Revolution #284, November 4, 2012 (revcom.us)

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

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Permalink: http://revcom.us/avakian/on-obama.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

BA on Obama

Let's Be Real Here: As Bad As Bush Was,
In Many Ways Obama Is Worse...

October 25, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

This audio clip is from a recent talk by BA, and is highly relevant going into the elections.

Listen to it, play it for others, and spread it.

 

 

Right-click here to download.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/trial-of-stop-stop-and-frisk-freedom-fighters-begins-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Defendants face one year in jail for non-violent civil disobedience

Trial of STOP "Stop & Frisk" Freedom Fighters Begins

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

The trial of four freedom fighters in the struggle to STOP "Stop & Frisk" began on October 23 in Queens, New York City. Carl Dix, Jamel Mims, Morgan Rhodewalt, and Bob Parsons along with nine others were arrested last November at a non-violent mass civil disobedience protest at the 103rd NYPD Precinct—notorious for the killing of Sean Bell in 2006. This action was the third such protest at the New York City precincts with the most stop-and-frisks.

The NYPD policy of stop-and-frisk—that stops and harasses hundreds of thousands of people every year, especially Black and Latino youth—is totally illegitimate. And what is being put on trial here is nothing less than the ability and right to stand up and say NO MORE to this racist policy, which harasses, humiliates, and terrorizes Black and brown people throughout the city.

The new freedom fighters putting their bodies on the line against stop-and-frisk are exposing and fighting against how this system, through its armed police enforcers, brutalizes and murders people; how it criminalizes Black and Latino youth; how it has incarcerated nearly 2.4 million people, the majority Black and Latino; how its policy of stop-and-frisk is a pipeline for mass incarceration.

And this fight against stop-and-frisk is exposing the vicious LIE that the system promotes all the time—that the people themselves are to blame for what this system has done to them. The system tells the youth: "You're stopped, harassed, brutalized, put in jail, even shot and killed.... because you hang out on the corner, sag your pants, look the 'wrong way,' or don't show the cops respect." But the whole struggle against stop-and-frisk is exposing how this system targets and criminalizes the youth, how hundreds of thousands are racially profiled and stopped for doing nothing wrong at all.

Stop the Persecution of Noche Diaz

This system has no future for millions and millions of youth on the bottom of society. Those in power know this section of society is a potentially volatile force that must be brutally kept under social control in order to maintain the oppressive status quo. And they find it intolerable when youth step forward to lead others to resist all that.

Noche Diaz is a leader in the movement to end mass incarceration, known throughout Harlem as a member of the People's Neighborhood Patrols and across the city's campuses for speaking in classes against stop-and-frisk. He is facing years in jail for standing up for the rights of the people. The NYPD targeted and arrested him five times since October 2011 and piled 11 charges on him in four boroughs. Twice Noche was arrested as part of organized protests against stop-and-frisk at Brooklyn's 73rd Precinct and the 103rd in Queens. In three other arrests Noche was observing the police do what they do; he had every right to do so.

They are bringing all these cases against Noche to try and get him off the streets. But they're also doing it to send a message and to intimidate masses of people: to try and send out the message that people, especially the youth, better not raise their sights, step out, and fight against their oppression. So we cannot let this case—or any of the other cases he's facing—be a defeat. We can't let that happen.

Standing up to defend Noche and all the freedom fighters has everything to do with putting an end to the crime of stop-and-frisk and the way a whole generation is being condemned to lives of criminalization, marginalization, brutality, and the spirit-crushing, human-wasting confinement of the largest prison system in the world.

Stop-and-Frisk IS on Trial

The judge in this case, Gene Lopez, has repeatedly said that "stop-and-frisk is not what is on trial in this case," and told potential jurors over and over again that they had to put aside whatever opinions they have about stop-and-frisk. But meanwhile, he refused to try all 13 defendants arrested at the STOP "Stop & Frisk" protest together and allowed the DA to add a second charge of Obstruction of Governmental Administration [OGA] without offering any additional evidence more than nine months after their arrest. And spectators in the courtroom are not allowed to wear any T-shirts or buttons that say "STOP 'Stop & Frisk.'"

The four on trial now will be tried on two counts of OGA, and one count of Disorderly Conduct for failure to disperse. These are the most serious charges—class "A" misdemeanors which carry a potential 12 months in jail. They now face two counts of Obstructing Government Administration, which carries a possible sentence of 12 months in jail. As Carl Dix told WBAI radio, "Here you have the same DA's office that could not or would not put on an effective prosecution against the cops who murdered Sean Bell, piling charge after charge on people for standing up and protesting the injustice of stop-and-frisk."

There are three more potential trials in Queens from the 103rd Precinct protest: two trials of another 13 people arrested for protesting stop-and-frisk in Brooklyn, and the two trials of Noche Diaz.

After the first day in court Carl Dix wrote: "Sitting in the court in Queens listening to the prosecution and the judge talk about this trial isn't about Stop & Frisk but about whether Jamel, Morgan, Bob and I 'broke the law,' took me back to the 1960's and the struggle to end Jim Crow segregation. Whites only facilities, with Black people having to ride on the back of the bus or sit in the balcony in movie theaters and the lynch mob terror enforced all this. That's the legacy our campaign to STOP 'Stop & Frisk' stands on the shoulders of, and those prosecutors are the current day version of those who put 1960's freedom fighters in jail, and worse."

This highly political trial has very high stakes. The authorities want to punish these people for having stood up for justice, and through doing that deliver a message that anyone who resists their criminal injustice will pay a heavy price. This must not go down! If we allow them to be convicted and jailed without a massive fight, the battle against stop-and-frisk and the whole spirit of resistance will be seriously weakened. But if many, many people stand with them in this legal battle, if we beat this back, then the movement will gain further initiative, pulling more people into the struggle.

The mass actions against stop-and-frisk, the heroic actions of these freedom fighters and the government's attempts to prosecute them have contributed to the highly charged and controversial discussion and debate around stop-and-frisk in society. Many more people—who did not know before—have learned about this totally illegitimate, racist policy of the NYPD. And many of those who are the victims of this terror have felt strengthened and supported. The opening days of the trial were covered in the media, including NBC/the Grio, the Huffington Post, and El Diario.

Shortly before the trial started, Jamel Mims wrote: "A year ago, those who had no first-hand experience of the humiliation of being illegally searched barely knew the practice occurred. Those who got stopped and frisked thought there was nothing one could do about it. Now, the stop-and-frisk policy and the horrors it inflicts are going viral in mainstream society. Copwatch and videos of NYPD stops garner thousands of views, and nearly every day there are articles or opinion pieces about stop-and-frisk. Potential mayoral candidates have even had to confront this, as politicians line up to claim their opposition to the policy, or express their desire to reform or modify it in the ongoing pursuit of public opinion." ("On Facing Two Years for Protesting Stop-and-Frisk," revcom.us, October 28, 2012)

And the battle to STOP "Stop & Frisk" is part of the larger battle against mass incarceration. As Carl Dix has pointed out: "Stop-and-frisk concentrates the racial profiling police enforce all across the country, racial profiling that serves as a pipeline to mass incarceration—the 2.4 million people warehoused in prisons throughout the U.S. Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide. If we don't meet this with determined, mass resistance, the masses will be ground down so far, they'll never be able to do anything about all they do to us. From the other end, through standing up and coming back at this injustice in a powerful way, we can build our strength and organized capacity to resist and inspire others to join in the resistance."

*****

On Monday, October 29, two cops are scheduled to testify for the prosecution, and video filmed by the police will be shown. The defense will probably begin its case on Tuesday, October 30, with testimony from Carl Dix and Jamel Mims, who will talk about the intent of the protesters to deliver a message that the NYPD should stop stop-and-frisk.

Also on Tuesday, October 30, Noche Diaz is to report for trial in Manhattan on charges combined from two arrests in Harlem. Supporters are planning to fill the seats in Queens Criminal Court on Monday, and to deliver over a thousand signatures on a message to the DA to drop the charges. On Tuesday, supporters are being asked to go to both Queens and Manhattan to show their support.

Follow revcom.us and stopmassincarceration.org/trial-blog to stay up-to-date on these important political trials.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/november-get-basics-3-2-out-all-over-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

November:

Get BAsics 3:2 Out All Over... and Raise Big Money for BA Everywhere

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Download for print (PDF) | Download for web posting (JPG)

 

During the month of November, be a part of getting out this quote from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian all around the country:

There is nothing more unrealistic than the idea of reforming this system into something that would come anywhere near being in the interests of the great majority of people and ultimately of humanity as a whole.

BAsics 3:2

No matter who wins the presidential election, the people in the U.S. and around the world lose—and BAsics 3:2 points sharply to why.

What happens when you are part of distributing BAsics 3:2:

Take stacks of 10, 50, 100 or more BAsics quote palm cards, and get them out at housing projects, laundromats, community centers, schools, and wherever there are people. Be a part of the major campaign, involving people around the country in many different ways, to project BA's vision, voice, and works to every corner of society and to raise big funds to do so: BA Everywhere... Imagine the Difference It Could Make!

To find out more and keep up with the news around the BA Everywhere campaign, go online to revcom.us/movement-for-revolution/BAE.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/real-difference-between-republicans-and-democrats-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

The Real Difference Between the Republicans and the Democrats

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

A lot of people feel that say what you want, there is a deep-down philosophical difference between Republicans and Democrats. It goes like this: the Republicans believe in "every man for himself," while the Democrats believe "we're all in this together."

Well, let's look at this. First, let's take the Republicans. Do they really believe that every person should "sink or swim" on their own efforts, with no "interference from the government"? They say that; and some may convince themselves that they believe that. But if you judge from what they do, what the Republicans actually believe is that the army, the police, and the courts should be marshaled to enforce and push forward the rules of capitalism and the ruling position of the dominant capitalist class. If you go by what they do, the Republicans are more than all right with using the force of the state to run amok all over the world, dominating and warping the economies and cultures of other societies. They don't send a bunch of individuals over to do this; they send armies. The Republicans are more than all right with using the force of the state to lock up millions (yes, millions) of people, the majority of them Black or Latino youth. They are okay with using the force of the state to force women to have children against their will. And let's not even get started with how all these "rugged individuals who are against government handouts" have their snouts in the trough when it comes time to give out the contracts for new defense systems, bigger prisons, etc., or it would take all day.

The utter self-deceiving hypocrisy of this idea is captured in BAsics:

Now, sometimes you see these fools get up, you know, like these ranchers and all this kind of shit... And they say things like "I'm a self-made man. Nobody gave me anything. I did it all myself." Yeah, you're a "self-made man." All the clothes you're wearing, everything you're using is made by other people. The machinery you're driving around, the rifle you own was made by other people. Everything you have and use is made by other people. And right now, you're exploiting Mexican immigrants on your ranch. And you're sitting on land that was stolen from native peoples in the first place. But you're a "self-made man." [1:16]

They have two main points in trumpeting this bullshit. First, they want to insist on the legitimacy of the fact that a relative handful of people (the class of capitalist-imperialists) dominate the means of producing wealth and, on that basis, determine the direction of society to keep all that going. They didn't get it through exploitation and even plunder; no, "I did it myself." And second, they want to mobilize the petite bourgeoisie—or the middle class—around their ideological outlook and political program. The so-called "great middle class" occupies a position between the capitalist-imperialists on the one hand and the proletariat (the exploited, those on the bottom of society who own nothing but their ability to work) on the other. There is a potential basis to win many of these people to the position of making revolution against the capitalist-imperialists, particularly in a situation where there is a revolutionary crisis in society and there is a powerful movement for revolution rooted in the most bedrock, catch-hell-every-day sections of people. So for that reason, and others, it is very important to the imperialists that middle class people see themselves as having common interests with the imperialists who, in actual fact, dominate them. They want them to "buy into," if you will, the notion that they have a stake in keeping those on the bottom down. This is one main way that they keep people on the bottom feeling isolated, and without any alternative.


For all their railing against "big government," the Republicans are more than all right with using the force of the state to run amok all over the world. Obama and the Democrats pound on the need for America to "be strong," which means continuing and intensifying its military domination of the whole planet. This military domination, in human terms, means the killing of hundreds and thousands of people, including many children, including through the drone strikes ordered by the Obama administration. Above: Homes destroyed by a NATO raid on a village in Afghanistan, June 2012.
(Photo: AP)

The Republicans, in doing this, more or less openly appeal to the most hard-core racists and white supremacists. They openly appeal to those who want to keep women "in their place." They openly appeal to those sections of the middle class that are the most outright jingoist, drooling from the mouth when it comes time to invade and bring down terror on people in other countries. It is very important to the ruling class as a whole, especially right now, that these sections be kept in a feverish state, like Dobermans on a leash, lunging and snapping and barely held back, to intimidate everyone else and to form a ready base of support for whatever outrage they feel compelled to commit.

Now most people who read this paper aren't gonna be voting for Republicans. But some still get swayed by the idea that somehow the Democrats are, well, a little different. So, what about the Democrats? What about what we're told is their philosophy: "we're all in this together"?

First off, let's ask this: who is the "we" that is supposed to be "all in this together"? Does it include the people in other countries dominated by the U.S. capitalist-imperialists? No, it does not. And in fact, every Democratic candidate—and this is a particular thing of Obama's—pounds on the need for America to "be strong." To translate that into reality, "being strong" means continuing and intensifying its military domination of the whole planet. This military domination, in turn, insures the ability of these imperialists to extract super-profits from the peoples and nations of Asia, Africa and Latin America, and to edge out and intimidate their imperialist rivals. This military domination, in human terms, means the killing of hundreds and thousands of people, including many children, through the drone strikes ordered by the Obama administration; the killing of hundreds of thousands of people through the U.S. war against Iraq and the violent uprooting of millions more; the ongoing concentration camp-like conditions of the Palestinian people, enforced by Israeli arms purchased by the U.S.; and on and on, all over the world. In this, they not only hardly pretend to be different from the Republicans, they often compete to outdo them. If you don't believe this, why did almost every commentator on the foreign policy debate say that the two candidates had a lot in common in terms of actual policies, and why did most commentators say that Obama "sounded tougher" than Romney?

And if you want to say that "well, they have to say that to get elected, but they're still not as bloodthirsty as the Republicans," then let's recall the interview that the Democratic UN Ambassador (soon-to-be Secretary of State) Madeleine Albright did with Lesley Stahl on 60 Minutes back when the Democrat Bill Clinton was commander-in-chief. Clinton maintained sanctions against the country of Iraq that, according to the United Nations, ended up costing one million lives, including the lives of 500,000 children. Yes, 500,000! Lesley Stahl asked Madeleine Albright—and you can see this on YouTube—whether the policy was worth it. And Madeleine Albright hemmed a bit and then said yes, it was worth it and a few years later, Bill Richardson, the one-time U.S. Ambassador to the UN and a Democrat, went her one better and put on a Michael Corleone stoneface to say yes, the policy—which, remember, led to the deaths of an estimated ONE MILLION PEOPLE—was justified.


The Republicans are more than all right with using the force of the state to lock up millions of people, the majority of them Black and Latino. As for Obama, he has used the fact that he is Black—or else he has allowed it to be used—to lend credence to the argument that if people DO get caught up in the bowels of the criminal in-justice system, it's their own fault—because, after all, Obama made it to the top. Above: Daytona Beach, Florida, 2008.
(Photo: AP)

And what about within the U.S.? Who is the "we" within the country that's "all in this together"? Does it include the 2.4 million people, most of whom are Black or Latino, who have been put in prison by this system—the victims of the "new Jim Crow"? No, it doesn't. This fact—that the prison population has increased tenfold in the last 50 years, that the U.S. "leads" every country in the world in both the rate and sheer numbers of people it has locked down—this fact was not mentioned once in any of the debates, and if you can find any record of any Democratic candidate even paying lip service to doing something about this, well... good luck!

And not only has Obama not even mentioned the people victimized by this new Jim Crow, he's done worse. Like every Democratic president, Obama has made a big deal about how "tough" he is on those who have been doomed to a life of trying to survive on the unforgiving streets of the inner cities, and who often end up either dead or in jail as a result.  And unlike others, he has used the fact that he is Black—or else he has allowed it to be used—to lend credence to the argument that if people DO get caught up in the bowels of the criminal in-justice system, it's their own fault—because, after all, Obama made it to the top.

Does this "we" include the women who are evicted from housing projects, a horror that has been intensifying with little or no mention in the media and absolutely none by the Democrats? Obviously not. Does this "we" include the immigrants, who were driven here in a desperate search for work, risking death and rape, because the imperialists have made it impossible, either through war or through distorting the economy, to survive in their homelands? No it doesn't—for, election-year promises and last-minute, temporary micro-concessions aside, Obama has set the record for deportations, uprooting people from their homes and breaking up families, and going far beyond Bush in this heartless, cruel and intimidating practice. Yes, Obama deported 1.4 million people—1.4 million people ripped from their livelihoods and lives, in many cases away from their families—1.4 MILLION.

Oh, it is said, but the Democrats work stealthily to help those on the bottom. Really!? Just as we did with the Republicans, let's look at what they do, not what they say. What about Bill Clinton, now said to be Obama's best campaigner, who as president totally ripped out the social safety net for the millions of people (mainly women and small children) on welfare, forcing those who could find them to take extremely low-wage jobs while denying them any assistance for childcare or transportation—in other words, forcing them to leave young children at home without any adult supervision, if they could not convince someone to do it for free. And if they didn't do that, then they faced hunger, eviction, and homelessness. How about the way the prison population in the U.S. doubled during Clinton's presidency? How about the way the percentage of Black and Latino people who were in prison went up? How about the way he sponsored, fought for and got bills passed that made it much more difficult for poor people and prisoners to get any kind of legal assistance—including for the express purpose of speeding up executions... at the very time when the fact that many people had been wrongly convicted of capital crimes and sentenced to death was beginning to surface? How about the way he proudly styled himself as "tough on crime" to justify all this and to get people to go along with this—who otherwise would not have?

So, like the Republicans, the Democrats in fact carry out horrors and repression against oppressed people in other countries and those on the bottom within the U.S. Yes, they do have some differences with the Republicans over HOW to do this, and some of these differences can get sharp—especially in conditions when society is in deep crisis and millions are questioning things. But when you talk about more or less "normal times," and especially in the context of the numbing ritual of elections, the main difference is that the Democrats go about this differently. They talk about fairness to appeal to those sections of the middle class who want to smooth over the contradictions. They bring forward a few people from the oppressed and train them to be intermediaries—people who are allowed to get and distribute what are essentially crumbs, in exchange for people going along with this. Then, when these people whom they bring under their banner try to protest or raise demands, they point to the racist, fascist, woman-hating lunatic Republicans lunging and barking and essentially say "Sssh! Be quiet, or they'll let their Dobermans off the leash!"

This is much more insidious—it is much trickier and more deceitful and damaging—than the Republicans. This is because many of the oppressed have been made to feel there is no alternative but to go along with this. And even worse, once they are won to that, they are trained to think with the logic of the Democrats themselves—to see things through the eyes of the "nicer, more reasonable" set of oppressors.


Occupy did not "fall apart," as it is now routinely put. It was brutally repressed—with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, clubs, and tear-gas canisters fired directly at people's heads. And all of these rampaging police? Who is responsible for that? Those pigs were ordered to do this by the mayors of the big cities, almost all of whom were Democrats. Above: Police pepper-spray Occupy protesters at University of California, Davis, November 2011.
(Photo: AP)

Some people say, "well, maybe some of what you're saying is true—but the Democrats have to at least listen to protests." Some even go so far to say that "the problem isn't Obama, but that there has not been a movement that is able to 'force' Obama to do what he secretly really wants to do"—which is, supposedly, to make things better for the people. This is a big argument of people on the so-called "left," who claim to be "radical—but realistic." Well, let's look at this "realism."

First off, it is amazing sometimes how quickly people in this country come down with amnesia. It was only last fall when people filled the public spaces of nearly 1,000 cities in America, protesting economic inequality, as well as other injustices and outrages. And what happened then? Let's remember: Occupy did not "fall apart," as it is now routinely put. It was brutally repressed—with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, clubs, and tear-gas canisters fired directly at people's heads.

And all of these rampaging police? Who is responsible for that? Those pigs were ordered to do this by the mayors of the big cities, almost all of whom were Democrats. And these mayors—do you remember that, according to the mayor of Oakland, this wave of repression was coordinated in conference calls? The White House almost certainly played a role in those calls and, even if they had not, Obama could have easily stopped the mayors from coming down with such brutality and violence against the protesters.

And this too is nothing new—it was a Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson (whose reputation is also now being "rehabilitated"), who sent in the army when Black people in Detroit rose up in resistance to the ways they were treated.

The Democrats, you see, do not want any protest that they don't entirely control—and sometimes they don't even want that! When the clubs come down, when the prison door clangs, when the police put people on the streets... then "we're all in this together" is nowhere to be found. At that point, there is no "we." It is them, the Democrats, enforcing the dictates of the system against the masses.

Why do the Democrats say "we're all in this together"? They want the very people who are held down and oppressed by this system to feel like they have a stake in oppressing others, all around the world—and in NOT fighting against the oppressors. They want the people they routinely oppress to identify with them—and not with other oppressed people. And then of course when the hammer comes down on the very people who have been led to believe that the Democrats care about them, people feel confused, leaderless and unable to resist. But most damaging of all—they feel as if it is legitimate, because after all there are two parties with two clearly defined different philosophies, and if the Democrats "didn't do right," well, the people just have to hope for better next time (or blame themselves for not getting behind the Democrats enough).

The difference between the Republicans and Democrats? To repeat: on one level, there are in fact real differences—which can sometimes get sharp—over HOW best to expand imperialist predation and capitalist plunder, and how best to maintain the system's legitimacy in doing that. In situations where there is a crisis in society this can get very sharp, and splits at the top between different bourgeois political forces can provide an opening through which mass discontent can erupt and which, if there is a real movement for revolution which has trained people to see the differences between their fundamental interests and those of the rulers, and to see through the tricks—if all that comes together, sharp differences "at the top" can provide an important part of the basis to carry the revolution through.

But in the context of business-as-usual and the narrowing and suffocating confines of the tightly-controlled elections ritual, all this conflict—be it real or pretended—gets channeled into reinforcing the legitimacy of the capitalist-imperialist order and the ruling class—and the legitimacy of both the imperialist parties. Take the question of abortion, which the Republican platform says should be totally illegal, and where some Republican candidates have come out with horrific, male supremacist positions on rape during this campaign. The Democrats may tut-tut about these statements, and play it for advantage within this or that electoral contest, but do they ever take on the vicious anti-woman position on the right of women to decide if and when they want to have a child? Do they ever say that this position is out of bounds and by itself should render the Republican candidates illegitimate? Or do they say that we have to "respect the pro-life position" and cede the moral high ground, politically paralyzing people who DO believe in the fundamental rights of women to control their sexuality and reproduction—while the Republicans continue to go after this fundamental right? And make no mistake, they ARE going after it—in the first six months of 2012, 39 new laws limiting women's right to abortion were passed, on top of the 92 passed in 2011.

All this gets to why so much money, so much energy, so much time is spent in these election campaigns. It is because legitimacy matters to the people who rule this system. Getting people to participate in and endorse their election process matters to them. It is a way that they reinforce the notions that first, nothing else is possible outside of this framework so you have to be part of it, and second, that you yourself have a hand in—and even a stake in—the bad shit that goes down. It is—along with the outright violence and threat of violence of the armies, police forces, courts, and prisons—one important way that they hold onto their power. But them holding on to their power—that is NOT in the interests of the majority of people, nor of humanity as a whole, and we should want absolutely no part of that.

Conversely: the more that this is exposed... the more that people, and especially the most oppressed themselves, are organized and oriented to fight back against the horrors that come down on them, and raise their heads in the process... the more that people connect with the work that BA has done in bringing forward the new synthesis of communism and the real alternative represented in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)... the more that all this happens, together with big jolts in society brought on by the workings of the system itself and in which context millions are raising their heads and deep cracks begin to appear in the ruling structures of society—then the "legitimacy of the established order, and the right and ability of the ruling class to rule, [can be] called into question, in an acute and active sense, throughout society" (see BAsics 3:30)—all as part of a whole process of getting to the point where millions, and tens of millions, can actually be led to make revolution.

 

For more on these points, see BAsics 3:8, 3:10, and 3:11.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/283/october-22-reports-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

October 22, 2012: The National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and Criminalization of a Generation

October 28, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

 

Revolution received the following initial reports of protests on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and Criminalization of a Generation. Check back for additional reports which will be posted as we receive them.

Updated October 28, 2012, with reports for Greensboro and San Francisco Bay Area, and photos from New York.

Los Angeles Area


Anaheim, California, friends and families of Manuel Diaz, Joel Acevedo, Cesar Cruz, Joe Whitehouse, Andres Avila were present.

In Los Angeles, people and families who have been targets of police brutality, murder, and incarceration came together with others who refuse to condone this injustice. About 35 people from Las Vegas, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Los Angeles rallied at the Twin Towers/Men's Central Jail at noon. A huge banner that read "Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide," signed by people from the Crenshaw area in LA and Cal State Northridge, was held up facing the street. The Cuauhtemoc Aztec Dancers brought a spirited cultural participation to the action.

Wayne Kramer, of Jail Guitar Doors, a Unitarian Universalist minister, and Keith James of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network spoke at the rally. By joining together to "break the silence" people found a way to do something about the horrors of mass incarceration. Yolanda Trotter, whose 96-year-old mother died after being tased by the police who had been called to help her, came all the way from Vegas to LA to tell her story to the world and cry out for justice. Visitors to the jail and people going to the nearby court joined the protest and shared their stories. One of them, a woman who had come to the jail that morning to tell her incarcerated husband that their son had died in police custody that Saturday because, out of fear, he had swallowed the drugs he was carrying when the police stopped him, stayed for a while by the banner. "I felt so happy when I came out and saw this here," she said. In an embryonic way, collectively breaking the silence transformed people's outrage and pain into strength and resistance.

A spirited march of about 300 people, led by a truck decorated with pictures of people killed by police, went from Pershing Square in downtown LA through Skid Row to police headquarters. On Skid Row, people welcomed the marchers; many took flyers, and people enthusiastically took up whistles (building on the Stop Mass Incarceration Network's "Blow the Whistle" campaign). Some of the homeless joined the march, vigorously blowing their whistles. At 5th and Spring Streets, in the downtown arts district, where Dale Garrett, a 51-year-old Black man was shot down by an undercover LAPD detective in broad daylight, the march defiantly stopped. A die-in covered the intersection. Body outlines were chalked in the street.

Black stickers reading "Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide! October 22nd. Break the Silence!" were widely taken up, as well as "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution!" At police headquarters, friends and relatives of people killed by police and representatives of various organizations spoke to the crowd.

In Anaheim, California, friends and families of Manuel Diaz, Joel Acevedo, Cesar Cruz, Joe Whitehouse, Andres Avila, and others killed by police, and 16-year-old Jesus Aguirre, sentenced to life in prison, held a march and rally on Sunday, October 21, as part of the National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation.

Chicago


Chicago rallies were held in various neighborhoods throughout the day and came together at the main city-wide event in the evening, a march around the walls and barbed wire fences that surround the massive county jail complex.

Despite a morning of pouring rain people chanted, blew whistles, and called on the public to stand up and stand together against police brutality and mass incarceration at rallies that were held in various neighborhoods throughout the day. At one community college people were called on to get handfuls of flyers and whistles and take the protest inside the school (because of the rain).

People involved in forming Revolution Clubs together with family members of people shot and/or killed by the police were at the center of some of the neighborhood rallies. Where family members spoke it gave powerful testimony to the impact of the outrage of police brutality.

These rallies unleashed people to tell their own stories of police brutality and abuse, as well as to dig into the overall impact of mass incarceration. One person encouraged people to reach out to those who were formerly incarcerated, talking about how they are the constant target and victim of police harassment. He knows because he, himself is one. Another person described how a friend received a call from his wife saying she was being set upon by men down the block from his house. He rushed from his house to the scene—where he was shot to death by an undercover cop.

People at the neighborhood rallies recalled the "Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk, Police Brutality, Racial Profiling and Mass Incarceration" day on September 13 and saw the October 22nd actions as part of a growing movement of resistance. Revolutionary communists described how they saw this resistance as part of building a movement for revolution in which "Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution" is a central part. And Revolution newspaper was in the mix. Hundreds of whistles and flyers got out, with people joining on the spot to distribute them at some of the rallies.


