvard on the weekend of September 24-25.
On that weekend, the Conference on the Constitutional Convention is taking place. It is co-sponsored by the Harvard Change Congress and sections of the Tea Party. It is a gathering of self-described "left" and right forces, meeting to discuss whether a special "constitutional convention" is needed to deal with the fact that "our Republic does not work as our Framers intended." That a section of liberal-progressives is seeking common ground with the reactionary Tea Party is not a positive development. But the conference is likely to bring out some progressive forces and students, and attract media attention.
The main thing people at Harvard and those coming out to this conference should be hearing about is the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. A new challenge will be put before them: there really is a visionary, viable, and very concrete alternative to this capitalist-imperialist system.
Volunteers are needed to help in different kinds of ways:
This is going to be fun and important...the opening salvo of a big effort this fall to push out with the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. And other campus events are taking place in the Boston area that weekend.
On Friday night, September 23, we'll be hosting an open house at Revolution Books in Boston-Cambridge to orient people.
To volunteer, get in touch with Revolution Books in Cambridge at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave a message at (617) 492-5443.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Be part of making a big impact with "All Played Out."
"All Played Out" is a piece with words by Bob Avakian and music by William Parker. Listen at soundcloud.com/allplayedout.
As an announcement in Revolution stated, "Avakian's heart and soul, outrage and humor, poetic spirit, and confidence in the masses to make revolution—transform the planet and themselves—comes out in this challenging declaration that the world really doesn't have to be this way, and we can make and live in a radically different and better world."
Help spread this all over society and make an impact with this revolutionary leader and revolutionary culture! Let's get this played on jazz, college, community and online radio. This should be reviewed in jazz magazines, culture columns, indie music magazines, alternative blogs and webzines.
Volunteers are needed to:
Read William Parker's comments on "All Played Out" at revcom.us/avakian/BAsics/William-Parker-en.html.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Revolution newspaper received the following from A World to Win News Service:
September 12, 2011. A World to Win News Service. Thousands of youth assaulted the Israeli embassy in Cairo on September 9. To the rhythm of drumbeats and enthusiastic chants, they used a lamp post to batter a hole in the wall of concrete and metal around the building. Several dozen succeeded in entering the compound, where they tore down the Israeli flag and replaced it with the Egyptian and Palestinian banners, and began tossing Hebrew diplomatic documents to the crowd below.
The regime had put up the protective structure following another anti-Israel protest a few weeks ago, when Israeli soldiers killed six Egyptian border guards. This time the youth did what the Egyptian government had failed to do the last time despite its promises – effectively expelling the Israeli ambassador, who fled along with more than 80 other diplomatic personnel evacuated by Israeli military jets screaming away across the Cairo sky.
Earlier that afternoon, tens of thousands of demonstrators had gathered in Tahrir Square following Friday prayers in the first such major action in a month, for what was billed as a protest to "Correct the path of the revolution." The organizers represented a broad coalition of groups that call themselves secular and revolutionary. The gathering was opposed by most of the main political parties, who have been arguing that the goal now should be to reach national consensus rather than engage in disruptive protests. Following this turn by many forces over the past months, the continuing Tahrir Square occupation dwindled and was forcibly dispersed by the security forces at the beginning of August. The weekly Tahrir Square demonstrations were put on hold during Ramadan. The military and their friends seemed to have seized the initiative away from the angry youth who had set the terms during the January revolt that toppled Mubarak.
But this apparent stability was challenged in mid-August when Israeli soldiers shot the Egyptian border guards in circumstances that neither government has seen fit to fully clarify. There had been a raid on the Israeli Red Sea town of Eilat that killed six Israeli civilians and two soldiers. Israel responded by bombing Gaza, far away on the Mediterranean side of the peninsula, and by the killings on the Egyptian side of the border. Perhaps they mistook the guards for the attackers, a claim that Israeli authorities at first asserted and then dropped. Perhaps it was a demonstration of strength, or a warning to the Egyptian government that it would have to pay for any failure to protect Israeli security. Tel Aviv's unexpected refusal to apologize seems to have been a violent reminder to the Egyptian military that it had better not forget why the US so lavishly funded and nurtured it for three decades – to implement American interests, including protecting Israel.
