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Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, is holding a “heads of state” summit in Chicago on May 20 and 21. About 50 countries that are members of and allied with NATO are sending their political leadership to this summit.
NATO presents itself, and is portrayed in the major media of this country and countries it is allied with, as a force for “humanitarian interests.” On its website, NATO claims to be a “leading contributor to peace and security on the international stage.” This benign self image is a vicious lie and masquerade that influences the thinking of far too many people in the U.S. and around the world.
In reality, NATO is the world’s largest military alliance. Its 28 countries account for 65% of the world’s military spending, and far and away the largest of these is the United States. NATO exists to use the most advanced weaponry in the world in service of the interests of the big capitalist-imperialist powers of North America and Europe, above all the U.S. Most of this weaponry, especially in recent years, has been used not against similarly equipped opponents, but against defenseless civilian populations who they characterize as “terrorists.”
In the 60 years of its existence, the year 2011 was, as an article in Foreign Policy put it, NATO’s “busiest year ever for military operations.” (“This Week at War: What Is NATO Good For?” February 3, 2012) NATO maintained an occupation force of over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, and what it calls a “stabilization force” in Bosnia, in the Balkan region of Eastern Europe. It launched a seven-month air war to topple Muammar Qaddafi in Libya. In Libya, estimates of the civilian death toll from all fighting during the NATO campaign range from 13,000 to 17,000, with 50,000 wounded; civilians killed in the fighting in Afghanistan from 2007 to 2011 total almost 13,000. Countless people have been displaced, wounded, and dispossessed of everything they owned.
NATO’s “peacekeeping” is aimed at maintaining a world of Western imperialist—especially U.S. imperialist—domination over the people of the world, and sustaining overwhelming firepower advantage over any current or potential opponent. The fundamental purpose of NATO’s so-called “humanitarianism” is to devote massive weaponry to protect, defend, and extend a system that inflicts great suffering on the vast majority of humanity and enriches a handful—this is the “world order” of capitalism-imperialism.
NATO claims that the purpose of its mission in Afghanistan is “to prevent Afghanistan from once again becoming a haven for terrorists, to help provide security, and to contribute to a better future for the Afghan people.” But in fact, the nine years of the U.S.-NATO war in Afghanistan has inflicted horrific suffering on the people of that country.
NATO bombing attacks have obliterated wedding parties, farming villages, people walking to visit neighbors or relatives. NATO night raids have left children dead, families torn apart, homes and farms in ruins. The incidents have gone on for almost a decade and have a grim repetitiveness. One of the most infamous was in November 2008, in the village of Wech Baghtu—a wedding party was bombed by U.S.-led NATO planes and at least 37 civilians were murdered. On August 6, 2011, NATO forces, in a firefight with forces they claim were Taliban members, called in a NATO air strike—the bombing destroyed a house and killed all eight family members inside.
Radio Free Europe described one of those murderous assaults, and the NATO response: “The U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan says it regrets that eight young Afghan males were killed in a NATO air strike in the northeastern province of Kapisa on February 8. British Air Commodore Mike Wigston, a NATO spokesman, told a news conference on February 15 that the eight appeared to be carrying arms, according to Afghan and French troops who were operating in the area. NATO investigators are examining photographs of the bodies to estimate their ages, and the NATO spokesman said they appeared to be close to 15 years old, with one older. Local officials have said they believe the boys were 6 to 14 years old.”
Another example, from February this year: According to Reuters, “‘Eight young Afghans lost their lives as the result of an air strike by coalition forces,’ General Lewis Boone, communications director of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition, told reporters. The victims appeared to be carrying weapons and were walking in a menacing manner, prompting ISAF forces in the area to request air support, he said. ‘The aircraft dropped two bombs on the group that we believed to be an imminent threat to our people ... in the end, eight young Afghans lost their lives in this very sad event.’”
On May 7, the Washington Post reported that “NATO airstrikes killed Afghan civilians in two provinces ... and the U.S.-led coalition said it plans an apology in one of the incidents. An airstrike Friday killed six members of a family in the Sangin area of southern Helmand province, according to the provincial spokesman.”
Some people argue that it’s a good thing when the U.S. builds “coalitions” to carry out aggression, rather than “going it alone.” Barack Obama has promoted this view, and claims it is one of the things that makes him different from his predecessor, George W. Bush. When Obama ran for president, he promised a “new dawn of American leadership” that would “combine military power with strengthened diplomacy ... and build and forge stronger alliances around the world so that we’re not carrying the burdens and challenges by ourselves.”
Anyone who swallows and accepts this view—who thinks that somehow war crimes on such a vast scale are less vicious and hateful if they are carried out by U.S.-led “coalition forces” and not the U.S. alone—needs to ask themselves: is it somehow less horrible for the people of Afghanistan to be torn to shreds by bombing raids under the banner of NATO—by a coalition dominated and led by the United States—than just under the American flag? Is it somehow not as deadly and criminal if “coalition forces” kick in the doors of people’s homes at three in the morning and destroy everyone inside?
These are war crimes of enormous magnitude. The “humanitarian missions” of NATO are monstrous deceit used to cover crimes that are among the worst atrocities afflicted on humanity by the system of capitalism-imperialism.
And anyone who thinks that the U.S. and its NATO allies are withdrawing from Afghanistan needs to discard such illusions and look at the facts. President Obama recently made a highly publicized midnight run to Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital, and claimed U.S. combat forces would “withdraw” from Afghanistan by 2014. In fact, the “Strategic Partnership Agreement” signed by Obama and Afghan President Karzai guarantees that a U.S. force of 20,000 to 30,000 will remain in Afghanistan until 2024. It also contained a “Memorandum of Understanding” that will, in the words of journalist Gareth Porter, “allow powerful U.S. Special Operations Forces to continue to carry out the unilateral [one-sided] night raids on private homes that are universally hated in the Pashtun zones of Afghanistan.”
In February 2011, uprisings in Libya marked the beginning of growing protest where different and contradictory forces, with different viewpoints, rose up in cities throughout the country against the repressive regime of Muammar Qaddafi. But imperialist forces were very likely involved in this from very early on, who later came to play the dominant role when the massive bombings started; and the situation then got transformed from a more or less spontaneous uprising to basically, a NATO attack on Libya that ended up with the overthrow of the Qaddafi government.
In March 2011, NATO began a seven-month bombing campaign to topple the government of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi. Just one Libyan city, Sirte, endured what British journalist Seumas Milne described as “two months of indiscriminate bombing” that resulted in hundreds of deaths. He also wrote that “what is now known ... is that while the death toll in Libya when NATO intervened was perhaps around 1,000-2,000 (judging by UN estimates), eight months later it is probably more than ten times that figure. Estimates of the numbers of dead over the last eight months—as NATO leaders vetoed ceasefires and negotiations—range from 10,000 up to 50,000. Of those, uncounted thousands will be civilians, including those killed by NATO bombing and NATO-backed forces on the ground.”
One of the most horrific and callous incidents involved a boat of refugees trying to flee Libya across the Mediterranean on what became known as the “left to die” boat. The Mediterranean Sea is one of the most closely surveilled bodies of water on earth. In the seven months of NATO’s onslaught on Libya it was teeming with military vessels, and the skies were constantly scoured by NATO war planes.
As reported by an investigative committee from the University of London, “72 migrants fleeing Tripoli in the early morning of March 27, 2011 ran out of fuel and were left to drift for 14 days until they landed back on the Libyan coast. With no food or water on board, only nine of the migrants survived. In several interviews, these survivors recounted the various points of contact they had with the outside world during this ordeal. This included describing the aircraft that flew over them, the distress call they sent out via satellite telephone, and their visual sighting of a military helicopter which provided a few packets of biscuits and bottles of water, and a military ship which failed to provide any assistance whatsoever. The events, as recounted by these survivors, appeared to constitute a severe violation of the legal obligation to provide assistance to any person in distress at sea, an obligation sanctioned by several international conventions.”
These two examples are not aberrations. In the late 1990s, as upheaval raged through the Balkan region of Eastern Europe, NATO undertook what it says was its “first humanitarian war.” On June 7, 2000, Amnesty International issued a blistering report criticizing NATO human rights violations and war crimes in Serbia, and cited estimates of up to 1,500 civilians killed in NATO attacks. Journalist Patrick Cockburn described the initial results of NATO’s “humanitarianism”: “NATO has owned up to bombing raids and missile attacks that have killed 460 civilians, according to a tally by Agence France-Presse. By all accounts, the bombing was indiscriminate, killing farmers, suburbanites, city dwellers, factory workers, reporters, diplomats, people in cars, busses and trains, hospital patients, the elderly and children. Indeed, by our count, NATO bombing raids have killed more than 200 children. Hundreds more will almost certainly perish in the coming months.”
The U.S., and regimes allied with it in NATO, do not build their armed forces, develop vast arsenals of modern high-tech weaponry including nuclear weapons, and deploy these forces and weapons throughout the world to carry out humanitarian missions and “spread democracy.” They do it to enforce the interests of empire: to impose and sustain vast inequalities and injustices that confine the vast majority of humanity to lives of degradation, brutality, and endless poverty, for the benefit of a small number of people in the imperialist citadels.
The NATO summit in Chicago is a gathering of criminals and gangsters who have perpetrated atrocities that would put that city’s legendary gangsters—or any other gangsters—to shame. They will adopt U.S.-initiated proposals for military development aimed at expanding and consolidating their domination of as much of the world as possible under the leadership of the head criminal, the U.S.
Whatever words of “humanitarian intervention” they speak, they have a plan and program for extending world domination under the brutal grip—and the murderous gun—of U.S. imperialism and its partners in crime. Whether the U.S. “goes it alone” or directs its allies and fellow imperialist gangsters to get in on the act in no way affects the fundamental character of this enterprise. It is aimed at, and against the interests of, people across the entire world. It must be rejected, opposed, and resisted by the people of the world, and in particular the people of this country.
Because of the murderous role NATO plays around the world, people from throughout the country, and from countries under the NATO gun, are coming to protest this summit. As World Can’t Wait, one of the main organizations calling for and organizing this protest, said, “Visible Protest Needed! The U.S.-led NATO military machine is carrying out illegitimate, unjust, and immoral wars on three countries. When we visibly protest in Chicago at the NATO meeting, we will show the world that people here do not accept the crimes carried out in our names by the principal NATO countries. International media must see thousands of us demanding that our governments stop committing these war crimes. Humanity and the planet come first.”
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
For many months leading up to the May 20-21 NATO Summit, Chicago news has been filled with stories about new laws passed, new police equipment obtained, and military training exercises conducted. These NATO Summit "security" measures are part of a many-sided militarization of society. This includes creating a security state atmosphere which is meant to be threatening to potential protesters and the broader public while at the same time it covers over that this is a summit of war criminals. The buildup to the NATO Summit, as well as the G8 (Group of 8) Summit initially scheduled for Chicago then abruptly moved to Camp David, Virginia, has occurred at the same time as atrocity after atrocity carried out by U.S.-NATO forces in Afghanistan have come to light, and when NATO's military role in the world is escalating with the intervention in Libya and threatened interventions in Iran and Syria.
Sights and sounds in Chicago in recent weeks include Black Hawk helicopter gunships swooping down the Chicago River and doing simulated troop drops on building tops. Five to six hundred National Guard troops will be deployed during the NATO Summit, including with armored vehicles, and federal officers in full battle dress will be on patrol in a designated "red zone" in the central city well before the summit begins. For months, people have been fed a daily diet of news about military preparations for the summit. In December the media reported that state and federal sharpshooter teams were "plotting sight lines for sniper units" who will secure rooftop locations on the McCormick Convention Center, at downtown hotels, and at O'Hare Airport. There have been regular stories like the one about drills performed at 10 Chicago hospitals simulating a radioactive dirty bomb explosion, involving an estimated 500 medical professionals and others wearing protective suits with radiation detectors. The American Red Cross in southeastern Wisconsin has been asked to place a number of shelters on standby for use in the event of the evacuation of Chicago. At times these stories are covered in a sensationalist manner, other times they're portrayed as just a normal part of the current culture.
There are reports of new equipment, training, and power to deputize many new members for the Chicago Police Department (CPD). This includes a new airborne surveillance system linking helicopters with the CPD emergency management center and police commanders on the street. The CPD announced it will deploy sound cannons in the streets against protesters, which can emit painful and potentially harmful tones over long distances. Also announced was a purchase (referred to by one news source as a "Valentine's Day gift" to the police) of 3,000 new helmet shields with special seals supposedly to protect against, according to a Fraternal Order of Police spokesman, "bags of urine and feces." A new ordinance also gives the city unlimited power to deputize extra law enforcement for the summit. These kinds of outrageous reports are routinely put out with no critical comment in the media.
In late April, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart floated out a proposal to re-open the long-shuttered Joliet Correctional Center to serve as a detention facility for those arrested at the NATO Summit. He also talked about tents being set up at Joliet or possibly Cook County Jail for detainees.
In January repressive laws were pushed through the Chicago City Council giving vast new powers to surveil, suppress and criminalize protest. One of the new city ordinances (dubbed the "sit down and shut up" law by activists) requires that a permit be obtained in advance not only for all marches in the street but any gathering, picket line or march on the sidewalk. In many instances it requires march organizers to register in advance all banners carried by more than two persons and sound equipment on wheels, as well as the power to require organizers to obtain $1 million of insurance and liability policies. This is backed up by penalties of up to $1000 fines and 10 days in jail that can be levied on protest organizers.
The ordinances also gave the city a green light for thousands of new surveillance cameras. ACLU Illinois reported that, even prior to this, the camera system in Chicago was the most expansive and integrated system in the nation. The ACLU has also warned about the introduction of tracking and facial recognition technology into the super-surveillance system.
In the neighborhoods of the oppressed, where a long-standing clampdown on the youth has been in effect, Chicago Police Superintendent Gerry McCarthy in April announced a new wave of ramped-up repression. McCarthy's war-style words fit right in to the tenor of the times: "The idea is to fight this like a ground war and you take it spot by spot by spot and hold on to it and fill that void with police, community and resources to prevent the backslide of that community."
The scenario planned is: intimidated protesters, massive police, and empty streets. The authorities aim to tightly restrict protest and make sure that few people will be around to see it or join it. Protest will be allowed, authorities assure us. But only highly controlled protest will be allowed to take place under their guns and in their surveillance sights, harassed and restricted at every step, with protesters facing threats of arrests and worse. The city's plans include both restricting protesters' right to assemble and speak out and clearing the public out of the area. Columbia College, a large arts college downtown, was prevailed upon to shift its entire spring semester schedule in order to shut down early and get students out before the summit. More than a dozen other schools have canceled classes or moved them out of the downtown area during the summit. Symphony performances and high school graduation events originally scheduled in the downtown area during the summit have been re-scheduled. The media has featured interviews with downtown condo owners and students where interviewees talk about staying away from their homes or campuses for the summit, and where the parameters of concern pivot around issues of personal routine.
A tone has been created over months to justify repression. In January, an outrageous Illinois State Police "training video" appeared on the nightly news. It depicted a large scale exercise in preparation for the summit involving members of the Illinois State Weapons of Mass Destruction Team storming a hotel to disarm an improvised explosive device and apprehend terrorists. This news story was framed on one local network news report as an example of how both the authorities and the demonstrators are getting prepared. And it finished by showing images of supposed protester websites and YouTube videos with the reporter pointing to and reading the phrases, "Who is ready to riot?" and "get some payback."
On top of all the inflammatory distortion, we are subjected to truly world class hypocrisy. The bloodiest military commanders in the world warn about violence at a time when hardly a day goes by without a fresh report of a drone massacre or sickening atrocity carried out by US-NATO troops in Afghanistan or in the Middle East. The world's economic leaders will gather at the G8 summit in Camp David as the system is driven to feed even more voraciously on the people of the world, where suicides in China's iPad factories or millions in Greece driven into destitution by austerity measures are simply seen as the "cost of doing business."