In Chicago, youth formed the core at various neighborhood rallies.

One feature of the rallies were banners reading "Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide" which people were encouraged to sign. These banners were brought from the neighborhood rallies to a citywide gathering the evening of October 22nd at the County Courthouse/County Jail complex.

The evening citywide gathering brought out some of the people who had been at the earlier neighborhood events, an anarchist drum corps, "punks against apartheid," people who are part of the Occupy movement, victims of police torture and others. Members of the group Rebel Diaz dropped by the event at the end of the evening. Speakers addressed the question of mass incarceration, its origins in the workings of the system and the conscious policies of the ruling class. The situation with stop-and-frisk in New York City and the resistance to it were described. And a call was put out for people to support those facing trial for that resistance.

The highlight and main event of the citywide gathering was a march around the walls and barbed wire fences that surround the massive county jail complex. Marchers carried a banner announcing the "October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation," 20 feet long by 6 feet high. The "Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide" banners were bright yellow with big black lettering standing out starkly. Among the chants were "We don't want a Prison Nation—Stop Mass Incarceration" and "Mass Incarceration IS the Crime." Visiting hours stretch until 9 pm and the marchers were able to connect with many family members who had come to visit loved ones. The message of October 22nd struck a chord and the resistance was welcomed.

The county sheriff's deputies, on the other hand, were anything but welcoming. They grew increasingly tense as the marchers message received support from family members and long lines of traffic backed up because of the increasing number of sheriff cars.

When prisoners crowded the galleries to watch and when the prisoners' fists went up in the air, the sheriff's deputies started blaring their sirens to drown out the chanting from the marchers. This drew even more attention to the marchers and their message.

Throughout the march there was an exuberance as people stood up right in the face of the state authority to get their message out.

Atlanta


In Atlanta, protesters gathered in Troy Davis Park. The demonstration opened with drummers and a brief speakout that included Nicholas Heyward, whose 13-year-old son was killed by the NYPD.

On Saturday, October 20, at the historic Auburn Research Library, several activist groups worked together to organize two events to address police brutality. The first event, called "Break the Chains," was an open forum calling on the audience to speak bitterness about their encounters with police or to recount the circumstances surrounding the murder of their relatives, as well as a platform for the resisters in Georgia who are part of the undocumented youth movement. They even had the testimony from a former corrections officer who detailed the attitudes and vicious culture of hatred among prison guards towards the prisoners, collaborating on how to make life more miserable and tortuous for targeted prisoners. The second program, called "Every 36 Hours: Extrajudicial Violence in the Black Community," was sponsored by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, the Ariston Waiters Foundation, and the October 22nd Coalition. There were a number of cultural presentations, from several dozen children from a local Black Liberation School marching in the auditorium to perform, to prominent local hip hop artists. The first panel featured several parents of children whose lives have been stolen: Nicholas Heyward, Freda Waiters, Missy Stafford and Joe Harris, as well as a close relative of Troy Davis. All of their testimony was riveting, making clear with substance not only how their loved ones were deliberately murdered, but how they feel the pain like it was yesterday. While some still held out hope to pressure those in power or even use the ballot box to get justice, Nicholas Heyward from New York City's Parents Against Police Brutality explained why he was part of the October 22nd Coalition, and why we must not rely on the system. He explained that over many years he had found that his time spent in the courts and in politicians' offices had gotten him nowhere... appealing to the audience to cast aside such illusions and go directly to the people to mobilize ever greater resistance that cannot be ignored. The second panel featured activists from Copwatch, Nation of Islam, October 22nd Coalition, and National Action Network, and Mawuli Davis, a defense lawyer known for taking on the cases of victims of police murder, and Vincent Fort, a politician who has stood with the families and got arrested in defense of the Occupy movement.

Revolution Books got a lot of attention with big display boards featuring different quotes from the book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, as well as an enlarged image of him. A huge hit was a banner, "Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide" which was signed all day.

On October 22, protesters gathered in a downtown park called Troy Davis Park (renamed by the people during the Occupy days). The park has an interesting mix of homeless people (mostly playing chess), students from Georgia State University and Atlanta Metropolitan College, vendors, and office workers. In a sea of people wearing black, the demonstration opened with drummers and a brief speak-out including Nicholas Heyward, whose 13-year-old son, Nicholas Jr,. was killed by the NYPD, and civil rights attorney Mawuli Davis, before stepping off for a very lively march that took Peachtree Street to the Atlanta Detention Center. Piercing the air were the sound of whistles blowing and loud chanting as the march snaked through the downtown traffic. The October 22nd banner led the way with people holding signs with the names of those killed by the police followed by "The Whole System Is Guilty!," a banner that said "Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide," and the most popular banner was "Fuck the Police." As the march passed by the MARTA transit station, lots of Black youth joyously joined in the demonstration. They were really attracted to the "Fuck the Police" banner. By the time the march arrived at the detention center there were about 120 people. To the dismay of the jail guards, the demonstrators took the front stairs and had another speak-out. There was a continuous stream of harrowing stories by those whose loved ones were murdered by the police: Freda Waiters spoke about her son Ariston Waiters, who was shot in the back by the Union City police a year ago; Mary Neal spoke about her mentally ill brother Larry Neal, who was murdered in a Tennessee jail by the guards; a Vietnamese mother spoke about her son who was shot by the police and left to bleed to death; a teenage boy spoke about his brother who was killed in an Atlanta jail by the prison guards. And going through the crowd, you could hear outrageous story after outrageous story of those who were either brutalized by the police or jacked up by the "injustice" system. A middle-aged Black man who came over to see what the demonstration was about said he just walked out of jail after doing 60 days for littering (!) and lost his job. Following the families, several organizations made statements: Revolution Books Atlanta, National Action Network, FTP Movement, and others.  After the speak-out, the march took off through the streets once again, this time winding its way through the MARTA station plaza and back to the park. The day really captured the anger and anguish of all the lives devastated by this system on the one hand, and on the other tapped into the feeling of joy and liberation in standing up and fighting back, and the need for revolution.

During the course of the afternoon, Revolution Books distributed very widely a palm card with the BAsics quote 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." They also distributed a flyer for an open house at Revolution Books including the URL for the Cornel West interview with Bob Avakian and sold 60+ copies of Revolution newspaper.

Seattle


One focus of the Seattle protest was the police murder of six people in the last three months alone.

On the evening of October 22 a mixed crowd of family members who have had their loved ones murdered by the police; revolutionaries; proletarian and middle strata youth; Veterans For Peace activists; and Occupy people braved the cold and drizzly evening to show their opposition to the epidemic of police brutality in Seattle and around the country. There were large posters that read "Stolen Lives" that had the pictures of people who had been murdered by the police. One of the images was of Henry Lee, an elderly Black man with dementia who was recently shot by the police in the doorway of his home in south Seattle. Friends and family members of Jedidiah Waters, Prince Gavin, and Victor Duffy Jr. courageously spoke out about the injustices and shared their stories of loss and pain. Waters, Gavin and Duffy were some of the most recent Seattle-area young people wantonly murdered by police this year. There have been six people murdered in the last three months alone in the region. One of the things about October 22nd is that every year, there are always new families who show up who have had their loved ones murdered by the police. Friends of Jedidiah Waters described how they found out at the inquest hearing that Jedidiah had been shot 11 times, five in his head, mutilating his body. After hearing this at the inquest, they ran into the hall screaming and crying. All this for "allegedly shoplifting" from Walmart. Marie Young, whose son, 23-year-old David, was murdered last year by the same cop, Matthew Leitgeb, who murdered Waters, also spoke. Pointing to the Stolen Lives posters, she said, "This is just getting ridiculous. We have to do something. This has to end." She said the inquest hearings were ridiculous and weren't set up to get any kind of justice for the people. A Native woman whose nephew was found dead in a juvenile detention facility spoke out about the daily police brutality and intimidation inflicted upon Native youth and the fear that this instilled in her and her son. The family members of John T. Williams and Victor Duffy Jr. took the stage holding pictures of their loved ones, and spoke through their tears and anger with a spirit of determination to keep up the fight for justice in memory of them. To be there in the crowd and listen to these stories was completely heartbreaking but also inspiring. Many in the audience were emotionally moved and responded with shouts of encouragement and agreement.


Seattle

The president of the Seattle Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild spoke about mass incarceration and repression, remembering how the system murdered revolutionaries like Fred Hampton and other Black Panther Party leaders.

A volunteer with Revolution Books spoke about the nature of this system we live under, the scope of police brutality, mass incarceration and repression, and saluted people who have participated in the righteous resistance that has taken place this year and called for others to build off of it and take it further. The statement also told how within this situation there lies the possibility and basis for a radically different world through revolution, and Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism. Some greeted this speech with exclamations of "right on" and a former prisoner said this spoke to everything that he had wanted to say.

Whistles were passed out and it was announced how these whistles were about everyone standing up to police brutality by blowing this whistle if they see or are being harassed by the police. People donated money in the donation bin that was passed around to support the work of O22.

The march set off for the Cinerama theater, where Chris Harris had his head rammed into a brick wall by the police, and is now unable to feed or dress himself because this caused a traumatic brain injury. The police presence was huge: motorcycles, cars, vans, and bicycles. A long row of bicycle cops lined up against the brick wall where Chris had his head smashed, as if they were proud of the fear and violence it represented. The people called this out, telling these cowards how much they hated them and the system of terror they represent. The march went into populated and visible areas of downtown and the protest was covered by at least two major mainstream news stations. People chanted, "Mass Incarceration: We Say No More! Police Brutality: We Say No More! Racial Profiling: We Say No More!" and added the names of people unjustly murdered like "Troy Davis: We Say No More!" Some people off of the sidewalk joined in the march and whistles were going off all throughout downtown. As the march continued, people along the way got copies of Revolution, O22 palm cards that had the faces of those who had been recently murdered, and BAsics cards with the "No more generations..." quote. There was intense anger, a resolve to get justice, and a determination to put an END to all this!

Houston

A group of about 50 people gathered at Market Square: several organizations fighting mass incarceration and police brutality were represented, as well as prison rights, LGBT rights, and anti-drug war activists, students, a group of homeless people, and artists. People penned their outrage on a banner reading "MASS INCARCERATION + SILENCE = SLOW GENOCIDE" that had been taken out to housing projects, stores, outside a county jail, and different neighborhoods the weekend before. Many comments described set-ups, victimization and murder by cops and the "criminal justice system."

An Occupy activist wrote in large letters, "Free Eric Marquez," a young man incarcerated and awaiting trial on felony charges, set up by an undercover cop for Occupy Houston's port protest last year—an example of how political dissent, too, is being criminalized.

A hallmark of O22, 2012 was the passion and participation of those whose lives have been directly and horribly impacted by police brutality and murder. Arlene Kelly spoke about her mentally ill daughter, Colleen, who HPD shot and let bleed to death in 1999. A woman people met at the jail came down with her sister, who got on the mic to tell her story. One after the other, people testified.

As the march stepped onto the street, whistles and chants reverberated across train stops and skyscrapers and people along the way grabbed flyers and copies of Revolution newspaper. Several people joined along the way. At the police station a couple joined in, one of them saying, "The words of people speaking out rang so true with me." Another joined because "this situation with the police is out of control and it affects the whole community, no matter where you live."

A Black veteran carrying a Stop Mass Incarceration sign recounted how he got arrested for arguing with a friend. Because he had a knife on him—one that he carried every day for use at his job—they hit him with a felony weapons possession charge. He subsequently lost his job and is now homeless. He marched because "I'm one of those persons that's fed up with this type of brutality... I've been everything in the book—I've been tased, I've been pepper-sprayed—for no reason—I've been falsely arrested, several times... Somebody got to start stepping up...I got some friends, they're like, 'Oh, it'll go away'.  No it won't go away."

He agreed with the quote from BA about how the police "serve and protect" the system not the people. He added, "Like you said, it's an emergency, and it's something that is needed right now, very much needed right now, not later. Every day it's destroying people's lives; innocent children being murdered, handicapped people being murdered.  They're not stopping.  So it should be other people coming up and making aware of what they're doing that won't stop either. And eventually it will bring about change."

A cousin of Chad Holly, a 15-year-old whose brutal beating by HPD cops drew national attention and protest, remarked, "I'm so glad to see you out here because this has to stop."

Later, some of the participants got together with the revolutionaries to reflect on the day.  Several said that this protest helped open people's eyes, especially about the link between the system and the police, and were struck by the unity expressed among people coming from different directions, and among different nationalities. One immigrant referred to a palm card she had recently gotten, with the quote from Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:3, which she said "got right to the point—that yes, this is not a democracy—this is imperialism."

Cleveland


Several youth joined the march in Cleveland and went by the county jail, where many inmates showed solidarity by raising their fists.

On October 22, there was a real swirl of curiosity, excitement, and engaging even before the rally started. People were moved and riveted by the stark, enlarged photos of people who had been killed by the police in Cleveland. Many stopped in their tracks, and just tried to take it all in, with reverence, shock and anger. One woman said she knew one of the victims pictured there, that he was full of love and potential never to be realized.

People testified to Revolution sellers about their experiences with police brutality and murder. A middle-aged Black woman who worked for the transit company talked about her nephew who has repeatedly faced police harassment. A white woman from a small town in Ohio where a young woman had been killed by the police told people the details of the police murder. A Black man in his 20's, who at first seemed apathetic, had a lot to say—including how police brutality and mass incarceration is all linked to the history of slavery in this country. When he saw the first quote in BAsics, it immediately resonated with him: "There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth."

With djembe drumming in the background, the MC called on people to join the movement of resistance against the horrors of police brutality and murder, the degrading practice of stop-and-frisk, and the massive incarceration especially of Black and brown people. He spoke about a Black homeless man in Saginaw, Michigan, Milton Hall, who was shot 48 times and killed, and that is only one of hundreds every year. He called on people to "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution."

A Black student from Cleveland State University's African American Cultural Center spoke about how he was arrested and convicted of three felonies for having some marijuana on him, and now can't get a job. He said, "We need to take revolution to the youth, got to get to the youth with that message." A Black woman said, "We all need to take a stand on the police brutality: Black, white, everyone." Members of the New Black Panther Party spoke about the need to fight the police who are an occupying army in the Black community. A 25-year-old woman who just met up with the protest that day spoke about how she was abused in jail, strip-searched and degraded, and she called on people to continue to fight back.

Several youth jumped into the march to the "Justice" Center, blowing whistles, chanting "ICE, FBI/No more detentions, no more lies," "Stop the killing, stop the lies/NO MORE STOLEN LIVES," and more. At the "Justice" Center, suddenly about 50 cops in formation came marching right by the protest, yelling their reactionary grunts, trying to intimidate people and block out the message of the march. That didn't happen. Whistles blew loudly, and people yelled "Fuck the Police" at them. Then the family of Guy Wills (killed by an off-duty cop) came along. As the march went by the County jail, many inmates raised fists and the V-sign at the windows and people in the march raised their fists in response, whistled and chanted.

With deep passion and conviction, a Black youth said, "WE ARE SLAVES. I stand for my people, like Tupac and others did. FIGHT THE POWER." Afterwards, some people finished off the day by going to Revolution Books to watch the BA Everywhere DVD and listen to Cornel West's interview with Bob Avakian.

Detroit

On October 22, one person went down to the Frank J. Murphy Hall of Injustice. This is the site of the courthouse where countless people, mainly Black and Latinos, are sent off to prison. This is also the site of a scheduled hearing on the criminal trial of the cop who shot and killed 7-year-old Aiyana Jones as she slept on the sofa.  Officer Weekly has filed a motion to dismiss the charges and some say his attorney, the prosecutor and judge are colluding to find a way to grant this motion.

With all of this going on at the Hall of Injustice, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation was met with a lot of enthusiasm. A young Arab guy said that he was down at the courthouse because of racial profiling. He pointed to the part of the flyer about discrimination against Arabs and told about how the police confiscated his $60,000 truck because he is Arab. An older, well-dressed Black man paused, looking at the flyer, and finally said, "I didn't know anyone else thought about this the way I do." A lot of younger people took the flyer and agreed that police are constantly harassing, brutalizing, and arresting people for bullshit.

After the person distributing flyers had been there for a while, a county deputy came out to the courthouse plaza and ordered him off "their" property. Immediately they threatened to arrest him for failure to obey a lawful order by a police officer, a felony in Michigan. A crowd gathered around as the distributor asked what law prohibits distributing literature on public property. Rather than answer the question, three more deputies and a city cop with a dog appeared. After the confrontation ended, some people came up to the distributor and expressed appreciation for what he was doing to stop police brutality.

Later that afternoon a small group of people went downtown to an area where there is city bus traffic. Again the response was enthusiastic and a number of people took flyers to give to people on the bus, in their neighborhood, or to friends. Person after person spoke with anger and disgust about the abuse they've suffered at the hands of the cops. An older white man said the cops have always brutalized people. He told of a beating he received at the hands of the cops in his youth. A young Black man pointed to an unhealed wound on his face. He had received it at the hands of a cop after he objected to an overly intimate pat-down. He was beaten unconscious for this "crime." He said when he regained consciousness he was in a cell in a pool of his own blood. No charges were ever pressed against him. A well-dressed middle-aged woman from India told about how the police everywhere do this, it's not just in Detroit. An older Black man spoke with bitterness about how many young people are being sent to prison. He spoke about grandsons and nephews who were all locked up.  He said he thought this was being done because there are no jobs for youth so they just lock them up.

New Orleans

Community activists held a protest rally in front of the New Orleans city hall on October 22nd: "We were demanding an end to police brutality and the decriminalization of a generation," said Rev. Brown, who joined thousands of protesters across the country demanding justice for innocent people killed and arrested by law enforcement. Speaker after speaker denounced racism in the criminal (so-called) justice system and will continue to fight for justice.

Greensboro, North Carolina

October 22nd in Greensboro, NC was marked by a spirited march through the Smith Homes housing project and was preceded by a rally/picket at the newly opened $114 million, 1032-bed Guilford ("Guilty") County Jail where banners, signs and drummers lined the street. An activist for immigrants' rights noted that the new jail "has made room in the old jail [next door] for immigrants awaiting deportation. It is now becoming a new regional detention center."

In the housing project, people were waiting for the march and some readily joined, including quite a few youth who were encouraged by their parents. One mother in a motorized wheel chair beamed as she joined the march: "My kids do this every year and they bring their friends. This is important." Another wheelchair-bound resident joined. The Cakalak Thunder drummers provided a loud pulsating beat that got people's attention and was hard to resist.

The march easily tripled in size as spectators were now discussing and debating with each other whether or not to join in or just wave support from their porches. Some people walked along the sidelines. Others took O22 Calls and revolutionary literature.

Significantly, Bob Avakian's name is beginning to be known to people here and some in the march (particularly young folks) took multiple copies of BA cards to distribute to others stating, "No more generations of our youth..." (BAsics 1:13) One man who had bought BAsics last year approached a person selling Revolution saying that "That first sentence in the book [about the exploitation of slave labor as central to the "wealth" of the U.S.] says it all!" The BA quote about the role of the police was distributed and discussed.

After the march, people gathered to talk about the police and their tactics, like arbitrarily "banning" residents (especially young males) from all public housing in Greensboro. One man spoke to the rally stating, "This tactic (banning) breaks up families, keeping men from their children and loved ones. It breaks your support, for instance, if you've just gotten out of prison, you often can't stay with your family if a cop decides you are 'undesirable.' There is no recourse and the 'banning' can last for years."

A "Blow the Whistle on Police Brutality" campaign was announced at the rally and young people got or signed up to receive whistles. At the end of the rally, the Stolen Lives Pledge was read by the mother of another Black man killed. Names were read from the Stolen Lives banner and the crowd shouted "Presente!"

SF Bay Area

Downtown Oakland on October 22nd a hundred people rallied, marched, and blew their whistles against police murder and mass incarceration. Called jointly by Cephus Johnson (the uncle of Oscar Grant) and the Bay Area Stop Mass Incarceration Network, the rally brought together many families of young men recently killed by police in Oakland and neighboring cities, high school and university students, people from the neighborhoods, revolutionaries, and activists from Occupy Oakland.


San Francisco, at a wall listing people killed by police.

This was the first demonstration for one high school youth. He was challenged by one of the speakers in his class to step forward, and said he was amazed that there were so many different kinds of people standing up together. In fact, hundreds of students were part of raising the issue of mass incarceration to another level. At one high school, classroom doors were thrown wide open to speakers against police murder and mass incarceration. A teacher there told us how when one speaker asked how many knew someone in prison, every single student in a class of 40 raised their hand. Over 300 students (all the 9th and 10th graders in the school) heard from Cephus Johnson, Adam Blueford (whose son Alan, was killed by Oakland police only days before his high school graduation) and a youth from the Revolution Club. Cephus spoke to the epidemic proportions of police brutality and murder, from New York's Stop and Frisk, to Trayvon Martin and thousands of others; and how it's increasing. He spoke bluntly, "If you think it's bad now, just think what it will be like in a few years—unless you come out and stop it now. You are the future." The youth from the Revolution Club told the students that the situation they face of mass incarceration and police brutality is not their fault.  In fact, they are the answer to this horror.  Their stepping forward now to be part of this fight to end mass incarceration and police brutality is a very important part of changing what people are facing here and all over the world.

At the end of the day, students grabbed up hundred of whistles to blow against police brutality and mass incarceration, as well as copies of Revolution, stickers and leaflets to get out everywhere.

The use of BAsics 1:24  in the schools and more broadly has been both controversial and provoking—going up against the mantra of a "few bad cops spoiling the barrel." We challenged one family member on that. She admitted that "I kind of felt that unless I say that 'not all cops are bad, there are some good ones too,' I would come off as sounding too biased against the cops—too radical. But what he [BA] says is really true. We can't be lying to people."

At the rally, many spoke bitterness and outrage, both to the crowd and to the press— the mother and family of Mario Romero (one of the six people killed by Vallejo police since May), who was executed while sitting in his car in front of his house; the father of Alan Blueford, chased down and killed while lying on his back, unarmed; Denika Chapman, mother of Kenneth Harding Jr., gunned down by San Francisco police for not paying a $2 bus fare. At the end of the rally, the Pakistani/American family of 21-year-old Mohammed Shah—killed only days earlier in Hayward—bravely stepped forward to join in expressing both their pain and their determination to fight for justice.

Students from U.C. Berkeley brought a banner against police brutality they had made and signed. One older man from Egypt, after viewing photos of conditions of prisoners at Pelican Bay Prison, commented, "If this was in Libya, or some other country, this government would be screaming about it. But it's not there. It's here in the U.S.A.” Many passersby were attracted to the Stolen Lives Wall, listing some of the names and photos of the thousands who have been killed by law enforcement across the country. Others came up to the table to get their whistles, stickers, copies of Revolution, and to look through and buy a copy of BAsics.

Carl Dix's call "All Out for October 22nd" in Revolution newspaper was a crucial part in building for the day. What he said about this being an "emergency situation" really resonated with people—how "the powers-that-be have unleashed their whole criminal 'injustice' system to carry out intensifying murderous assault on oppressed people across the country."

People got a sense of  a new movement of mass resistance against the whole system of mass incarceration as a powerful march, led by the families of the "Stolen Lives," took to the streets and marched to the jail—the Alameda County "pipeline to prison." We pledged to continue to stand with those incarcerated, and to spread the word of the courage of the hunger strikers and the call by the leaders of the Pelican Bay Hunger Strike for "peace between different nationalities in prisons and jails" (reprinted in Revolution #282). The rally ended with a call to blow the whistle here from this day forward, to have each other's back, to build the spirit of resistance against all of mass incarceration. Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide!

New York City


Carl Dix speaks to the rally in Union Square, New York City.

 


New York City


Sisters (two women on the left) of 23-year-old Shantel Davis who was murdered by the NYPD in Brooklyn on June 15, 2012 after she ran some red lights and crashed into a car; Constance Malcolm (at the mic), the mother and Franclot Graham, the father (far right) of 18-year-old Ramarley Graham, who was murdered by the NYPD in their Bronx apartment on February 2, 2012.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/the-critical-importance-of-leadership-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Reflections on What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism:

The Critical Importance of Leadership

by Lenny Wolff | November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

I recently went back over the interview with BA (What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism). This interview is extraordinarily wide-ranging. It deeply explores questions involved in bringing forward new initiators of a new stage of communism; the new synthesis of communism; questions of strategy; culture; science and morality; the "head and the heart"; and other really critical questions. And it explores all these from many different angles, from the most world-historical to the personal.

I started this particular reading of the interview with an intention to deepen my grasp of its sweep and depth "in its own right." But as I read, I was struck by its direct relevance to some particular problems that the movement for revolution (and those working to lead it forward) confront right now. So I wanted to pull out and highlight, and comment on, a few things that struck me in that light. I'm not trying here to speak to the whole interview, and it would definitely be wrong to reduce the interview to these points—but, as I said, a few points did strike me with particular impact about some of the problems confronting the movement for revolution. The stakes right now are very high and, one way or another, what revolutionaries do in this period will be pivotal to whether we break through the "tough spot" we face—and not breaking through is not an option. So I'm raising all this in a spirit of a hard, scientific look at some trends and tendencies in our work that pull against our breaking through, and of drawing all that we can from what is a very rich piece by BA.

As I was reading through the interview, I thought of a question posed to me by another comrade: do we realize that in everything we do, we have to be leading people? Not just getting them to do this or that particular thing, or to have a conversation about this or that particular point or topic... but actually leading them to engage with, contribute to and be part of building the movement for revolution. Struggling with people, and learning from them as well...and doing all of it as part of something larger. As I went through the interview, not only was BA talking about leadership—in fact, this is a major explicit theme that weaves through the whole interview, and I want to get to that shortly—but he was also providing a model in this.

In talking about this with another comrade, she said well, leadership is line. That's true—but what is line?

Here I want to draw on something that has struck me every time I've read the interview. At one point, in a really rich answer to a question by Brooks on the importance of line, BA notes that, "Line is the application of a world outlook and method to reality. It's a probing of reality and the drawing together and synthesizing of the lessons that are learned from probing reality."

I want to focus on that phrase "probing reality." BA does this in the interview, throughout. Look, for example, at the question that Brooks raises, referring to what someone said on the contrast between the '60s and today, in the section "Resistance... and Revolution." What's BA's approach here? First off, he's doing deep listening—he's thinking about the reality behind Brooks' question, and then he's looking at that reality from different angles... he's using line to probe the reality beneath the question. It's not just "here's where you're right, here's where you're wrong"... or "here's where we agree and here's where we don't, so let's move on." It's not a canned answer taken off the shelf of a set of positions. It's a real exploration of, yes, objective reality—one which fleshes out the contradictory forces and directions of the two different periods under discussion, explores how these played out and still play out in a number of different dimensions, examines how other developments entered into the process, and really fleshes out the dynamics of how things have developed over time and why they did. From there—from that probing of reality—he goes to both the challenges we confront and what we actually have going for us in confronting those challenges. And because it's a fully present, in-the-moment consideration, and because the pulse of life that beats within the abstractions is kept in mind, there's a real freshness to it—new ways of looking at the question, new insights are unearthed. In other words, there's a deep probing and, on that basis, a real synthesis.

You can see this method throughout the interview1, and you can see it in other things too. It's in the questions and answers at the end of the Revolution Talk, for instance—listen again, for instance, to the answer on whether Black people should receive reparations for slavery and the oppression that has followed slavery. Or listen to the recent interview with BA done by Cornel West.

Over and over: probing reality, and synthesis. I'm stressing this because I think that all too often, in practice, a lot of us treat line as if it were a static set of ideas that we bring forward against other sets of ideas (or else, sometimes, as a set of ideas that we don't bring forward because they may "get in the way" of a particular objective!). There's no life to that. And there's no real leadership involved in that either.

This emphasis on probing reality relates to another major theme of the interview—being scientific in our approach, letting other people in on this scientific method, and struggling for that method. Popularizing the scientific method, demystifying it, and explicitly posing it against other methods. I wonder how often, when we're wrangling with someone and they're clearly basing themselves on another method—post-modernism, or religion, or pragmatism, or whatever—I wonder how often we say, "hey, that's not quite scientific" and explain why and then work things through with them with a scientific approach. This has always been a hallmark of BA, but it's extremely striking in the interview—and it's something that, again, I think we could all stand a little self-interrogation on.