This created a very difficult situation for the Supreme Armed Forces Council to which Mubarak turned over power when he resigned February 11. The question of standing up to Israel has often played a critical role in Egyptian politics.
The nationalist upsurge that began in the late 1940s held the British puppet King Farouk responsible when Israeli armed forces easily crushed the Egyptian military in the 1948 war. The Free Officers Movement that overthrew the king and brought Gamal Nasser to power in 1952 was rooted in that moment. Certainly the prestige gained when Egypt (with US support behind the scenes) beat back the combined attack by Israel, the UK and France in 1956 following Nasser's nationalization of the Suez Canal was a hugely important factor in allowing the Egyptian military to claim that it represented the whole nation. In turn, Egypt's ignominious defeat in the 1967 war marked the decline in Nasser's ability to mobilize the Egyptian people.
Egypt's relative success in regaining its soil occupied by Israel in the 1973 war gave Nasser's successor Anwar Sadat the nationalist reputation he used to enter into negotiations with Israel and eventually sign a peace treaty – and this war also demonstrated that the US was fully reasserting its dominance when Washington warned that it would not hesitate to use its full strength, even nuclear weapons, to prevent Israel's definitive defeat. Sadat, who had unleashed Islamic fundamentalist forces against the communists and others, was himself killed by Islamics for capitulating to Israel.
While his successor as head of the military regime, Hosni Mubarak, went even further in working with Israel against the Palestinian people (for instance, in helping Israel blockade Gaza), he, too, portrayed himself as a military hero in the wars against Israel – which is the main argument against punishing him used by his supporters today. In fact, military rule and the central role of the Egyptian army in economic and political life, and these generals' autocratic rule and violent repression, were all justified as necessary to withstand Israel. Mubarak's claim that the peace treaty was necessary so that Egyptians could take care of their own interests found some echo, but now, especially, many Egyptians see a link between his subservience to the US and its Israeli outpost and all the ways the Egyptian people suffered under his rule.
The new military regime headed by Mubarak's Field Marshall (army chief) Hussein Tantawi (also portrayed as a hero in the wars against Israel) is acutely aware that critical sections of the people would rather die than accept an Egypt as it had become under Mubarak. How they have handled the killing of the border guards is a good example of how they've hoped to deal with the contradiction between a critical sector of the people's aspirations for change and the fact that the junta mainly represents the continuity of the old regime and above all of the ruling classes.
At first regime spokesmen announced that it would expel the Israeli ambassador if the Zionists did not apologize, but then fell silent when Israel called their bluff. Probably this was because Israel saw any concession to Egyptian national pride as dangerous, not because it fears the Egyptian regime but because it is afraid that such concessions, even if desperately needed for the regime's legitimacy, might embolden ordinary Egyptians to push the military harder.
When, during the 18 August Cairo demonstration against Israel, a young man managed to get into the diplomatic compound, tear down the Israeli flag and replace it with Egyptian and Palestinian ones, "Flagman", as millions called him with admiration, became a national hero. The regime tried to co-opt his act by awarding him an apartment and a job, but at the same time it built the protective wall around the embassy and warned that further disorder would not be allowed.
One of the main demands of the September 9 demonstration was that the military drop the three-decades-old emergency rule that has allowed it to ban demonstrations and arrest people without charges or bring them before military tribunals. Since the fall of Mubarak, the new regime has been arresting and imprisoning people on a scale unseen during the Mubarak years – nearly 12,000 prosecutions since February. Further, although the extent is not clear, there were definitely slogans denouncing Tantawi as an American puppet because his regime had been forced to accept Israeli humiliation . The slogan "The people want a new revolution" was also reportedly heard.
Yet it seems that the military was not anxious to tangle with the protesters when they were so numerous, a pattern that has been seen repeatedly over the last few months. After the Tahrir Square rally a part of the crowd headed for the Giza district a few kilometres away. Supporters of a football team whose members have been victimized by the police played a vocal role. Among the groups on the breakaway march were the highly visible "pro-democracy" April 6 Youth Movement, according to a spokesperson. Other organizations that later denounced the attack on the embassy included the pan-Arabist Karama Party and the Freedom and Justice Party formed for electoral purposes by the Muslim Brotherhood. A well-known Salafist preacher said it was right to take down the wall but wrong to attack the embassy.
