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Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
We Are All Trayvon Martin
The Whole Damn System is Guilty!
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This PDF of the centerfold of the print edition of Revolution #265 has corrected an error which said that April 10 is the day the charges might be brought against the murderer of Trayvon Martin.
“You think if I shot some white kid walking down my street they’d say I was just standing my ground? I’d be in jail, we all know that. Actually, I’d probably be dead. But it seem like more of this is coming to light than they want. Zimmerman had a big ass gun. A gun meant to kill people. They got a whole system set up to protect this kind of shit. But a lot of shit has come out into the open they don’t intend to be out in the open. And people don’t like it.”
—A veteran in his 60s who has lived in Florida his whole life
“It could have been anybody. A lot of kids walk from stores. I think this is very much a stereotype. Like he [Zimmerman] said on the tape, ‘oh yeah, this guy’s definitely up to no good.’ How? Why? What made you say that? Nothing, all right! This shit happen all the time. Yeah, all the time in the neighborhood, when the police just stop us. They slam us for no reason and shit. Say we got weed and shit. That shit’s fucked up. How they going slam us for? They some sorry fucks.”
—A youth from Miami
“This [the murder of Trayvon and the police coverup] could be like what they were doing to people in Germany, for all we know.”
—A young man taking a course in world history in high school
and had studied Nazi persecution of Jews
“Young people like Trayvon can’t keep getting killed for no reason. I’m ready to look at anything to try to figure this out and come up with some answers.”
—A young woman from Florida A&M who organized
and participated in protests on her campus
“Yeah, I did the walkout. I led the walkout. I had my big poster. What did it feel like? It felt like a sense of clarity. But at the same time I wasn’t getting no sense of justice. We went on a long ass walk. And it’s gonna happen again. Cuz I’m fixing to walk until my feet bleed.”
—A youth from Miami
The murder of Trayvon Martin stings. It is an outrage on top of countless outrages. And it is right, and inspiring, that in Sanford, Florida—and all over—people are determined that this is not gonna go down. This time some of the anger of those for whom this system has no future, and the reality behind that anger, are cutting through the whitewash, the coverup, the lies. This time people are breaking through the fear that the murder of so many Black youth by police (or wannabe police) is supposed to instill and enforce. The hoodie has become a badge of honor.
How is it that in this day and age, the murder of Trayvon Martin is not an isolated incident but yet another in a long line of killing Black people, especially youth? It is because these crimes are encouraged, carried out, and justified by a system. But this time, many people are saying we cannot let this go on any more—not just this one incident, terrible as it is, but the whole damn thing. And that is so important, and so inspiring.
At the same time—this is a moment to seize—a moment to build a movement to really and finally put an end to all the horrors that come from this system.
Listen to the voices on this page. Think about the reality. If the powers-that-be can get away with this, what won’t they get away with? The days of half-stepping and tired played-out illusions that someone somewhere in the power structure is going to change anything real—those days need to be gone.
Make APRIL 10 a DAY OF OUTRAGE! Seize the time, wherever and whenever there is a chance, to act with daring and creativity. And have all that feed into a movement that will not stop until the whole system that is responsible for the deaths of so many, here and around the world, is no more.
Within that, the revolution must be out there, connecting with people’s outrage and helping people find ways to make a powerful political statement that this is not gonna go down. Get out to the neighborhoods where people are seething with anger... locked down in the housing projects, ghettos and barrios. Play Bob Avakian’s talk, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About and his spoken word piece, “All Played Out.” Get bundles of Revolution newspaper into the hands of everyone who really wants change. And help the people find creative ways to make a political statement so powerful that nobody can ignore it.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
May Day 2012... the world is a horror for billions, but it doesn't have to be this way. Another world is possible, and in the face of this horror, the international proletariat, and people across this country and the world, declare their determination to fight for a world free of exploitation and oppression.
May Day 2012... the Occupy movement, refusing to accept the world as it is, has called for demonstrations on May 1 to advance that movement.
May Day 2012... a time when, as we raise big money, we promote and popularize the work and vision of Bob Avakian to all corners of society. Because of BA and the work he has done over several decades summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal. People everywhere need this; the world needs this. There is no more fitting way to celebrate May 1 this year than to take BA's vision out there, into the neighborhoods and onto the campuses. And to take BA Everywhere into the Occupy movement and other sites of protest and questioning...
May Day 2012... the campaign to raise big money to get BA's vision and works into every corner of society moves into full gear. Raising these funds will not only make the difference in making Bob Avakian a household word, but as we have written before, "Fundraising—if it's done right—does two things. It 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."
First, Revolution is excited to announce we will be publishing a special issue that features quotes from BA that focus on internationalism and revolution. This should be something we get out very broadly beginning on Tuesday, April 24, and stretching through the whole period around the holiday.
Then beginning Saturday, April 28, for four defiant days we will be fighting for and promoting, living and, yes, celebrating—in the streets and with culture and fun—a vision of internationalism, revolution, a whole new and far better world... and the vision, strategy, and revolutionary communist leadership we have to get there. In these days, BA Everywhere—and the raising of big money—is going to gather up all those who have participated in this campaign and bust out all over in new ways.
The BAsics Bus Tour will take off—and in a big way again in early May—and funds are urgently needed. Imagine this: the BAsics bus rolling into the thick of the struggle in a particularly hot area in this country. Imagine this: the BAsics bus bringing the message of revolution to places where people are beginning to fight the power and defy the authorities. Raising money to make this possible will be an important focus of the fundraising efforts from now through the four days beginning at the end of April. $15,000 and more is needed by the end of the May Day wave. We urge all our readers again to read and spread the Revolution coverage of the BAsics Bus Tour pilot project in raising money for the next round. And be sure to get your hands on our next issue which will announce the route of the tour!
Plans are still building to really bust a move with BA Everywhere in these days. Here's what those four days will look like:
Saturday, April 28
On Saturday, all across the country people will be setting out to loft BA Everywhere to a whole different place, creating and seizing on every opportunity to put BA, his work and vision, before thousands. Reach out broadly to involve people! Decorate a van. Organize a car caravan and think creatively. Find ingenious ways to reach thousands of people who have not yet heard of BA and his work, whether you live in a major metropolitan area or a smaller city or rural area. Get BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian into the hands of people all over. Film these outings to contribute to publicizing BA Everywhere... everywhere. Figure out creative ways to get media coverage. And distribute and post (with permission) Revolution newspaper and creative promotional materials everywhere.
Sunday, April 29
The next day, April 29, celebratory May Day fundraising dinners will be held in cities and towns all over the place. Let's look to and celebrate a different and far better future. These can draw in the people who participated on April 28, but also many new people who only heard of BA and BA Everywhere the day before. A highlight of these celebrations will be the announcement of summer plans to make new advances in BA Everywhere! And good food and lively discussion could be punctuated with clips from BA's Revolution Talk, music, spoken word—including BA's "All Played Out"—and more.
Collectivities of people can begin now to raise money and prepare food or win restaurants to donate food for these May Day celebrations. A wide range of artists can be won to performing their work at the celebrations. Tickets should be printed up as soon as possible for the dinners, and this should also be a way to reconnect with the many people who have already participated in the campaign, in the movement to get BA Everywhere.
Monday, April 30
A day of getting back to people we have met over the weekend and in the days leading up to that weekend—mobilizing and gathering forces and preparing for internationalist contingents that will join in May 1 demonstrations being organized by the Occupy movement in many cities across the country.
Tuesday, May 1
Occupiers throughout this country continue to refuse to go along with the way things are in this society, and this May 1, the Occupy movements in many, many cities have called for May 1 demonstrations. In the face of the repression and the concerted and coordinated efforts of the powers-that-be to stamp out this movement, people will again be stepping out, defying those who have tried to shut this movement down with violent repression. The internationalist contingents need to be there in the midst of it, helping to strengthen these demonstrations and bringing their own resolve and determination to fight for a better future for all of humanity into them. And as a part of that, the contingents will bring the special issue of Revolution with the BA quotes on internationalism and revolution into the mix, and will broadly distribute "Reflection on the ‘Occupy' Movement: An Inspiring Beginning... And the Need to Go Further" by BA. (Revolution #250, November 13, 2011)
May 1... A day for Fighting the Power, and Transforming the People, for Revolution.
Beginning now, plans can be made and active work done to build for a truly electrifying May Day wave of taking BA Everywhere. Beginning now, let's find diverse and creative means to let whole communities in your area know the revolutionaries are coming. Notify the press—and in a hundred other ways on the ground—create anticipation for the time when BA Everywhere is going to arrive in the communities and towns.
Throughout the month of April, funds must be raised and a community of people who are committed in different ways to spreading BA Everywhere must be forged. Since this campaign was launched, many people have been touched by BA Everywhere, engaged with BAsics and made important contributions to the campaign... from donating to produce the film Occasioned by BAsics: A Celebration of Revolution & The Vision of a New World, to raising money to get BAsics to prisoners, to fundraising events and projects to finance the BAsics Bus Tour, and more. We should reach out to and involve all those who came to the conferences which launched the BA Everywhere campaign. We should reach out to and involve all those who donated to making the Occasioned by BAsics... film and to those who donated to the pilot project of the BAsics Bus Tour. And we should reach out to and involve the people the BAsics Bus Tour met along its way.
Building for and acting on these four defiant and celebratory days can and should be a real re-gathering of people, along with bringing forward new people, a real expression of community, a real way for people to plug in... an open door to getting involved on many different levels.
As people look to May Day 2012 and bust out this campaign in a new way, we call on people to put their energies to ongoing fundraising. Yes, in the midst of the outbreaks of protest, but also in organizing other BA Everywhere fundraising—yard and bake sales, salons and house parties, and more. Let's aim, in this month, to meet and draw in many more people who can contribute in different ways.
Each week, this growing movement will be able to read about, learn from others across the country, and share their own experience in the pages of Revolution. People will be able to learn from each other how to recognize and seize on new openings and opportunities. And people can look forward to and fundraise for the launching of the BAsics Bus Tour in May; once again, Revolution calls on people to volunteer to join the tour. Contact your local Revolution Books or send your application to RCP Publications, PO Box 3486, Chicago IL, 60654; email@example.com.
On to May Day 2012!
BA Everywhere... Imagine the Difference It Will Make!
Because if we succeed with this—if we collectively raise enough money to make it concretely possible to project the whole BA vision and project into all corners of society and to introduce him and what he is bringing forward to millions who are not yet familiar with his works and vision; if the framework he is bringing forward and advocating for becomes increasingly debated and wrangled over by thousands and by millions of people from all walks of life; if, together, we manage to accomplish this, this will actually make a very big difference. The whole social and political culture will "breathe" more freely, people will wrangle passionately over "big questions" concerning the direction of society (like knowing that much of the future of humanity hangs in the balance) and the times will once again resonate with big dreams for fundamental change and the emancipation of humanity.
—"BA Everywhere... Imagine the Difference It Will Make!"
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
Editors' Note: The following is from the talk "Why We're in the Situation We're in Today...And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution," one of the 7 Talks given by Bob Avakian in 2006. Audio of the 7 Talks, plus the Question and Answer Session, with Concluding Remarks, is available at bobavakian.net. In preparing this for publication, the author has edited and expanded parts of it, and has included subheads and footnotes.
In order to understand what the problem is in the world, there are two words we could focus on. Those two words are: "preliminary transformation." These are words that Frederick Engels used in describing how capitalism operates—in explicating Marx's great breakthroughs in uncovering the nature of capitalist production and accumulation. Or, to convey more fully what Marx was getting at, we could expand this focus slightly to include the four words: "preliminary transformation into capital."
Now, what Marx was talking about, and what's crucial to grasp, is that specifically in the sphere of economics—which is the foundation of all societies, and of all systems—in order for anything to be done within the realm of capitalism, and in line with the dynamics of capitalism, social wealth (money or whatever) has to undergo a preliminary transformation into capital. In other words, if you're talking about building housing, for example, under capitalism, this has to be done through the dynamics of how the capitalist system operates—there has to be investment in a way that turns that investment into capital. Now what do I mean by capital? Most fundamentally: control over and use of the labor power (the ability to work) of others, and the utilization of that labor power to produce profit that is accumulated privately. Let's break that down.
Say, for example, you have a stack of money: how do you make it undergo the "preliminary transformation into capital?" Money just sitting there doing nothing is not capital—it's just money. If it were money in the hands of a socialist government, we'd say: what are the social needs and how do we apply this accumulated wealth to meet those social needs in the context of everything else that we have to take into account? We wouldn't have to undergo the preliminary transformation into capital. But a capitalist, or a capitalist system, fundamentally cannot do that. Particular capitalists have to say: how can we invest this in labor power, as well as in raw materials, in means of transportation, and so on, in a way which will be most profitable for us? The defining feature of capitalism is profit in command—and profit accumulated privately. That's why Marx referred to the accumulation of surplus value (or profit) as "Moses and the prophets" of the capitalist system. You have to pursue the accumulation of profit—and it essentially has to take place in the form of private capital and profit in private hands.1
So, in order for something to happen under capitalism—such as, again, housing being built—whatever would be allocated to that has to undergo this preliminary transformation into capital; it has to be transformed into the investment of capital, into the means of production and into labor power, which are under the control of particular capitalists. And then, as the Sherlock Holmes character would say, "the game's afoot." Then the question is: can you make back what you invested, what you transformed into capital—can you recoup that, plus an additional amount? You are not operating in the abstract or in a vacuum, you are operating in conditions of competition with other capitalists—and, increasingly under the capitalist system, you are dealing with monopolies, with large scale and international aggregations and associations of capital. So you cannot just say: "We have a social need, housing, let's apply money to build housing." You have to undergo that preliminary transformation—to turn things into capital and then see if that capital can be more profitably employed in building housing, or in something else. And you can lose—when I say "the game's afoot," you can lose the whole thing. You are investing in buildings, and other means of production, and each individual capitalist or aggregate or association of capital is doing the same thing—turning whatever they've accumulated, whatever they have at hand, into capital—not just investing in means of production (such as buildings in which to carry out production) but, again, purchasing labor power, to try to more intensively and extensively exploit the workers who are employed by that capital, whose labor power has been purchased by that capital and is now being used by the capitalist, and is the sole means through which more wealth can be produced and accumulated as capital. You are doing all this in order to complete the process of re-accumulating wealth: recouping your initial investment—but not just that—beyond that, accumulating wealth on a bigger scale. The point is, you cannot just say: "Let's chart up all the social needs, let's see how much we have available to us and, through a process of political decision-making, let's allocate what we think is the best and wisest allocation of resources to the various social needs we can identify." You cannot do that under capitalism, because there's that necessary step of "preliminary transformation into capital," and then the drive, the competitive drive—the drive conditioned by competition with other capitalists seeking to do the same thing—to recoup that capital not just on the scale on which it was originally invested (the scale on which you originally transformed things into capital) but on a bigger scale (again, based on the exploitation of wage labor) in order to, in turn, repeat the process, in competition with everyone else doing the same thing.
Capital will, it must, chase the most profitable investment—that is the nature of capitalism—and if it's not most profitable to build housing, you won't do it even if you can identify a great social need. Or you will not take into account environmental concerns, because (as Raymond Lotta has pointed out a number of times in talks and writings published in Revolution) such environmental concerns are considered "externalities" from the point of view of capitalism. Such concerns don't figure into the calculations that I was just speaking of. These are somebody else's concern, somewhere else.
Well, some people might say, the capitalists do have a government and they do have "wise people," above and beyond individual competing capitalists who are conditioned and driven by the need to go through this "preliminary transformation into capital" and then the need to have it reassume the form of capital on a higher level, in the form of profit. There's a government there—even under capitalism, why can't the government identify the social needs, get the revenue it needs, and then apply the revenue to meet those social needs, even while private capital is doing what it does? Why can't the government curb and restrict and control capital so that it doesn't get completely out of hand? Well, let's just briefly walk this through.
Alright, where does the government get its money from (to put it simply, to boil it down to simple terms)? Well, it can get it by borrowing—but then that has to be repaid, and with interest, so that in and of itself is not a money-making venture for the government. When it sells bonds and similar things for its borrowing activity, those are purchased usually by banks, or other financial institutions, and those bonds have to be repaid with interest. The government could also print more money; in the final analysis, however, simply doing that doesn't create more wealth but contributes to reducing the value of the currency. Ultimately, in order to meet its financial requirements, the government has to raise revenue that is larger than what it already has. How does it do that? Through taxes. Now, on what basis does the government tax? It taxes private citizens, and it does tax businesses and corporations. And in turn all that cumulative money, from which the government could tax, depends ultimately, under the system of capitalism, on the profitability of capital investment. If the capitalist economy is not doing well, not profiting, the wages of workers will go down; and therefore, the money you can tax from them will be less. The earnings of the petite bourgeoisie—the small business owners and small traders, and so on—will go down, and the profits of the corporations will go down. And the money you can tax from them will be less.
Ultimately, what the government can raise—even in the sphere in which it might seek to, in a certain sense, "stand above" competing capitalists and address social needs—this still depends upon the profitability of the system, on the operation of capitalism in an overall sense. It still depends on that process which begins with the preliminary transformation into capital and aims to end up with more capital than was initially invested through that preliminary transformation. So, even the contexts and the limits and confines within which the government can address social needs depends, in an ultimate and fundamental sense, on the profitability of capitalism. The government is not free, even within this limited sphere, to say: "What is social need?—let's raise the money and then let's apply it to the social needs." Because, after all, taxes are in fact in conflict with profitability for discrete, individual aggregations of capital—corporations and banks, and so on. Taxes are in conflict with that.2 Now, to the degree that capitalists can recognize the larger interests of their class, and to the degree they have the freedom to do so because their profitability is great enough at a particular time, they can, under many circumstances, be prevailed upon to accept certain taxation. But it's always working against this whole other drive which is fundamental to this system—a drive which takes place not through just one big capitalist sitting somewhere deciding on investments, but through competing aggregations of capital which will drive each other under.
This is not just happening in one country, it's happening internationally—and even if you regulated what the capitalists could do in a particular country, that regulation would break down because of the international dynamics in which capitalism is embedded in this era in particular, this era of capitalist imperialism. The capitalists in your country would be undermined and driven under by other capitalists, in other countries, who didn't have those constraints on them, if you imposed constraints (such as taxes) beyond a certain point in a particular country. Plus, capitalism operates on a gigantic scale and speculates on a gigantic scale and is highly parasitic on a whole international level anyway. And, once again, ultimately—not in a linear or simplistic sense, but ultimately—the economics will determine the politics. If you constrict and constrain the capitalists too much, there will arise among them conscious representatives who will get rid of you and bring forward other representatives of the ruling class who will not do that to them. You see this battled out all the time within the ranks of the capitalists and through their political system. There is the political expression of this and then, if you dig more deeply, you can see it in terms of how it goes on behind the scenes—not in open political contestation so much, but behind the scenes.
The reason "life is not fair" is because the capitalist system operates according to certain dynamics. And one of them is that most of the people in the world scramble to have barely enough to eat—or don't succeed in having enough to eat. That is daily existence for the majority of humanity. Now, if you step back from it, you would say to yourself: "Well, what could be more basic than the right to eat, what is more essential to life than the basic right to eat—and to have some shelter, and to have clothes—but, in a concentrated sense, the right to eat, what could be more basic?" How can it be that you have a world in which there is no right to eat? In which the great majority of humanity either does not have enough to eat or has to scuffle everyday to get enough to eat. How can that be? Especially amidst all the wealth there is in the world that surrounds and mocks people at every turn. Once again, materialism, dialectical materialism, teaches us that this is because of the fundamental production relations of capitalism: the fundamental contradiction of capitalism between the socially produced wealth—wealth that is created by large numbers of people working in networks of production—and the private accumulation of that wealth by aggregations of competing capitalists.
This is fundamentally related to the phenomenon that's described by "preliminary transformation into capital." It is driven by the need of capital to reproduce itself, and on an expanded scale—not to reproduce and expand social wealth to be distributed according to the needs of the people, but to reproduce itself as capital on an expanded scale.
There's a vast difference between reproducing wealth on an expanded scale which can be and is applied to meet social needs, and reproducing wealth on an expanding basis as capital. In understanding that difference you understand fundamental things about why the world is the way it is and how it could be radically different.
1. Even if we're talking about state capitalism as it existed in the Soviet Union for a time—from the time of Khrushchev, beginning in the mid-1950s, until the end of the Soviet Union itself, at the beginning of the 1990s—even under the state form, while the state played the centralizing and key role in regard to the economy and the accumulation of capital, nevertheless that capital in fact consisted of particular and competing capitals—through different regional ministries, through different sectors of the economy and those who had the predominant influence in those sectors, etc. So "the one social capital of the state" in turn was made up of many and competing capitals. This has to do with the fundamental nature and dynamics of capitalism, which will assert themselves and have effect once the essential "law" (the "Moses and the prophets") of capitalism—the drive for the accumulation of profit above all else, and in particular above social need—has assumed the commanding role. [back]
2. While taxes do underwrite the vital functions of government that serve the larger, longer-term, and more strategic interests of capital, like the preservation and extension of empire, and while certain government activities may directly or indirectly enhance the overall profitability of capital, it remains the case that taxes are in conflict with profitability for individual aggregations of capital. [back]
Revolution #265 April 8, 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 #265 April 8, 2012
The Bob Avakian Institute is a nonprofit institute organized for educational purposes. Its mission is to preserve, project, and promote the works and vision of Bob Avakian with the aim of reaching the broadest possible audience. In furtherance of its mission, The Bob Avakian Institute financially supports projects aimed at Spreading BA Everywhere.
At this time, donations can only be solicited and accepted from residents of the following states: California, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Nevada, New York, Texas, Vermont, Washington, Wyoming. All donations from these states are greatly appreciated.
Checks or money orders may be made out and mailed to:
The Bob Avakian Institute
(or The BA Institute—either name is acceptable)
1016 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60607
Please be aware that The Bob Avakian Institute is not tax exempt and donations made to it are not tax deductible.
Coming soon—how to contribute online to The Bob Avakian Institute.
As our website is currently under construction, for disclosure statements, please write to us.
Revolution #265 April 8, 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 #265 April 8, 2012
In a near-packed lecture hall at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, some 160 people came out to hear a debate between Raymond Lotta and Glenn Loury. The topic was "Socialism vs. Capitalism: The Way Forward in the 21st Century." The event was sponsored by the Janus Forum. Glenn Loury is a professor of economics at Brown. An ardent advocate of free-market economics, Loury is also an outspoken critic of the mass incarceration of Black and Latino youth. Raymond Lotta articulated Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism and talked about how the new synthesis is embodied in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
In the question-and-answer period with the audience, there was lively back-and-forth on the housing crisis and what that says about the functioning of the market, how the new Constitution treats jury trials, whether there is a hard-wired human nature, what actually happened during the Great Leap Forward in Maoist China, intellectual property rights and medical care in today's world, racism in America and whether capitalism can be changed through incremental reform.
This was a sharp and substantive debate. People were exposed to Bob Avakian's new synthesis in an atmosphere of serious exchange and close questioning. Many found this quite challenging. The video of the debate can be viewed below or at Brown University's Political Theory Project site.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
Clyde Young and a person who rode on the BAsics Bus Tour (Pilot Project) went to an inner-city high school and spent two days in five classes talking about mass incarceration, showing clips of the "BA Everywhere" DVD (the part showing BA in '69 at a Black Panther Party rally, in '79, and from his Revolution Talk), reading quotes from BAsics, and getting into some amazing discussions with students.
As part of kicking off the presentations and getting the students' juices flowing the teacher asked a question in every class that students responded to. "When people go to jail/prison is it mostly their fault (personal responsibility) or mostly a result of their environmental circumstance?"
The class quickly got into discussing revolution and communism through using quotes from BAsics to illustrate and expand on some of what we were talking about. We would read the first quote and also read a few others including 1:18. This got the class into a really lively discussion with the students who articulated their positions. Some would say they agree with communism and chose it as their topic for the project they were doing. They wanted to know how it would be possible to accomplish something like that under current conditions where if given the chance people wouldn't want to work and everyone would get paid the same. One student said that the system was "prepared to smash the movement of people," having learned from what happened to the Black Panther Party. The teacher jumped in and said that "when you have a majority the system can't easily do that." One young Latina was very excited to have us in the class. She spoke up with her question, which was something that she had been thinking about since we started. "What about after the revolution?" she wanted to know. "What do you do when you are in power?" She mentioned Cuba and Fidel Castro and Venezuela and Hugo Chavez and said, "Do you want power to oppress people as they are doing?" She said she is "really into revolution" but is held back by how all this is going to get done. She asked, "Why don't you educate people to get out of the ghetto?" which got a positive response from the class.
After the classes the students wrote a paragraph of what they were thinking. These comments are very rich and show the depth of what these students are thinking when you bring them BA, revolution, and communism. Here are a few of the 70 statements we got (they have been slightly edited):
"I think that the youth of now in days feel that a lot of the things that you mentioned today will not change because we are used to not getting any real change around here. People in (this ghetto/barrio) are used to disappointment so they don't want to try anymore. Even though people know there is a problem going on they don't want to realize it because the fear of what might happen to them if they dared to change anything. Until people start standing up for themselves there is not going to be no change."
"This lecture was really interesting that was basically true because my family always have to run from the police and ICE. Sometimes I think about going to the marines but since after this (class discussion) im truly undecided now of what I truly want to do with my life, but I know I would take it in my mind."
"Does the revolution have to be communism? How do you fight the obstacles and still be a revolutionary?"
"I enjoyed this little lecture on communism. I would like there to be more people who are interested in this. Personally I would like to know more about this movement and where it is headed. I found myself in agreement with most of what the presenters beliefs were and I hope to learn more so maybe I could spread your message. If there is any newsletter or source of communication between you guys then I would like to be a part of it."
"I feel the ideas they have are goo(d). But the idea of having a communist revolution seems radical. My question is, will people actually go with this idea or will it be a few people? I like that Clyde told us about his history and did not sugar coat things. He came and said everything we should know about him. The ideas they had about communism made me think of a different view on the U.S."
"The lesson plan today was really good, the guy knew what he was saying and he had a whole lot of interesting facts that actually made sense to me. I thought obama was representing us but he is truly representing the rich people."
"We talked about which system of government would be better out of capitalism or communism. Me I personally said communism is better because everyone is equal though. But not all people get to own stuff but me I'm not into owning everything. We also talked on economics in the world today."
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
It was a cold and wet Saturday in New York, but in a few hours people in Harlem donated $321.57 for the BAsics Bus Tour. On the subways, at a street corner, in shops, people stopped to listen and dig in their pockets for ones and twos, and a five and ten, and a barber pledged $100. He and some of the other contributors regularly read Revolution newspaper and have BAsics. He said he had been following the reports of the initial run of the BAsics Bus Tour in California, and when the team wondered what it might look like if "100 barbers donated $100," he said it didn't necessarily have to be one barber, but it could be raised in a shop. He also said that he really liked the BAsics Bus Tour graphic that has the highway running through it.