A NATO Summit protest organizer sharply challenged the media, asking why is he endlessly questioned by reporters if protesters are planning violence while the police chief or mayor are never asked this question?
This clampdown is not entirely unprecedented, particularly for major national or international events. The Democratic and Republican national conventions in 2008, as well as the 2009 Group of 12 (G12) conference in Pittsburgh, witnessed extraordinary repression and violation of people's rights. Yet the full scope of this clampdown in Chicago represents a new level of repression, along with the normalization of fascist-like conditions. The many months of Chicago authorities, in conjunction with Homeland Security and the Secret Service, carrying out military exercises, unveiling new weapons, and passing new ordinances add up to a new level of militarization in the heart of one of the U.S.'s biggest cities. This will also set a precedent and tone for upcoming high-profile events like this summer's Democratic National Convention (DNC) and Republican National Convention (RNC). A law recently passed in Charlotte, North Carolina, where the DNC will be held in September, empowers police to search people's backpacks in designated zones where protests may be occurring. This unconstitutional practice, similar to policies like stop-and-frisk in New York, is broadening the target of those the government considers suspect and deserving of no rights.
In recent months it has been especially hard to hide the brutal and bloody nature of NATO's occupation of Afghanistan. And Afghanistan is, we are told, agenda item #1 for the NATO Summit. The larger backdrop for the imperialists includes global economic disorder, upheaval in the Arab world, and social unrest in large parts of Europe. The last year has witnessed NATO intervention in Libya as part of its response to the Arab Spring, and NATO currently threatens intervention in Syria and war in Iran. In the world today, for a lot of people the rule of the "1%" is increasingly seen as the problem and even as illegitimate. NATO is the enforcer of the largest block of global capitalists—with military aggression often done under the guise of "humanitarian intervention."
The US-led imperialist NATO alliance relies not only on massive military force, exercised directly through occupations and interventions as well as through many client regimes around the world. It also relies tremendously on keeping popular struggles erupting around the world trapped in a framework where the goal is seen as "democracy"—strictly within the framework of capitalism—and the direction of the struggle doesn't aim to break out of the US-led imperialist network of global relations in which the vast majority of people are exploited and oppressed.
It's a big problem for the authorities that they have to turn the site of the NATO Summit into a virtual police state, while at the same time they want to convince the world that the NATO military alliance represents a force for peace and democracy... and ignore the trail of drone assassinations, torture black sites, bloody occupations, and interventions. It is widely understood that the abrupt moving of the G8 Summit to Camp David from Chicago had much to do with the changed political situation in the world over the last year with the eruption of mass struggle throughout the Middle East last spring and the birth of the Occupy movement.
The powers-that-be in Chicago and nationally are turning the central city into a virtual war zone. The measures being taken are frightening, and deliberately so, sending a chilling message to people considering protesting the crimes of the U.S. and NATO. A vital yet not fully formed ingredient for this security state is legitimizing and normalizing the sweeping violations of basic rights. The extraordinarily repressive measures have sometimes been marketed simply as steps needed to run the summit smoothly—how a modern city runs a world-class event. But more fundamental, and always present and constantly evoked, is the danger of "violent disrupters." The authorities and media have been mobilizing public support for this repression, on the one hand, as legitimate "security measures." But at the same time the exercise of massive force and the highly orchestrated campaign of public opinion is designed to create a numbed acceptance of this repression.
The system hopes to give an answer to the Occupy movement's fierce indictment of the rule of the 1% and to its cry for social justice. This is what you are up against—shut up or at least accept your place as a toothless critic on the sidelines. The campaign of repression underscores the ruling class' need for acquiescence and their fear that the crimes they are committing all around the world, combined with the new spirit of refusal, have the potential to spark big storms of resistance.
The NATO Summit comes at a moment when powerful mass resistance—in front of the eyes of the whole world, exposing the actual role and crimes of NATO, and consciously standing with global humanity—can have far-reaching impact, including by providing oxygen and giving heart to people rising up across the planet. A different future for humanity, in stark opposition to the imperialist nightmare which NATO's role is used to enforce, needs to be expressed by people in the streets.
"Internationalism: the whole world comes first."
"The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism."
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
First thing, I am only not part of this BAsics Bus Tour because my health issues will not allow it. Otherwise, I would have my seat reserved on the bus. I hate that I am going to miss this, because when I think about it, it reminds me about the beginning of the Black Panther Party. The enthusiasm and determination of being a significant part of a great movement to change things in this country. Participating in and being a significant part of change is addictive—once you have experienced it, you’ll do anything to get that feeling again—because it is not an irrelevant act. It is being part of a conscious movement to make change—and when you do that it develops you as a human being and a true fighter for the rights of all people. I won’t be there physically but my revolutionary spirit travels with the tour. All Power to the People!
—Richard Brown, Former Black Panther
Join with thousands across the country—and go all-out to make this tour everything it can be. As this bus takes off and travels into the South taking the word of Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism he’s brought forward, the strategy for revolution he’s developed, the leadership that he’s providing to the movement for revolution, everyone everywhere can be finding the ways to do the same, to spread the word and build support and involving people in this in all kinds of ways.
The BAsics Bus Tour is a way for thousands of people all across the country to be part of this campaign to get BA Everywhere out into society. It is a moment and an opportunity not only to expand the reach of BA Everywhere, but for the movement to make significant advances and take real leaps in every area of this country—and in the country as a whole. This tour will be a catalyst in lofting this whole campaign to raise big money to get BA Everywhere to a new level—and it will be a big step in building the movement for revolution everywhere.
Check out what people are saying about this tour at basicsbustour.tumblr.com. This is tapping into something very significant—a desire to change the atmosphere in society, for bringing something new and very radical into the equation, a real appreciation for the difference it could make to project BA’s vision and works all over... and a particular desire for that to reach where, as BA himself has said, “The ‘Bible Belt’ in the U.S. is also the Lynching Belt.” This BAsics Bus Tour—venturing boldly into the South—can open up a great deal. And we all have a stake in continuing to build support for and maximize its impact where the bus goes and wherever we are.
No matter where you live, you can follow the tour online at basicsbustour.tumblr.com. The crew riding the bus will regularly report, with photos and video from the tour. More than that, you can become part of this movement and contribute in meaningful ways to making the impact of this tour felt throughout every corner of society. There are so many ways that people can contribute to the success of this bus tour, and on that basis the movement to get BA Everywhere can take a leap.
We urge all our readers to take to heart and learn from the article in Revolution #268, “The BAsics Bus Tour: Next Stop—Atlanta and Beyond.” (May 13, 2012)
As “On the Strategy for Revolution” from the Revolutionary Communist Party says:
“For those who have hungered for, who have dreamed of, a whole different world, without the madness and torment of what this system brings every day...those who have dared to hope that such a world could be possible...and even those who, up to now, would like to see this, but have accepted that this could never happen...there is a place and a role, a need and a means, for thousands now and ultimately millions to contribute to building this movement for revolution, in many different ways, big and small—with ideas and with practical involvement, with support, and with questions and criticisms.” (emphasis added)
Here’s what you can do:
Contribute to the BAsics Bus Tour. It will not happen without financial support. (See boxes on BA Everywhere page for where and how to donate.) Tell your friends about this tour—ask them to contribute, post around their reports, videos and photos via email, Twitter or other social networks. Even more important, pull together a group of your friends or colleagues and find creative ways to raise money for this tour.
In areas all across the country, people who are saying to themselves “those are my people down there” can join together to contribute to making this tour a success. Now is a moment when BA Everywhere can expand its reach and build up its organized strength, not only in the places where the bus tour stops, but in the places where the readers of this paper live and work. Now is the time to get with many, many people where they live, work and congregate... to talk with them on street corners. And to join and bring people into the movement who are captivated by this bold tour in many different ways. Let’s broadly publicize this tour and as we do work together with others to distribute thousands and thousands of palm cards promoting BAsics. Leave them on bus seats, in coffee shops and laundromats and observe the response of those who pick them up. The focal point of this tour is BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian—a work of quotations and short essays that concentrates over 30 years of BA’s work on everything that stands between humanity and its emancipation. Isn’t this tour a moment to be selling hundreds of BAsics, and finding diverse ways to show BA’s Revolution talk and to encourage people to get this talk themselves and watch it? And shouldn’t this also be the occasion to put into the hands of thousands the flier “Twelve Ways That YOU Can Be Part of Building the Movement for Revolution—Right Now” (Revolution #267, May 1, 2012)
Fundraising is both essential to raise the money that is needed to reach into every corner of society and at the same time it brings together a community of people to engage with the work and vision of Bob Avakian. Wherever you live, this is a moment to build up the organized strength of this movement for revolution, in small ways and large.
Make banners with BAsics 1:13—“No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that.”—and circulate them for signatures. Get a crew together in a neighborhood, work with artists if you can and make a big day out of it, fundraising as you go. Have people paint the banner, or get a vinyl one produced, and then have people all over send their message of support bouncing off this quote to the people in the South that this tour will be meeting. Take pictures of the banners... take pictures of a bunch of people in hoodies who signed the banner—and send these photos to email@example.com.
Send your own or a group message of support to the bus tour and to the people the tour will be meeting... send your thoughts in writing or video (throw on dark glasses and a hoodie in support of the struggle for justice for Trayvon Martin... so you and others can remain anonymous), email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Volunteer in other ways! Write to email@example.com if you can help with media work (including research) and video editing or have ideas on other ways you want to contribute.
Friday, May 18... Plan a celebration in unity with the kickoff event in Atlanta. Have a fundraising open house at Revolution Books or a house party. Invite all the people you have met in spreading the word about the BAsics Bus Tour.
Tuesday, May 22... A video statement from the tour will be released online. Pull together friends and tune in for a very special opportunity to hear first-hand about the progress of the tour thus far, what the volunteers on the tour are learning and what the response has been up to that point. Invite people to your home for this, have a special gathering in a community center, church, neighborhood barber shop or restaurant. Coming together in this way, people will also be given another opportunity to contribute... this time to the next leg of the tour, which those on the tour will also be fundraising for. Stay tuned to basicsbustour.tumblr.com for details.
Memorial Day Weekend... Have a picnic or join with others at their picnics... help the bus tour meet its final goals of selling BAsics...set goals and develop ways to raise funds for the next leg of the tour... hear from the crew on the tour as this leg of the tour comes to a close. For those already planning family picnics, ask if the revolutionaries can come through and do a fund pitch or sell raffle tickets. Head out to the parks with BAsics, clips from Avakian’s Revolution talk, Revolution newspaper, and video clips from the bus tour’s travels.
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
From a correspondent
It was close to 2 am when a few of the other volunteers and I finally sat down to talk after a send-off party for the BAsics Bus Tour—we were already getting a feeling of what wrangling into the night was gonna be all about! The party was hosted by two young supporters of the revolution. It was an evening where people celebrated the BAsics Bus Tour and got involved in supporting it. It was just a taste of how lively debate and discussion is opened up when you bring BA into the mix. It also made a dramatic impact for those at the party to encounter this diverse group of people that have decided to get on a bus and go on tour with this, and the different types of people coming together in a myriad of ways to make this happen.
At the late night volunteer chat I checked in to find out what’s on the minds of those that are gearing up to get on the bus. Cielo is a young, but in some ways already tempered, revolutionary. I asked how he’s feeling...”I’m looking forward to it, we just had this send-off party and I’m kind of fired up, there was a lot of struggle, healthy good struggle, and it’s good, a lot of back-and-forth, and I look forward to being on a bus where we’re all struggling with each other into the night and taking this out.”
The volunteers are giving two weeks of their life to really push out... connecting people up with the leadership we have in BA and the revolution we need, and finding the ways to involve people in the movement for revolution. But it’s more than an individual commitment. This is a strength that we’ve been coming to understand more: how we’ll be in this together and we’ll be carrying the hopes and aspirations of people all across the country, those that know about the bus tour and this revolution, and those that haven’t even met the revolution but long for a way out of the nightmare of this system.
This week we started to get the feeling of what this means as people confide in us, sharing their support for the bus but also their hopes for its success, their advice for the trip, their questions and concerns. Cielo talked about encountering a former member of the Black Panther Party he’d never met before and telling him about the BAsics Bus Tour, the guy listened and then he handed him $20.
“There’s the joy and the pleasure and excitement and the warm feelings we’re getting from people who support what we’re doing,” said Cielo, “but there’s also the responsibility that comes with this thing of we’re going to the South and riding through with what we’re doing, representing the hopes of those that know us and those who don’t even know about it, but are riding on us doing what we’re doing on this bus tour, that’s exciting, there’s anticipation and excitement, looking forward to being down there but also some anxiety... you don’t really have a sense of what the basketball game’s gonna be like until you look at what the court looks like, I can’t wait to step into the court and get in the game.”
As part of this, going on the trip is becoming a happening, people find out about this, or getting more into the revolution, or contributing in new ways, feeling like this bus tour belongs to them and they want it to succeed. Two young teachers came down to Revolution Books this week and when they heard about this they immediately had ideas about creative ways to spread this revolution down there and materials to do so, and they were concerned about how one of the young volunteers they know and respect is going to eat, donating $80 on the spot to help ensure this.
Earlier in the week I spoke with another volunteer, Jordan, who is newer to the revolution and fired with anger and enthusiasm based on a newfound understanding of this whole system and the truth about communism. I asked what he thinks will happen when this leader is brought into the South; he commented, “I think that a lot of new doors will be opened up, but also a lot of old cobwebs brought out.” He explained that this is the South, the land of confederate flags, but this is also America with its whole history of anti-communism that is so prevalent and by “cobwebs” he meant all this backward and reactionary thinking that is so prevalent in this society. This is something we have been wrestling with throughout the week as well. It’s true on one level what Malcolm X said, about how if you’re south of the Canadian border, you’re in the South, but there is a particularity to the South where the roots of the brutal history of slavery and Jim Crow and the present day reality of the oppression of Black people go deep, and at the same time the ground zero of a contradiction that’s been called the Achilles heel for this system. Jordan also talked about how important Revolution newspaper is going to be as part of how people are organized into the revolution and we leave something behind, that it’s “how you get your revolutionary news” each week, that “it’s got the theory from Bob Avakian, to understand and change the world, and you could pretty much read all of BAsics through the quotes each week.”
As the trip comes closer and preparations are made and more people are becoming involved, and transformed themselves as they become part of something historic, we keep coming back to this essential point, and coming to understand it more deeply: this world is a horror, there is a stifling and revolting culture out there that people are being ground up in, but it doesn’t have to be this way.
It’s like BA talks about in the new interview, “What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism,” how the more you look at the world and the horrors, and confront that, the more you want to understand what the causes are and what the solution is. And the more you pursue that by digging into this scientific understanding, the more you see how things don’t have to be this way. And through all this, the more impassioned you are about being part of changing it—to get off the bench and get in the game, or even come over from rooting for the other team, or step up to take the ball when it’s all on the line. There’s a relationship between playing with heart and all the hours of practice. All I can say is we’re ready to get in the game—the next time you hear from us, we’ll be live from Atlanta, Georgia.
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
Revcom.us recently posted a correspondence from a reader who wrote about going out to some professors and others for donations to the BAsics Bus Tour, and raising $1,200 in a concentrated period of time (“Going All Out to Raise Funds for the BAsics Bus Tour Through the South”). Revolution felt it was important talk to this person about how they approached people in taking out the Bus Tour and BA, how people then found their way to expressing their support, what was found out about people’s thinking—AND how a significant amount of money was collected. There’s a lot for everyone to learn from this experience as people go out to take the BA Everywhere campaign even higher and raise big money to project BA’s voice and work into every corner of society.
Q: What was your approach in doing this fundraising?