A number of Western commentators, especially in the Israeli media, unashamedly nostalgic for the most hated man in Egypt, complained that the regime seemed to be avoiding a confrontation that night. Mubarak, they said, would not have hesitated to have his tanks open fire right away. There may be some truth to that, but why? Not because today's generals are any more concerned with the people's welfare or more nationalist. Killing demonstrators to protect Israeli interests is exactly what the regime does not want to do as it struggles for legitimacy. And many Egyptians themselves are different now than how they were under Mubarak – they have come to believe that serious change is possible, and they are willing to risk their lives for it. It's not clear what could have stopped the thousands of young men (and a few women) who stormed through the Giza District.
As an activist said in her live Tweet, "Today we toppled an Israeli separation wall!" By comparing this wall to the one the Zionists erected to imprison Palestinians on the West Bank, many people seem to have been expressing the way they see the connection between American domination of the Middle East, the centrality of Israel in that and the way that they feel they and all of Egypt have been kept imprisoned by this situation. The crowd was euphoric when the first few dozen protesters broke into the compound. Then came events that underlined the truth of exactly what the protesters were denouncing.
Articles in the Israeli press claim that top Egyptian officials avoided taking phone calls from their Zionist counterparts. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was following the situation in real time, rang up US President Barack Obama. Describing the conversation, Netanyahu said, "I asked for his help. This was a decisive and fateful moment. He said, 'I will do everything I can.' And so he did. He used every considerable means and influence of the United States to help us. We owe him a special debt of gratitude."
As another Egyptian blogger pointed out, it is a supreme irony that Obama, who never said a word when Israel flaunted international law by attacking the Turkish relief ship bound for Gaza and killing nine passengers, and who remained silent while Israel illegally bombed and assaulted Gaza in 2008-09, felt it necessary to warn Egypt that it was required by its international treaty obligations to protect the Israeli embassy. According to the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, the top American officials who got in touch with their Egyptian colleagues warned of "consequences" if the attack on the embassy was not stopped.
During the night the Egyptian regime moved in tanks, armored cars and soldiers to reinforce the police. The assault on the embassy turned into a battle between youth and police. At least three protesters were killed and more than a thousand injured in the fighting between youth hurling rocks and setting vehicles on fire, and security forces who tear gassed, charged and tried to run over them. Protesters threatened the nearby Saudi Arabian embassy, chanting "Saudi Arabia and Mubarak are one hand!" They also defaced a security forces headquarters.
Meanwhile, demonstrations were also going on in Luxor and other Upper Egypt cities.
By morning, Egyptian commandos managed to free the few Israeli embassy personnel left behind in a fortified room. The police arrested dozens of people throughout the night, and many more the next day – about 130 so far. They raided the Al Jazeera offices and shut down its Egyptian broadcasting service that often features protest footage. Armored cars and troop carriers filled the square around the embassy. Above all, instead of dropping emergency rule as the demonstrators demanded and the generals had promised, the junta announced that it would revive the law's powers to ban demonstrations and send civilians before military tribunals on an even more massive scale. Those arrested for protesting martial law would be tried under martial law.
Yet a blogger wrote the next day, "This is the first time I haven't been depressed since the referendum" (in February, when the regime and the Muslim Brotherhood teamed up to win a high percentage of popular participation in an electoral exercise whose subtext was that street politics have come to an end and the country's future will be decided by the elections scheduled for November). It remains to be seen how long the initiative youth have snatched back will remain in their hands. Surely the regime's counter-attack is very serious. But the military has been forced to do exactly what it has been trying to avoid: to reveal a bit of its ultimate capitulation, willing or not, to American and Israeli interests, even against its own short-term interests, and its determination to put a violent end to the very process of popular revolt that it claims to represent. These are not factors in the regime's favour.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
The following letter was posted at the NY Times website page: "Share Your Thoughts: Looking Back at the Decade—Has the last 10 years changed your outlook about America's place in the world?" (www.nytimes.com/interactive/us/sept-11-reckoning/comments-the-decade.html?permid=284&offset=15#comment284)
To the Editor,
Your invitation to readers to reflect on the 10th Anniversary of September 11th pivots on whether or not "the government has done enough to keep the country safe"—and in that premise is the horror and Achilles heel of America's response to September 11, 2001. The results of that logic are clear and unending: 1 million Iraqi dead, 4 million Iraqi refugees, 10 years of war & occupation in Afghanistan, 9 years of Guantanamo, while the President (current) arrogates to himself the right to execute people (US citizens and not) solely on his say so, all while the rule of law eviscerated under President Bush has now been codified under Obama.