The BA Everywhere teams reported that people were very open, and many emotional, still very much feeling deeply the murder of Trayvon Martin, and they really heard that it doesn't need to be this way, there don't need to be any more Trayvon Martins or Emmett Tills. Learning about this BAsics Bus Tour, one woman broke down in tears as she contributed. One person asked what was the big deal, we are getting killed all the time. That turned around when a team member said we are building a movement for revolution to get rid of all this and build a different world, and this BA Everywhere campaign is about that, and people contributed. A team member, a young Black man, spoke powerfully to people, saying that he wasn't there to sell candy, that he and any other young Black man could have been Trayvon Martin, but that there is a strategy for revolution for him and others, there is Bob Avakian, a leader, and there is BA Everywhere campaign that is going to change all of this.
A Dominican shop owner spoke about how Dominicans are treated a lot like Black people and none know what BA is talking about. The BA Everywhere team read the "no more generations" quote and this man wound up contributing and getting the paper. At another shop a person from Mexico who was in the place heard the team read from the last lines of the RCP Statement on the Murder of Trayvon Martin and, while one person asked how the Trayvon Martin killing connected with communism, he said that he had read about the California BAsics Bus Tour and that it had stopped in Fresno with all of the immigrants and others there, and he made a small donation and got Revolution newspaper. Another person there got two copies of the paper and pledged to contribute to the tour and to get BAsics. Several people who contributed for the tour got the "Three Strikes" poster. One person who did explained to his friend, "These people really have it together." A young woman just moving into the projects and doing the laundry contributed and got a paper, saying that she was "looking forward to a place where there was resistance."
The teams also distributed hundreds of the RCP Statement on the Murder of Trayvon Martin and sold virtually all of the Revolution newspapers they had. They reported that it was important to make it very clear and sharp to all that this was national fundraising campaign to raise money for the national BAsics Bus Tour briefly, and then to step directly to people and ask them to donate, and when someone did others did also. The BA Everywhere team members were cold, but jazzed by what happened and by the potential for much more.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
At the beginning it was like a murder scene where cops, authorities, and media mouthpieces didn’t have their story quite together yet. Perhaps they thought things would go like so many times before. Just another Black kid dead, just another family devastated, with no one able to do anything. But this time something struck a nerve already raw with the regularity of Black teenage funerals. This time the truth was there for people to see more clearly.
Seventeen-year-old Trayvon Martin, walking home with Skittles and Arizona Iced Tea, gunned down by a wannabe-cop. To George Zimmerman Black youth in hoodies look “suspicious.”
This vicious vigilante murder of an innocent Black youth and the blatant “pat on the back” by the police ignited an outpouring of outrage from coast to coast.
The response to all this, within the powers-that-be, has been contentious. Some politicians and mainstream media figures have donned hoodies and spoken out against racial profiling.
But at the same time there has been a concerted effort to spin a whole narrative against Trayvon Martin, hoping to put a lid on people’s anger—or at least make them question what compelled them into the streets to say, “We are all Trayvon Martin!”
Certain ruling class forces are spreading lies through the media aimed at changing people’s minds about what they correctly saw in the FACTS of what happened the night of February 26. They want to reverse right and wrong, and say that the victim was actually George Zimmerman and the aggressor was Trayvon Martin.
They want to repolarize things, where even if people don’t buy their whole rewriting of what happened, they hope that giving Zimmerman’s story such publicity and authority will put enough “questions” out there to make some people step back a bit. That even if this doesn’t get over completely among the masses of Black people, it will affect broader sections of the population who have been outraged at this murder.
For decades people have been fed a steady diet of the system’s demonization of Black and Latino youth; that these “thugs and hoodlums” are to blame for being unemployed, uneducated, incarcerated, and killed by the police. But then something like the murder of Trayvon Martin comes along and many who have been buying this whole reversal of reality get challenged and jolted. This murder put something that happens every day in communities across this country into the national spotlight. And people stepped forward to stand with the masses and protest what is exactly the kind of thing that happens as a result of the demonization of Black youth.
In the court of public opinion this counterattack presents certain “evidence” to demonize and defame Trayvon Martin. It doesn’t say it straight out. But in effect the message is that Trayvon Martin was no “innocent lamb,” and that perhaps he deserved what he got... just like so many other Black youth gunned down and locked up in this society.
So we got to unpack and demolish these LIES.
Lie #1: George Zimmerman is really the victim
There is a lot we don’t know about what happened that night. But some things we do know. We know Zimmerman called 911 and said he had spotted “a real suspicious guy” who “looks like he’s up to no good.” The dispatcher asks: “Are you following him?” Zimmerman says: “Yeah.” The dispatcher says: “OK, we don’t need you to do that.”
But then what happens? Zimmerman ignores the dispatcher’s instructions. And while we don’t know exactly what happened next—and Trayvon Martin will never get to give his account—we do know there was a confrontation, some yelling, and then Trayvon’s life was over.
George Zimmerman’s brother, Robert Zimmerman, was given a big platform on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight, shown nationally and replayed several times, painting Trayvon as a thug who would have killed George or put him in “diapers for the rest of his life” if he hadn’t been stopped with a bullet through his chest. We are told George was “fighting for his life.”
But the fact is—none of this would have happened if Zimmerman had done what the 911 dispatcher told him to do.
Zimmerman’s family claims Trayvon punched him and that he was “fighting for his life.” Eyewitness accounts and other FACTS that have come out in the case contradict this:
Lie #2: Trayvon Martin was not so “innocent”—he really was “suspicious” and “dangerous”
At the scene of the crime, the police treated Trayvon Martin like a criminal as he lay dead. They did a background check on him but not on Zimmerman. They did a test for drugs and alcohol on Trayvon’s dead body, but not on Zimmerman.
Then, after millions of people around the country did NOT see Trayvon Martin as a criminal, but as an innocent victim, a barrage of headlines hit the news about how Trayvon Martin was suspended from school three times. And we are told:
“...a more complicated portrait began to emerge of a teenager whose problems at school ranged from getting spotted defacing lockers to getting caught with a marijuana baggie and women’s jewelry.” (Miami Herald, March 26, 2012)
We are supposed to do an about-face. Hey, you thought Trayvon Martin was unjustly murdered, innocent, didn’t deserve to die—that it was right for thousands of people to go out in the street to demand justice? Well think again...
He was suspended from school.
He had a bag in his backpack with marijuana residue.
He had a “burglary tool” (a screwdriver).
He wrote graffiti (“WTF”) on a locker.
He had a bunch of jewelry.
He skipped school and was late for class.
Can anyone seriously say this is evidence of a “troubled teen” with a “history of trouble with authorities”? By these standards the vast majority of youth, of all nationalities, are suspicious and criminal. These things make you a criminal? Let alone show that on the night of February 26, Trayvon Martin was “probably up to no good”—and deserved to die!!??? On one level, this is ridiculous. But this is the kind of vicious public opinion being created to get over with a verdict of justifiable homicide.
And look how these suspensions came about: According to the Miami Herald, a school police investigator said he saw Trayvon on the school surveillance camera “hiding and being suspicious.” He said he saw Trayvon mark up a door with “WTF.” The next day the officer searched Trayvon’s book bag to look for the marker and reportedly found some jewelry and a screwdriver he described as a “burglary tool.”
Isn’t this another example of how Black youth are treated like criminals—dogged for looking like you’re “hiding and being suspicious,” having your bag searched for something like a marker, suspended for residue of marijuana. (And to set the record straight, Trayvon Martin does not have a juvenile offender record.)
As Sybrina Fulton, Trayvon’s mother, said: “They killed my son and now they’re trying to kill his reputation.” And for many people, especially the youth, this is just one more unacceptable slap in the face that has only fueled their anger and determination to get justice for Trayvon.
In the face of widespread discontent and protest, especially when there’s the potential for many to question the very legitimacy of this system, the powers-that-be will lash back in many different ways. Through vicious force and brutality. And also ideologically, trying to cool things out with lies and promises, and efforts to channel people’s anger into faith in the system to “correct itself.” But the truth of the matter is this system will NEVER and can NEVER be anything other than what it is: A worldwide capitalist-imperialist system of exploitation and oppression—a system in which white supremacy and the oppression of Black has been part of its foundations from the very beginning.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
In cities across the country, ever since the story broke big in the national media, people have been pouring into the streets in rallies and marches to express their outrage against the murder of Trayvon Martin and to call for the arrest of George Zimmerman. Revolution newspaper has received many reports from different areas where revolutionaries have joined with these protests and distributed thousands of copies of the RCP Statement all over the country, as well as Revolution newspaper, the poster of Bob Avakian’s Three Strikes quote and other materials. These materials have tapped into, unleashed and focused up the outrage that people are feeling. In addition to the accompanying correspondence from a team of people who went to Sanford, Florida, we are including some excerpts below of snapshots that have been sent in from different parts of the country:
Monday, March 26: Today in Atlanta, thousands gathered in front of the State Capitol to protest the murder of Trayvon Martin. Revolutionaries distributed about 3,000 flyers to the crowd. The crowd consisted of hundreds of students from Clark, Morehouse, and Spellman Colleges, as well as Georgia State University, who marched from the Atlanta University Center to the Capitol. Revolutionaries distributed nearly a thousand of the Revolutionary Communist Party's statement on the Murder of Trayvon Martin. The crowd was receptive to the statement, many signed up to stay in contact with Revolution Books and hundreds took pictures with an enlargement of this week's paper. There seems to be a growing potential right now to connect this murder with the many crimes of this system and peoples' eyes seem much more open than usual.
From the Bay Area:
Thursday, March 22: 3000 miles away but feeling very, very close to the family and loved ones of Trayvon Martin, 600 people marched through the streets of San Francisco condemning the murder of Trayvon Martin and demanding justice. The march included Occupy Oakland and Occupy San Francisco folks, many family members who had lost loved ones to police murder including: Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson, the uncle of Oscar Grant, killed by BART police, Danika Chatman, the mother of Kenneth Harding, killed by the SFPD, and Dionne Smith-Downs, the mother of James Rivera, killed by police in Stockton, California, and many, many others outraged by Trayvon’s murder.
The family members of loved ones murdered by the police talked about the similarities between the official cover-ups of murders by the police and the preferential handling treatment the murderer of Trayvon Martin is receiving. The family members wanted Trayvon’s family to know they have their full support.
Joey Johnson (the defendant in the 1984 flag-burning case Texas v. Johnson) spoke at the rally, “Whether it is the massacre of 16 people in their village in Afghanistan or the murder of Trayvon Martin here, it’s the system that’s set these crimes in motion! It’s a system of capitalism and imperialism that has to be overthrown. And that is what we should all be working for and struggling for to bring about. As Bob Avakian says, ‘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.’”
As the march headed down SF’s Market Street a banner was in the front with a large photo of Trayvon in the center and the words “Justice for Trayvon Martin”, and on one side of the banner the words “Young Black Male (the symbol for does not equal) A Death Sentence” and the “No more generations of our youth” quote from BA.
As people were marching down Market Street two miles to the United Nations Plaza they chanted, “We are all Trayvon!”; “They don’t care if Black kids die!”, “Stand Up! Stand Up! Justice for Trayvon!”, “Join us, join us, Justice for Trayvon!”, “We stand up to the New Jim Crow! Racist murder, Hell No!”, “Revolution is what we need – To liberate is humanity!”, “Our youth are under attack, What do we do? Stand up fight back!
After weeks of unseasonably warm weather reaching into the 80’s, on Monday, March 26 the weather turned quite cold. Still, following protests for Trayvon Martin on the previous Friday and Saturday, about 150 people came out for a 5pm rally at Chicago’s Federal Plaza.
The 5 pm rally was one of two events that had been called in solidarity with the national day of protest for Trayvon. People heard about it through Facebook, MoveOn.org and friends calling friends. A number of organizations were represented including ISO, SWP, PSL, and ANSWER. Supporters of the RCP were also in the house.
The rally became an opportunity for people to express their deep feelings about the murder of Trayvon Martin and the official disdain for his life represented by the free pass given to his assassin. People lined up to speak, many pouring their hearts out to a crowd appreciative of their expression of grief and outrage.
One teacher had brought four or five kids from Enrico Fermi grade school. One of the young students took the mike to ask if he were wearing a hoodie, would he be the next to be killed...
Three students from Whitney Young High School each spoke in turn. One, a young Black lesbian, talked about what the murder of Trayvon meant to her and what life was like for someone who had three strikes against her in this society: being gay, being a woman and being Black.
She was followed by a self-described “white male Christian” who expressed appreciation for the previous speaker, saying he had everything going for him but had to take a stand on this issue. He spoke about the climate in the country that leads to things like the murder of Trayvon and the role in creating this climate played by right-wing evangelism. He no longer calls himself an evangelist because of what it has come to mean. He said he is proud to live in a mixed race community. He excoriated the right-wing Christians especially in that they don’t have the love that, as he sees it, Christ is about.
A Mexican man talked about how he came here seeking opportunity and acceptance but what he found was bigotry and discrimination. He talked about how women are treated–with a woman killed every day by her partner. He talked about the murder of Shaima Alawadi, a 32-year-old mother of five who was beaten to death in California because she had come from Iraq. He had recently adopted a Black/Puerto Rican child who had multiple mental disabilities. The cops recently grabbed the kid, handcuffed him and threw him into a cop car despite the pleas of this desperate father. The kid spit on the police. In court they set a $100,000 bond for the child and charged him with five felonies!
A Latino from South Chicago said he “came for selfish reasons.” A friend of his had recently been murdered and when he heard about Trayvon, he was reminded of his friend. He named several youth who had been killed in South Chicago, including Meliton Recendez, shot in the back by Chicago police in 2007 at age 16. He said “when you see on the news that one of these people killed was a gang member, remember they are only children.”
The family of Emmett Till read a statement.
On Sunday our Revolution crew was out among hundreds of people at two events. "Fight the Power and Transform the People for Revolution!" and "This System Has No Future for the Youth But The Revolution Does" banners drew one after another at both the demonstrations, with many wanting to pose with the banners and take photos. The people were mad and the atmosphere was tense. At the first event, the NAACP and numerous pastors and city officials came out to speak. The majority of people were church congregations and families outraged by the murder of Trayvon, demanding an arrest, and that justice be done. One sign read, “Don’t shoot me!” and had a bag of skittles attached to it. Speakers pointed to Emmett Till and to the white supremacy Black people have endured for so many years. Even a Congressman had to speak to the outrageousness of all this–he got a heartfelt response when he compared the blaming of the victim as nothing new–justification for shooting Trayvon because of what he was wearing is like saying women are "asking for it" by wearing "provocative" clothes.
Monday, March 26: A crew went to Texas Southern University, a historically Black university, where about 300 people rallied. The crowd was overwhelmingly students, and almost everyone got the Party's statement, with many people coming up to us to get it, and a few students took stacks of leaflets to get out. A number of students remembered the special issue on BAsics that got out very broadly last semester. A lot of BAsics cards got out, and some copies of Revolution as well. One person said that the system isn't working, but many responded with recognition, particularly off Basics 1:1 ("There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth"), that the problem is that the system is working exactly the way it was set up to work, and we need a revolution.
A short distance from the TSU campus, another rally was held at the S.H.A.P.E. Community Center, which has been a center of activism for many decades. This crowd of between 200 and 300 was a concentration of activists both from the Black community and more broadly, a mix of older people from the 60's as well as youth.
Speakers connected the Trayvon murder with a broader war on Black people, including several who had been brutalized or lost family members at the hands of police. One described how he lost six teeth and nearly his life just for riding his bicycle down the sidewalk. Choking with emotion, Robbie Tolan, son of Cincinnati Reds Baseball veteran Bobby Tolan, spoke of his encounter with police, where he was shot in the stomach in Houston's affluent Bellaire neighborhood. Numerous student speakers from TSU, the University of Houston and Prairieview A and M expressed determination to intensify this struggle.
In Seattle on March 24th, at least two thousand people poured out in protest of the murder of Trayvon Martin. The protest was called by the NAACP, American Friends Service Committee and others. Whole families were there from old to young. Many people came with groups of friends, lots of kids and youth. Throughout the march people chanted, “Who are We? Trayvon Martin!”, “Being Black is not a crime!" and “Hey hey, ho ho, the new Jim Crow has got to go.” Many people wore hoodies. A unanimously-felt expression from people was that what had happened to Trayvon was “ridiculous” and that what had happened to him could have easily happened to themselves or any other Black young person, anyone’s son or loved one. And that the injustice of it can’t be allowed to stand. A woman who works with the public school system said “I am so glad people are finally getting out here in large numbers and we need to have a march every week until Zimmerman is arrested and tried for murder”.
Outside the church where the rally started people overflowed onto the street. Friends and families gathered in groups discussing things. All kinds of flyers were passing around and being eagerly taken and read. Revolutionary agitators read from the Revolutionary Communist Party statement on the murder of Trayvon and held up and read from posters of the statement from Bob Avakian on “Three strikes and you’re out!” about the system’s continuing oppression of Black people from slavery down to the new Jim Crow of today. As we spoke people came forward to get the statement, which was widely distributed.
Trayvon's cousin, Cederic President-Turner who lives in Tacoma, spoke at the ending rally. He said Trayvon's mother asked him to deliver his message.
Cederic said, "For African Americans as myself, we should not be able to walk down the street and live in fear of police officers harassing us or a watchman thinking he has the authority to kill us just because we look suspicious....That is one thing I'm not going to stand for and we should not stand for–period."
On Friday, March 23, a student at Cuyahoga Community College in Cleveland organized a rally in 24 hours through social networks. As 200 people gathered at Public Square, people held signs “Walking while Black,” and with hoodies on held signs “Am I suspicious?” –many with signs with the picture of Trayvon. After a moment of silence was observed for Trayvon, people sang the Black National Anthem and then marched to the Justice Center. Almost everyone wanted the statement “A Modern-Day Lynching/The Vigilante Murder of Trayvon Martin!” by Carl Dix and some bought Revolution newspaper. One woman said how much she worries about her grandson and the danger she feels he is in either by some racist vigilante like Zimmerman or the police. She said how she doesn’t understand why racism is so deep and constant. She said, “Why are we so hated in this country.” We talked about what Carl Dix says in the statement and how murders like that of Trayvon happen again and again because the system is still intact that spawns it. There were lots of college and high school students who came out and were reading Carl Dix’s statement. Then a man was passing out a flyer about his son Kenneth Cyree Smith, 20,who was killed by the police on March 10, 2012. He told me how his son was murdered unjustly by the police and he sees Trayvon like his son, one murdered by a racist vigilante, the other by the police, both racist killings. As the rally ended people were still talking about their own experience as Black people, and how deeply they anguish over their sons being a racist target by the police or racist vigilantes.
Revolution #265 April 8, 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 #265 April 8, 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.
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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 #265 April 8, 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.
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Revolution #265 April 8, 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 #265 April 8, 2012
A glance at any of the thousands of photos of the recent protests demanding justice for Trayvon Martin reveals that this case has struck a deep chord among Black people of all ages. At the same time, these photos reveal how white people and other non-Blacks have almost entirely ignored and appeared to have gone along with this modern-day lynching.
Yes, it was a lynching. It began the moment George Zimmerman decided that a Black youth walking home from the store carrying Skittles and an Arizona Iced Tea must be up to no good. It continued with Zimmerman’s decision to ignore the 911 dispatcher's instructions to not follow Trayvon. It was sanctioned by the state when law enforcement refused to arrest the man who murdered Trayvon, readily accepting his claim of self-defense. And it was rationalized throughout society as the mass media released “evidence” from the murdered youth’s school record of suspensions(!) to portray him as dangerous and suspicious.
Yet, according to a recent Gallup poll, while the majority of Black people were sure that racial bias played a role in the killing of Trayvon, only 1/3 of non-Blacks felt this was the case; while the majority of Black people felt Trayvon’s killer had definitely commited a crime, only 11 percent of non-Blacks felt this way; and while the majority of Black people were following this case “very closely” only 22 percent of non-Blacks were bothering to do so.
The stubborn refusal on the part of non-Blacks to recognize and act against the grotesque racism and injustice in the killing of Trayvon Martin is an indicator of how they have bought into the very demonization and criminalization of Black people that not only fueled the killing of Trayvon, but also fuels the slow genocide being carried out currently against Black people through mass incarceration and the criminal IN-justice system.
Yes, I said genocide. And, yes, I used the present tense.
Genocide often ends with mass extermination, but that is not where it begins. It begins with the stigmatization and demonization of a whole section of people; this conditions society to go along with what ever is done to those people. It often includes physically isolating that group of people, as well as systematic discrimination, control and repression. Killing those people off—or otherwise destroying them, such as through mass incarceration—is often just the logical conclusion of the momentum and direction which has been built up over time.
This can happen slowly or this can happen quickly, but there is no denying that this is currently taking place at an accelerating pace against Black people in the U.S. At the hands of the police, in the media, and in much of the culture, Black people are treated as criminals first and human beings second. Most Blacks are concentrated in the most impoverished neighborhoods. More Black men are in prison or jail, on probation or parole than were enslaved in 1850, before the Civil War began. And Black people are killed with impunity almost every day by cops and wannabe cops. The fact that you may not know all of this only underscores how “normalized” this has become and how far this has progressed.
It's simply a fact that this country has white supremacy woven into its foundation and daily functioning. The U.S. would not have the wealth, the military strength, or the territorial reach that it does if it weren't for generations of the enslavement of Black people. After the abolition of slavery, which took a wrenching and bloody Civil War, Black people were betrayed by this system and forced to endure 100 years of Jim Crow segregation and Ku Klux Klan terror. This only ended through the massive struggle and sacrifice of a generation of civil rights freedom fighters and, later, the Black Liberation Movement. But because a revolution did not happen, because this system remained intact, these advances were betrayed once again. The system found new ways to continue the caste-like oppression of Black people.
Having been rocked back on their heels by the revolutionary upsurges of the '60s, including especially powerfully the struggle for Black Liberation, the rulers of this system set about quite consciously to criminalize and suppress Black people. They did this as a form of counterinsurgency, a pre-emptive response to the threat of any future insurgency. In 1969, H.R. Haldeman, Nixon’s top assistant, wrote in his diary that “[President Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to.”
Today's mass incarceration of Black people can be directly traced to the policies that grew out of that statement. As can the constant portrayal in the media and the culture of Black youth as almost always as frightening, heartless, criminals (think of the proliferation of cop shows!).
All of this feeds into a situation where, when the media aired weeks of blatant propaganda aimed at demonizing Trayvon—things like his having been suspended from high school or found in possession of a baggie with marijuana residue in it—all too many non-Black people began to rethink their initial sympathy for Trayvon.
And yet, all this is also why, in the face of the very same racist propaganda, millions of Black people identify with the truth of these words from Trayvon's mother, Sybrina Fulton: “They killed my son and now they’re trying to kill his reputation.”
Last week, at a discussion I led at Revolution Books in NYC about the murder of Trayvon Martin and the strategy for revolution, several young Black men described having been schooled by their mothers about how to conduct themselves during interactions with police if they wanted to stay alive: “Keep your hands in sight,” “Don’t make sudden moves,” “Don’t cop an attitude,” “Speak in short, clear sentences,” and more. One described how his heart stops every time a cop car rolls past him and how he knows he could be killed and the cop would get away with it, simply because he is Black. Two young men spoke of how this kind of terror and harassment is so constant that they’ve begun to feel numb to it, learning to accept it as “just the way things are.”
These Black men didn’t grow up together. They weren’t from the same neighborhood. They didn’t even all know each other. And yet all of them had been beaten and/or humiliated by police. All of them live with the trauma of knowing they could be killed at any moment and their killers would almost certainly never be brought to justice. All of them live with the threat of ending up in prison like millions of others. And all of their Black mothers had shared the same fear for their lives.
Think of what that means! As Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has put it, every single Black person in the U.S. lives under an active death sentence. It may or may not be carried out, but it is always there. And, if it is carried out, it will almost always be deemed “justifiable homicide.”
All this was going on before the killing of Trayvon Martin. And for all this time, it has been unacceptable for white people and other non-Blacks to ignore this and remain silent.
Yet, at this moment when thousands upon thousands of Black people are shaking off their numbness, when they are taking to the streets and demanding—through long-suppressed outrage and rivers of bitter tears—that the world take notice and deliver justice for one 17-year-old Black youth who could have been any one of them, it is time for non-Blacks to stand with the just struggle of Black people and join in the protests against the murder of Trayvon Martin.
White people and other non-Blacks, you have been lied to. This has been systematic and it has been going on for decades. You have been taught to fear Black people, to think they “must have done something” when you see Black people pushed up against the wall or hit with a nightstick, and to view the recent outpourings of Black anger and truth-telling as “clinging to past discrimination” or “playing the race-card.”
This must change now. Don’t allow yourself to stand aside from this struggle when it is possible to discern what is right and what is wrong. People of all nationalities must stand up.
It is an act of tremendous courage and large-mindedness that Trayvon's parents have stepped forward to demand justice. It is truly precious that thousands and thousands of Black people have joined them. This is inspiring and must be a call for others of all nationalities to step forward.
Non-Black people have a tremendous responsibility to defy the decades of racist conditioning, segregation, and complicity. By doing so, non-Blacks can break down the sense of isolation that is so profoundly felt among Black people, they can undermine the segregation and fear-mongering this system uses to keep people going along, and they can put out a challenge, and an example, to other non-Blacks that they must do the same.
There is a moment here, where people of all nationalities and of every background need to come together to fight for justice around the murder of Trayvon Martin. Through struggle, people can begin to change the whole climate in this country so that the demonization of Black youth and racist violence no longer goes down unopposed. People who hate what has happened—and how this is only the latest in a whole chain of crimes against Black people—must stand up against this and change themselves through doing so, they must dig deeply into what this outrage reveals about the nature of this system, they must engage with the vision of a revolution that can put an end to all this once and for all, and they must follow through on this fight for justice wherever it leads them.
All this is essential not only in order to win justice for Trayvon, not only to ending the slow-genocide of Black people, but to bringing about a better world for all humanity.
April 10 has been called as a National Day of Outrage against the murder of Trayvon Martin. Wherever you are, make a statement and issue a much-needed challenge to others by wearing a hoodie to work or school that day. Then, bring your body—and others you can mobilize—to be in the streets in protest!
April 19 is a National Day to say NO to mass incarceration: “Silence + Mass Incarceration = Genocide!” This day must be a powerful outpouring that connects up the murder of Trayvon Martin to the criminalization of a whole generation of Black and Latino youth and the massive incarceration of more than 2.4 million people in the U.S. Join in organizing teach-ins and rallies in high schools and colleges and taking to the streets in other ways to say no to mass incarceration and all its killing consequences.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
Editors' note: The following is a rough (edited) transcription of a presentation Sunsara Taylor gave at Revolution Books in New York City April 4 as a prelude to a discussion. Revolution newspaper urges all its readers to read this presentation and think deeply about the approach and orientation which Sunsara presented.
ST: Hello, my name is Sunsara Taylor. Welcome to Revolution Books. We are going to discuss tonight the murder of Trayvon Martin and the strategy for revolution and the need for revolution.
So without any further opening comments we are going to begin this evening with two video clips which speak for themselves.
[The first clip is from the PBS television show Eyes on the Prize, Episode 01—Awakenings 1954-1956. Starting about 10 minutes in it describes the lynching of Emmett Till.
The second clip is "Emmett Till and Jim Crow: Black people lived under a death sentence" from Bob Avakian's talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About.]