(And I mean self-interrogation, and not self-cultivation or self-criticism—I mean going into shortcomings in how we too often come at things precisely in order to do better. I found this part of the interview very important in this regard:

Look, we're all gonna make errors, we're all gonna make mistakes. You can't do anything in the world of consequence, and you certainly can't engage in any major undertaking—and especially one which is trying to transform the whole of human society and the whole relations of people in the world, up against such powerful entrenched forces—there's absolutely no way in the world that you're gonna take very many steps, let alone carry out that whole process, and not make mistakes. The point is: do you learn from your mistakes, do you learn to learn more quickly and more thoroughly from your mistakes, do you honestly confront your mistakes, do you sum them up, and do you let other people know—do you popularize your understanding of the mistakes you made and why you made them, and enable other people to learn from your mistakes? That's the key thing. Because everybody's gonna make mistakes, okay?)

Again, this theme of leadership runs through the entire interview, right from the beginning with the doctor-patient analogy. But here I want to draw on one very pithy way that it's put toward the end of the interview, where BA is speaking to "the heart and essence of communist leadership." It's not, he says, "providing tactical advice in a particular circumstance or particular struggle, even though that may be something that people need to do, and it can be an important element of what they do." Then he goes on to say:

[T]he heart of it is actually implementing "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution"—is actually bringing forward all of the things we've talked about in terms of enabling people to get a real understanding, scientifically grounded, of the larger picture that any particular thing fits into. What is the overall foundation and framework in which all these things are occurring? What is, to put it simply again, the problem and solution: what do all these outrages stem from; what are they all rooted and grounded in; what do we need to do to uproot and eliminate all this, and how do we actually build the movement to do that? All that is the essence of communist leadership, whatever level of a party, or whatever part you play in the division of labor of a party, as part of a revolutionary communist vanguard.

Think about that for a minute. This is not to say that particular things don't need to be done. But are we putting them in the "overall foundation and framework in which all these things are occurring" and which in fact actually determines their significance? Sometimes people will hunger for this. And sometimes it will be quite contentious. All too often, it seems, we let others set the terms on what IS the overall foundation and framework, and then we try to come at things from within those terms. Now it is not about "our framework vs. their framework"—as if these are two different, equally subjective narratives. It is about what is objectively real, and which framework corresponds to that. To return to the quote: "What is, to put it simply again, the problem and solution: what do all these outrages stem from; what are they all rooted and grounded in; what do we need to do to uproot and eliminate all this, and how do we actually build the movement to do that?" We have an understanding of that, we have a method and approach to deepen that understanding, we have a way to listen and go back-and-forth with people without losing that grounding and, indeed, for that very grounding to enrich it—but we have to lead with that.

This is not just a question of whether we do this when we talk with others, important as that is. There is in fact a more fundamental question to pose to ourselves: are we going back to what is said about the "overall foundation and framework" in our own approach to everything we do, to every objective we undertake? And when we do lead others in (very important) objectives—do we understand all that as being part of, and on that basis something that has to be knit into, a larger process, or do we mentally separate these off from that larger context? And, as one comrade recently pointed out in a discussion we had of this, if we don't consciously synthesize these objectives and activities into a larger picture, including how all these relate to preparing people to wage the all-out struggle for revolution when the situation emerges in which that can be done as the next major leap in emancipating humanity... and if we don't weave these together as part of a movement which contains many diverging threads and strands but is all forming a tapestry leading to revolution... then all this work will spontaneously and inevitably be synthesized into "just another part of the current scene"—that is, just another part of the ongoing permanent necessity the masses face. Now I definitely don't want to reduce the whole discussion of leadership in the interview, and even in this section, to just this point: but... again... are we doing this? And if we're not doing this, to quote Joe Veale from a few months back, what ARE we doing?

This leads to yet another important point to compare and contrast on: winning. This comes in at a number of points—and it grounds the whole interview—but here I want to highlight a particular point where BA has just emphasized the fact that what we represent really DOES objectively represent what humanity needs, and that what we're fighting against really IS utterly reactionary, cruel, needless, and, yes, evil. This is an important point of principle to deeply get and to fight for. "But, then," he goes on to say, "the 'good guys' have to win."

We have to actually make this real. If we don't win, if we don't break through, first here and then there—and then, if we're set back, learn from that and go forward again with a new stage and a new wave of this revolution, and eventually get to the point where the imperialists are cornered and holed up in a few parts of the world, and then eventually they're swept away entirely—if we don't do that, then the suffering of the masses of people, the things we were just talking about that we should feel real outrage and passion about, are gonna continue; it may be in some new forms, but they're gonna continue. And the future of humanity is gonna be threatened in an even more acute way through what's happening—what this system is doing to the environment, for example, as well as through the wars that these ruling classes wage, directly or through proxies, or whatever—and they have these nuclear arsenals, and all the rest of it. If we don't sweep all that away and not allow them to destroy humanity in the process, then it ultimately doesn't matter that we're the "good guys." It matters, but in the final analysis it doesn't matter if we don't win.

Let's really sit with that for a minute. It's important to be right and it's important to actually BE "the good guys." But... it ultimately doesn't matter if we don't win. It's important to do the work ourselves to understand and ground ourselves in how everything we're doing is part of politically transforming the terrain and accumulating forces that could actually lead a revolution... that could actually win... and it's absolutely critical that we imbue others with this understanding. Otherwise, what's the point?

Now BA never loses sight—and he never lets others lose sight—of what it means NOT to win. The acute sense of what it means to let this system keep running—that's always there, in a living painful way, in the interview and in everything else. These are REAL PEOPLE being put on the rack every single day, by the billions. But he also never loses sight of the scientific basis for masses of people to defeat this. There IS a way out... and a way to win. Not a guarantee, not something that won't require a whole lot more work and struggle and mind-wrenching thinking... but a way. A possibility—a real possibility.

This is first of all a point of orientation for communists: is this what we are about? Is this what we are grappling with? Is this part of the "whole larger picture" that we ourselves are living in and thinking about—or is it off to the side? This is a "prove-it-all-night" question and, first of all, for us.  But then there's the relationships we're building: are we not just telling people that this is important, but actually showing them how everything is fitting into that—into getting closer to the time when we can actually lead people to deal with all that? Not in a silly way or a way that could unwittingly open us up to distortion ... but are we making the effort to consciously situate everything, in our own thinking and the thinking of others, "from the revolution back." Another way to think about this: do we think about things from the standpoint of leaders of a future socialist state, and leaders of a revolution to get to that state? Do we exude that? It's not a gimmick; it's a question of basic approach. When people meet us, they should come away not only having heard a compelling case for why we need a revolution, but with a real sense that this party is taking responsibility to lead that and has a real grounded sense of how to go about it ... AND that there is a role for them in this revolution, a place for their thinking and suggestions, room for them to probe reality, and a need for them to get on into it, at whatever level of understanding and agreement they're at now.

If we DO understand and do this, then it should not be difficult to instill in the people we work with and lead the feeling that this work has real purpose and direction. I think the way in which the statement on strategy is paraphrased in the interview is important—it's a very basic and simple principle that everyone we're working with should understand, and see themselves in:

While we're reaching and influencing millions, thousands can be and need to be brought forward, oriented, trained, and organized in a revolutionary communist way and enabled to actively struggle for the objectives of this revolution. And, when the time comes that there is a much deeper and broader crisis in society that reaches objectively revolutionary proportions—when the ruling class really has much greater difficulty ruling in the way they've ruled, and masses of people in the millions and millions, and tens of millions, don't want to and, in an active sense, are increasingly refusing to, live in the old way—then that core of thousands can, in turn, influence, can bring into the revolutionary movement, on many different levels, and can lead the millions and tens of millions who are refusing to live in the old way, and are actively seeking radical change.

Yes, this involves struggle. People do not spontaneously see that larger picture, they do not spontaneously see where their activity fits into the whole movement for revolution and how it is transforming society and to what end, they don't spontaneously approach things scientifically (indeed, as BA points out early on, the whole question of whether society can even be approached scientifically is a hotly debated one). Even when they are drawn to revolution, they face all the resistance of society at large—the constant saturation of anticommunism, the constant attacks on the humanity of the masses, and the way in which all that has broad influence right now. And communists themselves, by the way, are subject to the same pulls on this as everyone else and also have to struggle against spontaneity.2

This struggle is a living process. It is itself scientific—or it must be scientifically approached and grounded—and not religious ("spontaneity, get thee behind me"). It is a question of a solid core, with a lot of elasticity, and those two aspects in constant dialectical interplay.

This kind of struggle actually deepens unity and should strengthen our relationships with people. Listen again to the interview of BA by Cornel West, where different outlooks and methods are clearly delineated, and this leads to the ground for unity being more clearly identified (and further strengthened and vitalized), while the areas for further grappling and wrangling are more clearly understood. It's not as if people have to be united with some checklist of points to be involved in this process—again, drawing from the interview:

Even people who may not agree with or may not know that much about the new synthesis of communism, for example—many, many people, thousands and thousands of people—can get actively involved in and be motivated to be part of helping to project this into all corners of society. They can find their own level, so to speak—as long as the way is provided for them to find their own level—to participate in that, with that kind of contradiction in their own understanding, and in their own approach.

That is one very important aspect of, at one and the same time, dealing with unity and contradiction, which is a lot of what you have to do in building the movement for revolution. There are different levels and different forms in which people can unite to fight oppression—to fight the power, to put it that way—even while they have disagreements about how to wage that fight, let alone about the bigger context and framework into which that fits.

- - -

I hope these points spark further grappling with the interview in its own right—which, as I said at the beginning, encompasses and speaks to quite a bit more than the themes I've chosen to focus on here... and further application of the interview to the pressing problems faced by the movement for revolution in both this and other very crucial spheres. In looking back through the interview as I'm wrapping this letter up, I see all kinds of points and passages that would be relevant to go back and put in, but this is the middle of a process, not the end, so I think I'll leave it here... for now.

 

1. To include just one, particularly striking instance of this approach to line, from a discussion toward the end of the interview on the new synthesis of communism:

I mean, what is represented by communism—and specifically the new synthesis of communism—is actually scientifically analogous to that [earlier an analogy had been made to a cure for "a massive epidemic which is causing horrific suffering"]. It is the way forward. It is not some magic solution. It's a scientific approach to forging the way forward. It has answered—or spoken in a significant way to—some real problems. At the same time, it has posed new questions, identified new contradictions that have to be confronted, which weren't seen as clearly before. And it's an ongoing process of discovering, confronting and transforming different aspects of reality that have to be transformed, in order to achieve the emancipation of humanity. That's what it is. That's why we put it forward. And that's why we struggle to let people know about it and to win them to engage it seriously—and, yes, to take it up—because that's exactly what it embodies and represents. It is analogous to a way to deal with a very serious epidemic. There is an epidemic in which the mass of humanity is suffering terribly, as constituted under this capitalist-imperialist system, and there is a way forward—not a magic wand to wave to solve all problems, but a means for forging a way forward on a higher level than before, as a result of this new synthesis that's been brought forward. [back]

2. In this regard, I want to particularly refer people to a passage in the very trenchant section "Particular Outrages, Particular Struggles, and the Overall Movement for Revolution":

And once you get that [communist] level of understanding—and, yes, it's a process and not a "once and for all" thing—but, once you make the leap to getting that basic understanding and grounding, then it's a question of continually struggling to remain grounded and to get continually more deeply grounded in that understanding, and to apply it in a living way to all the different particular aspects of building the movement for revolution—all the different spheres of struggle, be they cultural, ideological, or political, over major social questions or, as we were talking about earlier, over questions which, at first at least, don't seem to be major social questions but then, perhaps unexpectedly, become that. Now, for communists, like everyone else, there is the pull of what dominates in society. There is the pull of the putrid, revolting culture, ideology, and morals that you have to continually struggle against, not just individually but collectively, together with others. There is the political pull to seeing things in isolation from the overall and larger picture, and into simply being concerned with one particular form or manifestation of the oppressive nature of this system—losing sight of the larger picture into which this particular form fits. That is a constant pull on people. And there is a need—again, not just for individuals on their own, but together, collectively, with growing numbers of people—for struggle to continually loft all of our sights back up to the larger standpoint of seeing the whole picture and proceeding, with regard to any particular aspect of things, any particular part of the struggle, with this whole broad understanding in mind and as the constant guide in what we're doing. This all has to be built as part of preparing the ground for, and getting to the point where, when the objective conditions ripen, we can actually lead millions and millions of people to make this revolution we're talking about, to actually sweep away this system, to defeat and dismantle its repressive institutions, and bring into being new revolutionary institutions that really do serve the interests of the masses of people, and back them up in carrying forward the struggle to continue transforming society, to support others in the world waging the same struggle, and to help people see the need in other parts of the world to wage this struggle more and more consciously toward the common goal of a communist world. [back]

 


 

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Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

What's NOT Up for Debate in the Presidential Election... And What This Tells You About This System

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

The presidential debates were broadcast on every major TV network, dissected and spun endlessly by pundits and political analysts. We're told the two candidates have laid out very different plans and visions for "where the country needs to go." But we can learn a lot about the nature of the system that both of these men represent if we look at the things that were NOT up for debate, if we look at the things they agree on:

Wars for empire

Wars for empire, assassination by drone bombings, the "collateral damage" of large scale civilian death, including children, a weekly "kill list" drawn up by Obama and his advisors. Above: Funeral of man killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan, 2012. (AP Photo)

Mass incarceration

The Republicans are more than all right with using the force of the state to lock up millions of people, the majority of them Black and Latino. As for Obama, he has used the fact that he is Black—or else he has allowed it to be used—to lend credence to the argument that if people DO get caught up in the bowels of the criminal in-justice system, it's their own fault—because, after all, Obama made it to the top. Above: Prisoners arrive at a state prison in Shelton, Washington, 2012. (AP Photo)

Militarization of Mexican border

The never-ending militarization of the U.S.-Mexico border, leading to more than 5,600 people dying trying to cross the border in the last decade and 18 killed by Border Patrol since January 2010; and record numbers of deportations, overwhelmingly of people seeking work in the lowest paying, most back-breaking jobs. Above: Arizona National Guard patrol the border with Mexico, 2010. (AP Photo)

Environmental destruction

Devastating destruction of the planet—the wanton assault upon the earth and its resources that continues to accelerate at an alarming, potentially catastrophic pace in a world dominated by capitalist imperialism.
Above: Mountaintop removal in Kentucky. Coal companies rip apart the landscape and let the debris flow into valleys, streams and towns below. (Photo: GabeB/Flickr)

War on women

The degrading, enslaving culture of patriarchy and pornography and the continuing attacks on women's right to abortion. Above: Protest at Saint Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. (Photo: Li Onesto/Revolution)

NDAA

Laws—such as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that extend the arbitrary and illegitimate authority of the President to indefinitely detain, without charge or trial, a broad and vague category of people.
Above: Army Pvt. Bradley Manning, imprisoned almost three years without trial, accused of leaking information about U.S. war crimes in Iraq. (Photo: www.bradleymanning.org)

Obama and Romney are battling to preside over a system of capitalist imperialism that savagely exploits billions of people across the globe, a system that has given itself the right to rain death on whomever it deems an enemy, that oppresses and exploits millions of people in the U.S. and criminalizes generations of Black and Latino youth. But as Revolution recently wrote:

"There is an alternative to the current capitalist-imperialist economic and political system in which increasing exploitation is the driving rule and people, in fact, count for nothing. A different society—a socialist society in which masses of people are empowered to set about wiping out exploitation and oppression, and all the institutions that go with it—is possible. There is a constitution for such a society. And there is the leadership to lead the revolution needed to bring it into being."

"Stop acting against your deepest principles. Start checking out, getting into and supporting the real alternative that gives expression to those principles."

Spy aparatus

A spy apparatus intended to be capable of intercepting "trillions" of messages, in which, according to one official, "Everybody's a target; everybody with communication is a target." Above: A U.S. government "cyber security lab." In 2013, a new National Security Agency center in Utah will begin concentrating all electronic surveillance worldwide, including on U.S. citizens. (AP Photo)

 


 

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Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Take It to the Streets! Stop the War On Women!

Abortion on Demand and Without Apology

End Pornography & Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Across the country and in different ways, join with others to stand up and speak out.

We will not accept a world where women are routinely raped, brutalized, humiliated and degraded. We will not lie down as women's right to abortion and even birth control is being stripped away. We will resist the culture of rape and pornography that equates sex with domination and conquest and treats women as mere objects to be plundered by men.

We will RESIST and we will take a big step towards DEFEATING this war on women. And, through doing so, we will become the people and the seeds of a whole better future.

A future where no woman ever again knows what it is to fear for her safety at the hands of men. Where women never again know what it is to give themselves to a man sexually for any reason other than their own desire—free of pressure, judgment, or degradation. A world where men view women as full human beings and full partners. A world where lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgendered people have not only the full rights—but the full respect—as everyone else. And a culture filled with poetry and music and other forms of art that foster deep respect towards women.

Wherever you are and whatever you do on November 17—be it a march or street theater, a protest at a strip club or an anti-abortion church, a speak-out or poetry reading, or some sort of public "social intervention" where a lot of folks gather—you will be joined by others around the country. Every act will be amplified, more people will be woken up and inspired, and this movement—and the possibility of real liberation—will grow!

Contact us today with your plans or your questions: StopPatriarchy@gmail.com

STOPPATRIARCHY.ORG       STOPPATRIARCHY.TUMBLR.COM

 


 

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Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Call to Resist NDAA and Stand Together Against Repression Published in The Nation

October 28, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

The November 5 issue of The Nation magazine features, as a paid ad, A Call To Stand Together to Oppose the Obama Administration's Dangerous Assault on Fundamental Rights. The statement has garnered more than 700 signers from diverse fields.

The statement sounds a much-needed wake-up call about the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This law extends the arbitrary and illegitimate authority of the President to indefinitely detain, without charge or trial, a broad and vague category of people. The Call is a summoning to step up resistance to the NDAA and other repressive moves underway.

The Call is also an affirmation of a core principle: people cannot allow the powers-that-be to determine which movements or organizations are "acceptable" or "unacceptable." This has particular relevance owing to the fact that the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and its Chairman Bob Avakian were singled out in a legal ruling about the NDAA and mischaracterized in a way that could cause great harm.

Signatories include Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, and Cindy Sheehan; actors Mark Ruffalo and Peter Coyote; Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff of Project Censored; scholars Steven Zunes and Donna Haraway; Raymond Lotta of Revolution; poet Lyn Hejinian; Michael Steven Smith of the Center for Constitutional Rights and civil liberties attorney Stephen Rohde.

In September, an appeals court stayed an injunction against the NDAA. So this draconian law is now in full effect, while the dangerous mischaracterization of the RCP and Bob Avakian remains part of the court record.

The publication of the Call could not be more timely, and its organizers plan to take the message of the Call into the media and to stir wider public discussion.

To sign the Call, to see the signers, and to make a tax-deductible donation for publication,  go to Opposerepressionndaa.net.

 


 

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Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Mayor Declares that Women Being Massacred by Men "Can't Be Avoided"
I Declare: We Have No More Time—Or Women's Lives—To Waste Before Making Revolution!

by Sunsara Taylor | October 28, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Every day we are told that women have achieved unprecedented equality in this "greatest of all possible countries." Every day politicians point their fingers at the very real crimes against women in other countries to reinforce the idea that it is so much better here. Every day, the news media and the Democrats bombard us with the horrifically enslaving program of the Christian fascists and the Republican Party to attempt to get us to accept the deadly "status quo" of society's treatment of women.

But let's look at the reality of life for women in this so-called "best of all possible worlds."

On October 21, in Brookfield, Wisconsin, a woman who had been physically abused and terrorized by her estranged husband, a woman who had repeatedly sought police protection and a restraining order, was hunted down at her job and shot dead by him. Not only that, but two other women were murdered by this man and at least four other women were shot and sent to the hospital.

In one morning, the lives of three women were extinguished. For years their families, their children, their loved ones will battle the sorrow and the rage of this loss. Their lives will be haunted by this cruel viciousness and they will never fill the holes left by the theft of these women's lives.

Four other women were severely injured. For the rest of their lives, they will bear the trauma and the scars of having dared to go to a salon—whether for work or for relaxation—in a world where men feel entitled to murder and punish women with startling regularity. That they had no personal connection to the killer is of no consequence, their crime was simply being female in this world where men are trained to view women as disposable and worthy of punishment.

For everyone else who was present, this day will rival—if not overshadow—all the other memorable days of their lives (the birth of their children, their greatest achievement, etc.) as the one that leaves the most lasting impression. For the rest of their days, they will not only sense in their heads, but they will feel in their bones, the constant force of hatred and violence that rains down on women. The way that all of us are touched at every minute by this war, whether head-on as its primary targets or "merely" as its "collateral damage."

And all throughout society, women everywhere have been cruelly reminded: you live in a society that has accepted violence and hatred against women as a constant and the murder of women as routine.

So, what was the response to this massacre by the ruling authorities in this "oh-so-greatest-of-all-possible-countries"?

The mayor of Brookfield (where the massacre took place), Steven V. Ponto, put it this way: "Today's action was a senseless act on the part of one person... Try as we might, these can't be avoided."

In other words: Ponto asks us to ignore the fact that every single day in this country three or four women are killed, most often by men they consider their most intimate partners. Ponto asks us to ignore the fact that every 15 seconds a woman is beaten. Ponto asks us to ignore the fact that one in every four women will be raped or sexually assaulted. Ponto asks us to ignore the way that the celebration of violence against women is a cornerstone that shapes the outlook of men in this culture—from the increasingly brutal and humiliating nature of pornography to the TV news and crime shows that titillatingly recount stories of stalking, rape, and murder to the video games that give points for beating or killing prostituted women and more. Ponto asks us to ignore the fact that for centuries women have been treated overtly as the property of men such that the notion, "If I can't have you, I'll make sure no one else can," is so common that most women are killed precisely when they are trying to leave their abusers.

Ponto, acting as a perfect spokesperson for a system that has no answer to the hatred, violence, degradation, disrespect, and terror that is the constant companion of women, asks us to willfully ignore the realities that surround us every minute of every day and treat this as a mere "isolated incident."

But not only that, he then promises, "Try as we might, these can't be avoided."

No. This is not acceptable and we should refuse to accept it. While these things "can't be avoided" under this system, they can be avoided—and ended for good—through making revolution to get rid of this system!

Violence against women is not just part of human nature. It is part of the nature of people as they are shaped and conditioned by this male-supremacist, woman-subjugating, patriarchal, capitalist-imperialist system. But through making the kind of communist revolution that has been re-envisioned by Bob Avakian, it is possible to dig up thousands of years of class divisions and the corresponding oppression of women by men and to bring about a new "human nature."

It is possible to bring into being a world where no woman ever knows what it is to fear for her safety at the hands of men while walking down the street any time of night or day. A world where no woman ever knows what it is to give herself to a man sexually for any reason other than her own desire—free of pressure, judgment, or degradation. A world where men view women as full human beings and full partners—both in their intimate lives and throughout society and in the world more broadly. A world where law enforcement and the courts, for as long as we need law enforcement and the courts, really prosecute and hold accountable the perpetrators of violence against women, rather than blaming the woman for what she was wearing or whether she did something to "provoke" the man. A world where the culture is filled with poetry and music, television and movies, that foster deep respect towards women and that celebrate women's full participation in every realm of human endeavor together with men—as part of bringing about a world without any form of exploitation or oppression.

As it says right at the outset of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) which is based on the new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian, "Abolishing and uprooting all this is one of the most important objectives of the New Socialist Republic in North America. This is expressed not only in full legal equality between women and men, but beyond that in the declared orientation and policy of this Republic to overcome all 'tradition's chains' embodied in traditional gender roles and divisions, and all the oppressive relations bound up with this, in every sphere of society, and to enable women, as fully as men, to take part in and contribute to every aspect of the struggle to transform society, and the world, in order to uproot and abolish all relations of oppression and exploitation and emancipate humanity as a whole."

Today, all who are sickened by and refuse to accept that "these [massacres of women] can't be avoided" need to be part of fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. You need to be digging into this Constitution and the concrete vision it puts forward. And you need to be joining me to rally thousands and soon tens of thousands to join in the fight to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women; standing up today and drawing forward others to bring forward society-wide resistance to the war against women. We have a world to win and not a day—or another woman's life—to waste.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/new-documentary-nypd-vs-the-central-park-five-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

New Documentary: The NYPD vs. the Central Park Five—Then and Now

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, together with his daughter Sarah Burns and her husband, David McMahon, have made and are about to release The Central Park Five, their movie about the New York Police Department (NYPD) railroad of five Black youth in 1989-90, which was one of the most shocking instances of racist injustice in the long and ugly history of this country. The movie is based on research done by Sarah Burns for her book on the Central Park Five, and is described in an advance NY Times review as "a tightly woven two hours... which explores many questions surrounding the convictions."

In response, the NYPD has lashed out at Burns, claiming that he has crossed the line from "journalism" to "advocacy." And in a move to punish these filmmakers, the NYPD has subpoenaed him and his production company for all their notes and outtakes from the making of the film, claiming they need it to defend the NYPD against a lawsuit brought against the police by several of the youth they had railroaded.

We have not seen the movie yet. But here is the story of the Central Park Five that the NYPD is so desperate to cover up.

The Case of the Central Park Five

In April of 1989 headlines screamed about the case of "the Central Park Jogger"—a young white woman who had been jogging in New York City's Central Park, where she was brutally beaten and raped. Left to die for hours, she had lost 80 percent of her blood before she was found, and she teetered between life and death for many weeks. (Ultimately she made close to a full recovery.)

This attack concentrated in a horrific way the specter of violence that stalks the lives of women all over the planet, violence which is perpetuated and sanctioned by the imperialist system. The domination of women is a major pillar on which this system rests, and there was and is a great need to unleash the fury of women and men to rebel against this. (See "End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women" at revcom.us to learn about how people are starting to do this.)

But the enforcers and representatives of this system, starting with the police—whose ranks include no small number of rapists and abusers of women, and who are notorious for not responding to women who are under attack—saw this crime through a whole other lens. They saw it as a chance to pit the white middle class and women in particular against the masses of Black youth, to reinforce that other powerful pillar of the system, white supremacy. And they went at it with a fury.

With lightning speed the NYPD passed over other possible suspects and swept up some Black youth who had been in the park that night. They quickly zeroed in on five of them, 14-16 years old. These kids were kept awake for almost two days and subjected to 24 hours of coercive interrogation without attorneys present. As this torture mounted, the police told one of the youths that if he signed a confession he could go home. Others were told that their fingerprints were found on the scene, or that their friends had implicated them and only by confessing could they get a break.

These were all lies on the part of the police, but a group of scared and sleep-deprived teenagers could not stand up to the torture and manipulation of the NYPD—by the end, four out of five of them gave signed and videotaped confessions. They were now "The Central Park Five."

The four who had confessed recanted almost immediately and proclaimed their innocence. And, according to an investigation by the DA's office done 13 years later (in 2002), these confessions "differed from one another on the specific details of virtually every major aspect of the crime," and "were not corroborated by, consistent with, or explanatory of objective, independent evidence." In other words, they were blatantly what the youth said they were—confessions coerced by the police out of youth who didn't know even the most basic details about the crime they confessed to.

Anyone trying to look honestly at the case could see that the police were manufacturing a case and didn't actually give a damn about whether the kids they were railroading were guilty or innocent. But the mainstream media and the other powers in the city were no more interested in the facts than the NYPD. The police lies became fodder for a full-out racist hysteria that was part of a larger campaign going on in the U.S. to brand a whole generation of Black youth as inhuman "super-predators," "wolf packs," roaming the streets looking for white victims. A week after their arrests, prior to even the sham of a trial, billionaire racist blowhard Donald Trump purchased full page ads in four New York papers calling for the death penalty for the youth, saying that "they should be forced to suffer." The names, addresses and pictures of all the youth were released to and published in the media, blatantly contrary to the law on treatment of juvenile suspects.

A year later, a full scale legal lynching swung into motion, the outcome of which was certain before it began. Police had literally nothing other than the coerced confessions—and the racist atmosphere that they had helped whip up—to bring to trial. None of the considerable DNA evidence (blood and semen) could be traced to the defendants and in fact all of it pointed to a single unknown perpetrator. The police claimed that one of the victim's hairs was found on a defendant, but the 2002 investigation showed that this was not true either. Nevertheless, the youth were convicted, sentenced, and ended up serving from six to 13 years in jail.