A: First off, I realized that we had to go raise money for this—it was so critical for this bus tour to happen. When I asked for money, I asked for big money, especially from people who can afford it. I asked several people for $1,000—I didn’t get that, but I got some donations and pledges that were large.
Q: The people you talked to were coming from different perspectives, but they were responding to how this tour, and the whole BA Everywhere campaign, is about getting BA’s voice and leadership out in a much bigger way in society.
A: There were different sections of BAsics that I cited in talking with them, including 1:13, “No more generations of our youth...,” which I understand is really going to be used in this bus tour. I’ve also had discussions with people on the essay at the end of Chapter 1 of BAsics, “Reform or Revolution: Questions of Orientation, Questions of Morality.” This has drawn the most interest from professors who would like to see the system “do the right thing”—but from reading Avakian, they are questioning their own beliefs about that, and saying: gee, maybe this Avakian guy has a point; I don’t believe what he’s arguing for yet, but I think he should be heard, he should be read by young people.
The essay makes very clear the two approaches: Avakian’s approach that says the system is unreformable and can only be dealt with through revolution, with the goal of a communist world, versus trying to make this system work. So we’ve grappled over that essay, as well as other things from BAsics. And people see, “So this is what you’re bringing down there, this is what you’re going on the tour with.”
Q: Talk about the breadth of the response you got.
A: There’s this back and forth with the people I’m approaching, and I’m learning from their perspective, about their insights on what difference it’s going to make, that this tour goes to this section of the country. The Freedom Riders of the 1960s came up. The fact that people felt this bus tour is going to reach a lot of alienated youth, a lot of people who have a lot of rage and anger—this got translated into people saying, “I want to support this.” Only one of the people I talked to would say their proclivity is toward communism. Each of them have different areas of agreement and disagreement with Bob Avakian and the RCP. They feel like they’re a part of this effort, in a very real way—and seeing the money they donated is sponsoring the volunteers, to buy the food, etc. They’re hoping the bus tour reaches many, many people who need to hear the message it’s bringing.
Q: Can you talk about the word of the bus tour going out more broadly?
A: Painting a picture of what’s envisioned for the tour, and using support statements from people for the tour, is part of not only building anticipation for the tour but also building a community. Since I wrote the letter I’ve taken it out much wider, from the few dozen I spoke to at first. Some of the professors have put links to the bus tour Tumblr blog (http://basicsbustour.tumblr.com) on their blogs. The other day, a law professor came up to me and said, very angrily, “The fucking Democratic Party is not speaking to these people [in the South]. You guys are. I tip my hat off to you, even though I disagree with most of what you say.”
We’d also been taking out a fundraising raffle, which was a way to reach a lot of students. Just in the last five days of the raffle, we increased the money we raised ten-fold, to $1,000. And a large part of that was going to the classes, speaking to students, setting up a table—and the students themselves taking this up, and feeling very proud to support this. I’ve also been taking out “An Invitation” from Bob Avakian, about “Let’s take a crucial journey together...”. It has moved people to the point of rethinking their lives, like at a Puerto Rican Culture class where the professor has been encouraging his students to think about what kind of world they’d like to live in and work to make it so.
Q: Your experiences point to the potential for breaking through on a whole different level with this bus tour and in getting BA out there in society.
A: There’s a real visceral feeling people I talk to are getting of the difference the bus tour is going to make. And this is exactly what has to be conveyed across the country. Somebody said that it sounds like “a rolling revolutionary organizing machine.” I said, you got something there. We can make the needed breakthroughs, if we take this out in the way it needs to be. There’s nothing magical about it—it’s concentrated in BAsics. For example, the two slogans used on May 1st, which we’ve been bringing to many professors—“Internationalism: The Whole World Comes First” and “American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People’s Lives”—people hear that, and they start dreaming: Could we really change the culture in this country that’s so hateful and mean-spirited? Is a different world, a communist world, possible? Yes! You do see the potential for that to flower. But it’s not going to happen by itself. You have to sit down with people, grab them by the shoulders and say, you have to check this out. It’s incumbent upon you as someone who thinks and cares about the world, to see that this movement is being built.
Q: Checking out BA and the movement for revolution, yes, but also becoming a part of this movement in concrete ways, and giving money is a crucial way.
A: A lot of times we go to people and say, “Become emancipators of humanity.” We should be no less first string in asking people to donate money. That is part of building the movement for revolution, which is not going to be built without millions and millions of dollars being raised. Like the 1,100 copies of BAsics that have so far gone out to prisoners, the only reason that happened was money was raised from many people for this. The same for this bus tour—and others to come. We should tell people what difference it’s going to make if the bus tour has, say, 5,000 of the palm cards with the “No more generations of our youth...” quote to get out, or 50,000. People should never be bashful about asking for money. The worst that can happen is you’ll get a no. Actually, asking for money tends to bring out people’s deepest questions—which we welcome.
We’re not asking people for their “help.” This is people taking up and becoming participants in the movement for revolution in a very real way. Be part of changing the world with us—that’s what we’re asking people to do. We have our ideas about how this can happen, and you may not agree with all of it. But we are taking responsibility for leading the fight to change the world. People respect that, and respond to that. It’s made a big difference in people donating, and becoming part of this effort themselves. In a couple of cases, people have said they want to be part of future BAsics bus tours. One professor said, “I’m going, and I’ll pay my own way.”
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
BAsics Bus Tour
"I was once ignorant of the society that has surrounded me. Not long after getting out of the service, I became an Occupier. I had the experience of having many of the world's problems laid out in front of me, and for the first time having a voice to speak out against them. This was very exciting and uplifting. I was also out looking for so many answers to why the world is the way it is. Then I met the revolution. Listening to Bob Avakian for the first time in the midst of sleeping in a park, and spending my days searching for answers, asking why we live with rising poverty, people in other countries working their fingers to the bone, or why are people, Black and brown, still being oppressed, was in itself inspiring.
Very soon after I found out that BA was not just a good speaker but over a period of 30 years had been working on answering the questions that I was now asking and many more, and had developed a strategy and a party that can get us out of this mess that we are currently wallowing in.
When I first heard about the BAsics Bus Tour, I immediately wanted to be on it, spreading the message of revolution and the new synthesis of communism. Now in light of everything that has taken place in the last few weeks with the death of Trayvon Martin by some wannabe cop, it has further increased my desire to be on this bus tour, so that in the future, we don't have a world filled with Trayvon Martins, cops, or wannabe cops that can only see the color of someone's skin, but instead we can have a world filled with emancipators of all humanity."
"Greetings from New York City. When I first heard about the BAsics Bus Tour I was immediately reminded of the Freedom Riders who traveled boldly and courageously into the belly of the beast, the Deep South, some forty years ago. Their mission was to desegregate interstate bus travel. Today, 40+ years later, the bus tour's goals are more far-reaching – to question and to confront the existing system of capitalism and imperialism. The good news is that the tour is providing the answers and solutions to all of this through the works of Bob Avakian."
Professor at an inner-city school, NYC
"[I am giving to the BAsics Bus Tour] because you have to start with the youth and because numbers count. It matters that many youth from many backgrounds, especially Black youth, learn about and participate in the bus tour. In 1970, when I was in the fourth grade, my brother was sent off to Vietnam; a kid, barely 10 years old, in my class was using heroin; and I just refused to say the pledge of allegiance. The whole class refused... The school said, 'Ok, this kid is going against the grain' and they took me out of class. This revolution can inspire youth to go against the grain, to go against the conventional wisdom, and not just accept everything and never speak out – thinking this is just the way life is. I want the bus tour to be a success. Even Malcolm X needed this kind of inspiration. I look forward to hearing reports about the bus tour and strongly encourage others to donate as I am."
A barber in Harlem
"A bus tour through the South bringing revolution and communism? Do you realize how historic this is? I hope to fuck you are filming this, and if you're not, you are depriving generations of chronicling an historic event... Taking it to the people. This is such a great idea. The imagery of a BAsics bus in the parking lot of a shopping mall or a school or neighborhood or any area of congregation or just motoring along a highway to spread the word is visionary."
A media studies professor
"Capitalism has proven itself not only to fail people in the U.S., but to fail people EVERYWHERE! The system has failed us, from poor families struggling to survive in the ghettos, to LGBT adolescents struggling with basic acceptance and equality, to workers trying to keep their right to a fair wage and collective bargaining, to ordinary citizens struggling for human rights. If a system fails and doesn't govern or work for the good of the people, then it needs to be replaced. It has lost its legitimacy by not working for the common good. There is a better way, and it is coming."
A young man who came into a Revolution Books
to contribute $50 after receiving a phone call
about the BAsics Bus Tour
"The world today aches for change, real change, and there are literally billions of people who want to see a different world than this, but who do not know how or even that such a change is even possible. Because of authorities' tyranny over us collectively, both over our minds and our very physical beings, even imagining a different world is hard for most people. Avakian's thorough reading of the experience of people trying to understand and change the world throughout history and specifically his close study of past revolutionary movements are an extraordinary tool in the fight to change the world. I urge you to dig deeply into his works. When you do you will see what I mean."
Dr. Dennis Loo
"The BAsics Bus Tour adds an important dimension to the national and international mobilization that the Occupy Movement has inspired. In these times of increasing and outrageous disparities of wealth and power, it is vital that all progressive voices are heard. This tour represents a crucial part of the continuing dialogue about the need for truly structural change in America and throughout the world."
Paul Von Blum, Senior Lecturer, African American Studies, UCLA
"I wanna put in my strong endorsement of this freedom bus... Courageous brothers and sisters going down to the gut-bucket South. The old Jim Crow senior, still the Jim Crow junior, of course. Whole lot of lynching used be going on in the past, still police brutality taking place, unemployment and underemployment taking place. Dilapidated housing in place, disgraceful school system's in place... Revolutionary Communist Party bearing witness in a serious kind of way. And I just want to let folk know... I'm behind what they're doing... keeping track of the injustice here in the state. Keep track of the freedom bus—the Avakian bus!"
"First thing, I am only not part of this BAsics Bus Tour because my health issues will not allow it. Otherwise, I would have my seat reserved on the bus. I hate that I am going to miss this, because when I think about it, it reminds me about the beginning of the Black Panther Party: the enthusiasm and determination of being a significant part of a great movement to change things in this country. Participating in and being a significant part of change is addictive—once you have experienced it, you'll do anything to get that feeling again—because it is not an irrelevant act. It is being part of a conscious movement to make change—and when you do that it develops you as a human being and a true fighter for the rights of all people. I won't be there physically but my revolutionary spirit travels with the tour.
"All Power to the People!
"And, Fuck the Police!"
Former Black Panther
"I have pledged $100 to the BA Everywhere Bus Tour because....well, because we need BA's voice everywhere. In a society so deprived of critical voices, Bob Avakian has the ability to break down the biggest questions facing humanity in a way that is scientific, deep, understandable, and damn funny. How many political thinkers are offering an actual solution to the horrors facing millions and can lay it out by drawing on Mao, basketball, and a Richard Pryor routine? Millions are literally dying for a way out this mess, so millions need to know about Bob Avakian. This bus tour should be the begining of a movement for a way out."
From a public school teacher in Atlanta
"The citizens of the United States need to be disturbed. Bob Avakian will certainly do that. He has the ability to provide the criticisms and alternatives that Americans need to hear about and decide for themselves whether they will accept or reject the solutions being offered. Mainstream media will not provide Bob Avakian with the vehicle to do this; therefore, the bus tour needs to come to the country."
From a radio show host in Atlanta
"Face-to-face conversation with people in their own communities offers a pathway to radicalization like no other. I salute the RCP efforts to organize the South, where the labor movement and others failed."
Andrew Ross, NYU professor
"I feel invested in making this BAsics Bus Tour a reality by selling raffles to raise money for it. It's second best to being able to go myself, and the reason I can't go is because of health issues and various family crises as one of the most marginalized groups of people in the United States of America—a Black woman. My people—who have been stolen from Africa and who mainly settled in the South—the fact that this tour is bringing revolution to this area of the country is great. The analogy I like to use is the Dutch boy with his finger in the dike, and he ran out of digits with the capitalist dam busting and this BAsics Bus Tour giving people a chance to have a face-to-face dialogue with revolution and an alternative to this system where they otherwise would not."
Black woman from Harlem
"I am cautiously optimistic [about revolution and communism]. More than good news is needed. There is resistance to communism. Getting people to listen with an open mind is hard. The propaganda has been around too long. It stigmatizes socialism and communism. But this one [bus tour] is worth fighting for. Again, I am cautiously optimistic. I appreciate the energy [the bus tour conveys]."
Man who spent time at Occupy Wall Street making buttons
and a supporter of World Can't Wait
"As prospects for working people shrink, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the capitalist-imperialist system cannot deliver decent jobs with dignity and security to those left unemployed, underemployed, and, most critically, the misemployed, who are paid to destroy wealth and the environment. The more poorly and cruelly the system functions, the more support grows for alternatives, especially humane, rational systems.
"The ruling class has long had a campaign to convince us that although human society has gone through many stages, capitalism is the final stage—this is the end of the line. There is no alternative ('TINA')... Considering contemporary horrors of malnutrition, war, and environmental despoilment, it is obvious that a far better world is possible. I can't tell you what the best of all possible worlds is, but I see potential for enormous improvement.
"Occupy gained attention. This tour is part of the next step—provoking discussion about that better world—and how to get there. There is much on the table. Let the discussion begin!"
Roger Dittmann, Ph.D., Scientists without Borders
"I am a retired sociologist. Having grown up and spent most of my life in the South, I've seen starkly the need for a radically different kind of society. And Bob Avakian has and continues to speak not only to that great need, but with passion and scientific thoroughness, to what it will take to bring about the kind of revolutionary society that people would truly want to live in. His voice and his vision needs to be heard, ever more broadly. As a southerner, I applaud the kickoff of the new BAsics tour from Atlanta."
Hayne Dyches, St. Simons, Georgia
"The BAsics Bus Tour is the right thing for the times we are in. I give my support to the BAsics Bus Tour that has stepped right into the fight for Justice, equality, and freedom for all. What the Bus Tour is doing is vital to the struggle that seeks to bring to light the disparities of the criminal justice system and its criminalization of young men of color. Those who are on this tour are courageous men and women who will not settle for anything less than a Free and Just government system. All power to the BAsics Bus Tour, We Say No More!!!"
from Oscar Grant's uncle, Cephus Uncle Bobby Johnson.
Oscar Grant was a 22-year-old Black man
who was killed by transit police in Oakland. Calif., on January 1, 2009.
He was handcuffed and face down when the pigs shot him in the back in cold blood.
"The BAsics Bus Tour is a part of the revolution in a big way—spreading the word of revolution. You can't change society if you can't change people's minds, and BAsics gives people a deep understanding about the different aspects of revolution. With what's going on in the world, religious fundamentalists and imperialists both trying to convince people they are the only alternative—Bob Avakian puts out a radically different way to change the world, internationally, not just for the US. He has been leading a vanguard party since almost 40 years ago. From back then to now, the leadership of Bob Avakian has been crucial. He was the only one after 1976 going deeply into grasping the positive and negative of the communist experience, analyzing what went wrong in China when everyone was confused. Bob Avakian is not only a leader for the U.S., his leadership goes beyond that, internationally. No communist in the world can truly call himself a communist if he hasn't been touched by Bob Avakian's writings. Look at what's happening in Greece right now—the revolutionary situation is there, people are ready. But there is no party to lead the revolution. Here it is the opposite—the situation is not ready, but there is a vanguard party equipped with the most advanced communist theory. When a revolutionary situation comes, there is a possibility for big changes. But as Bob Avakian says, if you don't fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution, you'll never get to that possibility."
An Iranian living in the U.S.