ST: So what we just saw was about Emmett Till, a young Black teenager who was lynched after he went to the store to buy candy, some 57 years ago, and we are gathered here because just about a month ago a 17-year-old young Black man was killed after he went to the corner store to buy Skittles that night—because he was wearing a hoodie and looked suspicious: Trayvon Martin. As the statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party said: "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."
Now, I want to ask everybody a question that is going to frame the evening: "Do we want to be sitting here in 57 years, or 60 years, or having our children or our grandchildren sitting here in another 57 years reflecting back once again on another one of these outrages? And saying, "how long will this go on?" That's the question we have to ask ourselves and it's about what is happening to Black people, what's happening to Black youth—but it's across the board in this system. If you want to look back 50 years and see the conditions of women you can watch the AMC series Mad Men, and watch about the total discrimination, routine marital rape, and everything else that was normalized and then you can open up the Sunday New York Times, the Book Review, and read about how the latest craze is a modern-day refashioning, a best seller that is supposedly popular among women, which is about how sexy it is to have a man beat you up and treat you like a slave. We can look back and say this is just like 50 years ago. And do we want people looking back 50 years from now saying, "how much longer will this go on?"
Or you can look back 50 or 60 years and you can look at the massive death, the mass rape, the massacres, and the destruction of a whole people and their land of the people of Vietnam—and you can live right now and say "Look at Iraq"—a million dead and 5 million displaced. Look at Afghanistan, look at Pakistan and look at what's looming before Iran. And you can project forward again too and say in 50-60 years do we want people gathering saying "how much longer"? Or you look at the environment—the destruction of ecosystems, of species, the warming of the climate, the changing of the weather patterns. You look at all of this and all that it means to the planet and humanity, and do you want people gathering, in groupings like this, in this part of the world or others, reflecting back on what's happened in the last 60 years? The whole wreckage of the planet that is bound to happen if this system is not overturned. And these things don't just stay the same. It's not just more of the same. Trayvon Martin is not the same as Emmett Till. And what's happening today with women is not the same as the '50s. And what's happening with the environment is not the same.
These things—even with advances through struggle, with people rising up against them, which is some of what we saw—the heroism of Emmett Till's family, the heroism of Black people at that time—even with the invaluable lessons learned through this struggle, the reality is that so long as this system remains intact, the oppression—the workings of this system grind on. Things get even more twisted, even more grotesque, even more horrific.
57 years ago, the Supreme Court felt compelled to make the Miranda decision—forcing police to read people their rights when they are under arrest, and give them the right to remain silent. But yesterday the Supreme Court said the cops can strip search you for any offense no matter how small. It can be for a traffic violation or violating a leash law. The pigs can take you in and strip search you and humiliate you, says the Supreme Court.
And then we have to come back to the purpose of this evening—the specific outrage that has called us together—the murder of Trayvon Martin. And everything that has been written over the last weeks, and this week in our newspaper—Revolution newspaper—about this case, about the outrageous lies, the cover-ups, about the way people's righteous outrage has been twisted and people try to spin a sympathetic story about Zimmerman and demonize and criminalize Trayvon Martin. Everything that has been in this paper is true. As the discussion, and this is what has gotten more twisted over the years, this is the discussion in the paper over how much confusion has been sown. How much internalization of this oppression has happened among Black people themselves, in a situation when the outright segregation that we saw with Emmett Till has been overturned. But this ending of formal legal Jim Crow has just led to further disorientation in the face of deepening racist terror and oppression—and all the ways this plays out in people's lives and their thinking. The analogy was made that there was no young Black man living in the time of these lynchings that wasn't traumatized by the fear of being lynched—and the translation today that there is not a Black youth in this city or this country that has not grown up traumatized by the fear of being brutalized by the police. The expectation that it's more likely they will end up in prison than in college or with a career. And the trauma and the fear of Black parents, including Black mothers...just like Mamie Till had to school her son about how to act when he went down South, today you have Black mothers, giving the talk to their children, their sons in particular, how to dress, how to act with authorities, how not to make sudden movements because they could be deemed a target, a criminal. And how even that doesn't save their lives because this system does what it does to people. So really, the question of this evening as we go through our discussion is—and as we reflect tonight and beyond tonight and into action tomorrow morning and the days after—is what we saw 60 years ago and what we have been living through is intolerable. And, is this going to be the case for another generation and the generation after that?
Each of us has to ask ourselves that. From the young people here who are seriously considering and checking out this revolution and weighing what they are going to do with their lives, to the people who are new and just hearing about this, and, yes, including the veterans who have been in this struggle for years and even decades. Everybody has to ask themselves are you just going to do a little something because it is going to make you feel better? Because you couldn't live with yourself if you let this go on without doing something? Are you going to continue to fight the good fight for as many years as you have left? And let it roll on, and let people after you fight the good fight as well? Or are we going to give everything we have, engage as deeply into the questions of where this comes from and what it's gonna take to end it and fight with everything we have, no matter how new you are, no matter how old you are, no matter how much experience you have in this? Is every ounce of our being going to be to make sure that in 10 years and 20 years and 30 years and 60 years this is not what people are living through and worse.
The truth is the world does not have to be this way. Revolution is possible. Revolution and a whole different system. A whole different way that people can live and relate—a system where people can live and they are not constantly terrorized, degraded, exploited, oppressed. A world where Black mothers don't have to school their Black children over how not to be shot by some cop or some wannabe cop. A world where one out of four women doesn't live with the trauma of having been raped. A revolution is possible, and anything short of revolution—if the last 60 years have taught us anything—anything short of a revolution to get rid of this system is not going to cut it. And that's what we have to be about.
Now there's a lot of reasons people will give you for not getting all the way into the revolution. People will think of their families, their careers, their possible careers. They'll think about the risks to themselves, including to others that they might struggle with or lead into this revolution. They'll think about how scary it is—not just the sacrifice that you might have to go through but how scary it is ideologically to confront the implications of having to discover that everything you've been told about the way this system works is a lie. And it's scary to confront the dauntingness of how a revolution could actually be made. And how the system that rules over people could be defeated. And how people who today are not into revolution, and including people who today need this revolution, are into some things that are pretty messed up. The dauntingness of struggling and daring to fight with people who need this revolution to get out of a lot of bullshit and get into this revolution.
A lot of this weighs on people. Let's just be honest, a lot of this weighs on people, and then there are those voices that come in your head, too—that say, "Yeah, you could do some good while doing some good for yourself too. You should go this path and contribute a little." No one should contribute something they are not convinced of. But no one should look at this and not confront the actual implications.
Until this system is done in and done away with and something better is brought into being, this is going to continue to go and people need to actually confront that and act accordingly. And again—revolution is possible. It's been done before. There have been revolutions that have been successful and they've accomplished tremendous things and they've gone a great distance before they were defeated, and now we have someone who has figured out a way—building on that experience and interrogating it deeply—who has deeply summed up what was done right, what was done wrong, what was the framework that led to that, and what's changed in the world since and what's been learned more broadly. We can make revolution again and we can do it even better and we can go even further. We have somebody who has done that work; that's Bob Avakian. And he is actively leading a party—the most precious thing the masses of people have is a party that is founded on that new synthesis of revolution and communism and fighting to bring it into being. And as I said, a big part of what Avakian has brought forward is a strategy for how we break through—and how we fight in normal times and also how we fight when we are in times like this when the true nature of the system is being revealed to people and people are thrust into outrage and political life and there is a moment that can be acted upon.
All that is laid out, among other places, in this book BAsics—which people should get—at the end of the third chapter, in the Statement on Strategy for how to make revolution.
And this is something we are going to talk about tonight. But we are not going to talk about it like "we always talk about our strategy because that's what we do around here"—we are going to talk about it not in a routine way—which we should never do—but we are going to talk about it informed by everything we've seen and everything that is invoked in that question of where are we going to be in another 60 years?
And so people here, as we talk about this, have to think themselves and decide—are we going to engage this very deeply and in a very living way? You know, with Obama, four years ago he put up signs all over the place that said "hope"—and today he's pretty much putting up signs all over the place that say "fear." That's not what we are saying, we are saying "engage"—check this out, get into it. I'm not saying to take this revolution and this strategy and this new synthesis of communism and what Bob Avakian has brought forward on faith—but I am saying to engage it and to transform on that basis.
So I want to read something that Bob Avakian has written recently, and it's an invitation if you will—to people who over these last few months to a year have come forward to throw so much into things, fighting the power and resisting in different ways. And it's also an invitation to everybody, no matter how new you are—if this is your first night here.
"Let's go on a crucial journey together—full of unity against oppression and lively struggle about the source of the problem and the solution. Pursue your own convictions—that the outrages that move you are intolerable—to their logical conclusion, and be determined not to stop until those outrages have been eliminated. And if this, as well as learning about other outrages, and ideas about how this all fits together and flows from a common source—and how it could all be ended, and something much better brought into being—leads in the direction of seeing not only the need for bold and determined resistance, but also the need for revolution and ultimately communism, then don't turn away from that because it moves you beyond your comfort zone, challenges what had been your cherished beliefs, or because of prejudices and slanders. Instead, actively seek to learn more about this revolution and its goal of communism and to determine whether it is in fact the necessary, and possible, solution. And then act accordingly."
So that's the challenge. That's the challenge to people who are coming forward, but also the challenge to each of us. Because again you have to ask yourself—do you really want someone else to be here 57 years from now having to figure out what we are going to do about all these outrages? And that has to frame what we are doing and what we are discussing tonight and how we are going forward in the coming weeks. There are people out there that want leadership. There are people responding to this who want leadership. I am going to read a couple of the quotes from the centerfold of this week's copy of Revolution newspaper, which I hope a lot of people have read but it's worth it to really listen to what people are saying in these quotes.
"You think if I shot some white kid walking down my street they'd say I was just standing my ground? I'd be in jail, we all know that. Actually, I'd probably be dead. But it seem like more of this is coming to light than they want. Zimmerman had a big ass gun. A gun meant to kill people. They got a whole system set up to protect this kind of shit. But a lot of shit has come out into the open they don't intend to be out in the open. And people don't like it."
—A veteran in his 60s who has lived in Florida his whole life
"This [the murder of Trayvon and the police cover-up] could be like what they were doing to people in Germany, for all we know."
—A young man taking a course in world history in high school
and had studied Nazi persecution of Jews
"Young people like Trayvon can't keep getting killed for no reason. I'm ready to look at anything to try to figure this out and come up with some answers."
—A young woman from Florida A&M who organized
and participated in protests on her campus
Listen to what these people are saying. They need leadership–they are crying out for leadership, and these are not lone voices. This is representative of a deep, deep felt outrage that has come to the surface with this murder of Trayvon Martin. So one thing about the strategy that I was referencing–that's in BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian—and is part of the strategy that he has led in developing—is that it involves acting in an increased way in moments like this.
In moments like this, our efforts are multiplied. You are up against forces giving different solutions; everybody's in motion—from Congresspeople of the day, to Al Sharpton, to all kinds of people trying to tell you what this issue is and is not about, and offering shortcuts and offering detours, offering all kinds of solutions and non-solutions. But this too is a good thing because if we get in there, and we engage this and we take on these other arguments, this is a process through which people can learn a tremendous amount. Because people are trying to figure out if there is a way out. And we've been out there. I know a lot of people in this room have been out there, and side by side with people who are standing up and struggling. And we've called for a big day of outrage on April 10. Because if people don't fight the power we are not going to get anywhere. And we know that the Stop Mass Incarceration network has called for something on April 19. And that they are fighting to make this a very powerful day.
And we have a tremendous opportunity heading into May 1, which is the international holiday, the revolutionary holiday, the communist holiday, the holiday for people all around the world who dream of and are fighting to get free. And it's a day when Occupy has called for mass protest across the country—and we've got an opportunity in this to let people know about the leadership that we have. And the fact that revolution is real. And that Bob Avakian has both developed a new synthesis and how that could be made real in the world and he is actively leading a party and a movement. And this is something people need to come to know and in a moment like this we can make profound leaps, we need to and we can make profound leaps in making that known. And letting people get familiar with the path to move forward.
And we've got the BAsics Bus Tour coming up in early May, which everybody here should be thinking about applying to. This is a bus tour that's going around with the book BAsics and it's going into small towns and big cities, and on college campuses in the big cities and it's going to be going through areas where a lot of outrage around this Trayvon Martin case has been felt very deeply and this is going to take revolution right into the midst of this—take revolutionary leadership right into the midst of this moment. People here should be thinking about volunteering to go on this bus tour for a week, for a weekend, for a month—changing your schedule and changing your priorities and helping get this revolution on the map in a whole greater way. Just this past weekend I've been told that $350 was raised in this area to help fund this bus tour, opening up a way for people to come into this revolution. And this fundraising effort throughout this whole month needs to go to another level too. It's a way that people can both learn about this revolution and contribute to its impact being projected. So all of this, making leaps and leading people in a moment like this to Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution, posing a challenge to the legitimacy of this social order and this state, and posing a different pole and revolutionary pole as a competing legitimizing force in society, of making major leaps in projecting Bob Avakian, and getting people here more deeply engaged in his leadership and the strategy for revolution and much more broadly in society at a moment like this where people are saying we need some kind of change.
So I want to read a section of the Statement on Strategy to help us have this discussion and in a moment open this up for us to engage this:
In order for revolution to be real there must be: a revolutionary crisis, and a revolutionary people, numbering in the millions and led by a far-seeing, highly organized and disciplined revolutionary party. Clearly, this is not the reality now. So, how can this come about? And what is the strategic plan?
The potential for a revolutionary crisis lies within the very nature of this capitalist system itself—with its repeated economic convulsions, its unemployment and poverty, its profound inequalities, its discrimination and degradation, its brutality, torture and wars, its wanton destruction. All this causes great suffering. And at times it leads to crisis on one level or another—sudden jolts and breakdowns in the "normal functioning" of society, which compel many people to question and to resist what they usually accept. No one can say in advance exactly what will happen in these situations—how deep the crisis may go, in what ways and to what extent it might pose challenges to the system as a whole, and to what degree and in what ways it might call forth unrest and rebellion among people who are normally caught up in, or feel powerless to stand up against, what this system does. But two points are very important:
1) Such "jolts" in the "normal functioning" of things, even if they do not develop all the way to a fundamental crisis for the system as a whole, do create situations in which many more people are searching for answers and open to considering radical change. The work of building the movement for revolution must be consistently carried out at all times, but in these situations of sharp breaks with the "normal routine" there is greater possibility, and greater potential, to make advances. This must be fully recognized and built on to the greatest degree possible, so that through such situations, leaps are made in building up the movement and the organized forces for revolution, creating in this way a stronger basis from which to work for further advances.
2) In certain situations, major events or big changes can happen in society and the world and can come together in such a way that the system is shaken to its foundations...deep cracks appear and magnify within the ruling structures and institutions...the raw relations of oppression are more sharply exposed...conflicts among the powers-that-be deepen, and cannot be easily resolved, and it becomes much more difficult for them to hold things together under their control and keep people down. In this kind of situation, for great numbers of people, the "legitimacy" of the current system, and the right and ability of the ruling powers to keep on ruling, can be called seriously and directly into question, with millions hungering for a radical change that only a revolution can bring about.
There's more in the Statement on Strategy, but I want to highlight this point: there are times when the normal functioning breaks down and people are open to looking at and acting in ways and resisting things that they normally don't look at or feel powerless to resist. So I want to open up the discussion with people—we are going to talk about how do we understand this outrage of the murder of Trayvon Martin and the refusal of the authorities to arrest Zimmerman? And the outpouring of outrage amongst Black people against this? And the need for even more? And frankly the shameful non-response of huge sections of white people and other people, and the challenge that needs to be put to this, as well as the openness among some that needs to be worked upon, so people can learn things and be moved to act in ways that they didn't want to act a week ago or a month ago?
What do we need to be doing not only to lead people to respond to this but so that the forces for revolution, the forces that are actually devoted to making sure that there are not meetings like this in another 57 years, and there's not a need for meetings like this in another 57 years, so that the forces for revolution can take people as far as they can go in this next period and through that build up the strength of the revolution as a contending force?
So I want to discuss how are we understanding that and how are we going to do that? And there's stuff laid out in the newspaper this week about May Day coming up. There will be a whole week of activities, four major days of activities around May Day, to get BA Everywhere. We should discuss the day of action on April 10—to lead people to resist and fight the power against this murder of Trayvon Martin. And we should discuss how all this fits together—not in "fighting the good fight," but in making real leaps in bringing people forward to fight against this outrage and get as close and as far into this movement for revolution as they can. That's what the moment calls on us to discuss.
So I'd like to open it up to people's questions and have people's reflections on what we saw, reflections on this question I've been posing and some real wrangling in a living way with this question of straining against the limits and striving to transform the conditions among the people with the strategy for revolution. I know people have been out there and they have been doing some of this, but this should help. Our experience should infuse and inform the discussion, but then we should make leaps in our collective understanding of this and in our collective determination and sense of what's the best way to work on this contradiction to hasten and to develop, as far as we can, a revolutionary people.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
Interview with Carl Dix:
The following is an interview with Carl Dix, one of the initiators of the April 19 National Day of Resistance to Stop Mass Incarceration.
What do you think about the murder of Trayvon Martin?
It takes me back to the lynching of Emmett Till back in the 1950s, and brings me back up to the age of Obama and the police murders of Oscar Grant, Aiyana Jones and Ramarley Graham. Trayvon’s murder is the latest in a seemingly never ending chain of outrages perpetrated, condoned, and covered up by this system. But things don’t have to stay this way, ’cause through communist revolution we can end the situation where Black youth are treated like criminals by this system. We can end all the other outrages that this system forces on humanity. And the way people have taken to the streets in outrage around the murder of Trayvon Martin points to the potential for people to not only stand up in outrage around the particular abuse, but to open their eyes and see what’s really going on, where the problem is coming from, and what needs to be done to deal with it once and for all. This is what the Revolutionary Communist Party is getting at when it says those who see the need for revolution need to fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.
How does all this relate to the struggle to end mass incarceration and the plans for April 19?
April 19 National Day of Resistance to Stop Mass Incarceration has a very direct relation to the murder of Trayvon Martin. This vigilante, wannabe cop, George Zimmerman, saw Trayvon Martin, a Black youth in a hoodie, and decided Trayvon was a criminal, somebody who was “suspicious” and “up to no good.” This is a small example of what the system as a whole has done in relation to Black youth. This kind of racial profiling is what leads into the kind of horrific numbers of people who are warehoused in prisons across the country and the millions more who are treated like second-class citizens even after they have been punished and served their sentences. And the backdrop to this horrific reality is that this capitalist system has got no way to profitably exploit this generation of Black youth, and their response to that has been criminalization and incarceration. This is why I say: Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide. This system has no future to offer this generation of Black youth. Its approach comes down to a slow genocide that could become a fast one. But we could break up this deadly equation by stepping up with resistance, and increasingly powerful resistance, and that’s what people need to do.
People need to stand up and say no to the racist murder of Trayvon Martin and, on April 19, step out in resistance to mass incarceration. It needs to be a day that students in high schools and colleges are holding rallies and teach-ins and marching out in the communities, taking to the streets with other youth, saying we’re tired of being demonized and treated like criminals. And then there need to be many other people from many different walks of life, many different backgrounds, different races and nationalities, standing with the youth and having their backs, and saying with them: NO to mass incarceration and all of its consequences. And in the days leading into April 19, we need people taking to the streets. Because the outrage that’s manifested all around the country around Trayvon Martin has been a very good thing and needs to continue.
Revolution #265 April 8, 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: firstname.lastname@example.org
P.O. Box 941 Knickerbocker Station,
New York, New York 10002
Revolution #265 April 8, 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.
The U.S. Constitution was drafted, debated, and approved by slave owners and exploiters. Despite this profound truth about the historical birth of the United States, many people argue that the Constitution has protected and expanded the political and civil rights of the people; and that it continues to provide the legal foundation and political vision for overcoming existing inequalities and injustices. But 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 the very beginning 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.
In 2010 the Revolutionary Communist Party published the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) (CNSRNA). This visionary document, based on the new synthesis of communism developed over decades by Bob Avakian, provides the framework for a whole new society, a framework to advance to a communist world—a world no longer divided into antagonistic social groups, where people will instead live and work together as a freely associating community of human beings, all over the planet.
This series compares and contrasts 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.
* * * * *
American enslavement of African people and their descendents was a never-ending hell of work, abuse, torture, rape, and degradation. It was enforced by whips, chains, shotguns, and vicious bloodhounds. The culture and outlook of white supremacy penetrated every aspect of life in the U.S., South and North alike. And all this was enshrined in the “law of the land,” starting with the U.S. Constitution—the binding legal document of the new country.
The U.S. Constitution was, and is, dedicated to the defense of “private property rights” based on exploitation, and for eight decades that included the enslavement of Black people. James Madison, the main author of the U.S. Constitution, wrote that the law in the U.S. regarded slaves as “inhabitants, but debased by servitude below the equal level of free inhabitants.... The true state of the case is that they partake of both these qualities: being considered by our laws, in some respects, as persons, and in other respects as property.... This is in fact their true character. It is the character bestowed on them by the laws under which they live; and it will not be denied that these are the proper criterion.”1
Here Madison was arguing for and defending a legal principle that established Black people as a form of property in U.S. law.
“Inhabitants, but debased by servitude below the equal level of free inhabitants”—which meant slaves had no rights whatsoever under the law.
“Being considered by our laws, in some respects, as persons, and in other respects as property”—which meant they could be put on an auction block to be bought and sold, and witness their loved ones taken from them as someone else’s purchase.
“It is the character bestowed on them by the laws under which they live”—which meant they could be forced to work like animals under the whip, chained up and hounded by dogs if they dared to escape; subjected to subhuman conditions of life, and the constant knowledge that the slave master could end their lives on even the slightest whim.
During more than the first 70 years of the United States, constitutionally sanctioned and court approved cruelty towards enslaved Black people knew no limits. The system of “justice” developed under the U.S. Constitution was dedicated to providing the legal basis for complete control of the slave master over their human property. For example: “In one case, a Missouri court considered the ‘crime’ of Celia, a slave who had killed her master while resisting a sexual assault. State law deemed ‘any woman’ in such circumstances to be acting in self-defense. But Celia, the court ruled, was not, legally speaking, ‘a woman’. She was a slave, whose master had complete power over her person. The court sentenced her to death. However, since Celia was pregnant, her execution was postponed until the child was born, so as not to deprive Celia’s owner’s heirs of their property rights.”2
The enslavement of African people and their descendents was integral to the development of what Europeans called the “new world” beginning in 1502. By the time the U.S. declared its independence from England in 1776, slavery existed in all 13 colonies, but it was most concentrated in the southern colonies—Virginia, Maryland, North and South Carolina, and Georgia, especially in the cotton and tobacco plantation regions.
In May 1787, 55 delegates gathered in Philadelphia to write a constitution for a nation formed from the 13 newly independent British colonies. Since winning their war of independence, the former colonies had until this time been held together tenuously, by a weak and largely ineffective central power.
Whether these delegates could compose and agree upon a document capable of uniting the colonies into a coherent national state was not a settled question. Sharp, contentious debate expressing the conflicting interests of representatives from different states, in particular the slave owners of the South and the merchant capitalists of the North, continued for over four months before a complete document was drafted and approved by the delegates.
Much of their contention was shaped and driven by the question of slavery. George William Van Cleve writes in A Slaveholders’ Union: Slavery, Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic, that by 1770 slavery in the American colonies “had become a central economic institution ... slaves had become a major economic asset, with a conservatively estimated collective market value of about 14 million pounds sterling (about $2.4 billion today). Slaves constituted nearly 20% of total private wealth in the 13 colonies in 1774.”3
Two convention delegates delivered speeches denouncing slavery. But the debate here was not about the morality of slavery at the Constitutional Convention. There were no passionate speeches condemning this barbaric atrocity inherited from a colonial empire. There were no demands for its immediate abolition. The arguments concerning slavery centered on several inter-related issues: whether property or population would be the main factor determining representation in the new government’s congress, and the power of the new central government to control trade, commerce, and treaties—and most specifically, the international slave trade.
Defenders of the U.S. Constitution often note that it doesn’t contain the word “slavery.” There are several possible reasons for this, including that at least some of its writers and signers recognized the contradiction in overtly recognizing slavery in a document that proclaims to be based on and represent “the people.”
But the fact is that this Constitution—the highest, binding political/legal document of the United States—acknowledged and defended the outright ownership as “property” of an entire category of human beings: Africans and their descendents. Building upon this constitutional foundation, the U.S., through both its political apparatus and its system of courts and laws, continued in its first 70 years to uphold this status of human “property” as a legal category.
The newly formed U.S. included two co-existing economic systems—capitalism and slavery, two ways of organizing society on a foundation of exploitation. These two systems were mutually dependent on each other. The merchants, lawyers, slave traders and slave owners, bankers, ship owners and other prosperous men who debated and wrote the U.S. Constitution needed to create a framework in which both capitalism and slavery could continue to develop. They needed a central state structure capable of protecting their sometimes clashing interests, while at the same time holding them within a unified federal state. They needed a constitution—a document that established the legal and political “rules” of the new country.
From the beginning, the U.S. was formed with the understanding that such a unified state was needed to forge a powerful new country in the Western hemisphere, one capable of resisting domination or interference by European powers, and with a central government strong enough to work out differences between northern capitalists and southern slave owners, especially as it expanded into its western territories. The Constitution’s “pro-slavery character” was the result of efforts to deal with this contradiction. Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution declared the slaves to be three-fifths human beings. In this way, the property of the slave owners, i.e. human slaves, were counted in the system of political representation—giving the South an advantage in the House of Representatives and the Electoral College—while denying slaves legal rights as persons.
Slavery was concentrated in the southern states. But it existed in a mutually reliant economic structure with the mercantile capitalism then dominant in the northern states and within a common political framework. Slavery was decisive to the growth, expansion, and prosperity of the entire country. The economic well-being of both southern slave owners and northern capitalists depended on each other’s activities. Cotton and other agricultural products from the slave plantations were processed in northern factories and shipped from northern ports, which also dominated most of the trade coming into the new country.
The Constitution that emerged from the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia protected both the capitalist and slave forms of exploitation and enrichment for a small number of people and established a means for their often intense differences to be worked through. The framework that the U.S. Constitution provided for the coherence and development of the new country enabled the U.S., as a whole, and in both its slave and non-slave components, to expand dramatically in the decades after independence was won.
The years after the U.S. Constitution was written and adopted were years of rapid westward expansion, into areas that are now states like Ohio, Michigan, and Indiana in the North, and Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee in the South. Genocidal campaigns against the Native Americans who lived in areas coveted by white Americans made this expansion possible. And agreements made in Congress, under the provisions of this Constitution, established the legal basis for areas south of the Ohio River to be developed as slave territories, soon to be slave states.
Missouri, which lies mostly north of the Ohio River, became a battleground—as both pro- and anti-slavery forces were moving into Missouri in large numbers by 1815. The question of what the character of that state would be was up for grabs. As Van Cleve notes, “the Missouri controversy of 1819-1821 was a titanic economic and political struggle between America’s sections over their westward expansion. The dispute placed slavery in a clash with an emerging free-labor ideology.”4
The resolution of these “disputes” firmly upheld the legal, constitutional basis for slavery as a long-term social institution in the United States. Missouri was admitted to the union as a slave state. In exchange the non-slave state of Maine entered the union so that Congressional “equilibrium” between the two sections of the country would be maintained.
