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Revolution #266 April 22, 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 #266 April 22, 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 #266 April 22, 2012
Teach-In at California State University, Northridge (CSUN)
April 17 12:30 pm
Northridge Center, inside the USU PLAZA
Come early—LIMITED SEATING!!!
Revolution #266 April 22, 2012
The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund received the following letter from a prisoner in the Midwest:
April 10th, Tuesday 2012
To Whom This May Concern,
I'm writing to respond to the March 25th, 2012, article in the paper (NO. 263) titled "Raise the Fight to Stop Mass Incarceration to a New Level." This particular article and call comes at no better time than NOW; and I fully attach my unconditional support behind it. I'm not sure how many readers are fully cognizant of the historic importance of this determined campaign by the Party to "go all in" (to use a poker expression for a moment), but I am. By writing this letter to the Revolution, it's my hope that others will come to recognize the same significance of this stage in our development of a movement for revolution and why it's necessary to make this particular issue a principal focal point as we ultimately strive to resolve the FUNDAMENTAL CONTRADICTION of this decadent system: where "[y]ou have highly socialized production, but very privatized appropriation by a small class of people called capitalists." (BAsics 3:5) As that particular quote goes on to state:
But in that contradiction lies the basis for the overthrow of the system, as that class that carries out socialized production becomes conscious of this contradiction and of all of its consequences, and rises up and rallies its allies, as it is led by a vanguard party that brings it the consciousness to do this, and it eventually overthrows the system and resolves this contradiction through a whole long complex process whereby, step by step, it socializes the appropriation of what is socially produced and distributes it increasingly according to the needs of the people, not according to the dictates of the accumulation of private capital. (p.75)
While the above quote illustrates what's ultimately the fundamental contradiction of this system and how it will ultimately be resolved, there's always two or more contradictions at any given time that's always driving the resolution and/or mitigation of this fundamental contradiction forward which we refer to as the principle contradiction—which itself varies according to the changing objective conditions in society at any given moment. BA touches on this in his statement on "Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution" in which he states in part:
At every point, we must be searching out the key concentrations of social contradictions and the methods and forms which can strengthen the political consciousness of the masses, as well as their fighting capacity and organization in carrying out political resistance against the crimes of this system; which can increasingly bring the necessity, and the possibility, of a radically different world to life for growing numbers of people; and which can strengthen the understanding and determination of the advanced, revolutionary-minded masses in particular to take up our strategic objectives not merely as far-off and essentially abstract goals (or ideals) but as things to be actively striven for and built toward.
This statement is not found in every Revolution paper just because it sounds good or because it's a "great ideal," but it's in every one because there's a real material basis to that statement, since it reflects the ever-changing dynamics in society itself as new contradictions take front stage while older ones are either resolved or partially mitigated.
To return to the Party's call to "Raise the Fight to Stop Mass Incarceration to a New Level," is comparable in many ways to the '50's and '60's being a time when the social movements in this country were struggling to put an end to the Old Jim Crow racial caste system in America. The main difference between what some of those movements represented such as the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) headed by Martin Luther King and movements like the Black Panther Party, was that while the former saw the resolution of this contradiction through a reformist lens, the latter saw it only being resolved through revolution. Of the two orientations, the RCP represents the latter strategy as well today, as it confronts "The New Jim Crow" system which Michelle Alexander eloquently sheds light upon in her book of the same name.
Due to the unfortunate circumstances of the modern-day lynching of Trayvon Martin, I see not only a historic parallel between the lynching of Emmet Till back in 1955, but I also see how it embodies the social awakening to action, which Rosa Park's refusal to give up her seat to a white man in that same year (1955) caused. Both this incident and the Party's call to abolition the New Jim Crow—which its announcement to "Raise the Fight to Stop Mass Incarceration to New Level" really represents—are a part of the same principle contradiction at this given time. As Michelle Alexander explains in her book The New Jim Crow to even "look like" a criminal (as Trayvon Martin was racially profiled as being)—which nine times out of ten, is code word for being young, Black or Latino, and male—is enough to forever be marginalized or even murdered under this New Jim Crow Era that thrives off of the so-called "War on Drugs" and its policy of mass incarceration. Without analyzing the Trayvon Martin incident from under this lens, it's impossible to fully apprehend the racial dynamics at play (consciously or unconsciously) which caused Zimmerman to only see a "suspicious person" (read: criminal) underneath that hoodie that day.
Today a criminal freed from prison has scarcely more rights, and arguably less respect, than a freed slave or a black person living "free" in Mississippi at the height of Jim Crow. Those released from prison or parole can be stopped and searched by the police for any reason—or no reason at all—and returned to prison for the most minor of infractions, such as failing to attend a meeting with a parole officer. Even when released from the system's formal control, the stigma of criminality lingers. Police supervision, monitoring, and harassment are facts of life not only for all those labeled criminals, but for all those who "look like" criminals. Lynch mobs may be long gone, but the threat of police violence is ever present. A wrong move or sudden gesture could mean massive retaliation by the police. A wallet could be mistaken for a gun. The "whites only" signs may be gone, but new signs have gone up—notices placed in job applications, rental agreements, loan applications, forms for welfare benefits, school applications, and petitions for licenses, informing the general public that "felons" are not wanted here. A criminal record today authorizes precisely the forms of discrimination we supposedly left behind—discrimination in employment, housing, education, public benefits, and jury service. Those labeled criminals can even be denied the right to vote. ([The New Jim Crow] p. 141—my emphasis)
Although George Zimmerman may have only been a wanna-be "Robo Cop," again the fact remains that the "suspiciousness" that Zimmerman saw in Trayvon, was the type of "suspiciousness" that every Black and Latino youth or young adult faces every day within this New Jim [Crow] Era. The only way to uproot this predicament is to continually "Raise the Fight to Stop Mass Incarceration to a New Level," with the ultimate aim to "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution."
With that said, I believe that as we strive to develop and build this campaign against mass incarceration, that we should utilize this important book by Michelle Alexander as an integral teaching tool and rallying point. I think every Revolution bookstore, for instance, should dedicate at least a day each week to discuss and engage it in the same way that BAsics or the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) is. I believe such an approach will deepen and widen the campaign to stop mass incarceration with an informed commitment—something of which I'm sure Carl Dix has already begun to do as he presses ahead with this facet of the movement; and I applaud him for doing so. I just believe this needs to be repeated and deepen on a wider scale, if it hasn't already.
Lastly, I would also suggest trying to enlist Michelle Alexander herself at one of these talks or conferences, while taping it and using it as an informative D.V.D. for the overall movement. I really believe giving her a platform and a wider audience to appeal to will be key in bridging the gap and forming alliances between various social movements, that's placed stopping mass incarceration as an agenda and focal point.
I'm going to close now, but I just want to convey how inspired I am as I've watched the grassroots activism that has been unleashed of lately, from the Occupy Wall Street movement to the social movement in the making behind the tragic death of Trayvon Martin. There's no doubt in my mind, that the confluence of these two movements—along with the campaign to end mass incarceration—has the potential of ushering in a new level of political consciousness and activism that will ultimately end in the proletariat finally resolving the FUNDAMENTAL CONTRADICTION of this decadent system, which I spoke to earlier. It's with this ultimate objective in mind, that gives me a real "audacity of hope" this election season, since I've been able to see for the first time "a real change I can believe in"—and not one that's nothing, but a bourgeois democratic illusion.
Again, I hope this letter helps enable others to see the historic importance of the RCP's call to "Raise the Fight to Stop Mass Incarceration to a New Level." It's really the principal contradiction at this given moment, that we can't afford to overlook and [not] confront.
Revolution #266 April 22, 2012
George Zimmerman has now been arrested and charged with second-degree murder for the killing of Trayvon Martin.
This happened because people all over the country came together, took to the streets and said with one voice: NO MORE! Tens of thousands refused to let this murder go down without a struggle, and all kinds of people—from politicians and pastors, to celebrities and sports stars, along with those on the bottom of society as well as in the middle class—stood up and demanded justice for Trayvon.
It looked like Zimmerman was just going to walk. But this time masses of people were determined to not just swallow another bitter pill. This time, people were determined to come together and do something with their outrage. In cities and towns, from coast to coast, people of different nationalities protested and dragged the ugly injustice of this murder into the light of day and onto the top of the news.
These demonstrations have been all the more powerful because people have connected up and been speaking out against something that happens to Black people all the time in communities, big and small, all over this country. People are stepping forward to speak their own bitter stories of how Black youth are targeted, demonized, brutalized, and murdered. People carrying signs that say “Trayvon Martin is My Son” are speaking to the fact that there is a whole generation of Black youth this system treats as a “generation of suspects” to be murdered and jailed.
Another “isolated incident”—on top of so many other “isolated incidents.” Another Black family, burying their son for no reason other than he was young, Black, wearing a hoodie and so (as Zimmerman told the 911 dispatcher) he “looked suspicious” and “like he’s up to no good or he’s on drugs.”
The murder of Trayvon Martin—and the mass outrage around it—brought to the surface, for all to see, hear and confront, the history and the current reality of what it means to be a Black person in the United States of America. People were outraged at what this was—a modern-day American lynching.
In this country that brags about being the “greatest country in the world,” 2.4 million people, the majority Black and Latino, are locked up in prison, many in conditions of torture in solitary confinement. In this post-racial “home of the free,” mass incarceration now concentrates the way Black people are systematically oppressed as a people by this system.
With the murder of Trayvon Martin, people across this country are taking to the streets and raising big questions about whether things have to be this way. And the whole world is seeing and hearing this—all of which poses a real problem for the powers-that-be.
The anger that poured out around the murder of Trayvon... what it has revealed about the nature of this society and this system... and the potential for this struggle to continue and go even further... for the very legitimacy of this whole setup to get called into question... for millions of people to not accept the current setup and be willing to act to change the way things are... all this poses a tremendous threat to those who rule over this society.