The Frame-up Falls Apart

In 2002, Matias Reyes, already in prison for other rapes and a murder, confessed to having attacked the Central Park Jogger on his own. The DNA evidence all matched up with him, and also with that found on another woman who had been raped in Central Park two days before the "Jogger" attack. And it later turned out that the police had been planning to arrest Reyes at one point in the investigation, but somehow never got around to it. Matias, apparently covered in blood, had even been questioned by police on the night of the attack but then let go. These revelations were a major bombshell which the government actually kept secret from the public for many months while they figured out what to do.

Finally the DA's office convened its investigation and came to the conclusions we described above. Faced with the almost indisputable evidence of innocence, the DA went to court and asked that all the original convictions be vacated, which meant that the Central Park Five were no longer considered as convicted rapists.

But by that time:

But by that time:

And by that time:

Perpetrators of Lynching Dig in Their Heels

If the "criminal justice system" actually had anything to do with real justice, if the NYPD were really striving to be "New York's Finest," if their real reason for existence was, as they say, "To Serve and Protect" the people, then you would expect that the uncovering of this travesty of justice would lead to soul-searching, internal investigations, firings and criminal charges against the people and institutions who carried this out, and that there would be all kinds of recommendations about how to prevent it from happening again—changes in the way interrogation is carried out, changes in the way media is used to poison the atmosphere against people who are supposedly "innocent until proven guilty." There would be public apologies to the youth whose lives were nearly destroyed, and an effort to undo the incredible amount of racist scare-mongering that was part and parcel of this whole case and which has done great harm to Black people as a whole.

But none of that has happened! Even though the DA's office went to court to vacate the convictions, they and the NYPD (and Donald Trump as well) have insisted that they did nothing wrong. With no evidence whatsoever they now claim that the Central Park Five were "most likely" involved in the attack along with Matias, and in any case, the lawyer for the NYPD says "we believe that, based on the information that the police and prosecutors had at the time, they had probable cause to proceed and the confessions were sound." For years these arguments have been the basis for the NYPD fighting the youths' lawsuit against them, dragging out even further the struggle for even a few drops of justice for the Central Park Five.

From Railroading Youth to Intimidating Journalists

Ken Burns is a well-known mainstream documentarian who has made numerous features on the Civil War, on Baseball, on Jazz, that have been shown on PBS. When he set out to make this new film he said that he felt it was essential to give the police and prosecutors an opportunity to explain their position, and he attempted repeatedly to speak to all the key detectives, prosecutors, etc. But the NYPD totally refused to be interviewed by him, effectively trying to sabotage his work. And now that the movie has been made, they have issued this subpoena to punish the filmmakers.

It's important to understand that no investigative journalist can function if the people they are interviewing think that what they say is going to end up in the hands of the police! Given the understandable fear of the police in this society, this would lead many people to stay silent. So protection of sources is an essential part of press freedom which has been fought out in many cases in recent decades. Many journalists have gone to jail for weeks or months rather than give up their sources.

This struggle has given rise to so-called "Shield Laws" in many states—including NY—that are supposed to protect the right to protect sources. But these laws also have many loopholes and it remains to be seen whether the courts will back up the NYPD subpoena—or how Burns will respond if they do.

By threatening these filmmakers with jail if they refuse to give up confidential materials the NYPD is both retaliating against them for exposing their past crimes, and seeking to intimidate journalists and artists from exposing what the system is doing today, and will do in the future. They are creating—or rather, intensifying, an atmosphere in which people will fear to take even completely legal action to expose or protest the crimes of the system for fear that powerful forces will come after them, their careers and their lives if they do so.

The authorities cannot acknowledge, much less welcome, the uncovering of their past crimes, because they are still about exactly the same thing and even worse—escalating police brutality and murder directed especially at Black and Latino youth, hundreds of thousands unjustly stopped and frisked, millions funneled into the prison system. The dogs are still in the street, and are still pretending that they are "the good guys."

Bob Avakian says in BAsics, "The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and order that enforces all this oppression and madness."

The railroading of the Central Park Five, and the attacks on those who try to tell the truth about this, are damning evidence of the reality of this statement.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/what-the-fuck-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

WHAT THE FUCK!

Spitting Out My Coffee While Reading the New York Times Liberal White-(Supremacist)-Wash

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Revolution received the following from a reader:

I open the pages of the Sunday New York Times about two weeks ago to find this remarkable sentence:

“In the early 19th century, the United States was one of the most egalitarian societies on the planet.”

This statement—bold and brash—appears in an essay The Self Destruction of the 1 Percent, by Chrystia Freeland, in the New York Times Sunday Review, October 14.

And I go: “What The Fuck!”

What about the slavery of Black people, at its peak—or its worst, depending on your point of view—in that time period? What about the genocide of Native peoples? Are they invisible, less than human? There is no mention of any of this in the article.

As American fugitive slave James Pennington put it, “The being of slavery, its soul and its body, lives and moves in the chattel principle, the property principle, the bill-of-sale principle; the cart-whip, starvation and nakedness, are its inevitable consequences ....” What, to the slave, is “most egalitarian” about this?

Being sold and bought as property at an auction block, body parts inspected like beasts of burden, worked from "can’t see in the morning till can’t see at night," constantly at threat of being sold and separated from loved ones forever, the whippings and the “lickin’,” marched in shackles for hundreds of miles and many weeks to the most profitable markets, raped by the slave-owner at whim and fancy. What, to the slave, is “most egalitarian” about this?

“The dark night of slavery closed in upon me; and behold a man transformed into a brute!” So commented Frederick Douglass, when sent to be “conditioned” by the slave breaker Edward Covey ... What, to the slave, is “most egalitarian” about this?

(Douglass later escaped and became a famous advocate and fierce fighter for the abolition of slavery, penning the famous speech What To the Slave, Is Your Fourth of July?)

And we are not talking about a few scattered isolated instances of slavery in “early 19th-century United States.” We are talking about an entire way of life, the entire ideological, social and economic foundation of the South, and quite a bit of the North as well. We are talking about a third of the population of the South being subject to slavery. Most egalitarian indeed!

Native people, Indians, massacred—the “rosy dawn” of what was to be a genocide committed against them, lands stolen, every single treaty with the United States government violated, forced into reservations in conditions of desperate poverty, stripped of ways of life and livelihood. What, to the Indian, is “most egalitarian” about this?

Now, it is bad enough for Freeland to write this—it’s a whole other thing for the New York Times, America’s “paper of record,” to voice and propagate this—without qualification, comment, or edit. Did the—vast—editorial apparatus of the NY Times not bat an eye at this statement? Is this how normalized white-supremacist “white”-wash and amnesia of history is in so-called “enlightened” society? Or, rather, is this a Founding Myth (i.e.: LIE) and Grand Narrative of America that the NY Times consciously and actively is working to propagate?

Imagine a scenario in which a contributing author made the statement “Life under the Nazis was a pleasant affair”—without sarcasm, irony, qualification, comment or edit. One would be indignant and respond, “Not for the Jewish people, who had a horrific Holocaust committed against them! Or the communists, gays and lesbians, other 'non-Aryan' nationalities”—and one would be right and righteous in doing so. “Life under the Nazis was a pleasant affair”: Does one think this statement would pass the editorial muster of the New York Times Sunday Review?

***

The truth is, such a white-wash of slavery and genocide is necessary if one wants to propagate—as Freeman does—a return to the vision of Thomas Jefferson and other “founding fathers” as a solution to the gross inequalities and the social instability of these times.

Not only were Jefferson and most of the “founding fathers” slave-owners, the very “egalitarianism” proclaimed by Jefferson—and upheld by Freeland—was an equality of whites. This “egalitarianism” had its basis in slavery and racism, and the lumping of “Black people, Indians and mulattoes” into a pariah class, less than human. It is on the basis of this exclusion that the Founding Fathers could proclaim the inalienable rights of all, freedom and equality for all—while owning slaves, presiding over and expanding a slave system, and committing the wanton genocide of Native peoples.

The depth of this truth and its full consequences go beyond the scope of this piece, but are brilliantly and penetratingly exposed in Bob Avakian’s must-read work Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy.

But for now, and in conclusion, let me say that no one should take seriously the “solutions” and visions of “freedom” advocated by someone who idolizes a slave-owner like Jefferson while blatantly white-washing one of the most monumental crimes in human history. Nor should they look to the bourgeois mouthpieces and institutions which echo and amplify this bullshit!

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/stimulating-listening-party-for-cornel-west-interview-of-ba-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Listening to Cornel West's Interview with Bob Avakian

Learning What Is True, Unsettling Some People

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Revolution received the following correspondence:

We held a listening party for the Cornel West interview with BA at our bookstore to open up engagement with this and generate ideas to get it out there. It was relatively well attended, both people who've been around and some new folks showed up. There was a lot of excitement and a celebratory feeling in the room. The interview stimulated a lot of thoughts and interesting comments which I thought would be important to share.

A young person new to all this commented that it was very interesting to hear what was said about the difference between a Christian and a communist revolution. He said, "My generation has been pummeled with a lot of lies so it's hard for us to figure out what we need... this is the first time I've heard someone basing things on reality and truth. The facts are there even though the media lies and skews things. It's hard to know what's true because reality is skewed, but it's out there."

The topic of lies of the media and how people can learn what's true, how things can change, and BA's approach to breaking through this was a big topic of conversation.

Another younger person who has been around for a while commented on how interesting it was to hear such a conversation between two people who are each amazing—in their unity, but also differences.  She commented on how acute BA's outrage is and how this boiling sense of outrage comes through, but also his love of humanity. At the same time there is a systematic understanding of why things are like this that has never dampened.  She said, "This interview is truly exciting. People need to hear about the RCP and what it will take to have a revolution, that things don't have to be this way, how to make BA a social question and a household word. It's not all pinned on this interview but it's very cool and a step forward."

Another younger store staffer commented on the way BA unfolded the moment we're in and the reality, how the masses produce all the wealth in the world but this is privately appropriated and how this is the basis for revolution. "You could hear someone listening to this and having unity with it. He was outrageous but very rational... he laid this out in a very simple but not shallow way."

An older person commented on the way BA spoke to the logic of appeasement with fascism in answering Cornel's question about the argument people make of "maintaining the middle ground." He said Germany was an example of where this kind of appeasement logic was pursued, of saving the middle ground and then came Hitler. He said in terms of here and now, "The train is going to the right, no matter what car you're sitting in, it doesn't matter, 'cause the train is going in a certain direction." If we could get this conversation into this whole Obama/Romney thing, that could be important.

People wrangled further with the content of the interview, including the internationalism BA was developing, and what this type of approach would mean for making revolution in a country like the U.S.  Then the conversation got more into how significant it is that Cornel West, with the very disproportionate influence he has in society, interviewed BA in this way, and what a great opening this provides to get this out and acquaint many, many more people with BA's works and his vision. One person commented on how Tavis Smiley and Cornel West have spoken out against the drone attacks and have been attacked in a concerted campaign including from White House operatives. This is all part of what we face. It was good that Cornel West said at the end, "Let's unsettle some people."

Listening to the interview got a lot of ideas flowing for how to get this out in a big way.
People wanted to organize more salons like this, to play the interview in gatherings but also on the street. To try to get it on the local Pacifica radio station. One person said many people are gathering to hear the debates and there is a politicized mood. Many people are not at all happy with what they're hearing, even though spontaneously they are thinking the best they can do is vote for Obama as "the lesser of two evils." How about challenging them to listen to this interview as a way to go for another way? People want to get this to college campuses, engage with professors and ask them to play it in their classes. To do house parties among basic people and have a back and forth with other sections of people sitting in, Facebooking and tweeting word of the interview broadly, and making posters to put up in all the wi-fi coffee shops in town.

This is truly a great interview that can have a big impact on shifting the conversation if all kinds of people are made aware of it and engage.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/announcing-baeverywhere-through-the-holidays-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Announcing: BA Everywhere Through the Holidays and into the New Year...

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Coming soon... a special Revolution newspaper section on BA Everywhere... Imagine the Difference It Could Make! This will be a crucial tool during the last six weeks of the year through the Thanksgiving-Xmas-New Year's period—in going all out to raise big funds and forge a community of people working together to project Bob Avakian's works and vision into all corners of society.

The past year has seen important beginnings in this campaign: BAsics Bus Tours traveled through California and the South, and into the neighborhoods of the oppressed in New York City. People around the country came together in various ways to raise funds—"penny drives," cultural events, bake sales, and so on. Money has been raised to send hundreds of copies of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian to prisoners, many who are sharing the book or holding group study sessions behind the prison walls. Powerful connections are being forged when people, especially those at the bottom of society but also among different sections, learn of this leader and what he's about. A national movement is beginning to emerge through the collective activity and web presence around BA Everywhere, breaking open new levels of debate and discourse around the possibilities for a whole other way the world can be.

These initial steps show the potential for achieving big breakthroughs in 2013 to make major societal impact with BA Everywhere—and the next month and a half is a time to get a running start. Everything that's happened in the U.S. and around the globe in the past year—including the ongoing man-made disaster for the people in the wake of Hurricane Sandy—reveals more sharply the living hell that people are trapped in, and the reality that the world cries out for revolution. BA has developed a liberating vision of a radically new, and much better, society and world, and a viable strategy for getting there—this is something to deeply appreciate...and to spread far and wide!

Here are some ideas and proposals for people to think about, discuss, talk to others about, and act on in the next weeks:

This is the period of the year when people often have more opportunities to spend time with family and friends. Take some time during those gatherings (and encourage others to do so, too) to show the BAsics Bus Tour, From Atlanta to Sanford, FL...and Beyond video or other clips on the BA Everywhere DVD. It's important to get people's responses (and send reports about them to baeverywhere@gmail.com), and to solicit financial contributions while getting people's ideas about reaching out to many others.

Some people might want to host potlucks or open houses where the topic of conversation is how people are treated under this system—and how the new synthesis of communism brought forward by BA can raise people's sights on how a better world is possible. There are different ways to spark off the discussion—for example, playing the audio clip "Why There Is No 'Right to Eat' Under Capitalism" from BA's Revolution talk or the Cornel West interview with BA.

Thanksgiving is an "all-American" holiday that celebrates the genocide of Native people. Imagine in the week leading up to and through Thanksgiving, anti-Thanksgiving dinners being held all across the country as part of BA Everywhere. People can get into the real history of this country—a good place to start might be BAsics 1:1, "There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth."—and celebrate the movement for revolution that is aiming to bring into being a whole different society based on radically different principles. These anti-Thanksgiving get-togethers would be a good way to introduce people to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) —a sweeping but also very concrete framework for a revolutionary socialist society, flowing from the new synthesis of communism. There are different ways that people can be part of making these dinners happen: maybe someone wants to open up their home, or host it at Revolution Books, a church or community center. Restaurants might contribute food, and individuals might want to cook their special dish. And there are different ways to raise funds through this—raffles, craft sales, direct contributions, etc.

The anti-Thanksgiving celebrations should also provide ways people can pick up stacks of palm cards with the BAsics quote for November, 3:2... to spread around where they work and live and to bring home for family Thanksgiving dinners. In the aftermath of the elections, and the shameful ways this system handled the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, this quote takes on even deeper relevance. Getting the BAsics quote palm cards out all over, and reporting back to the BA Everywhere website, is an important form of participation in the campaign.

A special BA Everywhere webstore will be unveiled shortly, so get the message out to everyone: Give gifts that matter this year...shirts, mugs, and more with challenging and inspiring quotes from BAsics; greeting cards with graphics from Revolution; BA Everywhere-themed tote bags, notebooks, calendars, etc. And at revcom.us, people can purchase a copy of BAsics for a friend and simultaneously buy one for a prisoner.

Looking towards December, we encourage people to go all out towards major New Year's Eve parties and holiday open houses the week before that to bring people together and raise money. Or the other way around – have a big holiday party the week before Christmas and an open house on New Year's Day. Again, these can involve people in many different ways—for example, bands, musicians, and DJs donating their talents, or artists donating works that can be auctioned off.

Through all this, in different creative ways, much-needed funds can and should be raised to make a big impact with BA Everywhere...and community—and a national movement—further forged as we work together in different ways and with people from different places, and invite many others to take part, to change the world.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/a-call-to-those-affected-by-hurricane-sandy-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Reports, Statements, and Articles

Important Report From NYC Revolution Club Meeting, 11/1/12

We are human beings, we demand to be treated with respect and compassion!
The NY Revolution Club developed and is circulating these demands and organizing people around them. 11/01/12

Why a Natural Disaster Became a Social Disaster, and Why It Doesn't Have To Be That Way: Reflections on Hurricane Sandy and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), 11/03/12
by Raymond Lotta

Situation in Long Island, 11/07/2

From the Harlem Projects to the Lower East Side Riis Projects, 11/06/12

Hurricane Sandy - Photos from Readers, 11/05/12

"Meals" at Coney Island, 11/04/12

Solidarity at Office Supply Store, 11/04/12

From Staten Island: "I thought I was in Haiti...", 11/04/12

Watch: Youtube video of outraged man at Riis projects, Lower East Side, 11/04/12

Reader in Boston Writes on Haiti and Hurricane Sandy, 11/03/12

Chicago Responds to Hurricane Crisis, 11/03/12

More Voices from Rikers Island, 11/02/12

From the Riis and Campos Housing Projects, Lower East Side, 11/02/12

Conversations at Revolution Books, NYC, 11/02/12

Brooklyn Street Scene, 11/02/12

Superstorm Sandy and Climate Change, 11/01/12, by Orpheus Reed

Surviving Sandy in the South Shore of Staten Island, 11/01/12

Angry in Ohio, 11/01/12

From Far Rock, 11/01/12

Report from New Haven on Hurricane Sandy, 11/01/12

Report from Newark, NJ, 11/01/12

Experience at a Shelter for Hurricane Sandy, 10/31/12

Coney Island, Brooklyn, 10/31/12

Report from Red Hook, Brooklyn, 10/31/12

Hurricane Sandy: A Lopsided Impact on a Lopsided World, 10/30/2012

Jacob Riis Projects, Lower East Side of Manhattan, 10/31/2012

2012 Hurricane Sandy; 2005 Hurricane Katrina
Reflections on Natural, and Man-made, Disasters and Standing Up Against the Oppression of Black People
, 10/31/12
By Carl Dix

Report from a Reader: In the Wake of the "Perfect Storm", 10/30/12

Voices of Loved Ones of Prisoners at Rikers, 10/31/2012

From Revolution Books in New York City, 10/31/12

From Revolution Club Harlem, 10/31/12

From a Lower East Side Project: "The Water Tanks Have Run Out", 10/31/12

Notes from Breezy Point, 10/31/12

I don't want to go fight for a place to sleep in some shelter, 10/31/2012

Carrying water up 13 floors in a Lower East Side project, 10/31/12

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

From the Editors:

On Hurricane Sandy—What Is the Problem? What Is the Solution? And What We Need to Do Now!

The crisis set off by Hurricane Sandy has laid bare the real ways society operates. It has shown why those ways must be radically and fundamentally changed. And it has shown some of the outlines of how that change could come about.

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A Call to Those in the Areas Affected by Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy is potentially one of the most catastrophic natural disasters since the path of the storm struck one of the most populated areas of the United States—the New York-New Jersey area and stretching well beyond.

We are calling on everyone who reads this to go out among the people who have been most affected by the storm and its aftermath and report on what is happening to them. The picture painted by the media does not reveal what is happening among the people in all the different neighborhoods, in the housing projects and the evacuation shelters; the people with few resources who normally survive week to week... the incredible mosaic of nationalities in New York and New Jersey. There are clearly areas of tremendous devastation and millions who have been affected. These are stories that need to be told. Write us at revolution.reports@yahoo.com or if you do not have access to the internet due to the storm, “phone in your report” at this special hotline: (312) 905-4335.

If you know people who cannot access this article online—call them up and read this to them and have them phone in their reports to (312) 905-4335.

There are disasters from natural causes fueled and magnified by global warming—and then there are the catastrophic workings of the capitalist system which compounds such disasters, causing unnecessary hardship and suffering. While millions are without power and critical care patients at NYU’s medical center had to be relocated, getting the New York financial markets up and running is a major priority from the point of view of the capitalists, and the media is bragging that within a day of the storm the New York Stock Exchange will re-open. What is the situation among those who count for nothing, like the prisoners on Rikers Island which NYC decided not to evacuate? This is a story that needs to be told.

If the authorities are trying to control and “lock down” the people at a time when they are trying to help each other deal with horrific conditions ... if this is being suppressed then that needs to be exposed and opposed.  Remember, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, there were numerous stories about the heroic efforts of people to rescue people from the flooding, while the authorities were busy portraying and shooting people as “looters” for trying to get food and medicine to people in desperate need. (See Statement by the RCP, “On Hurricane Katrina: 3 Fundamental Lessons," 2005).

What does and does not matter to the powers-that-be—and in particular their complete lack of concern for the masses of poor and oppressed people, and indeed for the people in society in their great majority can stand out for all to see at times like these. We are calling on people to go out among the people, including to help formulate and fight for demands which speak to the needs of the people.

Wherever people reading this editorial find themselves, as we unite with people’s struggles to recover their lives, we should be finding creative ways to link those struggles to solving the great challenge of bringing forward a movement for revolution and bring into being a new society and a new state which would put the interests of the great majority of the people at the foundation and at the center of everything it stands for and everything it does.

As the letter from the reader puts it so well, “Tens of millions of people in the most densely populated region of the U.S. have had their lives uprooted, and are facing serious challenges to remain warm and safe. For months to come, people will be struggling to recover from this disaster. Things are not going quickly or smoothly back to ‘normal,’ whatever that meant for different sections of the people in this grotesquely unequal society.”

FIGHT THE POWER, AND TRANSFORM THE PEOPLE, FOR REVOLUTION!

 

 


 

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Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

From the Editors:

On Hurricane Sandy—What Is the Problem? What Is the Solution? And What We Need to Do Now!

November 2, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

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The crisis set off by Hurricane Sandy has laid bare the real ways society operates. It has shown why those ways must be radically and fundamentally changed. And it has shown some of the outlines of how that change could come about.

Ask yourself some questions about how this society—what we are told is the "greatest country that ever existed"—handled this disaster. What was done when it became clear, days ahead of time, that Sandy was very likely going to hit, and hit very hard? Did those with real power in this society—the capitalist-imperialists—make sure that everybody would be adequately provided with necessities in the face of this disaster? Did they use their vast systems of transportation and communication—all built by masses of people, here and around the world—to make sure that everyone would have access to what they needed? Did they even make sure that people—including the desperately poor in this society whose food typically runs out by the end of the month—would be able to eat when Sandy hit? Did they take steps so that those most in need and most vulnerable—including the elderly and the sick or disabled, often living alone, as well as small children—would be taken care of? Did they make preparations to turn over their often lavish office buildings for people in need of shelter? Did they allow use of their massive network of airplanes and trains and buses, including their vast array of military airplanes which rain down death and destruction all over the world, to enable people to travel for free, either to get out of harm's way or to volunteer to help? Did they open up public facilities so that people would be able to meet and organize themselves, and develop the networks to meet the unpredictable needs that would be set off by Sandy? Did they inform people in a living way of the devastation the storm was wreaking in more impoverished areas of the world, like Haiti, and organize volunteers for that, and spread feelings of human solidarity in the face of disaster? Did they try to foster an attitude of "look out for each other"? Did they organize the many skilled people who would want to help into volunteer brigades, ready to spring into action before, during and after the disaster? Did they organize squads of younger, more physically fit people as "runners" to make sure that everybody would know all the latest information?

What would have been so hard about any of the above? In fact, all those steps would seem to be eminently reasonable—good ways to put into play the greatest resource of all: people. And you could probably easily think of two or three or more similar things that could have been done. Indeed, people themselves tried to do many of those sorts of things, and there are many stories of selfless behavior and bravery despite the official discouragement—including from those on the bottom, who are often reviled by the media and politicians.

Yet the capitalist-imperialists who rule America did just the opposite. They either peremptorily ordered people to leave, with no provision for what next, or else demanded that people stay put where they were. Then they put their police on the streets to force people to follow those orders. They cultivated and promoted an attitude of "every man for himself," and that it's your own damn fault if something happens to you. They gave people no way of finding out what was going on. They left whole areas where the basic people at the bottom of society live without water, heat, electricity or food—and then they clamped curfews on them. And they also meted out outrageous, uncaring and downright dangerous treatment to people in more middle-class areas that were hit as well. Not only did these outrages and horrors go on for days, long after the weather cleared—they are STILL going on, and many have not yet even come to light.

Meanwhile, the capitalist-imperialist rulers made sure that the stock exchange—a major medium through which capitalism carries out its compulsion to accumulate ever more profit—opened as soon as possible. And this was not only in order to keep going their continual insane rush for more and more profit—but to make a major symbolic point: THIS IS WHAT MATTERS MOST IN AMERICA.

The governors and Obama toured the stricken areas, and got their photo-ops—but while the media began speculating which politician was gaining advantage from the hurricane, the facts on the ground of how people have been treated and what they are still going through belie all the political posturing and grandstanding.

What does all this tell you? To begin with, it tells you that the class which actually makes decisions in this society puts the highest priority on their ability to keep accumulating capital. It tells you that this class could care less about the needs of the people they rule, and expect them to suffer in silence and ignorance. It tells you that this class will only and can only use the organs of the state not to organize people to meet their needs but to violently repress people—and that they have absolutely no hesitation at all about calling these organs of violence and repression into play pre-emptively.

It has shown, in the words of Bob Avakian, "The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism." (BAsics 1:3) And it has shown that this system is utterly worthless and cannot meet the needs of the people.

All this must be radically changed. Imagine a society where everything we described above about what they didn't do—and didn't allow to be done—actually was done. Where the values and vision behind those ideas of what people could have done were what actually guided the major decisions of society and people's daily lives. Where the initiative that people have tried to show in this disaster was given full expression and leadership.

Such a society is possible—and we'll get to why and how shortly. But first, we need to understand WHY these capitalists and their functionaries do everything they can to prevent people from helping each other out in these disasters. In the first place, if people were to take advantage of these times of crisis to overcome the barriers that normally keep them apart, they may "get ideas" about things being different. The people might begin to think that they do not need capitalists warping and perverting society to satisfy capitalism's never-ending need to accumulate more capital—and that society could figure out much better guideposts and measures for allocating resources and labor than just making profit. People might come to believe that what keeps things all messed up and puts people at each other's throats is not "human nature" after all, but instead is the workings of this system and the values that those workings encourage and require in people. That's why these capitalists can't and won't do what almost any humane and sane person would think was the best way to handle such a situation. But even more basically: They cannot do it because the laws of their system—their very survival—demands that capitalist property relations come first.

One sharp example: Think about how this capitalist, profit-über-alles system has not only promoted and driven the environmental plunder that has been contributing to the greater frequency of devastating storms like Sandy; but how those same "rules of the capitalist game" have prevented humanity from taking any steps to deal with this. It is not because they don't care about the environment; it is because they can't care about the environment—if they are to survive in the dog-eat-dog, expand-or-die death match that is capitalism. [See the article "Superstorm Sandy and Climate Change," and the special Revolution issue on the environment, online at revcom.us.]

What is the take-home message in all this? That we need, in fact, a fundamentally different social, political and economic system: one set up to enable the masses of people to set about emancipating themselves; one in which the vast majority of humanity could truly begin to flourish. This will require revolution. This revolution must break the grip of these capitalists on their instruments of force and violence. On that basis, and only on that basis, the new revolutionary power will bring in a whole different economic and political system, socialism, with the aim of bringing into being a whole world without exploitation and oppression, communism.

This revolution is POSSIBLE. Because of Bob Avakian and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal.

The "blueprint" for such a future society has been drawn up and can be studied in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), which was published by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, the party which is led by BA. Read this—and see that there really is a whole different, far better and far more emancipating, way that society could be organized.

The RCP, USA has also published a statement laying out the strategy for this revolution. This statement lays out what we can do today to hasten the time, in the future, when conditions could emerge which would make this revolution possible. As part of that, the statement on strategy goes into how the workings of the system itself give rise to "sudden jolts and breakdowns in the 'normal functioning' of society, which compel many people to question and to resist what they usually accept." It talks about how such jolts—like the one we are experiencing now with Sandy—are important times to mobilize people to fight back, and as they do so to learn that the fundamental problem causing all this horror and needless suffering is capitalism, and how "the solution is getting rid of this system and bringing into being a new system, socialism, aiming for the final goal of a communist world." It shows how through such jolts, and the struggle waged in them, the movement for revolution can "accumulate forces" and grow in strength.

