Please note: this page is intended for quick printing of the entire issue. Some of the links may not work when clicked, and some images may be missing. Please go to the article's permalink if you require working links and images.
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
On February 26, 2012, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin went out to buy some snacks at the nearby 7-Eleven. George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain in a small gated community in Sanford, Florida, was driving around in his SUV. Zimmerman called 911, saying Martin looked "real suspicious"—i.e., he was a young Black male, walking around in a hoodie. After the 911 dispatcher told Zimmerman not to pursue the youth, Zimmerman followed Trayvon Martin, got out of his car and then confronted Martin. Zimmerman was carrying a 9-millimeter handgun. Trayvon Martin was carrying a bag of Skittles and a can of iced tea. There was yelling, then a gunshot. Trayvon Martin lay face down in the grass with a fatal bullet wound to the chest. Zimmerman was taken into custody, questioned and released. To this day, he has not been arrested and charged with any crime.
It is very good and very important that people, not only in Sanford, Florida, but all over the country, are outraged by the murder of Trayvon Martin and are making their outrage known in many different and creative forms of protest. It is also important that, in connection with the murder of Trayvon Martin, the memory of Emmett Till—wantonly murdered by white supremacists decades ago—is being raised to express the fact that people have seen this go on for far too long and will not stand by to see it happen yet again.
At the same time, the fact that yet another Emmett Till moment can arise—that yet another outrage of this kind can take place—today, more than 50 years after the original Emmett Till lynching, and that this murder of Trayvon Martin is not an isolated incident but only the latest of an endless chain of such acts that are perpetrated, condoned and covered up by the powers-that-be, shows very powerfully that, this time around, we must not settle for anything less than stopping this, once and for all—we must build a movement to really and finally put an end to these and countless other outrages that spew forth from this system, by sweeping away this system through revolution. This is deadly serious and we must take this up very seriously.
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
March 23, 2012
|Copy and post this statement all over the web. Print and distribute it broadly, including at the movie lines for The Hunger Games and posting where appropriate.|
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
A statement issued by activists and others, Raising The Fight To Stop Mass Incarceration To A New Level calls out the reality: “More than 2.4 million people, most of them Black or Latino, remain warehoused in prisons across the country; Black and Latino youth are treated like criminals by the police and the criminal justice system, guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive their encounters with police to prove their innocence; former prisoners wear badges of shame and dishonor even after they serve their sentences—discriminated against when applying for jobs, denied access to government assistance, not allowed in public housing, denied the right to vote.” (See the statement, “RAISING THE FIGHT TO STOP MASS INCARCERATION TO A NEW LEVEL.”)
That statement calls for “demonstrations, rallies, teach-ins, and other actions ... focusing on bringing out the reality of mass incarceration and calling on people to join the resistance to it in cities across the U.S.”
Convergence 4 p.m. One Police Plaza, NYC. March 5:30 p.m. to Union Square. Watch revcom.us for demonstrations in other cities.
Organizers of the actions around mass incarceration on April 19 told Revolution that plans include outreach to faith-based institutions to have lectures and sermons around Bear Witness, where young people and others from oppressed communities will share their stories and experiences about being confronted the police stop-and-frisk encounters.
There will be high school teach-ins, hoodie days, and planned walkouts. There will be Tumblr and YouTube channels created to document Bear Witness stories. These are ideas that will be implemented.
Revolution newspaper urges all the people who are outraged by the murder of Trayvon Martin and have been out in the streets in protest to also join in the April 19 National Day of Action.
For more information contact: email@example.com
P.O. Box 941 Knickerbocker Station,
New York, New York 10002
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
Harlem, New York
We received this correspondence:
Harlem's St. Nicholas Park is near several high schools and a public college campus, where many students often run into revolutionaries, and have been part of testifying and taking action against police brutality and other outrages.
Earlier this week, students going through the park and just hanging out grabbed up flyers of the Revolutionary Communist Party statement "On the Murder of Trayvon Martin" and posters with a picture of Trayvon that said "We Are All Trayvon Martin" and "The Whole Damn System Is Guilty" and "Get With the Real Revolution." They were connecting what happens to them and what they worry about, with the 17-year-old who was murdered in Florida. As some students talked about this and others just hung out, school police and city cops suddenly appeared, and demanded that they leave the park.
As more and more cop cars arrived, the police starting herding the students like cattle down the sidewalk and out of the area. A young man said under his breath, "Why they always treat us like this?" The police pushed the students, about 100 strong, down a grassy hill out of the park. The students started holding the poster of Trayvon over their heads and as they crossed the street a spontaneous chant went up from the youth, "We want Justice! We want Justice!"
Something new, important, and inspiring was happening right there on the spot. In the next block, more students joined as they came out of school. Young guys were yelling "Put your hoodies on!" Kids were forcefully pulling their hoods up and yelling "We are all Trayvon Martin!" There were kids on both sides of the streets, it was not one march, but 4 or 5 groups, totaling about 200 kids in all.
One student took all the flyers that a young revolutionary was carrying, and started distributing them to everybody. At the intersections, some guys stopped in the middle of the street, facing the cars and held the posters up. There was talk about a "hoodie day" and a walk-out in the next days.
Now there were police vans with their sirens on, following the groups. Cops jumped out of the vans and ran at the kids, threatening them: "keep moving, keep moving, do you want to be arrested?" while they shouted on bullhorns from the vans, "If you stop, you spend the night in jail!" Every young person the cops saw was being forced out of the area, and the police did not even pretend the students had done anything illegal. They harassed students for the distance they were standing from the bus stop, for coming out of the store talking, for going into the store instead of leaving the area. Cries of "We're not doing anything wrong!" and "We're not moving!" were mixed in with "Justice for Trayvon!" When the cops harassed the kid for getting out the Trayvon Martin flyer, at first he looked confused, then he very pointedly held the flyer up directly in front of the cop's face, turned and moved on.
About four blocks from the park, the police presence fizzled out. On his way back to the park, the young revolutionary met other groupings of youth. Some students came up to him, "Do you know what just happened? The police just threw a Black child through the window" at the bank a block from the park. Shattered glass was all over the sidewalk, and the bank had a hole in the plate glass on the side of the front entrance. People gathered at the corner outraged, and the cop stationed there tried to pacify them: "The officer told him to take his hands out of his pockets. The kid did not do so, so the officer didn't know what he might have in his pockets. And he miscalculated the force that he used when he put him up against the window." This only further enraged the people, one of whom said, "We don't want to hear anymore of that bullshit. This has to stop!" People and students broadly also commented about a 15-year-old young man that had been shot in the back by police a few blocks away on Sunday evening.
About 3:15 pm police cars and vans screeched to a halt across from the park where a young woman ran toward the subway. The cops caught her and cuffed her. Suddenly the area was once again full of dozens of cops surrounding and advancing on the students waiting for the bus near the subway with more arriving. The young revolutionary who had been talking to people about the Trayvon Martin statement from the RCP and their plans for a hoodie day, spoke up for the students and was thrown to the ground, handcuffed, and arrested.
The young woman arrested was back in school the next day. Students asked the next morning about the young revolutionary, and said that people were talking about how he had stood up for them. People all over need to take a stand against the outrageous way the police targeted the revolutionary and tried to suppress the righteous anger and protest of the youth.
We are All Trayvon Martin
The Whole Damn System is Guilty
Get With the Real Revolution
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
The following is a snapshot of the March 26 protest in Sanford from a Revolution reporter. Watch for further coverage in our coming issue, #265, and here at revcom.us.
March 26, Sanford, Florida. One month after the murder of Trayvon Martin, and his killer still free, still facing no charges...
Hundreds of people gathered at Centennial Park just outside downtown Sanford and marched through the town's cobblestoned streets demanding Justice for Trayvon Martin. When the marchers reached their destination at Fort Mellon Park near the Sanford waterfront, 6,000 to 8,000 people continued a rally outside a building where the Sanford City Commission was holding a special meeting. At least 500 more people were inside at the hearing.
People at the march and rally were angry, bitter over the vicious death of a young Black male, and determined that there be justice in this case. Above all, they wanted Trayvon's killer, George Zimmerman, to be charged with Trayvon's death.
The demonstrators were overwhelmingly Black. Many were young – about the age of 17-year-old Trayvon when he was gunned down. Trayvon's father said that many of the faces at the rally "remind me of my son." People came from Sanford, Orlando, and other cities and towns in central Florida, and large contingents had bused in from Miami, including youth who had participated in or led walkouts at their high schools. Students who had been organizing speak-outs and other protests at Florida A&M in Tallahassee were there, as were students from Bethune Cookman College in Daytona Beach and other colleges in the region.
The march and rally were called by the "Empowerment Movement," a coalition of Black clergy and civil rights activists. Signs reading "not a Black and white issue, but a right and wrong issue" were distributed by some rally organizers and were prevalent throughout the day, and a banner with that message was at the front of the march. People chanted "no justice, no peace," and some took up a chant initiated by the revolutionaries, "Trayvon did not have to die, we all know the reason why, the whole system is guilty."
Many people, youth and many older people as well, wore shirts with Trayvon's picture, and chanted slogans like "I am Trayvon" and "Justice for Trayvon." Countless people carried bags of Skittles and cans of Arizona Iced Tea—the "weapons" Trayvon had in his hand when he was viciously gunned down. People came with homemade signs and T-shirts, some with the lettering made of Skittles. A brother and sister, and some of Trayvon's classmates from Miami, came wearing homemade T-shirts that read "Skittles, $1.39; Arizona Iced Tea, $.99; Trayvon B. Martin's life, PRICELESS." Some people, especially youth, wore hoodies, which Trayvon was wearing when he was murdered, and carried signs reading things like "am I suspicious?" or "do I look suspicious to you?"
A crew of revolutionary communists circulated with a banner reading "17 Afghani people, Trayvon Martin, MURDERED! The System of Capitalism-Imperialism Set These Crimes in Motion," and about 3,000 copies of the RCP's statement "On the Murder of Trayvon Martin" were distributed.
The City Commission meeting was broadcast to the thousands of people in the park over widescreen TVs and loudspeakers. Besides the commission members, speakers included Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. They all denounced the killing of Trayvon and the fact that the neighborhood watch captain who shot him, George Zimmerman, remains free, while urging people to work within the very system that has kept Trayvon's murderer at large. "The whole world is watching Sanford, the whole world is watching Florida," Jesse Jackson said, before urging the crowd to start a voter registration drive to end Florida's "Stand Your Ground" law, which the Sanford police and Florida state officials claim is the legal justification for Zimmerman's deadly assault upon Trayvon.
Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon's parents, also spoke. Tracy Martin said that "we're not asking for an eye for an eye. We're asking for justice, justice, justice." Sybrina Fulton poignantly spoke of her anguish over Trayvon's death and her determination to see change, saying, "I know I cannot bring my baby back. But I'm sure going to make changes so that this doesn't happen to another family."
Everyone in the crowd that a Revolution reporter spoke to was angry, frustrated, and bitter over the lack of justice, over the fact that a young man's life had ended so cruelly, and his killer remained free. Many older people, and some younger ones too, recognized this outrageous murder as a modern-day lynching, and were searching for answers for how to put an end to a seemingly endless history of unpunished crimes against Black people.
A brother and sister from Broward County in south Florida told us how they had been active in organizing high school walkouts and other protests. The young woman, a recent college graduate, said, "I just don't see how you can kill someone, and then the person can just roam free." Her brother added, "This goes way down into past history, from before we were even born until now. I really can't put into words how deeply I feel about it."
All at Fort Mellon Park in Sanford that evening, and millions more throughout the country, share a determination to win Justice for Trayvon Martin. People don't see this as an "isolated incident" but as something that happens over and over again to young Black people. That's why so many people find it "relatable," as one person put it. As the same young woman quoted above said, "We want justice. We want to be able to breathe correctly. Let the jury decide, but we want this man to be in jail."