A starting point to assess all that has changed—and all that must be changed now—is the simple and basic truth spoken by the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian that "American lives are not more important than other people's lives." Were that the standard that guided people in this country, we would be on our way to struggling for a new and far better world.
146 West 26 Street
New York, N.Y. 10001
"There is a place where epistemology and morality meet. There is a place where you have to stand and say: It is not acceptable to refuse to look at something—or to believe something—because it makes you feel uncomfortable. And: It is not acceptable to believe something just because it makes you feel comfortable."
from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian Chapter 5, # 11
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Behind Concrete and Barbed Wire (Part 2):
On August 23, in Sacramento, attorneys, psychologists, religious leaders, and most of all, former prisoners and their family members and loved ones testified on the savage treatment in California's Security Housing Units (SHUs). Their testimony revealed a prison system that can only be described as torture, a nightmarish system in which a prisoner can be thrown in solitary confinement for decades based on anonymous informants and rumors, a system which would be cruel and unjust if it were applied to animals and not human beings.
Very little of the content of these hearings—or of the conditions these prisoners face—has been reported in the mainstream press. In issue #245, Revolution ran excerpts from the testimony presented at the hearings (see "Hidden Behind Concrete and Barbed Wire: Hearings Expose Torture in California's SHUs": revcom.us/a/245/hearings-expose-torture-california-shu-en.html).
This week Revolution continues with more excerpts from the testimony.
Delores: “I have a son that has been in the SHU 10 years. One thing that I want to touch on is what Scott Kernan [the prison official who spoke at the hearing] said, that the reason that they are in the SHU is because they are the generals, that they are the ones who are responsible for guard and inmate stabbings. If that is their way of thinking then why did they just conduct a hunger strike, willing to risk their own lives, to suffer on a daily basis in a non-violent demonstration that spread across California prisons involving thousands and thousands of men crossing all racial lines? It's because they are human beings. They do have dignity and they want to be heard.”
Marta: “I have a brother in the SHU. I am afraid to say his name here for fear of what CDC can do to him. My mother died 2 years ago. He was 14 years in Pelican Bay and they only gave us 10 minutes to tell him that our mother was dead. One of the five demands is a phone call. I haven’t been able to talk to my brother since my mom died.”
Lisa: “I have two brothers that are in the SHU at Pelican Bay... One received one point [toward being validated as a gang associate] for working out with someone who is a gang member. But that other person was housed in the same unit. How can they house my brother in the same unit with other gang members and then turn around and punish them for doing day-to-day activities?”
Marilyn McMahon with California Prison Focus: “Some SHU prisoners can be dying of cancer, they come back from major surgery and they’re given no pain relievers greater than ibuprofen; Medical staff have said to prisoners in the SHU ‘if you want better medical care, get out of the SHU... One prisoner during hunger strike had a very serious heart problem, he was rushed to an outside hospital. When he regained consciousness he was surrounded by guards trying to get him to debrief [name other prisoners as part of a gang]... He was almost dying and all they cared about was getting him to debrief. Another prisoner has end stage liver disease...he was told he had 6 months to live. ... He requested a phone call. Now, in SHU they don’t get phone calls. So he made a special request: let me talk to my family once before I die. The request was granted. On the day the phone call was set up for, the guard came to his cell, held a piece of paper up and it said “DEBRIEF.” He refused, and he didn’t get that phone call.”