Right now, this means mobilizing people to fight for the basic needs of the people in the face of this catastrophe and to raise their heads to the solution that can be made real, and to get with the only leadership that can carry it through: the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. It means pulling together a critical mass of people to influence millions more about the whole different way that really is possible. It means carrying out all three parts of the Party's slogan: Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution, to do all that.

In short, what does the needless suffering and misery and human isolation in the wake of Hurricane Sandy show? It shows that this world is a horror. That the causes of this horror are not human nature (or nature itself), but the system we live under. That because of the work of Bob Avakian, there IS a way out. So—let's get to it!

 

 


 

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Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Sustain revcom.us
Before, during, after the Storm—there's no other website like this!

November 3, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

During the past week of Hurricane Sandy, no other site has done what revcom.us has. If you came to this site, you got ongoing analysis... you got reports from the places where people were abandoned by the government and suffering hard... you got direction and leadership on how to fight this over the course of the week... and you got reports from the trenches where people are already beginning to do so. You became acquainted with the work of Bob Avakian and got a vision of how a different society—an emancipatory socialist society, on the road to communism, which truly empowered and served the people—could deal with such a catastrophe.

The battle around Sandy is by no means over, and neither are we. And now YOU are needed to step up and support this site. Donate—not only to maintain the site, but to expand its ability to cover and respond to events, and to qualitatively broaden its reach and influence. The voice of this website, and the vision and movement it represents, must grow louder.

Commit to a monthly donation. Sign up online to sustain at Subscribe... Donate... Sustain Revolution Newspaper! Send checks or money orders to RCP Publications, PO Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654-0486. Or drop your donations at the Revolution Books in your area with instructions to earmark it for the revcom.us website.

SUSTAIN THIS WEBSITE!!

 


 

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Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

IMPORTANT REPORT: Meeting and Planning with the Revolution Club at NYC Revolution Books

November 2, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

About 20 people came to talk over what the experience has been in going out to the most affected areas and more broadly, and what to do to bring to the surface not only the exposures of how those on the bottom are suffering, but also building the resistance to this, bringing out the basic problem and solution... it does not have to be like this and we are building a movement for revolution NOW, providing leadership and direction. The group was a mix of veteran revolutionaries and about 10 newer people, most of whom have been out in the communities with the Revolution teams and a couple of brand new people.

This group finalized demands proposed by the NYC Revolution Club.

The NYC Revolution Club led the gathering. People described their experiences—in two different projects. There are long lines of people now getting water and food, often not even mainly for themselves but for the people who are trapped. They heard a story of an 8-month pregnant woman who carried her mother down the stairs on her back & NY City Housing Authority (NYCHA) people said, "We're not helping, it's your fault you didn't evacuate." People in these projects were not told to evacuate and where do they go when the centers are 70-80 blocks away and there's no mass transit?

There is some food distribution being organized by FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] as well as the Red Cross and some churches in some areas, as well as Occupy and some community groups. Many parts of the affected area are still in desperate straits.

People in the projects in Manhattan feel very isolated and forgotten especially for living in "Manhattan." People in other areas of Manhattan don't know what is happening [in the projects]. The projects feel like stories people have heard from the Warsaw Ghetto in World War 2. People in these projects remember and have been active in October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation; one woman they met participated in 9/13 Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk day. NYCHA employees stand around, waiting for orders and don't want to go into the buildings. People are afraid—no lights. Even people who live there don't want to hang out inside—you could fall and hurt yourself. People stay outside between 12-5 PM. There are stories of rapes and one young woman with the Revolution Club spoke about the desperate and ugly relations between men and women that are intensified by something like this, and others spoke about how only the revolution has the solution for this. At the same time, it was recalled how 90% of the stories of ugly rapes and crimes coming out of Katrina were later shown to be lies.


Lower Manhattan, Museum of Reclaimed Urban Space, a museum of the history of squatting and community gardens in NYC, uses a bike generator from one of their exhibits to generate electricity for people in the neighborhood.
Photo: Special to Revolution

Someone had brought a load of 400 bananas to the projects. Kids waved them at the cops: "See it's a banana." "People are distributing goods, but it's not drugs today, it's bananas." You could see most people helping each other out. Those who were still there—elderly trapped in their apartments, and youth hanging out. One guy: "We are the best-kept slaves."

They ran across something called "Urban Museum"—old squatters who had set up stationary bicycle pedaling to generate electricity for people to charge phones, they were giving out food.

One newer young person talked about being in Coney Island. National Guard was there with one truck full of food & water and 8-9 humvees full of guys standing around. They were giving out MRE's [Meals Ready-to-Eat]—people thought this was BS. He described how the area is devastated, sand is all over, bulldozers are pushing sand back. Basements are destroyed, people have nothing left, people described walking around in flip-flops until their neighbor gave them shoes (it is now 40 degrees in NYC). One person described building after building, 14-story high projects with no lights, the devastation is extreme—water came up to second floor. Yet, across the street from the projects is a private nursing home that is fully functioning on generators. This was not hard to do, it just took a generator!! Where are the generators!!

People in Coney Island are being told there is a 6 PM curfew and police said people would be beaten if they were out after curfew.

The team was invited into a Coney Island building: People described in both places a lot of anger, but people are very weighed down with just getting through the day, internalizing "It's our fault, it's what we expect," people want something to be done but how?

In Coney Island there are also middle class people, also some white people live in the projects there—the middle class people are also devastated but have expectations the government is responsive, but people in the projects don't expect that and yet they have no concept of political action, how to do that.

There were various ideas in the room ranging from banners to discussion groups of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian and the new Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America.

Revolution Club people pointed to how the crisis is being handled, revealing deep oppressive relations—and how to bring a new revolutionary authority forward. Yes, let's have discussion groups but let's lead people to bring forward something new and bring forward different elements—get people who are not affected to go to Coney Island, the downtown projects, etc. The oppression of women—no one else will bring this out this way.

There was a heavy story of a professor going with a veteran revolutionary to Rikers and writing to that veteran revolutionary about people who don't feel worthy of respect, someone who said, "We expect to be here." She wrote, above all else, these are human beings! She was deeply troubled and wanting to do something about this. This is not a professor we know well.

An important neighborhood newspaper near Revolution Books asked for a piece about what we are learning from being out among people. People are figuring out sending them excerpts of the correspondence and asking them to direct readers to revcom.us for stories every day.

The discussion got more concrete and focused around bringing out new revolutionary authority and what the demands have to do with this and how. These demands manifest what every human being deserves and how people are not a priority under this system—but problems can be solved a different way, with a different system and way of relating to each other, with a revolutionary leadership for this. We need to start with a core now and manifest this now. Call the media: "Come get this story, where the fuck are you!" (One local news channel has started taping angry people.) The Revolution Club will embody this.

There was a turning point in the meeting from "talking with people about doing something" to an orientation of gather people and manifest, now. The demands and the basic headline provide orientation, and then yes, with this, get into the BAsics, the Constitution, the postcards with quotes from BA. If we meet someone today who wants to act—you are drafted! As you are, and with a code of conduct: no disrespect for the sisters, no taking anything for yourself. This happens NOW. What if reporters see THAT emerging from amongst the "thugs and looters." This goes up against the other narrative that is being crafted—"NYC is coming back, we are resilient, the authorities have everything under control and the problem is the criminals (and the people who were too stupid to evacuate)."

We got to a point through this wrangling where we were understanding that while we have to mobilize around the demands to meet people's basic needs, we are also focusing on big contradictions and the solution: Why are people sweeping up rats when there are places to live with heat and water all over the place? Why is this fine and logical? But there is a force building a movement for revolution to get rid of this! Don't Think Small! Think about how this is seen in the world if the masses stand up and an emerging revolutionary movement is seen at its core! We DO have this leadership and party and this WILL NOT and CANNOT turn out the way it did with Katrina—coming out of this, people will have something to compare this system to, a real alternative, a real movement for revolution.

The functioning of capital, based on exploiting millions around the world, is key in this system. How quickly they move resources to do something like invade Iraq! But there's not that much effort now. They are not fit to rule. If this is how they respond, get the fuck out of the way.

There are many middle strata people who have suffered as well from the impact of Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath and in general people are very concerned about the handling of the crisis and the global climate change emergency.

We recognized that when those on the bottom begin to raise their heads and straighten their backs in this situation, it has an effect on the middle strata and, yes, even more on those on the bottom who think they can't do anything, who are used to their kids being fucked with by the police. This is very galvanizing. As BA said when he was interviewed by Cornel West, "Everybody knows" who the backbone force of the revolution is—those on the bottom. We have to lead and give life to alternate authority, lead people to organize themselves and others around fighting for and meeting people's needs and representing and manifesting that people do not have to live this way.

This was an important shift in the room from "talking about" and not seeing a way through the weight on people, to manifesting and bringing forward a different way. Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.

There were quite a few ideas as a result. The basic core plans:

Marathon expression: there is a lot of anger that the NY Marathon is being given big resources to show how "NY is Back!" and to cover up the reality of continuing suffering. A team is developing a simple conception and plan for having people out there with enlargements of the demands and main slogan, easily done by many people on their own and brought to the water stations along the route, in the boroughs by people who are there—along with the demands and main slogan, signs saying something like: "ask me about living in the hell holes of America during Hurricane Sandy." We expect this could capture the imagination of many people and some media.

Harlem expression—people in Harlem are organizing a food drive and to get the food delivered by a revolutionary mass delegation to projects most affected, this weekend.

Rikers—a small team is anchoring this and many people who might have information about what is happening, or who are being barred from knowing what is happening, can be asked to feed in to the paper and this team.

Projects—Two large teams were organized to go out right away, one for downtown projects and one for Coney Island projects. Each had 7-8 people including younger/newer people. The Revolution Club people were developing further plans which include reproducing the demands by self-reliance and donated copying in areas with power. Harlem people described shop owners taking initiative to xerox copies of the revcom.us call to correspond and posting them and this is the kind of thing we need to tap into and develop. The idea is to call an on-the-spot speak-out and meeting/protest in each area and there were ideas for political expressions to be raised, worked on and implemented together with people in these areas.

Banners will be made in neighborhoods with the "We are human beings..." slogan to put on buses to Rikers and to take elsewhere.

Revolution Books will be open as a center, people can check in, bring stories, and get hooked up with teams. Each team will keep the store informed.

The store will anchor organizing volunteers who are at home to push out revcom.us coverage. People who can do this where they are, who can't or won't be getting out. All the ways many people can act—develop networks around this.

Some people have contact information for journalism students—they will send out the links to the revcom.us coverage and invite them along to these places.

One person described the media stories about the lengths people are going to get to work—walk two hours, across bridges, etc. You can go shopping! Victoria's Secret is open and the schools are closed!! People are going to BS jobs—instead, say, you are drafted for the next 3 days! Some people have no school or work so lots of people can participate and would want to. Even being with the movement for revolution and following revcom.us, [this person] didn't have a sense of what the conditions are like until she heard the stories in this meeting. People will want to hear this and contribute and we should be bold about getting people to be part of being out and help the Revolution Club.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-demands-from-ny-revolution-club-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

We are human beings, we demand to be treated with respect and compassion!

November 1, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

The NY Revolution Club developed and is circulating these demands and organizing people around them:

We are human beings, we demand to be treated with respect and compassion!

Demands:

  1. Immediately provide the hard-hit areas with emergency housing, shelter, food, safe water, medicine and needed care (including child care). Immediate emergency aid for homeless, elderly and disabled people.
  2. Immediately provide the hardest hit areas with generators and all needed cleanup equipment.
  3. Immediately set up adequately staffed clinics in hardest hit areas.
  4. Immediate suspension of all curfews, stop & frisk, roadblocks, and questioning of individuals without probable cause.
  5. Immediate fact-finding team with lawyers, clergy, relatives and members of the public to be admitted to Rikers Island; provision for emergency communications between inmates and loved ones.
  6. End discrimination NOW in provisions and services. No deportations of those in the affected areas.
  7. Immediate investigation of, and end to, the cover-up of environmental causes and ongoing damage. Full transparency on water safety and safety of all essentials.

 

NEW YORK CITY REVOLUTION CLUB
nycrevclub@gmail.com

Read the real story at revcom.us!
Send the real story to revolution.reports@yahoo.com!

 


 

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Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Why a Natural Disaster Became a Social Disaster, and Why It Doesn't Have To Be That Way: Reflections on Hurricane Sandy and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)

By Raymond Lotta | November 3, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Hurricane Sandy has left parts of the eastern seaboard devastated. More than 100 people have died in the U.S. Two million people in the New York-New Jersey metropolitan area are, at this writing, without electricity. Parts of lower Manhattan remain flooded.

From public housing projects, the reports mount of older residents and the very poor going without food, needed medications, and means of travel. In suburbs, where the violent rampages of wind and rain literally hollowed out neighborhoods, people have been left to fend for themselves.

It is a time of immense suffering and need. But for the ruling authorities what was the litmus test for getting the city back on its feet? That Wall Street reopen, that the wheels of finance keep turning for the endless accumulation of capital. Meanwhile, and just several city blocks away, emergency deliveries of water and food to those in need were stalled for days. In New Jersey, the authorities moved with the same kind of Wall Street zeal to reopen the gambling casinos.

Under dire circumstances, people try to cope and solve problems together. But there are no institutional mechanisms to foster that cooperation. The overarching concern of ruling authority is to keep people passive, to keep people in place, and to keep people under control. People have been thrust into the darkness of power outages, but they are kept in the dark about what is actually happening. In places like Coney Island, people have gone without heat and lighting, while facing curfews and threats from the police.

This is a system in which a small owning-class of capitalist-imperialists controls the economic lifelines and resources of society. It is a system where profit rules. It is a system where state power is used to preserve and extend global exploitation and misery, and to suppress resistance.

But things do not have to be this way.

Let's first step back and examine three key dynamics of this natural and social disaster.

1) Capitalism and Climate Change

As the article "Superstorm Sandy and Climate Change" explains, the ferocity of Hurricane Sandy has everything to do with climate change. Massive emissions of carbon are leading to Arctic ice-melts and collapses, warmer oceans, and more moisture in the air. And this is causing more frequent and more severe hurricanes. Global climate change is also responsible for rising sea levels that put coastal cities worldwide, with their densely packed populations, at greater risk for flooding.

Capitalism-imperialism has everything to do with climate change. You see, oil, natural gas, and coal—the fuels most responsible for rising carbon dioxide levels that are contributing to global climate change—are essential and foundational to the profitable functioning of this system. Consider the fact that in recent years 7 of the 10 largest corporations in the world were oil and auto companies. Or that the U.S. military is the single largest consumer of oil in the world.

And consider the trends. In 1997 the U.S. pledged to reduce greenhouse emissions by 7 percent below 1990 levels. But by 2009, U.S. carbon emissions had risen by almost 7 percent! This is the logic of profit and big power jockeying. There is intense competition for market share and strategic advantage in the world economy. There is no "incentive" to radically transform energy production and energy consumption. It's expand-or-die. Drill in the Arctic...drill in West Africa—or some rival corporations and rival powers will beat you.

And so the planet heats up.

2) The Nature of the Capitalist Metropolis

A city like New York plays a certain role in the workings and management of the American empire. It is a kind of financial-administrative command-and-control and communications center for globalized imperialist capital. It is profoundly parasitic. Finance is the engine of economic growth. Resources are siphoned towards real estate, speculative construction, and development.

It is a city of extremes: high-paying jobs and the concentration of wealth, on the one side, and, on the other, vast swaths of poverty, low-wage labor, chronically high rates of unemployment, unequal schooling and stop-and-frisk in the oppressed neighborhoods. It depends on vast pools of super-exploitable immigrant labor.

The city depends on carbon-intensive transport for food supplies. Its buildings are major sources of greenhouse gas emissions. And it has become more vulnerable to extreme weather.

The New York Times ran an article recently about how, for over a decade, scientists warned of the dangers of rising sea levels to the city, and how the city could be flooded. They called for storm and surge barriers to restrain floodwaters. Other task forces took a broader view, calling for measures to protect fragile shorelines and to rethink the density and patterns of urban development.

But these warnings and proposals were ignored. These kinds of long-term and protective measures run straight up against the short-term horizons of capitalism. It was more urgent, more of a priority, to expand lucrative property development than to invest in storm barriers, and protect and expand wetlands that soak up floodwaters. It made more "business sense" for the utility companies to keep investments on the maintenance and upgrading of transmission lines and other infrastructure to a minimum.

And the warnings from the scientists about the city's susceptibility to storm surges were borne out with Hurricane Sandy.

3) How the System Atomizes People

It is very stark. The disruptions in transport and power generation, the dislocation of basic services, and the fact that the city stopped working when people could no longer work—all this revealed how densely interconnected are the activities of social and economic life in a large city like New York. But the city and the larger society are not organized in a way that corresponds to that interconnectedness. There is no conscious social planning to meet human need, to mobilize for emergencies, to protect vital ecosystems.

People are atomized by the very workings of the system. They are forced to compete with each other for jobs, for housing, for higher education. Why? Because of private ownership and control over the means of producing wealth and over the resources of society. It is a system where people are compelled to sell their labor power to survive. At the same time, the system promotes its ethos of each for him or herself, and sets people against each other.

People have a great desire to join together to act in a crisis like Sandy. But that potential is held in check and quashed by this system.

A Radically Different Society: A Viable and Liberatory Socialism

The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA sets forth a vision and a plan for building a very different social, political, and economic system. This Constitution is based on Bob Avakian's new synthesis of communism, which opens the way to a world in which human beings can truly flourish.

This Constitution is a blueprint for a new state power that protects the rights of the people, that enables people to participate in the running and all-round transformation of society, and to carry the revolution forward to a world without classes.

This Constitution sets forth the principles and mechanisms for a liberating economy that meets the basic needs of people, including overcoming the inequalities between nationalities, between men and women, between those who work mainly with their hands and those who work mainly in the realm of ideas. This is a society and economy that will promote the world revolution to emancipate all of humanity from exploitation and oppression. This is a society and economy that will be working to repair, to protect, and to enhance the ecosystems of the planet.

In short, this society is the opposite of what we live under.

In socialist society, the means of production—the factories, transport, telecommunications, land, raw materials, and so forth—will no longer be the property of a small handful of exploiters but will be under a system of public-state ownership. This will enable society to utilize these resources for what is useful and important to the betterment of humanity. People will be guaranteed work; and instead of being drudgery, work will be contributing to the development of society and people's all-around capabilities.

The new socialist society will develop an economy that is no longer based on oil and other fossil fuels and long-distance supply systems. This will require extraordinary innovation and effort, but it will be a priority. The new society will aim to create sustainable cities—more capable of producing to meet basic needs, including food.

These will be cities where the formerly oppressed, rather than being isolated and penned up, will be able to interact with each other in meaningful ways, to organize politically, to create and enjoy culture, and to forge vibrant community. These will be cities in which barriers are being broken down between basic masses and artists and intellectuals, in which people with different backgrounds, training, and talents would be dynamically interacting with and learning from each other as part of the long process of creating the social and material conditions in which everyone will be able to work productively and in the realm of ideas.

The army and police will no longer enforce global empire and the occupation of the inner cities. New security forces will serve the people, protect their rights, and help the people to sort out and work through their differences.

Socialist Society Facing A Crisis Like Hurricane Sandy

The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America emphasizes that the conscious activism of the masses of people is what must be relied upon to solve problems and to carry the revolution forward. The Constitution also emphasizes that society will combine centralized planning and allocation of resources with decentralized initiative and creativity.

In a crisis like Hurricane Sandy, the socialist state would allocate needed resources, like food, temporary shelter, building materials, equipment, to where they would be needed most. This will not have to go through the patchwork and competing channels of private ownership and control that exist in capitalist society. The allocation of resources would not be contingent on the preservation of private property and the profit system.

The revolutionary state would be doing all it could to tap and unleash the desire of people to step forward and to help on all kinds of fronts. Relying on the masses would be at the heart of everything that would be done in the wake of such a disaster.

In a socialist society facing a natural disaster of the magnitude of Sandy, emergency priorities would be established—for instance in identifying the most vulnerable sectors of the population, helping the most devastated communities or areas of historic oppression and environmental degradation, and restoring critical links of the economy. Calls for volunteers would be issued and the means provided for them to become involved in relief efforts. Medical personnel, teachers, engineers, youth, and so forth would be dispatched to where they were needed.

Centralization means overall leadership and coordination. It also means paying attention to key social priorities, like uprooting the legacy of racism and the subordination of women.

In a situation like Sandy, efforts would be made to educate people about the scale and challenges of the situation. Specialized knowledge of experts would be popularized—for instance, environmental science, civil engineering—among broad sections of the people. But these experts would also be learning from the knowledge and direct experience and aspirations of basic people and of the youth. Architects and planners would be conducting investigations among the people. Medical personnel would be gaining a deeper sense of local conditions and needs—and training paraprofessionals.

Incredible local initiative and experimentation would be unleashed. Conditions are not the same everywhere. How to make the most of older equipment? How to conserve limited resources? What are the local priorities in rebuilding? Fact-finding missions. Group discussions and debates in neighborhoods. Streamlining administration. Transmitting ideas and criticisms to higher levels of leadership.

The government media and other institutions of state would be spreading advanced experience of dealing with the crisis and the new understanding gained, spreading lessons about how barriers between people and contradictions among the people are being overcome.

In such an emergency, big questions and controversies will pose themselves. Yes, there is acute short-term necessity to provide shelter, food, and health care, and to rebuild. But these needs cannot be met by disregarding longer-term effects on ecosystems. There will be disagreements over specific policies. And in times of disaster, some will be intensely agonizing over the overall direction of society.

It will be necessary to mobilize the activism and understanding of people to confront extraordinary circumstances such as a Hurricane Sandy, and to pull together. But differences will emerge, debates will break out. This is a good thing. The Constitution recognizes the importance of dissent and protest under socialism. In a crisis like this there will be contention and struggle. This process, if handled correctly by the leadership of the new society, will actually enhance both the knowledge and understanding of reality of society as a whole, and serve to forge unity on a new and stronger basis.

Bob Avakian teaches that dissent should not only be allowed but actively encouraged and valued. This is part of the process of getting at the truth of society and the world, of promoting critical thinking, and of enabling those who had formerly been on the bottom of society to more deeply understand and more profoundly transform the world.

Conclusion

This kind of socialist society, for which this Constitution is the framework, makes it possible for human beings to cope with a crisis like Sandy. It makes it possible for people to fit themselves to become caretakers of the planet. It makes it possible to bring a new world into being, to move towards communism, a community of world humanity.

Because of Bob Avakian and the work he has done in forging the new synthesis of communism embodied in the Constitution, there is a way out of the madness and misery of this system. There is a real solution. There is visionary communist leadership for the revolution humanity needs. As people face the challenges of mobilizing to fight for the basic needs of the people in confronting this disaster, they can and must also raise their sights to what is truly possible.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-situation-in-long-island-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Situation in Long Island

November 7, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

The following is a transcript of a call that came into the Revolution Newspaper special hotline (312-905-4335) on Hurricane Sandy from a reader in Long Island on 11/6/12:

I've talked to a lot of people out here, I've brought them to things in the city and stuff, you know, some of the programs at the [Revolution] bookstore and stuff. I have a lot of friends out here who are into Occupy and also Food Not Bombs. So these people are just working tirelessly, giving their time. And with a lot of these people, you know how valuable it would be for them to work with the store. Some people come to events and some don't. But I mean people are just you know, banding together. And it's such a contradiction to me. I just had talked to the woman who is leading the stuff out in Mastic, which is a really poor, very, very poor area out here, right near the water, got hit really bad.

And I just went out to get air in my tires. And people were giving me a look like they were going to kill me, you know, they think I'm cutting in on them on line. I was just trying to get a little air. And I ended up having to go to the State Police—I gotta get in here and you know, get air or I'm gonna have a flat tire. So you know, just the sense of entitlement that some people have out here in some of these areas, you know "I'm not gonna wait on line." I don't know if that's it, the cutting in on line, or total panic. It's hard to say without knowing their situation, you know, it's just a mess.

I've been reading about all the stuff in the city, you know about the prisoners at Rikers Island, and shit, you know. The total disrespect for anybody who, you know, keeping Wall Street going, but forget about the people in the hospitals who are on life support or whatever like that. But it doesn't surprise me but it's just shocking when it happens. I think it opens peoples' eyes too. I was just talking to this woman who runs the Food Share [a project of Food Not Bombs – Revolution] in Mastic–every time a real outrage happens she gets back into reading some of the stuff that BA puts out. She sent me an old–I don't know if it's old, I hadn't seen it before–of Sunsara Taylor's imitation of Sarah Palin. It was just hysterical. But I think it makes people more political, and more aware of like the nature of the system when shit like this happens...even my ex-wife, she stayed over here a couple of nights. She still doesn't have power. She goes "I don't understand it. We're not in a war. You know. And every time, you know, why can't these people–you know, it's like total disregard for people." And she doesn't live in a rich area, you know. It's not enough to get her involved politically, but it gets people aware that the way this shit goes, it's fucked up, you know. But not really understanding a way out.

Revolution: Have you had any experience in showing people the flyer of the editorial on revcom.us on what this shows about this system?

I haven't really been able to see anyone with the paper, just talking over the phone. It's really been bad out here getting around.

Revolution: I heard about Bloomberg saying they need to find housing for 40,000 people. Have you heard anything about this or about the extent of people being homeless?

Most of the time when Bloomberg gets on or [New Jersey Governor] Christie, it's about the fuel or the devastation, but nothing about getting the people out of their, you know, present misery. Bloomberg's main issue was keeping the (inaudible) run. That was what was important to him. You know, for the image, or whatever. So I haven't heard any compassion from him, not surprisingly.

Revolution: So your ex-wife still doesn't have power?

Yeah. No power, no compensation. You know, there are no places to go, really, here. There are minimal shelters. You know, most people here are hooking up with friends or to take a shower. And that's another thing. People go "I need gas, I gotta go to work." But like, let's deal with all these people dying and stuff. But everybody's got to get to work. That's what really struck me too, those images of people the next day walking over the 59th Street Bridge to get back to work. You know, it's like, people are just working paycheck to paycheck. They can't– they're so inundated with they have to get to work or they're going to get in trouble.

I'll tell you a story. My daughter works in a hospital right near here so she's staying with me. And the middle of the storm she called me saying "they're making me stay. It's like, you have to stay unless people come to relieve you." And then in the middle of the shift, they told her she's not working anymore, to go home. But she has to be on at 8–she has to be back at 8 but they don't want her to stay there. This is like 3 in the morning. But you have to be back at 8. So I went and got her, but I said, "let me explain something to you. If it's sunny and 99 degrees, I'm not taking you back to that place."

You know things like this–you know, outrages–bring people...after Katrina, I think people got more political. Hopefully this will be one of the things. You know, what you are doing here, things in the paper, you know, some of what people are thinking, you know, like BA says, you go to your first political meeting and you think no one else thinks like you and you're looking around and it's making sense, there are all these people. And they want you to think you're the only one who's unhappy. I think of that statement all the time.

Revolution: And, you know, the other thing he said too about look, we've got a pretty well-worked out strategy and we've got a plan for what society should be like after the revolution. What's missing is YOU.

Absolutely. I just had this conversation with this lady who's just on the cusp. I gave her BAsics a while ago...she's on the fringe of getting involved. She called me up from Florida. She goes "I have to talk to you when I get home. This is fantastic. This BAsics!" She came home and she went to hear Raymond Lotta who had a debate at New School with Harcourt from Chicago about the Occupy movement. She goes that's cool, but there's no strategy to what to do. So I got her the interview and she's reading it. Like I said, she's floating in and out right on the cusp. And this has had a profound effect on her.

Revolution: You're right. These are times when people really start to look at what the hell is going on and how could things be different and why do they have to be this way. It's really important to help people understand that at times like these.