"To the new freedom fighters;
"Greetings. I would like to let you all know that I think that what you are aiming to do and the messages that you are conveying is very important and very much needed and you are all on a great journey in the troubled areas in the South, or the lynching belt dubbed as the bible belt. I only wish that I could've been there with all of you, but I am here helping to raise monies and awareness to the cause, and hopefully the message will be heard and there will be more freedom caravans in the future in all areas of the South and all other places where the 'Stand your ground' law exists, which is a law that is made from biased politicians and is the reason that the murder of Trayvon is allowing his murderer to be free on bond, and is possible he won't see the inside of a courtroom.
"Anyway, as I said, what you all are doing is very important, much needed, and hopefully more people will open up and be in the mindset to think critically to what is happening in our society and not no longer turn a blind eye to the way this nation is at the present time, with injustice, oppression, racism, and a government that is set on instilling fear and telling lies to the people. I sincerely hope that you will find more people to join the cause for revolution and instill the hopes that we can all change things in this society and rid us from all the digressions of this government that is motivated by greed and instills fear and control upon the people with their so-called law enforcement that incarcerates and kills millions without provocation for Uncle Thomas Sam for many decades. The time has come to stand up and count ourselves...a revolution is needed and the machine and regime must be broken.
"Here's wishing you all on the tour a safe journey, and I am with you all in spirit. Blessing to you all!
"Power to the people,"
A jazz musician in Cleveland
From members of Black on Black Crime Inc., a Black community organization in Cleveland, OH.
"BAsics. The future of revolution has evolved through Bob Avakian and the BAsics Tour. Come our way and onto Sanford for Justice."
"BAsics—This is not only a local movement but an international movement and this bus tour is going to all the hot spots as injustice is burning out of control and we are smoldering for real change. Thank you Bob Avakian for real courage and the courage of the Bus Tour for going to Sanford. Thank you again 4 this Bus Tour."
—Alfred Porter Jr., Vice President of Black on Black Crime Inc.
"This is the front line corruption, wickedness in high places. The lighter you are the righter you are as long as it stay on the agenda of wiping out the Black race one way or the other be it locking the Black men up in jail or filling our inner city streets with drugs. It's good revolution is going to Sanford, letting them know the world is watching and standing with the Martins. They are not alone. There will be no sweeping this under the rug. You are being WATCHED!"
"Greetings from Art McCoy. No Truth, No Justice, No Peace! Congratulations RCP on your notable, very important Bus Tour. It is important that you get your message out to the people in many cities, cities such as Atlanta, Albany, GA, and on this route what better city to stop in than Sanford. What better city to get the word out and touch the people than that city where Trayvon Martin was murdered. The upcoming month will be trying times in the cities in America, particularly Sanford. Spread the word, RCP on your BA Everywhere Bus Tour."
—Art McCoy, founding member and leader of Black on Black Crime Inc.
Trayvon Martin was a young Black youth . Just because he was suspended from school or supposedly had traces of weed in his locker doesn't mean that his murder is justified in any way. Why not kill innocent children playing at the park. Our youth are judged by their color and their level of education, their neighborhood, and income. Just because of a lack of resources does not mean murder is ok. I think this tour is just what we need. We as a people should stand together and fight for the defenseless. A people united can never be defeated. The Tour to Sanford is a great idea to be the voice for the voiceless. Trayvon is our sons and our daughters. I feel strongly that action need to be took on his death and to prevent future racial genocide.
—An 18-year-old Black girl at the Black on Black meeting
"As one who marched with Martin Luther King, Jr., both in support of civil rights and in opposition to the war in Vietnam, I want to go on record in support of the BA Bus Tour into the southern USA and in my strong admiration for the courage of those who are making this witness to the deepest values of this great country and all its people."
Dr. S. Scott Bartchy,
Professor of Christian Origins and the History of Religion, UCLA;
former Director of the Center for the Study of Religion
Be Part of Taking It Higher
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
June 5 will be 100 days since George Zimmerman, a vigilante, wannabe cop murdered Trayvon Martin. 100 days since Zimmerman racially profiled Trayvon, stalked him and gunned him down. Now we are being told that it’s time for us to get out of the streets and let the justice system work. This is BS! The system was working when it let Trayvon’s murderer go free. It took weeks of people all over the country taking to the streets in outrage to force the authorities to arrest Zimmerman and charge him for murdering Trayvon.
People need to stay in the streets demanding justice for Trayvon. It will take continued mass resistance to have any chance to get justice in this case.
The fight for justice for Trayvon must be linked to fighting against how the criminal “injustice” system in this country comes down on people. His murder concentrated the outrage so many feel about racially targeted mass incarceration. 2.4 million people in prisons across the U.S., Blacks and Latinos treated like criminals; guilty until proven innocent, if they survive their encounters with cops to prove their innocence; torture-like conditions faced by those in prison and former prisoners forced to wear badges of shame and dishonor after they’ve served their sentences. It is way past time to say NO MORE to all of this.
June 5 must be a day of mass resistance! Wear your hoodies, and make stickers and posters saying “WE ARE ALL TRAYVON, THE WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM IS GUILTY!” Get this message everywhere. Take it to the high schools. If you’re in college and your school will be out of session by June 5, take this message wherever you will be on that day.
When you add up the numbers of those facing racial profiling, those warehoused in prison and those who are discriminated against after they leave prison and combine that with the families and loved ones of all these people, you get a reality of tens of millions of people living lives that are enmeshed in the web of the criminal “injustice” system. On June 5 and beyond, we need to break the silence on all this and end the shame. Tell your story of being abused at the hands of the cops, the courts and in prison. Spread the slogan, “MASS INCARCERATION + SILENCE = GENOCIDE!”
CONTACT us and get involved:
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
|Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide!
The mass incarceration of millions of people in this country—the majority of whom are Black and Latino—is a concentration of what this capitalist-imperialist system is doing overall to Black people and constitutes a slow genocide that could easily accelerate.
Millions are locked up in prison; millions more are on probation or parole, and then there is the devastating effect this has not only on those imprisoned but on their friends and loved ones. Tens of thousands are kept in conditions of solitary confinement that constitute torture. There is the disproportionate use of the death penalty against Blacks and Latinos. Every year, hundreds of thousands stopped and frisked by the NYPD, overwhelmingly Black and Latino people, the vast majority doing nothing illegal. An epidemic of police murder and brutality against people of color.
The cause of all this? The workings and conscious policy of a capitalist-imperialist system that has exploited Black people from day one—first through slavery, then sharecropping, and then confinement to the lowest-paying, most dangerous and dirtiest factory jobs. But now, because of major changes in the global economy, this system no longer has a way to profitably exploit Black people, has no future for this entire section of society, and seeks to impose a counter-insurgency in advance of the insurgency. The rulers of this country—who remember the powerful role of the Black liberation struggles of the 1960s—want to crush sections of society before they are able to rise up.
Last year, the New York Police Department stopped and frisked nearly 685,000 people. 87 percent were Black or Latino. About 90 percent were released without being charged with any crime. These statistics tell a story; but they don’t tell the story of the effect on the people themselves, walking down the street and suddenly jumped on by a gang of cops, handled and humiliated—if it doesn’t escalate into something worse—with the clear intent and effect of humiliation. These statistics point to something, but in themselves they don’t show how this is part of a process of stigmatization of an oppressed people... of putting many into a pipeline for imprisonment... and of setting in place a “slow” genocide that could easily escalate into something even worse. (See box: Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide!)
People are beginning to stand up and fight against this. Last week, 20 people were found guilty of “crimes” associated with taking action to stop this. Other trials for other actions against this racist practice are scheduled to begin soon. Anger is growing; people are looking for ways to resist this.
Into this situation have stepped a number of politicians and reformers. Some are calling for “reducing” stop-and-frisk. Bill de Blasio, the “public advocate” of the City of New York City and wannabe candidate for mayor of New York, says that stop-and-frisk is a “valid tool,” but that “its increasing use has been ‘corrosive’ to community relations with the police.... ‘We can’t have the social fabric continuing to be torn,’ Mr. de Blasio said, adding that the high number of stops, particularly among young black and Latino residents, has made many New Yorkers uncomfortable and distrustful of the police officers who patrol their neighborhoods. ‘It’s breaking down something very fundamental here,’ Mr. de Blasio added.” (“Public Advocate to Call for Audit of Stop-and-Frisk Tactic”, New York Times, May 9, 2012.)
Yes, Mr. de Blasio, in one sense you are right—stop-and-frisk is indeed “breaking down something very fundamental.” It is breaking down the legitimacy of the state; that is, it is breaking down people’s belief that the police and law are neutral and serve everyone, and that when the police use force they have a right to do so. And the more that people resist this, and the more this resistance is part of forcing the truth out about what these laws and cops are REALLY serving, the more this is true. Many defendants at last week’s trial linked stop-and-frisk to the whole history of white supremacist oppression in this country; some linked that white supremacy to capitalism itself, and talked about the need to sweep this whole system away. People at the trial saw with their own eyes that the system’s justifications for this practice are utterly without any moral claim to right, and that even this system’s own prosecutors and judges cannot defend this. And most at the trial became even more fired up and convinced of the need to mobilize people against this. But that’s not a problem; matter of fact, the fact that this resistance is “breaking down something very fundamental here” (that is, the legitimacy of this system) is a good thing, and long overdue—and something we need a lot more of!
So, no, the problem, Mr. de Blasio, is NOT that stop-and-frisk is “corrosive to community relations with the police.” And no, Mr. de Blasio, stop-and-frisk is NOT a “valid tool.” It is a very vicious and illegitimate tool, and a key tool in the whole policy of mass incarceration of Black people and other oppressed people, a policy that is genocidal.
And the solution, Mr. de Blasio, does not lie in electing either you or anyone else to be mayor, promising new wine in the same old bottles. People have done that for generations and it has not changed anything fundamental. The solution lies in sweeping away a system that suckled on the blood of generations of slaves as its “mother’s milk,” that then fattened on the super-exploitation of African-Americans first as sharecroppers and then as proletarians who were confined by custom and often by law to the lowest and most exploited rungs of the workforce, that today finds itself unable to offer any kind of future to millions and tens of millions of the descendants of those generations and so has developed this new form of oppression: mass incarceration. Just a few weeks ago, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, in a report on how Black ex-prisoners are discriminated against both as former prisoners and as African-Americans, noted that it is likely that 1 out of 3 Black men will spend time in prison in the course of their lifetimes (compared to 1 out of 17 white men)! (“Equal Opportunity Panel Updates Hiring Policy,” New York Times, April 25, 2012.) What does that tell you about what the future holds if masses of people don’t stand up and if, ultimately, there is NOT a revolution?
And that is why right now, very urgently—ultimately as a key part of that solution and today very directly as something that anyone with a sense of decency and a hatred of oppression and injustice should support and take up—there is a huge need: to not get derailed into false solutions but to stand up, to step out, to support and join this struggle against mass incarceration.
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
“In the Age of Obama...Police Terror, Incarceration, No Jobs,
Mis-education: What Future for Our Youth?”
May 7, University of Chicago. When the doors to Mandel Hall opened, it quickly filled to capacity for a dialogue between Cornel West and Carl Dix, “In the Age of Obama... Police Terror, Incarceration, No Jobs, Mis-education: WHAT FUTURE FOR OUR YOUTH?” Then the overflow crowd was directed to the student union for a live-stream broadcast and yet more people were turned away. Approximately 1300 people attended.
Around half the audience were students—of all nationalities—accompanied by an important section of faculty members. A sizeable percentage of the audience were African-Americans—students and people from the surrounding community. They were joined by others from across the city and even the suburbs.
It was a remarkable turnout given that it was only a week earlier that the university had allowed the event to go ahead. An 11th-hour effort by the university to cancel the dialogue altogether was beaten back only through the concerted efforts of students and faculty backed by a petition urging the event be held that was signed by over 500.
A large crew of student ushers set the tone by wearing hoodies as a statement on Trayvon Martin. A graduate student and activist welcomed the crowd to a pre-program featuring young people speaking about their struggles—to close an infamous juvenile detention center, to re-open a trauma center at the University of Chicago Hospital, to stop the city from closing half of its mental health facilities. Platypus Affiliated Society, the first of what became a dozen student group sponsors including the Black Law Students Association, called for a “continuation of the dialogue after the dialogue.” A young spoken word artist tore into a piece named after Sam Cooke’s “A Change is Gonna Come.” The audience was on its feet, primed for change. The chair of the Political Science Department, Bernard Harcourt, moderated the evening and introduced the speakers to what would be the first of many rounds of applause that punctuated the evening.
What followed challenged your mind, your soul... and the potential and possibilities for radical, even revolutionary change. Carl Dix, a revolutionary communist and Cornel West, a revolutionary Christian, found considerable overlap in their views, while also delineating and exploring real differences over “what future for our youth.” Both of them spoke with great passion about the dire situation we face today and the urgent need for people to act. As if to underscore the point, Dix and West came straight from a trial the week before in NYC for protesting stop-and-frisk by the NYPD.
Dix opened with “Spin the globe and stop it with your finger. Anywhere you land, there is unspeakable horror, abject poverty, starvation, sex trafficking... That is our world.” And he argued that the cause of all these horrors is the system of capitalism-imperialism that we live under. He dug into this more deeply by focusing on the situation facing African-American people today. He drew together the threads running through the relentless police brutality against minority youth—from the massive stop-and-frisk campaign of the NYPD to the recent murder of Trayvon Martin. Dix honed in on mass incarceration and described it as a form of “slow genocide” for Black people that could easily turn into fast genocide. Many in the audience wore the sticker: “Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide.”
Dix minced no words about the revolutionary solution he was advocating to all the horrors of the world. “Yes, you heard me right. Revolutionary Communism.” And he jumped off into an explanation of what it is—including how Bob Avakian has further developed the science of communism by summing up previous revolutions and envisioning how we can do even better in the future.
Cornel West launched into a scathing critique of present-day capitalist values and culture that trained youth to be pre-occupied with themselves by bombarding them with hyper-marketing and “weapons of mass distraction.” In the face of this, West called for “fearless speech, unintimidated speech”—especially in relation to the conditions of poor and working people, who no one will even talk about today. He called on the audience to have the courage to “go against the grain.”
West then got into his view of what people are up against. “The fundamental problem today is oligarchy and greed run amok. We have to decide which side we’re on.” He argued, “It’s about finding one’s voice in the midst of cacophony, terror, and catastrophe.” He warned of the very serious danger posed by the rise of the right wing in this country, and called on people to act. “The future is open-ended and entirely unpredictable.... For better or for worse, the future depends entirely on the choices we make now.”
A period of dialogue between Dix and West followed. There is not the space here to capture its richness, but one thing that shone through was profound mutual respect that framed their—at times—sharp differences. Some of the issues included: how to evaluate the legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., how to sum up the first wave of communist revolutions—including Stalin, and what is the role of electoral politics today.
The question-and-answer period further enriched this process. Audience members asked about a broad array of subjects: Do you support the struggle of transgender people against police brutality? Where are the churches today in struggles of the masses and “do we need to occupy the churches to free Jesus?” How do you sum up the history of the left from the 1960s? The program ended with a request for West and Dix to speak to their visions of what a future world could be.
In future issues we will carry further coverage of the event and interviews with the audience. But the following responses by a mother and daughter give some sense of what kind of night it was.
Daughter: “I loved it. I’m speechless, I don’t know what to say. I think the thing that really struck me the most was Dr. West’s point about how we have to move beyond just hate and anger. And how that has to be channeled into something more because that isn’t sustainable long term. Love and compassion, that’s what’s going to sustain whatever it is we’re trying to do here..”
Mother: “For me, I had never heard Carl Dix before. And it really first educated me on revolutionary communism as it is now. And it gave me something to think about that in my ordinary life I never would have considered. So I was actually very pleased for that. ...I guess what I liked about it was it made me want to read the books in terms of what have we learned and how it could possibly work in the future.”