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
Revolution newspaper is sending a reporter to Florida to interview people and cover the developing events around the murder of Trayvon Martin. Money is needed to fund the costs of this important reporting trip to cover a major societal event for Revolution, the paper that cuts to the bone to bring out WHY things are happening...to show HOW it doesn’t have to be that way...and bring to people the ways to ACT to change it.
Send checks or money order to RCP Publications, PO Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654; or donate here—earmarked for “Revolution Reporter Fund.”
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
An excerpt from Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, by Bob Avakian
This excerpt is from the section of the talk titled “Emmett Till and Jim Crow: Black people lived under a death sentence.” View this clip, as well as another relevant section titled “They’re selling postcards of the hanging” and other clips, online at RevolutionTalk Video Clips—Watch And Share and at www.youtube.com/revolutiontalk.
* * * * *
Then there’s the story of Emmett Till. Emmett Till was born and grew up in Chicago. In 1955, when he had just turned 14, he went to Mississippi to visit family there. His mother warned and she schooled him about what he would find in Mississippi, what a young Black male like himself should expect, what he must do and not do in order to stay alive. And think about the fact that a mother has to school her child that way just when he goes to visit family. But Emmett Till was full of life and full of fun. One day, while in Money, Mississippi, he made the fatal mistake of whistling at a white woman as he was leaving a store owned by her husband. A few days later, the storeowner and his brother-in-law came in the middle of the night with guns and took Emmett Till away. They were seen beating him as they drove him away. His relatives began looking for his body along river banks and under bridges where Black folks always look when things like this happen, as his uncle put it. Think about that, think about what that means—where Black folks always look when this kind of thing happens. Think about what that tells you about this country. Emmett Till’s body was found in a river. He was beaten and shot to death. Beaten so badly he could barely be recognized, even by his mother. A 14-year-old boy lynched. For what? For whistling at a white woman.
In an act of tremendous courage and large-mindedness, his mother, Mamie Till, displayed his body publicly in Chicago. And she refused to have it touched up so that all could see what had been done to him. His body was viewed by tens of thousands of Black people in Chicago.
The story of what happened to Emmett Till aroused deep anger among Black people all over the country. It shocked many white people in many parts of the country and it became an international news story and outrage.
But back in Mississippi, white people rallied to the defense of the men who had kidnapped and brutally murdered Emmett Till. These men were put on trial only because of the outrage around the country and around the world. Death threats and terror against Black people in the area where this lynching took place were increased to keep them from saying what they knew and how they felt about this lynching. In a court room that was segregated, with white people filling the seats, and the few Black people who were allowed in, forced to stand at the back, the jury of all white men found the murderers of Emmett Till not guilty in an hour. Their lawyers even accused Mamie Till and the NAACP of conspiring to cook up this whole story of the lynching. Actually, Emmett Till was alive in Detroit, these lawyers claimed. Not long after they were acquitted of this crime, the two men sold their story to a national magazine, telling in detail how they brutally murdered Emmett Till. But nothing was ever done to them. Despite a massive campaign calling for the federal government to indict these two men, the government refused. Sound familiar?
Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was President of the United States at the time, never even answered a telegram sent to him by Mamie Till. J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, called this brutal lynching of Emmett Till “an alleged murder,” and he gave much more attention to investigating the involvement of communists in protesting this lynching than he ever did to the lynching itself. But the lynching of Emmett Till became a rallying cry for Black people. People stood up who had never stood up before, as Mamie Till put it.
In talking about these lynchings, I’m not exaggerating any of this. In fact, I’ve actually left out some of the most gruesome and disgusting details in talking about these lynchings because there is only so much of this that you can stand to talk about or to hear about. And these were not the so-called isolated incidents, the way they always try to tell us, whenever they get caught in one of their brutalities or murders, the way they try to cover up the real crimes of this system and those who rule it. Thousands of Black people were lynched in those times. And all Black people lived with a constant terror of this.
Listen to the following statement by the author of a book about lynching. He said, “It is doubtful that any Black male growing up in the rural South in the period 1900 to 1940 was not traumatized by a fear of being lynched.” What is he saying with this? Nothing less than this: no Black male growing up in the rural South in that period could be free of that fear. Every Black male was haunted and scarred deeply by that fear. Think about what that means and think about how this touched Black people as a whole. A sociologist who studied Black life in Mississippi in the 1930s learned how deeply the threat of lynching was in the minds of all Black people, from the very young to the very old. And in a PBS program on the system of segregation in the South, which was called the Jim Crow system, they quoted a psychologist who said that every Black person living in the South under Jim Crow was living actually under a death sentence. It might or might not actually get carried out, but it was always there. Black people could be killed for anything they did which might offend some white people and the whites who killed them would never be punished. A Black man could be lynched for looking at a white woman in a way that some white people thought was the wrong way, and the whites who killed them, again, would never be punished. Or a grown Black man could be killed for not calling a young white boy “sir,” or for not stepping off the sidewalk to make way for white people or for any reason or no reason at all. And this was related to the overall outrages to which Black people were subjected. This experience of lynching and its effect on the masses of Black people can in a real sense be taken as representing and concentrating the experience of Black people as a whole, long after literal slavery with all its horrors had been ended in the 1860s.
Frederick Douglass was a slave himself who after he got his own freedom, spent his life fighting against the oppression of Black people and other injustices. Invited to speak at a July Fourth celebration [in 1852], Douglass made clear that July Fourth was nothing to celebrate and that America was guilty of great crimes. Here’s what he said about it: “What, to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all of your religious parade and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages....
“There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States at this very hour.” And Douglass also said, America may accuse others of savagery, but really it has no equal when it comes to this. He said, “For revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, American reigns without a rival.”
As the saying goes, truer words were never spoken. Douglass spoke these words while slavery still legally existed in the United States, but his comments apply just as much even after outright slavery was ended, and all this time, while all these lynchings and other acts of incredible cruelty were being carried out, with all the oppression they embodied and enforced, all this time those who ruled this country, those who refused to do anything to stop these lynchings or other acts of terror and atrocities, those who were responsible for these and other barbaric crimes, all this time, they never stopped proclaiming, “This is the greatest country in the world... this is the greatest country that has ever been... this is the leader of the free world... this is the homeland of freedom and democracy.”
It is not just that many white people acted like depraved beasts. And it is not that some were actually devils, although it certainly may have seemed that way many times in the history of this country. The deeper thing is that all these horrors were shaped by, they were encouraged by, and they served to keep in effect a whole system, a system that could not have existed without first slavery, and then near-slavery. And segregation and terror centered in the South while the great majority of Black people lived there, chained in one way or another to the rural South and on white-owned plantations. White supremacy is built into the foundation of this country. It is something this system and those who rule it could not do without even if they wanted to, which they don’t. And this has continued down to the present. Despite all the false claims these days about how this is now a colorblind society, segregation and discrimination continue against Black people and other people of color. Every time there is a study or a survey to determine this, it shows without fail that segregation and discrimination exist in housing, in jobs, in schools, in health care, in every part of society. And this continues to be backed up with brutality and violence.
The last time I spoke publicly in this country, in 1979, I took a detour from the speaking tour to go to Chester, South Carolina because Black people there were uprising because a young Black male, in the year 1979, had been lynched for dating a white girl. And more recently in, yes, Texas, there was the horror of what was done to James Byrd, a Black man who was taken by white thugs and good ol’ boys, tied to the back of a pickup and dragged until his head was separated from his body and his body was dismembered.
This is still going on in this "greatest of all countries." But today, it is mostly the police who openly, as the police, carry out brutality and terror against Black youth and Black people in general. Applying that author’s statement on lynching to the present, we could put it this way. It is doubtful that there is a young Black male, growing up in the U.S. today, in the South or the North, who does not have a very real fear of being brutalized or even murdered by the police. And again, this touches all Black people. Another book on the history of lynching of Black people in the South makes this point—and think about this: Black parents learn to fear more for some sons than for others: those who were surly, who had attitude, or who were rebellious, or were careless, who had not learned the art of appearing to know their place. They were in greater danger. And tragically, parents had no choice but to try to keep their sons especially from showing those qualities—like self-confidence, curiosity, ambitiousness—that could be interpreted as insolence or arrogance by white people. However, this author goes on to say, there was only so much that could be done by the parents in trying to prevent disaster. Any unlucky circumstance could instantly put a Black man at deadly risk.
And today we see the same thing. In our Party’s work in the housing projects, one of the most heart-rending things we’ve learned is how Black mothers in the projects start to worry early on if the boys that they’ve given birth to start to show that they might grow up to be large. Because then they’ll have everything come down on them that comes down on a large Black male. Think of what this means, that a mother, from the time that her child is two or three years old, has to worry that he might grow up to be too big so he might be seen to be a threat by the police and then cut down and murdered brutally by them.
What kind of a society, what kind of system is this?
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
In 2003 Bob Avakian delivered an historic talk in the United States, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About. Here are three excerpts from that talk:
LISTEN, DOWNLOAD, REPOST and SPREAD EVERYWHERE!
Listen to the full talk: Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About.
View excerpts: http://www.youtube.com/revolutiontalk.
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
As people are standing up and fighting for justice for Trayvon Martin, they are asking deep questions about WHY modern-day lynchings can still go on in America and debating a whole range of answers. It’s crucial that the people find out about the revolution we need, and the leadership we have. They need to hear Bob Avakian’s talk Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About. In particular, these three video clips from the talk cut to the heart of things:
Watch these clips, and download, repost, and spread them everywhere!
And very importantly: Raise big money for ads to promote these Revolution Talk clips on the Internet and in print media, so that many, many people hear about them. Get your friends together to watch these clips and then figure out creative plans for raising the funds. Send checks or money to RCP Publications, PO Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654, or donate online at revcom.us—earmarked for “BA Everywhere promotional materials.”
View the video clips at: youtube.com/revolutiontalk
Access the full Revolution Talk at: revolutiontalk.net/
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
What We Should Never Forget... and Never Forgive About the Murder of Trayvon Martin
The February 26 murder of Trayvon Martin has ignited outrage around the country and reminded us once again of this cold hard fact of life in the USA:
That if you’re Black, and especially if you’re young, male, and perhaps wearing a hoodie—that at any time, on any street, you can be living one moment... then dead the next, from a modern day lynching. It can be from a cop. Or it might be from a vigilante wanna-be-cop. And even as you take your last breath, even before your parents are notified and the tears begin to fall, the whole system of police, laws, and courts will be working to render a verdict of “justifiable homicide.”
By now, most everyone knows the basic facts: On February 26, 2012, in a small gated community in Sanford, Florida, 17-year-old Trayvon Martin went out to buy some snacks at the 7-Eleven. George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch captain, driving around in his SUV, called 911 to say he saw something “real suspicious.” The 911 dispatcher told him not to do anything. But Zimmerman got out of his car. There was yelling, then a gunshot and Trayvon Martin’s life was over.
Initial reports said that the police did not arrest Zimmerman citing Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law which can mean you only need your word to show you thought your life was in danger to establish self defense. Since this law has gone into effect the number of killings found to be justifiable homicide has jumped from an average of 12 to 33 per year. 20 other states have similar laws. This is nothing but a legalized lynch law and should be renamed the “Open Season on Black and Brown Men” Law.
The cops were in Zimmerman’s corner, protecting him, from the very beginning—and treating Trayvon Martin like he was the criminal:
In fact, the Sanford police have a history of protecting those who brutalize and murder Black people. In 2005, two security guards, one the son of a Sanford police officer and the other a department volunteer, killed a Black man they claimed was trying to run them over. The guards were eventually acquitted. And the officer in charge of that case was the same one in charge at the scene of the Trayvon Martin murder. In 2010, police waited seven weeks to arrest a lieutenant’s son who was caught on video punching a homeless Black man.