The equilibrium proved to be fragile. For the next 40 years disputes between northern and southern states erupted repeatedly as the country continued to push westward. The key point of ongoing, unsettled contention—whether the territories being opened up to American expansion would be slave or non-slave—was argued and fought over repeatedly. But the outcome of the Missouri Compromise further strengthened and emboldened pro-slavery forces, and led them to push for further expansion of slave territories. It also further solidified the constitutionality of slavery in newly formed states or territories, not just the states that had originally been part of the union.
From the time the Constitution was approved in 1788 to 1821, when the Missouri Compromise had been finalized, the number of slave states and the total number of enslaved people had both more than doubled. A huge proportion of the national wealth—in the North as well as the South—had been amassed from the backbreaking, never-ending labor of slaves—people who had no rights and no legal ability to resist their oppression; who were routinely worked to the point of death, sold away from families and loved ones, cruelly maimed and tortured, and systematically denied any education. The growth and expansion of slavery, as well as the enshrined right of slave masters and overseers to mete out any punishment they desired to their “property,” were built into the U.S. Constitution and were constitutionally protected.
As bargains and compromises were made in the halls of Congress, and as rulings came down in the U.S. Supreme Court, millions of human beings continued to have the legal, constitutional status of “property” without the rights of citizens. The blood of countless slaves was a mortar that bound together the increasingly clashing northern and southern sections of the country.
“No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, but shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.” Constitution of the United States, Article 4, Section 2
Put in plain English, this section of the U.S. Constitution said that a slave would remain the property of his or her “owner” wherever the slave may go, even into areas where slavery was not recognized. It further stipulated that officials in non-slave states who came upon escaped slaves were obliged to deliver the “property” to the “rightful owner.” To make things perfectly clear, Congress in 1793 passed the “Fugitive Slave Law” to require the return of “runaway” slaves.
But by the late 1840s, runaway slaves were becoming a major problem for slave owners, especially in areas on the perimeter of the slave states. A network of safe houses and secret trails called the Underground Railroad was operated by Black people and white abolitionists to help escaped slaves get to non-slave territory in the North and in Canada, and by the 1840s and 1850s thousands of Black people were escaping from slavery through the railroad.
Further, several northern states had enacted measures called “personal liberty laws” which were aimed at nullifying the Fugitive Slave Act and preventing bounty hunters from snatching Black people off the streets in northern cities and sending them to slavery. In several instances crowds of white abolitionists forced the release of slaves who had been arrested. Well-known intellectuals and writers such as John Greenleaf Whittier and Ralph Waldo Emerson condemned the law and called for people to defy it.
Around the same time, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850—called the “Bloodhound Law” by abolitionists because of the bloodhounds used to track slaves—was passed as yet another “compromise.” But it in fact went even further than the original Fugitive Slave Act—it required that citizens of non-slave states capture and return slaves to their “rightful owners,” under severe penalty of law.
A ruling concerning a slave named Dred Scott was a stark and concentrated example of the logic of the constitutionality of slavery. Dred Scott was a Black man who had been born into slavery, and served as a slave to a U.S. Army officer who had been stationed throughout the U.S. After the officer was transferred from Minnesota to the slave state of Missouri, Scott and his wife filed a suit in federal court seeking their freedom, which he said had been established because they had lived in non-slave states.
In 1857, the United States Supreme Court ruled that neither Dred Scott nor any person of “African descent” could file a lawsuit in a U.S. court, since they could not be citizens of the U.S. The Supreme Court further ruled that simply living outside an area where slavery was established did not establish Scott’s freedom, since this would “deprive his owner of his property.”
Roger B. Taney, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, summarized his ruling with these infamous words: saying that the authors of the Constitution—the “founders”—regarded and legally institutionalized Black people as “beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations, and so far inferior that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.”
The Supreme Court’s decision emboldened the southern slave owners, and infuriated many anti-slavery forces throughout the North. The slave owners argued that the Supreme Court’s decision in effect negated the Missouri Compromise, and would restore to them their constitutional right to bring their slaves anywhere in the United States. Many northerners regarded the Dred Scott decision as a culmination of a decades-long drive to expand slavery, and vowed to defy and oppose it. The differences between the two sides could no longer be reconciled.
Four years after the Dred Scott ruling, the U.S. Civil War began.
“We has a right to the land where we are located. For why? I tell you. Our wives, our children, our husbands, has been sold over and over again to purchase the lands we now locates upon; for that reason we have a divine right to the land.... And then didn’t we clear the land, and raise de crops ob corn, ob cotton, ob tobacco, ob rice, ob sugar, ob everything. And den didn’t dem large cities in de North grow up on de cotton and de sugar and de rice we made? ... I say dey has grown rich, and my people is poor.”5
Freedman Bayley Wyat, 1867,
after he and other former slaves were
evicted by the U.S. Army from land
they were farming in Virginia
After northern victory in the Civil War, a key demand and need of Black people was land and the basic means to work on the land. As Bob Avakian wrote, “Land ownership was at that time crucial for Black people to have as some kind of economic ‘anchor’ and basis for them to resist being forced back into conditions of virtual if not literal slavery, of serf-like oppression, on the southern plantations.” In 1865, as the war was reaching its end, U.S. Army General William Sherman issued an order providing 40 acres of land and surplus army mules to newly freed Black people in coastal areas of Georgia and South Carolina. But this order was overturned by President Andrew Johnson soon after he took office that year, and ownership of the land was returned to the white former slave owners who had possessed it before the war. The phrase “40 acres and a mule” became a bitter reminder of the betrayal of Black people by the federal government.
But in the brief period after the Civil War known as Reconstruction, there were major transformations in the lives of Black people. As Avakian wrote, these years witnessed “significant changes and improvements in the lives of Black people in the South. The right to vote and hold office, and some of the other Constitutional rights that are supposed to apply to the citizens of the U.S. were partly, if not fully, realized by former slaves during Reconstruction. ...During these ten years of Reconstruction, with all the sharp contradictions involved, there was a real upsurge and sort of flowering of bourgeois-democratic reforms. This was not the proletarian revolution, but at that time it was very significant.”6
Three constitutional amendments—the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth—were passed during the years of Reconstruction, as were some federal laws (the Enforcement Acts and two Civil Rights bills), which were supposed to give substance to these amendments.
The Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery—“except as punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”; i.e., prisoners. The heart of the Fourteenth Amendment granted U.S. citizenship to “all persons” born in the U.S., and extended the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution to states, saying that “no state shall deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law, or deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of its laws.” The Fifteenth Amendment said that no citizen of the U.S. could be denied the right to vote by the federal or state government because of their “race, color, or condition of previous servitude.”
From the onset, these developments were met with convulsions of mass violence across the entire area of the former Confederacy. The Ku Klux Klan was founded and grew dramatically in these years, carrying out lynchings, night raids, and terroristic assaults upon newly freed Black people across the South. Historian Eric Foner wrote that the KKK and similar racist organizations were “in effect ... a military force serving the interests of the Democratic party, the planter class, and all those who desired the restoration of white supremacy.”7
This violence pervaded every aspect of society, and was intended to enforce a culture of white supremacy, and of degradation and fear among Black people. Foner wrote, “More commonly, violence was directed at ... ‘impudent negroes’—those who no longer adhered to patterns of behavior demanded under slavery. A North Carolina freedman related how, after he was whipped, the Klan assailants ‘told me the law, that whenever I met a white person, no matter who he was, whether he was poor or rich, I was to take off my hat.’”8
Louisiana was a particularly violent inferno of racist mob violence against newly enfranchised Black people. In a book appropriately titled The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction, Charles Lane wrote that, “Over three days in September , [white terrorists] killed some two hundred freedmen in St. Landry Parish. Later that month, in Bossier Parish, just across the Red River from Shreveport ... hundreds of armed whites poured into Bossier Parish, scouring the countryside ... this soon turned into an all-out ‘nigger hunt,’ complete with bloodhounds. The killing lasted through October and the death toll reached 168.”9
On April 13, 1873, a mass slaughter of Black people occurred in Colfax, Louisiana, a town in the center of the state on the banks of the Red River. Of the almost 200 people involved in carrying out the mass murder in Colfax, only nine were eventually charged with any crime. Only three were convicted,10 not of murder, but of the federal crime of conspiring to prevent two of the murdered Black men from their constitutionally mandated “free exercise and enjoyment of the right to peaceably assemble.”
Such outright murderous, racist terror, when legally challenged, was backed up by the courts which ruled such acts constitutionally legal. Three years after the Colfax Massacre, the case appealing the conviction of these three was heard in an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court unanimously reversed the guilty verdicts on the three racist killers. The essence of the ruling was that “federal law ... could not protect Blacks in exercising their right to vote.” And that “Federal law could not protect the ‘lives and liberty’ of Black people from murderous conspiracies. They [the Supreme Court] found this charge in the indictment ‘even more objectionable’ than those based on rights to assemble and vote ... because the power to bring prosecution for murder ‘rests alone with the States’ ... and the Fourteenth Amendment’s provision that prevents ‘any State’ from depriving ‘any person’ of life or liberty of any person adds nothing to the rights of one citizen against another.’”11
In other words, the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution prevented state governments from organizing lynch mobs or preventing Black people from participating in political life. But if a mob of “ordinary citizens” did so, and the local and state officials allowed it to happen—that was no violation of the U.S. Constitution.
This ruling gave a green light to an onslaught of unprecedented racist terror against Black people in every southern state. As Bob Avakian wrote in the article “How this System has Betrayed Black People: Crucial Turning Points”: “...in 1877 something very dramatic happened. The federal army was withdrawn from the South and the masses of Black people were stripped of even the partial economic and political gains they had made and were subjugated in the most brutal ways and once again chained to the plantations, only now essentially in peonage instead of outright slavery.”
In what has become known as its “Cruikshank ruling” (after one of the murder defendants) the Supreme Court put what amounted to the U.S. Constitution’s seal of approval on the Colfax Massacre, and helped put a legal seal on the end to Reconstruction, when it seemed that equality for Black people could possibly be attained within the United States.
In ruling that the federal government would do nothing to prevent the mass murder of Black people by organized racist mobs, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to decades of night riding KKK terror. In Louisiana an explicitly and overtly white supremacist state constitution was adopted, and became a model for other Southern state constitutions.
Other cases involving lynching came before the U.S. Supreme Court in 1883, 1906 and 1945, but the court’s decision in Cruikshank enshrined in U.S. constitutional law that the federal government would not intervene to end lynching in the South.” Lane wrote that in the Harris ruling—which came to be known as the Ku Klux Klan case—“The Supreme Court had meanwhile interpreted Black people’s other constitutional rights almost out of existence ... In 1883, the Court decided United States vs. Harris. The case stemmed from a federal indictment of twenty members of a Tennessee lynch mob for violating section 2 of the Enforcement Act, which outlawed conspiracies to deprive anyone of the ‘equal protection of the laws.’ Invoking Cruikshank, ... the Court unanimously struck down section 2. The lynching was not a federal matter, the Court said, because the mob consisted only of private individuals.”12
This ruling is worth repeating: Lynching was found not to be a federal matter, because the mob consisted only of private individuals.
Thus, the Supreme Court, the highest legal authority in the country, gave a legal green light to the lynching of Black people.
Indeed, during the years 1882-1951, the Tuskegee Institute (in figures many historians regard as an underestimation) —determined that 4,730 people were lynched in the United States; the vast majority of them Black, and almost all of them in Southern states.
Also in 1883, the same year as the Harris case, the U.S. Supreme Court heard what became known as “the Civil Rights Cases of 1883.” The Court ruled by an 8-1 vote to, in the words of historian Don E. Fehrenbacher, “void the Civil Rights Act of 1875.” Specifically the court ruled that “invasion of individual rights” by private individuals was not a matter in which the federal government could intervene. The “whites only” signs that had begun to appear throughout the South and in many parts of the North multiplied many times over, and took on the sanction of approval by U.S. law and Supreme Court ruling. Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave who became a great leader in the fight to abolish slavery, said that in this ruling “the spirit or power of slavery lived on”. Legally sanctioned segregation of Black people began to exert its grip across the South.
In the last three decades of the 19th century, the United States rapidly developed into a world capitalist power, and transitioned into a monopoly capitalist, or imperialist, country. Large-scale factory and mining industries mushroomed in the cities of the North and West. Slavery was no longer legal in the Southern states which had formed the Confederacy, but the former slave economies transformed into semi-feudal territories integrated into the capitalist-imperialist framework, and were dominated by sharecropping and other extreme forms of exploitation of Black people.
Agriculture—still based on extreme exploitation of Black people—remained the most profitable component of these states, and their most essential contribution to the entire capitalist economy of the U.S. Sharecropping—a harsh form of rural exploitation which differed slightly from place to place but always was founded upon ownership of the land and means to work it by white people, and.intense, year-round work by impoverished and overwhelmingly Black laborers—took root across the South. Millions of Black people were tied to land they worked endlessly but did not own. Under this system the crop harvested by former slaves would be taken by the white landowner to be sold. Out of the proceeds the landowner would deduct the costs of seeds and other supplies—and out of what was left, the Black farmers would get some share. But if the harvest was bad or the price of cotton fell, the Black farmer would end up in debt. And the white landowners typically defrauded the sharecroppers. So the situation was one where Black farmers were locked into debt and brutal poverty.
Also, as mentioned above, the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution had abolished slavery “except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” After being arrested and imprisoned, sometimes for something as minor as vagrancy, hundreds of thousands of Black people continued to be forced into slave conditions and what amounted to slave labor. Across the South, and several places, such as Sugarland in Texas and Angola in Louisiana, large slave plantations were transformed into prisons housing huge numbers of Black people who performed the same back-breaking labor for no wages as their ancestors had.
Across the entire South a system of degradation and oppression that became known as Jim Crow was being institutionalized in the laws of every state and municipality. Black people were systematically, legally, and violently purged from voting rolls, prevented from riding in public transportation, living where they wanted, entering public buildings or using public facilities, and a thousand other humiliations that were woven deep into the fabric of everyday life. The so-called “color line” became a barrier Black people could not cross.
On June 7, 1892, a man in New Orleans named Homer Plessy decided to challenge this line. Plessy bought a ticket for a train ride from New Orleans to Covington, Louisiana—on a “whites only” car. Homer Plessy, as the Supreme Court wrote in its final decision, “‘entered a passenger train, and took possession of a vacant seat in a coach where passengers of the white race (sic) were accommodated.’ The conductor then ordered him to ‘vacate said coach, and move to one of persons not of the white race.’ When Plessy refused to move, ‘he was, with the aid of a police officer, forcibly ejected from said coach and hurried off to and imprisoned in the parish jail of New Orleans.’”13
Four years later, in the case known as Plessy v. Ferguson, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Plessy’s eviction and arrest, taking the infamous “separate but equal” doctrine of Louisiana’s white supremacist state constitution and making it federal case law. The ruling issued by Supreme Court Justice Henry B. Brown’s final words were “If one race be inferior to another socially, the Constitution of the United States can not put them upon the same plane.”
In response to this ruling, the New Orleans Comité des Citoyens (Committee of Citizens), which brought the suit to challenge the segregation law in Louisiana, replied, “We, as freemen, still believe that we were right and our cause is sacred.”14
The Cruikshank and Plessy rulings put in place the legal, constitutional basis of the savage oppression, discrimination, and outright murder perpetrated on Black people for decades. In these instances, the Supreme Court did not “misinterpret” the U.S. Constitution. It did not, in an argument echoed by many defenders of this constitution, “turn the clear intent of Congress into legislative impotence.”15
These rulings were not “aberrations”; they were consistent with the U.S. Constitution, and concentrated in important ways the changing needs of the capitalist ruling class, at a time when the U.S. had developed from a largely agrarian society to an industrializing imperialist power contending on a world stage. They were intended to provide a legal basis for maintaining, and actually intensifying, the subordinate, deeply oppressed condition of Black people, and in particular their status as sharecroppers providing cheap labor and enormous profits to the plantation economy of the South, and to the capitalist system as a whole
Lynch mob terror was a continual presence in the rural and urban areas of the U.S. South in the seven decades following Reconstruction, always threatening to inflame spasms of horrific violence against Black people. State and county officials often participated in or even organized and publicized such violence. The constant, inescapable degradation of Jim Crow was woven into every aspect of life in the South, and many parts of the North.
Federal policy remained (officially) “hands off,” while in fact, legally aiding and abetting these lynchings and allowing them to continue, and letting their perpetrators remain unpunished. Ida B. Wells, a Black woman from Mississippi who was active in the Civil Rights and women’s movements until her death in 1931, wrote in January 1900, “The silence and seeming condoning [of lynching by the government] grow more marked as the years go by.”
Anti-lynching bills were put forward in the U.S. Congress several times in the early 1900s, but never came close to being passed. Not until 2005—yes, 2005—did the U.S. Senate pass a resolution expressing its “remorse” for never having passed an anti-lynching bill.
The betrayal of Reconstruction in 1877 began an era of lynching, segregation, and constant humiliation of Black people in the U.S., upheld and reinforced by constitutional law. But the economic and social conditions that had characterized the U.S. in the years prior to the Civil War were undergoing rapid and dramatic transformations.
By the beginning of the 1900s, the U.S. developed into a major imperialist power on the world stage, and then on the basis of the outcome of World War 2, had become the dominant imperialist power in the world. Domestically, by 1950, the U.S. transformed from a country whose population and economy were dominated by agriculture to an industrialized, urban society. Agriculture became increasingly mechanized, and the sharecropping that had characterized southern farming became less and less profitable. These changes had profound effects on the masses of Black people in the United States.
Lynch mob terror was a brutal fact of life in the rural and urban areas of the U.S. South following the federal government's abandoment of Reconstruction in 1877, always threatening horrific violence against Black people. In 1898, Ida B. Wells, a courageous African-American journalist and civil rights advocate, wrote an appeal to President McKinley to act against lynching, saying that "nowhere in the civilized world save the United States of America do men, possessing all civil and political power, go out in bands of 50 to 5,000 to hunt down, shoot, hang or burn to death an individual, unarmed and absolutely powerless." But McKinley didn't respond to Ida Wells, and widespread lynching continued well into the middle of the 1900s.
State and county officials often participated in and sometimes organized and publicized the lynchings. They routinely allowed them to happen. Federal policy, in every body of government and under Democratic and Republican administrations alike, in effect gave a green light to the lynchings by doing nothing to prevent them. U.S. constitutional law and Supreme Court decisions reinforced and gave these organized murders a stamp of legitimacy (see Part 2 above).
In these years a set of restrictions, rules, and deeply embedded cultural, social, and economic norms called Jim Crow reinforced the outlook and practice of white supremacy at every turn. This was America under the "rule of constitutional law"—a nightmare of blatant and ever present white supremacy, and the continual, unchecked use of the most savage mob violence against Black people.
William S. McFeeley, a professor of history whose book discussed slavery, lynching and the death penalty as a tool of social control, wrote that "by the close of the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth, lynching, disenfranchisement, and the formal categorization of Negroes as separate of the Jim Crow laws caused African Americans to be as powerless in America as they had ever been. Such humiliations as separate drinking fountains were part of the wall deliberately erected between Americans. Not even under slavery had African Americans been so excluded from any recourse to those in authority."16
Most Black people in the U.S. still lived in the South during the first half of the 20th century. The sharecropping economy of the South, integrated into the overall capitalist-imperialist system, provided great profits to both plantation owners and capitalists generally. But as the 1900s went on, changes in the international and domestic economy, including the increasing use of more advanced machinery to plant and harvest crops, began to transform the nature of southern plantation agriculture—requiring less labor than before. These changes in the economic foundation of southern society, and the continuing racist violence and degradation across the South, forced growing numbers of Black people in the South off the land their ancestors had worked for centuries.
In the first few decades of the 20th century, more than a million Black people left the rural areas of the South, moving into cities both northern and southern. This was the first wave of what became known as the Great Migration, and it transformed the face of the U.S. forever.
Migration of Black people out of rural southern areas subsided in the years of economic depression in the 1930s. But beginning with the onset of World War 2 in 1939 and continuing for three decades, millions more Black people moved out of the South, seeking jobs in the industrial areas of northern and western cities, and seeking to get away from the lynching and Jim Crow of the South.
Large numbers of Black people became a major and growing part of the population and workforce of cities like Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York. The blatant Jim Crow of the South didn't exist in the same way in most northern cities. But Black people in these northern cities faced discrimination and humiliation at every turn. They were crowded into overpriced ghettos and overwhelmingly forced to work in the lowest paying, most dangerous industrial jobs.
In these changing conditions, new expectations and demands arose from among Black people. A Black soldier returning from World War 2 expressed the anger many people felt at that time: "The Army Jim-Crows us. The Navy lets us serve only as messmen. The Red Cross refuses our blood. Employers and unions shut us out. Lynchings continue. We are disenfranchised, jim-crowed, spat upon. What more could Hitler do than that?"17
Beginning in the late 1940s, in cities and towns across the country—not just in the South—Black people fought to overcome the deeply engrained and legally enforced oppression that confronted them at every turn. Some of the initial, and most intense, battles focused on public education.
In 1951, Oliver L. Brown, a Black man living in Topeka, Kansas, attempted to enroll his daughter Linda in an all-white elementary school seven blocks from their home. He was denied by the Topeka Board of Education, and Linda was forced to attend an all-Black school a mile from home. Oliver Brown and others in Topeka filed a lawsuit to end the Board of Education's policy of maintaining segregated public schools, using the pretext of the "separate but equal" standard established in the Supreme Court's Plessy ruling. (See Part 2 for discussion of Plessy v. Ferguson case.)
Three years later, this lawsuit was combined with four others and argued before the Supreme Court in a case that became known as Brown vs. Board of Education. The Court held two hearings over a five-month span. Earl Warren, who had recently been appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, spent the months between court sessions working to assure that the vote on Brown was unanimous to overturn Plessy. Warren and fellow Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter were concerned about what kind of message the Supreme Court would send to the world and the people in the U.S. if it didn't unanimously reject legal segregation. Warren thought it would take "all the wisdom of this Court to dispose of the matter with a minimum of emotion and strife. How we do it is important."18 As we shall see, this "wisdom" was driven by larger political and international concerns.
Warren pressured, cajoled, and argued with wavering judges until all agreed to mandate an end to legal segregation in public schools. In the spring of 1954, the Supreme Court issued a unanimous ruling that overturned the segregationist precedent established in the Plessy ruling. The Court stated that "separate educational facilities are inherently unequal."
The Supreme Court's Brown ruling is regarded by many lawyers and scholars as "in many ways, the watershed constitutional case of the 20th century," and is often held up as an example of how the U.S. Constitution provides the framework and foundation to put all citizens on an equal footing. Judge Stanley Reed, who was on the Supreme Court when Brown was decided, said "if it was not the most important case in the history of the Court, it was very close."19
But in reality the decision in this case was not an example of the highest court in the land standing up for and enforcing equality. Rather, the Brown ruling came about mainly in response to great necessity faced by the U.S. ruling class—to dramatic economic and social changes in the U.S. and to international and domestic challenges, and the need to deal with this in a way that would result in the least amount of social disruption, upheaval, and confrontation.
Within the U.S., Black people—especially youth—and some whites had begun to challenge the deeply engrained practices of Jim Crow and lynch law. And the migration of millions of Black people out of the South into cities in the North resulted in profound social changes and expectations.
Internationally, the U.S. faced mounting difficulties as it tried to secure its position as the leading imperialist power in the world. In particular, national liberation struggles in oppressed countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin Ameria were beginning to challenge U.S. domination, foreshadowing much more profound upsurges that would come in the late 1950s and 1960s. At the same time, and very much related, the communist movement worldwide, which stood for the abolition of exploitation and inequality, had enormous influence across the planet. In the face of all this, for the U.S. to continue to maintain a legal system of flagrant discrimination, oppression, and brutality against Black people within its own borders tarnished the image it was projecting of itself.
But still, even with these larger concerns influencing the Supreme Court's ruling, significant limitations were built into the Brown decision. The ruling applied only to public education. Other areas of society could legally maintain their "whites only" status. The Court left open the question of who was responsible for enforcing the decision, and put off to the indefinite future when it had to be applied and enforced. The way Judge Reed put it was that enforcement should not be "a rush job. The time they give, the opportunities to adjust, these are the greatest palliative [soothing influence] to an awful thing."20 To be clear, the "awful thing" Reed referred to was the end of constitutionally enforced segregation of Black school children in dramatically inferior schools.
The Brown decision was immediately met with vehement opposition from leading political figures in the U.S., especially in the South. Senator James Eastland of Mississippi, who was a leading white supremacist and a leading figure in the Democratic Party, said the South "will not abide by or obey this legislative decision by a political court."21
The first major test of the Brown decision came three years later. On September 4, 1957, in Little Rock, Arkansas, nine Black students tried to enter Central High, regarded as the premier public high school in the state. A white mob carrying Confederate flags had started gathering at the school the day before, when a federal court in St. Louis legally cleared the way for Black students to enter the long segregated school.
In response, Arkansas governor Orval Faubus—who in mainstream politics was widely regarded as a "racial moderate" by the standards of the time—announced on statewide television that "blood will flow in the streets" if the Black students entered Central High."22 Faubus ordered the Arkansas National Guard to surround the school and prevent Black students from entering.
Elizabeth Eckford, one of the Black students who tried to enter Central High, was turned away by soldiers with bayonets and confronted by an angry crowd that surrounded her and began yelling, "Get her! Lynch her!" Someone said, "Get a rope and drag her over to this tree!" Eckford was protected by a white NAACP member and was able to escape the mob and get on a city bus.23
For the next several weeks, both the racist mobs and the National Guard prevented the nine students from entering Central High. The country, and the entire world, read and saw televised stories daily about the nine youths prevented from getting an education, and besieged by hate filled racist mobs while the federal government stood aside.
This was a big problem for the rulers of the U.S. They were trying to solidify and expand their global empire, and everywhere claimed that the U.S. was "the greatest country in the world," the land of "freedom and democracy," the place where the rights of the individual were cherished. Yet here were scenes broadcast worldwide of young Black students being viciously assaulted, having their lives threatened not just by racist lynch mobs but by the forces of the government itself.
Dwight Eisenhower, then president of the U.S., was on a golf vacation at the time the confrontations in Little Rock began, and didn't want to be interrupted. Then, on September 20, an Arkansas judge ordered Governor Faubus to remove the National Guardsmen from Little Rock. But the racist mob remained at the school, and the terrifying specter of a public, possibly televised lynching of the nine youths loomed into focus.
Eisenhower, and the ruling class of capitalist-imperialists he represented, felt compelled to act. He called in U.S. Army Airborne troops, federalized the Arkansas National Guard (taking them out of the control of Governor Faubus), and ordered the Army to escort the youths into the school. They remained there until the end of August.