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
The Illinois Appellate Court in February continued and intensified the unjust persecution of Gregory Koger by upholding his conviction for three misdemeanors and upholding the outrageous 300-day sentence for documenting with an iPhone camera the attempts to suppress the speech of Sunsara Taylor. Koger was arrested in November 2009 at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) when he was videotaping a short statement by Revolution writer Sunsara Taylor. For that "crime," the police grabbed, beat and maced him. Then they charged HIM with misdemeanor battery, resisting arrest, and trespassing. (See "A Grave Injustice Has Been Perpetrated... Free Gregory! No Jail Time!" in Revolution #211, September 12, 2010.) In its ruling, the Illinois Appellate Court went even further than the prosecutors and the original trial judge in twisting the facts and interpreting the record to advance this highly political and vindictive attack on Koger.
Koger's lawyers have recently filed a petition for leave to file an appeal to the Illinois Supreme Court. A powerful outcry against this outrage is needed!
An examination of some of the key findings of the appeals court will show the political nature of this attack on Koger through the legal system. This is revealed by what they chose to emphasize, concentrate, and even add to the record, and what they omitted and refused to consider.
First, at Koger's trial in August 2010, the continual mantra from the judge and prosecution was "politics has nothing to do with this case, the defendant is on trial for his conduct, not his politics." The judge vehemently denied every effort by the defense to provide the highly political context for his arrest: why he was documenting Taylor's statement protesting the cancellation of her speech at the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago (EHSC) and why the EHSC was trying to prevent exposure of this censorship.
So it was striking that the ruling by the Appellate Court prominently refers to Sunsara Taylor in an introductory paragraph as a "self-avowed communist." This fact was completely banned from the trial itself! Even the defense's request to probe potential jurors' political prejudices, including regarding communism, was turned down. The original trial judge stated that Taylor could have been speaking about anything—"organic farming or feminism"—it was all irrelevant. The word "communism" appears nowhere in any of the official record of the proceedings in open court. One of the big claims of America is that there is supposedly no political suppression, that there is no such thing as a political case. Yet here in black and white the appeals court is boldly signaling that, yes indeed, this is a political case where political acts (documenting a controversial event) are on trial, depicted as criminal acts, and in the trial the actual events are twisted to fit that framework.
Second, the Appellate Court refused to consider the video that played a key role in the trial. This was the video Koger himself taped as he and Taylor entered EHSC that morning and took their seats in the auditorium. Provided by the defense, the video was actually introduced as Exhibit 1 by the prosecution in an effort to put their own spin on it for the jurors.
This video is now posted on the defense committee website (www.dropthecharges.net), along with the original police report. The prosecution received the video the day before trial, and by the next day they rewrote the charges with coaching from the judge who then denied the defense's attempts to enter the original police report into evidence. This revealed the American justice system in action—if the defendant presents hard evidence proving his innocence, the state is allowed to change their story. Now people can see for themselves how the judge and the prosecution worked together to twist the facts in any way necessary to get a conviction. And this has been upheld by the appeals court. The EHSC president claims in the police report that he told Koger three times to stop filming and that Koger replied by saying "fuck you" to the EHSC president, who then told him that if he didn't stop filming he'd be arrested for trespassing. A cop claims in the police report that he witnessed this. The video refutes all of that: Koger is completely silent and the president of EHSC is heard telling Koger only that he has to "stop filming," which Koger does and the video shows that he put the camera down on the seat next to him. The only aggression on film comes from the president of EHSC when he pushes his hand aggressively into Koger's camera.
The Appellate Court tried to have it both ways: bolstering its decision by using the politics that were banned from the trial, while refusing to consider documentary evidence that was part of the trial record.
The Illinois trespass law states that in order to convict someone of trespass the state must prove that a person was ordered by a property owner to leave the premises, and then must prove that the person showed an intent to remain on the property after having been given notice to depart. Koger was never told he was trespassing at the EHSC, nor was he given notice that he must leave. After the video evidence refuted the previous statements from the witnesses in the police report that the EHSC president told Koger that he would be arrested for trespass if he didn't stop filming—which the cop witnessed, the EHSC president directly testified in court that he never ordered Koger to leave. And the cop who grabbed Koger then changed his story and testi-lied at trial that he "whispered" into Koger's ear after he put his camera down that he would be arrested if he didn't stop filming—a whisper in a room with loud music blaring (as can be heard on the video). A convenient "whisper" that could not be documented.
A major legal argument in Koger's appeal brief drew out the danger posed by a significant misinterpretation of the trespass law employed by the prosecution and upheld by the judge during the trial. Koger was never told that he must leave the premises. However, the prosecutors repeatedly equated giving "notice to stop filming" with giving "notice to depart." The defense argued at trial and in the appeal that such conditional notice is not sufficient to convict. The prosecution went so far as to argue that if you do anything that a property owner asks you not to do, that makes you a trespasser—without any requirement that they give you explicit notice to depart, a fundamental element of the crime of trespass. To quote from the prosecutor's closing arguments in the trial transcript: "Even if they were eating a sandwich, it's not the filming, defendant's eating a sandwich, 'Sir, you can't eat your sandwich in here; if you do it again, you're going to be asked to leave.' The moment he takes that sandwich back out, he becomes a trespasser."
Astonishingly, the Appellate Court simply adopted and expounded upon the prosecution's novel and dangerous theory of trespass and failed to even comment on, let alone refute, the legal arguments raised in Koger's appeal brief. Those arguments are now a key element in his petition to appeal to the state Supreme Court.
Additionally according to Illinois law, after being given notice to depart by the property owner, a person must be given an opportunity to leave before they can be convicted under the trespass statute. The Appellate Court ignored this too and twisted Koger's alleged resisting arrest charge into "complete resistance to leaving" after he had "overstayed his welcome," allegations which even the prosecution hadn't made. Again, witnesses had testified that Koger was getting ready to leave to record Taylor's speech at an alternate location when he was grabbed by the police. The Appellate Court wrote these witnesses out of the record when it said that his intent to leave "was not supported by the record," despite citations to that testimony in the appeal brief itself! In fact, Koger would have been off EHSC property within minutes if the police had not grabbed him, beaten him up and maced him, but that's the point: His crime was never trespass or "overstaying his welcome." It was documenting a public statement of protest at a venue open to the public, and that's a key part of what is chilling about this case.
The Appellate Court went even further than the prosecution in rewriting the record. In its summation of the defense witnesses' testimony, they conveniently omitted any reference to two witnesses for Koger who were former members of EHSC, including a member of the EHSC Board at the time of his arrest, who did not know him before the events in question and who subsequently quit EHSC in protest of this very prosecution. Leaving out these key defense witnesses allowed the Appellate Court to claim that the defense witnesses "could be found wanting given their close relationship to defendant." One of those EHSC witnesses for the defense testified that, in his recollection, no one had ever been prohibited from taking photographs or videos at EHSC. But the Appellate Court simply wrote that testimony out of the record too. In contrast, the Appellate Court deemed the prosecution witnesses to be "objective." The Court didn't see fit to acknowledge the fact that the EHSC witnesses for the prosecution—the president and a Board member—had every reason to want to see Koger convicted in order to cover up their censorship of Sunsara Taylor and their desperate attempt to prevent documentation of her statement that morning. The EHSC boasts of being an open forum, and the outpouring of opposition to their unprecedented cancelation of Taylor's speech had stung them. They were determined to stop more exposure, and the videographer who was merely documenting the events—Gregory Koger—became the target of their vindictive counterattack. That targeting is both extremely cruel to Koger and dangerous for anyone attempting to document controversial or newsworthy public events.
Many people have asked incredulously why there has been such determined vindictive persecution throughout the whole legal process of this case, continuing with the Appellate Court. The EHSC played an important role in this unjust attack insisting that charges be brought, refusing to drop the charges against a huge national public outcry, including among humanist circles and many other people. But through the pre-trial phase and the trial itself, it became clear that the state itself was taking up this political persecution way beyond the vindictiveness of the EHSC. At a key pre-trial hearing the prosecution filed a contempt petition against Koger because his defense committee's website talked about his case. While the judge did not allow this to go forward, he warned Koger that having a defense committee was going to harm his case—an unmistakable threat to back off the political struggle, all the while asserting that "this is not political." At the trial itself, two prosecutors were assigned, unheard of for minor misdemeanors, which rarely go to trial at all. The judge, a former prosecutor herself, coached the prosecutors on pre-trial motions and repeatedly ruled against the defense.
But the fangs of the state were openly expressed and the essence of the very political message became clear at the end of the trial when the judge revoked Koger's bond and sent him immediately from the courthouse to jail on the basis that he was a danger to society because of a past prison record. In Illinois the default sentence for misdemeanors is probation. At the sentencing hearing the judge viciously attacked Koger's character and his very humanity in response to moving testimony from his employer, lawyers, professors, a priest, a student he had mentored, and several others who all described his transformation from a juvenile convicted of a serious crime to a person dedicating his life to helping people and emancipating all humanity.
The outrageously long sentence Koger was given—300 days, close to the maximum for simple misdemeanors, was also a subject of his appeal. The judge at the trial equated Koger's conviction for violent crimes as a teenager almost 15 years earlier with his filming at EHSC that day and said he "chose a path of violence" there that "endangered the safety of everyone in the room." There was absolutely nothing in the trial record to support these outrageous claims and in fact, right before trial, the prosecution had reduced the battery charge to "making contact of an insulting or provoking nature" because they knew they couldn't prove Koger engaged in violence. Instead, he was the victim of police brutality, which required treatment at the emergency room when he was released from jail. The defense is appealing this outrageous sentence.
This is another chilling feature of this entire prosecution. The state is using Koger's prior conviction to justify this political prosecution and vindictive sentence. When former prisoners step forward to become emancipators of humanity and participate in changing the world, they are treated even more vindictively in an attempt to dissuade anyone else from following their example. This cannot stand in a country where over 2.4 million people, mostly Black and Hispanic, are in prison at any time, and many millions more are denied basic rights after they are released and supposedly "done their time." (See "Stop the Vindictive Political Prosecution of Gregory Koger!")
In its portrayal of Koger's conduct, the Appellate Court once again outdid even the prosecution in distorting the already twisted trial record. The Appellate Court went to great lengths to concentrate a portrayal of Koger as "belligerent," citing his alleged "abusive language" as part of satisfying the elements of resisting arrest. The defense had requested that the jury receive an instruction based on a State Supreme Court decision that held that even the most abusive language is NOT resisting arrest and the trial judge had denied that request, but that didn't deter the Appellate Court from using these false allegations against Koger. So the Appellate Court finds that recording with an iPhone constitutes trespass and swearing is evidence of resisting arrest!
This cannot be allowed to stand. Send statements of outrage and support for Gregory Koger to firstname.lastname@example.org. Funds for the appeal can be donated at the website of his defense committee, dropthecharges.net, or checks made out to Gregory Koger Fund can be mailed to the Ad Hoc Committee, 1055 W. Bryn Mawr, Chicago, 60660.
Visit the committee's website and if you are on Facebook (Free Gregory Koger!) or Twitter, publicize this outrageous decision and mobilize others to understand its significance and speak out too. Stay in touch and join the fight to overturn this verdict!
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
Prisoner Writes on Gregory
Editor's Note: The following is a letter from a prisoner. We greatly appreciate receiving these letters and encourage prisoners to keep sending correspondence. The views expressed in letters from prisoners are those of the writers, and not those of Revolution.
This is an excerpt from a letter from a prisoner who writes about the recent unjust conviction of a young revolutionary, Gregory Koger (for background on the case, see "A Grave Injustice Has Been Perpetrated..." and "Judge Slams Videographer with 300 Days in Jail" in Revolution issue #211 [September 12, 2010] and #212 [September 26, 2010].
Dollar-a-Day PRLF Donation for Every Day of Gregory's Unjust Sentence
In response to the outrageous conviction and sentence of Gregory Koger, a Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) supporter was inspired to donate a dollar for every day of Gregory's sentence ($300):
"Gregory should definitely know how inspiring he is. He has a lot of heart and the will to dedicate himself to the service of humanity. I heard of how the judge looked down at him and declared that he had a violent nature and needed to be locked up, in the literal face of all those who had come in person to support him, and in the metaphorical face of all those (including me) watching from afar, many of whom had sent personal statements of their own. I mainly want to challenge the Judge's words in a concrete way. I decided to pledge $1 to Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund for each day he was sentenced to, $300. And I'm asking others to try to contribute something also. Because it is such an outrage. Think if it could snowball, think what that would mean to everyone, to Gregory and all the prisoners that will be reached."
Also please view Gregory's eloquent appeal to "Adopt a Subscription" to Revolution for a prisoner, which can be read at prlf.org or seen at: www.youtube.com/watch?v=nqtpfFI1EBU. Please give a generous donation and consider becoming a monthly sustainer.
I'm writing to comment on the article in the last Revolution newspaper titled: "A Grave Injustice Has Been Perpetrated...Free Gregory! No Jail Time!" The fact that Gregory had went from being a "common" criminal—who'd once unknowingly engaged in "class suicide" against himself and the community, by perpetrating a bourgeois dog-eat-dog world outlook—to transforming that world outlook to one of a revolutionary proletarian kind, speaks to the vast potential that is locked behind these prison walls.
As a proletarian revolutionary myself, who's been incarcerated for the past twelve years since I was nineteen, I applaud the fact that he spent his time in prison developing his consciousness to the extent that he can now say that: "Now my life is dedicated to the struggle to end all exploitation and oppression and getting to a world where people contribute what they can to society and get back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings."
That statement by Gregory reminds me of a quote by Mao in which he said, "The correctness or incorrectness of the ideological and political line decides everything."
Not only does it decide everything in regards to how we define our true class interest, our relation to the proletariat class (domestically and abroad), and our world outlook, it also decides how the bourgeois ruling class defines its relation towards us. As Mao said, "Class struggle is an objective reality independent of man's will. That is to say, class struggle is inevitable."
No matter if we're conscious of our true class interest or not, the way we go about our lives, the content of our world outlook, and the values we live by, will either be a proletarian line or a bourgeois one—again, no matter if we're conscious of it or not. Nevertheless, it's only when we become conscious of our proletarian responsibility (by taking up the proletarian line consciously)—as Gregory had done—that we truly become a revolutionary threat to the status quo of our misery. Why, one might ask? Well, because the person, who consciously embodies the proletarian line, represents in him or herself, the socialist man, the socialist woman, and socialist society in negation of the bourgeois man, bourgeois woman, and bourgeois society of today. This is truly the capitalist's greatest fear, since he finds in such a person no future of himself, in him or her—at least not within his capitalist form and content today.
The injustice that has recently been perpetrated against Gregory is nothing more than a concentrated expression of this class struggle. Just as we have been successfully combating the Revolution newspaper ban in California, we must stand behind this comrade until we can successfully claim another tactical victory. It'll show our resolve and commitment to those leaving prison, who've chosen to dedicate their lives to their true class interest, while strengthening and deepening the overall movement.
In addition, I believe Gregory's case also provides an opportunity for us on the inside to learn more about this comrade in Revolution newspaper—with the aim of deepening the commitment of those behind the walls...
P.S. Thanks again for sending me And Mao Makes Five. More of us need to understand the importance and the significance of The Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
People from all over the world come to the annual New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, aka Jazzfest. The performances include many rock and pop acts. Yet there is a solid element of indigenous Louisiana music and jazz, including New Orleans sons and daughters, like Trombone Shorty and Irma Thomas. The official festival takes place during the day at the race track, then at night, things spill over into the streets of mid-city New Orleans, where brass bands play for free on front porches and yards and people dance in the streets. The scene then shifts over to the French Quarter, where people pack the clubs and fill the streets once again to hear a variety of bands playing inside and outside, late into the night.