There has been contention over how to deal with this situation and different responses among those who rule. There are powerful forces who are pushing to prosecute Zimmerman who are highly critical of Stand Your Ground–type laws (which exist in over 20 states). At the same time, reactionaries are mobilizing to defend Zimmerman portraying him as the victim while dehumanizing Trayvon. But from all sides, with the arrest of Zimmerman, there are efforts to shift the focus and defuse people’s anger, to turn people’s heads down and into the fight in the legal arena. People are being told that now is the time to put our “faith in the justice system” and to take the spotlight OFF all the searing issues brought to the surface by this horrible murder and the nationwide protest it ignited.
Zimmerman has been arrested now, but this doesn’t mean he’ll necessarily go to trial. He will now have two chances to try to prove he shot in self-defense. He can ask a judge to just throw out the case before it ever reaches a jury on the basis of the Stand Your Ground law. The Stand Your Ground law was cited as the reason Zimmerman was not arrested in the first place. This law—which encourages vigilantism—says someone can basically get away with murder on the basis that they had a “reasonable belief” that it was necessary to kill the person “in order to prevent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the commission of a forcible felony.” And then if the judge goes ahead and allows the case to go to trial, Zimmerman’s attorneys can assert this self-defense argument again. And citing the Stand Your Ground law, Zimmerman’s lawyers could argue not that his life actually was in danger—but that he had the belief that he feared for his life. And of course... the person who supposedly threatened his life cannot testify.
Put our faith in the system? Let the system work? It HAS been working!! The workings of this system of INjustice are exactly what compelled people to take to the streets in protest. The U.S. legal system doesn’t have anything to do with getting justice. The whole set up of cops, laws, courts and prisons is in fact an essential part of the way the powers-that-be rule over and enforce the oppressive economic and social relations of capitalism.
The oppression of Black people has been essential and deeply woven into the very fabric of U.S. society—even as the different forms this takes have changed throughout the history of this country: from the first day an African slave was dragged in chains to these “shining shores,” to the days of Jim Crow segregation and KKK lynching, to tonight’s six o’clock news, when you’ll hear about the latest police murder of a Black youth in Anytown, USA.
For many, the murder of Trayvon Martin brought to mind the 1955 murder of Emmett Till—how the gang of KKKers who murdered this 14-year-old Black youth were easily found not guilty and then openly bragged about their heinous crime. For many it fanned embers of anger at how, today, an endless list continues to grow of Black and Latino youth gunned down by cops or racist vigilantes who almost always go free. From 1865 to 1965, 3,446 Black people were lynched. Such is the ugly history of this country that went on for a long time, even after slavery ended.
In the time of Emmett Till, Jim Crow laws and “KKK justice” meant all Black people walked around with a death sentence over their heads—knowing they could be dragged out of their homes, or could accidentally run into some men in white sheets—and then your life would be over, your body mutilated, strung up on a tree, burned.
And now, in the time of Trayvon Martin, all Black people, especially the youth, still face an ever-present death sentence—where being in the “wrong neighborhood,” wearing “suspicious clothes” or just being Black can make you the target of a trigger happy cop or racist vigilante. Now today, we get the official police policy of Stop-and-Frisk that targets hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino youth for unconstitutional harassment and searches—feeding a big pipeline for arrests and mass imprisonment.
What created the kind of racist, vigilante mindset of people like George Zimmerman, who see a Black youth wearing a hoodie and immediately consider him “suspicious” and literally, fair game to be hunted down and killed? Why has it been over 50 years since the murder of Emmett Till, yet a Black youth can still be lynched for the crime of walking down the street wearing a hoodie?
For decades now, the government’s “war on drugs” has systematically targeted Black and Latino people, especially the youth—arresting and imprisoning hundreds of thousands. And an integral part of all this has been an ongoing and insidious ideological campaign to convince the population at large that this section of society are nothing but dangerous thugs to be feared, who are beyond rehabilitation, and need to be locked up and kept away from everyone else.
As Carl Dix has said:
This kind of racial profiling [in the murder of Trayvon] 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.
We need to fight for justice for Trayvon Martin. And we need to link that to and wage a struggle to change the whole horrific reality of mass incarceration in society—from the sheer unacceptable number of people being kept behind bars; to the way police brutality and policies like Stop and Frisk function as pipelines for prisons; to the constant demonization of Black and Latino youth; and to the caste-like treatment of people who get out of prison and are denied jobs, education and housing.
The powers-that-be need to convince the population at large that the Black and Latino youth are to blame for all the horrible things that are happening to them—that it is NOT the system. This is important for them, in terms of keeping society together and getting people to accept things the way they are. And this is why there has been such a systematic and conscious effort, for decades, to stigmatize and demonize a whole people—and justify the brutalization, murder and incarceration of this section of society. All that has come to the surface in the wake of the murder of Trayvon Martin—threatens to unravel this, which underscores the importance of why we need to not only continue this struggle, but take it higher.
Tens of thousands have been moved—in their hearts, in their minds, and with their feet—to take a stand, to come together.
This is a moment when many people can begin to question the legitimacy of the whole system responsible for the murder of Trayvon—which 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.
We need to Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.
We need to step up the struggle against the oppression of Black people in this country—as an integral and extremely important part of building a movement for revolution. And right now, a key concentration in this is the battle to end mass incarceration.
Mass incarceration + silence = genocide. But we can and we urgently need to break this up through mass, determined resistance.
All out for April 19—The Day to Break the Silence. Say No to Mass Incarceration!
Watch for coverage of April 19 here at revcom.us
Revolution #266 April 22, 2012
The following statement is being circulated for signatures and to influence broad public opinion:
The killing of Trayvon Martin and 2.4 million in prison make clear that there is a whole generation of Black and Latino youth who have been marked and treated as a “generation of suspects” to be murdered and jailed. This is not an issue for Black people alone but for all who care about justice; it is not a random tragedy. We say NO MORE!
Charles Alexander, director of the Academic Advancement Program at UCLA
Rene Auberjonois, actor
Eleanor J. Bader, freelance journalist
Dan Barker, co-president, Freedom From Religion Foundation
Kathleen Barry, author Unmaking War, Remaking Men
Missy Comley Beattie, peace and justice activist, Counterpunch contributor
Robert Bossie, SJC 8th Day Center for Justice
Herb Boyd, author/activist/journalist/teacher
Elizabeth Cook, activist in New Orleans
Chris Crutcher, author: Whale Talk, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, Deadline
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Niles Eldredge, Curator Emeritus, American Museum of Natural History
Eve Ensler, Tony Award winning playwright, performer, activist, founder of V-DAY
Annie Laurie Gaylor, co-president, Freedom From Religion Foundation
Kathleen Hanna, musician
Chris Hedges, author, War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning
Merle Hoffman, founder, president and CEO of Choices Women's Medical Center
Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys
Sikivu Hutchinson, editor, blackfemlens.org, freethoughtblogs.com/blackskeptics.org Moral Combat: Black Atheists, Gender Politics, and the Values Wars
C. Clark Kissinger, Revolution Books, NYC
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun and chair of the interfaith Network of Spiritual Progressives
Dennis Loo, author, Globalization and the Demolition of Society
Robert Meeropol, Rosenberg Fund for Children
Leo Mintek, Outernational
Tom Morello, The Nightwatchman
Cindy Sheehan, peace and justice activist
Dr. Donald Smith, past president of the National Alliance of Black School Educators
Sunsara Taylor, Revolution newspaper
David Zeiger, filmmaker, director of Sir! No Sir!
Organizational and institutional affiliation provided for identification purposes only.
To add your name, contact email@example.com.
You may include an affiliation or how you want to be described.
Revolution #266 April 22, 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 #266 April 22, 2012
An excerpt from Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, by Bob Avakian
This excerpt is from the section of the talk titled “Emmett Till and Jim Crow: Black people lived under a death sentence.” View this clip, as well as another relevant section titled “They’re selling postcards of the hanging” and other clips, online at RevolutionTalk Video Clips—Watch And Share and at www.youtube.com/revolutiontalk.
* * * * *
Then there’s the story of Emmett Till. Emmett Till was born and grew up in Chicago. In 1955, when he had just turned 14, he went to Mississippi to visit family there. His mother warned and she schooled him about what he would find in Mississippi, what a young Black male like himself should expect, what he must do and not do in order to stay alive. And think about the fact that a mother has to school her child that way just when he goes to visit family. But Emmett Till was full of life and full of fun. One day, while in Money, Mississippi, he made the fatal mistake of whistling at a white woman as he was leaving a store owned by her husband. A few days later, the storeowner and his brother-in-law came in the middle of the night with guns and took Emmett Till away. They were seen beating him as they drove him away. His relatives began looking for his body along river banks and under bridges where Black folks always look when things like this happen, as his uncle put it. Think about that, think about what that means—where Black folks always look when this kind of thing happens. Think about what that tells you about this country. Emmett Till’s body was found in a river. He was beaten and shot to death. Beaten so badly he could barely be recognized, even by his mother. A 14-year-old boy lynched. For what? For whistling at a white woman.
In an act of tremendous courage and large-mindedness, his mother, Mamie Till, displayed his body publicly in Chicago. And she refused to have it touched up so that all could see what had been done to him. His body was viewed by tens of thousands of Black people in Chicago.
The story of what happened to Emmett Till aroused deep anger among Black people all over the country. It shocked many white people in many parts of the country and it became an international news story and outrage.
But back in Mississippi, white people rallied to the defense of the men who had kidnapped and brutally murdered Emmett Till. These men were put on trial only because of the outrage around the country and around the world. Death threats and terror against Black people in the area where this lynching took place were increased to keep them from saying what they knew and how they felt about this lynching. In a court room that was segregated, with white people filling the seats, and the few Black people who were allowed in, forced to stand at the back, the jury of all white men found the murderers of Emmett Till not guilty in an hour. Their lawyers even accused Mamie Till and the NAACP of conspiring to cook up this whole story of the lynching. Actually, Emmett Till was alive in Detroit, these lawyers claimed. Not long after they were acquitted of this crime, the two men sold their story to a national magazine, telling in detail how they brutally murdered Emmett Till. But nothing was ever done to them. Despite a massive campaign calling for the federal government to indict these two men, the government refused. Sound familiar?
Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was President of the United States at the time, never even answered a telegram sent to him by Mamie Till. J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, called this brutal lynching of Emmett Till “an alleged murder,” and he gave much more attention to investigating the involvement of communists in protesting this lynching than he ever did to the lynching itself. But the lynching of Emmett Till became a rallying cry for Black people. People stood up who had never stood up before, as Mamie Till put it.
In talking about these lynchings, I’m not exaggerating any of this. In fact, I’ve actually left out some of the most gruesome and disgusting details in talking about these lynchings because there is only so much of this that you can stand to talk about or to hear about. And these were not the so-called isolated incidents, the way they always try to tell us, whenever they get caught in one of their brutalities or murders, the way they try to cover up the real crimes of this system and those who rule it. Thousands of Black people were lynched in those times. And all Black people lived with a constant terror of this.
Listen to the following statement by the author of a book about lynching. He said, “It is doubtful that any Black male growing up in the rural South in the period 1900 to 1940 was not traumatized by a fear of being lynched.” What is he saying with this? Nothing less than this: no Black male growing up in the rural South in that period could be free of that fear. Every Black male was haunted and scarred deeply by that fear. Think about what that means and think about how this touched Black people as a whole. A sociologist who studied Black life in Mississippi in the 1930s learned how deeply the threat of lynching was in the minds of all Black people, from the very young to the very old. And in a PBS program on the system of segregation in the South, which was called the Jim Crow system, they quoted a psychologist who said that every Black person living in the South under Jim Crow was living actually under a death sentence. It might or might not actually get carried out, but it was always there. Black people could be killed for anything they did which might offend some white people and the whites who killed them would never be punished. A Black man could be lynched for looking at a white woman in a way that some white people thought was the wrong way, and the whites who killed them, again, would never be punished. Or a grown Black man could be killed for not calling a young white boy “sir,” or for not stepping off the sidewalk to make way for white people or for any reason or no reason at all. And this was related to the overall outrages to which Black people were subjected. This experience of lynching and its effect on the masses of Black people can in a real sense be taken as representing and concentrating the experience of Black people as a whole, long after literal slavery with all its horrors had been ended in the 1860s.
Frederick Douglass was a slave himself who after he got his own freedom, spent his life fighting against the oppression of Black people and other injustices. Invited to speak at a July Fourth celebration [in 1852], Douglass made clear that July Fourth was nothing to celebrate and that America was guilty of great crimes. Here’s what he said about it: “What, to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all of your religious parade and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages....
“There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States at this very hour.” And Douglass also said, America may accuse others of savagery, but really it has no equal when it comes to this. He said, “For revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, American reigns without a rival.”
As the saying goes, truer words were never spoken. Douglass spoke these words while slavery still legally existed in the United States, but his comments apply just as much even after outright slavery was ended, and all this time, while all these lynchings and other acts of incredible cruelty were being carried out, with all the oppression they embodied and enforced, all this time those who ruled this country, those who refused to do anything to stop these lynchings or other acts of terror and atrocities, those who were responsible for these and other barbaric crimes, all this time, they never stopped proclaiming, “This is the greatest country in the world... this is the greatest country that has ever been... this is the leader of the free world... this is the homeland of freedom and democracy.”
It is not just that many white people acted like depraved beasts. And it is not that some were actually devils, although it certainly may have seemed that way many times in the history of this country. The deeper thing is that all these horrors were shaped by, they were encouraged by, and they served to keep in effect a whole system, a system that could not have existed without first slavery, and then near-slavery. And segregation and terror centered in the South while the great majority of Black people lived there, chained in one way or another to the rural South and on white-owned plantations. White supremacy is built into the foundation of this country. It is something this system and those who rule it could not do without even if they wanted to, which they don’t. And this has continued down to the present. Despite all the false claims these days about how this is now a colorblind society, segregation and discrimination continue against Black people and other people of color. Every time there is a study or a survey to determine this, it shows without fail that segregation and discrimination exist in housing, in jobs, in schools, in health care, in every part of society. And this continues to be backed up with brutality and violence.
The last time I spoke publicly in this country, in 1979, I took a detour from the speaking tour to go to Chester, South Carolina because Black people there were uprising because a young Black male, in the year 1979, had been lynched for dating a white girl. And more recently in, yes, Texas, there was the horror of what was done to James Byrd, a Black man who was taken by white thugs and good ol’ boys, tied to the back of a pickup and dragged until his head was separated from his body and his body was dismembered.
This is still going on in this "greatest of all countries." But today, it is mostly the police who openly, as the police, carry out brutality and terror against Black youth and Black people in general. Applying that author’s statement on lynching to the present, we could put it this way. It is doubtful that there is a young Black male, growing up in the U.S. today, in the South or the North, who does not have a very real fear of being brutalized or even murdered by the police. And again, this touches all Black people. Another book on the history of lynching of Black people in the South makes this point—and think about this: Black parents learn to fear more for some sons than for others: those who were surly, who had attitude, or who were rebellious, or were careless, who had not learned the art of appearing to know their place. They were in greater danger. And tragically, parents had no choice but to try to keep their sons especially from showing those qualities—like self-confidence, curiosity, ambitiousness—that could be interpreted as insolence or arrogance by white people. However, this author goes on to say, there was only so much that could be done by the parents in trying to prevent disaster. Any unlucky circumstance could instantly put a Black man at deadly risk.
And today we see the same thing. In our Party’s work in the housing projects, one of the most heart-rending things we’ve learned is how Black mothers in the projects start to worry early on if the boys that they’ve given birth to start to show that they might grow up to be large. Because then they’ll have everything come down on them that comes down on a large Black male. Think of what this means, that a mother, from the time that her child is two or three years old, has to worry that he might grow up to be too big so he might be seen to be a threat by the police and then cut down and murdered brutally by them.
What kind of a society, what kind of system is this?
Revolution #266 April 22, 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.”
LISTEN, DOWNLOAD, REPOST and SPREAD EVERYWHERE!
Revolution #266 April 22, 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 #266 April 22, 2012
The BAsics Bus Tour is going to hit the road again. After its successful pilot launch in California, the BAsics bus is going to take it higher. And $20,000 is needed to make it happen.
Momentum is building in the mass campaign to raise big money to project the vision and works of Bob Avakian into every corner of society. In the coming months, new rounds of the BAsics Bus Tour are going to be spreading out to different areas. And now, beginning in Atlanta, then heading out from there, the BAsics bus will be rolling into the thick of the struggle in a particularly hot area in this country. The crew aboard will bring the message of revolution and introduce Bob Avakian to people who are beginning to fight the power. This will be changing the atmosphere, bringing the fresh wind of the possibility of a whole new world, attracting people’s deep hopes for humanity and outrage at the world as it is... stirring up controversy, deep engagement and critical thinking. It will bring the answers people so desperately need about the way out of all this and involve people in different ways in the mass campaign: BA Everywhere! Imagine the Difference It Will Make! This is needed now more than ever, and if this is accomplished, it will make a very big difference.
Whatever you can do and wherever you are, you can make your time, effort and energy count! Your creativity, participation and support is needed to make a truly big difference in the world right now.
A crew from across the country—of different ages, experiences and nationalities—who think BA’s vision and works need to be known throughout society will go onto campuses and into inner cities, high schools and cultural centers and bring dramatic displays to downtown areas. They will be organizing screenings of clips from Avakian’s talk: Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, posting up quotes from BAsics, joining with those fighting the power and engaging in debate and discussion with people who agree, disagree or just want to find out more. They will be learning from people and giving them an opportunity to be part of the campaign to get out BA Everywhere. And all this together can reverberate back into the world at large.
A message to all those reading Revolution: Going all out around this—beginning now, making a big leap around the weekend before May 1, and when the tour itself kicks off—can bring all kinds of people together in many efforts, and on a mission—to break society open around the intolerability of the world as it is, the desirability of a whole different society, and a whole different way we could live... and the leadership Avakian is providing to bring that world into being.
“[The BAsics Bus Tour] cut through people’s daily existence of whatever sort of thing they were thinking about. It’s not like people didn’t have opinions on things. But... this was something they’d never seen before, an RV fully decorated with BAsics, the front and back covers in English and Spanish. You had music, you had these multicultural people stepping off these buses and very alive with revolution, alive with a vision of a new world... It was something unexpected, it was something very new, but it was also something very welcome.”
—a young tour participant
“Questions get raised every day about stuff like this but people don’t talk about it.”
—a city college student in Fresno
“A man from Mexico City who had bought Lo BAsico... commented on the sections that impressed him: about religion, seizing power, and learning about the experience of socialism. ‘These are big solutions to big problems.’ He said we needed to reach out more to youth, to the schools, that this book ‘has to be brought to people around the world.’”
—from a tour volunteers report
“When the bus rolls down the street, heads turn. One woman said, it ‘stopped me in my tracks!’”
—report from tour volunteers in Riverside, CA
BAsics is a book of quotations and short essays by Bob Avakian. Avakian is the revolutionary leader who has brought forward a new synthesis of communism—building on the overwhelmingly positive but also negative experience of communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience. Because of his work, there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world—and there is the crucial leadership needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal. But this is something that has to be made known throughout society, it is something people need to get the opportunity to engage, debate and be part of making real.
Revolution #266 April 22, 2012
May Day 2012... the BA Everywhere campaign... Imagine the Difference It Could Make! is going to another level. As we wrote last week: “There is no more fitting way to celebrate May 1 this year than to ... raise big money to get BA’s vision and works into every corner of society.”
On May 1 itself, in the face of the violent repression and coordinated efforts of the powers-that-be to “stamp out” the Occupy movement, Occupy has called for demonstrations that must be supported and joined.
Four Defiant Days
For four defiant days, April 28-May 1, let’s fight for and promote, live and celebrate 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.
Through these four days, let’s get the coming special issue of Revolution, featuring quotes from Bob Avakian on internationalism and revolution, into the hands of people everywhere. This issue hits the streets on April 24. Put in your orders now!