To be clear, Eisenhower was not particularly concerned with protecting Black students under assault by a mob of howling racists. In fact, in private conversations Eisenhower said to companions that he had sympathies for white parents who didn't want their children to be educated in the same school as Black children. Publicly, he said he acted to "prevent mob rule and anarchy," and most of all because the white mobs in Little Rock had harmed "the prestige and influence of our nation...,"24 not because of the injustice and cruelty that was segregation.
The nine students finally entered Central High in late September 1954, under military escort. They endured a year of constant assault, insult, and abuse.
Little Rock was the first major test of the Brown decision. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, and into the 1970s, ugly, racist opposition to different forms of integrating public school education arose in different parts of the country, and battles that reverberated across the planet were fought to integrate major state universities in Alabama, Mississippi, and elsewhere.
But again, Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka only applied to public education, not to the open, legal segregation that permeated every aspect of life in the southern U.S. And it took massive and courageous boycotts, sit-ins, voter registration drives, freedom rides, rebellions, and other forms of protest to begin to batter down other barriers to legal segregation across the South, until finally in 1964 the U.S. Congress passed a civil rights law that outlawed many open forms of discrimination against Black people and women.
The Supreme Court rulings on Little Rock and Plessy illustrate the link between legal rulings and ruling class interests. And they also show how laws not only reflect prevailing property and fundamentally production relations but how the interpretation of these laws does as well, at various stages. Here, Bob Avakian has pointed out:
"A prime example is the contrast between Plessy vs. Ferguson at the end of the 19th century (1896), which upheld segregation as Constitutional, and the Brown vs. Board of Education decision in the middle of the 20th century (1954) which overturned it. Nothing fundamental affecting this had changed in the Constitution: the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments, which codified the end of slavery and important related changes, had been passed well before Plessy vs. Ferguson—and between Plessy vs. Ferguson and Brown vs. Board of Education there were no changes in the Constitution which clearly prohibited segregation—but the ruling class, and its prevailing representatives, in the Supreme Court specifically, saw its interests one way in one historical period and another way in another historical period."25
The historic and ongoing oppression of Black people is built deeply into the foundation of U.S. society, and is manifested economically, politically, socially, and culturally. Establishing one formal expression of "equality" was not intended to, nor could it change this basic reality, even in the one realm of public education. And more recent Supreme Court rulings in the years after the Brown ruling have in fact served to undercut the actual impact in any ongoing way of Brown's end to the "separate but equal" doctrine.
Today, schools in the U.S. are more racially segregated than they were 40 years ago. The average white child in America attends a school that is 77 percent white, while the average Black child attends a school that is only 29 percent white. Overall, a third of all Black and Latino children sit every day in classrooms that are 90 to 100 percent Black and Latino.26
A phenomenon of the last half of the 20th century, continuing to today, has been the growth of suburban and "exurban" areas. This development has been promoted and encouraged by various government policies, including conscious decisions to allow subsidized growth in the suburbs through tax policies, development of freeways and other mass transit, etc. In most metropolitan areas of the U.S., a great divide has arisen between what are usually relatively better off, and largely white, suburban areas, and inner cities populated by Black and Latino people.
Public schools are primarily funded through property and other forms of local taxation, and one outcome of suburban growth has been the vastly different resources allotted to schools in the inner cities and schools in more affluent suburbs. Two lawsuits in the 1970s, one in Texas and one in Michigan, sought to overcome the effects of the impoverishment of many urban school districts, the conscious neglect towards the education of Black and Latino youth, and the enormous inequalities of public education that remain a glaring, conspicuous feature of life in the U.S. after the Brown ruling.
The suit in Texas, Rodriguez v. San Antonio, argued that tremendous differences in tax-based funding for urban and suburban school districts had reinforced long-standing practices of seriously underfunding education for Black and Latino children, keeping them in dilapidated buildings, overcrowded classrooms, and with limited or no extracurricular activities available.
The Supreme Court emphatically rejected any attempt to overcome this enormous inequality that masquerades as equality. "The [Supreme] Court recognized that disparities in state funding of schools based on property taxes lead to Black schools and white schools, good schools and bad schools; nevertheless, they said, the Court should not intervene, for poor students were not a protected class, education was not a federally protected constitutional right, and thus, the Court should do nothing."27
In the Michigan case, Milliken v Bradley, the Supreme Court ruled that integration of schooling in the Detroit metropolitan area could not take place across school district lines, despite the undisputed fact that any "leveling of the playing field" in the Detroit area would have to involve both the overwhelmingly Black Detroit schools and the overwhelmingly white suburban schools.
With these rulings, the era of even pretending to allow meaningful attempts to provide a quality education to all Black children, under the constitutional sanction of the Brown decision, had ended. As researchers at UCLA concluded in a 2009 report: "Millions of non-white students are locked into 'dropout factory' high schools, where huge percentages do not graduate, and few are well prepared for college or a future in the US economy."28
The U.S. Constitution, and the way it has been interpreted and upheld for almost two-and-a-half centuries, has consistently sustained, deepened, and enforced the oppression of Black people. It is, as Bob Avakian has written, an "exploiters' vision of freedom," and it has been adapted not only to continue old forms of oppression, but to enforce new ones under changed economic and social conditions. This continuity of oppression is expressed vividly in the realm of public education.
1. Cited in The U.S. Constitution: An Exploiters' Vision of Freedom, by Bob Avakian [back]
2. Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction, by Eric Foner and Joshua Brown [back]
3. A Slaveholders' Union: Slavery Politics, and the Constitution in the Early American Republic, by George William Van Cleve, p 6 [back]
4. Van Cleve, p. 225 [back]
5. Reconstruction 1863-1877: America’s Unfinished Revolution, by Eric Foner, p. 105. [back]
6. “How This System Has Betrayed Black People: Crucial Turning Points,” by Bob Avakian, Revolutionary Worker (now Revolution) #894, February 16, 1997. [back]
7. Foner, p. 425. [back]
8. Foner, p. 430. [back]
9. The Day Freedom Died: The Colfax Massacre, the Supreme Court, and the Betrayal of Reconstruction, by Charles Lane,pp. 18-19. [back]
10. A People’s History of the Supreme Court, by Peter Irons, p. 205. [back]
11. Ibid., p. 294. [back]
12. Lane, p. 253. [back]
13. Irons,p. 222. [back]
14. We As Freemen: Plessy v. Ferguson: The Fight Against Legal Segregation, by Keith Weldon Medley. [back]
15. Irons,p. 197. [back]
16. A Legacy of Slavery and Lynching: The Death Penalty as a Tool of Social Control, by William S. McFeeley, Professor Emeritus at the University of Georgia. [back]
17. A People's History of the Supreme Court, by Peter Irons, p. 368. [back]
18. A History of the Supreme Court, by Bernard Schwarz, p. 293. [back]
19. Ibid., p. 286. [back]
20. Ibid., p. 296. [back]
21. Irons, p. 399. [back]
22. Ibid., p. 405. [back]
23. Ibid. [back]
24. New York Times, September 25, 1957. [back]
25. Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon, by Bob Avakian, available online at revcom.us [back]
26. Gary Orfield, Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society: A 21st Century Challenge (Los Angeles: The Civil Rights Project/Proyecto Derechos Civiles at UCLA, 2009), p. 13. [back]
27. Courting Disaster: The Supreme Court and the Unmaking of American Law, by Martin Garbus,p. 212. [back]
28. Orfield, p. 3. [back]
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
The killing of Trayvon Martin struck a vein in a way that nothing has for a long time in this country. That vein is the centuries-old oppression of Black people in this country—the fact that from the 1600s down to today the law and custom of this country have been, in one form or another, that a Black person has no rights that a white person is bound to respect, that every Black person is guilty until proven innocent, and that Black youth in particular walk around with a death sentence on their heads all the time for the sole “crime” of walking while Black. The Trayvon Martin case—from the original suspicion, down to the way the authorities handled it. (See “The Killing Lies About the Murder of Trayvon Martin” on page 7 about how, for example, they tested Trayvon’s corpse for drugs, but did not test Zimmerman.) And now the counter-offensive of slander against this murdered teenager in the press has concentrated that for millions. What is new is that thousands of people have begun to say, “Enough! No More!” and have taken action to protest; and this must go on and get stronger and spread and, as it does so, get deeper into the causes of all this.
At the same time, some people are telling us, “The shooting of Trayvon Martin is horrible—but ‘Black on Black’ crime is an even worse problem.” Now some of the people saying that are open apologists for the system and some are backward fools—but more than a few are people who really do hate what was done to Trayvon Martin, but are agonized by the way that too many Black youth lash out at each other. People feel deep pain at the tragic loss of young lives to what is really senseless violence, and they feel outraged, but hopeless, about a whole culture of expecting—accepting—that young Black men will either die young or spend their lives in and out of jail.
First off, this has to be said: Without people fighting back against outrages like the murder of Trayvon Martin, without people standing up like they are now, and in fact standing up even taller and fiercer... then nothing will ever change. Nothing will change in how the system, and all its various enforcers (whether official or not), relentlessly comes down on the people... and nothing will change about the bad ways that people sometimes do each other.
When people do stand up, as they are now around Trayvon Martin, it actually becomes possible to change a lot of things: both the outrage that people are protesting, but something else as well—the way that they are thinking about things. As Bob Avakian has recently said, when this begins to happen, “the conditions become much more favorable for [those who are standing up] to begin to see the world in a different way—to transform themselves, in terms of their understanding, and in terms of their feelings—in terms of their orientation toward society, toward the world, toward other people, and what kind of relations there should be among people.”
So that is one big thing to keep foremost in mind—that right now, what must happen to change anything at all, is to step forward and act around this outrage. At the same time, if you want to understand how to change the way that people treat each other, you have to get to the root of the problem.
First, a key fact, never to forget: this system—U.S. capitalism-imperialism, with white supremacy as a key pillar—has always treated Black people, as a people and in countless individual encounters, as less than human. There was and is a whole way of life built on top of that—of education, of culture, of politics—that openly drums this ugly message into every last person who lives in this horror of a country, and that also insinuates it into them... a system that in a million ways both yells it at people and whispers it in their ears. Do we think this is over? That this is just a relic of the old days and now there is equality?
Let’s put aside the fairy tales and bullshit about “post-racial America” and look at the real story here. After hundreds of years of the most horrendous and openly legalized oppression, after the U.S. was shamed before the world every time it tried to portray itself as the “land of the free,” and most of all after the great struggles and powerful rebellions of the 1960s, the masses of Black people were promised that there would finally be equality. And some of the most outrageous and horrible laws were changed. Some concessions to a relatively small section of Black people were made. But what happened with the situation of the masses?
In short: legal equality masking deeper inequality and deeper oppression.
This is not some mystery why this happened. And it’s not some mystery who did it. Hint: it was not the masses of Black people who made the decisions that led to what we’ve listed above. No, it was the same handful of people who control the major means of producing wealth—the capitalist-imperialist class—and, on that basis, who control everything else. They decide things from the vantage point of how best to keep their system intact and expanding. And this is how they decided to deal with that revolutionary upsurge—a few concessions and legal equality... hiding deeper inequality and oppression for the masses. Structures of oppression, open and hidden, that get internalized in people’s minds. A few changes to these structures—all the better to reinforce them. Meanwhile, on the basis of these changes, the constant lie from every corner of society: “Black people have equality now, so the slate is clean; if there are problems it is their own fault.” (For more on this, see “The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of This System, and the Revolution We Need,” Revolution #144, October 5, 2008.)
Think about the youth coming of age in what have been turned into the massive open-air holding pens of the inner city. What do they face? The Message and Call of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA puts it like this:
For millions in the inner cities, if they are not killed at an early age, their likely future is prison (nearly 1 in 8 young Black men is incarcerated, the prisons are overflowing with Blacks and Latinos, and this country has the highest rate of incarceration of women in the world). This system has robbed so many youth of the chance for a decent life and has got far too many living, dying and killing for nothing—nothing good—nothing more than messing up people and murdering each other on the streets of the cities here...or joining the military, being trained to be murderers on a mass scale, massacring people in countries across the globe. A system which offers millions and millions of youth no greater purpose, no better fate, than crime and punishment, or to become a mindless killing machine for the system itself—that alone is reason enough to sweep this system from the face of the earth!
—“The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have,”
Revolution #170, July 19, 2009
At the same time, this Message and Call also makes the point that “despite the creative impulses and efforts of many, the dominant culture too is corrupted and molded to lower, not raise, people’s sights, to extol and promote the ways of thinking, and of acting, that keep this system going and keep people believing that nothing better is possible.” In the inner city, where gangsta culture was pushed in a million ways, the choices are posed as “get rich or die trying”—and mostly it’s the latter.
If you want to change this—if you want to change both the ways that the system and its tools and willing accomplices crush people like Trayvon Martin, and the ways that it also gets people to mess over each other—you have to get rid of the system itself, through revolution. And you have to dig out the thinking this system gives rise to, beginning now and then taking a leap once people have actually won power. You can’t do that by trying to reform this system that’s based on exploitation. Exploitation—making profit off of other people’s labor—has been at the root of the problem since the first African was kidnapped to be exploited as a slave in the “new world.” The state power we now live under—the government, with its organs of force and violence at the core of it—is a product of exploitation, and was built to maintain and extend it.
No, we need a whole new state power. A state power based on getting rid of exploitation, getting rid of one people oppressing another, getting rid of everything that reinforces all that... including those ideas in people’s thinking that reflect the ways of exploitation. That’s what this revolution is all about—a new state power that backs the masses up in making these transformations from head to toe, as part of getting to a world where humanity has put all that behind it.
You have to make revolution to do that. You have to get with the movement for revolution today—fighting back and, as we do, struggling with people to break with these ideas. In other words: “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.” We have to rally the youth—a lot of whom in fact are caught up in some of the mentality this system has put on them—to fight back, and welcome it when (as is beginning to happen today) many of them are fighting back, and struggle with them to transform their thinking in the process... to get with the real revolution. There is no other solution to this problem—all the preaching in the world only makes it worse, and even the efforts to bring real truth to the youth cannot take root without this. And there is no other way to the whole new world that is needed, and is possible, where all exploitation and oppression and destructive antagonisms between people—and all the mentalities and ways of thinking that reflect and reinforce that oppression—are things of the past, and where all people can truly flourish and rise to their full heights.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
Let's go on a crucial journey together—full of unity against oppression and lively struggle about the source of the problem and the solution. Pursue your own convictions—that the outrages that move you are intolerable—to their logical conclusion, and be determined not to stop until those outrages have been eliminated. And if this, as well as learning about other outrages, and ideas about how this all fits together and flows from a common source—and how it could all be ended, and something much better brought into being—leads in the direction of seeing not only the need for bold and determined resistance, but also the need for revolution and ultimately communism, then don't turn away from that because it moves you beyond your comfort zone, challenges what had been your cherished beliefs, or because of prejudices and slanders. Instead, actively seek to learn more about this revolution and its goal of communism and to determine whether it is in fact the necessary, and possible, solution. And then act accordingly.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
On Friday afternoon, April 6, two revolutionaries grabbed an enlargement of the front cover of Revolution newspaper—Trayvon Martin's picture under the heading, "A Modern American Lynching"—and stood on the medial strip of a high-traffic intersection in a largely Black area of L.A. People pulled up at the light and rolled down their windows as the revolutionaries approached the cars saying, "We need a revolution, the whole system is guilty" and flipped to the "Three Strikes" poster depicting capitalism's treatment of Black people—slavery, lynching, and police brutality. People nodded, some expressed emphatic agreement. They pulled out dollars and grabbed the paper, sometimes two, three, four copies to distribute to others. People who couldn't get their money out before the light changed drove around the block and came back around. In car after car, people had the newspapers opened up and were looking at the articles as they kept one eye on the traffic light. People seeing the display from cars two lanes over honked and yelled out how much for that paper. Youth crossing the street had dollars ready in their hands and grabbed papers as they passed by. A woman waiting for the bus ran out to the medial strip to get it. A younger guy headed over and said, yes, we need a revolution—very angry, very glad to get the paper and wrote down his number to get with this movement for revolution. In less than two hours, $100 had been raised for the newspaper and nearly 100 copies distributed.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
Determined not to let the bad weather shut down plans to raise funds for the BA Everywhere campaign this past weekend, some supporters of the campaign quickly adjusted their thinking and fought to creatively push through. The bake sales and garage sales that had been planned for the weekend had to be postponed due to weather. So instead we called up some people who had already contributed to the campaign and asked them to go door-to-door in a commercial district to raise funds that way. Equipped with a laptop and the Get BA Everywhere DVD, BAsics, and the Trayvon Martin issue of Revolution, a small team went to some of the bars and restaurants in downtown. They went back to places who had previously bought tickets to the New Year’s party and to some new shops. Quickly they raised $50. The discussions dealt a lot with the impact of the campaign so far and what does BA have to say about the murder of Trayvon Martin. The team quickly learned that playing the “Emmett Till and Jim Crow: Black people lived under a death sentence” selection from the Revolution DVD moves people and gives them a sense of what a difference it would make for that piece of hidden history to get out there in a big way in the way that BA projects it. Another $20 was raised by shaking the can in an immigrant area of the city. Those doing one of the garage sales that had to be shut down found other ways to continue to sell for a while and raised another $86. Finally, someone stopped by the bookstore to make a $100 donation. Altogether $256 was raised, far short of our vision and goal for the weekend, but also indicative of what can be done when we persevere in finding ways to get BA out whatever the conditions. Now bigger and bolder plans need to be made to bring more people into our plans for the re-scheduled fundraisers the weekend of April 14-15.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
Revolution received the following snapshot from Hawai'i:
The Hawai'i Chapter of the NAACP called for a vigil for Trayvon Martin at Kaka'ako Waterfront Park. About 80 people attended. We brought posters with Trayvon's picture and "We Are All Trayvon Martin—The Whole Damn System is Guilty," along with leaflets and papers. The posters were very popular and were displayed prominently throughout, with lots of people posing with pictures of them. Thirteen Revolution newspapers were sold and everyone got leaflets. Because it was dusk the picture here isn't very clear, but it reflects the enthusiasm that young people, in particular, had for the posters and graphics.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
It is time and way past time to stand up and say NO MORE! Our youth are being treated like criminals—guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence. The vigilante murder of Trayvon Martin concentrates the racial profiling that leads into more than 2.4 million people being warehoused in prison and the millions more who are treated like second-class citizens even after they've served their sentences. April 19th must be a day of standing up and saying NO MORE to all of this. It must be a day of teach-ins and rallies in high schools and colleges; a day of youth, tired of being demonized, taking to the streets—joined by many others from different backgrounds, races and nationalities who stand with them; a day of speaking bitterness to the way the whole criminal justice system abuses millions of people. All saying in a powerful voice: NO to mass incarceration and all its consequences.
NO MORE TRAYVON MARTINS!
NO MORE OSCAR GRANTS!
NO MORE 2.4 MILLION PEOPLE WAREHOUSED IN PRISON!
NO MORE 1 IN 8 BLACK MEN IN THEIR 20'S LOCKED DOWN IN JAIL!
MASS INCARCERATION + SILENCE = GENOCIDE!
The "Stop Mass Incarceration" Network is a project of the Alliance for Global Justice, a 501c3 tax-exempt organization. Tax-deductible contributions accepted, and checks should be made payable to the "Alliance for Global Justice, with "Mass Incarceration Network" in the memo line. Other forms of contributions also accepted.
|April 19th Convergences
Atlanta: 4 pm—Protest, speak-out, street theater, & march, Five Points MARTA Station. Chicago: 5 pm—Federal Plaza at Dearborn & Adams. Houston: 3:30 pm—Convergence, intersection of Cleburne and Tierwester, March to Houston Police substation. Los Angeles: 4 pm—Pershing Square, 5th & Olive, Downtown L.A.; 5 pm—March to LAPD Headquarters. New York City: 4 pm—One Police Plaza, downtown Manhattan; 5:30 pm—March to Union Square. San Francisco Bay Area: 12 noon—Rally, California State Building, Van Ness & McAllister—March to Federal Building, 7th and Mission Streets. Seattle: 3 pm—speak-out and picket, King County Jail, 5th Ave. & James St., downtown Seattle.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
Revolution received the following report:
A spirited multinational crowd of hundreds of people, of all ages, turned out in Lower Manhattan April 10 for a national Day of Outrage: We Are All Trayvon Martin; The Whole Damn System Is Guilty! The Day of Outrage took place one day before George Zimmerman, the man who carried out a modern American lynching of Travyon Martin more than six weeks earlier, was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.
A dominant theme voiced during a rally at Union Square and an energetic and defiant march afterwards was that people are plain fed up: fed up that yet another young Black man has been murdered in cold blood; fed up at the brutalization, murder, incarceration, harassment and terror that Black people in this country face on a daily basis; and fed up at those who are not fed up.
"Enough is enough," said J, a 40-year-old Black woman who attended the rally. "It's time we stood up and made noise."
J said she had been motivated to turn out because she is "an activist at heart," and that it breaks her heart to see so many unarmed youth of color killed. Her cousin was one of those murdered by the system; he was Tasered to death about two years ago. J said that she knows what it is like to have someone murdered and not receive any justice.
K, a 30-year-old white woman, held a homemade sign that read; "Throwing flour on Kim Kardashian will get you ARRESTED. But stalking and killing an unarmed child WON'T?? WTF." The first part of the sign referred to an incident in which a woman was arrested for throwing flour on Kim Kardashian at a recent red-carpet event. The reality spoken to in this sign, K said, "makes it impossible to ignore that we have some very deep problems with our justice system in this country."
She continued: "To me, there's not a lot of nuance to this—it was an innocent kid with no criminal record walking through a neighborhood, and somebody who clearly has some issues follows him and shoots him. I just can't understand how some people can not be outraged. I'm more sad about the people who aren't outraged. And that includes people I know."
K was asked if she had any sense of why people she knows are not more outraged. "Because they believe the sound bytes from the right-wing media that Trayvon was a thug," K replied. "They take that at face value."
One young Black man wearing a hoodie spoke on the microphone to this system's demonization of entire generations of Black youth. "We're nothing but gangsters. We're nothing but thugs," he said, angrily characterizing this demonization. He connected the murder of Trayvon Martin to a system that is the "most heinous," "most racist," and "most exploitative" that has ever existed, and causes suffering all over the world.
He denounced as intolerable a situation in which 2.5 million people—the majority of them Black and Latino—are locked in prison, many of them in solitary confinement, while the cops murder and harass young Black men on a regular basis. He ended by calling on people of all nationalities to stand up. "This is a human problem," he said.
Sunsara Taylor, a writer for Revolution newspaper, began her comments on the mic by talking about the case of Emmett Till, a 14-year-old Black youth visiting Mississippi in 1955 who went to the store to get candy and—after whistling at a white woman—was taken by white men and beaten beyond recognition before being shot to death and dumped in a river; the men who lynched Emmett Till were acquitted in one hour by an all-white jury and never punished. (See "Emmett Till and Lynchings, Past and Present," an excerpt from Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, by Bob Avakian, in Revolution #264).
"Here we are," Taylor said, "57 years later!"
And today, she continued, there are more Black men in prison than were enslaved in 1860. Taylor then posed the question: "Is this going to be going on 57 years from now?"
We need a real revolution and a new state power, she told the crowd, to put an end to lynchings like that of Trayvon Martin, and to the mass incarceration and slow genocide that could accelerate, that is carried out against Black people in this country—all of which would be reasons enough to make revolution—as well as horrors such as the U.S. bombings of people all around the world, the astounding numbers of women who are raped and battered, and the destruction of the environment.
Taylor emphasized the April 19 Day of Resistance to Stop Mass Incarceration (see Revolution #265) and urged everyone to get a copy of Revolution newspaper before leaving.
Taylor said that people must not stop until getting justice for every Trayvon Martin. For every Ramarley Graham. Every Sean Bell. Every Troy Davis. Every Oscar Grant. Every person who had raised their hands earlier when one speaker asked people at the rally to do so if they knew someone who had been profiled, or beaten, or killed by police.
"This must end!" Taylor said. "And we must be the people who end it."
Revolution asked L, a 25-year-old Dominican man who grew up in Brooklyn, what had motivated him to attend the Day of Outrage.
"I'm with anything that stands against any abuses of power or any injustice," he said. "I stand for that. I'm with anyone willing to fight against it." L said it was exciting to be part of an expression of outrage against the murder of Trayvon Martin, but also infuriating that there was a necessity to do so. "I'm feeling a little angry," L said, "because this has been going on forever."
J, the 40-year-old Black woman whose cousin was Tasered to death, expressed a similar sentiment. "It's sad that we have to do it," she said, "but it's good that we're able to do it."
J cited the history of the sit-ins and protests of the 1960s as evidence of the impact of people standing up. "History has taught us," J said, "that this stuff does work." A moment later, she added: "History has been repeating itself, but we just don't have that leader yet."
Actually, we do. In Bob Avakian, the chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, humanity does have the leadership it needs to make revolution and get to a world free of all exploitation and oppression. Revolution told J about Avakian—the fact that he came out of the struggles of the 1960s, in which he worked closely with the Black Panthers, and had gone on to develop a whole new synthesis of communism on the basis of studying both the tremendously positive achievements and also the shortcomings of the past experience of the communist revolution and also drawing from a wide range of human endeavor. J was urged to check out Revolution in hard copy and online and find out more about Avakian's leadership. J expressed that she would be interested in doing so.
K, the 30-year-old white woman with the sign about Kim Kardashian, spoke about her brother, a person of color who lives in Chicago and is harassed constantly by the police. K. said her brother often expresses to her that he wishes he could leave Chicago and go somewhere where he won't be hounded because he is a youth of color who dresses in a hip-hop style.
"But honestly," K said, "I don't know where that place is. Where can he go?"
He can go to this movement for revolution that Bob Avakian is leading. A movement working every day towards a world in which no one will ever again have to ask that question.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
Revolution received the following correspondence:
April 10, Los Angeles, late afternoon: A bold and electrifying speakout and march took place in the Crenshaw area (a major area of the city with a concentration of Black people), making a powerful political statement: "Trayvon didn't have to die, we all know the reason why, the whole damn system is guilty, the whole damn system is guilty."
This was different than anything that's gone on in Los Angeles around Trayvon Martin up until now. It drew revolutionary-minded people and people who consciously were making a decision to be part of something that was about the masses standing up and expressing their outrage and anger. The crowd was mainly Black people along with people of other nationalities. A few folks from Occupy Los Angeles came. People brought their own banners and signs. This protest of outrage punctured through in a moment of all the media bombardment of lies and with different class forces working very hard to channel the anger of the masses back into the system.
At the speakout, a mother whose son was killed by the police spoke, as did revolutionary communist Clyde Young. A woman who recently got Revolution newspaper wrote a short piece based on reading the newspaper. She called it, "Revolution news, It's time to get radical," and she read it at the speakout.
After the speakout, the masses took to the street with the KJLH (radio free music station) street team van rolling behind the marchers, helping to block traffic. There were lots of people honking all along the way. People were called on to join. The march grew as many did join in, including high school students, and those who didn't join in were cheering on the marchers.
There was a second mini-speakout, and several youth spoke bitterly there about it's time to put an end to this shit. Then the march returned to the park and a few people stayed for another hour to talk to the revolutionaries.