The murder of Trayvon Martin has touched the hearts of many millions around the country. And more than this—it has connected with the real life experience and anger of millions of Black and Latino youth and their families who know.... that could have been me... that could have been my son... that could have been my brother... that could have been my friend. And ghastly ghosts of America’s past are being evoked: the KKK, the lynching tree, the white racists who murdered 14-year-old Emmett Till in 1955.
Mothers are speaking out, with bitterness, about how they school their sons, from the time they are very young, about the “rules” they must follow if they are to stay alive, like: “always have your driver’s license, wearing a suit is safer than wearing casual clothes, don’t run down a street, never run from police.”
Protests are continuing and growing—all around the country, in large cities and small towns, with many thousands of people calling for justice. People of all different nationalities are demonstrating, wearing hoodies, Skittles in hand, carrying signs that say, “We are all Trayvon Martin.” Students in more than 30 Miami schools walked out of class. Relatives of those killed by the police are speaking out. At a Chicago rally, members of Emmett Till’s family read a statement they had written to the family of Trayvon Martin. Students at colleges around the country are protesting. Celebrities are speaking out and the NBA Players Union issued a statement with condolences to the Martin family and calling for Zimmerman’s arrest.
For decades now, through the so-called “war on drugs” and mass incarceration, a whole class of people, especially Black and Latino youth, have been stigmatized and criminalized. Even as they are brutalized and gunned down by the police, warehoused in prisons and tortured in solitary confinement—the system and its ideological mouthpieces like Bill Cosby demonize the youth, telling them—and society at large—that it’s their own fault for what is happening to them, and this is what they deserve.
The murder of Trayvon Martin has put something that happens every day in communities across this country into the national spotlight. Millions of Black and Latino people live with this kind of terror—never knowing if walking down the street with (or without) a hoodie, eating (or not eating) Skittles—will be the last act of their life because some racist vigilante, or some actual cop decides that because you’re Black, and especially if you’re young, that you’re too “suspicious” to be allowed to keep on living. But this reality is something that’s not only been covered over, but in many ways been viciously turned upside down and back around to point the blame back on the victims, saying the youth themselves are the cause. “You shouldn’t be wearing them clothes.” “You shouldn’t be hanging out.” “You shouldn’t be in that part of town.”
But with the murder of Trayvon Martin the anger at the great suffering that maybe just seethes below has burst out and is saying ENOUGH—“We are sick and tired of burying our children!” “We are sick and tired of being demeaned and demonized.” “We demand to be treated like human beings! And this has delivered a jolt to the “normalness” of all this, where it can seem like things will never change, that things can never change.
The reality of “We are All Trayvon Martin” is being manifested by people of all nationalities coming together into the streets to resist something which in so many other cases people accept, or fight alone. And in all this people are not only raising their heads, but questioning why do things have to be this way.
Now, in this moment, people more broadly—including some who have been sucked in by the hype demonizing Black youth—are seeing the real truth of the matter and being challenged to take a stand against the murder of Trayvon Martin. And this is giving more space to the people to stand up, speak out, and fight, with right clearly on their side. This is a moment when, the legitimacy of the established order, of this system, can begin to be called into question for many people.
By 1900 the town that’s now Sanford had become an active Black community and was actually the second town in Florida to be incorporated by African Americans. Then in 1911 white people took it over and one of the first things they did was to rename the streets that had been named after its Black pioneers. In 1945 Jackie Robinson traveled to Florida with the Brooklyn Dodgers. A “large group of white residents” confronted the mayor of Sanford and “demanded that Robinson...be run out of town.” (Dave Zirin, The Nation, March 23, 2012)
Ulysees Cunningham, an 80-year-old Black retired contractor, has lived in Sanford for most of his life, and remembers decades ago when Black diners walked into restaurants and were seated apart from whites. Now, he says, he watches police cars cruise through his neighborhood off Celery Avenue all night, “even though nothing was going on.”
But this isn’t just Sanford’s history and this isn’t just Sanford’s present. This isn’t some aberration, some pockmark on a “healing America,” a “post-racial America.” No! This has happened, this is what’s happening, in cities and towns from coast to coast.
“It’s surprising. It’s shocking,” said Tracy Martin, Trayvon’s father. “It lets me know that justice is just not being served here. All we want is justice for our son. We’re not asking for anything out of the ordinary.”
Yes, Tracy Martin is right. Justice is NOT being served. But the fact is—the murder of Trayvon Martin... all this is NOT out of the ordinary in the United States of America.
It is good that people are demanding JUSTICE. And at the same time, we need to be clear on what kind of system is responsible for creating people like George Zimmerman, what kind of system is behind all the circumstances surrounding and leading up to the murder of Trayvon Martin.
We need to ask: What is the system that created the whole situation surrounding the murder of Trayvon Martin—and then the whole way the vigilante murderer has been allowed to go free? There is a long history to the current situation in cities and towns throughout the United States, where a whole culture of white supremacy lays over every aspect of economic and social life. This is not the beginning of the story—there is a whole history to this. There is a whole history and present day reality of the oppression of Black people in this country that not only helps us understand the murder of Trayvon Martin—but tells us what is required to put an end to what caused such outrages to happen over and over again.
Slavery, lynch mobs, racist vigilantes, police terror. These are all expression of a long and ongoing history and structure of the oppression of Black people.
All this is part of what this whole country has been and will continue to be—until it is swept away through revolution when the time is ripe and replaced by a whole new, liberating society.
What happened the night of February 26 in Sanford, Florida IS a modern day lynching, bearing the marks of the history and present day reality of a system where the oppression of Black people is built into its very foundations. And this, we must never forget and never forgive about the death of Trayvon Martin.
We need to Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. It is a really great and powerful thing that the masses are standing up, resisting, and demanding justice in the face of the outrageous murder of Trayvon Martin. This struggle must not only continue, it must go further. And it must not get derailed and channeled into the “safe” and ineffective workings of the system itself—where the people end up trusting the fox to protect the chicken coop. We need to wage a determined fight, to demand justice, to demand the truth—to get at the root causes of all this and the revolutionary solution.
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
Only in the face of a spreading wildfire of mass outrage... only as it became clear that all the firemen could not damp it down... only as this mass anger began to threaten to roar out of the confines of “politics as usual”... only then did Barack Obama feel compelled to speak on the murder of Trayvon Martin. (And only after Obama spoke did his Republican opposite numbers chime in.)
First, note that this was NOT a special presidential address and it was NOT a speech given specifically on the murder of Trayvon and the connections of that murder to the deep roots and everyday reality of this society—it was merely a staged answer, supposedly given off the cuff, to a shouted question at the end of a press conference about something totally unrelated. This in itself was designed to send a message minimizing what was done and its importance. (Commentators applauded his “low-key” approach.)
What Obama did not say says more than what he did.
He did NOT link the cold-blooded murder of Trayvon Martin to the whole history and present-day reality of these awful and notorious cases... from Dred Scott to Emmett Till to Oscar Grant... all rooted in white supremacy and the oppression of Black and other “minority” peoples that is bred in the bone of this capitalist system—no, this was covered over...
He did NOT connect the killing of Trayvon to the ways in which Black youth have been stigmatized and demonized and criminalized by the media, by bullies like Bill Cosby, and by top politicians—including Democratic politicians and even presidents like Bill Clinton and, yes, Obama himself in their “blame-the-youth” speeches (not to mention the “conservative”—that is, blatantly fascist—commentators)—to the point where a young Black man walking down the street in a hoodie is “fair game”...
He did NOT connect the way in which Trayvon was gunned down to the ways in which this system targets Black youths from the time they are born, to the way in which it mis-educates them and funnels them into the prison system (now bursting at the seams with nearly 2 1/2 million people), to the massive meat grinder these youth face that lets only a relatively few out of its clutches... because, after all, he has never said anything about that before, so why start now?
He did NOT talk about the similarity of the way in which Trayvon’s killer seems to have assumed, in his 911 call, that this Black youth was a criminal threat just by virtue of being Black and walking around, and the ways in which the police departments of every American city assume the very same thing and stop and humiliate Black youth every second of the day...
What Obama did NOT say speaks volumes. And the fact that he, and his Republican opposite numbers, said anything at all also speaks volumes—volumes about how much they fear the depths of the righteous anger this outrage has only begun to tap into.
We cannot and must not stop now. The outrage must not be dammed up. The demand for justice must grow louder and spread wider, must become more determined. The truth—the whole truth, right down to the root causes of this and the revolutionary solution—must come pouring out, on the crest of a wave of mass action.
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
Trayvon Martin, a Black youth walking home with a bag of skittles and a can of iced tea, is gunned down, and the cops see no reason to arrest the killer! Why not? The killer, George Zimmerman, is a member of a neighborhood watch group, and he tells the cops he shot Trayvon. Yet Zimmerman has yet to be even treated like a suspect in a homicide. Why not? Witnesses have come forward who have disputed Zimmerman's claim of self-defense, and still he walks free. Why?
In 1857, in the case of Dred Scott, a Black man who had escaped slavery, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a Black man has "no rights which the white man was bound to respect." The vigilante murder of Trayvon Martin and the countless other ways the criminal injustice system in this country abuses Black people and other oppressed people show that this white supremacist logic is still in effect.
This is a system whose wealth and power came from the vicious exploitation and brutal oppression of minority peoples. It remains true to that legacy today. Even after the Civil War officially ended slavery and after decades of tremendous sacrifices and heroic struggle by Black people and others, this oppression remains in effect. Police commit brutality and even murder and get away with no punishment. Racist murders like that of Trayvon happen again and again, and there is no justice. This happens because the system that spawned this oppression remains fundamentally intact.
If the only problem was the way this system mistreats Black people, Latinos and others, that would be reason enough to get rid of it. And this is far from the only problem humanity faces—there's the degradation women face, wars for empire, destruction of the environment, indefinite detention and even assassination of those the government calls threats to national security, and more. It will take nothing short of revolution to end all these horrors, once and for all. Revolution to get rid of this system and bring a fundamentally different system into being. We in the Revolutionary Communist Party are building a movement for revolution. Get with that movement and join the emancipators of humanity.
And there is an urgent, immediate need right now—that is for determined mass resistance from every person of conscience to condemn the murder of Trayvon Martin and to demand justice. And to stand up and say no to all the horrors this system inflicts on Black and other oppressed people.
Carl Dix is one of the Initiators of the upcoming April 19 "National Day of Resistance to Mass Incarceration." This will be a day of resistance on college campuses, in high schools and in communities—a day when religious and other institutions open their doors and invite the community in to speak bitterness about abusive policing, and youth take to the streets determined to no longer accept being criminalized in silence, and others from many different walks of life join them. A day when people in the prisons find ways to raise their voices. All of this involving all kinds of people, from different walks of life and points of view, all saying NO to Mass Incarceration, NO to everything that leads up to it, and NO to all its consequences. For more information or to get involved, contact:
P.O. Box 941 Knickerbocker Station,
New York, New York 10002
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
BA Everywhere is a campaign aimed at raising big money to project Bob Avakian's voice and works throughout society—to make BA a household word. The campaign is reaching out to those who are deeply discontented with what is going on in the world, and stirring up discussion and debate about the problem and solution. It is challenging the conventional wisdom that this capitalist system is the best humanity can do—and bringing to life the reality that with the new synthesis of communism brought forward by BA, there is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the leadership that is needed for the struggle toward that goal.
Success in this campaign can bring about a radical and fundamental change in the social and political atmosphere by bringing the whole BA vision and framework into all corners of society where it does not yet exist, or is still too little known, and getting all sorts of people to engage and wrestle with it.
BA Everywhere is a multifaceted campaign, involving different key initiatives and punctuation points, at the same time sinking roots among all sections of the people and reaching out broadly in myriad creative ways. Revolution newspaper is where everyone can find out what's going on with all this: reports on what people are doing, upcoming plans, important editorials, etc. We call on readers to send us timely correspondence on what you are doing to raise money for BA Everywhere, why people are contributing, and what they are saying.