April 28: Set out to seize on every opportunity to put BA, his works and vision, before thousands. Boldly decorated car caravans and other creative ways are in the works with the aim of reaching into places in major metro areas where BA Everywhere has not yet had an impact—and to raise money. Join in—and get BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian into the hands of people all over.
April 29: Join with others in May Day fundraising celebrations! Invite all those who have been touched by BA Everywhere right up until Sunday to look to and celebrate a different and far better future! Be there for the announcement of summer plans to make new advances in BA Everywhere. Good food and lively discussion will go together with clips from BA’s Revolution talk, music, spoken word—including BA’s “All Played Out”—and more.
April 30: Let’s get back to people who are connecting with this movement to get BA Everywhere and have some more discussions. Make this a day of organizing and preparing for internationalist contingents that will join in May 1 demonstrations being organized by the Occupy movement.
May 1: A day for Fighting the Power, and Transforming the People, for Revolution
Many, many people in the Occupy movement continue to refuse to go along with the way things are in this society. A new wave of struggle is called for. The May 1 internationalist contingents need to be there in the midst of it, helping to strengthen these demonstrations and bringing into them their own resolve and determination to fight for a better future for all of humanity. Let’s swell the ranks of these demonstrations and strengthen the resistance to the attempts by the authorities to suppress and derail this movement.
Plans are in the works, and active work is being done now, to build for a truly electrifying May Day wave of taking BA Everywhere. Write to Revolution—and come back to revcom.us to find out what is being planned and what’s underway. (Send your reports soon to firstname.lastname@example.org.) 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 arrival of the BA Everywhere campaign.
Also, let’s begin to raise significant amounts of money now and, as we do this, further forge a community of people who are making the campaign their own. Building for and acting on these four defiant and celebratory days can and should be a real regathering of people, bringing forward new people, a real way for people to join the campaign in their own ways... an opened door to getting involved on many different levels. Let’s aim, in this month, to meet and draw in many more people who can contribute in different ways.
Revolution #266 April 22, 2012
Week of April 16
“Scenes from BA Everywhere” is a weekly feature that gives our readers an ongoing picture of this multifaceted campaign, and the variety of ways that funds are being raised and the whole BA vision and framework is being brought into all corners of society. Revolution newspaper is at the hub of the BA Everywhere effort—publishing reports from those taking up the campaign. Revolution plays a pivotal role in building an organized network of people across the country coming together to make BA a household word. We urge all our readers to send us timely correspondence on what you are doing as part of this campaign.
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, or a five or 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 a barber, 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...
A Dominican shop owner spoke about how Dominicans are treated a lot like Black people and do not know about BA. The BA Everywhere team read BA’s “no more generations” quote and the shop owner wound up donating and getting Revolution. At another shop, a person from Mexico heard the team read from the last lines of the RCP Statement on the Murder of Trayvon Martin and, while another person asked how the Trayvon Martin killing connected with communism, the person from Mexico said that he had read about the California BAsics Bus Tour, that it had stopped in Fresno with all of the immigrants and others there, and he then made a small donation and got a copy of Revolution. Another person in the shop got two copies of the paper and pledged to donate to the tour and to get BAsics. Several people who contributed funds 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 to the fund 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 briefly make it very clear and sharp to all that this was a national fundraising campaign to raise money for the national BAsics Bus Tour, 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.
From a Revolution Books staff member:
Sunsara Taylor spoke at Revolution Books in a program titled “From the Expanding Porn Industry to the Aggressive Religious Patriarchs: End the Enslavement & Degradation of Women.” While we primarily raised money for the campaign to end pornography and patriarchy, we also wanted to give people at the program an opportunity to donate to get BA Everywhere. The fund pitch was simple and brief, but it laid out the needs of both and let a number of people who’d never encountered this movement for revolution know that we’re out to get BA’s voice and vision everywhere and how that could change what people are talking about and doing with regard to the liberation of women and everything else. We read the BAsics 4:13 quote, “There is not one human nature...” This question was definitely “in the room.” One person decided to donate $10 to the End Pornography and Patriarchy Campaign and $20 to BA Everywhere. We encourage other bookstores to raise money for BA Everywhere even when raising money for other pressing needs of the movement for revolution. There’s no need to pit the needs against each other when the relationship with BA Everywhere strengthens all we are doing.
In a nearly-packed lecture hall at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, some 160 people came out on March 21 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).
The video of the debate can be viewed at revcom.us or at Brown University’s Political Theory Project site. Also see reader correspondence about building for this debate on the campus, at revcom.us.
Revolution #266 April 22, 2012
We received the following correspondence from Andy Zee of Revolution Books, New York City.
In NYC 600 people gathered for a Spring Awakening to plan major Occupy Wall Street protests on May Day, filled with a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the movement to break out anew. Into this mix revolutionaries spoke with people about being part of an Internationalist Contingent which will bring a much needed pole of standing with the people of the whole world into the protests, as Revolution newspaper wrote last week: "helping to strengthen these demonstrations and bringing their own resolve and determination to fight for a better future for all of humanity into them."
We initiated our discussions particularly around two short quotes from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian: "Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First" (5:8) and "American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People's Lives"(5:7). When we got into more depth we brought in other points of internationalism from BAsics, especially the last quote in chapter 1 that begins: "If you can conceive of a world without America—without everything America stands for and everything it does in the world—then you've already taken great strides and begun to get at least a glimpse of a whole new world...," using the whole quote.
In this brief correspondence I want to draw attention to the fact there were people who recognized the need to bring the stand that these quotes concentrate into the May Day protests—who thought that an Internationalist contingent and presence would bring an important reality into Occupy—including from their own perspectives. For example, we spoke with a group active around forging solidarity between American and Iranian people who were raising the alarm against a U.S./Israeli attack on Iran, and invited them to be a part of the contingent. With a strong revolutionary core to the May 1st Internationalist contingent, framed around the quotes from BA, we recognized that there is a broad basis for different people with diverse viewpoints—from those concerned about immigrant rights, to the environment, to the global trafficking in women, to anti-war activists—all to find real import in being part of making it manifest on MAY1st that the 99%—to use the parlance of Occupy—must start from the fundamental interests of the 99% of the people of the world.
One of the most savage inequalities in the world today is the great oppressive divide between imperialism and the rest of the world—enforced by the most vicious and largest military in world history. "Another world is possible," must really mean the whole world free of all forms of exploitation and oppression.
Revolution #266 April 22, 2012
We received this correspondence:
In the atmosphere of outrage over the murder of Trayvon Martin, and the coverup, I played the clips from Bob Avakian's talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About that are excerpted in Revolution newspaper last week for a few dozen students in a class at an inner-city campus. This is the clip that begins with the story of Emmett Till.
You could hear the proverbial pin drop while the video clip played. Almost every African-American student was literally on the edge of his or her seat. And the tension rose as the video played on. Several students—male and female—shouted out loud things like "that's true!" and "yes, it IS still going on today," and in some cases started getting out flyers to latecomers into the class on the spot. On the other hand, the response of students of other nationalities was noticeably more mixed, some seeming nervous, some concerned, some pensive... and all of them taking note of how intensely this was all connecting with the Black students.
Before and after, students—and a few teachers I spoke with—were really agonizing over how to not let this murder of Trayvon go down, and how to arouse the students to do something about it. I scraped together a handful of last week's issue of Revolution (we're pretty much sold out here) and sold those, encouraging people to share them and get to revcom.us.
In the mix: Who is that guy giving that talk!? I explained who Bob Avakian is, and that he is the leader of the RCP, and what that is. Among the perspectives of teachers who had been around in the '60s was that in those days people learned to see the unity between different oppressed peoples. They brought out how this came down with alliances between different revolutionary nationalist and radical organizations and trends. Those experiences and stories were important to share and did help some of the younger generation see that things haven't always been this way and can change. At the same time, I had made the point in all this that BA has done the work of going through the experiences of the first stage of communist revolution, and is leading a new stage. When I broke that down, I felt kind of a world-weary "yeah, right" vibe from among the '60s veterans. I actually thought it was important, for the younger people there, to acknowledge the "correct side" of the "yeah right"—this is no easy challenge. We do have a herculean problem here—given that the first stage of communist revolution had been defeated and we've gotten decades of brainwash about how it was a totalitarian nightmare. But—I made the point: you just heard BA. You know what kind of person this is. If you check out BA's work on this, you'll see what he's done—his work on all this really does open the door to a new stage of communist revolution.
I had announced the Day of Outrage on April 10, but school is out that day. The idea came up for a "hoodie day" on campus this Thursday. I encouraged people to make that happen. Then, on my way home, I started thinking that maybe I hadn't been emphatic enough about how important this hoodie day thing was—thinking maybe I didn't really appreciate how important this could be on this inner-city campus, and beyond. So I got out my scraps of paper and called all the numbers I had gotten to follow up and encourage people to do this, and reached one of the initiators and we were able to flesh out the concept and plan a bit on the phone. He's a busy person, but he was impressed that I had called him back so quickly.
To step back and make the basic point: what is said in this new issue of Revolution about this Trayvon Martin murder striking a real nerve is so true—this is not business as usual and we need to seize the time!
Revolution #266 April 22, 2012
20th Anniversary of the Los Angeles Rebellion
Twenty years ago, April 29, 1992, the city of Los Angeles, the second largest city in the country, erupted in rebellion. Black people, joined by Latinos and people of many nationalities and coming from many different backgrounds, poured into the streets and refused to silently accept the unjust verdict which had just been rendered in the trial of the cops who brutalized Rodney King. The major news anchors in the country sat tight-lipped and nervous while walls of fire raged on the screens behind them. People were shown dancing in the light of those flames, venting their anger, fighting the police whenever and wherever they encountered them.
At some point in the first ferocious hours of the uprising, the authorities decided to pull back many of their armed enforcers from the city’s neighborhoods, concentrating instead on protecting the key centers of power and wealth. As that first day rolled over into three days, the powers mobilized the largest domestic military occupation since the 1960s. Still, people moved with pride and their eyes shined with a mixture of rage and ferocious joy, a joy rooted in the idea that it’s right to rebel against injustice! And the 1992 LA Rebellion became the largest urban rebellion in U.S. history.