Laura Magnani, American Friends Service Committee in SF: “Over 240 in isolation are women. They face particular hardship because of special needs, and extreme lack of privacy. When male COs have 24 hour access to women’s most intimate functions, this creates an extreme form of oppression, and often trauma, made all the more acute because many women prisoners have a history of abuse at the hands of men. Isolation on the one hand, also lack of privacy: even in their isolation they cannot escape the cameras, and slots in cell doors, seeing every move.”
Ron Ahnen with California Prison Focus: “We get dozens of letters every week, hundreds every month that complain about these types of things. ...If you listen to story after story after story, and I read dozens of letters a month and I can’t believe this is going on. One prisoner said they put him into a cell next to a gang member...now I’m six years in isolation. The system is totally being abused, but there is a reason: the guys getting false validations are the ones who stand up for themselves, the ones who stand up for other prisoners and who put in those 602s [complaints] and the ones that help sue the systems. Those are the guys who are falsely validated so they can control the systems for themselves.”
Urszula: My loved one just got validated this April. The three points [pieces of information from prison guards used to identify a prisoner as a “gang associate” and send them to the SHU]: one, literature; two, cultural drawing and, third point, an informant that did not himself want to be in the SHU. I don’t want him to be in the SHU thirty plus years.
Willie Tate, one of the San Quentin 6, prisoners who were put on trial following the assassination of prison leader and Black Panther Party member George Jackson: “Hugo Pinell is the only surviving member of San Quentin 6 still in prison. Every one of us got out, except for him. Why they keeping him in the SHU, locked up since 1969; our trial ended in 1976. Hugo was convicted of assault. He’s still in there and he’s in the SHU of all places. He hasn’t had a write-up for over 30 years. He’s 66 years old, why are they holding him? We became political while inside. We changed our life. We dedicated ourselves to serving the people. Hugo Pinell deserves to have a real chance at freedom and deserves to be taken out of the SHU. That’s no way to force a man to live his life. That’s inhumane. Free Hugo Pinell!
Meredith: My son has been in the SHU at Pelican Bay. I haven’t seen in 5 years. I’ve tried. They come up with strange reasons why I don’t qualify for a visit... What is happening in our country and in this state is so beyond belief that the public needs to understand that this is really happening.
Carol Travis, Chair of MT Diablo Peace and Justice Center in Walnut Creek: “I had the privilege to go to Pelican Bay last week to interview 7 prisoners in SHU. The emotional experience was profound and surprising to me. These individuals were incredible people who taught me a lot about humanity, suffering and dignity. These people don’t often see people’s faces. One of the people I visited had not had a visit since 1989, an elegant graceful, warm human being ... They want to have a picture taken once a year and sent to either a friend or relative. Many of their families have not seen what they look like in decades...”
G2 Sadiki: I am a former SHU prisoner spent 4 years in SHU, in 1970s... I’ve experienced extraction from the cell, where you have 6-7 guards lined up behind 6” Plexiglas shield, rush you and beat you down. These men don’t have an opportunity to speak for themselves, these men have been dehumanized... apologize ...I know these things first hand. A lot of men in SHU now, they have consistently been in SHU for over 30 years... Unless you have courage to really look at them and talk to them, don’t say they are prison gang members.
Harriet: “My brother-in-law has been in SHU for 25 years...If he is a gang member or was a gang member, what can he do in the SHU? He’s 65 years old. What could he possibly be continuing to do in gang activity when locked up 24 hours a day? How can he possibly still be a gang member, people that were in the gang, or alleged to be, these people are gone...Because he won’t debrief, what chance does he have to get out? His Mother is dead, his children are grown, what can he do to just be a part of his family?”
Dorsey Nunn, Executive Director of Legal Services for Prisoners with Children: “With the hunger strike looming, I visited Pelican Bay for first time. ...Two people told me that day, ‘I miss talking to black people.’ What it would be to be annihilated culturally?....One guy complained he only spoke to one other black person legally in 20 years; other times when he made an attempt he was given disciplinary report.”
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
On August 28, 2011 Baburam Bhattarai, one of the main leaders of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), was elected Prime Minister of Nepal. His first major act was to symbolically hand over the keys to the weapons of the Maoist-led People's Liberation Army which had waged a 10-year-long liberation war, to a governmental supervisory committee including representatives of the political parties and classes which had been the bitter and bloody opponents of the People's War. UCPNM Chairman Prachanda also participated, in what many in Nepal and elsewhere are seeing as an abject ceremony of capitulation before the reactionary forces and an utter betrayal of the interests of the people in Nepal and around the world.