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
An interview from the BAsics Bus Tour:
The following is an interview with someone who was part of the core of people involved in the recently concluded BAsics Bus Tour pilot project.
Q: You were part of a core of people who dedicated two weeks of their lives to go out on the BAsics Bus Tour and bring BAsics and Bob Avakian, his work and his vision, out to places where people had never seen anything like this. What was the political landscape you encountered?
A: Since we didn't know most of these areas, it was all very fresh and new. I remember rolling into Fresno and seeing how big of a city it is, but also how isolated it was. And then somewhere like Santa Ana which is just one exit on the freeway and that's it. I mean, on the superficial level it would seem like there wasn't any political landscape. You come from particularly a big city and you're sort of jaded by people having a voice or having a stand on something. You didn't really get that in some of these areas. The best way I could capture it, even metaphorically, it was like people were just sort of walking with their heads down, walking with sort of no end in sight. It was just sort of depressing in some sense how isolated these areas are but then also like people just sort of going about their daily activities in a way that's just dragging them. And you can see that in people's faces, but people would also say that. That was something that was pretty unexpected. It just kind of hit you in the face.
But there was also a real openness that this could connect. The BAsics Bus Tour came splashing onto the scene and splashing out with BAsics. It cut through people's daily existence of whatever sort of thing they were thinking about. It's not like people didn't have opinions on things. But you could tell that this was something that they'd never seen before, an RV fully decorated with BAsics, the front and back covers in English and Spanish. You had music, you had these multicultural people stepping off these buses and very alive with revolution, alive with a vision of a new world, but really wielding this book BAsics. It was something unexpected, it was something very new, but it was also something very welcome.
People at this Mardi Gras Festival in Fresno were running, especially youth near the end, running up to us and like, "What is this about?" "This is so cool, people who took two weeks off to like do this." "I could do this," or "I could see myself doing this," and things like that. It was like we brought color to it, color in the sense of the splash that we made on this black and white painting that was there. And it was with substance, and people saw that.
Q: Let's talk about the impact of the tour.
A: The impact of the quotes from BAsics: I think that was a very sharp awakening as to the potential of this BA Everywhere campaign, as far as introducing people to BA's work, and the content of that, people being sort of transformed as they're reading these quotes and really kind of getting inspired.
Specifically I remember the one about "Why do people come here from all over the world?" That just sort of had a transformative effect on individuals, on families, and really kind of saying, that's actually true. The world is fucked up and people are being dragged into different parts of the world and specifically into this country. It really gave fire to all those kind of repressed sentiments or feelings that something's going on, something's not right. But then when reading these or when engaging with some of BA's work, the content of BAsics, it was just sort of a switch, where people got angry that this was the reality of this, but then also felt inspired, like, "How do I stay connected with this?" Or "How do I keep in contact with this?"
And I felt for others it was more like they felt compelled to like argue their points out, even as we're going back and forth there's some real engagement. Especially on campuses—"This is what I've learned about this country," not in those words, but about this country and what it does to the world and really putting forward a position of like, well things can't change. But even when we sharply cut through that and said, actually things can be radically different. They have been. A whole other world is possible because of what BA has brought forward and because of what is concentrated in this book. It was sort of a mind trip for folks, like it took some time to even walk through that process.
It was very interesting on these college campuses especially because of that. Because, it was sort of the landscape of not having this movement for revolution be out there, on a continuous basis or whatever, the freshness of that. But then when introduced to it, or when challenged with it or kind of confronted with it, it sort of brought something out in people, they didn't even know they had sort of consolidated in their thinking of how to understand the world and how to go forward and what's possible and what isn't.
I think that was sort of the edge and the vibe and the feel throughout the whole tour, this lack of revolution out there, no revolutionary pole in society. I feel like that's sort of the thing, imagination being locked and being confined to this putrid culture and system. And through the engagement we had with people, then it was a thing of people kind of clearing the fog a little and really being inspired in one way. But then also really challenged and really provoked to figure out what this is all about and how they can be a part of this. There's sort of a different edge that this BAsics Bus Tour has because of what it objectively represents and how it's speaking to things that nothing else is speaking to.
In the Watts area, that was really interesting too because we were set up not too far from one of the high schools in the area and all these youth who ordinarily would kind of brush us off or whatever felt because of everything, because of sort of the crew that was out there and because of the revolution that was out there and people were mixing it up and engaging with it, really felt compelled to like get at this. And one of their friends was talking to us. It was a mix. Everybody was all over the place and all over the spot in all these multiple conversations, and all being guided by BAsics. And really some of the arguments, like the Scarface mentality being put out there but when that was sharply challenged, it was, oh, like I've just got to revert back to my own ideas and not like—I've got to stop engaging this or something. It was interesting because it was split. All of a sudden you had a clique of friends that were repolarized in some sense, and then some were more vibing or jiving with what was being said and others were that whole thing of like, "Well, I think I have to stop this conversation, 'cause I don't think I can argue further my position in what you're saying."
I think it was, you know, it almost seemed like things were on the terms of this system, right? It almost felt like that's what people thought was the only solution to things. When this thing of you can change the world was brought more into it through the works of Avakian, it's almost as though people had closed that idea off. The world, you can actually change the world? Then it became well what do you mean by that? What do you mean you can change the world? And then, revolution? What kind of revolution? What are you talking about? And then the thing of you actually have a leader. Well, for most people there was a lot of "Mao was a horror," and "millions of deaths."
So we put an emphasis on chapter 2 of BAsics ["A Whole New—And Far Better—World"]. A lot of the quotes in there and really even the first one like, communism, the emancipation of all humanity and not the last shall be first and the first shall be last.
Q: So this was part of that downpressed imagination you talked about in terms of what people think is possible.
A: Yeah. I think so. On the one hand you understand these are the choices that the system offers people and you can get down to that. I guess that's sort of the impact of no revolutionary pole in society. People are then just sort of arguing with what exists and trying to find accommodations within that. Even if not consciously. You had a lot of youth who were just sort of like, well, the oppression of women, yeah it's bad, but it's not that bad. Or like the stuff that happens to youth in the neighborhoods or things like that. It's not that bad. Even one of these youth from Watts said well, you just gotta watch out for yourself or whatever.
It's like so that's what's there. So then you've just gotta work with that. You've gotta find amends with that. You've gotta find your own place within that. I felt like even with a lot of students, like that's the struggle with, "What am I going to do with my life? Am I going to go onto this field or am I going to go into that field?" I felt like that was the thing of like, that's it, and that's where your creativity gets stifled and that's sort of what you think is possible. And beyond that what you think other people should also think. Then reiterating that throughout society. Even these youth who work with other youth, or other community organizations or whatever. And then we come and say "No! That's not it. And if that were it, that's fucked up." So this is the thing of BAsics, and really connecting that up because of what exists.
Before going on tour, you could understand it theoretically, there's no revolutionary pole, people don't know of BA, there's no whole new generation of revolutionaries. But in a concentrated time of two weeks that just sort of slapped you in the face because that is exactly what is out there.
It can be very frustrating, but on the other hand I think there was a lot of like continuous wrangling even with the immediate situation that we dealt with in these individual places that we had to go to. And it shows the urgency of both this campaign of BA Everywhere but then the larger campaign of really bringing into existence a whole new stage of communist revolution.
I think that feeling—I've never been confronted with something like this—I feel like that was sort of the impact, that you could see that, like people were just, "What?" "What, something else is different? This isn't all that we can live under?" I feel like that was just a sharp edge in people's daily routine, even daily understanding of things. No other way would they have thought of this, I feel honestly—just because of the way it's captured in these quotes. Because of the way BA brings it out very sharply but also very simply for people to get through these quotes.
Q: What kind of response did you get to boldly bringing out Bob Avakian and the importance of his leadership in the world today?
A: I would say that in one sense it wasn't something that people were like, "No leadership or leadership," because of the newness of it. But in another sense it was a thing of like, leadership, and the leadership that is alive and that is guiding this. And then it became a more sharply posed thing of, well, what is it that makes this leader so great? Why this person? When things were put in that context—and people were being honest, it wasn't like trying to challenge you—when put in the context of the importance of what BA represents and the work he's developed, the leadership he is providing, the crucial leadership that he is providing now, it's just sort of the thing of people stepping back and getting in some sense that this is really serious, this is really different.
I had this one student just run away from me, 'cause he felt like it was too much. But on the other hand when it was in like the neighborhoods, it was deeply appreciated that you had this leadership still alive. People would ask questions about where is he? Things like that. And when you got it reframed in the context of what this system is capable of doing to leaders, and what the system has done, this thing of really taking that serious and understanding that this leadership cannot be lost.
I felt that was more the terms that needed to be shifted. This isn't just like whatever. This is someone that needs to be engaged because of the urgency ahead of humanity, but it's someone that also needs to be protected. That was more of the common thread that would come up.
Q: You mentioned this big hole that exists in this society, that there's no revolutionary vision and no revolutionary pole. What impact do you think this BAsics Bus Tour had in terms of starting to change that?
A: Thinking back to that piece in Revolution on the BA Everywhere campaign of what difference it could make, it's sort of the beginning of cutting through that. It's sort of like that. Because on the one hand, it's these very concentrated areas, like in Orange County there were smaller cities that we went to. We even happened to like crisscross some people who had seen us on campus one day or had seen us somewhere else and then they were like, I have to just stop and talk to these people and find out what this is all about.
So that was on the one hand, the concentration of that. We also went to places like Fresno. One person who had met us at some gay rights protest a while back and had bought the DVD [Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About] and had watched it and it just left this sort of impact on him. When he saw us again, he was like, "Whoa, you guys are here again." Another young woman in Fresno saw the DVD, maybe the first 15 minutes of it, and her immediate comment afterward was, "Whoa, I can tell this person is under-appreciated. And I can totally understand why you are on this bus to get him out there everywhere, to get him out there because he does need to be out there for what he's saying."
So I feel like that's the immediate sort of crisp to that, that it introduced people to this leadership. It introduced people to who BA is, through a multifaceted way, through videos, through displays, through engaging with the revolutionaries, things like that. But I also feel that those who did sort of make that initial step of getting some of these materials, the book, or signing up with us or things like that, like, there's a sort of yearning to want to stick with this, or want to continue this.
We've raised the level of the thing of like what is possible, what is obtainable. I think that's sort of the reshifting of things. Putting the potential not only of humanity but the potential of individuals to be a part of bringing that into existence. Putting that into that level, that a whole other world is possible is really raising questions as to what I usually can surmise to be possible, what I've been told is true, like it's not vibing no more. So it's a cut but it's a very important one.
At one of the homeless encampments we went to in Fresno I spoke to a group of Spanish speakers, immigrants I would imagine, and I really put out, read these quotes, and one quote was read out loud, about if you can see the world as it is, there's two roads you can take. So after he finished reading it he was saying, "I like this. I like this because it says we can be a part of changing things. This is about bringing something different." Just captured in that quote. And then somebody else read the one about "bitches and hos," and at first they giggled that even those words are in there, but then they were like, I agree, we do need something different. This very basic capturing of something different. We need something different and you're right. At whatever level and whatever understanding. And people sat there and read this special issue of the paper [on BAsics]. And the one group that I did leave Lo BAsico with were more like, I want to take this to other people and I want to share this, to people within their own encampments, but then to whoever else they met. And so they took a stack of the papers and they took a copy of the book and they were very appreciative. They were appreciative of the fact that we had come and talked to them, but then that we had talked to them about this. And by that they mean what we're talking about, BAsics.
Q: This was a pilot project for a national tour; have you thought about the impact of this going all over the country?
A: The thing about these shackles or these weights being lifted off of people. You know, I feel principally, that was something that we weren't necessarily prepared for, but as it unfolded, you really saw the thing of those hungry for something different, and those that didn't even know that they were hungry for that, but when confronted with this, were just like, you could see sort of something change into something different.