On April 29, 1992, it seemed like almost everyone in Los Angeles—along with many, many others around the country—were holding their breath.
Fourteen months earlier, Rodney King, a young Black man, had been pulled over for speeding. Twenty Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) and Highway Patrol officers flooded the scene as a police helicopter circled overhead. In the ensuing minutes, at least seven LAPD cops mercilessly beat and Tasered King, crushing the bones in his face, breaking his teeth and ankle, and causing numerous lacerations and internal injuries. Other cops stood around laughing, egging their fellow pigs on, while still others sent racist radio messages to other cops. When they finally took King to the hospital, the officers openly joked and bragged about the beating.
Unknown to the cops, a resident across the street videotaped the whole savage assault, which was subsequently played over and over on the news. National and even international outrage spread.
The LAPD and its then-Chief Daryl Gates lashed back, mounting a massive media campaign to criminalize King and somehow justify the beating. They claimed King was on PCP (tests proved negative). They argued that the videotape didn’t show the whole incident, that King attacked them. But the anger was so widespread that prosecutors eventually charged four of the cops with excessive force to try to contain things.
Then, as the trial approached, a judge moved the case from downtown LA to the overwhelmingly white suburb of Simi Valley where many cops and ex-cops lived. Still, people were guardedly hopeful. THIS time the police brutality was caught on tape. THIS time what Black people knew happens all the time was documented and broadcast for the whole world to see. THIS time with the reality of what it means to be Black in America out there for all to see, millions felt the jury had no choice but to convict. Finally, there would be some justice delivered.
At 3:15 pm on April 29,1992, the jury decision was announced on live TV: “Not guilty... Not guilty... Not guilty” over and over again. Not a single officer was convicted of any crime!
The verdicts were met with shock and disbelief, but also a deep anger. A young Black woman in the Crenshaw district described an empty, hollow feeling and a pain that went from the top of her head to the tip of her toes. In the Nickerson Gardens housing project a young Black man said, “It was almost like somebody took a shotgun and blew a hole through you but there was no blood and you was just sitting up there with a hole and you could see life going out of you.” Some of those considered the “hardest” people in the projects were standing out on the sports field with tears of rage coming down their faces.
Within less than an hour, people were gathering on street corners, outside stores, in front yards all over the city. Some had homemade signs, others simply screamed out their denunciation of the acquittals. Shouts of “No Justice, No Peace” and “Fuck tha Police” filled the air.
Hundreds and hundreds spontaneously gathered downtown in front of LAPD headquarters. A traffic booth in the parking lot went up in flames. Local news pictured glass doors and windows being smashed as cops in riot gear lined the inside of the building. At one point demonstrators tore down a U.S. flag and set it on fire. News reports said that cars were flipped over and torched, including at least one police car. The crowd surged through the downtown area, attacking symbols of power from City Hall, to the courthouses, to the LA Times building.
Over the next several days, the media reported that crowds attacked the Military Induction Center in the Crenshaw district, that the DMV building in Long Beach was torched, and that there was a firebombing of the probation office in Compton. Police set up concrete barricades surrounding many stations.
Some of the earliest and fiercest fighting broke out at the intersection of Florence and Normandie in South Central LA. Dozens of angry people had come to the area after hearing about the verdicts. Cops reported that they were met with hostile looks and shouts almost as soon as the verdicts were announced.
Twenty to 30 cops came into the area, brutally assaulting several youth and busting anyone who spoke out. By this time the crowd had grown to 100. The cops, outnumbered, drew their batons. Reports said that rocks, bricks and bottles began to rain down on the cops. Within minutes they broke ranks, scrambled into their cars and retreated.
Once the police had been run out of the area, people took their protest to the main intersection. Shops were broken into and set on fire. People began to lash out at white, Latino and Asian people driving through the intersection, including the televised attack on white truck driver Reginald Denny that the authorities later seized on to try to deliver the verdict that the rebellion was nothing but senseless and criminal, and characterized by violence aimed at innocent people.
Before long the live TV coverage of the scene at Florence and Normandie, combined with thick columns of smoke visible for miles, helped spark outbreaks elsewhere.
Much of the initial action was in heavily Black areas in South Central. A veteran of the 1965 Watts Rebellion described driving through whole neighborhoods that were “on the verge.” A young sister talked about how this was the first time in her life she was proud to be Black. But as the upsurge spread, it created a huge opening through which the suppressed anger of many nationalities burst forth and a deep, palpable and almost universal rage swept through the communities of the oppressed.
Latinos in huge numbers joined the upsurge. This was especially true in areas like the Pico-Union district west of downtown and parts of Hollywood with heavy concentrations of immigrants from Mexico and Central America. Tens of thousands swept into the streets and up against the authorities. Crowds mocked the cops and immigration police wherever they gathered. TV news showed store windows being smashed, buildings being set aflame, and people taking everything from kids’ shoes to Pampers to furniture.
There were reports of white and Asian youth joining in as well, often together with the Black and Latino masses.
As the rebellion unfolded, the mainstream press worked to whip up antagonisms between different nationalities, painting the whole rebellion as a “race riot” of Blacks against Latinos, whites, and especially Korean store owners.
It is true that many of the small liquor and convenience stores looted and burned in South Central and in the Pico-Union/Hollywood areas were owned by Koreans, and many Korean people wrongly stood with the system instead of the people. Long-standing divisions between Blacks and Latino immigrants were (and are) consciously promoted by different powers-that-be. Mouthpieces for the system worked to channel the people’s anger over being locked down in ghettos with no jobs, over racist discrimination and daily deprivation, and over being criminalized as a people and being set against other peoples and nationalities.
But what stood out is how people of different nationalities and races overcame these conflicts in the midst of the rebellion, how they stopped blaming and fighting each other—and how they came together in resistance to this system. A middle-aged Black man’s face lit up as he talked about the rebellion. “I felt the same way all our people felt when we blew up. Equality wasn’t in my favor for a long time now. Look, we are tired of this. People all over felt the same way in their hearts. Not only people in LA, but people all over the country. Not only people of color, but a lot of white people too.”
The graffiti on the walls told much of the story—”Bloods + Crips + Mexicans,” “4/30/92 Together Forever,” “Rodney King No Mas,” and later “Yankee Go Home.” In the midst of this, the idea of revolution was in the air—and was warmly received. “Revolución es la Solución! Revolution is the Hope of the Hopeless” appeared on the walls.
There were reports of Black youth coming into the mainly Latino immigrant neighborhood of Pico Union, opening up storefronts, and calling on the Latino people to take what they needed. And one of the most under-reported incidents during the rebellion was a demonstration of 300 to 400 Korean-American students outside City Hall demanding the resignation of then-LAPD Chief Gates and the federal prosecution of the cops who beat Rodney King.
The rebellion also drew support from many middle class and better-off sections of society. Filmmakers, actors, musicians, professors, playwrights and poets spoke out in support of the people and against the verdicts. Hundreds of UCLA students rallied on campus in support of the rebellion and many made their way downtown and to the neighborhoods to stand with the people.
Just before the rebellion erupted, a truce was worked out by warring gangs of Bloods and Crips. The truce suspended more than a decade of brutal and senseless fighting and killing among the people. A new situation was established and it gave strength to the rebellion, especially in Watts.
For years the cops complained about “gang violence” and used it as justification to carry out wholesale attacks on Black and Latino youth. Now that the youth were beginning to overcome their differences and to think about fighting against their common oppression instead of each other, the authorities moved hard to shut the truce down. There were hundreds of unity meetings and parties in the weeks after the rebellion, and each one was attacked and broken up by the pigs.
By the time the rebellion peaked, hundreds of thousands had taken part, predominantly people from impoverished Black and Latino communities. Black and other oppressed people and a wide range of others rose up in 79 other U.S. cities, inspired by the people in LA. And the rebellion was greeted with tremendous enthusiasm and excitement by people around the world.
The rebellion was finally put down, but only with the help of more than 20,000 armed enforcers of law and order. It was one of the largest military forces ever marshaled in the U.S. against a domestic uprising. There were 5,000 LA cops; 9,975 National Guard troops; 3,313 federal military troops; 2,323 Highway Patrol officers; and 1,950 federal agents from the FBI, ATF, the Bureau of Prisons, immigration police and Border Patrol.
Fifty-three people were killed, mostly Blacks and Latinos. The police admitted killing 11 of them but the actual number murdered by cops, vigilantes or other reactionaries is probably much higher. People like Cesar Aguilar, who was held in a mass arrest and then shot in the back because he refused to lower his head, or DeAndre Harrison, Anthony Taylor and Dennis Jackson shot by police in the Nickerson Gardens housing project. Or Louis Watson, an 18-year-old Black graffiti artist shot by an “unknown gunman” as he stood in a store window passing out food to people in the street. More than 12,500 people were arrested, and 1,500 immigrants were turned over to immigration police.
In the aftermath, one of the main ways the authorities tried to go after the rebellion was the prosecution of the LA4—four young Black men charged with the attack on white truck driver Reginald Denny at Florence and Normandie. While the judge, prosecutor and mainstream media tried to railroad them to prison, the jury would not go along and delivered not guilty verdicts on nearly all of the charges. In a heroic development, when Denny himself took the stand he called for no jail time and expressed some real understanding of what led to the rebellion. The Los Angeles Times quoted Denny: “Everyone needs respect.... And as soon as you take a group of people, and put them on a shelf and say they don’t count. Let me tell you, they count in a big way.... It’s hard saying what those guys have gone through." The RCP joined with a wide range of people to mount a campaign to defend the LA 4. “Free the LA4+! Defend the Los Angeles Rebellion!” and “No More Racist Pig Brutality!” were two of the slogans.
Yes, people made mistakes during the outbreak and some went after the wrong targets in the course of the rebellion. These kinds of errors are bound to happen whenever there is a major social upheaval. But the overwhelming aspect was that people saw the system let the cops off scot-free and they rebelled!