Our BA Everywhere crew showed up with thousands of palm cards promoting Bob Avakian’s spoken word piece, “All Played Out,” as well as the BAsics cards and Revolution newspaper. We really emphasized getting out the “All Played Out” cards. Most people we reached out to had never heard of Bob Avakian or the RCP, had never even seen a communist before. One of the most effective approaches we took was: “If you like art that challenges everything, including you, you gotta download this...(and described BA)...It will shake you up and make you think!”
Taking BA Everywhere to the festival crowd was like a shock to the atmosphere and the response was polarized. We tried many different methods and different approaches to impact the scene. Several stores, coffee houses, and restaurants took stacks to get out to their customers. We drove around the festival with a banner “You Can't Change the World If You Don't Know the BAsics” with a sound system playing “All Played Out” and clips from the Revolution talk DVD, Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About. In this way, a whole lot of people encountered BA Everywhere.
Saturday night, we set up our display at one of the busiest corners and got on a ladder with a bullhorn. This opened up more of a public debate. Some people were shocked, some were pleasantly surprised, some were pissed off, but many were provoked. Responses ranged from “Get a job!” to “Cool!” to “I want one of those—You look like a no-nonsense group.” One young restaurant worker who asked, “Is this like Marx’s communism?—I love communism!”, bought BAsics and donated money. One of our crew who got into it with a group of white youth, recounting how they had said the very words BA uses in the Revolution talk when mocking the capitalists: “This is the greatest country in the world. This is the land of freedom and democracy.” These youth left dissing us, but the encounter had really challenged them.
One vendor took a stack of cards for his booth, listened to “All Played Out,” and the next day he told us he agreed and disagreed with it — but was overall inspired. A businessman came by and told us he appreciates our message but wanted us to take out the word communism because he said Americans shut their minds off when they hear it. He made a donation and said he would check out our website.
A number of people stopped to talk, especially after seeing quotes from BA. One Black man saw the quote about how the role of the police is to protect and serve the system, and commented that BA had articulated exactly what he thinks. The BA quotes in the centerfold which call on people to imagine a world without America and “Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First” elicited in some people a sense that something is deeply wrong, and impelled them to think about this. One guy who had just gotten out of the military was excited to see this, as he described how he had come to no longer support the criminal wars the U.S. is waging on the world.
All of this sparked all kinds of questions and comments—like how to take communism out to people, how would socialism work in a country like this, who is Bob Avakian?
We spread the word about BA and the BAsics bus tour among a lot of people, gave them the ways to connect up with the movement for revolution, raised some money.
Another point on method: When people see our passion, our dedication, and our liveliness, it really busts through their stereotype of communists. Handing out cards as we danced to the music in the streets was an effective way to get them out. And this isn’t hard when at the New Orleans jazzfest. The music just moves you.
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
An important debate between Raymond Lotta and Bernard Harcourt took place at The New School in New York City on May 5. Titled “Political Disobedience vs. Revolution,” the debate was co-sponsored by the Center for Public Scholarship at The New School and Revolution Books in New York City, and was moderated by prominent sociologist Steven Lukes of New York University. The debate came on the heels of the May 1 mobilizations by the Occupy movement to retake the initiative, and at a time when the campaign of the Revolutionary Communist Party to project the vision and leadership of Bob Avakian into all corners of society, as a key element of initiating a new stage of communist revolution, is aiming to make big advances. So the debate was a timely one...and, as it turned out, a sharp and provocative one.
Harcourt, who is the chairman of the Political Science Department at the University of Chicago, argued that the Occupy movement is a response to the enormous concentration of wealth at the top that has resulted from so-called neoliberal policies of the last decades. The Occupy movement, he explained, has opened a deep well of solidarity and community. Its appeal and exuberance is very much linked with its opposition to hierarchy and domination. He emphasized that, on a societal basis, the question before us is whether a modern, complex economy will be regulated in a way that reinforces and deepens inequality, or will be regulated in a way that lessens it. He spoke about the “dangers of power and authority.”
Raymond Lotta put forth an analysis of the workings of capitalism and the unacceptability of resigning ourselves to “regulating” the horrors of the world, whether we’re speaking of the sex trade or the environmental devastation bound up with imperialism or other horrors. He argued that revolution is needed and possible, and that there is a viable alternative to this system: Bob Avakian’s reenvisioned communism, as concentrated in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). Lotta spoke about the positive impact of Occupy, pointed to the challenges of meeting repression, and also polemicized against what he called the “mirage of leaderless-ness.” The question, he said, is not leadership or no leadership—leadership is being exerted—but what ideology and what kind of leadership are needed to transform the world into one without exploitation and oppression, where human beings can truly flourish.
There was lively back-and-forth with the audience. And as the debate and discussion unfolded, important questions got posed and sharpened—from the lessons of the upheavals of the 1960s, to the role of alternative community and institutions in movements for social change, to whether capitalism can in fact be transformed. The debate can be viewed on video at http://www.revolutionbooksnyc.org/videos.html.
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
At my job more than 25 people have BAsics, and over the past few months the beginnings of networks have developed between some of these co-workers. Over the four "defiant days" around May Day we made a good start toward fund raising and spreading awareness and support for the BAsics Bus Tour as it prepares to head into the South with its powerful revolutionary message. Co-workers bought $110.00 in tickets for our local BA Everywhere fundraising dinner on April 29, and donated an additional $635.00 toward the bus tour.
In preparation I went to Revolution Books and bought 10 issues of Revolution #265 with the "We are all Trayvon Martin: The Whole Damn System is Guilty" centerfold, 10 copies of #266 with the beautiful BAsics Bus Tour centerfold and 30 copies of the May 1st issue with Bob Avakian's quotes. I also bought a portable DVD player so that I could show DVDs at work and elsewhere. I downloaded the "Video Fundraising Kit," with three clips—the clip of BA speaking, the interview with Joe Veale, and "Next Stop Revolution" from Los Angeles. (We need many, many copies of these DVDs in the Revolution Books stores for others to see and use—this is really essential.) And I am never without copies of BAsics.
I went out to my co-workers over the course of four days, talking about how, in the wake of the savage murder of Trayvon Martin, tens of thousands of youth and other around the U.S. have stood up, boldly raised their heads and are searching for answers. Millions are suffering and in great turmoil because of the workings of this whole system where for the youth in the hood crime becomes a rational choice.
Most of my co-workers, including the lowest paid workers and professionals, are very down on and judgmental of these youth and the "choices they make." I posed that it's been 60 years since the murder of Emmett Till to the murder of Trayvon Martin and asked what has really changed for Black people? Doesn't this situation cry out for revolution? I showed them the clip on the DVD of Joe Veale and BA speaking—there is a powerful message to these youth and others to pull back the lens and look at the whole world, so "you are not regulating this corner or controlling this hood—you are being regulated" was one of my major themes. The LA Bus Tour clip shows many youth who stop to give their views after seeing the side panel on a public bus: Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About rolling through their neighborhoods day after day for weeks. Most of these youths had apparently not engaged this revolution before, or met its supporters. Yet their views are alive with hope of a better world and revolutionary future and the pain and suffering of their lives under the present system. For the masses in this clip, just seeing this message was very transformative in a beginning sense.
When my co-workers viewed this I would point out that people themselves really needed to check out this talk on the internet but that we also now have BAsics with all that it represents and a bus representing for this revolution and its leader, which contains not commuters like in LA but a core of revolutionaries of varying ages and experience who will be boldly plunging into the South to find tens of thousands who are searching for a way out of this madness. Also that Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution is offering a profoundly "better choice" out of the horrible lives that people are forced into under this system.
Five of my co-workers who are professionals contributed $635.00. Many co-workers bought the 11 tickets to the fundraising dinner. Some of the maintenance workers and I distributed all of the 50 copies of Revolution I had bought, in the course of these few days. I sold five copies of BAsics as well—one of these copies was to someone who did not support the bus tour but wanted to check out BA and then decide what he thinks.
We were able on lunch break or other creative ways to show quick 15-minute viewings of one or two pieces from the DVD on several occasions. Comments of those who supported this effort: An African-born professional who works in the ghetto—"I had no idea anything like this existed in the U.S. I applaud your efforts at educating the youth." He bought BAsics and asked me for a copy of the DVD he could take home. A Black professional—"I used to listen to the Black Panthers when I was young—BA's presence and message is inspiring." A white co-worker who already has BAsics and also Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy—"I don't know if I really agree with BA's message but a bus like this going into the South is still a very good start." A Black co-worker who has BAsics gave $15.00—"Getting this book into the South into the hands of these youth would be really good." A prominent retired professional took BAsics to think about this but then gave it back saying "We both really agree that change on the earth is desperately needed, but communism will never be the answer." She then asked if we could meet for lunch next month and plans to bring a friend who "will probably agree more with you than with me about all of this."
Really this was a great way to celebrate May 1st. Think what it will mean to the people of the earth if we begin to connect thousands with BA and our revolution through the BAsics Bus Tour and all it represents. So this is just a beginning and was a lot of fun!
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
“Money for Jobs and Education! Jobs and Education, Not War and Occupation!” This is the slogan the ANSWER Coalition is raising this month at the forthcoming anti-NATO protests in Chicago, and other groups are putting forward similar demands.
This slogan is profoundly wrong and harmful—both in terms of morality that’s actually in the interests of humanity, and in terms of a scientific understanding of imperialism and war.
Why should antiwar demands focus first and foremost on the war’s impact on Americans and their lives—and not on the victims of U.S. aggression: Pakistanis murdered in U.S. drone strikes, Iraqis rounded up and tortured by U.S. forces, Afghans seized and terrorized in night raids, and countless others? Aren’t their lives every bit as precious as the lives of those who happen to live in the U.S.?
“Money for jobs, not for war” argues that American lives are more important than other people’s lives. This logic goes right along with—and amplifies—the mindset relentlessly fostered by the system’s rulers and their media machine: that American lives come first. This is the very mindset the rulers count on to justify and build public support (or acquiescence) for their predatory wars of empire.
The slogan also promotes the idea that the political powers-that-be—if pressured by enough people—could scale back their military, stop attacking other countries, and instead use the money for jobs, education, and other social welfare programs at home. But that’s not how the system actually operates! Wars, invasions, and occupations are not policies of one set of politicians or another, or arbitrary choices made by this or that president. At this stage in history, capitalism is a global system, with the U.S. the world’s most dominant capitalist-imperialist power, presiding over a worldwide empire of exploitation. This empire rests on the domination of the oppressed countries where the vast majority of humanity lives, and on control of labor, markets, and resources. This entails the violent suppression of the masses of people in the dominated areas—and also entails fighting off challenges from other imperialists as well as rising forces in those countries that stand in the way. This requires a monstrously huge military that is deployed worldwide, with bases in over 100 countries, and wars when necessary.
The wars for domination in the Middle East, Central Asia, and elsewhere don’t “interfere” with the functioning of U.S. capital—they’re absolutely essential to it, and to the U.S.’s overall global dominance. This is why the U.S. rulers are compelled—and willing to—spend trillions on the military, including during periods of severe economic and fiscal stress, no matter who happens to sit in the White House or Congress.
This system of global capitalism-imperialism headed by the U.S. is the main source of the horrors that torment so many across the globe—from the ethnic cleansing and slow genocide of the Palestinian people by the U.S. and Israel, to the mass incarceration and slow genocide of Black people in the U.S.; from the rape of the planet to the systematic degradation and violence against women—here and around the world; from the extreme deprivation and starvation faced by billions across the planet to the growing poverty and desperation faced by millions in the U.S.
The rulers in these imperial metropoles distribute some of the spoils of empire to provide a higher standard of living than in the oppressed countries and buy social peace and loyalty at home (which “Money for Jobs, Not For War” encourages). People in the U.S. should reject that foul pact! The vast majority in the U.S. have a profound interest in making common cause with oppressed people worldwide, not in siding with “their” rulers. That means fostering a morality that declares: “American lives are not more important than other people’s lives!”—not pandering to American chauvinism, which strengthens the system responsible for so much misery. It means people shouldn’t appeal to those on the top to “spend more on jobs,” but to clearly and unequivocally demand a STOP to the horrors the U.S. is committing around the world.
Through this process of actively opposing U.S. aggression and the “America Number 1” mindset fostered to justify it, people can and must be won to increasingly see that this capitalist system and state is utterly un-reformable and that it’s going to take revolution to get rid of it, end its predatory wars once and for all, and bring into being a whole new system and state that is in the actual interests of the people in the U.S. and around the world.
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
These quotes from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian draw from more than 30 years of work by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. BAsics addresses a wide range of questions on revolution and human emancipation and is a handbook for a new wave of revolutionaries.
The interests, objectives, and grand designs of the imperialists are not our interests—they are not the interests of the great majority of people in the U.S. nor of the overwhelming majority of people in the world as a whole. And the difficulties the imperialists have gotten themselves into in pursuit of these interests must be seen, and responded to, not from the point of view of the imperialists and their interests, but from the point of view of the great majority of humanity and the basic and urgent need of humanity for a different and better world, for another way.
Bringing Forward Another Way, Revolution #83, March 25, 2007
The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.
Revolution #43, April 16, 2006
It is not uncommon to hear these days, from government officials and others, that only 1 percent of the population is in the U.S. military but that this 1 percent is fighting for the freedom of the other 99 percent. The truth, however, is this: That 1 percent, in the military, is in reality fighting for the other 1 percent: the big capitalist-imperialists who run this country—who control the economy, the political system, the military, the media, and the other key institutions—and who dominate large parts of the world, wreaking havoc and causing great suffering for literally billions of people. It is the “freedom” of these capitalist-imperialists—their freedom to exploit, oppress, and plunder—that this 1 percent in the military is actually killing and sometimes dying for.
Revolution #220, December 19, 2010
Internationalism—The Whole World Comes First!
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
“I believe gay people should be able to marry.” This simple statement made by Obama on May 9 recognizes reality—there are millions of people in this society who love people of the same sex and deserve to have the same rights as everyone else in society.
Yet it ignited a firestorm of praise, condemnation and controversy. This comes as no surprise. This is a society where lesbians, gays, bisexual, and transgendered people are routinely demonized, openly discriminated against, brutalized, and even murdered.
TO THE CHRISTIAN FASCISTS AND OTHER REACTIONARIES WHO HAVE CALLED THIS A WAR AGAINST TRADITIONAL MARRIAGE:
That’s just a crock of shit! It isn’t like somebody told Rush Limbaugh and these other idiots who raise this BS that they will have to marry someone of the same sex. Ask yourself: How does a recognition of the right of gay people to have their loving relationships recognized in the ways that other people’s relationships are do damage to marriage? How could ensuring equal rights to visitation of spouses who are hospitalized, inheritance, benefits like health insurance, etc. be a detriment to society? Yes, it is not in line with traditional, white Christian American morality, but what’s wrong with that?
Those Black preachers who are trotting out to quote the Bible about homosexuality being a sin and being given big play in the media need to shut the fuck up. Remember, the slave masters quoted that same Bible to justify slavery. Black people who go to the Bible as the basis for morality are wrapping themselves in the horrors it promotes—massacres, making women sex slaves and more. The Bible taken literally is a horror.
TO THOSE WHO ARE HAILING OBAMA’S STATEMENT AND THINKING IT MIGHT LEAD TO FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE:
Same sex marriage is a just demand that should be supported. And yes, this is the first time that a U.S. president has ever said this. It has a big impact in society. But it is only a statement. It won’t usher in an era of respect and equality for gay people. Obama didn’t back this up with any steps he planned to take to realize the right to marriage for all people or anything else to combat the discrimination and demonization gay people face. In fact, he followed his statement by saying that deciding whether gay marriage will be legal is up to the states.