This was just one state. But if you think about that on a nationwide scale and going to all these places where this movement for revolution has never touched before, and what it's coming with. I don't know. It just seems like things can uncork in a way of people even vying for something different. And even within that, even those who thought they knew what revolution and communism was about like totally being confronted with what it actually is about. And then there being the sort of like, sort of the image that's painted—well, I've been reading such-and-such and what do you think about that? What do you think about what BAsics says, or what BA says, or what BA says about, you know what a whole new world is going to be about, or the socialist transition to communism—you can definitely see that really transforming and happening. And I think that even the impact in a very concentrated time, the impact of people really on a mission to change that and to do that, and standing on that. Not for like showmanship or whatever, because it actually is based on this whole new way that humanity can exist and the connection and the urgency of that coming into existence and people being a part of that. I feel like that captures it, these sort of shackles or these weights being lifted off of people. Not that everybody's just going to transform or whatever, but even like the resetting of terms, the repolarizing for something different in society.
And then the possibility of that, I think today, anyway, I'm thinking about this thing of preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution. And the difference it would make if you had cores of people in all different parts of this country that were studying BA's new synthesis of communism, that were engaging with BA's work and that were really sort of transforming, even not necessarily directly connected to us. You think of the thing of like a revolutionary situation arises, and then the heightening possibility for the establishment of a new socialist state, and for even taking that further, into the emancipation of humanity, communism.
That gets back to the impact that it did have on folks, like Whoa! Whatever way it got manifested I think the basic understanding that you do have a people on a mission to build a movement for revolution, and I need to check it out, I need to look in that direction, or I need to get into it a little bit deeper. I need to be a part of that. I feel like that was some of the mix of the sentiments.
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
$15,000 is needed by the end of April for the next round of the BAsics Bus Tour!
Next weekend, March 31/April 1, let’s take big steps towards this goal... expand the ranks of those joining this campaign, come together to raise thousands for the bus tour—and make these concerted, nationwide efforts a springboard to reach the $15,000 goal by the end of April.
Building the movement to get BA Everywhere as we raise these funds can be a focal point in taking the BA Everywhere campaign to a new level. There is rich experience from the BAsics Bus Tour pilot project to learn from and build upon. Again, we urge our readers to dig into the interview with the youth who was on the tour (see below and revcom.us). The next round of the bus tour aims to have the biggest societal impact possible. The crew on this bus will be on a mission to project BA, his communist vision and his works—through getting BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian into the hands of many, many people in far-flung communities, major colleges and neighborhoods—and through finding many ways to project BA among the people; showing the DVD of Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, distributing Revolution newspaper, and playing “All Played Out” and other audio from BA.
Everywhere this boldly decorated bus stops, a crew will pour off the bus and go out among the people, united in their determination/desire to effect “...a radical and fundamental change in the social and political ‘atmosphere’ of this whole country by projecting the whole BA vision and framework into all corners of society where it does not yet exist, or is still too little known, and getting all sorts of people to engage and wrestle with it...” (from the editorial “BA Everywhere...Imagine the Difference It Could Make”)
The bus tour will be shaking things up, challenging people to see that the oppressive order we live under is NOT all that is possible. Because of what BA has done, there is a viable alternative and the strategy to achieve a different and far better world for all of humanity. The bus tour aims to break through and bring to people what we have in BA and what is possible because of the leadership of BA. And their experience will be documented in writing and on film and posted up on the internet. People across the country will be able to tune in frequently to its travels and experience—and to encourage many others to do so too.
Over the last months, this nationwide campaign to take BA Everywhere has gained momentum. As we have seen through the pilot project, the BAsics Bus Tour can be a catalyst in seizing on the momentum being built through this whole campaign and extending the reach of BA Everywhere.
People across this country—in groups and as individuals—have an important role to play in making the next round of the tour have even more impact. This involves raising money, and also coming up with all kinds of ways that you and others can contribute to making this bus tour a big deal. Fundraising—if it’s done right—raises the money that is badly needed to make a huge difference; and it brings people together—in this case to engage with BA, and what he represents and the whole process of changing the world.
Word about this upcoming tour needs to be spread far and wide. And people all over the place should be contributing...funds, but also their ideas for and support in preparing for and then making this tour known broadly. Volunteer to be on the tour, to join the crew on a mission to get BAsics and BA out into society. This will be an exciting experience full of learning about the society and the people who live in it—and wrangling with the big questions of the revolution. Once the tour hits the road again, it is going to take the whole movement nationwide working in concert to maximize its impact through all of society.
Utilize Revolution newspaper. Write to us about your efforts around the bus tour—and look to Revolution newspaper for ongoing news of the BAsics Bus Tour and how people all over the country are supporting it. And right now, get the articles on the pilot project into the hands of people to let them know what this tour can—and will—accomplish.
Raise money for the BAsics Bus Tour! Volunteer to help the bus and its participants get ready! And become part of the crew who will be taking BA Everywhere to all corners of society.
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
South by Southwest (SXSW) is a massive music/film/interactive festival that has taken place every spring in Austin, Texas, for the last 25 years. Artists/bands from the U.S. and all over the world perform at every conceivable venue. People come from all over the world to catch films, panel discussions and musical performances by artists and bands, from the unknown to the well-known.
SXSW is a really wild scene, especially on the last weekend. Austin's Convention Center buzzes all day long, and a blocked-off area of 6th Street hosts bands all night long. This creative cultural cornucopia marbled with cutting-edge entertainment technology made for an interesting mix of entrepreneurialism and social consciousness. It was a great opportunity to connect people with Bob Avakian.
So a "BA Everywhere" crew spent several days there—kinda like the BA Bus Tour without the bus. We printed up several tens of thousands of palm cards promoting BAsics: some with the quote 3:2 ("There is nothing more unrealistic than the idea of reforming this system...") on the back side, and some with quote 1:16 ("I'm a self-made man..."). We also had cards promoting "All Played Out" (APO), Avakian's spoken word piece with music by jazz musician William Parker. And, of course, lots of copies of Revolution and BAsics.
On Friday and Saturday night 6th Street was filled with tens of thousands of all ages and nationalities, but especially young people, checking out the clubs and milling up and down the street. Multinational hip-hop crews were out performing on street corners. Groups of people were dancing, singing and drumming up and down the streets.
We set up our display with a banner saying "You Can't Change the World if You Don't Know the BAsics" literally in the middle of the street. People started asking "What does that mean?" and discussing it. We got out the palm cards to thousands of people and many of them stopped by to talk. Some bought the book as well. Our presence and agitation stirred up debate which in some cases continued after we left. A group of 20-something Black men got into it over religion as a slave mentality and as we were walking away they continued to argue over whether science could be used to reach truth when there was always going to be so much unknown. They had plans to go online to see what BA has to say about all this.
This was good. But it wasn't making a big enough impact. It was not gonna make BA a household name.
We summed up that we needed to become much more of a focal point in the scene. So we had one of our crew stand above the crowd—on a ladder—and speak to the thousands of people coming down the street in waves. This made a big difference. Several groups of people took hundreds of cards to distribute. Two groups of high school youth went up and down the streets and came back several times to get more to get out. One of the guys said that he is all for revolution and another young woman said that she doesn't know much about communism but if it's about changing things for everybody everywhere then people should know about it. They had been going out to people and telling them that they really need to find out about this.
Not surprisingly, our presence became more and more a point of controversy. Many of these debates were loud and passionate. At one point some asshole tried to knock our agitator off the ladder—an indication that we were hitting a nerve. Some of the debate was over what people have heard was the history of communism and its viability. Many people were challenged by the quotes themselves. Several young men in the music industry said that while they didn't think humanity is ready for communism, they were glad that we were out there challenging people to think about these questions. Others wanted to know how it is possible to make revolution and who is Bob Avakian. Jazz fans especially were drawn to check out "All Played Out."
Taking BA out in this scene more boldly helped open things up and several people who have hoped for and given up their dreams of revolution were uplifted by hearing about BA and the movement for revolution. One youth said that he always considered himself a communist but until now he never talked about it too much because of other people's prejudices. Another youth told us that it takes a lot of courage to be out doing what we are doing. He then took a bunch of cards to distribute and then came back to get more to get out. We had that dynamic going of unleashing the masses on the spot to take this up while they were checking out what BA is about.
A couple of philosophy students from Texas A&M each got a copy of BAsics. After looking over the table of contents they wanted to check out who this guy was and whether communism was a science. A Black youth from El Paso, who had come to SXSW to promote his progressive hip-hop group, had seen one of the palm cards. He came up demanding, "Where is the book?!" saying, "This is exactly what we need!" Two other guys at different points throughout the evening gave $20 for BAsics, wanting to support what we were doing. One of them, an Occupy supporter and fan of Tom Morello, said that he really wanted to stir the pot, get a lot of new ideas out among the people. He wanted to support our effort even though he was not at all sure whether communism was do-able.
One young woman who had read some of BA's Phony Communism is Dead... Long Live Real Communism! said that we shouldn't be surprised that it was overthrown in its historical infancy—look how long it took for capitalism to finally triumph over feudalism. She said she agreed with BA that state power, if it is in the hands of the right people, is a good thing—we need a government that will defend our interests. The question for her was how do you get it.
Our message hit home with a lot of people. A number of people who were drawn to our banner and literature also expressed real anxiety over where things are at today—the moves toward war with Iran, the rush to pass fascist laws like the National Defense Authorization Act, and the Obama regime's targeted assassinations, as well as the whole increasing ideological dominance of the Christian fascists. Two women from the Midwest who are neuroscientists expressed alarm about how far things had gone in that direction, saying that they were "controversial" because of their jobs. When asked if it is because they're women, they said, "No—because we are scientists!"—that to be a scientist is becoming illegitimate. And that who would've thought that in 2012 we would have to fight for the right to birth control.
A revolutionary-minded Kenyan couple who were part of a hip-hop crew from England were amazed and delighted to find us. They were running to catch their bus but gave us their contact info and got a big stack of our palm cards to take back home with them.
Three young guys at a Tom Morello/Occupy SXSW event Friday nite came over to check out BAsics. One of them was a Canadian who was traveling around and hooked up with the Occupy folks in Austin. He spoke bitterness about the global exploitation of the imperialist system and spared no criticism of the Canadian government in that. We got to talking about how revolution is the solution, all the more because in Bob Avakian and the RCP we have the leadership, and two local youth joined the conversation. They were asking if BA was "political"—they wanted to know if he runs in official elections. When they were shown the "three sentences" quote—BAsics 1:22: "In a world marked by profound class divisions..."—they were intrigued and felt that he was getting at something very profound. We got into imperialist "globalization" vs. internationalism and mentioned the quote "The whole world comes first," which they liked. One of them asked if what BA had developed was just for the U.S. or was it applicable to the whole world. We got into this, and more into what communism is all about, emancipating humanity. As we parted, one of them stated, "This is a beautiful book."
Saturday was also the six month anniversary of the Occupy movement and musicians organized a Million Musicians March through downtown Austin in support of Occupy. There were hundreds of people, mainly from the activist community in Austin who came out and we were able to engage with many of them about BA.
We did have an impact on SXSW, and need to follow through with many people. Thousands of cards were distributed at the venues, in the streets, and at shops and cafes in the general area. Many people read the quotes and came up to talk. Some of them took more to get out to others and some bought BAsics. Thousands more read the banner and many people came to take pictures of the banner including with themselves posing in the picture. These pictures will be going up on their Facebook pages and it'll further spread BA and BAsics.
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
From a reader
Over the last weekend (March 17-18) a crew ventured out to follow up on the recent BAsics Bus Tour by going to outlying areas that the bus had passed by in the North Bay area. We went to two different cities, where the people had experienced massive ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement, formerly known as La Migra) raids. The Saturday foray split into two different crews, one that went to the Latino neighborhood, and the other to the downtown frequented by middle strata people.