Absolutely. I couldn't agree with you more. I say to her it's important that you step forward. She's like "Well, I'm there. When things go down I'm there." I go no, that's what we're talking about. We're talking about the thousands bringing millions forward. I say to her, you are a tireless worker, you want to do the right thing. It's so frustrating. But I'm sure you know that. You know, talking to people and everything is not in a straight line, going back and forth.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-from-harlem-projects-to-riis-projects-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

From the Harlem Projects to the Lower East Side Riis Projects

November 6, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

I was part of the effort through the weekend with the Harlem Revolution Club to bring some strength behind the NYC Revolution Club's seven demands in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. We went through some projects there in Harlem to let people know about this movement for revolution, the crime of the system's response so far after Hurricane Sandy, and the demands we're struggling to mobilize people around to unlock the resources the system has that actually can meet the increasingly intense needs of people in the areas affected by the hurricane. A form we were putting to people was contributing needed things and taking them to the Riis Projects downtown that readers of revcom.us are already familiar with. We distributed a lot of printed copies of the editorial on revcom.us and sold some Revolution newspapers as part of this. I can't speak for this whole experience, but here are some thoughts of my own I wanted to share:

Speaking to people in the projects in Harlem about all this you can't help but be struck by how many people are living close to or on the edge just with the "normal" workings of things. Later in the Riis Projects we spoke with people who have now been pushed beyond that. In Harlem we knocked on doors and many people showed us they have no food for themselves. At the same time a number of people were very inspired by our effort to expose the illegitimacy of this system and force it to bring the resources to people who need them right now, and some were even more inspired that for us this is part of building a movement for the revolution that can solve this madness humanity finds itself in. Some people who felt powerless thinking about taking part in just another relief effort got jazzed about taking part in the bigger thing we were doing once they got the idea. Two older Latina women who had nothing in the house came downstairs a couple of hours later with four large bags of clothes—children's clothes, coats, sweaters, etc. There were a few other stories like this, too. We collected quite a lot of food and clothing from residents of these projects and brought it downtown.

In the Riis Projects, along with the anger people feel on different levels with the system, and the joy at seeing efforts of the many volunteers organized by different community groupings to bring food and other needs, I was struck by how quickly the conversation went to the big questions, especially once they hear about revolution and BA—why is this happening this way, is it corruption, bad politicians, human nature... A young guy feeling very drawn to this revolution but feeling the weight of where others are at right now, especially middle class people who have not taken enough of a stand against what the system does to those on the bottom. Others would agree that this world could be very different, "if people would unite... if people would stand up... if..." meaning if things happened that clearly are not likely to happen. I pulled out BAsics and we talked about how the Statement on Strategy talks about moments when people are jolted, and what those of us who see the real problem need to be doing to build the movement for revolution through all this. This was clearly different than anything they had thought of before, and some wanted to get involved and learn more.

One older woman in the Riis Projects agreed that things could change and talked about changing the social security rules. She had trouble getting that we're talking about a whole different system. I pulled out BAsics again and read 2:5 and 2:6. I also pointed out the editorial's questions ("Did they...?") with the obvious answers. Then she had much exposure to relate. She said November 1 an increase in rent kicked in (she lives in the projects). Hers went up from about $500 to about $600. She now has no money at all left over after paying her bills for food. She also related her husband being arrested—before this crisis—for "trespassing" for going to a friends home in another building in the same projects.

Here's a backdrop "normal functioning" crime: A friend of mine looked up the story about the rent increase, and found an article from 2009 about the NYC Housing Authority restructuring rents and maintenance costs for public housing, which amounts to cutting personnel and dramatically raising rents of anyone who is paying less than 30% of their income for rent!

While talking with people, this really struck me: the priority the system put on getting the stock exchange up and running was about, in the midst of a disaster, getting the machinery of exploitation back on track—literally and as a public opinion point—at the vicious expense of people, including many people who are on the bottom of that exploitation. This system really is not fit to rule. We can do much better with this revolution.

I do have a suggestion: Along with really popularizing the editorial from Revolution newspaper, to bring the slogan and all seven demands of the NYC Revolution Club even more to the fore in the days ahead. Especially in areas that don't yet have power—the Rockaways, Red Hook, Coney Island, areas of New Jersey, and more—with the temperatures dropping below freezing and food a big challenge, but also in areas where people have electricity and maybe heat but still not enough food and other things. This is still a challenge. Some news (NY1) has covered the story of some volunteer efforts, including at least one volunteer describing bringing one plate of food to five hungry people, saying "it's not enough." Those demands, along with pointing to the utter failure of this system, focus up an important front of resistance many can step into. The volunteer efforts are very positive. They're also not able to be enough in the face of this, and we can't let the system off the hook as they still mainly focus on their machinery of exploitation and repression, criminalizing people with their arrests, curfews, and worse. The resources exist to meet these needs, and many many people can learn a great deal in the struggle to unlock these resources.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/Hurricane Sandy/index.html" target="_blank

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012


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Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-meals-at-coney-island-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

"Meals" at Coney Island

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Food snacks issued to hungry people a Coney Island, Brooklyn, in wake of Hurricane Sandy

Food snacks issued to hungry people a Coney Island, Brooklyn, in wake of Hurricane Sandy

Food snacks issued to hungry people a Coney Island, Brooklyn, in wake of Hurricane Sandy

Food snacks issued to hungry people a Coney Island, Brooklyn, in wake of Hurricane Sandy

Food snacks issued to hungry people a Coney Island, Brooklyn, in wake of Hurricane Sandy

Food snacks issued to hungry people a Coney Island, Brooklyn, in wake of Hurricane Sandy

These photos were taken Friday, November 2, in Coney Island, at the windy, sand-whirling corner where people were made to stand on line to obtain what was passed off as "meals" delivered in two ambulance-sized Red Cross trucks. The police were on hand, along with burly National Guardsmen, containing what few of the 7500 public housing tenants could venture out from dark, dank multi-story elevator-less (due to water damage and no scheduled repairs) buildings, behind "Do Not Cross" tape. "Meals?!" Airline snack packs and mini bottles of water—one  per person—were what people had to accept, lest they have no food and water at all. One woman said these—along with MREs ("Meals Ready to Eat), dehydrated pasta and such in bags accompanied by just enough water to "cook" them—were all she had to feed her five grandchildren. 

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-solidarity-at-office-supply-store-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Solidarity at Office Supply Store

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Saturday, November 3: Today another revolutionary and I were tasked with making 1,000 copies of the NYC Revolution Club emergency relief demands. We walked into a copy and office supply store with the hopes of receiving many copies as a donation, or at the very least a substantial discount. What we found instead was a similarly minded young woman who was willing to fill our entire order without question. She expressed solidarity and donated her entire employee limit for free printing. This young woman, though largely unaware of the movement for revolution, was extremely intrigued, even drawing fellow employees into our conversation. Upon finishing she expressed hope that we will maintain contact and in so doing expand this movement both with her and otherwise.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-from-staten-island-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

From Staten Island: "I thought I was in Haiti..."

November 4, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Five days after Hurricane Sandy, and little relief from government agencies, the people in Staten Island came out with a thunderous rage and unmatched relief effort. The "zombies" I had seen on Tuesday, the first day of the aftermath where people were stunned, were gone. Humans replaced them oddly enough.

I myself decide to get out into the communities hardest hit to offer any assistance I could. No gasoline in my own car, I had to borrow my husband's, who fortunately had a full tank. I cooked some spaghetti, after all it is Staten Island, and headed to a hard hit beach area in Oakwood, below Hylan Boulevard. On Guyon Avenue there was an oasis of help. Dozens of people had created a makeshift central distribution center of supplies for those who had lost everything. Facebook, Twitter and the website statenisland.recovers.org had called people out to bring whatever they could to help.

It really was an unbelievable site, something I had seen in Haiti 2 years ago after the major earthquake killed hundreds of thousands, and left millions stranded. Surrounded by rubble and debris from homes that were flooded or crushed by trees that were once stately and magnificent, this haven had people from the community supplied with whatever they needed while they were recuperating emotionally and physically from the storm. Hot food, and cleaning supplies, as well as blankets and socks were in demand. People walked for blocks to get what they could and carried it back to their dark homes. Those of us who could, travelled through the streets delivering supplies. Some of us were able to load up our vehicles and make trips to other parts of hard hit Staten Island communities.

The last time I witnessed anything like this was in Haiti, where I was watching Haitians, who lost entire families because of the earthquake, dig themselves out, set up makeshift tarp tent cities while the UN and U.S. personnel deployed there along with hundreds of NGO's like the Red Cross, stand by and watch for the most part. Those of us who were not affiliated with any organizational entity did the most work on the ground in Haiti. The U.S. military guarded the embassy in full body armor holding guns with arms folded.

Except here in Staten Island, there were no onlookers. There were no governmental agencies anywhere I could see. In fact people at the relief site were all talking about how there was such a lack of government help, or Red Cross trucks. Many felt abandoned, but most decided that the "talking political pundits" they had heard promising relief, were full of crap. The base camp of FEMA and first responders was only a few blocks away from this Guyon Avenue relief site, but those attached to either the National Guard, or FEMA were standing behind the massive fences of the beach area, with their huge generators, tents and trucks.

I decided to leave my hot food there, along with other trays, and load up my car to deploy with relief to other areas. I met Lynne, who decided to go with me and help. We took skids of water, blankets, cleaning supplies, snacks and hygiene items. We decided to head to Cedar Grove Avenue, which we were told needed what we had. The traffic was unimaginable. As we inched down Hylan Boulevard in that direction, it was a complete chaotic madhouse. I'm not sure how people were driving around since gas was nowhere to be found, but yet there they were. It was so odd to travel only 2 blocks and see normalcy. Drivers talking on cell phones, radios blaring, Gucci sunglasses, and shopping bags. Like nothing happened, or no one was only a few blocks crying because they lost everything. It is hard to comprehend when you are working with hundreds of people on a relief effort.

The police had the area closed off where we headed, so we decided to go right to the Midland Beach area, one of the hardest hit. In our miles of travel, we saw ONE Red Cross van, and nothing else. Now mind you we were driving just a few blocks from "ground zero," on the main road. Lynne was checking Facebook and Twitter as I drove for other areas that needed help. She was plugged into all the social network feeds, and kept updating me. As we headed to Midland Avenue, she saw a feed that said one location had so much stuff they wanted people to get it. We got to Egbert Junior High School to find that almost the entire back half of the open parking lot in the school was flooded with supplies. Getting more hats, gloves, and warm items, we stuffed them into my already stuffed car, and kept driving.

There was a lot of activity at the south beach area, so we kept driving. Lynne saw that people in Great Kills, where boats were strewn about by the hurricane, needed everything. So we turned around and headed to that other beach area, asking people as we drove if they needed anything. Arriving at the "marina" we found police guarding the battered boats, as well as one van of a few National Guard soldiers handing out blankets. There was a guy with a pizza truck feeding people, so we looked for those who called for help via Facebook. Finally we spotted a few tables just arranged by about 5 people who had some supplies out. We stopped and unloaded our car. They were so thankful for warm socks, blankets, coats and food. The houses were completely gutted by flooding, and the community was together ripping out the destroyed furniture, as the National Guard drove off.

They said they wanted hot food, and more socks. So we headed back to the Guyon Avenue site, which isn't that far. As we drove up a caterer had just dropped off 10 trays of hot food, rolls, sandwiches and coffee. We took 4 trays, and whatever else we could get into the car, and headed back to Great Kills. I had already been driving almost 4 hours, and it was starting to get dark. Some lights were working, but most weren't. We got back and when I opened up the tray of hot chicken fingers, I was rewarded by the smiles, especially the little kids who were so hungry. Everyone gathered around taking food, and the spirits were high. Just then I saw Congressman Michael Grimm appear out of nowhere. He looked right at me and said thank you for what I was doing. I really couldn't respond since I was caught off guard. I wanted to say to him "how dare you show up here with nothing. No food, batteries, blankets, nothing." He just came for the photo op and political boost riding around the devastated neighborhoods would give him.

From that location Lynne and I travelled back to the Guyon Avenue relief site, in the dark. The place had accumulated triple the amount of supplies since we had left over an hour ago. I decided to load up the car again with sandwiches and supplies and head back to the beach area where FEMA had set up their headquarters. Traffic had lightened up and when I arrived at the homes that had literally washed away, only news crews were there. I found another little station of relief hoping to give them what I had, but they were closing up shop for the night. Then I stumbled upon Alice. She was "guarding" her corner home from looters. She was freezing, standing in the front of her home across from a tossed street light. I got out and offered her supplies, she only wanted a blanket. We got to chatting and she went on a rant about the Red Cross. She told me she "always donated every single time all her life to the Red Cross but never would again." She was angry, disappointed, outraged and sad all at the same time. As I looked over, I saw Geraldo Rivera in his limo with driver and security right next to us. She said she told him just moments ago how angry she was and how she felt that she had to stay in her home, cold and hungry, because there was no help.

When I got home I turned on "Geraldo LIVE" and was hoping to see Alice. Nope. Geraldo was standing at the FEMA command and control center with Red Cross volunteers praising their work, the work of all the first responders, and a few "regular" people who had been there dropping off stuff they had left from relief work they did in Brooklyn. I never saw the clip of Alice, nor will we ever see that on national corporate media. The crap being fed to the world is literally a happy face of how great things are for us at ground zero. Don't buy it. People are hurting big time, and the only help is from other people who give a damn.

YouTube videos from the Staten Island scene are at youtube.com/user/elainebrower?feature=watch

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/on-haiti-and-hurricane-sandy-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Reader in Boston Writes on Haiti and Hurricane Sandy

November 3, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Before Hurricane Sandy smashed into New Jersey, New York and the Eastern United States, it had already swept through the Caribbean—with especially devastating impact on Haiti. I have been following events there as best as possible, calling and talking with friends who have family and colleagues in Haiti, and the picture they paint is one that is almost beyond comprehension.

Even before Sandy struck Haiti, conditions of life for the vast majority of Haitians have been incredibly difficult. It has been less than three years since the earthquake that devastated the capital city of Port-au-Prince, killing upwards of 450,000 people in a country of 9 million and driving over a million and a half more into makeshift shantytowns and tent cities around the city. There are still over 350,000 living in these shantytowns—with little to no public sanitation, makeshift electricity at best and virtually no ready access to healthcare or clean water.

The reason the population of the shantytowns has dropped in the last year is not because safe, affordable housing was built in the wake of the earthquake for families to move into, but because the Haitian military, backed by the United Nations, drove hundreds of thousands out of their makeshift homes to reclaim the land for the private land owners and speculators. Most of the remaining shanty towns were simply blown away by Hurricane Sandy—leaving hundreds of thousands more homeless once again.

Despite the outpouring of international support after the earthquake in 2010, little of the billions of dollars pledged ever reached the Haitian people. In fact, the most significant thing that was introduced to Haiti after the earthquake was cholera. The cholera epidemic that broke out less than a year after the earthquake has to date claimed over 7,500 lives and affects over 6 percent of the Haitian population. This is now considered the worst epidemic of cholera in the world, and it is a scientifically proven fact that the cholera was introduced through the UN military mission that itself saw a massive jump in size after the earthquake. This in a country that had not seen a case of cholera in over 100 years previously.

The situation in most of the countryside is not much better than the urban areas. Haiti, once one of the most beautiful and agriculturally rich countries in the Caribbean, now has to import half its food and has had large swaths of land deforested and without topsoil, leaving the hilly countryside vulnerable to mudslides and the streams and rivers that most people rely on for water vulnerable to run-off of sewage and waste. This was how the cholera epidemic got started—UN troops dumped untreated sewage into a stream that Haitians washed and bathed in and drank from.

This is what Haiti looked like on the arrival of Hurricane Sandy.

The storm swept past Hispaniola (the island comprised of Haiti and the Dominican Republic) as a Category 2 hurricane. People report that more than 20 inches of rain fell over most of the country in a matter of hours, triggering massive mudslides throughout the island that wiped out entire communities. It is estimated that over 70 percent of the agriculture in southern Haiti was destroyed by the hurricane. Hundreds of small farmers saw their fields covered in several feet of water. Everystream, river, pond and lake in the country flooded. There is already an increase in the reported cases of cholera from the further deterioration of the water quality.

To date over 54 people are known to have died because of the storm and dozens of others are still missing. Communication has been very difficult, but people who have been able to reach friends and family in Haiti say the destruction is much greater than being reported—partly because the areas are so remote and cut off and also because Western media pretty much ignored the impact on the country as "not that newsworthy."

As devastating as the impact of the hurricane has been and continues to be on the people of New York, New Jersey and the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S., it is important to consider this—there is not even any talk of relief crews being rushed into the sections of Haiti devastated by Sandy, no plans to airlift in life-saving supplies of water and food, no "promises" for a speedy reestablishment of electrical services. In fact, for the millions of Haitians impacted by Sandy, they had little if any electricity before the storm and no ready access to clean water. Sandy has taken what was already a dire situation and made it much worse.

In a sick and twisted example of capitalist logic, the only serious outside investment that has been going on in Haiti since the earthquake has been in association with a much promoted industrial park (read "sweatshop park") in the northern region of the country. On the Monday before Sandy struck, Haitian President Michel Martelly, joined by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and a host of political and business luminaries that included her husband (and U.N. special envoy to Haiti), former U.S. President Bill Clinton, inaugurated the Caracol Industrial Park, a $300 million, 600-acre (246-hectare) facility near the country's north coast, east of the seaport city of Cap Haitien.

A mock Haitian village was erected for the occasion, as celebrities like British tycoon Richard Branson looked on beneath banners proclaiming "A New Day in Haiti." Martelly, whom Hillary Clinton gushingly praised as the "chief dreamer and believer," declared the modern plant as proof that despite the usual "sad images of Haiti," the country "is open for business, and that's not just a slogan."

Think about it—a mock Haitian village is constructed for the viewing pleasure of the visiting celebrities, while hundreds of thousands of displaced Haitians live in tents.

And to drive the insane logic of capitalist development home even more: the industrial development of Caracol—whose anchor industry will be a South Korean sweatshop, internationally notorious for its brutal working conditions—is being built on one of the few remaining regions of rural land where the rich topsoil had not been eroded away. It is displacing dozens of small farms and, if successful, will open the door to the destruction of the last remaining areas of the country capable of sustaining a viable agricultural economy.

It is not exaggeration to say this "new day in Haiti" is being built on the broken bones and bodies of the Haitian people, and it profoundly underscores the point made by Bob Avakian:

"This system and those who rule over it are not capable of carrying out economic development to meet the needs of the people now, while balancing that with the needs of future generations and requirements of safeguarding the environment. They care nothing for the rich diversity of the earth and its species, for the treasures this contains, except when and where they can turn this into profit for themselves....These people are not fit to be the caretakers of the earth." (BAsics 1:29)

And I want to add, this system needs to be swept from the face of this planet as soon as possible.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/chicago-responds-to-hurricane-crisis-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Chicago Responds to Hurricane Crisis

November 3, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

In Chicago, there was a plan to go out to a number of influential churches and popular gathering spots in oppressed communities on Sunday, November 4, and on election day to pass out palm cards advertising Cornel West’s interview with Bob Avakian and BA on Obama, “Let’s Be Real Here: As Bad as Bush Was, In Many Ways Obama Is Worse...”*

We are still planning to do this because these are such big, important questions. However in light of what is unfolding back east, we are planning to add another dimension—to distribute a flyer headlined, Humanity Needs Revolution. First Katrina—Now Sandy. Enough! It will reprint the editorial, “On Hurricane Sandy—What Is the Problem? What Is the Solution? And What We Need to Do Now!” And it will direct people to the ongoing coverage of the hidden stories about the grievous effects of Hurricane Sandy, and the growing movement for revolution and the work of BA that is only found at revcom.us.

We are planning to redouble our efforts to reach out and urge everyone, including people around the Revolution Clubs and others to come out and help with these efforts and to further extend them into schools, workplaces and neighborhoods.

We are also planning to take out banners or poster boards that say in BIG letters: We support the demands of the NYC Revolution Club: “WE ARE HUMAN BEINGS, WE DEMAND TO BE TREATED WITH RESPECT AND COMPASSION!” and list their demands. People can sign them and/or take pictures of people manifesting their support. Other poster boards to display inside the church (if allowed) or outside (if necessary) can highlight the REALITY for the PEOPLE vs The OFFICIAL Narrative of “Return to Normal Life”—through display excerpts of Revolution’s coverage along with pictures that show the reality.

An important emphasis needs to be put on raising funds to support the revcom.us website while we are going out. (See call for financial support at revcom.us.)

* FYI: In Chicago the popular Smiley & West radio show was abruptly cancelled on the local National Public Radio station (WBEZ) the week before the interview with BA aired, and there has been controversy and protest roiling over the cancellation ever since it happened.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-more-voices-from-rikers-island-1102-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

More Voices from Rikers Island 11-2-12

November 2, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

This is from a reader who went to Rikers Island, New York City's major prison complex, and is a follow-up to an earlier report, "Voices of Loved Ones of Prisoners at Rikers":

At first Andre, a young Latino waiting to be called as a witness, told us he had not much to say but a lot was on his mind, and this was a common thread with some of the people we spoke to, including Junior the day before. But then when it got going, the floodgates opened up, along with the anger and deep thinking they had bouncing off of people they never encountered before, not just because we cared, but because they realized that Revolution newspaper was not going to just report on this and share it around the country with others, but together we needed to figure out how to change all this. These elements contributed to them opening up. Lucia, whose brother is in jail here, had a lot to say but got interrupted with phone calls with her lawyer’s office who kept putting her on hold.

The big issue is the commissary not coming until next week. This has to do with access to phone calls, not just things like gum or chips, which means no or limited access to lawyers and family.

Andre, in response to Bloomberg’s statement on prisoners at Rikers (the NYC mayor had declared before the storm, when asked about whether the prisoners were going to be evacuated, that there was no worry about prisoners escaping), said, “Is that his only concern? He’s supposed to be the mayor... Even here at Rikers, there are people who are here for higher crimes and there are people here for bullshit crimes. It’s bullshit. There are people here for petty larcenies like stealing a bag of chips, dumb stuff, misdemeanors; would it matter if those people escaped? He’s generalizing all of them here. For [Bloomberg], the person who does the petty crime is no better than the person who is here for rape. You can’t really compare the two. He’s not really a mayor to me; he’s more like an entrepreneur.

"We have the highest prisoner to population ratio in the world. That’s a lot. Just think about how many people there are in New York.... that are incarcerated."

Andre tells me why he’s here. He says he is here as a witness to someone who is inside and who didn’t commit any crime. He’s been waiting for 6 hours to be seen.

“You know how they tell you you are innocent until proven guilty? Just look at this stop and frisk. I’ve been stopped many times, and I ask them...and nobody knows about this, but I ask them for a ‘frisk report,’ and I’ve done that on several occasions, and they get upset that you know this, and when you ask them for this they just get upset. 95% of the time they just tell me to ‘fuck off.’ I’ve never gotten a frisk report. It’s interesting that they just get pissed when they run into someone who has knowledge of the laws – the very laws that they’re supposed to be upholding. When you’re profiling people and I ask for a frisk report you should just do your job and give me the frisk report. It makes no sense. Just like the other day. I was just sitting in front of my building [in Manhattan] and a friend of mine was running from the cops and he comes up to me and he’s wearing the same color scheme as me and immediately I say to myself ‘I better go upstairs and change my clothes because now I fit his description.’

"I’ve been caught off guard with this. The comparison is small, but for me the uprising that started in Egypt and Syria started on Facebook, and it started with the youth. That uprising started with the youth and why? Because of their concern for the future of their nation and for future generations. All these younger generations, they are computer savvy. We are living in a time when everything is about technology so the more you know how to harness this technology the more you’re able to say about what’s out there. And that’s ultimately what happened in Egypt and Syria, where for example women can’t say much because they have no rights, and you have to consider that these are first and second world countries. We need a revolution over here. There’s too much to say about this... There’s not one thing to touch upon. The judicial system is messed up, the education system is messed up, because the government has become more commercial.

"The judicial system has become more concerned with justice but not fairness. The justice is what the majority see as right. But fairness is really what’s right at the end of the day, so the majority of these prisoners who are here is because of justice but not fairness because the system says they committed so many number of infractions. It’s just all about labeling."

Lucia: "Right now my brother is in here and he can’t get his commissary which is sad. And you already know they can’t get no decent food here because the food sucks in here. He can’t make phone calls. Today is his hearing, and if his lawyer don’t show up, he’s fucked. And there’s just no way of knowing. I’ve been sitting here since 8 in the morning.

"It’s unfortunate, it’s sad. My brother has a hearing and we can’t find our lawyer, and if he doesn’t get a hearing, he’s fucked. And I came from Manhattan where you need to go back with three people in the car or else they don’t let you through. He just did 10 years, and now he’s back. And you know what happened first day? A Spanish CO officer when my brother got here was asked him: ‘Are you down with any gangs?' And my brother said ‘no.' And the officer gave him a razor and told him 'the first Black motherfucker that comes here cut him.' That’s Rikers Island right there. The corruption starts here.”

* * * * *

A professor who came with me to Rikers wrote this essay off of the experience:

21st Century Peculiarity

In reading the testimonies of families of people incarcerated at Rikers Island it was astounding some of the things they exposed. Luz was trying to bail her daughter out after she was jailed for being present at a fight and actually trying to break it up. Essentially what she revealed was the officers, etc. at Rikers giving people the run around, why is this? Is it because “these people” do not matter? Even if “these people” and the officers are of the same ethnicity, there is a mindset instilled in officers when they are trained about “these people” who are poor people and ethnic minorities. Luz commented on the media and the fact that coverage of the plight of wealthy people takes precedence over the plight of people who happen to be poor. The fact that someone who is Brown realizes that because she is Brown her story will not be told does not speak to the perceived ignorance of poor people and ethnic minorities. She shared the fact that she and her family lack the means to travel back and forth from the Bronx to Queens by car. This is an inconvenience that is not the concern of people in general. What was most striking was the statement she made about someone trying to be a good citizen and not being able to be one. In the case close to her, her daughter was trying to stop a physical fight. When someone is deemed guilty of something, they are discarded like trash even when they have done nothing wrong.

What was most substantial about the story of Margaret’s son was the fact that he has substance abuse and developmental issues. The remedies for these issues are treatment and counseling, not incarceration as Margaret stated. But Margaret’s son’s story is that of numerous others. Within the last two years, two of the men (African American) who were executed were developmentally delayed. The decision to execute them should have been overturned because executing someone with developmental delays violates the Constitution. A number of people incarcerated also have mental health challenges that warrant the attention of mental health professionals, not the justice system. She also revealed that people connected to the justice system are well aware of the inability of poor people and ethnic minorities to pay for quality legal representation. Additionally Margaret’s statement about the policing of specific neighborhoods and criminalization of people because of their residence speaks volumes. These practices are historic but seem to have become pervasive.

Junior’s thoughts were the most illuminating, yet disheartening. I say disheartening because of what it uncovers about the structure’s effects on the psychological state of young ethnic and poor people. “We live life how it comes. We struggle. And sometimes people end up in the wrong place at the wrong time. You got to realize, I’m not high class, I’m low class.” What does this demonstrate? Does he think he and others like him are not worthy of dignity and respect because they are not high class? Is that the message? “... But even those who are guilty, it’s life: we kind of expect to be here.” No words are adequate to express my thoughts on this statement. It speaks to how the justice system has infiltrated the lives of poor people and ethnic minorities before they actually have to experience it firsthand. 

Today Andre himself impressed me. When we first approached him, he said something to the effect of, “I do not know what to say. There are so many things going on.” He actually had tons to say. What was most memorable about his comments was his understanding of the difference between justice and fairness. Justice is what those who benefit from the justice system want and get, but fairness is what is right. Andre was right on point and though he was concerned with his terminology, his intelligence and sharpness spoke more than the expansiveness of his vocabulary. That was most notable. Maybe what Andre could not say on the spot was that fairness does not encompass: ensuring convictions by any means, bringing counterfeit charges against people, allowing people to make false accusations, and imprisoning people without cause. All of these circumstances are those of poor people and ethnic minorities when they encounter the justice system.  