As Bob Avakian said in a statement on the LA Rebellion shortly after it broke out: “This Rebellion was the most beautiful, the most heroic, and the most powerful action by the masses of people in the U.S. for years and years. It sent shockwaves throughout the U.S. and around the world, striking fear and panic into the oppressors and causing the hearts of oppressed people everywhere to beat faster with joy and hope.” (Excerpt from a statement by Bob Avakian “Revolutionary Greetings to All the Sisters and Brothers Who Have Risen Up in Righteous Rebellion in L.A.!”)
The authorities say that “the people only hurt themselves by destroying their own communities.” One Black man at the time spoke to this directly, “They all talking about how could we just go and destroy the communities we live in. Well, to me it’s more like these are the communities we are dying in and that’s why we have to destroy them.”
The rebellion came after decades of suffering and impoverishment. Dozens of factories had closed down and moved overseas, leaving tens of thousands unemployed. And it went far beyond economic devastation.
In 1987, the LAPD announced “Operation Hammer,” an all-out assault on Black and Latino youth in the name of a “war on gangs and drugs.” There were more than 50,000 arrests in three years. On a single weekend in 1988, the cops arrested 1,453 people. Only 60 of those were for felonies; charges were filed in only 32 cases. One notorious incident was when 88 cops ransacked two apartment buildings in South Central, taking sledge hammers to TVs and toilets, destroying clothing and furniture, spray painting the walls with “LAPD Rules” and leaving the apartments uninhabitable.
The acquittal of the cops who beat Rodney King was the match, but decades of oppression and suffering was the tinder that fueled the explosion.
|Benefit Concert On the Occasion of the
20th Anniversary of the L.A. Rebellion
It's Right to Rebel Against Injustice!
Sunday, April 29, 7 pm, $15
Fais Do-Do, 5253 W. Adams Blvd., Los Angeles
• Outernational • Funeral Party • Others TBA
Sponsored by Revolution Books/Libros Revolución
Discount tickets available.
323-463-3500 • email@example.com
Benefit for BA Everywhere! Imagine the Difference It Could Make, a campaign projecting Bob Avakian's works and vision of revolution and human emancipation into every corner of society and radically changing the atmosphere.
|On the Occasion of the 20th Anniversary of the L.A. Rebellion|
It's Right to Rebel Against Injustice!
SUNDAY, April 29, 2 pm
At Revolution Books/Libros Revolucíon, $10
5726 Hollywood Blvd. @ Wilton, Los Angeles
A Panel Discussion with:
*ERIN AUBRY KAPLAN, author of Black Talk, Blue Thoughts, and Walking the Color Line. She has covered Black issues as a journalist for 20 years, including nine years as a staff writer for the LA Weekly, and two years as a weekly op-ed columnist for the Los Angeles Times.
*MICHAEL SLATE, author of "Shockwaves" and "Aftershocks"—an unparalleled coverage of the 1992 L.A. Rebellion. He is a regular contributor to Revolution newspaper, and the host of The Michael Slate Show on KPFK.
*FRANK STOLTZE, an award-winning radio journalist who covered the L.A. rebellion from the streets, former news director at KPFK, and currently news reporter at KPCC.
*Possible additional panelists TBA.
Sponsored by Revolution Books/Libros Revolución. For more info: 323.463.3500.
RevolutionBooksLa@gmail • RevolutionBooksLa.blogspot.com
Twenty years after the LA Rebellion, the system's “official verdict” is that this was at best a tragic and costly mistake and at worst an orgy of violence pitting one nationality against another, fueled by people who just saw this as their chance to “get some” for themselves. We’re told that the “national dialogue” should be centered on how we can prevent another “LA Riot” from happening.
But rebellion was an entirely appropriate response! That’s just a fact. It punched a hole in the mythology that this is “the greatest country in the world” and let light shine in on the reality. If people don’t fight back against the brutality and degradation they are continually subjected to and the system that spawns them, nothing will ever change. And because they rose in rebellion, the have-nots on the bottom of society put their message out in a way no one could ignore.
The rebellion showed the tremendous strength of the oppressed when they rise up against their oppression. It forged real multinational unity—as well as unity across class lines—as Blacks, Latinos, Asians and white people came together to fight injustice. And as people fought, big questions about the cause of all the suffering, how to end it and what kind of world do people need were discussed and debated in ways that hadn’t happened in decades.
And just think what it would be like if the LA Rebellion had not happened—if people had quietly accepted the verdicts or just had some safe, business-as-usual protest. The repercussions of that would have been terrible—crushing the spirit of the people and strengthening the system. Instead, it established a new pride and dignity among the people.
The anniversary of the1992 LA Rebellion is something that oppressed people everywhere, and all those who stand against injustice, should celebrate. It was a righteous uprising against a terrible, degrading and dehumanizing situation. This kind of spirit and refusal to go along with the continuing crimes of the system is exactly what is needed today.
This world is a horror, but it does not have to be this way. Another world is possible. If you really want to change things—if you want to finally do away once and for all with the outrages like the murder of Trayvon Martin, or the systematic incarceration of millions or any of a thousand other outrages that go on each and every day under this system—you have to get rid of the system itself, through revolution, here and wherever this system stretches its tentacles and is in force all over the world.
And revolution is possible... and, as the Message and Call from the RCP “The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have” says: “...now IS the time to be WORKING FOR REVOLUTION—to be stepping up resistance while building a movement for revolution—to prepare for the time when it WILL be possible to go all out to seize the power.” (Revolution #170, July 19, 2009)
Times of unrest and rebellion among the people who most of the time feel powerless to struggle against the thousands of ways this system oppresses people are times when people can see things in another way. The nature of this system is more clearly revealed, its legitimacy can get called even more sharply into question—and the possibility of a whole different and better way becomes real in new ways. These are times when leaps can be made in building up the movement and organized forces for revolution.
Revolution #266 April 22, 2012
On April 10, people in various cities around the U.S. took to the streets in a Day of Outrage to say “We Are All Trayvon Martin” and “The Whole Damn System Is Guilty.”
In New York City, 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! In Los Angeles, 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. 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. People were called on to join. The march grew as many did join in, including high school students.
Determined demonstrations were also held in Seattle, San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, Houston, and Honolulu.
|All photos are Special to Revolution Newspaper.|
|University of California, Los Angeles|
Revolution #266 April 22, 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 #266 April 22, 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 #266 April 22, 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 #266 April 22, 2012
Revolution received this report:
At a local high school letting out people distributed the call to come out to the Trayvon Martin rally downtown and challenged the students around fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. They had a sandwich board with both the picture of the covers on Revolution newspaper of Trayvon Martin "A Modern American Lynching" and the newest cover calling for April 10 as a day of action. Just saying the name Trayvon Martin caused students to run up and grab fliers and posters. At a recent talent show at this school some students had performed a tribute to Trayvon Martin.
The after school teacher on bus duty came near us to try and keep us at a distance from the students, but in a freak wind gust, fliers and posters flew past him and students grabbed them, coming up and asking for more posters of the party's statement.
At a nearby triangle where three streets come together, as well as students from three high schools, the crew talked to more students who gather there for bus rides. Some took small bundles to get out to friends and family.
Then people headed downtown to the Chicago loop. They stopped at a downtown plaza which is both a crossroad of sorts for downtown workers and students and a place where people hang out. A couple of people in the area stepped to the mike to talk about their outrage over the murder of Trayvon and the need for fundamental change in this system. While there was a noticeable reaction from the crowd, many white people walked by without a second look with only a few younger white people taking the flier or even acknowledging this terrible crime. This was challenged with agitation that Sunsara Taylor had in her recent article in Revolution newspaper.
Some of the younger black youth said that they were part of the Trayvon Martin "movement"—that they had t-shirts that had his name on them. They all pulled up their "hoodies" to be a part of the protest for a short time. A couple of people from the plaza joined the group and headed over to the main gathering where speeches were held. A small spirited march led with the stolen lives banner showing the faces of people murdered by the police then marched through the downtown loop, with people along the route taking more fliers and Revolution newspapers.
The chants and the banner captured people's attention. A young Black woman coming down the sidewalk toward the march raised her fist and shouted "that's what I'm talkin' about." Someone in a passing car honked in time to the chant "Trayvon Martin, Emmett Till—the system lets the racists kill." A young white guy from the Nashville Occupy movement took small bundles of Revolution newspapers and fliers to get out to his collective, while a long-time supporter of Revolution got poster, papers and stickers to take to Chicago's west side. These kinds of responses were repeated by others all along the route—people clapping, raising their fists, chanting along and stopping to talk and express their outrage. But with some Black folks also expressing skepticism about resistance and even resignation about the overall conditions facing Black people.
Along with the flier on Trayvon, people were passing out a flier for the April 19 National Day of Protest to Stop Mass Incarceration. It was striking that almost everyone who stopped, even very briefly, is following the case and aware that the prosecutor had decided, on that day, not to take the case to the grand jury. They also saw immediately the connection with mass incarceration - that a whole caste of people are less than human, criminalized, and therefore their lives can be stolen by police, vigilantes, or the criminal injustice system. Moving that to see that it is on us to bring this to an end is a whole other struggle.
Revolution #266 April 22, 2012
Revolution received this report:
As part of the nationwide Day of Outrage on April 10, a small but angry and defiant speak-out and march for Trayvon Martin took place in East Oakland, starting at the site of the police killing of Brownie Polk in 2009. With a banner reading "We are all Trayvon. The whole damn system is guilty" a very mixed group gathered—revolutionaries, World Can't Wait activists, students from community colleges, and residents of the East Oakland community who, having read the leaflets posted on the corner, were waiting for the revolutionaries. Also there were people who came after getting an email from Revolution Books, including a young white man from a mainly white area of the city who was concerned that there were not enough white people coming out.
After chanting loudly that "Trayvon Martin didn't have to die. We all know the reason why. The whole damn system is guilty," speakers stepped forward to respond and speak bitterness. After hearing that Zimmerman would not be charged with first degree murder, a prominent community leader said, "They let the murderer go just because Trayvon was a young Black man. This proves there ain't no justice in America. There ain't no justice in America. There ain't no justice in America."