Although the Latino neighborhood was a bit deserted, the financially very poor people there contributed money to the bus tour; while in the middle strata area, we sold four BAsics and attracted people with displays featuring BA's quotes. When a couple of Black women were stopped by the display of the "3 Strikes" quote form BA (downloadable from revcom.us), one of them mentioned that she had read Michelle Alexander's book The New Jim Crow... and was very moved by it. She said our display made her "depressed," but still felt it needed to be said. We had been agitating that "people do not have to live this way"; and her eyes had focused especially on the last picture in the display of cops beating down on a young Black man and she said "that could be anywhere, even right here." And when we suggested that although Michelle Alexander's book is an excellent exposure, BA's book points to the solution, she looked into it and pulled out a $10 bill.
Also in this northern California city, by coincidence there was an Occupy General Assembly happening that afternoon. A crew of us went over there and passed out the "Reflections on the Occupy Movement" by BA; and later on one of us returned and was able to speak to these very points (a member of this GA was familiar with some of BA's works, and actually gave up his position in the speakers' line to our crew). When we spoke to the need for radical change as well as fighting the power, and that this required leadership, vertical leadership, and that people should hook up with BA, people applauded and our GA friend ended up donating money for BA Everywhere as well as taking a big stack of newspapers. (One occupier made a mocking gesture when BA's name was raised, but our speaker said we can talk about disagreements we have in a principled way; but BA needs to be checked out if people are serious about what we need to do to get out of this madness by making revolution.)
The second northern California city has been virtually unexplored by revolutionaries for a number of years. This is a city full of immigrants from all over Mexico and Central America, including especially Guatemala and El Salvador. This city also responded in a defiant way against the ICE raids a few years back, in which school principals were closing their gates to agents, churches were opening their doors to those seeking shelter, and volunteers were passing out whistles to alarm neighbors about raids.
On Sunday, we set up next to a huge housing project that contains maybe a hundred or so apartments; and while canvassing, we set up a table with displays on a well-traveled sidewalk corner nearby. Our displays were BA quotes about "why do people come here from all over the world," as well as "No más" ("I say no more of that" in Spanish)...and the photos of Black and Latino youths who had been murdered by police. Also a display about what imperialism does around the world was front and center. (Another team set up in a small strip mall next to a beauty shop ... more on that later.)
The only way I can think of to describe it was like we had lots of water, and here we were in a desert of very thirsty people. People flocked to our table in groups; and although most people spoke only Spanish, the first book sold was to a bilingual youth (from El Salvador). This young man looked at our displays and said "we really DO need to change the world. Things are too intolerable." We asked what he thought was intolerable: the wars (highlighted by the recent mass murder and desecration of an Afghan family), police brutality, war on women, ICE raids? He said, "Everything is intolerable." He added that it's also intolerable that so many people are so caught up in their personal problems that he has a hard time getting others to even care. We suggested he change that by having a BAsics session at his apartment...and so a plan is gelling to have a neighborhood group get together to get BA Everywhere.
Our orientation for the weekend was very important, especially in this neighborhood which was witness to a lot of the horrors of imperialism; but there still was a lot of holding onto the feelings that this cannot change because of human nature (tied to the religion question), and also their lack of knowing BA, and how his leadership can lead to revolution and beyond. AND then what they can do.
The religion question came up when talking to a group of four brothers and another young man from Yucatán who had a six-pack at his side. The man from Yucatán was arguing that you can't change the world because "it's all in god's hands." Another friend however had joked that his god was right there in the six-pack. One of us argued, "There are many religions in the world with many gods, and they all are wrong, and the world really is a horror, made by imperialism!" We added that the world has been changed in the past for the better. We had issue #260 with BA's interview on China's Cultural Revolution and used it to show people what was accomplished in socialism and how humanity can do better via the new synthesis of communism developed by BA; and if we want to change it radically to make a world people would want to live in, we need to get BA's name and work way out there. When one of the brothers asked about what difference BA could make, our friend mentioned what a difference revolutionary communist leadership could have made in Tunisia or Egypt! The four brothers then chipped in to buy the BAsics book together.
Meanwhile back at the strip mall... We had a small table set up next to a beauty salon (with the owner's permission) which had been going a little slow at the beginning. Nevertheless, there was a growing interest as the nearby grocery store clerks were putting copies of the Message and Call in all of the shopping bags, and many copies of Revolution newspaper were being distributed. So at the end of the day, one of our friends waltzed into the beauty shop, and was surprised at the response...she sold two copies of Lo BAsico and a Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) on the spot. The owner who'd given permission had been silently checking us out, liked what we had to say and asked if we'd be back again next weekend. In the area, we also sold a paper and got a $5 donation at a check cashing place, responding to people who asked "what is communism anyway? I don't really know what's going on otherwise to change the world!" They'd never heard of BA, but really had a desire to know.
At the end of the day, there was a feeling of excitement, AND a desire to do better next time as well. What about sound trucks with lots of hoopla, and many more visual displays of both problem and solution? Also what about having video shows at the local community center? There was a real chemistry that had been generated within our crew over the course of the day. Altogether we had sold nine copies of BAsics (six in English, three in Spanish) as well as a Constitution; and we had received numerous donations, including for BA Everywhere!!!
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
From RCP Publications:
Last week, Revolution printed a short piece about getting BAsics into public libraries. Now is the best time to accelerate those efforts, especially because fresh in the minds of many librarians will be the experience of encountering BAsics at the Public Library Association (PLA) biennial conference in Philadelphia during the middle of March. Here is a snapshot about taking BAsics out to the PLA conference.
The BAsics exhibit hall table, featuring a large banner with the distinctive lettering from the back of the book ("You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics") as well as our BAsics T-shirts, generated a lot of favorable comments and drew hundreds into conversation. We connected with thousands of librarians and library staff people, many with a desire to see their institutions play a bigger role in helping library patrons understand and change the world. We figure that of the 4,500 participants, about 40 percent left the conference with a copy of RCP Publications' sell sheet. (Sell sheets contain all the information libraries and bookstores need to order literature. Our sell sheet had a sampling of BAsics quotes, blurbs of praise for BA and the book, a photo of the April 11, 2011 event On the Occasion of Publication of BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World in Harlem, in addition to the information on how to order BAsics as well as the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America [Draft Proposal].)
The PLA is a division of the American Library Association. The ALA has played an important role in recent years in fighting for freedom of information and against the "Patriot Act" that attempted to demand librarians inform the government about who was reading what in the library. The PLA describes its core purpose "is to strengthen public libraries and their contribution to the communities they serve." A speaker at the PLA conference keynote session said that librarians need to be agents of social change.
The keynote speaker was Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., whose talk on the environmental destruction and the cost in human lives helped set a favorable atmosphere for speaking with librarians about the exciting answers BAsics has to questions about the world, society and the future.
When people came up to the table or wanted to know more after getting a sell sheet, we put the book in their hands and pointed to various quotes in BAsics. The stark truth of 1:1 ("There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.") let people in on the fact that BAsics and Bob Avakian cut to the core of what is foundational about a fundamentally outmoded system and gave them the sense that this book and author are important. We pointed out how crucial it is that Avakian has done the work no one else has to recast understanding of the first wave of communist revolution and has re-envisioned the socialist transition to classless society and communism itself.
This was a new thing for all those we spoke with, even for those who thought they knew all about socialism and even for those who glibly regurgitated faith in the "free market" of capitalism.
But even more, it tapped into deeply felt sentiments among the mainly middle-class attendees about how this cannot really be the best of all possible worlds, connecting with an openness to explore a way to change the world in the interests of humanity.
Here are some comments from RCP Publications volunteers:
"I was struck by how much commitment there was by librarians across the country, big cities, small towns and rural areas including Native American reservations, to reach out to the dispossessed, the oppressed and poor people. I sat at a table having a snack, and started talking to someone who is a librarian on a Native American reservation in the Southwest. We talked about the Native author Sherman Alexie and how he brings to life some of the contradictions as well as the humor and dignity of Native Americans. I told her about our table, and how we were there to introduce Bob Avakian's BAsics to librarians to get into libraries across the country. I read 1:13 ("No more generations of our youth...") and she listened intently and said how what BA says is true in terms of the youth having no future. Then I read 1:5 about the military representing the 1 percent. I told her that in other parts of the book Bob Avakian develops the solution to the horrors of the system and the present situation. She said, "My library is for the young and the old to get knowledge. I want to get two for the library." I told her she needed to get one herself to get an understanding of the path-breaking work of Bob Avakian that leads the way for the emancipation of humanity. She looked in her purse and pulled out her $10 and said she would read it that night and look for [us] to talk about it."
"After reading 1:13 another librarian responded that many young people she encounters have no hope for any kind of future. She felt the quote was a very important position to take, that this cannot be tolerated. A librarian who works with teens said that one of the most frequent questions he gets is about the presidential election race now going on. He said teens see 'Obama, who is not doing much for people, on the one hand; and three guys on the other side who may or may not be crazy, depending on your perspective.' He appreciated the perspective of Bob Avakian in 1:13 and thought that BAsics should be part of the dialogue and debate about the future of society. Another librarian in a smaller city said he was looking for material to do a salon on current political thinking and that BAsics might be a good component for that."
"I went to a workshop about 'taking the library' into the prisons and working with individuals and families on the 'outside.' The MC for the workshop opened with the fact that 2.3 million adults are in prison in the U.S., and there are 1.5 million children with parents serving time. The people on the panel leading the workshop go to Rikers Island in New York City, serving hundreds of prisoners every week. They have developed all kinds of creative ways for prisoners to increase their literacy and to connect with their families. I raised the question that there is mass incarceration going on in this country as the MC pointed out and I asked, 'How can librarians aid in the movement to stop mass incarceration and how can certain books be promoted more than others, for example, The New Jim Crow, by Michelle Alexander?' Some on the panel addressed the question and said that they agree that we need to find ways to stop mass incarceration but that it is difficult given that they are trying to develop literacy on different levels and also to getting families connected to those in prison. After I asked the question, a Black woman came over, asked for the BAsics handout, walked out and bought the book."
"A librarian from Wyoming talked about how much she teaches critical thinking, and spoke about John Lennon's 'Imagine' as an example for her thinking outside the box. She said her son thinks way beyond the box, to millions of years in the past and into the future and she digs that and wants to convey that kind of imagining to young people who come into the library. She said how this system tries to stifle that kind of thinking and imagination, the thinking that does not adhere to the values of this society. She said how much her family argues with her because she has rejected religion, but she says she is fine with the arguments because she will not go back to being a Roman Catholic. As she bought the book, I told her that BAsics will give her a vision of a world full of creativity and energy, not the degrading culture that is dominant. As she walked away from the table where she signed up to be contacted by RCP Publications, she looked back at the big bright displays of BAsics and had a huge smile on her face."
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
The U.S. Constitution and the Constitution for the
New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)
In January 2011, for the first time, the opening session of the U.S. Congress included a reading of the U.S. Constitution. Tea Party activists had just helped win a significant number of new Republican congressional seats. And this reading was widely acknowledged as a symbolic gesture to emphasize a new Republican rule requiring that all proposed bills must cite text from the U.S. Constitution permitting them to become law.
For 90 minutes, members of Congress, Republicans and Democrats alike, took turns reading the Constitution. But in consultation with the Congressional Research Service and others, they read an edited version of the country’s founding document.
The version they read covered over the fact that the U.S. Constitution was not only written at the time of slavery, but in order to uphold and defend the practice of owning human beings as private property. This version did not include the sections referring to slaves as “three-fifths of all other Persons,” indentured servants “bound to Service for a Term of Years,” and the fugitive-slave clause that required that slaves that escaped to another state be returned to the owner in the state from which they escaped.
* * * * *
It is an ugly exposure of America’s foundations that slavery is openly sanctioned in the U.S. Constitution. But 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. Indeed, since the abolition of slavery, the U.S. Constitution has provided the legal framework for the continuing oppression of Black people.
The National Civil Right Museum in Memphis, Tennessee, provides people with some powerful history of the struggle against this oppression.