There were reports of torchlight marches and demonstrations the next day by opposition forces from UCPNM who were repulsed by Bhattarai and Prachanda's action, with reports of 25 arrests and some injured by police baton charges.
The new Prime Minister's principal mandate is to finish, in a few months' time, the stalled task of writing a new constitution for Nepal and to finish the task of demobilizing the PLA in which a small percentage are to be integrated into Nepal's reactionary army and others are to be found jobs, given training programs or just be sent back to their villages with some money. This is supposed to put a final end to the process that began in 1996 when an insurgency started in Nepal which quickly spread throughout the country, igniting the hopes of the people of Nepal of being able to forge a new type of society that would go in the direction of ending exploitation and class divisions as part of the world revolutionary process. The powers-that-be in Nepal and their international mentors feel that the hopes of the people for genuine revolutionary change need to be finally and definitively erased and the inspiring example that revolution in Nepal had served for people around the world before 2006 be turned into a different kind of lesson—a bitter but false view that no real revolutionary change is possible. They want the "revolutionaries" to join the scramble for positions in government; they want the oppressed to give up their hopes for a fundamental change in their situation.
Ever since the People's War was suspended and the Maoist party, CPN(M), which had led it entered into a process to establish a state based on the Comprehensive Peace Accords (CPA), there have been growing divisions within that Party over the direction of the revolution, but at least until the present all sides have argued that their differences were over which is the best way to carry forward the revolution in the concrete conditions of the Nepali situation. Throughout this whole period the People's Liberation Army was confined to cantonments, with the keys to their weapons being held by the UCPN(M). Meanwhile, in reality a program of demobilization, delegitimization and demoralization of the revolutionary forces was being carried out by the bourgeois forces who were building up and strengthening the Nepali Army as the only legitimate armed force in that society.
On Developments in Nepal and the Stakes for the Communist Movement: Letters to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, 2005-2008 (With a Reply from the CPN(M), 2006)
On the Critical Crossroads in the Nepal Revolution, and the Urgent Need for a Real Rupture with Revisionism
From a distance it is difficult to sort out the facts of the agreement or violation of agreement to turn over the keys. But what is clear is that this is a culmination of a long chain of retreats, compromises and betrayals that have been in process from the time of entering into the Comprehensive Peace Accords. The slow death of the revolution in Nepal has to do with questions of fundamental line, confounding the need to carry forward the revolution to end the domination of the bourgeois and feudal class forces with the goal of and in favor of establishing a more modern form of (bourgeois) government while leaving the basic exploitation and oppression of the people untouched, and to guarantee Nepal's place in the "international community" (to use the term that the imperialists and reactionaries use to describe the spider web of imperialist relations that keep whole nations and countries oppressed).
These questions of the fundamental direction of the revolution have been the focus of internal struggle inside the UCPN(M) for the last several years, but the underlying issues of the direction of the revolution date back to the decision made in 2005 by the Party leadership at that time to adopt a line that eclectically converged with the line articulated by Bhattarai in his article "The Question of Building a New Type of State." Letters and articles by the RCP,USA criticizing the lines that were dragging the revolution down the wrong road were published in 2009 giving a very thorough analysis of the issues at the heart of the line struggle in the UCPN(M), and we encourage readers to study these materials in light of the juncture that is sharply focused up by these latest developments in Nepal. We will have further coverage of this in the future.
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Revolution #246, September 25, 2011
Revolution received the following correspondence:
Recently, at a day-long hip-hop festival with a great line-up of progressive performers, we sold 42 copies of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian—41 English and 1 Spanish. In addition, we collected 42 e-subs, sold about 50 papers and gave out an additional 200, collected $56 for the paper, sold four "The system has no future for the youth but the Revolution does" t-shirts, and some other literature. We had a Revolution Books booth with mainly BAsics, some copies of the BA toolkit (key works of Bob Avakian), a few other titles, and t-shirts.