Overall what I took from these stories in the wake of hurricane Sandy is that poor people and ethnic minorities are denied their human rights: the right to their liberty (Luz not being able to bail her daughter out & Lucia not being able to bail her brother out) and the right to food. Since the storm the commissary has been closed and will not be opened until next week. The “food” provided by Rikers is substandard and so are people expected to starve? You cannot blame people who refuse to eat hard, uncooked hot dogs as Junior revealed. Above all else, these are human beings. People have fought tirelessly for the rights of animals, but ask those same people to stand for fellow human beings, and bewilderment spans across their faces.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-from-the-riis-and-campos-projects-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

From the Riis and Campos Housing Projects, Lower East Side

November 2, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Today a group of half a dozen revolutionaries went out to Jacob Riis housing projects in the Lower East Side, aiming to organize the people of this neighborhood to begin the process of coming together and doing the immediate things that need to be done for the health and safety of the people, and also to begin the process of joining the movement for revolution. As we arrived, there was a church group bringing in bags of food for a line of people about 50 deep. When we asked the people what they were waiting for exactly, they explained how these people had been there before distributing things like toothbrushes and some food as well. They did not know what exactly they would get or if they would even get anything at all, but there they stood, desperately awaiting some kind of help, as they clearly were not getting any from the city or the state.

We approached a young girl who was toward the front of the line with her family. This young woman happened to be a part of the September 13 action to Blow the Whistle on Stop-and-Frisk. She knew of many of the pressing issues that concerned her generation. She explained them very clearly, and understood them deeply from first-hand experience. She explained how she knew a young girl who had been gang raped. She said that without power, they were in complete darkness when entering the halls and staircases, a completely helpless situation for anyone, but especially for women. I asked how they were doing with food and water, and she said there was no running water; that they used buckets to fill water from the hydrants, and then had to carry them up many flights of stairs, to use for drinking, bathing, and flushing the toilet. The food would go bad soon with no refrigeration. The only utility left in the entire complex was the gas burner.

We continued to go further into the projects and talk to more people, trying to figure out what everyone's basic needs were, and to also try to figure out if there was any way to go inside the buildings and talk to the residents still there. We came across a large group of youth who seemed to know lots of people, and were attempting to organize different ways of getting food and water to the elderly who were trapped in their high-level apartments. One young man in particular was very interested in our cause. He spoke bitterness of the unjust policy of stop-and-frisk and other abuses that go on on a regular basis in his life and the lives of his friends and family. We explained to him that there were other ways of going at these issues, and that he had to start challenging these things with other members of his community, and with us. We quickly realized this young man was a very influential voice in his community, especially among the youth, and that he could be a key player in organizing more people to come together acquire the necessities for the community members as well as for this movement for revolution. He was extremely enthusiastic and optimistic that he could take on this task; and we were thrilled to meet him.

After this, we continued on to the Campos projects on Avenue C, a block away from the Riis projects. This complex was completely dead. The only people we saw walking through were police officers, and housing authority (NYCHA). The playground in the complex was destroyed due to a fallen tree and there was police caution tape everywhere. Cars were completely wrecked, facing all sorts of directions and obviously ruined from water damage. ConEd was across the street at the power plant, pumping water from the sewers, and a flooded garage. We decided to sit for a moment in the Campos projects and see if any residents would come around that we could speak to; instead a few housing authority workers walked by, and with terrible attitudes, explained that people had been warned to evacuate, and for those who did not, oh well, their problem. We explained to them, No not oh well, what about the elderly who had no way of getting out of their homes without the elevators working, the families who had nowhere to stay, and the lack of transportation to the nearest shelter, which was about 70 blocks away. The situation was not just simple as, evacuate, and everything will be fine. NO. It wasn't that simple, and these men were not any sort of elitist people who should think of others in such a way. But this is the general attitude of the housing authority. It went along with another story we had heard from a resident of the Riis projects who explained that she, being 8 months pregnant, had to carry a disabled person down the stairs, to get out of her apartment, and when they came across housing authority personnel and asked for help, they told the pregnant woman that it was her problem, not theirs. This is disgusting. Even those in the position to be "helping" others, they are refusing to do what actually needs to be done to help their fellow man. They have no compassion. I am generalizing of course, but still, the evidence speaks for itself.

This is such a desperate situation for the people, and even now with their voices being slightly heard on the news, they are still hardly getting the help and/or support they need. This is just another reason why we need a revolution, because especially in a catastrophe like this, we can blatantly see who really matters under this system. The true character of the people can and will shine through all this terrible darkness.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-conversations-at-revolution-books-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Conversations at Revolution Books, NYC

November 2, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Revolution Books in New York has been open since the day after Hurricane Sandy hit. Some people come to hang out, browse the books, and charge their phones (we are right on the edge of the vast no-electricity area of Southern Manhattan). Some people come to find good books to read while they can't get to work. But others want to talk about all that is happening now.

Most of these people, largely middle class including students and artists, have no idea what the people who catch hell every day are enduring in the aftermath of the hurricane. There are no stories on TV about the people in the public housing projects stranded on high floors with no services; no stories about Rikers Island (the New York City jail on a low-lying island), or the continuation of stop-and-frisk. What too many people think is happening is that the government is leading the process of bringing back normalcy. Those who watch the incessant TV news or listen to the radio are hearing that the government officials are proud of everyone for being resilient, helpful and patient. They hear that the Stock Exchange is already open, but not that the people in the public housing projects in the Lower East Side are still without basic human needs. They hear that the Marathon is going on as planned with people traveling from around the world to fill the hotels while thousands in the city have lost their homes.

A particularly passionate discussion took place with an artist who doubted that things were as bad as we said. This artist lost over 20 years of his art work in Katrina. There were two reasons he gave: one was his own recent experience in his neighborhood where many people pitched in to help the elderly travel to a suburb to stay with others. But then he spoke about the utter disregard the government had during Hurricane Katrina, an orchestrated and conscious disregard for the people which he was not seeing here on the same level. We shared snippets of the stories posted at revcom.us. And we talked about the nature of the system itself and that there is another whole way humanity can organize itself—we asked him if he ever thought about where his cell phone came from, how it got produced etc. Is this system driven merely by people's strong desire to have more and more money, or is it a system that is at its core built off the labor of millions?

Yet another response came from the editor of a respected neighborhood newspaper who had been receiving the e-mails from Rev Books. He asked if the store could write an article describing what our teams had learned going into the hardest hit areas.

Finally, the store serves as hub for those wanting to Fight the power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. New people and veterans of the movement for revolution gather each evening to make plans for the next day—most especially organizing people to manifest against the crimes of the system.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-brooklyn-street-scene-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Brooklyn Street Scene

November 2, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

I took a walk Thursday in Brooklyn, from Ocean Hill, through parts of Brownsville, New Lots and East New York, talking to people walking, waiting for buses and hanging out on stoops. The mood overall was open and friendly, but people's underlying concerns were not far from the surface. Everybody said people around them were all OK, and that people had been pulling together and looking after each other. Many noted that there were areas where people are suffering, Long Island, Staten Island, Coney Island.

There was a lot of concern about what 'getting back to normal' would mean, if it was going to be worse than before. An immediate concern is transportation. All but one of the dozen gas station I had passed were closed (3 or 4 were apparently out of business altogether). I passed one station with about 40 people in line with gas cans and the line of cars stretched at least 6 blocks. One woman said it took her 4 hours to fill her cans, another man an hour and a half. People were relieved that they had been able to get this small amount of gas but apprehensive about what lay ahead and although people standing in line were chatting, the motorists in their cars were jockeying for position, and cursing.

I engaged in one more extensive conversation with two men on a stoop in New Lots, 50ish and a 20ish. I presented the Revolution paper and the recognition of the Stop and Frisk on the cover provoked an instantaneous response, I thought for a minute that the conversation would turn to their personal experience with this but the younger man said, "Hold up, look at this!" He pointed to and read the flag on the bottom of the front page of the paper, "What crime would Obama have to commit for you to stand on principle and not vote??" Check this out, it is DEEP! He went on to say that he had been really struggling with all his friends about this, "tell me one thing that is better!" (Never actually naming Obama, he went on to say that whoever was in office, they were going to jump to the needs of the power, yes it is the System. We listed a bunch of stuff, the older man grabbed the paper and started reading it, the younger man ran off after a bus.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/superstorm-sandy-and-climate-change-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Superstorm Sandy and Climate Change

by Orpheus Reed | November 1, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Hurricane Sandy was an immensely destructive and massive storm. Satellite photos of Sandy from space showed it stretching from the Atlantic coast to the Great Lakes. Sandy's tropical force winds spread over 940 miles, more than twice as far as Hurricane Katrina, although its sustained winds were 30 miles per hour less than Katrina's. According to Mark Fischetti of Scientific American online, Sandy was the "largest hurricane to ever hit the U.S. mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions." Sandy was also the second most powerful hurricane in recorded history north of Cape Hatteras, North Carolina. Its huge size and strength created massive flooding by rainfall and the most destructive storm surges seen along the East Coast perhaps in centuries.

Sandy--Another "Wake-up" Moment

Sandy has hit at a moment when the climate of the earth is undergoing big change. One of the most dramatic changes is the increase of extreme weather events, including more destructive and massive storms like Sandy. More of these extreme weather events are now occurring because of the warming of the earth that is transforming the earth's climate. Scientists have predicted for a number of years that climate change will result in more extreme and destructive storms, flooding, heat waves, drought, etc. And there is increasing scientific evidence demonstrating that the planet is already experiencing more extreme weather. (See "Climate Change: The Heat Wave, Extreme Weather and Future Storms," Revolution #280, September 16, 2012.)

As Sandy was hitting, environmentalist and author Bill McKibben called for people to "reflect about what it means that in the warmest year in U.S. history, when we've seen the warmest month, July, of any month in a year in U.S. history, in a year when we saw, essentially, summer sea ice in the Arctic just vanish before our eyes, what it means that we're now seeing storms of this unprecedented magnitude. If there was ever a wake-up call, this is it." (Democracy Now!, October 29, 2012)

But instead of raising such an alarm, powerful sections of the ruling class and much of the mass media have been mostly silent about or even deny any connection to climate change.

What is needed is to deeply learn about the dynamics of this superstorm, spread the science about climate change, and move to mobilize people to confront and if possible work to reverse the environmental changes that are wrecking the planet and harming life.

There have been some good and valuable pieces written by scientists, environmentalists, and scientific writers raising the alarm and digging into the factors behind Hurricane Sandy (see sources below). But the only discussion of climate change in most of the mainstream press has been limited to how the U.S. should cope with the inevitable rise of the oceans and a more destructive future by possibly building floodgates and other devices to make sure New York is better protected.

This is one question, but there is a much larger worldwide reality and problem. There are the immense transformations from climate change to come, in terms of loss of species and whole ecosystems, the acidification of the oceans, and the potential unraveling of the natural world. And the rise of the seas already happening and which will get much worse, and the more destructive and powerful storms that are also already happening and which also will get much worse will deeply impact hundreds of millions of people all over our planet. Whole island nations and potentially whole countries such as Bangladesh can be lost in this process. Tens of millions of people all over the planet live on coastlines at elevations in the same range as, or even lower than, New York City. And many of these tens of millions live in poor countries that are oppressed by imperialism. There will be no floodgates built for them.

How is all of that going to be reckoned with? Nothing short of dramatically, quickly, and massively cutting the burning of fossil fuels, converting to renewable and sustainable energy, and then preserving nature and allowing the earth to come back over many centuries is what is needed. But to do that, we need a revolution and a whole new system.

Sandy's Dynamics

Given this reality and the stakes, it's important to look at the relationship of this storm to climate change so we can get into all of this with people.

Hurricanes are not themselves formed because of human-caused global warming. They occur naturally through a complex of factors (which is beyond the scope of what we can get into here), and throughout history there has been a great deal of natural variation in the power and size of hurricanes.

It's not really that unusual for hurricanes to happen in October or to go up along the Atlantic coast. What was unusual here was that Sandy became such a massive and powerful hurricane, merging with a big, colder storm that was pulled down from the north by a dip in the jet stream, creating a super hybrid storm. Many hurricanes that go up the coast veer off east into the Atlantic. But Sandy was pushed back toward the coast by a ridge of high "blocking" pressure over Greenland. This blocking pressure and the atmospheric pattern pulling the jet stream south may also be connected to climate change, although this is not clear yet. Some scientists are arguing this type of oscillation in the jet stream is happening because of the melting of Arctic sea ice in the summer and the presence of more open ocean that causes atmospheric changes affecting the jet stream. There is debate about this among scientists and it is not a settled question by any means at this point.

What is quite clear, however, is that hurricanes are fueled and draw their energy from warm ocean waters. Ocean temperatures in the northeast Atlantic this year have been 5 degrees F. higher than normal. The ocean temperature along the coast was at a near record high in September. Sandy drew energy from these above average water temperatures in the Atlantic and also from the energy drawn from the difference between the warm air mass off the ocean striking the colder air being drawn down from the north.

While the warmer Atlantic right now is apparently a mix of natural variation and a warming planet, there is a clear component of climate change within this, fueling what made this hurricane as strong and large as it was. As the atmosphere warms, more moisture develops in it, and this also plays a role in fueling more destructive storms. In an overall way, the oceans are warming as the planet warms. Climatologists say that with warmer oceans and more moisture in the atmosphere, hurricanes won't increase in number but their power, size, and destructiveness will tend to increase.

Climatologist Kevin Trenberth of the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research put it this way: "Climate change is changing the weather. The past few years have been marked by unusually severe extreme weather characteristic of climate change. The oceans are warmer and the atmosphere above the oceans is warmer and wetter. This new normal changes the environment for all storms and makes them more intense and with much more precipitation."

The other climate change factor involved here is the fact that the seas have already risen because of global warming. All storms' ocean surges, including Sandy's extremely destructive one along the New Jersey and New York coasts, are made worse because of higher sea levels. This sea level rise will also get much worse if things go on as they are.

From what we know now, Sandy is another example of the more destructive storms that climate change is already bringing—a mix of natural phenomena and human caused global warming. It's a sign of what's to come. And this should cause us all indeed to reflect, and to act.

 

Sources

"In Hurricane Sandy's Fury, The Fingerprint Of Climate Change," Huffington Post, October 29, 2012

"Did Climate Change Cause Hurricane Sandy?" Mark Fischetti, Scientific American, October 30, 2012

"Watching Sandy, Ignoring Climate Change," Elizabeth Kolbert, The New Yorker online, October 29, 2012

"Did Climate Change Supersize Hurricane Sandy?" Chris Mooney, Mother Jones, October 29, 2012

Interview with Bill McKibben, Democracy Now!, October 29, 2012

"Sandy versus Katrina, and Irene: Monster Hurricanes by the Numbers," Mark Fischetti, Scientific American, October 29, 2012

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-in-the-south-shore-of-staten-island-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Surviving Sandy in the South Shore of Staten Island

November 1, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

A reader of Revolution sent the following:

Where do I begin?  How about never expecting Hurricane Sandy to create such devastation, destruction and dismay to the New York/Tri-State area.  I write this today to remember and to share my single experience during the worst storm in my life.

In 1993, when the “perfect storm” hit Long Island and Connecticut, I was on a boat that was tied to a dock in Long Island Bay.  My kids were little then, and we were on a 35 ft. power boat enjoying our weekend.  It was too late for us to head home, so we decided to ride it out.  Even though we were there, and boats did fly over us, it wasn’t all that bad.  I’ve also survived major blizzards and blackouts from the 60’s to the 70’s.  So I really didn’t give the prediction from our pretty weather people much thought. We stocked up on water, batteries and pet food.  I couldn’t believe that starting Wednesday, five days before the hurricane was supposed to hit, every single news broadcast was screaming about the “SUPER STORM” heading our way. And watching Bloomberg telling people they should leave or else, really annoyed me.  Of course with Ray Kelly at his side, they had planned to shut down power in public housing, as well as shutting down elevator service.  I live in what they determine to be “Zone A”, and are directly in a flood area.  I actually grew up in this neighborhood, and rode inner tubes down the gutters during thunderstorms.

Hurricane Sandy - Boat in houses on Staten IslandHurricane Sandy - boat in houses on Staten Island in the aftermath of the storm. Photo: Special to Revolution

This is a very white middle-class neighborhood about less than a ¼ mile from the beach.  I often wondered if Staten Island would sink if there was some kind of super storm, but laughed it off.  Going through the weekend, the warnings and drama on television increased exponentially.  By Sunday plans of shutting down bus and subway service, rail service and bridges were announced.  A pre-emptive strike by government to keep people inside, as well as immediately declaring the tri-state a federal disaster area by President Obama came by Monday. 

Bloomberg started declaring that anyone who didn’t evacuate was “selfish” and “putting first responders in harm’s way.”  I myself felt that was totally uncalled for, but everything he says and does is uncalled for.  In the meantime people couldn’t get to work, and schools were closed.  So in order to save the “infrastructure” and the equipment involved, it was moved to a “safe area”.  No mention of Rikers Island, or the tombs evacuation, and absolutely no questions from the “concerned” media about the people being kept in the prison system there.  I still don’t know what happened to them.

By Monday the winds started blowing my windows, and deck.  We thought we were ready.  I watched as trees started coming up by the roots one at a time in my neighborhood, including a 10 year old pear tree which landed on my back fence.  By 3:00 pm Monday power went out, which was expected.  Just as we were watching a news story on TV about the “Great Kills Marina” a few blocks away from my home, had flooded and boats were lifted out of the water and headed for local area restaurants and homes.  A few hours later the power came back on, and more stories of flooding were on the news.  But now Chris Christie and Cuomo, along with Bloomberg, looked scared shitless.  As prepared as they thought they were, the storm caught them off guard. Each government official had their own spin on this. 

All the while I am thinking to myself the only reaction and response these people in control had was to literally declare some sort of martial law.  Bloomberg literally had people locked up in whatever home they had, Christie was demanding people evacuate, and the only reasonable voice was the Governor of Connecticut who said that “people need to use their best judgment.”  Monday night I listened to the wind blowing, which was actually quite soothing.  The lights were out now permanently, trees were downed, and most people were inside.  Except for a bunch of kids playing football.  As I lay in bed all I could hear was the wind, which almost sounded like the ocean.  For all I know it may have been the sound of the ocean not too far away.  The air was pleasantly fresh, for a change, and I thought, this isn’t so bad.  I was lucky.  I had a nice bed, warm blankets, and food.  I also had hot water and a gas stove that worked.  I thought about the people in Haiti and other parts of the Caribbean who suffer through this every year, and have nothing to begin with.  I do some volunteer work in Haiti, and have seen firsthand how living in a tarp tent in a hurricane will humble someone like me, but is the norm for them.

During the night the winds picked up, and hail started hitting.  I was more worried about my 90 year old mom who lives ten houses around the corner from me.  Tuesday morning came, and as I walked outside, I couldn’t believe what a mess it was.  Everyone was out in the streets, looking pretty stunned, waiting to see emergency vehicles.  What I noticed is that the entire night into the morning, I did not hear one emergency vehicle, nor did I see one.  In fact, I wasn’t alone.  Everyone was talking about it. 

So for five days before this storm, all we saw were political figures, government officials and media standing up and shouting orders; showing us slideshows and presentations on how the storm was going to hit us, what zones were the worst, what they were going to do about it, and how we needed to listen to what they were telling us to do or else.  For five days before the storm, people were ransacking the local supermarkets, stocking up on whatever they wanted.  Here in Staten Island I saw carts filled with cookies, cereal and soda.  But now, after the storm hit, those same politicians, government officials and media folks were at a loss.  Every one of them kept saying they never saw anything like this; Cuomo made reference to his conversation with Obama saying that “we have a 100 year storm every two years now, how do we handle it.”  He meant, “how do we handle the people.”

Standing out in my street, I didn’t see one “emergency responder”.  Not one vehicle or cop.  A friend came by and said that the National Guard was all along the water front street of Hylan Boulevard, protecting the homes there.  Turns out those same yachts and boats that were docked in the most prestigious marina where there are million dollar boats, came loose and floated two blocks into all the homes in the area.  It’s sad that the waters had risen so high to come up one-half mile into homes, and we hoped no one was hurt, but the message was sent clearly that the National Guard was not there to help us, they were there to protect property.  There were no emergency evacuations happening.  In fact all along the south shore, people were stranded in their homes, some of them washed away, calling for help.  Help did not come. 

After people had been told to listen to their government officials, they were now left to fend for themselves.  Bloomberg and the rest of the talking heads, were on the airwaves saying they were told to evacuate, and now people had to wait.  Statements started coming out how power wouldn’t be turned on for at least five to seven days, and that the main focus was to get Wall Street, which was flooded, up and running first. 

Tuesday wasn’t too bad, but people looked stunned.  I spent time at my mom’s house, and found it was getting very cold.  She sat with two coats and her home is all electric, so she had no gas at all. Her neighbors were outside with photos and stories of the flooding and electrical wiring downed.  But still no sign of ANY help.  I decided I would venture out in my car to find gasoline, since I was on empty.  I couldn’t believe how people were reacting.  Now I am a “post-apocalyptic zombie movie” fan, and always laugh at people who go “rogue”, until I got in my car and started looking for gas.  Street lights were out, trees were in the middle of the road, and houses were destroyed.  Yet there they were, hundreds of cars, mostly SUV’s, with maniacal drivers behind the wheel.  People were pale, eyes bulging and hair standing on end.  I am not kidding.  I found a CVS that was open, and people were pushing and shoving just to get batteries and water.  Angry faces, angry body language, and loud voices.  I thought to myself, now I understand where they get the scripts for these movies!  I kept looking for the walking dead behind my shoulder.

No one knew what to do with themselves except shop.  People on line had candy, boxed cake mix, soda, and other such items.  Everyone was lost and asking where all the help was. Here they were listening to those in charge telling them what to do, and now dead silence.  Staten Island, it turns out, was one of the hardest hit.  Families lost lives, homes and businesses. 

I left the store and went to a gas station.  Again, cars headed in every entrance and exit in different directions trying to get to the pump first.  Yelling out the windows at each other, and looking like live zombies themselves.  I immediately went home.  There was no help coming, and no one wanted to help.

There’s something to say about how some communities pull together, but from what I saw after this devastation, that’s a rarity.  You may see it on the news, but they aren’t going to show you the overwhelming amount of times people will run you down first, and ask questions later.  I started to examine why this was happening here.  First of all, living in middle class suburbia, people basically don’t spend time socializing unless you have small kids. There is really no sense of community.  We don’t live in buildings where you see your neighbors several times a day, like in public housing, or in the urban areas.  People here are basically out for themselves. 

By Wednesday, now two days without power, the frustration was evident everywhere.  No help came at all, but news about the opening of the stock exchange was on the radio airwaves.  I stayed at my mom’s house since now it was really pretty cold for her at night.  I went from thinking that we could ride this out, to going into full emergency mode.  I had no cell service on Monday and Tuesday, and thought it would return, also hoping power would return.  But it hadn’t and it was getting colder.  People in the streets were talking about how this was more than a hurricane.  A tsunami or tidal wave was more like it.  Many felt now that we weren’t being told the entire story, and still no help came.  Most feel helpless because in their minds they are depending upon those same officials that said they were in control before the storm, but were now pretty much invisible except for press conferences.

It is amazing how you go from taking your TV, internet, cell phones, refrigerators and cars for granted, somewhere in the back of your mind understanding that you shouldn’t really depend upon all these comforts, to now taking it hour by hour, only thinking about how you can keep warm, how you will eat, and when dusk comes, making sure you have candles lit, and enough flashlights.  You literally start operating in emergency mode.  I felt myself on Wednesday at some point switching over into high gear.  Thinking that if we had to go through this for 5 more days, we needed food, and heat.  I planned with my husband to head out to Philadelphia to find batteries and a generator on Thursday, so we could at least survive.  We could at least keep my mom warm, and my dogs and cats, who were already spooked.  I wasn’t even thinking about watching TV or going online at that point.  It was shear survival instincts kicking in.

All I could think about was Haiti, and New Orleans.  How in NOLA Blackwater mercenaries started shooting people.  How people in Haiti start burning tires out of frustration. Would that happen here?   What would be the new norm.  Yes, we now have storms of the century every 2 years, or sooner.  And those in control are “altering” their grand plans for the rest of us.  What does that mean?

It certainly doesn’t mean they are coming to help immediately.  It means they will enforce martial law sooner, more fiercely and let us ALL fend for ourselves, while they keep “order.”   Of course people feel helpless, angry and afraid.  We are not in control.  We are used to the creature comforts, but we don’t have our hands on the button that control it.  Those who stand on the podiums do, and they will control it, the military and us in the process.  Early Thursday morning, while we were sleeping, all the lights and appliances flipped on.  I looked up and realized how much energy I was actually using, that was my first thought.  I walked around my house shutting off lights, televisions, computers, and washing machine.  It scared me into thinking how dependent I was on these things, and how I just took it for granted, or worse, ignored it. 

I was happy to have heat again, and so was my mom, but now have a greater awareness of who is in control, and how I can be in more control.  Somehow we have to sever our ties with those who control our living existence. 

I am watching the news now in my living room and all I see are people crying out for help.  How frustration is growing, and most are fighting with each other, over food, gasoline and anything else they can’t get. People are standing alone, hungry, and asking the camera “where’s the red cross?  Where’s all the help?”  It’s not over, not by a longshot.  More than ever, we have to take our lives back, our world back, and NOT depend upon others to keep control in our name.  In the meantime, I’m going to sit down and watch a good zombie movie.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-angry-in-ohio-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Angry in Ohio

November 1, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Revolution received the following from a reader in Ohio:

I have read these stories of what a lot of people are going through in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, and it is sickening that the media and the authorities are ignoring the people in the low end neighborhoods and are treating people like they don't exist. The devastation of this storm has reached many parts of the US and the islands in the Gulf, as far as here in Ohio, and we have much damage, misplaced people, flooding, no electricity or water, and this is very much a danger to the elderly, disabled, and others who have lost property and even loved ones through this storm. I am very worried for my relatives in NYC, as I have tried to communicate with them, but the phone lines must be down. But the worst feeling I get is when I read how the city officials are more concerned with people looting than concern for human life, just like with Hurricane Katrina, with what people went through with getting through the storm.

I am also angered that these people in these lower neighborhoods are not getting any services and is being penalized because they "ignored" the evacuation order from the mayor, as many didn't get the order, and then had no shelter to go to or wasn't well informed of any shelters around their areas. Also I am very angered that for the ones who found shelter was treated like "animals", and how the homeless was considered not to be "real' people. And I am very angered by how the police just patrol the people and are not concerned about the lives of others, still serving and protecting the interest of the powers that rule the people, or as one gentleman on the audio said, "we are well kept slaves."

The damage caused by Hurricane Sandy is devastating enough, and it will take a long time for many to pick up the pieces and grieve for the loss of many lives along the Atlantic states and other areas of the East Coast and as far as Ohio where I live, but the most devastating thing of all is the indecent ways of this system that have no respect for poor and disadvantaged human beings, and the treatment of these human beings that holds no merit nor honor for the ruling class, the media, or law/military enforcement. Even in the mist of the "perfect storm", people are being degraded, humiliated, harassed, and criminalized by this system. I am so sickened by it, I am very close to tears, but is too angry to cry.

So as I ponder upon what I have read from many of these statements, talks, (here and there), and the outrage of many, and the yet many more to come out of the storm, I come to know without a shadow of doubt and it is very clear as Bob Avakian stated in BAsics 3:1, "Let's get down to basics: We need a revolution. Anything else, in the final analysis, is bullshit." Now I proclaim loudly, as many people are suffering needlessly and is struggling to hold on to life, while the ruling class is holding on to theirs, restricting all from basic human needs and showing no dignity for their troubled lives. I know words could never express enough how much I feel for all who have lost loved ones, property, treated with disrespect, and is still going through their miseries and sickness, especially when much of these disasters could've been handled better if we had a system that gave a fuck about the people rather than their self-serving interest.

A sad postscript is that I still have yet to hear word that my family and friends in NYC have survived or need help. I wish the best for all of NYC. I know for me, I am more than ready to fight the power and stand up for morality and humanity, 'cause as these people are helping themselves and others in trouble, I know we can do much better than this.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-from-far-rock-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

From Far Rock

November 1, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Dear Revolution,

A person who I know via Facebook just shared some experience his brother had in the Rockaways. His post references the part of the Rockaways that is not near the more affluent Breezy Point. If others are going back that way soon, they may want to look more into this section.

"My brothers just came back far rock, the spent yesterday and night there. One of them said its really bad. No police, red cross or relief services.

"The went to check on our property, family and friends. Ended up going into the projects and brining out and taking people stranded or to jamaica to get resources. The Rockaways is a huge community of private homes but primarily public housing. Let's also push our city services to send physical relief to the area.