A middle-aged Black resident of the neighborhood was clearly upset about all the violence in the neighborhood (this area has seen a lot of homicides); and while he called to "stop the violence," he made sure to emphasize "Justice for Trayvon Martin." He had been part of the protests against the murder of Brownie Polk in 2009, and had been waiting at the chicken shack an hour ahead of time to be part of the day of outrage. He called for "unity" to fight for Trayvon and announced that there were Black, white, Latino and Asian people there. A Native American woman shouted out her presence as well. He explained that he was against all the violence, but felt that non violence couldn't be addressed without getting justice for Trayvon! He was clearly happy to be speaking out, and loudly thanked us for providing the opportunity to respond to Trayvon's murder.
Earlier in the day, we had been at a local community college where the mood among many students was a bit subdued or resigned to saying "not much you can do." But, it was not ALL like that, eg, there was a young Asian woman who told us of having her student club do a Trayvon Martin fashion show with hoodies and skittles. An older student also gave a $20 donation to get out the vision and works of BA everywhere.
A couple from the community college arrived together and both of them spoke out about why they came. The young woman was there not just to respond to and to seek justice for Trayvon, but because she heard our revolutionary message earlier in the day. She said, "This murder is just too much, and you mean to tell me that there is a way to actually end all this shit? That's good to hear. I'm gonna leave class right now and hook up with my boyfriend and get right down to the neighborhood.. This is just too much." Later in the rally, her boyfriend (who called himself Trayvon Martin) said that he was there because of his 3-year-old daughter. He didn't want her to live in a world that he is living in now, where things hadn't changed that much in the 50 years since Emmett Till. "No child should even see something like this (murder of Trayvon)."
The lively and determined march took off down a main street to a very busy intersection. At this intersection, the contingent doubled in size when passersby were challenged to and felt compelled to join in, even if for a few minutes. One young Black woman from another community college agitated very strongly (atop 2 milk cartons donated by the corner store) that things were so wrong with this system, that Obama was no damn good, that we need a revolution to really make a change. Others of us agitated in the crowd for people to hook up with BA and BAsics.
When one young man asked how we were going to make this revolution, I showed him "On the Strategy for Revolution" with its important point that we must fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution. He said he was all for fighting the power as he held up the issue #264 of Revolution with Trayvon's picture on the cover; but he wasn't sure about revolution (still feeling that "they are too powerful"). Yet, for sure he felt that if we didn't fight the power especially around Trayvon, then it would be very bad for all of us. "It's already a green light on killing us; but they want to make it into the law of the land." He only stayed for a short time, but called on 3 of his friends to also hold up the paper on the opposite side of the street; and ended up giving a donation.
Our crowd grew, with paper sellers on all of the intersection medians. As people loudly honked their approval, we called on them to park their cars and "join us." In fact, 2 young men from the hood did just that and stood with us for a few minutes. This intersection is also a major bus stop; so we agitated for people to miss their next bus to join us in NOT being silent around this heinous crime. There was a challenge here that the passersby could not just say "this (racist murder) happens all the time" and then walk on by when here was an opportunity to join a revolutionary movement to end it!
Throughout the day, people responded to the leaflet with its quote in Revolution from the veteran who said "if I shot some white kid...." That particular quote hit a raw nerve about exposing the basic injustice of the system. But people also responded simply to the picture of Trayvon in his hoodie. One man who stood with us for a while said "I have six sons, the oldest about Trayvon's age, and looks just like Trayvon. How do you think I feel about this?" And more than one young mother expressed the sentiments in BA's clip about worrying that her son may grow up to be too big, and/or that he might be a target just for wearing the hoodie.
There was a strong sense among the crowd that this was the right thing to do, no matter what your nationality. The young white man who came from a different part of the city said, "I don't hear much sympathy for what happened to Trayvon from my neighborhood with a lot of professional white people. Its kind of bad they are so quiet. I really didn't know what to expect coming down here, but was glad to see a group of people from all nationalities. This is GREAT .. Seeing all the people honking their horns and all. Maybe I'll get to know this neighborhood and come down here more often."
A short report from the buildup to day of outrage:
On Saturday and Sunday we went out with papers and BAsics to the Latino immigrant area of the city. Out in front of the main Catholic church on Sunday, we got into a good amount of controversy.
At the table we had set up, a bilingual man was arguing about "why Trayvon, when all these homicides are going on all the time unanswered?" He was a little antagonistic that we were even bringing up Trayvon. We answered using the article in the current issue of the paper which addresses this very issue: Yes, its all bad, but if you truly want to rise up out of the muck and mire, you need to stand up right now against the murder of Trayvon.
Since he didn't have an answer to this, he then raised that Zimmerman was half Latino!!! What was this supposed to mean? We struggled with him pretty sharply that this didn't at all make the murder excusable and that it didn't change the fact that it was a racist vigilante who was doing this in the name of white supremacy. Our agitator responded, "The only thing worse than a satisfied slave is one who will defend his slavemasters whipping all the slaves." Then because of this response, a woman stepped forward to check out and then buy a copy of BAsics and also donate extra money as well for the BA Everywhere campaign.
Also in the cafeteria of a community college on Tuesday, April 10, we were loudly agitating inside away from the rain. One woman complained about our money can. "Is this money going to the family? This isn't doing any good at all. You're raising money for a very negative thing." Our response was that we were raising money for revolution and to get BA everywhere ... and this in fact was a very positive thing. She became even more agitated, inappropriately, that we were just getting money for ourselves. Then a young woman came up behind her and asked directly where the money was going. I said "for revolution, which means to pay for this paper and to get BA's name everywhere." She dropped $2 in the can. When another of us agitated that we do have a leader, BA, who can lead us in putting an end to this whole system, another older Black man dropped a $20 bill in the can! On the surface it might have looked like we were not having much of an impact at the school since most of the crowd was just eating lunch, but some people did listen, and 3 of them later joined the 4 pm rally in East Oakland.
Revolution #266 April 22, 2012
Bernard Harcourt, writing in the Opinionator blog of the New York Times, described the Occupy movement as marking a "political paradigm shift": a new form of "political disobedience" involving a "leaderless" organization refusing to embrace "old ideologies"—whether of free markets or communism. In the editorial, Harcourt specifically engaged Raymond Lotta, an advocate of Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism, who had recently spoken at Occupy Wall Street. Lotta responded: the question is not whether there will be ideology or leadership—these are in play one way or another—but what kind of ideology and what kind of leadership are needed to overcome oppression and exploitation. The repression directed against the Occupy movement underscores the importance of these questions of social protest and societal transformation.
In December, Harcourt and Lotta had the first round of their debate at Occupy Chicago. Now the debate continues at The New School in New York City. Come ask questions and participate in this vital debate and exchange.
Bernard Harcourt is Chairman of the Political Science department and professor of law at the University of Chicago. He is the author of The Illusion of Free Markets.
Raymond Lotta is a political economist and contributor to Revolution newspaper. He has been speaking about the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
Date and Time: Saturday, May 5, 5:00-7:00 pm
Location: Wolff Conference Room, Room 1103, The New School
6 East 16th Street, 11th floor
Sponsors: Center for Public Scholarship at The New School; Revolution Books, New York City
Revolution #266 April 22, 2012
In February, a neighborhood-watch captain in Sanford, Florida, shot and killed 17-year-old Trayvon Martin. A little over a month later, in early April, two white men drove a pickup through a Black area of north Tulsa, Oklahoma, in the middle of the night and began shooting at people. William Allen, Bobby Clark, and Donna (Dannaer) Fields were killed in the rampage, and two others were wounded.
There is a long history in the USA to this racist violence, from brutal life under slavery to lynchings and KKK terror to the epidemic of police murders in recent decades. In particular, Tulsa and the central Florida region near Sanford have been the scenes of several of the most horrific massacres perpetrated against Black people. These crimes were systematically covered up in official histories by those in power.
The three massacres depicted on this page took place in the 1920s, at a time of open segregation in the Jim Crow South. Focusing back to today, the forms of oppression of Black people have changed in various ways, but the systematic targeting of African-Americans for racist brutality and discrimination as a people is a continuing reality. The north side of Tulsa—not far from where the 1921 Greenwood massacre took place—today is a devastated area of nearly 1,000 abandoned homes and businesses, rampant unemployment, and deep poverty. And this is repeated, and multiplied, across the U.S. This system closes the door on millions of Black and Latino youth to any decent future—and then demonizes them as "criminals" and targets them for mass incarceration. More Black men are in prison or jail, on parole, or on probation today than were enslaved before the Civil War.
The history and present-day reality of the USA shows that this system will not—and cannot—end the intolerable oppression of Black people.
In 1921, the Greenwood district in Tulsa was a community of 15,000 Black people—a small city within a segregated city. There were working people, those who had fled the slave-like chains of sharecropping, veterans back from World War 1, as well as doctors and lawyers and business owners. Some called it the "Black Wall Street." The white racists of Tulsa hated Greenwood, and the powers openly expressed a desire to drive the Black people out.
On May 31, 1921, a Black shoe shiner named Dick Rowland rode an elevator operated by a white woman. When the elevator reached the lobby, some people allegedly heard the woman scream and saw Rowland run from the scene. No charges were ever filed against Rowland. But he was arrested and taken to the county jail.
The next morning, the headline in the Tulsa Tribune screamed out: "To Lynch Negro Tonight." That night, a white mob of some 2,000 descended on the courthouse, intent on lynching Rowland. But then a group of Black men, some in World War 1 military uniforms, marched from Greenwood, courageously confronting the lynch mob. Shots were exchanged, and the Black men, greatly outnumbered, retreated to Greenwood.
The lynch mob got official backing when the police deputized hundreds of the men. One "deputy" said after being sworn in: "Now you can go out and shoot any nigger you see and the law'll be behind you." At dawn, about 10,000 racists armed to the teeth, including with machine guns, invaded Greenwood. There was even strafing and bombing from aircraft.