That’s just fucked up. You say you think gay people should have the right to marry, but you leave it up to the states to decide whether they are allowed to exercise that right? “States’ rights” was the banner under which the slave owners fought a Civil War to keep slavery in effect 150 years ago! It was the banner under which Black people were abused for more than a century under Jim Crow segregation and lynch mob terror. Today it is the banner under which you have people talking about the states having the right to determine whether gay people can marry!
You don’t put people’s rights up to a vote! If civil rights for Black people had been put up for referendums in various states, and there had not been a massive movement throughout society to demand basic rights for Black people, we might still be sitting in the back of the bus, sitting in “coloreds only” sections of restaurants and all the rest.
TO EVERYONE WHO HAS AN OUNCE OF CONCERN FOR JUSTICE:
It’s going to take a determined fight to end the abuse and discrimination being heaped down on gay people in this society. Look at what’s going down today. More states have banned same sex marriage; access to abortion has continued to be cut away; and even access to birth control is under attack. Opposition to gay marriage is part of a whole package aimed at strengthening patriarchy and male supremacy.
This statement does not represent Obama finally changing his views, stepping up to the plate and doing what is morally demanded. Leaving aside whatever cold calculations his campaign team is certainly making with regard to how to win re-election in November, the fact remains that Obama has, from the beginning of his presidency, acted in accordance with and put the interests of the ruling class as a whole above all else and he will continue to do so. And these interests are not the interests of the vast majority of the people, here and around the world.
The demonization and discrimination gay people face, like the enslavement and subjugation and targeting of women, is one of the horrors this system enforces on people here and around the world. The struggle against the suppression of gay rights cannot and should not be shut down or diverted into voting for Obama. It should be unleashed and fought through to achieve the basic rights that all people should have. And we, for our part, join in this struggle as part of building a movement for revolution, a movement that can get rid of this system and build a totally different and far better world in its place.
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
From A World to Win News Service
Francois Hollande of the Socialist Party, one of France's two main bourgeois parties, was elected president, defeating outgoing President Nicolas Sarkozy by a relatively narrow margin in the second stage runoff election. The most striking element in the election, however, was not the victory of "The Left" over a widely detested incumbent president—it was the very strong showing of Marine LePen, candidate of the far right National Front (FN), who came in third place with 18 percent of the vote in the first round of the voting.
The FN began in 1972 as a fringe party on the French political spectrum, bringing together different strands of fascist and extreme right groups such as unabashed supporters of the Vichy regime which had collaborated with the German occupation during the Second World War and representatives of those who detested Charles De Gaulle, the right wing president of France for much of the post war period, as a "traitor" for agreeing to independence for Algeria after recognizing that the bloody colonial war to maintain the French empire in North Africa could not be won. In fact, opponents of De Gaulle were even tried and executed for a terror campaign that included an attempt to assassinate him. When the FN was formed it was a motley crew of Holocaust deniers, racists, reactionary thugs, and those nostalgic for the dismembered French empire.
Starting in the 1980s the FN, under the leadership of Jean-Marie Le Pen, father of Marine Le Pen, became more and more of a fixture on the French political scene. This is because the xenophobia of the far right was more and more of a useful weapon of the ruling class as a whole. While the French far right's traditional anti-Semitism was never far below the surface, (Jean-Marie Le Pen himself had called the extermination of the Jews in World War 2 a "detail" of history), over the years the main target of the FN had evolved to become the millions of immigrants and their descendants, especially from the former French colonies of North Africa (Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia) and West African countries such as Mali and Senegal, all of which are mainly Islamic.
People displaced by the changes in these countries and facing impoverished conditions had been actively recruited to work in France's mines and factories in the 1960s and '70s. They were herded into the banlieues (working class suburbs) ringing Paris and other major French cities. As the period of rapid growth came to an end in the 1970s, unemployment grew and the children and grand children of these immigrants suffered discrimination, massive unemployment and harassment at the hands of the police. It has been the particular role of the FN to whip up hatred against this section of the people and to rant and rave about France's "endangered Christian and European [i.e. white] traditions." But while the FN may be the spearhead of this chauvinistic assault, the need to "control immigration," "defend values," "fight crime" (a code word for fighting non-white youth) has increasingly become the general discourse of the capitalist class as a whole and major political parties.
In 2007 Nicolas Sarkozy, who had come to prominence as the government minister in charge of the police force who led the crackdown on the revolts in the banlieues in 2005, was elected largely by appealing to the FN voter base (in that election the FN received "only" 10 percent of the vote). But since then the FN has screamed that Sarkozy, despite his series of reactionary measures as president, did not adequately fulfill his promises to "clean out the scum with a Karcher" (the high pressure water hoses used to clean dog excrement from the streets) and the FN demanded more brass-knuckled attacks against the so-called "immigrants" (most of whom were born in France).
The FN, like fascist parties traditionally, has tried to portray itself as a party of the "little man," opposed to the big capitalists as well as to the masses of the poor. In reality, these parties are arch-defenders of the capitalist order and, like Hitler's Nazis, can grow as social contradictions intensify and also be pumped up and unleashed by the bourgeoisie, or sections of it, when it is considered necessary. Both Le Pen father and daughter have denounced the traditional "right/left" political cleavage and have threatened a radical and dramatic shakeup of the existing political structures.
The big change in the 2012 French elections is that this formerly fringe fascist element has taken on a whole new level of "respectability." Nicolas Sarkozy was particularly brazen in his pandering to the FN, adopting their slogans, defending their "patriotism" and promising to look out for the interests of those they claim to represent. His defense minister, Gerard Longuet, himself a member of fascist groups in his youth, gave an interview to an extreme right fringe journal calling Marine Le Pen a legitimate partner.
Francois Hollande, for his part, was very careful to do nothing that would disturb the FN electorate. A number of key Socialist Party figures—including Segolene Royal, Hollande's former partner and herself the Socialist Party presidential candidate against Sarkozy in 2007, who had called in her campaign for military detention camps for youths convicted of minor offenses or disrespecting teachers—made public expressions of "understanding the frustrations" of the FN electorate.
The most important moment in the runoff election between Sarkozy and Hollande came in a single televised debate just days before the runoff vote. Hollande, anxious to shed his "milk toast" public image, fought sharply with Sarkozy especially over how to interpret some unemployment and public debt statistics. But when Sarkozy delivered his open appeal to FN voters Hollande remained silent. In fact Hollande's only notable comment on this subject was when he shouted that if elected he would never allow halal meat [slaughtered and prepared in accordance with Islamic law] in school cafeterias!
Despite being courted openly or covertly by all sides, Marine Le Pen refused to make an endorsement in the presidential runoff between Sarkozy and Hollande, calling on voters to cast a blank ballot. A record six percent of the voters did so. Le Pen is counting that after Sarkozy's defeat a shake up on the French political scene could take place that would finally bring about an open alliance between the traditional French right wing and the fascist National Front (as similar alliances have taken place in recent years with governing coalitions in Austria and the Netherlands).
The other significant development in the 2012 elections was the emergence of a strong showing (11 percent) by the Left Front candidate Jean-Luc Melenchon. The key organized force in the Left Front is the Communist Party of France (PCF), the traditional revisionist political party in France that long ago made its peace with the capitalist system while claiming to represent the "workers." In recent elections the PCF has been doing worse and worse (two percent in the 2007 elections). Melenchon collected not only the remnants of the PCF supporters in France's labor movement but also attracted a good deal of enthusiasm from many young people and lower middle class professionals who previously supported various "extreme left" and "alternative" political parties. While Melenchon, like the PCF, wrapped himself in the colors and traditions of the French state (singing the national anthem, the "Marseillaise," at his rallies and referring repeatedly to the French bourgeois revolution of 1789) he also appealed directly to more radical sentiments. One of his main campaign slogans was "Take state power" (Prenez le pouvoir). He was also the only candidate to directly take on the National Front. Melenchon drew enthusiastic crowds of tens of thousands of people, often more than either Hollande or Sarkozy. In reality, the Melenchon campaign did exactly what it was supposed to do: drag in the progressive sections of the population, and the youth in particular, into the dead-end bourgeois electoral arena.
Part of Francois Hollande's carefully cultivated public image was that he was not and never has been a "revolutionary." He would be a "normal" president who would prudently preside over the capitalist system, carefully manage France's imperialist interests, and not rock the boat of the world financial system. His first victory speech was in his home base in France where the square was filled with ''real'' basic French people (that is white, non-immigrant) and traditional French accordion music.
While many were excited to get rid of the hated Sarkozy, few have high expectations for a Hollande presidency. Hence the importance of Melenchon in drumming up enthusiasm for a tired and bankrupt "Left." On the night of the first round of the elections Melenchon called on his supporters to vote massively for Hollande in the runoff round, which they did in overwhelming numbers.
For the French ruling classes this election has gone well up to now. Despite predictions to the contrary, turnout was high, more than 80 percent participation. Tested and reliable servants of the capitalist system will be in charge and were not required to make many demagogic promises to the people. The basic program of budget cuts and austerity taking place on a Europe-wide basis will remain in place even if adjusted with a sprinkle of "stimulus" measures. Even while they may quarrel about details like pulling out French troops from Afghanistan by the end of the year, France will remain vigorous partners in U.S.-led aggression and war, as was the case in Libya recently.
Two days after the election, Sarkozy and Hollande stood hand in hand on the anniversary of the end of World War 2 in a tribute to the "tomb of the unknown solider." It was carefully choreographed to be a bipartisan example of national unity and patriotism, a tribute to the "democratic virtues" of imperialist France.
Meanwhile the whole political spectrum moves to the right.
There are a lot of factors in the world, in Europe and in France that could lead to sharper divisions in the ruling class of France and/or new waves of struggle among the masses of the people in that country. How well Hollande will be able to "manage" this volatile situation remains to be seen. Possibilities for advancing a revolutionary agenda are likely to come to the fore, but realizing this potential depends on the development of genuine revolutionary communist program and forces.
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.
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
An Open Letter on Sexual Subjugation and Intellectual Rationalization
Some people say that it is wrong to call for the abolition of pornography, prostitution and the entire global sex industry. They claim that doing so only further stigmatizes the women—and very young girls—who are bought and sold and denies these women—and these very young girls—their "agency." Instead of abolishing the sex industry, these people insist, we should be "empowering" women and girls to "reclaim sex work" and we should be fighting the sense of shame that is imposed on these women and girls for the "work" that they do.
Outrageously, a great many of those making this argument are concentrated in the "Gender Studies" departments at universities and colleges throughout this country and therefore have disproportionate influence over the thinking of young people who are concerned about the oppressed conditions of women throughout the world.
To those who make this argument, and to all those influenced by it, I pose the following:
During the many long and bitter years of outright chattel slavery in the history of the United States, did Black people suffer not only physical brutality, cruelty and disfigurement on a mass scale, but also tremendous psychological trauma, shame, and humiliation as a major part of that experience?
But, does that mean that those generations of enslaved people needed to be "empowered" to make the most of their situation within the confines of slavery? Did they need to be counseled and told not to feel so ashamed or devalued just because they were enslaved?
Or did they need people, millions and millions of people, to fight and to sacrifice to put an end to the back-breaking, spirit-crushing crime against humanity of slavery and, in that process, to repudiate the ideology and culture of white supremacy and Black inferiority which was not only promoted by the U.S. ruling class but which also inflicted deep scars on the psyches of the oppressed themselves?
For anyone with any sense of history and a conscience, the question answers itself.
Applying the same basic standard today, it is simply immoral to refuse to stand up against and demand the abolition of the global sex industry which dehumanizes, degrades, tortures, exploits, traumatizes and brutalizes millions of women and very young girls each year—and which fosters a culture where all women are demeaned, degraded, devalued and endangered. Beyond that, it is impossible to conceive of putting an end to the stigma and the shame that is heaped on women who are used and degraded in the sex industry while simultaneously rationalizing and defending this very industry as it daily treats these women (and very young girls) as nothing more than human chattel.
End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women!
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
The following are excerpts from interviews with defendants that were done by Li Onesto during the STOP "Stop and Frisk" trial, April 30 through May 4, 2012, New York City.
People are standing tall, it's a beautiful thing to be with, to work with, be alongside so many freedom fighters. It's just a magnificent thing to be with the other 19. They courageous, they visionary, they strong, they got determination, we all in it together.
The defense, the voices were so eloquent, so powerful. I think the strongest were the personal experiences of the ways in which the police have humiliated so many folk, try to break their spirits, and yet they bounce back. The variety of voices was quite powerful, all colors, genders, all committed to justice.
I think it's very important because we got so many people to tell the truth about what stop-and-frisk is, a great injustice, a great racist immorality that's going on, time after time, literally minute by minute. Now people are aware of it. People are willing to stand up and fight against it, to turn this racist policy over. Also that's why today was so important, people stood up on October 21, stood up again today and spoke that truth to power, and like Dr. West said, out of love, especially for our young sisters and brothers, African American, Latino who bear the brunt of this policy, bear the brunt of that suffering. So I thought it was so incredible to see such strength, such unity, such truthfulness, stand for justice in this kind of a case. And especially, I have to say, I was very pleased to see so many young people here, people who are both subject to it, but who really, to change the world, to make a better world, are the ones who have to get involved. As one of the old gray heads in the front row, it was really nice that we had young people involved, that's where the future is on this. So we're going to keep fighting like we said. We're going to stop stop-and-frisk in this city, we're going to stop this mass incarceration, the new Jim Crow that's going down in this country. We're going to make this world a better place for all god's children.
The larger significance is that our whole society is at risk of coming apart, I think. It doesn't look like it yet to many people, especially people of light skin, people of privilege. But we have so undermined the comity, the relationship of all here, through our economic disparity, through racism, that we risk having the rule of law itself come under such disregard that a great deal of legal and illegal violence could result—on the part of all expression of government; legal with air quotes around it, where the law practices violence against the people. We are a long way down the road toward late decadent capitalism. It's in trouble. I don't think capitalism, I'm not going to get into a whole long line here—I don't think capitalism itself is inherently mistaken, but capitalism without the rule of law, without regulation, without an actual democracy to support it, cannot possibly sustain a population. We're in trouble. This is the end of an empire unless there is a wakefulness on the part of a critical mass who see that all of these abuses are interrelated. I didn't invent the idea that capitalism, militarism, and economic oppression are closely related.
I spend most of my social justice energies on questions of mass incarceration. I have friends who put their energies on food justices, others in global warming and so on. And nobody is wrong on this. But I believe hearts can break open on this issue. And unless there is compassion in the heart of a person along with ideas to change their thinking, those two have to happen together for the middle of the country, the movable middle, to change. Nobody ever changes their minds with thought alone, it always has to do with an emotional component. And this issue is so evident, I've seen any number of New York City white people change their minds about something around this issue.
Are you talking about people changing their minds about how they look at people in prison, how they look at Black and Latino youth?
Absolutely. I'm not saying large numbers, I'm saying it's a possibility. It's where I put my energies more than the other issues, valid as they are, because I believe this one has the capability of causing consciousness to rise in any number of areas, they're all related.
We listened, yesterday we listened to police testimony about what they saw and who were arrested. But today we were able to tell our side of the story, the 20 who were arrested in front of the police precinct.... we were able to get a lot of statements in about stop-and-frisk. And the people who have actually been stopped and frisked and what our feelings were about it. I think the diversity of the people involved, people coming from all walks of life, all ages, all races. Including the clergy, you know, which was interesting. We came from complete atheists to clergy people. I think the diversity was there and the people were literally personally affected by stop-and-frisk.
Which ones in particular did you feel were striking?
Carl Dix definitely because of the span of years he's been dealing with the oppression of Black people. And [the defendant] who is only 22, who said that her mother brought her to a protest and actually told her about this protest. She was pretty, really feisty and she stood up to that prosecutor. And this prosecutor was getting frustrated with her. Because she couldn't rattle her case, she tried to, and that was impressive. And of course the [defendant] who was stopped and frisked you know, many many times. And hearing him speak honestly, openly and without fear was really impressive.