Earlier on this Day of Outrage, when students got out of a local high school, the revolutionaries we were at the corner with Revolution newspaper, signs, and doing agitation on the bullhorn. Students passing by shouted "fuck the system" and "fuck the police," many stopped and gathered around to get more stickers or to talk. Hundreds of stickers, "We are all Trayvon Martin, the whole system is guilty," had gotten out at this high school in the two days leading up to the Day of Outrage. Parents were stopping their cars—some to get the newspaper and some who wanted to argue. One youth who was very serious stood around listening and checking everything out, said "we need a revolution, what do we do," and bought BAsics immediately. Another youth later came to the park and brought his younger brother. And another came and spoke at the mini-speakout.
April 10, UCLA, noon: The banner read "UCLA says: We Are All Trayvon Martin; The Whole Damn System Is Guilty!" And it was getting more and more filled with names and messages as students stepped forward, and at times lined up, to get a chance to sign it, and put on a sticker with the same message. In many cases students were taking flyers and stickers back to their dorm, to their classes, to their friends.
Three Bruin women's basketball players [all three white] signed, and then posed for a picture. Not long after, three men's basketball players, [all three Black] signed, one after another. One of the students from the men's team said, "I think we're out here for a good cause. We're here to bring information to the people ... we have a powerful voice as athletes, more so than regular students." Asked why it has touched Black people so deeply, he responded: "Because everyone sees Trayvon in their nephew, their son, or their cousin...you know, he just got shot for wearing a hoodie... that's crazy."
Occupy UCLA endorsed the Day of Outrage and put the announcement for it on their Facebook, and many of the O-UCLA students came out to show support. Administrators and staff people came; teaching assistants and others put their name on the banner, and many added short messages to Trayvon's family and the people of Sanford, Florida.
A large group of Latino middle school students from Arvin, California, about two hours away, saw the banner and came over to sign. One Latina said, "We signed it because we really thought what was done to him was wrong, and that shouldn't have happened."
When people found out that the plan was to send the banner to the people in Sanford organizing for Justice for Trayvon, they realized even more the importance of what they were a part of; letting people there know that students at UCLA were standing with them was going to send a message that people all over are fighting for justice.
On the spot, people called for a meeting on campus Friday to discuss how to go forward and to build a movement on the UCLA campus.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
Revolution received the following correspondence:
I was part of a team of revolutionaries who traveled to Brown University in Providence, RI, to help get the word out about the debate between Raymond Lotta and Professor Glenn Loury, "Socialism vs. Capitalism: The Way Forward in the 21st Century." This was a really significant and exciting program—especially as it applies to academia and college students and the particular role that the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) can and needs to play in the campaign to get out BA Everywhere.
And the days leading up to the event were also a lot of fun!
While Brown, a small Ivy League school, has a reputation for being more open to critical challenges of accepted doctrine than most schools, I don't think the students had ever experienced quite the scene that took place around this debate.
The day before the debate, students coming onto campus were presented with large billboards and placards announcing the debate and also the publication of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). They were greeted by revolutionaries at a book table, with copies of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, Revolution newspaper, and Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, A Manifesto from the RCP, USA, encouraging them to come to the debate, to bring their big questions and to spread the word.
We crisscrossed the campus, going to student unions, classes, professors' offices and campus rallies to meet with people. We learned that, because the debate was under the auspices of the Janus Forum, which is part of the Brown University Political Theory Project, every student and faculty had received an email alert about the program. On top of this, there was a quarter-page ad placed in the Brown student paper announcing the debate.
As we talked to students, a number also mentioned that professors had announced the program in their classes. The diversity of the classes—anthropology, African-American studies, history, political sciences, sociology and history—a class on media and its portrayal of violence, another, a seminar on the historical precedents for the Occupy Movement—indicated the debate had touched a chord with a number of professors as well as students.
When we joined with an anti-sweatshop rally being held on the campus, one urban studies student said that she had heard about the debate and was planning on coming because "this is a very hot-button item" for her.
So even while there were only a couple of days of organizing involved, by the time the debate rolled around, most students had heard about it, often from multiple sources.
At the same time, we were struck by some real contradictions among the students. For example, while there was a very high degree of social awareness on the campus—the general level of understanding of students around the issues of revolution, socialism and communism was quite low and often confused—including around the fact that socialism and capitalism actually represent two radically different roads.
Some students who had a more worked-out understanding thought that socialism essentially meant a more equitable distribution of wealth, and could be achieved through the struggle to reform the government and by instituting laws that were in the interest of the people.
It was also the case that many students had been indoctrinated to the point they don't even think that socialist revolution and communism were relevant points of reference in trying to figure out how to address their big social concerns. One of the most common responses to the call for the debate was that we needed to find some "third road" that could take elements of both sides but would be something different altogether.
To all these students, our message was the same—"Bring your ideas and come to the debate! The stakes are too high for humanity to not seriously engage with this." To their credit, many did.
As the article in Revolution #265 noted, at the debate itself there was sharp and substantive engagement both between Lotta and Loury and between the panelists and the audience, which was overwhelmingly students but also included professors and activists from the community, including Occupy Providence. Not only did students interrogate Raymond Lotta about the historical experience of socialism, but others took Loury to task for his defense of a system that has driven millions from their homes in the last few years and his own methodology in attempting to attack the accomplishments of socialism in China.
The most striking thing about the debate was that it was clear that the students had never heard anything like the presentation Raymond Lotta made and were, if anything, taken aback by how reasoned, rational and coherent an argument he made for something that the vast majority of them had never even seriously considered before—that revolution, socialism and communism were viable and desirable alternatives to the current capitalist/imperialist system; that the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), based on the new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian, concentrated the pathway for that future and that they needed to be part of this movement for revolution.
Rather than taking off right after the presentations, as is often the case, most stayed till the end of the question-and-answer period, and the foyer outside the hall was crowded with discussion afterwards.
While many students were impressed with Lotta's arguments and a number either bought Constitution or made sure to get information on how to get to the online edition, it was also clear that the debate had only cracked open the conversation. Most were still pretty reserved in their comments as they left.
There was one young guy who really appreciated Raymond Lotta's comments but wanted to talk about how we were never going to convince the capitalists to go along with the changes proposed by Lotta in the debate. In the course of the conversation, someone raised the issue of slavery in the U.S. At some point, they said, you had to decide whether your goal was to "convince" the slave owners to give up their incredibly profitable way of life based on the enslavement of other human beings or was your goal to end slavery.
Once you determined that your goal was to end slavery, then it became clear that you weren't going to "talk" the slave owners out of this system of exploitation and that it was going to take a civil war to end it. In retrospect, this all seems obvious, but at the time, it was not that clear how things would fall out and it really had to be dug into and deeply understood for people to take the stand they did around the need to end slavery.
In looking at today, you have to decide where you stand on some fundamental issues, whether it is around the degradation and enslavement of women, imperial wars of aggression or the attacks on Black people, and then decide what your goal is—to end these outrages or to "convince" the government of its incorrect policies. The student thought about this for a minute and said that he thought that was the right approach but if that were the case, then you had to deal with the reality that you would be going up against the most powerful imperial power the world has ever seen and that this was a whole other discussion. He then took off into the night, but not before getting the info for the Revolution website and the online Constitution.
Plans are already underway to return to Brown to connect with students who attended the debate and to dig more deeply into the many questions raised in the course of this debate and beyond. But the whole process at Brown—condensed into just a few days—also made our team realize that there is a tremendous amount of yet untapped potential for these types of engagements and debates where the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) can be brought front and center at a lot of campuses as a powerful element of getting BA out everywhere.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
It is time and way past time to stand up and say NO MORE! Our youth are being treated like criminals—guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence. The vigilante murder of Trayvon Martin concentrates the racial profiling that leads into more than 2.4 million people being warehoused in prison and the millions more who are treated like second-class citizens even after they've served their sentences. April 19th must be a day of standing up and saying NO MORE to all of this. Join us to organize a day of teach-ins and rallies in high schools and colleges; a day of youth, tired of being demonized, taking to the streets—joined by many others from different backgrounds, races and nationalities who stand with them; a day of speaking bitterness to the way the whole criminal justice system abuses millions of people. All saying in a powerful voice: NO to mass incarceration and all its consequences.
NO MORE TRAYVON MARTINS!
NO MORE OSCAR GRANTS!
NO MORE 2.4 MILLION PEOPLE WAREHOUSED IN PRISON!
NO MORE 1 IN 8 BLACK MEN IN THEIR 20'S LOCKED DOWN IN JAIL!
MASS INCARCERATION + SILENCE = GENOCIDE!
The "Stop Mass Incarceration: We're Better Than That!" Network is a project of the Alliance for Global Justice, a 501c3 tax-exempt organization. Tax-deductible contributions accepted, and checks should be made payable to the "Alliance for Global Justice, with "Mass Incarceration Network" in the memo line. Other forms of contributions also accepted.
"Stop Mass Incarceration: We're Better Than That!" Network
c/o P.O. Box 941 Knickerbocker Station
New York City, New York 10002-0900
Phone: 866-841-9139 x2670 *
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
Thursday, April 19
Say No to Mass Incarceration!
Convergence 4 p.m. One Police Plaza, NYC.
March 5:30 p.m. to Union Square.
Tuesday, April 17, 12:30pm
STOP MASS INCARCERATION!
California State University, Northridge
CSUN University Student Union - Northridge Center
Teach-in panel includes special guest Clyde Young
A springboard event to April 19 National Day of Action
Thursday, April 19
Convergence at 4pm, Pershing Square, downtown LA, 5th and Olive
March at 5pm to LAPD Headquarters
Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide
Stop Mass Incarceration
April 19th - 12 noon
California State Building
Van Ness and McAllister
April 19: A day of diverse actions to kick off a movement to stop mass incarceration including:
The day will include people coming together in a 5pm central gathering at Chicago's Federal Plaza (Adams & Dearborn).
Check back at revcom.us for information of events in other cities.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
Report-back on an Emergency Meeting at New York Revolution Books
Seventy-five of us packed into Revolution Books on Wednesday night for an Emergency Meeting on the strategy for revolution and the murder of Trayvon Martin. As someone said later in the discussion, these are different times right now, and that was brought home on many levels in this discussion.
The night opened with a 15-minute excerpt of the "Eyes on the Prize" series focusing on the lynching of 14-year-old Emmett Till in Mississippi in 1955. This was not the sanitized and domesticated version of history many of us had learned; here we meet Mose Wright—Emmett Till's uncle who risked his life to testify against his nephew's murderers before an all-white jury set on finding these killers innocent. And we meet Mamie Till, Emmett's mother, who courageously refused to stay silent. She says, in this moving video, "If the death of my son can mean something to all the unfortunate people around the world, then for him to have died a hero will mean more to me than for him just to have died."
Next we watched the clip from Bob Avakian's talk, Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, where he talks about the murder of Emmett Till, and the details he brings to life stand out even more—for what they meant then, and what they mean now.
Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper, opened up with a question: 57 years ago Emmett Till, a young Black man, walked into a store to get candy and ended up dead. We sit here today because a different young Black man, Trayvon Martin, walked to a store to get candy and ended up dead. What we saw 57 years ago and what we're living through today is intolerable, will it be the same in another 57 years?
After comparing the treatment of women depicted in the TV show "Mad Men" with the war on women today, comparing the Vietnam war to the war on Iraq and the threats against Iran, and comparing the destruction of the environment a generation ago to the accelerating destruction today, Sunsara asked the question again: "Do you want your children or your grandchildren coming together in another 57 years, talking about, 'We really have to do something to stop these outrages'?"
She put a call to everyone in the room—to the young people there who've just been getting into the movement for revolution, to the brand new people who were coming to Revolution Books for the first time, and to veterans in the revolutionary struggle—to ask themselves: Are you going to do something because it makes you feel better, just fighting the good fight and letting these horrors roll on? Or are you going to give everything you have to answering that question, to fighting to put an end to all this, even if—and even as—that includes making ruptures in your thinking and leaving your comfort zone?
Sunsara talked about the potential for revolution, and the significance of the work and leadership of Bob Avakian—forging a new synthesis of communism, which is building on the best of the previous revolutions and learning from errors and shortcomings as well as broader human experience since then. Revolution is possible, it's been done before and with the breakthroughs concentrated in this new synthesis, the leadership of BA and the Party he leads, we can do much better and take it even further.
She shared a new invitation from Bob Avakian to those who have begun to stand up in recent months, as well as to others:
"Let's go on a crucial journey together—full of unity against oppression and lively struggle about the source of the problem and the solution. Pursue your own convictions—that the outrages that move you are intolerable—to their logical conclusion, and be determined not to stop until those outrages have been eliminated. And if this, as well as learning about other outrages, and ideas about how this all fits together and flows from a common source—and how it could all be ended, and something much better brought into being—leads in the direction of seeing not only the need for bold and determined resistance, but also the need for revolution and ultimately communism, then don't turn away from that because it moves you beyond your comfort zone, challenges what had been your cherished beliefs, or because of prejudices and slanders. Instead, actively seek to learn more about this revolution and its goal of communism and to determine whether it is in fact the necessary, and possible, solution. And then act accordingly."
She read from the Revolutionary Communist Party's statement On the Strategy for Revolution and talked about the importance of revolutionaries acting in this moment to make real leaps and concrete advances in the movement for revolution. Specifically, she laid out how the April 10 Day of Outrage around Trayvon's killing, the April 19 Day of Action to Stop Mass Incarceration, and the plans to get BA Everywhere in the four days leading up to and including May Day, are key to doing just that. And then she called for people to grapple with all of this in a living way, commensurate with the challenge posed by the question of whether we will allow this to continue for another 57 years.
When she finished, the room filled with a heavy silence. Finally, a young Black man raised his hand. He told of how his mother had schooled him—more times than he could recall—about how to act when he encountered police. He told of being stopped and harassed by police over and over again and how his heart sinks when he is walking alone at night and encounters a group of cops. He wonders each time if he will live and he knows that if he doesn't the cops will never be held accountable. He insisted that we really do need a revolution and expressed how glad he was to have met this Party. All this goes on so much you start to get numb to it and you start thinking that this is how it will always be. Soon after, another young Black man raised his hand. He, too, told of how his mother schooled him about the police—to keep his hands visible at all times, speak clearly and in short sentences, and about how constant the harassment and danger is. He agreed that people feel numb to it, but also how stressful it is, and how that is part of the point—to keep people with their nerves wracked and a deep sense of hopelessness, to control them—generation after generation.
This was an important part of this discussion and an important thing that has to go on in society—oppressed people speaking bitterness about the reality they face. This is part of fighting the power—getting these too often unspoken truths out there can have an important impact on society, laying bare the systematic character of the slow genocide happening to Black and Latino people and exposing the actual brutality of this so-called "best of all possible worlds." It also changes people themselves—helping them see "it's not just me" that faces this, that "it's not my/our fault" and it has an impact on those who don't face this kind of brutality as part of an oppressed people, to force the questions about why this happens day in and day out in this society.
There was also debate and discussion about how to view the source of the problem—is it that people just aren't listening to and understanding each other? Is it because of money and greed? Or is there something deeper, a state power enforcing a system of capitalism-imperialism which has white supremacy and the oppression of Black people built into its very fiber—from its founding until today.
People got into both the need to forge unity through coming together to fight the power and the need to struggle with people, especially at this moment. There are lots of people arguing for different responses to the murder of Trayvon Martin—many arguing for the people to cool out their outrage and wait for the courts to settle this. If revolutionaries are joining his kind of struggle about what's really needed, it's a good thing because it enables people to compare and contrast different lines and different programs.
One person talked about how important it is that right now that numbness has worn off, that what is normally kept scabbed over is now raw. Right now, there are sections of people who are outraged and want to resist—and this has to be given leadership that is not going to mellow this out, or lead it to be subsumed right back under this system. Why did the world finally take notice with the murder of Emmett Till? Because Mamie Till stood up and said no, she said she would not be numb, and not allow others to be numb. And why have people paid attention to the murder of Trayvon Martin? In no small part, because his parents courageously stood up and fought for society to take notice. And now others are standing up and saying no.
But this has to go further forward—and right now that means making April 10 a meaningful day of outrage and protest, demanding justice for Trayvon Martin.
Also, it means making April 19 a powerful day calling out the direction of all this, saying no to mass incarceration, the slow genocide which could turn into a fast genocide if it is not stopped. A day that draws national attention and outrage against the context and full picture for why a 17-year-old young man on his way from the candy store looks "suspicious"—because Black people have been systematically stigmatized in every realm of society.
And it means making a big leap in the campaign to raise big money to project Bob Avakian's voice into every corner of society—BA Everywhere! Imagine the Difference It Will Make. There will be four days of focus around this from April 28 to May 1, with the BAsics Bus Tour hitting the road in early May. The fact that a radically different world is possible, and that we have the leadership needed to wage the struggle towards that goal—makes the world as it is even more intolerable. This is something people need to find out about and it is something people need to be given the opportunity to be part of—through contributing funds on every level to make this known. The movement for revolution needs to—quickly—become a contending force on the terrain. A quantum leap towards that is possible in this next six weeks.
This BAsics Bus Tour will be going right into the thick of the struggle in a particularly hot area in this country, it will be bringing the message of revolution to places where people are beginning to fight the power and defy the authorities. It will be bringing the answers people so desperately need about the way out of all this, introducing people to the leadership they have in BA, raising money as it goes and it will be tremendously fun. A call was put out for volunteers to be on the bus tour and to help build it (and if anyone reading this wants to volunteer, contact your local Revolution Books).
This is key to be bringing to everyone everywhere—people will not ask the larger questions about the legitimacy of this system if there isn't a force contending, and pointing to the legitimacy of a different system—a revolution, and the socialist transition to communism. At the same time, fighting the power alongside people, and leading in that, is essential to forging an alternate authority today, to forging new relations among people, and to repolarizing for revolution.
In closing, Sunsara referenced again the invitation she read earlier from BA, and picked up on some of the points made by people throughout the evening. Someone had said, "At moments like this, people should be asking, 'What kind of system is this?'" and, "People should be questioning the whole legitimacy of this system!" and, "People should be getting into BAsics and BA!" Sunsara agreed with these points, but then put it back to people in the room, "Whether millions in society start asking those questions and acting on their answers depends to a very great degree on whether people in this room determine to lead and to compel them to do so. Revolution is a really good idea AND it reflects a deeper reality, but it must be more than that. The movement for revolution must make real leaps in becoming a material force that is contending throughout society. And we must do so in the next six weeks."
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
From a Reader:
In the evening of March 24, Pasadena, CA police (a few miles east of Los Angeles), while responding to an alleged armed robbery, shot and killed 19-year-old Kendrec McDade. Have we heard this story before—an unarmed young Black man, who is a suspect, shot and killed by the police, who "feared for their lives" when the person was "reaching for his waistband? And how many more times are we going to hear it before we put this madness to an end once and for all? Let's translate what it means for cops to say "he was reaching for his waistband." It means that they have free license to kill an unarmed Black or Latino youth. In other words, for many cops, it's a "freebie."
The facts: Pasadena police respond to a 911 call from a person who said his backpack was stolen by two men and one of them had a gun. A patrol car with two cops heads to the scene with siren and emergency lights off. They corner McDade, who is running down the street, and fail to ask him to "halt" or "stop." One cop fires a "volley of shots" at McDade out the window of the patrol car while the other cop jumps out of the car and shoots at McDade. In a suit filed by McDade's parents, it states "that in the final moments of his life, Kendrick McDade was handcuffed and 'began to twitch' on the ground after being shot...and the cops left McDade handcuffed on the street 'for a protracted period of time without administering aid.' "
It later comes to light that the person who made the 911 call lied about seeing a gun in order to get the cops to respond quickly. That person has since been arrested for involuntary manslaughter, but the Pasadena District Attorney's Office has been reluctant to file those charges. We do not know the specific reasons why the cops and the Pasadena District Attorney are at odds in going after the person who made the 911 call, but one thing his arrest has done is to deflect the blame for McDade's killing away from the cops to the person who gave a false report about seeing a gun. And now, the Pasadena Police Department lists the two cops as the victims, so they can get funds from the California Victim Compensation Program! Think about it, they get further compensation for killing a Black youth! Finally, we learn that there is no police video of what happened because when the police responded without sirens and emergency lights on, the cameras in the patrol car are not automatically turned on. According to the Pasadena police chief this is normal procedure for responding to an armed robbery. An international news article questioned why the cops failed to turn on the police car's video camera before they shot McDade.
In the midst of a national outrage over the killing of Trayvon Martin, the Pasadena community is doubly outraged. At a community meeting where the cops and the clergy tried to "chill out" the people who are outraged, signs read "Newlan and Griffin [the cops] are guilty" and "We Are #Trayvon #Kendrec We Are." The Pasadena Star News reported that at the same time (as this community meeting was taking place), Pasadena's El Centro de Acción Social's annual peace walk, which was renamed this year to "Cesar Chavez/We Are Trayvon Martin Peace Walk," had 200 marchers, some wearing hoodies to call attention to the shooting of Trayvon Martin. And in the March 30 edition of the Pasadena Star News, a front page headline read, "Kendrec McDade shooting draws comparisons to Trayvon Martin."
The comparison of the killings of these two Black youth—Trayvon Martin and Kendrec McDade—brings into focus the fact that if you are young and Black or Latino, you may not make it home alive if you come in contact with the police or some racist vigilante. The RCP's statement on "The Murder of Trayvon Martin" speaks to the fact that these are not isolated incidents, "but only the latest of an endless chain of such acts that are perpetrated, condoned and covered up by the powers-that-be..."
Kendrec McDade was an outstanding football player at Azuza High School, located in an eastern suburb of Los Angeles. His mother, who gave birth to a second son last week, told the Pasadena Star News that she "never thought that a week later she would be identifying the remains of her older son at the hospital." "I want justice and my son's name returned to him," she said. She told revolutionaries who were selling the Trayvon Martin issue of Revolution newspaper that she did not have enough money to bury Kendrec but she was glad to see people out in the streets around this killing. She and her husband have likened the killing of their son from a patrol car to "a drive-by shooting."
BAsics quote 1:13 from Bob Avakian rings out more then ever. "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."
We will be reporting on further developments in the killing of Kendrec McDade.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
The anger about the murder of Trayvon Martin—and the fact that George Zimmerman STILL is free, giving a green light to anyone with a gun to shoot young Black men—is not going away. Some of us in the Bay Area felt there needed to be more protest and resistance—especially from Oakland. At an emergency meeting Tuesday at Revolution Books in Berkeley, the Revolution Club and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network called for a protest on Friday, March 30, with the message "Justice for Trayvon Martin! The Whole Damn System is Guilty!"
The new two days people went out to high schools and junior colleges in and around the Bay Area to spread the word about the protest, and to get out the Revolutionary Communist Party's statement about the murder of Trayvon Martin. We found that at one high school in Oakland, students were already planning a "wear a hoodie day," and at Berkeley High some of the Black students were organizing a walkout for Thursday, March 29. At all of these schools there was a lot of outrage, especially among the Black students, about the whole situation. It opened up a discussion about what happens all the time, how Black youth and others get profiled by the police and even the school security guards. Among the non-Black students there was a fair amount of ignorance about who Trayvon was and what had actually happened, but some of them were changed by the conversation.
The walkout Thursday at Berkeley High was significant. A few hundred students—the majority Black students—but many others as well—took part. One former student took us inside where school staff eagerly bought Revolution newspaper and agreed to pass out the RCP's statement. Students, wearing their hoodies, then marched to the school district office where they occupied the steps. Some students spoke and then heard a speech from Minister Keith Mohammad from the Nation of Islam. The minister gave props in his talk to Revolution newspaper that he said exposes many cases of police murder throughout the country.
At one point, a school official challenged one of the revolutionaries, saying we were using the students, taking their money for the newspaper. He said, "I have been watching you for 35 years, and you always do this." The revolutionary took him on in a very loud voice. "You have been watching us for 35 years, and in that time what have you been doing? Have you told these youth about the need for revolution? You must hate the idea of revolution more than you hate the murder of Trayvon or the crimes of this system." With this, many students cheered, called the revolutionary over and pulled out dollars to get the newspaper.
The following day a group of about 75 people, including some from Occupy Oakland and many Black people, assembled for the rally at Oscar Grant plaza in downtown Oakland. A young man from the Revolution Club spoke about Emmett Till and the Dred Scott decision (Black people don't have any rights that the white man is bound to respect), the fact that the oppression of Black people is built into the DNA of this country since the beginning, and the need for revolution. He talked about meeting a woman right before the protest who told him how she worries every time her son, who is 6'4", 220 pounds, goes out the door, how the police might view him. A leader of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network talked about the connection between the murder of Trayvon and the epidemic of racial profiling, police brutality, mass incarceration, and the slow genocide that could very quickly turn into a fast one. Other people stepped up. The uncle of Kenneth Harding (killed by San Francisco police over a bus fare) talked about how the killing of Trayvon was not an isolated incident but part of a nationwide attack on youth. Another woman spoke to her fear that her two-year-old son, who has a whole drawer full of "hoodies" and who has the prospect of growing up tall, will be a target of the police.
Although small, the march had a spirit of defiance. Chanting "Justice for who? Trayvon Martin!" it took to the streets, marched through a mall and right up to the Federal Building. There, people from the Revolution Club in the Bay Area talked about what Obama didn't say about Trayvon Martin. The march then continued in the middle of the street, past the police station and the jail changing, "Serve and protect, that's a lie, you don't care if Black kids die!" And "We say no to the New Jim Crow!" Even while blocking rush-hour traffic, we got lots of support from people in cars while we chanted "Trayvon didn't have to die, we all know the reason why, the whole system is guilty! The whole system is guilty!" "Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till, the system lets the racists kill!" "No more stolen lives. Enough is enough!"
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
From A World to Win News Service:
April 2, 2012. A World to Win News Service. Calls for harsh treatment of immigrants by right-wing politicians are so common they've become part of the background noise for many people. Yet a Council of Europe report presents evidence that NATO has implemented a policy that goes beyond what even the most openly far-right politicians dare publicly propose: sentencing migrants to death.
As the report scathingly states, the Mediterranean is one of the world's most closely-watched seas, and during the 2011 NATO war on Libya almost every vessel in the eastern waters was under observation by land and sea-based radars and orbiting spy satellites. Yet during this same year at least 1,500 people are known to have died while attempting to reach Europe.
Among the reasons for these mass deaths is the collapse, at least temporarily, of the previous means by which the European powers sought to reduce the number of people crossing over from the southern shores. Most are from North and Sub-Saharan African countries these and other imperialists dominate and exploit, creating economic and social conditions where, for many people, it makes more sense to risk death than go on living as before. The number of people taking to the seas in small boats soared after chaos enveloped regimes in Tunisia and Libya that had been given the job of arresting would-be immigrants and sinking their boats if necessary. Now the European countries have been forced to do more of their own dirty work.
What makes the case behind this report unique is not necessarily the number of people who died, nor that their deaths were so clearly preventable, but the fact that the criminal responsibility for this particular episode has been thoroughly documented.
Armed Libyan security forces made 72 people–50 men, 20 women and two babies–board an inflatable boat in Tripoli on March 27, 2011. Under attack by NATO, the Gaddafi regime reacted in a manner typical of it, using human beings as disposable objects to be employed in its alternating cooperation and conflict with the imperialist powers. Gaddafi was throwing out Black Africans as if they were stones hurled against the West. The boat's extra fuel tanks and water containers were removed so that more people could be crammed aboard.