The people of Greenwood tried to resist—but they could not hold back against the overwhelming force of the enemy. Gangs of white people, many of them Klansmen, went house to house, looting and killing. The fires set by the invaders would destroy about 1,200 houses and businesses, wiping Greenwood off the map.
Ocoee, near Sanford, Florida, had about 1,000 residents, about half Black. Two Black men, Moses Norman and Julius "July" Perry, registered to vote and paid the "poll tax"—which was a way used in the Jim Crow South to prevent Black people from voting, even though they had a legal right to vote under U.S. laws. On November 2, 1920, Norman and Perry went to the polls to vote, but were turned away. Word spread about the incident, and by that night 250 Klansmen gathered in Ocoee. They began to burn and kill, destroying 25 homes and murdering some 50 people. According to one account, "On the morning of November 3rd, July Perry's body is found hanging from a light pole. Nearly a week goes by as 250 deputized Klansmen hold the city, not allowing people to enter or exit, without special permission. The land that was fled by the black citizens was divided up and sold for $1.50 an acre. Blacks would not inhabit the city until sixty-one years later in 1981."
Rosewood was a small town in the swamps of northwest Florida, about 140 miles west of Sanford. The name came from the cedar trees that grew in the swamp and provided the basis for the logging, sawmill, and related industries in the area. By the 1920s the town had a population of 150, all but one of the families Black. Many of the men worked in the sawmill or as lumberjacks and many women cleaned the homes of the white people in the neighboring town of Sumner. The people of Rosewood also owned their land, although violent oppression and the whole system of white supremacy permeated their lives—Rosewood was still a part of the Amerikkkan South, just a little more than 50 years after slavery was ended. But their relatively independent position in relation to white people gave the people of Rosewood a basis to resist attempts to drive them back into virtual slavery. This made Rosewood a target in the eyes of the white supremacist forces in Sumner and the surrounding areas.
On New Year's Day 1923, a young white woman in Sumner falsely accused a Black man of breaking into her house and beating her. Within the hour a lynch mob with the classic racist mission of "protecting white womanhood" set off to terrorize the Black people in Rosewood. They claimed to be looking for an escapee from a local chain gang named Jesse Hunter, but in reality they unleashed their fury on every Black man, woman and child in Rosewood. Soon the mob grew to include about 1,500 whites—including many KKK members. After a week of lynchings, rapes, mutilations, and other tortures, shootings, and burnings, the town of Rosewood was erased.
Revolution #266 April 22, 2012
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Revolution #266 April 22, 2012
From A World to Win News Service
April 9, 2012. A World to Win News Service. Günter Grass has achieved something many poets have only dreamt of in recent years: he has brought poetry, or at least a poem, to the center of public life in Germany and elsewhere around the world.
In retaliation for that poem, Israel has announced that this Nobel Prize-winning writer, who considers himself a supporter of that country he has visited several times, will never be allowed to set foot on its soil again.
When was the last time so much political firepower was aimed at a poem? Lining up to denounce it were Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu; Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman; the Interior Minister, Eli Yishai; and the whole Zionist establishment, including the supposedly "left" newspaper Haaretz; and also German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and the leader of Germany's parliamentary foreign affairs committee, both of whom felt that these verses endangered the national interest.
The poem has also been condemned by various guardians of literature blustering about the poor quality of Grass's late-in-life foray into poetry. Whatever the merits of his stanzas may be, it's odd that no one has raised literary issues until now. For instance, the New York Review of Books (NYRB), known for its high standards, carried a recent Grass poem just before the scandal.
Readers can look at Grass's offending poem for themselves, at Guardian.co.uk (April 4) ("What Must be Said," rendered into English by Breon Mitchell, who also translated Grass for the NYRB) and in German ("Was gesagt werden muss") on Sueddeutsche.de, the site of the newspaper where it first appeared.
It was written on the occasion of the German government's decision to build a sixth atomic-powered submarine (at a subsidized price) for Israel. Despite their cute name, "Dolphin"-class submarines are designed to deploy Israeli nuclear-armed missiles in the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. They are aimed at Pakistan and especially Iran.
What Israel and its backers find unacceptable in Grass's piece is that it criticizes the Israeli government for claiming "the alleged right to a first strike / that could destroy an Iranian people / subjugated by a loudmouth." He continues, "Why only now, grown old / and with what ink remains, do I say: / Israel's atomic power endangers / an already fragile world peace? / Because what must be said / may be too late tomorrow; / and because—burdened enough as Germans—/ we may be providing material for a crime / that is foreseeable, so that our complicity / will not be expunged by any / of the usual excuses." The poem ends with a call for "those responsible for the open danger we face to renounce the use of force" and for both the Iranian and Israeli governments to open their nuclear facilities to international inspection.
Grass has long been associated with Germany's sometimes-governing Social Democratic party, and this is far from a radical or even pro-Palestinian position. In an interview following the uproar that greeted his poem, he argued that the "the man who damages Israel the most at the moment is in my opinion Netanyahu, and I should have included that in my poem."
Yet the Zionists are no longer in a mood to accept this somewhat critical support. The Israeli embassy in Germany issued a statement charging Grass with continuing the "European tradition to accuse the Jews before the Passover festival of ritual murder." This is a reference to what is called "the blood libel," that the unleavened bread Jews eat at Passover is made with the blood of murdered Christian children. That lie was the pretext for hundreds of years of pogroms—European campaigns to exterminate Jews.
Just in case some people might wonder about the basis and logic for this extremely grave charge, Anshel Pfieffer, writing in Haaretz (April 8), declared that in Grass's case "all arguments are superfluous" and "logic and reason are useless."
This anti-reason attitude would have gladdened the hearts of the Nazis and all of today's religious zealots. But how else could Israel's defenders react, when the facts are stacked against them: Israel has hundreds of nuclear weapons, Iran has none. Israel is threatening to use those weapons against Iran because, as Grass wrote, "an atomic bomb may be developing."
The Haaretz columnist ends by screaming that Grass would like to take away "the Jews' doomsday weapon" which is, he says, all that prevents the successful completion, in today's world, of the Nazi project "to wipe the Jews off the face of the earth."
How can this writer claim that saying "Don't bomb Iran" is anti-Semitism, or that in saying that no country should use nuclear weapons to attack another, Grass is calling for genocide? Isn't this upside down? Such use of hysteria and bullying to silence arguments that cannot be defeated by reason is the intellectual equivalent of a "doomsday weapon."
To equate Israel with "the Jews" is a lie, an old trick promoted both by the Zionist regime and Jew-haters of all kinds. But there is another lie here as well: far from being a country whose survival depends on its own people and weapons, Israel is a settler state that came into existence and has remained in existence only thanks to unwavering Western and American political, financial and military support. It is a pillar of the existing order in the Middle East, and central to American regional domination.
Israel would not be so eager to launch a war against Iran if it were not assured of U.S. military backing no matter what. In fact, whatever secondary disputes there may be between Washington and Tel Aviv, Israeli belligerency serves the strategic goals of the U.S., including bringing Iran under its heel.
Israel's nuclear "doomsday weapon" has nothing to do with saving anyone's life. It is a threat to human lives on a mass scale, in the service of an imperialist cause.
Insofar as the anti-Grass hysterians deign to reason, it is with this argument: because in the final months of World War II, at the age of 17, Grass was drafted into a Waffen SS unit, and because he did not publicly disclose this until his 2006 autobiography, he has no right to speak about moral questions and especially Israel. (The Waffen SS was an elite branch of the armed forces that among other tasks ran concentration camps, although Grass says he was assigned to an anti-aircraft unit and never fired a shot.)
Grass himself addresses this issue in the beginning of his poem. He writes that he has never before criticized Israel because he felt "tarnished by a stain that can never be removed," but that he feels compelled to speak out now because of his own country's complicity in a "foreseeable crime." He warns that this time Germans cannot avoid taking responsibility with the claim that they didn't know.
Grass has done a great deal to focus public discourse in his country on the question of Germans' moral responsibilities, starting with his 1959 novel The Tin Drum. It was published at a time when such discussion was held back by Germany's ruling class, composed in no small part of former Nazis. In the mid-1980s, when many people fiercely opposed U.S. and West German efforts to prepare public opinion and their militaries for another world war, against the Soviet Union, he denounced a symbolically significant visit by the heads of the American and German governments to a cemetery where Waffen SS officers were buried. For decades he has been honest about, and grappled with, the fact that "I belonged to the Hitler Youth and I believed in its aims up to the end of the war," as he told The New York Times in 2000 (NYT, April 6, 2012).
Grass has been banned from entering Israel under a law that bars visits by former Nazis. This law was not applied to Pope Benedict XVI, another former member of the Hitler Youth and the Nazi armed forces. Why? Because that visit scored points for Israel on the diplomatic front.
It is bitterly ironic that Zionists should attack Grass for "the blood libel," since it was not secularists nor "leftists" (as Grass is being pejoratively called, whether deservedly or not) but the Catholic Church that propagated it for a millennium, as part of the construction of a Christian identity in murderous opposition to Jews and Muslims. Before he became pope, for several decades Benedict headed the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Catholic Church body formerly know as the Holy Inquisition that set out to "de-Judaize" Europe centuries before the Nazis.
When Benedict came to Israel in 2009, he expressed no remorse for the crimes committed by his country of birth and his church. In fact, he refused to enter the Holocaust museum because it contains material critical of Pope Pius XII for refusing to speak out against the genocide of the Jews during World War 2.
Benedict has not continued this anti-Jewish genocidal past, but unlike Grass, who says "what must be said," he has never sharply renounced it and instead prefers to remain silent. Obviously, for Israel the question of whether or not someone's past should be held against them is a matter of convenience.
The attacks on Grass are made in the name of opposing anti-Semitism, but their real purpose is to rally support for the Zionist project, with no politics or morality other than that.
(Germany's strategic alliance with Israel has helped its monopoly capitalist rulers to once again flourish after their defeat in the world war. For more on that, see AWTWNS110718)
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, 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.