Before the Civil War, Memphis, Tennessee, was a major slave market. Auction Square on North Main Street still displays the original plaque which commemorates the two kinds of trade that shaped much of the economy of Memphis at the time—slaves and cotton.
At the National Civil Rights Museum, you can go on a searing and unforgettable journey that deeply and artistically depicts the lives, struggles, resistance, and aspirations for the liberation of Black people in the United States. The museum’s corridors and galleries pull you through hundreds of years of horrific oppression and courageous resistance.
Beginning with the European-controlled slave dungeons on Africa’s western coast in the 17th century, through the savagery of the “middle passage” across the Atlantic, in which millions of African people died, and into the centuries of slavery. Exhibits display the heroic efforts of the Black soldiers who fought for the Union in the U.S. Civil War and the bitter results of emancipation’s betrayal that came not long after that war ended. Then the long nightmare of Jim Crow and legal segregation, the lynch mobs, the rise of the KKK and other racist vigilantes. The museum sweeps a visitor into the upheavals and transformations of the 20th century: the great migrations out of the rural South into the cities of the North and Midwest, the beginnings of the Civil Rights Movement in the ’50s with battles around public education and against the savage lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955.
The heart of the museum focuses on the upheavals of the ’50s and ’60s, struggle that began as the Civil Rights Movement and then erupted into the radical and revolutionary movements for Black Liberation.
Many people who walk through this tour leave it emotionally drained, filled with turbulent and intense emotions, with indelible images of centuries of oppression—and heroic resistance—etched in their memory.
A theme of this museum is that the U.S. Constitution, from its origins and at key junctures, provided a basis for greater and expanding numbers of people to be included in its aims of equal civil rights for everyone—won at the cost of great struggle, sacrifice and bloodshed.
But the question must be asked. What lessons should actually be drawn from this legacy of horrific oppression and courageous resistance? Can the liberation of Black and other oppressed people be won through the provisions and in the framework of the U.S. Constitution? Or is a radical—a revolutionary—leap beyond and away from that framework required for the emancipation of all of humanity, including Black people?
* * * * *
The U.S. Constitution was drafted, debated, and approved by slave owners and exploiters. This is a profound truth about the historical birth of the United States and the character of its founding legal document.
Still many people argue that the U.S. Constitution, despite its origins in a society that practiced slavery, has protected and expanded the political and civil rights of ever broader numbers of people. The Constitution is seen as something that continues to provide the legal foundation and political vision for overcoming existing inequalities and injustices. In particular, the argument goes, Black people in the U.S. have gone from being enslaved to the point where a Black man is president, a development that could only have happened because of the provisions and foundation established by the U.S. Constitution.
This message—that the U.S. Constitution establishes a vision and basis for achieving a society where “everyone is equal”—is profoundly UNTRUE and actually does great harm.
From its writing and adoption in 1787 to today, this Constitution has provided the legal framework and justifications for a society torn by deep inequalities, and the preservation of a whole economic and social setup in which a relatively small number of people rule over an exploitative society, and maintain that dominance. As Bob Avakian has pointed out:
“Over the 200 years that this Constitution has been in force, down to today, despite the formal rights of persons it proclaims, and even though the Constitution has been amended to outlaw slavery where one person actually owns another as property, the U.S. Constitution has always remained a document that upholds and gives legal authority to a system in which the masses of people, or their ability to work, have been used as wealth-creating property for the profit of the few.”
In particular, the subordinate, oppressed—and, for almost a century, enslaved—position of Black people has been sanctioned by this Constitution. And this oppression has been reinforced by laws and court rulings flowing from this Constitution and the social-economic system based on exploitation that it serves.
* * * * *
In 2010 the Revolutionary Communist Party published the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) (CNSRNA). This visionary document is based on the new synthesis of communism developed over decades by Bob Avakian.
|Take a Radical Step into the Future...
This Constitution (Draft Proposal) is written with the future in mind. It is intended to set forth a basic model, and fundamental principles and guidelines, for the nature and functioning of a vastly different society and government than now exists: the New Socialist Republic in North America, a socialist state which would embody, institutionalize and promote radically different relations and values among people; a socialist state whose final and fundamental aim would be to achieve, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world, the emancipation of humanity as a whole and the opening of a whole new epoch in human history–communism–with the final abolition of all exploitative and oppressive relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise.
Buy online at:
revcom.us/socialistconstitution or at amazon (search for: Constitution-Socialist-Republic-America)
Send money orders or checks of $8 plus $2.78 shipping/handling/tax to: RCP Publications, PO Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
This Constitution is nothing less than the framework for a whole new society: a new political system in which the will of the people will be expressed... and a new economic system that will actually be geared to meeting people’s material needs, as well as taking care of the environment and contributing to the revolutionary international process of eliminating all exploitation. Even more fundamentally, this is a framework to advance to a communist world—a world in which exploitation and oppression will be things to read about in history books and people will no longer be divided into antagonistic social groups but will instead live and work together as a freely associating community of human beings all over the planet.
The CNSRNA is a draft proposal for an actual Constitution: the framework, the guiding principles and the processes of a radically new government, a radically new form of state power. We ARE building a movement for revolution—a revolution that WILL put this document into practice. These are the rules of a whole new game... a guide for those who will lead the new power for what to do on Day One, and after.
On the question of doing away with national oppression the Preamble to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) states:
“The New Socialist Republic in North America is a multi-national and multi-lingual state, which is based on the principle of equality between different nationalities and cultures and has as one of its essential objectives fully overcoming national oppression and inequality, which was such a fundamental part of the imperialist USA throughout its history. Only on the basis of these principles and objectives can divisions among humanity by country and nation be finally overcome and surpassed and a world community of freely associating human beings be brought into being. This orientation is also embodied in the various institutions of the state and in the functioning of the government in the New Socialist Republic in North America.”
* * * * *
This article begins a series that will compare and contrast the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)—in relation to the enslavement, oppression and emancipation of African-American people. We encourage readers to discuss and study this series; spread and share it among your friends; get it into the classrooms, communities and prisons; and send us your comments.
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
To the editors:
The article “Outright Piggery from the Camp of Counter-Revolution,” in issue #250, is extremely important. As the article alludes to, these kinds of attacks have, in the past, done a great deal of damage to the revolution. One problem we face is that all too many people are ignorant of just how this went down. So this is part of what I want to go into in this letter. There’s also another form of ignorance we’re dealing with—and that’s that most people today simply have no idea of the whole way in which the powers-that-be have gone after Bob Avakian. And then there’s the whole way in which they—the oppressors—look at leaders who have the potential to rally masses to revolution. So these too are things I want to address here.
There is, among many conscious people, a vague sense—if that—that the government was somehow involved in the killing of Malcolm X, for instance, or that the repression of the Black Panther Party included “setting people against each other.” What is not understood much at all is how the state deployed counter-revolutionary individuals and organizations as a crucial part of this repression and how they were able to take advantage of low standards in the movement to get away with it.
Let’s take the case of Malcolm X. Malcolm originally awoke to political life through the Nation of Islam. Over the course of about a decade he thrust that organization into the national consciousness. But as things developed, Malcolm came to increasingly disagree with many of the fundamental tenets and principles of NOI. NOI voiced militant talk against “the white devil,” which attracted many Black people like Malcolm who burned with rage against the oppression of Black people. But its actual program was profoundly conservative: build up Black-owned business, reinforce the traditional (and oppressive) patriarchal relations between men and women, and generally promote “respectability” among Black people. But what was initially most galling to Malcolm was their stance of refusing to participate in and distancing themselves from the growing movement of protest and resistance that was building up and beginning to burst out from the Black masses. These differences intensified over several years, and during this time Malcolm increasingly promoted a much more militant line and stance against the system, and on that basis came to be seen as an important figure in his own right. These differences led to Malcolm’s silencing by the head of NOI, Elijah Muhammad, and then to his eventual break with the organization.
During this same period, the FBI had undertaken a super-secret program called COINTELPRO (short for counter-intelligence program ). The program targeted groups that were generally resisting the U.S. government’s various and many crimes and it especially went after those who opposed the oppression of Black people. J. Edgar Hoover, the infamous long-time head of the FBI, said that he aimed to prevent “the rise of a Black messiah.” The FBI and other police agencies sent infiltrators into groups, corrupted people into becoming informers, surreptitiously invaded the homes of activists to gather information, and fomented personal antagonisms within and between different groups. They specialized in spreading personal rumors about people and making other ad hominem (personal) attacks. Malcolm X was a prime target of this program. This program overall was utterly illegal and extremely vicious, and was known about by at least hundreds of people in the government for many years; but it only came to light in the early 1970s, when some activists managed to obtain some of the files and exposed them very broadly.
One aspect of these times that is important to understand: Black people in the U.S. were relentlessly defying the system in many different forms, taking mass political action and outright rebelling—and this won the sympathy and support from literally hundreds of millions of people all over the world. This put the U.S. ruling class on the political defensive and challenged their pose as the “great defenders of people’s rights.” If they had to openly crush this movement, they certainly would; and the hundreds of times that they directly used police, federal agencies, the National Guard and even the Army to go after people proves this. But they much preferred to conceal their role. Why? Because they were really worried about losing their democratic cover in the eyes of the world, as well as losing legitimacy within the U.S. To put it differently: one reason they need to use underhanded programs like COINTELPRO is precisely to keep people blinded to the fact that this democracy that they preach about is essentially a dictatorship of the capitalist-imperialist class.
To return to the case of Malcolm X: when Malcolm left the Nation of Islam, NOI launched a vicious personal slander campaign against him. This included all kinds of vitriol, as well as Louis Farrakhan—then a major figure in NOI and now its head—directly saying that Malcolm was “worthy of death.” More generally, Farrakhan and others stirred up a great deal of personal animosity against Malcolm X, running all kinds of slanders and encouraging all kinds of personal grievances against him. This took a toll. Malcolm did not, at that point, have an organization which could take care to protect him; in early 1965 his house, the location of which was publicly known, was firebombed in the middle of night, and Malcolm and his family barely escaped death. Threats mounted. Finally, on February 21, 1965, Malcolm was assassinated. On the day of his assassination, the regular police suddenly left the scene, and thereby provided a clear field for the killers. At the same time, at least five FBI informants were in the room when Malcolm was killed and Malcolm’s main bodyguard was an agent of the New York Police Department (NYPD). Whether the NOI members who carried out slanders against Malcolm X were directly employed by the FBI or not is irrelevant; they created an atmosphere that allowed this kind of thing to go down and that enabled the police agencies to claim that their hands were clean.
To this day, doubt remains about who killed Malcolm. To this day, nearly 50 years later, thousands of FBI and NYPD files concerning their surveillance of Malcolm and other information on their possible roles in this assassination are locked away. To this day, the exact role of the police agencies of the ruling class remains unclear. But what is very clear is that their design of “preventing the rise” of Black leaders while concealing their role in doing that was greatly aided by the campaign of personal slander against Malcolm X.
This COINTELPRO program continued for many years, targeting all kinds of people, but focused especially on revolutionaries. It was a major tool used to go after the Black Panther Party, for instance—again, using the methods of rumor, of personal attack, of distortion and outright lies. COINTELPRO-type slanders and fomenting played a big role in the murder of Black Panther leader Bunchy Carter in L.A. (along with Panther member John Huggins); and the FBI attempted to do something similar in Chicago, forging letters in an attempt to get someone who was alleged to be a major figure in one of the main gangs among Black youth to go after Chicago BPP leader Fred Hampton. (In the latter case, the forgery did not work because the alleged gang leader refused to fall for it; and so the FBI assisted the Chicago police in directly murdering Hampton while he slept at home, utilizing a map that an FBI informant had made of the apartment.)