The dingy left port after midnight. It was bound for the Italian island of Lampedusa, so close to North Africa that people on one shore can sometimes glimpse the other. After 18 hours, when the slow-moving boat should have arrived, the passengers used a satellite phone to contact a priest in Italy, who notified the authorities. The satellite phone service provider gave the Italian Coast Guard the boat's exact coordinates. An official "vessel in distress" was sent out to alert all military, commercial and other ships in the area.
Two hours later a military helicopter flew over the rubber boat. A few hours after that, the same or a similar helicopter returned and lowered down packs of biscuits and water bottles on ropes. The boat passengers could see the aircraft's crew members, who gave what they thought was a signal that it would return, and that meanwhile the boat should not change position. The helicopter never came back. A storm broke out, filling the boat with seawater and tossing some passengers into the waves, where they drowned. Later, several passing fishing boats, who had very likely also received the distress call, refused to provide assistance, but fisherman pointed the direction to Lampedusa.
The passengers gave up hope that they would be rescued if their boat remained in place. The motors were turned back on and the boat resumed moving toward the Italian island. The next day it ran out of fuel and began to drift. After five days at sea people started to die. At about ten days, when half were dead, it was spotted by a large military ship, either an aircraft carrier or another vessel carrying helicopters.
"Some people were wearing civilian clothing, others were in military uniform," said a quote from survivor Dain Haile Gebre recently provided to the UK newspaper Guardian. (March 29, 2012) "They took photos of us with cameras and portable phones. We took our dead people in our arms, asking for help. Some of us drank seawater to make them understand we needed drinking water."
Several passengers jumped into the water and tried to push the boat towards the ship. Then the military vessel abandoned them.
On April 10 the rubber boat washed up on rocks close to the Libyan town of Zilten, far to the east of Tripoli. Only 11 of the group's original 72 people were still alive. They were arrested and given little medical care. Another person soon died in prison.
One survivor, Abu Kurke Kebato, a 22-year-old refugee from the Oromia area in Ethiopia, later set out in another boat and this time made it to Lampedusa. Recently he and his wife, who had applied for asylum in the Netherlands, were arrested and are being held for deportation. He is the source of the above quotation from Gebre that appeared in the Guardian. Dutch authorities confiscated Kebato's phone to prevent him from giving any more interviews.
It was a reporter for the Guardian that first brought this story to light a year ago. At that time, NATO authorities claimed that the military organization had never received a distress call and that no NATO units were ever located anywhere near the drifting boat.
That first claim has now been disproved by Tineke Strik, a European Parliament member from the Netherlands, who was commissioned to investigate and write a report for the Council of Europe's Committee on Migration, Refugees and Displaced Persons. She produced a copy of a fax sent to NATO by the Rome Maritime Rescue Committee about the boat in distress, along with a highest-priority emergency message sent to all ships in the Sicily Channel. According to newspaper reports, NATO leadership has had to admit that it received the message, but still claims that it knows nothing about the boat's two contacts with military units, the helicopter and later the warship.
The Council of Europe investigator demanded that NATO release its satellite imagery of the area during the time of this tragedy, so that criminal charges can be filed against those directly responsible. While NATO almost certainly has the resources to establish exactly what happened, including the detailed logs its ships are required to keep, that information is secret.
The U.S. and UK have refused to answer letters regarding the location of their naval assets during the timeframe in question. Other NATO countries have denied any presence near the dingy's location. The investigator obtained a photo of the boat taken from a French warplane, but France has not cooperated. There is also evidence that contrary to NATO claims, a Spanish frigate was nearby. She remarks that "responsibility is easily shifted back and forth" between the countries involved and NATO command, with such tricks making it very difficult to verify leads she has received.
But, she emphasizes, regardless of the national flag of the criminal vessel or vessels involved, they were under overall NATO command, and it is NATO as an organization that is responsible for what she calls "the left-to-die boat."
This entire incident occurred in what NATO called its "Maritime Surveillance Area" in Libyan waters. The report makes it clear that at least on some level NATO authorities were aware of the drifting rubber boat and the plight of its passengers, and yet chose to let them die. The fact that NATO first lied and since then has resorted to keeping information secret, instead of trying to cooperate with the investigator in determining the facts or even trying to refute the Strik report, tends to confirm the validity of her conclusions. In fact, this continued evasion and veil of secrecy signals that the crimes involved are being covered up at the highest level, which of course also implies that they are approved on that level.
From all available facts about what happened to these 72 people, this incident can be taken as indicating policy and not a series of accidents.
Of course, when faced with the accusation that people were deliberately left to die, there is an argument, suggested in some commentaries on the Strik report, that NATO was simply too busy waging war on Libya to deal with six dozen civilians. But if that is the case, then what was this war, labelled Operation "Unified Protector" because it was supposedly launched to "protect civilian lives," really about?
NATO's arrogant silence about the deaths in the sea lanes under its responsibility has been echoed by a similar response to accusations that its forces killed civilians on a large scale on the ground during this war. NATO has been able to insist that there were no "confirmed" civilian casualties only because it has refused to confirm or cooperate with investigations of numerous incidents. The New York Times reported that last year it gave NATO a 27-page memo documenting nine attacks on civilians. For instance, repeated bombing runs wiped out 34 people, including women and children, in the farming village of Majer. (NYT, March 31, 2012)
All of these incidents – and NATO's attitude toward the accusations – reveal an absolute disregard for civilians and human life in general when it comes to the imperialist powers' "higher" economic and political interests. The dots to be connected include not only the "left-to-die" boat and the attack on Libya, with its disastrous aftermath for the people, but NATO's war on Afghanistan – in which nearly all Afghans have become targets for the occupation troops – and its current threats to intervene in Syria, and maybe attack Iran.
(Full text of the report "Lives lost in the Mediterranean Sea: who is responsible?" at assembly.coe.int/CommitteeDocs/2012/20120329_mig_RPT.EN.pdf)
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
From A World to Win News Service:
April 2, 2012. A World to Win News Service. It's impossible to imagine the liberation of the Mexican people without their emancipation from the yoke of the Catholic Church in both the ideological and political spheres. The Church and struggles against it have played a defining role in Mexican history.
Catholicism provided the banners and justification for the Spanish conquest of Mexico and the crushing of its indigenous people. It was at the core of three centuries of Spanish colonial rule, and played a key role in the later attempt to turn Mexico into a French-controlled monarchy. As a pillar of feudalism, the Church was a major target of the revolution of 1910-1920, which confiscated its lands and crimped its political power and some of its influence. In the 1920s the Church launched three years of religious civil war aiming to overthrow the secular government.
Yet despite the institutionalization of secular education and other measures restricting the Church's activities to the domain of worship alone, the Church continues to enjoy immense power as well as influence in Mexico. It acquired a part of its present political strength through private Catholic organizations, open and secret, backed by some people in the country's ruling classes.
In the last few years much has become known about the head of one of the most powerful publicly operating groups, the Legion of Christ and the priest Marcial Maciel Degollado. A descendent of a Mexican saint, Maciel had been known to the Church hierarchy as a sexual predator of children, seminarians and women for over six decades. Yet Pope John Paul II considered him a favorite and held up Maciel as a role model during his three visits to Mexico.
As a cardinal under John Paul II when the scandal began to break out, today's Pope Benedict XVI was in charge of the organization that protected Maciel from repeated accusations of pedophilia. A book debuted in Mexico during Benedict's March 24-27 visit presents arguments that Benedict knew about Maciel's crimes and personally suppressed the growing evidence for at least eight years, until finally, in 2006, shortly after Cardinal Ratzinger became pope and before Maciel died at age 87, when Benedict relieved the priest of his official duties and invited him to perform "prayer and penitence." Benedict has never given any public explanation for this move.
That organization Cardinal Ratzinger headed was formerly called the Holy Inquisition, the Church organization that burned "heretics"–scientists, unsubmissive women, Jews and other real and suspected opponents of Catholicism–at the stake for more than two centuries. In the twentieth century it shielded Father Maciel and other top Church leaders, from many countries, who have been called out, often by Catholics, for monstrous crimes against the faithful and other people. Yet illegal acts such as the sexual abuse of children have been just a small, if symptomatic part of the Church's whole spirit-crushing and largely legal machinery meant to enforce a profound hatred of women, exploitative and oppressive property and social relations, the most vile political institutions, and the most backward and enslaving traditions, customs and thinking.
Benedict did not express remorse for his own and his Church's role in the Maciel affair during his visit. He refused a request to meet with the priest's victims. Instead, he issued a grave insult to the Mexican people, rubbing salt in an unbearably painful open wound. In his central speech he declared that the tens of thousands of innocent people turned into mutilated corpses in the country's ongoing drug wars have been victims, not of the intertwining of legal and illegal capitalists and the state, and the country's economic and political domination and humiliation by the US, but of Mexicans' "selfishness." He implicitly equated these murders with birth control, abortion and other so-called "abominations" committed by women.
Many commentators remarked that the timing of the Pope's visit was related to Mexico's upcoming presidential elections and the Church's support for the current governing party, the PAN. His visit was undoubtedly intended to provide some reactionary balm for a society where the cynicism and corruption of the major political forces and their moral bankruptcy has caused widespread and deep disgust.
Under these circumstances, the Pope's visit was met with some revulsion as well. There was a protest against it in Mexico City. Following is a statement entitled "Reject the visit of the criminal pope! Let's not praise criminals–away with all gods!" put out by Aurora Roja, the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Organization of Mexico (OCRM). We have omitted the extensive footnotes, which are available for the Spanish version at aurora-roja.blogspot.fr
The Catholic Church is still a horror. It stands for: No to divorce (leaving your spouse is a sin), no to homosexuality (loving someone of the same sex is a sin), no to birth control (preventing pregnancy during sex is a sin), no to abortion (ending an undesired pregnancy is a sin). Let's make the dark ages a thing of the past. We need morality, but not traditional "morality."
There's nothing "holy" about Joseph Ratzinger/Pope Benedict XVI; he's a repulsive criminal responsible for covering up the rape and sexual abuse of tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of boys and girls around the world, including cases in Mexico like Marcial Maciel and Nicolás Aguilar [a still-practicing priest convicted of sex crimes against children], both guilty of abusing at least dozens of children. It has been fully documented that Ratzinger covered up for them and protected them, along with his predecessor John Paul II and Norberto Rivera and other members of the Mexican Church hierarchy.
In other cases, for example in Ireland, the Murphy Commission documented the cases of 14,500 children who were sexually abused by clerics in the Dublin archdioceses alone. As Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith from 1981 to 2005, the then Cardinal Ratzinger knew about these crimes and was responsible for protecting those who committed them (which allowed them to continue their abuse for decades), and for threatening and silencing the victims.
In 2001, Cardinal Ratzinger sent an order to all Catholic Church bishops in which he declared that cases of sexual abuse of minor children by clergy, along with other "grave crimes," "are reserved for the Apostolic Tribune for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith" and "covered by pontifical secrecy." Cardinal Tarciso Bertone, today the Vatican's Secretary of State, even tried to justify this illegal and immoral procedure, saying, "In my opinion, there is no basis for requiring a bishop to call the police and turn a priest who has admitted to the crime of pedophilia. Of course civil society is obliged to defend its citizens. But the 'professional secrets' of priests should also be respected... If a priest cannot confide in his own bishop for fear of being reported, that would mean an end to freedom of conscience." This is the Catholic hierarchy's conception of "freedom"–the freedom to guarantee the impunity of thousands of criminal clerics.
Ratzinger and the Vatican have helped bring about the unnecessary death of millions due to AIDS because of their stubborn opposition to the use of condoms. Ratzinger went to Africa in 2009 to preaches lies such as "This scourge cannot be solved by the distribution of condoms; on the contrary, that might aggravate the problem." In fact, it has been estimated that 30 million people in Africa have already died due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, 22 million are infected now and each year half a million more are infected. Cardinal López Trujillo, speaking as Chairman of the Pontifical "Council for the Family," asserted that "The Church has always taught the intrinsic wickedness of contraception, that is, any conjugal act intentionally rendered infertile. This teaching should be maintained as a definitive and unchangeable doctrine."
In other words, at the same time that they protect baby rapers, they teach the absurd and reactionary doctrine that any sexual act whose purpose is not to procreate children is an act of "wickedness," and that it is much better that millions of people continue dying and that babies be born with AIDS than that condoms be distributed as a simple way of protecting against that disease.
Ratzinger and the religious hierarchy promote hate and discrimination against male homosexuals and lesbians. Ratzinger, the Vatican's principle inquisitor for 25 years before being named pope, wrote several position papers against homosexuality. In 2003 he attacked civil unions for homosexuals as a "distortion of marriage": "Homosexual unions lack the biological and anthropological elements of marriage and the family, which should be the basis for the legal recognition of such unions."
These medieval positions that demonize homosexuals, lesbians and transsexuals and deny them the right to freely choose their sexual orientation and marriage and the adoption of children are based on the perverse doctrine of the Bible, a product of ancient slave-holding society, which prescribes murder for homosexuals: Leviticus 20:13 "If a man lies with a male as with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination; they shall be put to death, their blood is upon them."
The hierarchy headed by Ratzinger preaches and enforces patriarchy, the oppression of and contempt for women as inferior beings. It denies them the right to control their own bodies and imposes forced motherhood, while preaching that women should sacrifice themselves for men and accept their domination.
If women have no right to terminate unwanted pregnancies or try and prevent them through the use of birth control, this means forced motherhood and reduces women to incubators. It is a scientific fact that fetuses are not babies and that abortion is not infanticide. Nevertheless, hundreds of women in Mexico (as well as Nicaragua, El Salvador and other countries) are imprisoned for "murder in their capacity as parents" for having an abortion (whether spontaneous or induced). Because of the outlawing of abortion, every year an estimated 1,500 women in Mexico and between 65-70,000 women around the world die from unsafe procedures.
When abortion was decriminalized in the Federal District [around Mexico City] in 2007, Pope Benedict declared that abortion is "a grave moral disorder" and the Vatican sent Cardinal López Trujillo to spearhead a campaign against it, while the Mexican Church hierarchy threatened to excommunicate the members of parliament who approved the reform. The Vatican and the Catholic Church in Mexico launched a campaign for anti-abortion constitutional changes that have already been adopted in 18 states in Mexico and many other countries. In a recent statement, the Pope called on women to "protect their irreplaceable mission as mothers and primary educators of their children."
The Church's antiquated doctrine even forbids divorce and leads to the excommunication of people who divorce, leaving millions of women trapped in abusive marriages. In 2007, "the Vatican claimed that abortion, euthanasia, the 'morning after' pill, laboratories where embryos are used and parliaments that approve laws that go against 'human beings' (in other words, the teachings of the Church) are 'terrorists'".
These outmoded ideas have nothing to do with the hypocritical claim of being "pro-life." On the contrary, the aim is to reinforce the oppression of women, in line with the ignorant and oppressive doctrine of the 2,000-year old Bible which, in both the Old and New Testament, teaches that women should be submissive. For instance, take Genesis 3:16, or Timothy 2:11-15 "Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve, and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty."
The Christian religion and its Catholic version embraces, prettifies and justifies all the above-mentioned horrors. It is a belief system based on ignorance and superstition, which is true of all religions. Human beings invented it in the slave-holding societies before the Dark Ages. The Roman Empire adopted it a few centuries after Christ, and various ruling classes have perpetuated it ever since. It is a very heavy chain on the people's thinking.
Bob Avakian tells the truth: " The notion of a god, or gods, was created by humanity, in its infancy, out of ignorance. This has been perpetuated by ruling classes, for thousands of years since then, to serve their interests in exploiting and dominating the majority of people and keeping them enslaved to ignorance and irrationality. Bringing about a new, and far better, world and future for humanity means overthrowing such exploiting classes and breaking free of and leaving behind forever such enslaving ignorance and irrationality." (From Away with All Gods)
"There is no God," declared a 19-year-old Ignacio Ramírez (The Necromancer) 176 years ago in the title of the speech accompanying his application for admission to the Mexico City Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1836. The College Rector replied, with the typical intolerance promoted by the Church, "I cannot allow this speech to be read here, this is an educational establishment." In the middle of the twentieth century, Diego Rivera painted the words "God Does Not Exist" on a poster held up by the figure of Ignacio Ramírez in Rivera's mural Sunday Afternoon Dream in Alameda Park. Catholic fanatics attacked this mural in an attempt to censor these historic facts by disfiguring an artwork.
Now Ratzinger is coming to demand, under the misleading banner of "freedom of religion," the restoration of the tremendous temporal power enjoyed by the Catholic Church in times past, when it justified and blessed the genocide of the Indians and fattened on the robbery of their land, when it murdered people during the Inquisition for professing Native religions, being homosexual and other so-called "abominations," when it excommunicated Hidalgo [a Mexican priest who led the war for independence from Spain], supported Maximiliano and the French invasion [that installed him as emperor of Mexico in 1864] and encouraged the reactionary rebellion against the secular state known as the "Cristiada" [a three-year war waged by the "Cristeros," "the warriors of Christ," a rebellion seeking to bring the Mexican state, newly emerged from the 1910-1920 revolution, back under the control the the Church]. In fact, el Cerro del Cubilete, the centerpiece of this papal visit, is emblematic of the Cristero wars and Catholic fanaticism, a heritage that major sections of Mexico's ruling classes want to revive in order to mobilize a reactionary, fascist social base to bolster today's oppressive order.
In addition to the "war" that these forces are waging against women and homosexuals to reinforce patriarchal authority, they seek to go backwards from the secular state, teach Catholicism in the public schools, start Catholic radio and TV stations and end any limitation of worship in public life. Powerful forces among the ruling classes want to establish all this for the Catholic hierarchy in order to reinforce the present reactionary state and system. Strong ruling class forces such as el Yunque want to impose a thoroughly theocratic and fascist state. [El Yunque, the Anvil, is a reported secret society founded by wealthy businessmen close to the ruling party, the PAN. Its aim is said to be the violent establishment of "the kingdom of God" in Mexico.]
Pope Benedict is coming to preach oppressive values that break the spirit and interfere with and destroy uncountable human lives. He is coming to inculcate a slave mentality, that we are born sinners and suffer because of our sins, and that the only salvation lies in submitting ourselves to "god," resigning ourselves to the horrors of this world so that we may be redeemed and given a new, happy and eternal live in Heaven.
To all this, we say "No!" This is a big lie we must unmask in the course of struggling for a radically different and liberating world right here on earth. We can put an end to the suffering the great majority of people now experience. We can uproot the economic, political and social relations that tie us down. We can transform society and ourselves by means of a revolution whose goal is the emancipation of humanity. The technology and knowledge necessary to attain this great leap and begin a new era in human history already exist; let us not kneel before non-existent gods. Let us rise to the occasion, to what is needed and what human beings are capable of.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine (aworldtowin.org), a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
We received this correspondence:
On March 27 in Harlem, as students walked out in 50 Miami high schools and students around the country went into the streets chanting "We are All Trayvon Martin," high school students in Harlem took steps to stand up alongside them. The NYPD, being the pigs that they are and doing "police work" as they normally do, rampaged through the streets chasing down youth for no other reason than just being young and Black. In doing this, they managed to incite a spontaneous protest, and then moved in to arrest a young man who is a well-known and respected member of the People's Neighborhood Patrols, and who has been at the forefront of the struggle against the NYPD practice of stop-and-frisk. This young revolutionary communist has been arrested multiple times and is clearly being harassed and targeted by the NYPD.
Upon his arrest, people were mobilized to call the NYPD to demand his release without bail. He had been held for over a day without being charged. Local clergy, community activists, students, people from the projects and local politicians called and let the NYPD know they can not take the revolutionaries away from the people. He has now been released and is facing two trumped up misdemeanor charges—designed not only to keep him entwined in court proceedings, but to "accumulate" a record on him.
Black and Latino youth are de facto not allowed to congregate in public spaces in this so-called free country. There is no right to assembly; there is no right to even relax in a public park. Police practice is to clear public spaces where kids gather to hang out with their friends, listen to music, rap, dance and get boisterous. In Harlem, stop-and-frisk picks up in the hours after school. On March 27 students came out of school and to bus stops to find the revolutionary communists in a popular Harlem park distributing Revolution newspaper.
Students grabbed up multiple copies of the Revolutionary Communist Party statement "On the Murder of Trayvon Martin" and a poster with the now iconic picture of Trayvon that said "We are All Trayvon Martin—The Whole Damn System is Guilty" and "Get With the Real Revolution." 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 four or five 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 walkout in the next days.
Now there were police vans with their sirens on, following the students. 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 youth who was distributing the flyers, he very pointedly held the flyer up 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.
A short while later 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.
Students asked the next morning about the young revolutionary, and said that people were talking about what he had done standing up for them. The next day people took hundreds of stickers that said "I'm with the real revolution" for hoodie day that was called for Thursday. On Wednesday, a high school in Spanish Harlem walked out with the support of teachers. On Thursday a hoodie day was held with large numbers of students wearing hoodies and stickers. At most high schools in Harlem this was met not with support and encouragement for students responding to a vitally important political question of the day. There was not encouragement for students wanting to stand up against a blatant injustice and learning to change the world or fight for a better future, but with "rules" and intimidation meant to teach students hopelessness and to enforce an atmosphere where you are coerced to accept it. Many students were told they had to take their hoodies off. One student took his hoodie off only to reveal a t-shirt with the "We Are All Trayvon Martin" poster plastered to the front and was threatened with suspension. School administrators warned students that anyone who walked out would be suspended. On Friday handfuls of students gathered to sum up the week and joined the revolutionaries in taking posters and Revolution out into the neighborhood.
As the whole country and the world watches the results of the Sanford police investigation, waiting to see if the man who shot down Trayvon Martin is even charged... people are continuing to make plans for ways to resist this—not just in Harlem but all over the country. The people have every right to speak out and to act against injustice and against rules and laws and police practices that are completely illegitimate. People must continue to stand up for Trayvon Martin, for the revolutionaries in their midst who are being targeted and for the students being intimidated from taking their future into their own hands. These students are daring to build and be part of building a movement that could really put an end to this outrage and countless others that spew forth from this system by sweeping this system away through revolution.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
Downtown Sanford appears to be the model of an ideal Florida vacation town. Cobblestone streets, well-maintained Victorian homes, plenty of little shops and restaurants, a picturesque waterfront complete with marinas where sailboats and yachts dock. The kind of place where some well-off people may enjoy going for golf and sailing vacations.
But the reality of life for the 16,000 of Sanford's 53,000 residents who are African-American is quite different from a postcard fantasy. People told us of being stopped by police while walking through their own neighborhoods, of being harassed when they go into stores, of youth routinely brutalized.
This is nothing unusual in America, and certainly not in Florida. Florida has a long, ugly history of lynchings and murders of Black people by the police and racist vigilantes. During the era of Jim Crow segregation, Florida had the highest rate of Black people lynched by vigilantes in the country—nearly seven times that of North Carolina, and double the rate in Georgia. Today, Black people are about 14 percent of the population of Florida, but 54 percent of its prison population.
To many people in Sanford and throughout Florida who are protesting the murder of Trayvon Martin, his murder at the hands of a trigger-happy racist vigilante is an unbearable outrage, and it also concentrates something all too many of them have experienced themselves, or through their loved ones and neighbors; it is the continuation of an ugly history many of the older folks know a lot about, and many of the younger ones are learning.
On March 26, downtown Sanford was filled with thousands of protesters, overwhelmingly Black and largely young, who have had enough. Enough of the brutality. Enough of the murder. Enough of the lies and coverups. People demand Justice for Trayvon, and the arrest and trial of his killer, George Zimmerman. People want to see this fight through until justice is won. People think no one else should have to go through what Trayvon and his parents have gone through.
And, while there are many different understandings of how justice can be won, there are some basic things many people expressed to us. Trayvon Martin was killed unjustly because he was Black. They won't stop until Zimmerman is arrested and put on trial for the murder of Trayvon Martin.
People we spoke to are furious. They also are struggling to come to grips with and understand how a killing so blatant could go unpunished and the killer remain free. Everyone had listened to the audiotapes of the police dispatcher telling Zimmerman not to pursue Trayvon. People thought it could have been "any of us" who was shot down on the street—anyone Black, especially if they are young and male.
One young woman, a recent college graduate from South Florida, said, "This is very backwards. I don't understand it, and on my end, it hurts. It doesn't make sense that you let the man go who committed the crime and do a drug test on the boy that's lying there dead. It's backwards. We want justice. We want to be able to breathe correctly, and let the jury decide, but we want this man to be in jail.
"It could have been anybody. A lot of kids walk from stores. I think this is very much a stereotype. Like he [Zimmerman] said on the tape, 'Oh yeah, this guy's definitely up to no good.' How? Why? What made you say that? Nothing, all right!"
Her younger brother, who is taking a course in world history in high school and had studied the Nazi persecution of Jews, said, "This [the murder of Trayvon and the police coverup] could be like what they were doing to people in Germany, for all we know."
Many people, both youth and older people, told of how they had been harassed and beaten by the police. A small crew of youth who had been part of organizing walkouts at the high schools in Miami were eager to get their stories out—speaking over each other, telling of their anger, their sorrow, how they had gotten on Facebook and Twitter and YouTube to call on people to walk out demanding Justice for Trayvon.
One of the youths spoke of the Miami high school walkouts. "Yeah, I did the walkout. I led the walkout. I had my big poster. What did it feel like? It felt like a sense of clarity. But at the same time I wasn't getting no sense of justice. We went on a long ass walk. And it's gonna happen again. Cuz I'm fixing to walk until my feet bleed."
Another youth recounted how he heard of Trayvon's death. "Me, well I heard it from them. We all be on this one block, chilling, playing football. I came on the block one night just seeing what they was up to. And they went, hey, man, Tray dead. Naw, naw, not our Tray, not the one I was just chilling with the other night. Not the one I went dancing with. So I went like, what's up, this ain't for real bro. I'm like, why you not all crying and stuff. And they said we already shedded our tears bro. Right now we just trying to regroup."
Another added, "Yeah, I'm trying to regroup. But my mind lost, my soul lost. This is some crazy shit."
A third youth said, "This shit happen all the time. Yeah, all the time in the neighborhood, when the police just stop us. They slam us for no reason and shit. Say we got weed and shit. That shit's fucked up. How they going slam us for? They some sorry fucks."
The first youth jumped back in: "Yeah, I think all them cops are some sorry ass police. They just let Zimmerman go when they know he shot Tray. Come on now, make an arrest. If one of us kill somebody and say it was self-defense? We would have went to jail. We would have been behind in the police car. I'd be in them cuffs right now. It's not fair. Everybody knows it. Zimmerman's racist and the police are racist."
One of the youths, a bit younger than the others, had been quiet but now spoke up. "This go deep. From my ancestors and them, from when Martin Luther King was alive, protesting. You feel me? This shit deep, it go way back. What's it gonna take to end it? I don't know. But it's gonna take a lot of manpower."
A woman who had moved to Sanford from New Jersey told me how she is still adjusting to life in the South, and thought the outpourings for Trayvon could shake lose some deeply embedded "traditions" of accepting "the way things are."