I'm glad we did this and I'm glad we took this to trial and I think we have a really good defense team and I'm happy to be a part of it. I'm hoping this goes down in history!
You know I'm not your typical middle class white working woman from the suburbs.... Women where I live, they're shopping, driving their SUV's... Suburban's or whatever.... I don't identify with that. I identify more with humanity. People's rights shouldn't be violated. No one's rights should be violated! You know, just because somebody looks a certain way doesn't give any people in authority, quote unquote, the right to stop them or even touch them. And I am hoping that there are more and more people like me out there that are gonna be willing to come forward.
I think we were able to get a lot of our stories and personal experiences out there, especially why we were there that day. A lot of us didn't even know each other at the time, but you know a lot of people from different backgrounds, we just came together and joined in the fight to STOP "Stop and Frisk" in Harlem on October 21, and even though we didn't know each other we shared common anger and frustration about this issue. So, I mean, to see this play out in court was something that was really good.
I testified and I spoke about my personal experiences about stop-and-frisk and about the police terror and harassment that goes on in these communities all the time and the judge actually let me talk about it, a friend and I getting stopped and him [the police] wanting us to dance to get the handcuffs that were too tight, off.
Yeah, my experience and being stopped and frisked in several occasions, that was just one story which was the most, like, outstanding one. There were many other situations like that that had happened.
How did it make you feel when another defendant said that when she heard you tell that story at the rally at 125th Street it played an important part in her deciding to go on the march and risk getting arrested?
It was very touching cause I didn't think, like to me, it wasn't a big deal to me. It was like, OK, this happens. But, I think this comes from being desensitized to it as well. Like, oh well this is just something we have to do deal with, it happens. But it's touching other people in different ways that don't know about it, or have never heard anything like this, they're like "are you kidding me?" And it's just, I'm sure I'm not the only one it's happened to but it's happened to thousands of others. Maybe millions in this country and city. So I'm just the one to tell the story for the many other millions of other Black and Latino youth that don't get to tell their story.
I mean, I think no matter what happens I think we made progress. I think even if we get convicted, we win. If we don't get convicted, we win. It's gonna help even more get this out into the mainstream and get stop-and-frisk into the mainstream...and also mass incarceration, how these things are pipelines to mass incarceration. And how youth are being demonized and humiliated on a daily basis. And it's inhumane and how it needs to stop. I think it will make an impact in society in the long run. I mean, look what we've done already with the newspapers, the question is being asked in the newspapers, in newspaper articles all the time now, and more on a societal level in the country in different ways.
The testimony has been very entertaining and also it's been very eye-opening, I've learned a lot about my fellow defendants which I did not expect. I learned about the backgrounds of a lot of them. Most of them are very well-educated, come from surprising educational facilities, cover a wide range, cross-section of society, people from many walks of life. I think I learned something about myself as well. I learned that although I did what I did on October 21 for my own moral and mental well-being, it's more important to care about the other people, to stand side by side with them and to stand in solidarity with them even through tough times, which I would consider this trial to be one of those tough times, although not anymore. I claim victory, no matter what happens. We won the moral victory, which is the more important victory.
Why were you out there that day?
One thing I mentioned on the stand is that I had never seen a stop-and-frisk take place in my neighborhood... which is predominantly light-skinned in complexion, community members there. And I felt that was very repulsive, morally. The first time I heard about stop-and-frisk was in high school from a friend of mine, someone who is Latino. At the time stop-and-frisk was just a phrase, I didn't understand the scope and the details. Then I slowly learned more, especially in the last two years I've learned a lot more. If you want to talk about the humanity of it, it's disgusting, hearing people's testimony of what happens being stopped and frisked. And even if you don't want to deal with that, people's emotions, just looking at the numbers speaks for itself. It's disgusting, it's ridiculous, hundreds of thousands being stopped arbitrarily, for no reason at all. And then they're being treated like they're not even human beings. And also the defense of why this is a "good policy" is that gun control is one of them, and look at those numbers too, the amount of guns confiscated is laughable. I think by anyone's standards this is a failure of a policy.
I think it ties in with mass incarceration, it's very inter-related. People get stopped and frisked for no reason at all. And then for minor charges, like for a marijuana charge, which technically is supposed to be decriminalized in NYC. But because of stop-and-frisk it allows a police officer to go into your pocket without permission and pull it out and once the marijuana is in public view then it is a crime and then the charges are much more severe. And even though that person had it concealed and it was on their person and thus was not in public view the police officer is allowed to say now it is in public view, in my hand, and that's a misdemeanor, you're under arrest. That's ridiculous, it's illegal, and it's disgusting. So that does help fill the prisons up.
It was great to hear people's individual stories. It was great. It's interesting that there are so many different types of people doing this. There's people from really different backgrounds, people who really are at very different places in their lives right now. There's young people, there's older people, there's religious people, there's people who don't care about religion, there's people of different ethnicities.
What motivated you to be there that day?
I live in the 26th precinct which is adjacent to the 28th precinct, and I've lived there a really long time and I wasn't like pro police before but I moved to New York 15 years ago, I moved to Harlem, then after a while I saw the way policing happened in Harlem and you can't really see what's going on with the police on the street—to me it's like wow, this is really not right, you can see something's wrong, you can see the way they treat different people, it's just racist in different neighborhoods, if you see it, you're like this is crazy. I've seen young kids handcuffed and searched and then let go because they weren't doing anything in the first place. Stopped by the police, sitting on the bench, handcuffed, they go through their pockets, unhandcuff them, then bye bye. That's crazy, and it was young, Black teenagers, and would they ever in a ba-zillion years do that in the East Village outside one of these nice community schools? No.
Working as a social worker I learned a whole other side of policing that was like a way more grimy, criminal side, how much the police take money from people, there are police that will steal your dog if you have a nice dog, they will take your Metro card, they'll take cash from people. They plant drugs on people. So a lot of stuff that people think is extreme is so common place, I think people would be really shocked.
What do you think is the significance of this trial?
I hope it will be something where people all over the city can be like, oh wow there are people who see this happening and are trying to see it as the emergency that it is. Because in some neighborhoods it's a really big deal. It's a really big deal to be a young Black teenager going out in the street, a young Spanish teenager, Latino, going out in the street, an adult too. For some people, it's really a consideration about the police that you make when you leave your house, about how do I look right now... it's just a really big deal. And it's not a big deal because people are paranoid. It's a big deal because it is likely that if you look the "wrong way" when you leave your house you might have a problem and in some cases it might lead to violent assault and in some cases it leads to murder. So I feel it really is a big deal.
I was happy that we were able to put stop-and-frisk on trial. The first couple of days I didn't know if that was going to happen, going through the minutia of where we were standing and this and that. But I was happy that between all of us, nobody was telling the same story... I think everybody had a different access point to it and most striking, I mentioned Jim Crow to the prosecutor and I don't think he had ever heard that phrase or knew what it was, he kind of gave me a blank look.
With two degrees, and as a man in my 30s, I really couldn't have given two good sentences about American slavery. I had heard that term [Jim Crow], scattered through my education, but never felt it was appropriate for me to ask. At the time I met Carl Dix, I thought Jim Crow was a man—it was more of a who than a what for me at that point, that's just the level of ignorance—it's a privilege to have that kind of ignorance, to not have to think about those kinds of issues or American history in any kind of way that encompasses the real history of this country.
Can you talk some about what you were prevented from saying in your testimony?
I would have liked to talk about Corcraft and how the appliances in this courthouse are made by prisoners for 20 cents an hour. I would have liked to talk about how the women's prison population has doubled in the last 10 years. How you can go around the back of this courthouse on your way to the dumpling house and see young Black men brought in in chains. You have to be totally ignorant to not make the connection to what that is. It's not a metaphor, the new Jim Crow. The new part is useful in the discussion. But it's the same role, the same principle being applied, to subjugate a huge section of the population.
I was really struck by how [another defendant] said growing up in East Harlem this [stop-and-frisk, new Jim Crow] was just part of life, he didn't have a name for it. Just the fact that we can now name it, give it a name and then we can start discussing it. But without a name for it, it's just what goes down. The shame that people must feel when it happens to them as if they did something wrong. Even though they know they didn't. We can talk about the system and how the system is unjust and that relieves them the burden of having to hold this private guilt or shame.
I think the judge may have made a mistake in letting us all testify because I think we're a lot more eloquent than he may have thought we were going to be. The exact meaning and the purpose of why we conducted this action and why the action was planned to begin with is coming out through each and every one of us. Like it's been mentioned there's a cross section of New York, of the world that's been represented with this action. And I think it's really coming out through our personal testimonies. Everyone has something that brought them to the action and we're getting our space to say it. The purpose for this was to get the community more aware of stop-and-frisk practices which are, like I said in my testimony, built upon racial profiling, which is built upon the foundation of the United States of America.
What brought you out there that day?
I'm a student at Columbia University. I know that there is a distinct relationship between Harlem as a community and Columbia University as an academic institution that's built upon the myth of white supremacy, capitalism, inevitably and a lot of foundational structures that the United States was built upon and it speaks to that same culture. And it I think it would almost be a disservice to my education and not in the traditional sense of that word, to ignore that fact. And I think that stop-and-frisk as a policy which is a small microcosm of NYPD practices, government practices, and we can go into capitalism too, if we need to—I think it speaks to every reason why I should have been out there, and why the only choice I could have made in that position was to risk getting arrested.
Tell the story that you tried to tell on the stand that you didn't get to finish...
Me and my friends, we were at a park, we left and these cops pulled us over, we were walking and one of them said, sarcastically, and I don't like sarcastic at all, even though I'm sarcastic. He said something happened at the park, there's vandalism at the park and I know you guys would never do that so I'm just saying that if you have any information or if any of you want to step up to what you did. So I didn't know not to talk back to cops at the time so I said well we didn't do anything I don't know why you're stopping us, we didn't do anything and he said no... and so him and his partner got out of the car and went in our faces and they were just like, step up to what you did and we'll work something out and I was just getting really mad. He said something else like that and I said, it's not that serious. I told you we didn't do anything and you're harassing us and it's not fair, so can we please go. And I guess I was rude about it so he went up in my face. He put one hand on his gun and one hand on his cuffs and said, say something else. And then my friend stopped me and pulled me away. That's what I learned. Before that I won't say I loved cops, but I didn't see anything wrong with this. Like I said, I wanted to be a detective. But it showed that they're not who they're supposed to be. Like one of the cops on the stand said, they think they're here to control us instead of protecting us and keeping us safe or what not. A lot of police brutality videos have been going up and so along with those... and all the time, one time I saw this whole group of kids, Black, young they got stopped, literally four cop cars and one huge NYPD thing for all these kids who didn't do anything and they just stopped them and kept them there for like a good 30 to 45 minutes, took their IDs, I've witnessed it a lot. At first I didn't know what it was. I didn't know what stop-and-frisk was honestly until my mom told me she saw two guys, they had juice boxes, they're walking and suddenly a black van, tinted windows, stopped, I guess plainclothes officers, jump out the car and suddenly like without even getting told they just put down the juices and put their hands up like it's routine for them, like it's just normal. And so when she told me that I was like, this is ridiculous, so obviously I'm going to do something about it and yeah I was willing to risk getting arrested, but like I said I didn't go to get arrested. No one wants to get arrested and not get fed for five hours.
It's our job to cut right through the bullshit and not meet them on their terms and we started to see that today in the testimony... saying things like the testimony saying I learned the consequences of talking back to the police, the chicken noodle soup story... So you see very clearly how they're trying to divorce this set of circumstances from the larger issue of what's going on—a human rights violation, to simply a matter of a few feet, the position of certain people, whether or not people in a line were a permeable membrane or not, which are thoroughly unrelated to the larger questions that this is about.
This is a situation where people's free speech rights were impeded upon and at a demonstration they were arrested for having done nothing wrong and the police acted only to arrest them.
This trial is certainly a continuation to not only broaden the terms of stop-and-frisk and mass incarceration so that people who haven't experienced this and people who don't know about this are beginning to know and starting to hear these millions of stories and people who themselves have experienced it and know it throughout their lives and worn it as shame are starting to break out of that and really see this as something that they're victimized by and becoming empowered by that.
Regardless of the results of this trial... there is no way we can lose, this has brought massive attention to stop-and-frisk and broadening those terms in society and starting to reconfigure what the terms of mass incarceration are in general. There are criminals that go to jail for crimes? Or is this really a method of social control where people are rounded up in large numbers because of the color of their skin? This court case is the first court case in decades that is breaking out of that framework which is tremendously exciting and that will reverberate and will have nationwide effect. It's already made national headlines.
All of the defendants minus one were able to testify. And it was if nothing else really extraordinarily inspiring to hear the stories of how such a cross-section of people ended up being in front of the 28th precinct on October 21. The trial involves a number of people who were part of larger group of people protesting the stop-and-frisk policy of the NYPD and over the course of the trial, beginning with the state's case where they put on a number of police officers who were there and the latter half was the defendants getting up and telling what happened and how they came to be there.
Everyone had a different story to tell. Some people have very direct experiences with the criminal justice system and stop-and-frisk and others became motivated out of interaction with, some are professors and had interaction with students, others are members of the religious clergy and have parishioners, or just out of a sense of justice. So it wasn't just 19 people who got up and talked about the one thing that happened to them. It showed what a large swath of society is affected by this and how deeply they are affected by it. And the passion in the room was really permeable and it was really amazing.
This has been, last year and now this year, are quite a year for political activism. Thousands and thousands of people have come out who have perhaps never protested before and many especially among 20- to 30-year-olds, I think out of a sense of not apathy, but there wasn't a way to feel heard when these things are happening. And not just this trial, but the context of this trial is an incredible awakening of activism and protest and registering dissent. And this is a very large trial about a huge issue and we're definitely putting on a good fight in terms of the actual underlying charges which have nothing to do with protesting. But also it's people being heard and I think that that's really powerful.
On a personal level, what compelled you to take this case?
I've done a lot of work with the mass defense committee of the National Lawyer's Guild over the past year or so. But I would say that I'm in the lawyer's chair to begin with for exactly this thing which is, it's not just about protesters but about anyone who is effected by repression of any kind, or just charged with anything. Everyone deserves to have their say. And I feel like a lot of my job is to enable someone to know that someone is fighting for them. And to give everybody as fair of a chance as they can get. They don't always get a fair chance. My job, and I love it, that I get to try very hard to do so. This is exactly why I'm a lawyer and I'm really happy that I was able to be a part of this.
Revolution #269 May 20, 2012
On April 19, in cities around the country, people took to the streets to BREAK THE SILENCE in response to the reality that "Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide." Revolution received the following correspondence from a reader in an area outside of the city.
Some comrades and I felt compelled to have some show of concern and solidarity with our brothers and sisters behind the prison walls and show our general dissatisfaction with the system. We decided to organize a march down a busy street and hold a rally at a public plaza across from the police station. We put out a call on Facebook, sent mass texts and emails, and posted and handed out fliers. We felt sure to get a major turnout. Time for the march ticked closer and closer until the time had passed and there was only about ten of us. We decided to drive down to the rally location and set up anyway. Perhaps people may be assembling there. The place was vacant when we arrived. In a last attempt we decided to walk down to the farmer's market. We set up on a busy corner, hung signs and beat drums. As the people passed we engaged with them around the issues of mass incarceration, police brutality, and possibility of revolution. It became evident after a short time that I had misjudged the political sensibilities of the residents in our small town. Our message was well received. People asked questions, engaged in debate or just listened to the drums. My brother was so shocked as to turn to me and comment, the white people are coming over and talking with us. What initially seemed like a disappointment turned out to be quite productive. People out here rarely get a chance to engage with anything going against the grain. Aside from a vendor that called security and a couple unkind stares, the radical message of revolution seemed to be a breath of fresh air, even to those that didn't completely agree.