These kinds of bitter experiences enabled people coming out of that period to understand that while struggle—even sharp struggle—over differences of political and ideological principle is essential, ad hominem attacks and stirring up personal animosity must have no place in the revolutionary movement. They only serve the enemy. The government now claims that COINTELPRO has been ended—but one would have to be very naive indeed to believe that the ruling class police agencies no longer work to disrupt and destroy movements that raise the specter of mass resistance, let alone revolution; and that, as part of that, they no longer make use of people who bear grudges against revolutionary organizations or leaders to pollute the atmosphere and lower standards, or that they no longer aim to manipulate people who may feel they have personal grievances against revolutionary groups or leaders into doing their dirty work.
Yet, as the article “Outright Piggery” makes clear, it is just these kinds of attacks on the RCP, USA and in particular on Bob Avakian that have become a major focus of the Kasama website and of Mike Ely, including attacks that he launches on other websites. There are the ad hominem attacks on BA; and there is the general way in which any standards of revolutionary integrity—including the integrity of revolutionary organizations and the necessity and right of those organizations to maintain privacy on confidential matters—are shredded by Ely and his minions.
There’s a further lesson to draw from the assassination of Malcolm X. There was not back then a major concerted effort by others to stand up and say “STOP” to this stuff. There was not a major effort to insist on a principled airing of political and ideological differences rather than personal attacks. There was not a wall of people willing to stand up before Malcolm was killed to say that this must stop and that this man must be allowed to do this work as a leader, to function as a human being, and to live. There were plenty of people who valued Malcolm, or who thought he played an important role, even if they may not have agreed with some or even much of his message. But there was not nearly enough stepping forward from such people. Eulogies may be inspiring, but a firm public statement calling on NOI to stop this madness and pledging to have Malcolm’s back would have counted infinitely more than after-the-fact regrets. This underlines the importance of the point in the article (“Outright Piggery From the Camp of Counter-Revolution”) that “There is a need for those who are serious about fighting to bring about a different world to set and insist on some standards for the movements that will not tolerate this kind of counter-revolutionary activity.”
Again, we must emphasize: the problem in the case of Malcolm X was not that Malcolm and the Nation of Islam fully set before all their differences. The problem is that instead of doing that, the NOI turned this whole thing into a vendetta against Malcolm as an individual.
It is also important, in thinking about the situation that the “Piggery” article points to, to recall the history of this government against Bob Avakian. Much of this is documented in BA’s memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond. Here you can see actual FBI memos of minute-by-minute surveillance of Avakian, a photo of his house taken from FBI files, and a note from the FBI director in 1972 that “this is the kind of extremist I want to go after HARD and with innovation.” Here there is described the way in which one particular agent drew up a diagram of Avakian’s house—a diagram similar to the type supplied by an FBI informant to the Chicago police to enable them to carry through the murder of Black Panther leader Fred Hampton in 1969, while he slept in his bed. Here you can learn about how BA was targeted after a demonstration in Washington, D.C. that had become an “international incident,” exposing the counter-revolution in China at a time when the U.S. was intent on forging an alliance with these counter-revolutionaries. In reaction, the government brought charges against Avakian that carried a potential jail time of over 200 years! (Let us note here that there was no basis stated other than his being identified as “the leader” for these outrageous charges.) The memoir recounts how a journalist set Avakian up for Secret Service harassment and extremely serious legal charges by totally fabricating a quote; this required a sharp battle in the political and legal arenas to force at least a partial retraction and make the government back off. And during this time there was also the murder of Damian Garcia, a publicly known member of the Party who had courageously raised the red flag at the Alamo, right in the middle of carrying out revolutionary political work—another one of those murders which the government was able to murk up, even as it later came out that an undercover pig of the Los Angeles Police Department was on the spot when the assassination went down.
At the same time, there is the significance of the work that BA is doing. Avakian has not only never given up on revolution, he has insisted on carrying it forward—and for this the rulers of this country will not forgive him. He has continued to tackle the biggest questions that face our movement—and humanity—about how to get free of exploitation, and all forms of oppression. He continues the work of going thoroughly over the revolutions of the past and getting deeply into the problems and obstacles and most vexing questions of the present, and future. This work has created the foundation for a new stage of communist revolution—coming back in the face of defeats first in the Soviet Union and then in China, at a time when the world more than ever needs a revolution. And there’s his whole role in leading a party that is actually setting its sights on leading the masses to make revolution, when the conditions emerge to do so, and doing all it can today to prepare the ground for that.
As we said, the powers-that-be don’t forgive this. And it seems that there are also those who either once were revolutionaries or who otherwise claim to be radical who also won’t forgive this... and who have taken up a methodical campaign of vicious personal attacks, along with a campaign to lower standards of organizational integrity, in response.
If anybody thinks that the powers-that-be have somehow “changed their spots” on this, please. It was just a few years ago that Donald Rumsfeld, Secretary of Defense under Bush, invoked the example of the great revolutionary communist leader V.I. Lenin in justifying extraordinary government powers to go after individuals—after all, he so much as said, wouldn’t imperialism have been better off if they had taken out Lenin before he got a mass following? And now there’s Obama—whose Attorney General has just claimed extraordinary powers for the executive to assassinate people whom he decides are threats, and justified this with the outlandish claim that certain people are not entitled to judicial process—two claims that even Bush did not invoke. This system has not changed its fundamental character.
At the same time, some things have changed since the ’60s and ’70s—unfortunately, for the worse. On the one hand, the lessons of that period have grown blurry for many who lived through it, and are unknown to many who didn’t. On the other hand, there is the rise of the Internet—this makes it possible for someone like Ely, who makes it his mission to destroy BA, to do a great deal more damage today simply due to the way the Internet can amplify the voice of someone like Ely. Haven’t we seen, through horrible incidents like the murder of the abortion doctor George Tiller, the damage that can be done by the kind of ad hominem attacks and incitement that go on in this realm?
There is also the tabloid culture which, combined with the way that relativism permeates the culture (nobody can say what’s true or not, it’s all a matter of personal narrative), has seriously corroded people’s understanding of what is important, and what is garbage, leading them to slaver at the prospect of innuendo and rumor and so-called inside information, all of which is unsubstantiated and unsubstantiable, and to fail to get into the actual debates over principle which are essential.
What is urgently needed is something different: a culture which says NO to all that, and insists on focusing on questions of principle. A culture which calls out the likes of Kasama—making clear that there is no place for this kind of shit, whether it comes from them or others, in the movement. A culture which will protect revolutionary leaders and enable them to do their work, to function and to live.
The fact is that the other side is NOT all-powerful—and one thing that we can and must do proactively is to create and insist on and fight for a movement culture that does not descend into gossip and personal attacks, or into trading in and revealing supposed “secret information.” By doing so, we deprive these oppressors of one of their favorite weapons in going after the movement and demoralizing the people. And again, it should not need repeating, but I’ll repeat it anyway—this should go along with, and actually facilitate, a robust atmosphere of lively, hard-hitting struggle over principle, over ideological and political differences.
Fighting for this is not something that can wait; it is essential. And fighting for this is not “the thing” of a few people, or just one force; it matters for everyone. It is a question of either objectively assisting the repressive forces of all kinds, or resisting; there is not a middle ground.
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
In the early morning hours of March 11, villagers in the Panjwai district, a very poor area of Kandahar in south Afghanistan, were hit with a bloody rampage that left 16 dead—nine children, four women, and three men. The perpetrator of this terror was a U.S. Army sergeant from an American base near the village.
It was 3 a.m. and most of the villagers were in their houses, asleep. The killer pulled one boy from his sleep, dragged him to the doorway, and shot him dead, one survivor remembered. Then he came back inside and put a gun inside the mouth of another child.
And the soldier went to another village, where he killed more people. Some victims, including children, had stab wounds. Gul Bashra, mother of a two-year-old victim, said, “They [Americans] killed a child who was two years old. Was this child a Taliban? Believe me, I have not seen a two-year-old Taliban yet.”
Abdul Samad lost 11 members of his family, including his wife and eight children, all shot in the head. The U.S. soldier poured a chemical over some of the bodies and burned them. The family had returned to the area recently, after fleeing in 2009 because of the violence caused by the “surge” in U.S. troops and military operations ordered by President Obama. The area was now safe, they were told. “Our government told us to come back to the village, and then they let the Americans kill us,” Samad said.
The U.S. kept the killer’s identity secret for a few days, and then brought him back to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas. He has now been identified as Staff Sgt. Robert Bales and has been charged under U.S. military law with 17 counts of murder and six counts of attempted murder.
Obama said about the massacre, “The killing of innocent civilians is outrageous, and it’s unacceptable. It’s not who we are as a country, and it does not represent our military.” Just the opposite is true. Far from being “unacceptable” to those who rule this country, there is a long, ugly history of depraved and ruthless acts against the people by U.S. troops serving the interests of those rulers, from the beginning of this country to the present.
To give just a few examples from this monstrous record:
No, the March 11 massacre in Kandahar was NOT an “aberration” or just a matter of a “rogue” soldier who may have “snapped” from too much stress. This latest U.S. outrage is linked to and exposes a military culture in which troops are taught and trained to become cold-blooded torturers and killers in service of the aims and needs of U.S. imperialism through wars of conquest. A military culture in which “the enemy” is viewed and treated as sub-human—as “gooks” and “ragheads” and “hadjis” who deserve the atrocities brought down on them. This is applied not just to enemy combatants, but to whole civilian populations, including children and especially women who, as “trophies of war,” are the victims of rape, mutilation, and gruesome murders.
U.S. officials claim the Kandahar massacre was an act of a “lone gunman acting on his own.” There is a whole long history of U.S. attempts to cover up massacres committed by its troops in Afghanistan and elsewhere—so no one should believe what Obama, his generals, and their mouthpieces say about this incident.
But whatever the case, this latest U.S. massacre is NOT a result of just a “lone gunman.” The sergeant was a part of a force of some 100,000 U.S. troops who occupy this oppressed country with tremendous brutality and terror—both high-tech, using Predator drones and other ultra-modern weaponry, as well as vicious killings, rapes, tortures, and other atrocities on the ground. And the troops in Afghanistan are part of a force that employs reactionary violence around the globe to enforce and extend the interests of the U.S. empire.
The U.S. military and the allied NATO forces in Afghanistan—and the way they fight—are in the most basic sense defined by the exploitative and oppressive world relations they represent and enforce. The U.S. war in Afghanistan is a war of empire, a war of domination, a war AGAINST the real interests of the people of Afghanistan. That is why brutality, murder, and civilian massacres remain as core elements of their war.
It is long past time for people broadly in the U.S. to face up to the crimes being carried out—in their name—in the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere. The choice is clear: complicity in these horrors through silence and willful ignorance—or standing up for what’s right and with the people of the world, and building mass opposition to the U.S. wars, as part of the struggle against this whole murderous capitalist-imperialist system.
Revolution #264 April 1, 2012
As millions confront and discuss the horror of the murder of Trayvon Martin and tens of thousands take to the streets in outraged protest, this issue of Revolution newspaper needs to be in the midst of it all. Nowhere else will people get the cold truth of what happened to Trayvon Martin and how crimes like this flow from the very nature of the U.S. as a capitalist-imperialist power, and how white supremacy has been built into the very foundations of this country from its very beginning. Nowhere else will this bitter truth be linked to the liberating possibilities of communist revolution for a new world where the new power will unleash people to uproot oppressive relations, not to defend and reinforce them. And no other paper will connect people with the actual movement for revolution, and the leadership of Bob Avakian and the RCP.
Getting Revolution out widely can help transform the initial anger about Trayvon into a growing questioning of the legitimacy of the system, and help fuel the growth of the movement for revolution.
Make this happen! Order (and pay for) 20, 50 or 100 papers to bring to work or school, to rallies, marches and forums. Sell it boldly in the street and at protests, leave copies around town or campus, in places where people gather and talk. Email it, post it on Facebook, tweet it. Spread Revolution. Everywhere.
We look forward to hearing about people's experiences in taking out this issue of Revolution. Send reports and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org.
No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that.