She said, "This is a rude awakening to people in a whole different stamp. A whole previous stamp. This is something new here.... I think the biggest thing is because the police told Zimmerman not to follow Trayvon. If the police is on the phone with you telling you not to pursue him, why would you? That's the biggest thing, it's as if he was out to get Trayvon. If the police had not said that to him, this would still be going on but not with so much anger.
"From here, well I'm not sure how far we're going to get from here, but people need to just stop stereotyping and just see each other as a person and in general respect young Black men and stop thinking that they're automatically criminals. I think that would be a much better place to live."
A man in his 60s who had lived in Florida his whole life but had seen some of the world when he was drafted into the military said, "I've been around long enough to see some change, but not always for the better. I live right over there [pointing to a community near the rally site], and I've been harassed walking through my own neighborhood. I've worked all my life and own my own business, and they gotta harass me like I'm some kind of thug?
"Zimmerman was a wannabe cop, and they got that shoot-first mentality. But they got this all on tape. How he gonna say that boy attacked him when everyone heard the tape? I don't know where this is gonna go. This is new for Sanford. What I do know is that Zimmerman needs to be locked up.
"Everybody's got some kind of protocol they're supposed to follow. What protocol were those cops following? They say this is just the 'Stand Your Ground' law. You think if I shot some white kid walking down my street they'd say I was just standing my ground? I'd be in jail, we all know that. Actually, I'd probably be dead. But it seem like more of this is coming to light than they want. Zimmerman had a big ass gun. A gun meant to kill people. They got a whole system set up to protect this kind of shit. But a lot of shit has come out into the open they don't intend to be out in the open. And people don't like it."
There were not many white people at Sanford's march and rally—and this is something that needs to change. But the ones we spoke to felt strongly that the whole situation around Trayvon's murder needs to be protested until Zimmerman is in jail and the cops who let him go are punished.
One man had driven up from Occupy Orlando with two of his friends, one Black and one Latino. He carried a sign reading "Shame on the Sanford Police." He said, "I know what it feels like. I have long hair, a beard down to my chest, I've been beaten, I've been maced, I've had ribs broken. I've suffered from the police and been treated like I'm some kind of scumbag just because of how I look. I'm not Black and I haven't faced that, but I know how these police act if they see someone they decide is 'suspicious.' They have an attitude they can do what they want. And that's why I'm here... This goes on in every city. Every city. Maybe it's a little more prevalent here. But I think it's like this in just about every city and police station in this country."
I also spoke to a man in his 70s who had retired to Florida after a lifetime of work in the Houston area. He said the murder of Trayvon Martin reminded him of an incident in Pasadena, Texas, when a white property owner had shot and killed two Mexican immigrants. He said, "This is the same basic thing. The guy went out...defied five commands to stand down...and killed two Hispanics in cold blood. And a plainclothes cop was sitting right across the street in his car. That guy got tried and got let off. But, you know, 'he was defending his property.' Any law that gives somebody the excuse to murder should be abolished."
This man said he had driven five hours to be at the rally, and explained why it was so important to him. "In the early '60s I was in the military, and I couldn't participate in the Freedom Rides, which I wanted to, because I was empathetic toward the Black people and their plight. The abuse they took in the '60s was purely horrendous. I couldn't do it then, but this is an opportunity to voice my support. This is pure injustice. It's got to stop. We can't let laws stand on the books which give somebody an excuse to murder."
Several young women from Florida A&M University in Tallahassee who had organized and participated in protests on their campus were there. They were wrestling with some deep questions, and one said she had "come alive" in the protests at FAMU.
One of the women said, "It seems like we as a society should have gotten beyond this point. But somehow we haven't. That young man's life is gone, and I can't imagine how his parents feel. He's gone. People just jump to conclusions about somebody because of how he dresses and his skin. You'd think we'd be past that....
"I like to read, and my favorite is Zora Neale Hurston. She was from Florida not far from here, and wrote a lot about it. It seems so different, the way people lived back then. But in some ways it doesn't seem different. You'd think more would have changed by now. What is it going to take to really change things? But also to change people's attitudes? I really don't know. I know we can't go on like this. Young people like Trayvon can't keep getting killed for no reason. I'm ready to look at anything to try to figure this out and come up with some answers."
She left with a copy of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian in her hand.
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
We received the following observations from a reader:
We are reporting to you live and on the ground in Sanford, Florida. On Saturday, March 31, thousands of people marched through one of the oldest Black neighborhoods in Florida. Its original name was Goldsboro, and it was incorporated in 1891, but in 1910 powerful leaders in the white community along with the Mayor of Sanford at the time, Forest Lake, dissolved (stole) Goldsboro’s city charter and incorporated it into Sanford. The people of Goldsboro have a long history of struggle similar to Rosewood, Florida.
The march was organized by NAACP with chartered buses coming from all over Florida, South Carolina, Alabama, and Atlanta, as well as many people who drove to be a part of the march and rally. We even met a man who flew from Jamaica with his family to be part of the protest. We asked him how big of a story this was in Jamaica—he said it was big in Jamaica and all over the world.
The march started at Crooms Academy for Information and Technology, now a charter school but back in the day, it was an all-Black high school during segregation. The march went from there to the Sanford police department. The police station is located at the edge of the community, and one person told us they wanted the police station in the community because it was the only way the community could get streetlights!
When we got to Crooms, we prominently displayed two enlargements of the front page of Revolution #264, “A Modern American Lynching,” and it attracted many people out of the crowd to want to buy Revolution and sign up on our e-sub list. As we stepped off, you could see a sea of people with a combination of NAACP signs, which had a beautiful picture of Trayvon and said “Justice for Trayvon,” along with home-made signs. The overwhelming sentiment of the home-made signs was “Arrest Zimmerman” and “I am Trayvon.” Another one said, “Trayvon today, Who tomorrow?” Many people carried the “weapon” of Skittles or pinned bags to their shirts along with Arizona iced tea. The crowd was made up of people from all walks of life—students, educators, professionals, families with small children, and the basic masses. One woman told us that she brought her 17-year-old grandson to the demonstration because he needed to be toughed up and know what it is like in the real world and that he is too naïve. Although the crowd was overwhelming Black, there were more white people than we had seen in previous protests; however, this remains to be a real problem that needs to be transformed! Chants rang through the streets, “No Justice, No Peace,” “Shot in the chest, We want an arrest.” And when we tweaked a chant from “Arrest Zimmerman Now!” to “Arrest Zimmerman, and the Police!” people took it up with enthusiasm and laughter. Another chant we initiated that was well liked was “Trayvon did not have to die, we all know the reason why...The whole system is guilty...The Whole System is Guilty.” Along the way people were hanging out in front of their houses with many joining the march as it passed by. One man we passed had a booming sound system loudly playing Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” and all these people in the march passing by were singing it loudly!
When we arrived at the Sanford police department, a stage was set up on the station’s property. This was pretty interesting—we have seen people protest at police stations before, but have never seen the police allow the whole rally to set up on their property. A huge and beautiful picture of Trayvon with Justice for Trayvon across the top of the picture was the backdrop to the stage. The speakers included Ben Jealous, national president of the NAACP; Al Sharpton; and Jesse Jackson. Al Sharpton talked about “American paradox that we can put a black man in the White House but we can’t walk a black child through a gated area in Sanford, Florida.” This is a false premise because Obama’s presidency has never been about uprooting the oppression of Black people, and if it was he would not have been allowed to be the president. Instead, Obama is commander-in-chief of a system and a country that oppresses people and whole nations here and around the world.
As we stood in the middle of the street with our enlargement of the front cover of Revolution and selling many copies of Revolution newspaper, hundreds of people approached taking pictures with the cover or alone and said they were going to post it on Facebook so many others could see it.
We showed a number of people the point from Li Onesto’s article, “A Modern American Lynching,” the sub-section on “The Ordinariness of the Oppression of Black People in the USA”: “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?...”
A lot of people really agreed with this and said that it captured what they were thinking and had been trying to tell others. We have to understand that Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson are not telling the masses this in their speeches because while they are against many of the effects of the capitalist system, they are not against the capitalism system itself.
A lot of people that got the paper knew about the Emmett Till case and one woman commented on how an arrest was made quicker after Emmett Till's murder—it has been more than a month and the murderer of Trayvon Martin is still free! But I thought for a moment, what does it mean that someone is looking to 1955 as a time when there was more justice for Black people—and said that to her. And I also brought up the ugly irony that Bob Avakian talks about in the video clip from the Revolution Talk—the fact that Till’s killers were acquitted and later bragged about the murder in a magazine interview.
At this point in the case, the police chief of Sanford, Bill Lee, has been forced to step aside “temporarily” until things cool down. The governor has appointed a special prosecutor, Angela Corey, to investigate the case and make a decision if they will arrest and charge George Zimmerman, and if there is no arrest by April 10 she will convene a grand jury. Sharpton is now calling for an “occupy with tents” on City Hall of Sanford starting Easter weekend if Zimmerman has not been arrested.
Because Trayvon Martin’s murder has struck such a deep chord with especially Black people and many others, there is a real sense of determination to step up the fight for justice for Trayvon and the countless others his death has come to represent.
We are off to Miami to another protest on Sunday—the first large protest in Trayvon's home town. Trayvon lived and went to high school in Miami and was visiting his father when he was murdered. In his honor, 34 high schools will walk out for Trayvon.
Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution!
Revolution #265 April 8, 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.
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Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
The Syrian uprising against the regime of Bashar al-Assad is entering its second year, with signs that the U.S. and its allies are moving toward more direct and aggressive intervention.
The Syrian people’s revolt against Assad’s brutal, oppressive, pro-imperialist rule began a year ago last March, inspired by the popular uprisings sweeping the region. Since then it has gone through various twists and turns and involved a wide range of political forces, including both the Syrian masses as well as reactionary Islamists, pro-U.S. exiles, and former members of the regime. Assad has responded with extreme violence—firing directly on protesters, arresting and torturing suspected opponents, and indiscriminately shelling neighborhoods. An estimated 8,000 have been killed and many thousands more wounded or driven from their homes.
Assad’s assault—which has been extensively covered by the U.S. and European imperialist media—has rightly shocked the consciences of many around the world. After initially taking a low-key approach to the uprising, the U.S. rulers have seized on the situation and people’s righteous outrage at the carnage to assert their “duty” and “responsibility” to intervene to befriend and protect the Syrian people and force Assad to step down.
On February 3, President Obama condemned Assad for his “disdain for human life and dignity,” and proclaimed, “the suffering citizens of Syria must know: we are with you, and the Assad regime must come to an end.” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denounced Assad as a “war criminal.” There have also been calls by prominent forces in the U.S. for military intervention, ostensibly to stop the slaughter and allow the Syrian people to determine their own destiny.
However, look at what U.S. officials and strategists actually say about their motives for intervening in Syria and removing Assad, and it’s evident that moves by the rulers of the U.S. in relation to Syria have nothing whatsoever to do with stopping violence in the region or emancipating the Syrian people from tyranny and oppression.
Rather, the imperialists’ own words make clear that their maneuvers and machinations are aimed at seizing on the Syrian uprising to get rid of a troublesome regime, and strengthen Israel and overall U.S. imperialist control of the Middle East—and that any “humanitarian relief” they may (or may not) provide is window dressing to facilitate that goal. The U.S. moves in Syria need to be seen in the context of this battle for dominance in this region, which is most acutely focused now in the intensifying confrontation between the U.S. and Israel against Iran, and the growing possibility of a military attack by the U.S. and Israel on Iran. (It’s not possible in this article to get more into the U.S. and Israeli war moves against Iran. See coverage and analysis online at revcom.us, including “Threats, Aggression, War Preparations...and Lies—U.S. and Israel Accelerate Campaign Against Iran,” Revolution #262, March 11, 2012.)
Syria is the only Middle East regime allied with Iran (although Iran’s influence in Iraq is rising). Located between Iraq to the east and Lebanon and the Mediterranean to the west, Syria is a conduit for Iranian influence in Lebanon and Palestine, and imperialist strategists talk of the possibility of Iranian influence stretching through Iraq, Syria and Lebanon to the Mediterranean.
“Iran sees the Syrian government as the front line of defense against the United States and Israel,” Foreign Affairs reports. “So Tehran is sparing no expense to help its ally fend off popular protests.” (“How Iran Keeps Assad in Power in Syria” snapshot, Geneive Abdo, August 25, 2011)
For these same reasons, the U.S. and its allies see overthrowing Assad as both removing a troublesome ruler and a crucial means of isolating and weakening the Islamic Republic of Iran—either as part of collapsing the regime short of war or preparing for war. (And taking down the Assad regime would change the military balance in the region and limit Iran’s ability to retaliate against a U.S. and/or Israeli attack.)
The conflict with Iran is increasingly driving and shaping all U.S. policy in the region. This is one reason why, after refraining from demanding that Assad step down for the first five months of the uprising, the U.S. shifted its position and calls for more forceful intervention in Syria to weaken and surround Iran continue to grow.
Danielle Pletka of the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank, spelled out some of the imperialists’ logic: “Syria is the soft underbelly of Iran, Tehran’s most important ally, conduit for arms and cash to terrorists.... A unique confluence of American moral purpose and America’s strategic interest argue for intervention in Syria.... It’s time to start arming the Free Syrian Army.” (“Obama must do something tangible for Syria,” February 8, 2012)
Islamist forces like Hamas in Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon—those Pletka labels “terrorists”—and most especially the Islamic Republic of Iran represent oppressive political forces who do not pose a fundamental challenge to global capitalism-imperialism. However, their aims and ambitions clash sharply with those of the U.S. and Israel in the region. These Islamist forces have grown in strength over the last several decades because of the 1979 Iranian revolution and subsequent Iranian support, but more fundamentally because of how the criminal U.S. and Israeli assaults on the region’s people have fueled anti-U.S. Islamic fundamentalism.
A former director of Israel’s intelligence service Mossad wrote in the New York Times that bringing down the Assad regime would result in a “strategic debacle for the Iranian government,” by cutting off its “access to its proxies (Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza) and visibly dent its domestic and international prestige, possibly forcing a hemorrhaging regime in Tehran to suspend its nuclear policies.” (“Iran’s Achilles’ Heel,” Efraim Halevy, February 7, 2012)
The resolution Senator John McCain introduced on March 28 argued for arming the Syrian rebels, because the “fall of the Bashar al-Assad regime would represent ‘the biggest strategic setback for Iran in 25 years.’”
So it’s the intensifying clash of these two outmoded forces—imperialism on one side and Islamic fundamentalism on the other—and the U.S. need to solidify its control of the Middle East that is propelling this regional confrontation, U.S. actions in Syria, and the danger of a U.S.-Israeli war on Iran. British author and journalist Patrick Seale summed up the battle over Syria as “a struggle between the United States, on the one hand, and its allies, and its opponents like Russia and China ... for regional dominance, who is to be top dog.... [T]his as a concerted attack, assault, on not only Syria, but Iran, as well. You see, Iran, Syria and their ally Hezbollah in Lebanon, that trio, a sort of Tehran-Damascus-Hezbollah axis, has in recent years been the main obstacle to American and Israeli hegemony in the Middle East. And the attempt now is to bring that axis down.... So that’s what we’re witnessing. It’s a struggle for regional supremacy, regional dominance....” (“A Struggle for Regional Supremacy: Syria Conflict Escalates as World Powers Debate Assad’s Future,” Democracy Now!, February 7, 2012)
The U.S. has moved cautiously in Syria for a number of reasons. First, it’s been unclear whether Assad could be forced to step down. Second, the U.S. does not want to ignite a full-scale civil war in Syria or the region. As the New York Times noted, Syria sits “at the center of ethnic, religious and regional rivalries that give it the potential to become a whirlpool that draws in powers, great and small, in the region and beyond.” (“Syrian Conflict Poses the Risk of Wider Strife,” Steven Erlanger, February 25, 2012) Finally, the U.S. worries that the Syrian military remains powerful and coherent, so any direct military intervention could prove costly and difficult.
Nonetheless, the U.S. has steadily escalated its pressure on the Assad regime on many different fronts. It has attempted to organize an international anti-Assad coalition.
A World To Win News Service reports, “[T]he U.S. is already backing various forms of intervention in Syria, including Turkey’s efforts to use Syrian military opposition elements to form an army under its control, and the money and arms allegedly pouring into the country from Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are almost undoubtedly backing fellow Sunni Islamic fundamentalists, as they have everywhere else.” (“Syria, No to Assad, no to foreign intervention!,” Revolution #261, February 26, 2012)
The U.S. is attempting to coordinate and strengthen the reactionary forces attempting to lead the Syrian uprising, and recently the imperialist intelligence group STRATFOR reported that U.S. Special Forces had been operating inside Syria since December. (“Stratfor Emails: Covert Special Ops Inside Syria Since December,” John Glaser, antiwar.com, March 7, 2012)
The Obama administration has stepped up planning for possible “humanitarian relief, no-fly zone, maritime interdiction, humanitarian corridor, and limited aerial strikes” among other options. (General Martin Dempsey, quoted on Democracy Now!, March 8, 2012) In late March, the administration announced it would provide “non-lethal aid” to the opposition, a step which has often been a prelude to military support. And the U.S. is continuing to diplomatically isolate the Assad regime, including by pushing through a UN resolution calling for a ceasefire and halt to its military assaults on the opposition.
The reactionary, imperialist agenda underlying U.S. rhetoric of “humanitarian intervention” in Syria must be vigorously exposed and opposed.
Leave aside for the moment what 60-plus years of U.S. control has brought the Middle East—a cavalcade of horrors from intervention and war, to ethnic cleansing, to torture and tyranny. Stop and think about Iraq, Afghanistan, and Libya. All had repressive regimes, and the U.S. justified military action as a moral effort to help their peoples. But then U.S. wars made things exponentially worse by inflicting catastrophic levels of death and destruction and imposing new forms of oppression—including equally brutal, oppressive regimes. Why? Because what the U.S. brings to the world is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures that support capitalism-imperialism. Why would Syria—or a U.S. war on Iran—be any different?
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
The year-long anti-regime uprising in Syria began in March 2011 with a "Day of Dignity" protest in the capital Damascus demanding the release of political prisoners and a “Day of Rage” action in the southern city of Deraa. There, a number of protesters were shot dead, sparking a wave of revulsion and mass protests against the blood-soaked tyranny of President Bashar al-Assad . Since then, the regime has attempted to violently crush the opposition. At this writing, resistance to the Assad regime is continuing in different ways, and the future of the uprising and Assad’s rule remains in play.
Different social faultlines fueled this revolt. Syria, like other Arab countries, has experienced a demographic explosion, with birth rates rising rapidly and youth making up an increasing percentage of the population. These youth face a future without enough jobs, poor education, and without basic freedoms to speak out, organize, or assemble. Under Assad’s tightly controlled and highly centralized police state, the middle class has been suffocated politically and economically—as Assad and his closest supporters monopolized the mainlines of Syria’s imperialist-dominated economy.
There are also religious and national differences at play. The French and British colonialists established Syria (as well as Lebanon and Iraq) on confessional (religious) lines in the aftermath of World War 1. Since then, the core of the regime has been drawn mainly from among Alawi (a branch of Shia Islam) clans, who make up some 12 percent of Syria’s population, with a base of support among Christian forces, who comprise another 10 percent. Sunnis, the bulk of Syria’s population, are held down and disadvantaged. (There are some 47 different religious and ethnic groups within Syria, including Kurds, Druze, Armenian, Bedouin, and Turkomen communities.)
Salameh Kaileh, a Palestinian Marxist living in Syria told A World to Win News Service that the uprising was sparked by middle class forces in the countryside, but now involves all social classes in smaller provincial cities, including the merchants and local capitalists. The uprising has mainly been rooted among the Sunni majority and the Kurds. From the start, reactionary Islamist currents have been a significant component of the uprising, while a revolutionary communist pole has been absent. (Syria’s revisionist and reformist “left” has largely—and shamefully—supported the Assad regime.) (“Syria, No to Assad, no to foreign intervention!,” A World To Win News Service, February 13, 2012)
The principal forces that have emerged to contend for leadership of the uprising at this point are all reactionaries: They include the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood (The New York Times reported protesters in Homs were chanting “Christians to Beirut, Alawites to the grave”), the “Free Syrian Army,” made up largely of former members of Assad’s military and security apparatus, and the “Syrian National Council,” made up of pro-Western bourgeois exile forces. All three have called for U.S.-led intervention in the conflict. Different regional powers—including Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Qatar are also actively in involved in aiding and shaping Syria’s opposition. (“Syria’s Sectarian Fears Keep Region on Edge,” New York Times, February 28)
U.S. antagonism to the Assad regime is not driven by its brutality. In fact, the regime’s brutality has made it an asset to the U.S. and Israel in certain ways. Under the Bush “war on terror,” Syria was among the countries to which captured suspects were “renditioned” to be tortured. In the case of Syria this took place under the “reformer” Bashar who’d taken over after his father, Hafez al-Assad, died in 2000. The regime’s 1982 massacre of some 10,000 people in Homs to suppress an Islamist uprising did not generate calls for the regime’s overthrow or a refusal to deal with it.
“[T]he Syrian regime has at times supported U.S. foreign policy goals in the region,” Professor Stephen Zunes writes, “such as suppressing Palestinian and leftist forces in Lebanon in the mid- to late 1970s, contributing troops to the U.S.-led ‘Desert Shield’ operation in 1990 following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, supporting a coup against a pro-Saddam Lebanese prime minister that same year, providing intelligence and other support against al-Qaeda and other extremists, supporting tough anti-Iraq resolutions while on the UN Security Council, and becoming a destination for ‘extraordinary rendition’ of suspected Islamist radicals captured by the United States.” (“Military Intervention in Syria is a Bad Idea,” Foreign Policy in Focus, March 30)
At the same time, the U.S. posture toward Syria has been marked by sharp tensions and antagonisms. Hafez al-Assad came to power in a military coup in 1970. His Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party was a reactionary nationalist organization, linked with and similar to Iraq’s Ba’ath Party headed by Saddam Hussein. Under Assad, Syria sought an expanded role in the regional and global capitalist orders, without fundamentally challenging either, in part through building ties with the imperialist Soviet Union. So the U.S. sought to weaken and contain the Assad regime as part of preventing Soviet inroads into the region, and because its interests—and Israel’s—often clashed sharply with Syria’s, for instance in Lebanon.
“Overall, however, the U.S.-Syrian relationship has been marked by enormous hostility,” Zunes notes. “The United States has backed the right-wing Israeli government in its illegal occupation and colonization of southwestern Syria, which Israel invaded in June of 1967, despite offers by the Syrian government to recognize Israel and provide security guarantees in return for a full Israeli withdrawal. Indeed, in 2007, the United States effectively blocked Israel from resuming negotiations with Syria. U.S. Navy jets repeatedly attacked Syrian positions in Lebanon during 1983-84 and U.S. army commandoes attacked a border village in eastern Syria in 2008, killing a number of civilians. The United States imposed draconian sanctions on the country in 2003, refusing to lift them until Syria unilaterally halted development of certain kinds of weapons systems already possessed by such U.S. allies as Israel, Egypt, and Turkey.”
The year before, in 2002, the Bush regime considered Syria in the category of countries associated with its “axis of evil,” and slated it for regime change (with Undersecretary of State John Bolton claiming that Syria was acquiring weapons of mass destruction). But the unexpected difficulties and turbulence the imperialists encountered first in Iraq and then in Afghanistan derailed those immediate ambitions. The U.S. has continued—in changing circumstances, and with different tactics—to fight to maintain its grip on the region, even as it recognized that some of the forms of that control (for example, the make up of the Egyptian regime) might have to shift.
“The U.S. followed an often ambiguous policy toward Syria for many years, working to isolate and weaken the regime while also recognizing its importance in preserving the status quo in the region at times when that has been a prime American goal. Bashar al-Assad's father Hafez crushed the revolutionary Palestinian movement then centred in Lebanon in the 1970s, enforced peace with Israel despite the Zionist occupation of Syria's Golan Heights since 1967, and supported the US during the 1991 invasion of Iraq.” (“Syria, No to Assad, no to foreign intervention!”, A World to Win News Service, February 13 2012)
Even with these conflicts, Syria under Assad was considered a “linchpin of the old security order in the Middle East,” as The New York Times (Feb 25)* recently put it. This is one reason the Obama administration has moved so cautiously and so far refrained from open military intervention. Diplomatic relations were warming somewhat in recent years, and the U.S. refrained from calling for the end of Assad’s rule until five months into the current uprising.
However, the continuation of the uprising, the violence of Assad’s crackdown, and especially the U.S.’s increased necessity to confront, weaken, even take down the Islamic Republic of Iran has pushed the U.S. toward a more aggressive stance and stepped up intervention of various kinds against Assad’s rule.
* “Syrian Conflict Poses the Risk of Wider Strife,” New York Times, February 25, http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/26/world/middleeast/syrian-conflict-poses-risk-of-regional-strife.html?_r=1&pagewanted=all. [back]
Revolution #265 April 8, 2012
From a reader:
Chicago, March 30. One a.m. in the morning, March 21, it was unseasonably warm and a crowd of people were hanging out in Douglas Park on Chicago’s west side. An off-duty cop pulled up to the crowd hanging in the park across the street from his house. Words were exchanged, and he fired from 10 to 15 times into the crowd. Anthony Cross had his hand up to his face, talking on a cell phone. He was hit in that hand but saved from being shot in the face by his hand and cell phone. Rekia Boyd, 22 years old, was not so lucky. She was shot in the head and died two days later. People in the area reported that the night before Rekia’s murder, the cop had said to people in the neighborhood, “What do I have to do to get some peace and quiet around here? Shoot someone?” While admitting that Rekia was an innocent bystander, the police immediately ruled the shooting justified, as the cop claimed that Anthony Cross had pointed a gun at him. No such gun was ever found.
The murder of Rekia came in the midst of outrage around the murder of Trayvon Martin. In the course of many rallies for Trayvon, the murder of Rekia was spoken to—a brutal example of the climate that accepts and justifies the targeting of Black youth.
The murder of Rekia and shooting of Anthony were one of five “police involved shootings” in Chicago in six days. Six days which culminated in the murder of Ricky Bradley, a 52-year-old former school teacher who had fallen on hard times and become homeless.
Tuesday, March 27, a rally was called for Justice for Rekia. It was joined by friends and acquaintances of Ricky Bradley, by people who have been at rallies for Trayvon, by people from Occupy Chicago, and others. Among the chants were “Justice for Rekia, Justice for Ricky, Justice for Trayvon,” “Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail! The whole damn system is guilty as hell” and “No more modern lynchings.” Protesters marched through the neighborhood for three hours—in the streets. They blocked the whole of Ogden Avenue, a six-lane major street through Chicago’s west side, for about 20 minutes. They marched to the hidden police center, from which it is rumored the police “special teams” that terrorize the neighborhoods are sent out. At its height the march had about 300 protesters with people joining in, marching for awhile and stepping back out all along the way. 120 copies of Revolution newspaper got out in the crowd and along the route. People held up the front cover with Trayvon Martin’s photo throughout the march.
There is a “Hoodie Protest for Trayvon, Rekia and Ricky” planned for Sunday. Rekia’s funeral is Monday.