Our experience was an affirmation of the way to sell the book is to put it in people's hands. Our approach was to give the book to people if they approached the table and ask them to look at the table of contents and open it to any section that looked interesting and read a quotation. Or if people asked "what is this," we would say the same thing and open the book to the table of contents, show it to them and put the book in their hands. As people passed, we called them over and put the book in their hands. Sometimes we held up the back cover of the book and people came over. After people read, we would ask what they thought. If someone did not immediately buy the book we kept pointing to other quotations and asked them to read these. People reading the quotations is what sold the book.
In addition, we read quotations out loud, especially 2:8 about a whole new culture. When people first started coming into the concert, the first person that approached the table asked, "What is this?" We put the book in their hands and they bought it. A number of people read a few quotations and immediately asked, "How much?" and bought the book. In addition to 2:8 about a whole new culture, we also pointed a lot to 1:10 about look at all these beautiful children who are female and 1:14 on why do people come from all over the world. In addition we went to the BAsics supplement "On the Strategy for Revolution" as well as several other quotes. Many people would ask who is Bob Avakian and we would say, "He is the leader of the revolution" and show them the description in the special issue. If they wanted to know more, we pointed to 6:11. We had an enlargement of the poster with the quote about "Three Strikes" and many people stopped to look at it, many shaking their heads and some saying that it is true. After they read it we would say, "The same person who said that wrote this book" and put the book in their hands. At times, we had quite a scene, with five or six people stopped in front of our booth with all three of our team members engaging with people.
We were there for a long day, most of the time with just a team of 3 people, until the evening when a couple more people joined the team. Our goal was to sell all 30 books in English that we had. Within the first hour or so we had sold five or six books and knew we were going to sell all 30 of the English copies, so we quickly arranged with Revolution Books to get more copies. When evening came and the more prominent artists were performing, it got more difficult to engage with people since they wanted to listen to the performances and for many people, this had been a long drinking day.
The concert attracted a broad audience, Black and white, young and not so young as some of the groups have been around a while. And the people that bought the book reflected this: a white school teacher in her late 20's, a Black college student from the South, young Latino immigrants, young Black Canadian, two Swedes, a left-wing Norwegian journalist, Black people in their 20's and 30's, Chicana student visiting from California and others.
We started asking people why they bought the book and in some cases recorded their responses. The Black college student from the South said he bought the book because he has been reading Che and other revolutionaries to learn how they made revolution in their countries so he could understand how revolution might be possible in this country. A white school teacher in her late 20's looked at the book and asked, "How do we go from this (the book) to a movement?" We turned to the section "On the Strategy for Revolution." She looked at it and then bought the book. When asked why, she said, "What you said about financial support (in reference to donating to the special issue of Revolution promoting the BAsics book) is why. I am buying this book so you can get your message out and we can get this revolution started." She went on to explain that she teaches in a ghetto school here and 97% of her students get free breakfast and lunch. She talked about how after she began teaching she learned about the conditions her students face and became dedicated to them. Other people bought the book and that was it, off they went. At one point, one of the newer people on our team got into a too-long discussion with someone who turned out to be a Puerto Rican U.S. Migra agent. One of us stepped in and read 1:14 on why do people come here from all over the world. Off hearing that, a Black man from Chicago bought the book. A number of people read the first two quotations in the book, said that is true, and bought it.
Our booth was very simple. We wanted the booth to focus on the BAsics book and it looked very striking. In addition to an eye-catching display of the BAsics book and a small number of other titles by Bob Avakian and other authors, the t-shirts. "The system has no future for the youth but the Revolution does" t-shirts received a lot of interest.
Two of the three people on the team had not been reading our articles on "Shake Up and Wake Up." We started the day by them reading the first editorial that came out about this and we discussed it and what we're doing at the concert and the approach for selling the book. They really got into it and were off and running. Periodically, we summed up what people were saying and during the course of the day, one of them tweeted about how we were progressing.
BA and this book really connected with people at a time when there are some stirrings, some people looking for answers. And some people were up front looking for revolutionary solutions. We got a sense of the potential for BA and this book to connect with and impact a broad array of people and for him to become widely known as the leader of the revolution with people engaging his work.
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