"Although many of us Frequent the beaches, we don't go into those projects or may be unaware of them. It's one of the city's largest public housing complexes...people are stranded there (no public trans, electricity, and most likely lower income) and most don't have an alternative place to go. Let's not let it become another 9th ward situation. Please press our city offices to also send help.”

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-from-new-haven-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Report from New Haven on Hurricane Sandy

November 1, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

On Monday night as hurricane Sandy was developing up the east coast, Connecticut governor Malloy declared in a news press conference that this could be of “Katrina proportions.” This statement made me consider what was deeper in this and how to see what are really acts of nature, as opposed to acts of a system; a system that with the effects of Katrina left many left in desolation, disruption, and death. A system that showed its ugly reality on how it lacked concern for the people and how this system not only crushes and exploits the vast majority of people in this country but all around the world. But it is at these times that there is the potential for people to get a clear understanding of the workings of a capitalist-imperialist system—that no matter what is going on, it continues to hum in the background as it crushes spirits and destroys lives.

In New Haven and much of CT there is enormous damage to people’s lives as well as property and especially hard hit is the infrastructure of power lines and railroads. When I was at the bus stops at the New Haven Green which is the transfer point for the various areas of the city and suburbs I tried to engage people in looking at the distinction between acts of nature and acts of a system and I had newspapers with me. I talked to two middle-aged Black women who did not go to the shelter. When I asked about that they commented on hearing the governor remark on this storm being of “Katrina proportions” and remembered what happened to Black people at the time. One woman said she “had some damage to the outside of her house but nothing like the photos of houses completely demolished and filled with water and also many people without power and how long will that take to get back running, remember last year with that early storm where people had to go without electricity for weeks.” There was an anger that was put right out there and they did get the newspaper.

A guy, a Latino, in his 30s and was very agitated and when we talked he said that the trains are out now and he “needs to get to work, a place four stops on the train.” He just got this job being out of work after being laid off his last job months ago and said he needs to work “cause all his bills are due and things are coming down on his family, I’m the only one working right now.”

Many people heard the governor in his press conferences and some replied that they were safe and not affected. But one woman, a white woman in her forties from a white working class section of the city, said his statement brought back the memories of the photos from Katrina of people on the roofs and how they were abandoned and then she said “you know if that is what they are doing to Black folks they will do it to me also, just wait.” She did not stay to talk since she had to get the bus and I could not get a contact number.

When I went to the university in the city which is a prominent elite training ground there were three guys talking about the hurricane and I asked how they did through it and what they thought and did they put it in the context of acts of nature and acts of a system. One guy after saying nothing had happened to him, took the line that if people did not follow the directions and got injured it was their own fault. I tried to challenge him and he went into a rant about how he did not care for the “lower people” and he came here to get his degree and start his career. And the others did not response when I turned to them but as they left one of these guys turned to the one ranting and said loud enough for me to hear, “Man, you’re really an ass and not only that you’re wrong.”

These are some contacts made in the past two days. There are other areas of the city that I have not gotten to since power lines are down in many areas and difficult to get past. There is an indication that the effects in this area as well as entire area that was devastated by hurricane Sandy will linger within a system that does not have as its basis the concerns and desires of the people.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-from-newark-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Report from Newark, NJ

November 1, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

10-31-12. Striving to answer the latest call in Revolution newspaper, I and a few revolutionary friends in New York City decided to venture across the river to New Jersey and find out what we could about what is happening to people, connect with efforts to meet people's needs, and connect all this up with this movement for revolution. We decided, for this trip, to go to the area in an around Newark, NJ, which is a large concentration of Black people, as well as immigrants from Central America and Europe, and some white people. As far as we could tell, this area was not hit with serious flooding. The effects on people here are from strong winds and mainly the complete loss of electricity.

A large chunk of New Jersey has been without power for two days now, along with those coastal areas that were violently flooded by the storm surge. Electricity is beginning to be restored to some areas.

In a small town next to Newark called Harrison, where many people are from Central and South America, along with people from India and working class whites, the power in the whole town has been out for two days. We talked to people in a line outside a school waiting to get access to one half hour with an electric outlet (to charge their phones – the school has an emergency generator). The police are around, people told us how police drove through telling people about a driving curfew from 6 pm to 6 am, and we saw police driving by while we were there. We even saw a Blackhawk helicopter fly by. There is nothing in the roads to obstruct driving. But absolutely no authorities of any kind have made any attempt to tell people what the situation is or what to expect, what resources are available, let alone mobilizing anyone, including the authorities themselves, to meet people's needs. In both Harrison and Newark we talked with people who had no idea of what has happened outside of their immediate experience. Keep in mind there is no electricity, and with today's technology many people don't have battery-powered radios. A number of people we spoke with had literally not heard any news since Sunday, before the storm, and didn't know how bad it was outside of their area.

In Harrison, people told us it's like there is no authority, no communication of any kind except for curfew announcements. No one knows how bad things are or what to expect. No announcements about where resources can be found. They said the mayor has been nowhere to be seen. We saw a flyer from the mayor's office being passed out that told people to throw away food that has not been refrigerated for 24 hours. So people posed the obvious question, what are they supposed to eat after that? Food in refrigerators has started to go bad; food stores are closed. One guy told us people keep asking why we have to accept this, that the only time the authorities come is when they want you to vote, but when you need them to protect you they're nowhere. One guy who had heard the news said they could expect to be without power for 10 days, but nothing about what people are supposed to do in the meantime. Older people have no way to get outside, get supplies of any kind. The half hour charge for cell phone wouldn't last long. People from Central and South America have families that have no idea what's going on or how they are. One guy said this is the second Katrina, that the authorities have no plan and then they leave you alone.

One guy said somebody has to do something for the people, and that we have to make revolution, the only way to change anything. We talked with him and others about how the demands in the call to people from Revolution newspaper can and need to gain strength to deal with this, and their role in this. Throughout the day there were 30 copies of Revolution newspaper exchanged, as well as about 100 copies of Revolution's "Call to Those in the Areas Affected by Hurricane Sandy" that we printed up for this trip.

In Newark we mainly talked with Black people. Electricity did come on for the downtown area of the city on Tuesday night, and businesses and stores were open for business there. We drove around to take a look, and were struck by how deserted the streets were. People told us they've just been staying home, sitting with family and friends in the dark. People from one area of the city told us the police had announced a 4 pm curfew for Tuesday, to prevent robberies. Everyone we talked to said they and their neighbors are not in dire straits yet, and they're expecting the power to come on by the end of the week. One youth downtown, though, told us that he and his mom have started now running out of food, so what is he supposed to do?

In Newark there are city buses and private bus companies. People told us that the private buses have started running, but the city buses have not. We talked to people who walked from the outskirts of the city to downtown to get money and pay bills. One guy was there to pay his electric bill, though he has no electricity. He said it was his cut-off date so he had to get there to pay it.

The message from all authorities in terms of the answer to people's needs so far has, in effect, been "we will not help you, and stay inside."

We found that, right now at least, people are mainly waiting, with an expectation that the power will soon be on. In these areas that have no electricity, and as result many also have no heat (and the temperature dropped today into the 40s), they have had water and enough food to keep going... so far.

A storeowner in Newark said that Atlantic City, New Jersey, a gambling and resort town down south on the Jersey Shore, is completely closed, no one in or out. This place was badly hit with flooding as well as the rest of the storm. It had been evacuated, but not everyone left. The people telling us about this did not know what people inside that town were dealing with now.

Meanwhile, tonight, Wednesday, there was a report on CNN's "Situation Room" about a place in New Jersey called Seaside Heights, where the city government, including firefighters, apparently evacuated before the storm, leaving the residents to their fate. The report talked about elderly people who didn't want to evacuate because shelters wouldn't take their pets, and now they're in danger and only civilian volunteers are there to help, with no resources.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/report-in-the-wake-of-sandy-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Report from a Reader: In the Wake of the "Perfect Storm"

October 30, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Late night Sunday, October 28, and throughout the day and peaking during the night of Monday the 29, an unprecedented storm hit the East Coast of the U.S. Meteorologists—weather scientists—dubbed it a “perfect storm” because it was produced by the collision of three elements: a tropical hurricane (“Sandy”) out of the Caribbean; a snowstorm coming from the U.S. Midwest; and lunar high tides that raise the sea level several feet along the East Coast of the U.S. due to the proximity of the moon and its gravitational pull on the oceans.

New Jersey's  Fukushima?

Of strategic concern is the state of nuclear power plants on the East Coast. But this is something that has been almost completely ignored by the mainstream media. On October 29, Democracy Now interviewed Arnie Gundersen, a former nuclear industry executive who is co-author of the Greenpeace report, "Lessons from Fukushima." (Fukushima Daiichi was the Japanese nuclear power plant that melted down in 2011, spreading nuclear radiation throughout the country.)

Gundersen told Democracy Now: “The biggest problem, as I see it right now, is the Oyster Creek plant, which is on Barnegat Bay in New Jersey. That appears to be right about the center of the storm. Oyster Creek is the same design, but even older than Fukushima Daiichi unit 1. It’s in a refueling outage. That means that all the nuclear fuel is not in the nuclear reactor, but it’s over in the spent fuel pool. And in that condition, there’s no backup power for the spent fuel pools. So, if Oyster Creek were to lose its offsite power—and, frankly, that’s really likely—there would be no way to cool that nuclear fuel that’s in the fuel pool until they get the power reestablished. Nuclear fuel pools don’t have to be cooled by diesels per the old Nuclear Regulatory Commission regulations.”

When asked about the impact of climate change on this whole situation, Gundersen said: “Well, climate change has affected nuclear plants this year. Quite a few had to reduce power in the summer because river flow rates had dropped and there wasn’t enough water to cool them. And that happened in France and around the world, as well. So we portray nuclear power as a way to eliminate climate change, but in fact we need to solve climate change before we can have nuclear power plants, because there’s just not enough cooling water to cool these plants in the event of hot summers.”

The storm was ferocious. Forty to sixty mile per hour winds roared for hours and hours up and down the East Coast, peaking in the 90 mph range. The winds knocked down power lines, contributing to widespread power outages. The greatest damage was caused by flooding. The Atlantic Ocean was pushed onto coastal lands by the furious winds. The combination of high tide and water pushed by the storm sent 14 feet of water surging over low-lying parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn. Seaside communities in New Jersey and elsewhere were flooded with several feet of water, and half of New Jersey remains without power.

Fierce winds and heavy rain are pounding a region from Georgia into Canada, and as far west as Lake Michigan. Areas of West Virginia are buried in three feet of snow.

As I send this report, a full assessment of the damage, death tolls, and the ongoing suffering and dislocation is still emerging. Much is not yet clear. But what is clear is that millions of people in 15 states remain without power. Public transportation—subways, busses and trains that are the only way millions and millions of people in the New York City area can function—are shut down.

Tens of millions of people in the most densely populated region of the U.S. have had their lives uprooted and are facing serious challenges to remain warm and safe. For months to come, people will be struggling to recover from this disaster. Things are not going quickly or smoothly back to “normal,” whatever that meant for different sections of people in this grotesquely unequal society.

Damage and Danger Exacerbated by the Insanity of Capitalism

Within the U.S., and in a concentrated way in New York City, impressive resources are available for responding to the storm. But these massive resources were constrained by the framework of market and profit-driven capitalism.

To take one emblematic incident: the storm’s winds snapped the arm of a huge crane from its position atop a 1,000-foot-high construction project to build grotesquely luxurious condominiums costing as much as a hundred million dollars. As I post this report, the crane dangles ominously over a section of mid-town Manhattan, and power has been shut down in the area to minimize the damage if the crane plunges like a missile into the city below.

This crane was cited eight times recently for safety violations. While New Jersey’s governor called people on the Jersey Shore who did not evacuate their homes “stupid or selfish,” authorities including New York City Mayor Bloomberg insist at this point on not placing blame on the investors in, much less the insane system that prioritized a project like this high-rise. Nor are the powers-that-be questioning the priorities in saving money on a massive real-estate investment by not securing or taking down this violation-riddled crane when it became clear a hurricane was approaching.

Wall Street, site of the U.S. stock market, is in one of the areas hardest hit by the storm. While tens of thousands throughout the area are without homes, many in desperate circumstances and in dire need of heat, light, food and shelter, Forbes magazine reported that “New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he discussed accelerating the reopening of Wall Street with Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner, and spoke with President Obama twice Tuesday.”

The role of climate change in exacerbating violent weather events, and how this is being driven by the workings of capitalism, is beyond the scope of this report, but I encourage readers to see “Climate Change: The Heat Wave, Extreme Weather and Future Storms,” available revcom.us, and especially, to study and circulate “State of EMERGENCY! The Plunder of Our Planet, The Environmental Catastrophe & The Real Revolutionary Solution” at http://revcom.us/environment.

Social Control vs. Mobilizing the Masses

As the storm approached, draconian measures were imposed on the most impoverished, oppressed sections of people in the storm’s path—with a focus not on their safety, but keeping them under control.

This is a society marked by mass incarceration of Black and Latino people in particular. And in New York City stop-and-frisk” serves as a pipeline to the prisons, with the prison on New York City’s Rikers Island a big cog in the mass incarceration machinery. Mother Jones reported that: “At a press conference yesterday afternoon on New York City’s preparations for Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg was asked about the safety of prisoners on Rikers Island, which lies near the mouth of Long Island Sound, between Queens and the Bronx. Bloomberg appeared annoyed by the question, and responded somewhat opaquely: ‘Rikers Island, the land is up where they are and jails are secured.’ Apparently unable to fathom that anyone’s main concern would be for the welfare of the more than 12,000 prisoners on Rikers, Bloomberg then reassured listeners: ‘Don’t worry about anybody getting out.’”

Residents of New York’s housing projects were treated with similar contempt. Well before there were any power outages, people living in some two dozen projects had their heat, hot water, and elevator service shut off (and some of these buildings are 14 stories high or higher) not because of the impact of the storm, but to force unwilling residents out of the buildings and into government-run shelters.

News accounts and politicians lashed out at those people in the projects who refused to evacuate—without noting the obvious basis for fear of what might be in store at the promised “shelters” from a government that imprisoned thousands of Black and poor people in the New Orleans Superdome under inhuman conditions during Hurricane Katrina.

Most residents of the projects—given an unacceptable set of options—took their chances staying put. Many of those locked down in cold and dark buildings were seniors and disabled people.

On a more macro level, the main message to all New Yorkers was “stay inside” and “follow orders.”

There were legitimate safety concerns that argued for people to stay indoors in the immediate aftermath of the storm—as I post this report, limbs continue to fall from trees, power lines are down in places and other dangers remain. But as the storm passes, the disconnect between the massive human potential to rescue people and clean up damage on the one hand, and the “stay inside” doctrine of the authorities on the other, grows more stark and intolerable.

For more on what a socialist society would be like in the U.S., see Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), and for more on how a revolution could happen, see “On the Strategy for Revolution,” both by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, and available at revcom.us.

A revolutionary society, organized on a completely different basis than this one, would make immediate relief the priority. The army and police, rather than being occupying armies in oppressed nations around the world and oppressed inner cities respectively, would actually be serving and protecting the people. Mobilizing and relying on the masses would be at the heart of everything that would be done in the wake of such a disaster—combining centralized planning and allocation of resources with decentralized initiative and creativity, unleashing all kinds of initiative from all kinds of people.

And, the state and its organs of power would be facilitating, rather than blocking, the impulses of people to help each other deal with medical and food crises, and short term and long term rebuilding.

All that stands in the starkest contrast to what is being done now.

The Government Must Provide Relief, Not Repression, Now!

In the wake of the storm that devastated the East Coast of the US and beyond...

 


 

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Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

A Lopsided Impact on a Lopsided World

October 30, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

One of the elements of the “perfect storm” that hit the U.S. East Coast was Hurricane Sandy. Before reaching U.S. shores in southern New Jersey, Sandy’s wind and rain wracked the Caribbean, with particularly terrible impact on Haiti. As this article is written, the reported death toll from Hurricane Sandy in Haiti is 52. That is more than the number reported killed in the US, despite the fact that Haiti’s total population of about 10 million is less than a sixth that of the population of the U.S. affected by the “perfect storm.”

All these deaths were tragic. But it is not the case that the great disparity between the loss of life in Haiti and the U.S. is because the storm hit Haiti more severely. Instead the disparity was due to the man-made disaster of capitalism-imperialism, and the status of Haiti as an oppressed nation in a viciously and violently lopsided world.

Massive international intervention took place in Haiti after a devastating earthquake in 2010. But what “development” took place served the interests of global imperialism and its enforcers in Haiti, not the people of Haiti. Widespread homeless encampments—people who lost their homes in the earthquake—were literally pushed out of view. More than 400,000 still live in those encampments—more than two years after the earthquake. Haiti remains without the most rudimentary social services and disaster relief capability, and people remain in extremely tenuous living conditions. Many of the Sandy-related deaths in Haiti were the result of landslides in formerly forested areas where desperate people have cut trees for firewood in the aftermath of the earthquake, and more recently Hurricane Isaac. Widespread famine and the spread of diseases like cholera are expected in the days and weeks to come in Haiti.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/reflections-on-natural-and-man-made-disasters-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

2012 Hurricane Sandy; 2005 Hurricane Katrina

Reflections on Natural, and Man-made, Disasters and Standing Up Against the Oppression of Black People

By Carl Dix | October 31, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

I'm hunkered down in New York City, riding out Hurricane Sandy. The trial of me and my 3 co-defendants for protesting the NYPD's unjust and racist policy of Stop and Frisk has been postponed because of the hurricane. I'm hearing reports that it may be a while before the city is back to normal functioning, but it'll only be a few days before the court has this outrageous prosecution back in high gear. Meanwhile, I'm reflecting on the winds, rains and flooding that battered the whole northeastern coast of the country. This storm has drastically disrupted the lives of tens of millions of people. Millions have lost power, and thousands have been forced out of their homes by the flooding. Houses in parts of New York City have had their roofs torn off by the winds that have whipped through. As Sandy goes further west, major snowstorms are hitting West Virginia and other states.

The full story of the impact this storm will have for many, many people has yet to be written. People one paycheck away from being forced over the edge are finding themselves right up against that edge. Already in housing projects in Manhattan, people without power and water are unable to buy food for their families. Historically it's been people on the bottom of society who are hardest hit when natural disasters bring on human suffering that's made worse by social factors.

All this takes me back to the months I spent in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast in 2005. There 100,000 mostly Black people were left to die by the powers that be, and castigated as "thieves and looters" when they organized themselves to get food to eat and boats to save their own and others' lives. While Katrina was still raging, police forced people walking across a bridge over the Mississippi River trying to escape New Orleans to turn back to where flood waters rose, at gunpoint. Five police officers were convicted last year of killing two Black men and wounding four other people, all of them unarmed, on New Orleans' Danziger Bridge and covering up these crimes. The governor of Mississippi gave state police orders to shoot looters, meaning people acting to save lives ran the risk of being gunned down by society's enforcers. Prisoners were left locked in jail in New Orleans as flood waters rose, and some of them drowned.

Hurricane Katrina exposed many people for the first time to the poverty and deprivation faced by huge numbers of Black people in New Orleans and throughout the U.S. The sight of people jammed into the New Orleans Convention Center without adequate food, water or sanitation horrified millions. Photos of people on their roofs begging to be rescued while flood waters rose made clear that what Kanye West said about George W. Bush—that he "doesn't care about Black people"—applied to federal, state and local government officials. And there's a deeper truth we need to get at here. The disaster being inflicted on Black people that Hurricane Katrina laid bare for millions of people had been going on for decades and has continued to deepen in the years since Katrina.

Mass incarceration has almost 2.4 million people warehoused in prisons across the country, two thirds of them Black or Latino. Almost 5 million people on parole or probation treated like second class citizens, discriminated against when looking for work, barred from living in public housing or receiving government loans, often not even allowed to vote. Racial profiling serves as a pipeline to mass incarceration. When you add in the loved ones of all these people, there are tens of millions of people living their lives enmeshed in the web of the criminal justice system. This comes down to a slow genocide targeting Black people.

This isn't because people have chosen to get involved in criminal activity or because of "human nature." Instead it flows from the way capitalism works, and from conscious policies by the country's rulers. The factories that used to provide employment for people in the inner cities have been moved around the world by capitalists in search of higher profits. The education system has been geared to fail our youth. What choices does this system offer them? Living on the edge of survival, going in and out of prison, death at an early age or joining the military and becoming a mindless killer in America's wars, leaves millions of youth to grow up facing futures of hopelessness.

The system's response to this has been racial profiling like stop-and-frisk that treats oppressed youth like criminals, guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence. Laws and law enforcement disproportionately target Blacks and Latinos.

I was and am outraged by this continuing disaster. It's unacceptable and needs to be stopped. That's why I joined with Cornel West to issue a call for a campaign of non-violent civil disobedience to stop "stop-and-frisk," and why I was arrested three times as part of that campaign. Now I'm on trial with three other stop-and-frisk protesters in Queens, NYC, and facing a year in jail. They have us in the same court where the District Attorney couldn't, or wouldn't, put on an effective prosecution against the cops who murdered Sean Bell in a hail of 50 bullets back in 2006.

As I said above, Hurricane Sandy has delayed our trial for the past few days, but this hasn't changed what this trial is about. Despite the protestations of the judge and the prosecutors that this trial isn't about stop-and-frisk, it's clear to me that what's on trial here is people's ability and right to stand up and say NO MORE to stop-and-frisk and the whole way this country's criminal "injustice" system comes down on people. If they get away with convicting and jailing us without a fight, it will send a message that those who resist all the brutality and repression brought down on the people will suffer heavy punishment for doing that. On the other hand, winning this legal battle will inspire many more people to join in resistance to injustice and feed the hopes of many that the continuing disaster this system has been raining down on Black people can be taken on and beaten back.

 


 

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Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Experience at a Shelter for Hurricane Sandy

October 31, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

As I watched the news today (10/30/12) to see the effects the storm had on the area, I heard some of the same outrageous statements I had heard the day before from the mayor and officials:

−If people did not evacuate then it’s their own fault if they get hurt

−They are selfish and dumb for not leaving

This system not only does not care about human life, it does not provide any means in which people can help themselves or others to survive a natural disaster.

At the same time it was reported on NPR that they were not allowing any media into the shelters. And as much as I watched the coverage of the storm, I did not see any coverage of the shelters. So I started to wonder how this system was going to help people out. I got a couple of e-mails form some social service organizations asking for volunteers, they reported the shelters were in need of a lot of volunteers. The city had provided 56 evacuation centers (Shelters) throughout the city and they had way more people than centers. I texted and e-mailed to some of my revolutionary friends to find a list of shelters and ways in which people could volunteer. We talked about going to the shelters to talk to people about what was really going on in these shelters.

So we thought we would volunteer...

First we tried to figure out where we can find a shelter, how we would get there with no public transportation, and what kind of help they would need. We looked all over the Internet, we texted other friends with ties to social service agencies, then we called all the numbers that were listed on the city Internet sites. No luck, phones were never picked up and there was no information of where to go... The Red Cross had a page that said you had to go to midtown for two hours of training, and then be available for 12-hour shifts... All public transportation was shut down, so this was impossible to do unless you had a car. In our search for volunteering we found a list of all the shelters. I noticed there was one about 30 blocks from were I live, and since my friends were in different boroughs I went alone. They were going to try the same thing the next day if the city got more buses running.

Since there were limited buses, I walked about half the blocks. In my walk I talked to a few people who were shocked and surprised about the effects of the storm. They never imagined it would really flood lower Manhattan. They talked about watching the news all night, and how worried they were about people in general. About two blocks away from the shelter I ran into an older man who seemed very disoriented, he had a medical band on his wrist like he had just been in a hospital. When he asked me for the name of the street, I told him that I was headed to a shelter and he should head there if he wanted to.

As I got closer to the shelter, I realized it was dark and all the doors were closed, so unless you knew it was an evacuation center, you would miss it completely. Finally when I found an open door I was first greeted by seven to eight NYPD cops. Who asked what the hell I was doing there... I said I wanted to volunteer at the shelter, they said they wanted my ID and to search my backpack and jacket. I felt that any moment they were going to throw me against the wall, pat me down and fingerprint me. After I signed some paperwork they pointed me to the volunteer office. There the supervisor was surprised I was volunteering out of the blue... since the rest of the volunteers were city workers that were required to do 12 hours shifts. I said it was not so out of the blue, there was this big storm, I had seen e-mails calling for volunteers. She still did not understand and said they really did not have a big need at this shelter, but could not tell me what shelter had a big need. I mentioned how I had two years experience working at a homeless shelter, and I work for a foster agency & ACS so I knew most of the social services available to people, so they agreed to let me volunteer.

Then they gave me an orange vest (so I would not be confused with the evacuees), a flashlight ("so I can defend myself if someone got out of hand"), and a walkie talkie ("so I can call for help"). Then off I went for the tour of the prison, I mean evacuation center...

As we were walking down to the sleeping & eating area, I asked the supervisor if there were many people from Zone A areas. She looked at me with a disgusted look on her face and said "no, these are homeless people, not ‘real’ people that were evacuated by the storm." Right, because the shelters were for people that already had homes, not people that had no protection from storm to begin with, and besides homeless people were not "real" people!!

In the cafeteria I was assigned to sit with the other volunteers at a table and watch the people eat, sleep, and escort them out the room or building to make sure they did not steal anything. Just a note, the lights are left on all night, when I asked why? I was told, because we want to make sure they don't steal or start a fight with each other.... I started to wonder if I had just become a prison guard or volunteered to help people.

After a couple of hours the person I had ran into on my way to the shelter came in, Carl... He tried to come over and thank me for letting him know about center, but he was stopped by two NYPD officers because he was not suppose to approach the volunteers. He kept saying "but that's the nice lady that helped me, I don't want to bother her, just thank her." After they escorted him to his cot in the corner, the cop came over and said to the volunteers "keep an eye on him, seems like a trouble maker, we might have to get rid of him."

I got up from my chair and went to sit with Carl and others while they were eating dinner. As it turns out Carl (65 year old Black man) was a "real" person that had spent the previous night in the hospital and could not get back home because he lived in the 6th floor of a housing project and the elevators were turned off. The other two guys were not "real", they were homeless people. They come in late last night when the wind was blowing the gates of the stores from one side of the street to the other. They talked about how crazy it was, how they felt like they were going to be blown away with the wind, how scared they were because the wind had a howling loud sound. Max (a young Dominican guy) said he was real scared of the hurricane, but not as scared as he was when he came in the shelter and was greeted by 10 NYPD cops. Rick (an older Black Vietnam vet), laugh and agreed, he said as soon as things were better he would get out of there.

They ask me why I volunteered and I said I was part of building a movement for Revolution and wanted to hear from people themselves what was going on, to talk to people about how things do not have to be this way, that society can be organized in a much better way. I asked them to imagine if the state and the police did not have to get in the way of people helping each other in this situation. Rick said that they would of helped people protect their stores, but the police walked around warning people of looters. Max said he could of helped Carl get up the stairs so he would not have to be in the streets.

Carl mentioned how they always talk about going around the world providing help for other people but they don't help Black people in this country. I took out the palm card with quote 1:3 of BAsics and read it out loud. I mention how they do not help anyone. Carl said this country fucked him up when he was young and went to Vietnam, they taught him to kill children and then called him a baby killer.

The conversation was stopped when one of the supervisors and a security guard came to the table and said they wanted to have a word with me. They said I was not allowed to talk to the people in the shelter, I was just supposed to watch them and make sure they did not start trouble or steal anything. I said well should we not take care of their needs, and they said yes, so I said how would I know what their needs are if I do not talk to them. And then I was told there were too many volunteers and I should just go home.

I went back to the table, gave Carl, Max and Rick a palm card and told them I would be back tomorrow morning...

I walked out thinking can you say Police State!!! Why would anyone go the shelters, where they will be treated like criminals? But this is how they set the whole thing up, the other volunteers were good people, some were doing more then their 12 hour shifts, but if you’re not allowed to talk to people, just watch them to make sure they don't steal anything, then how can you help people. Instead volunteers are being told and trained to watch "criminals" and people are being treated like "criminals".

As I was walking home I thought of the title of Bob Avakian’s new interview "What Humanity Needs—Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism".... And toward the end he writes, “That's the importance of all this. It has to do with whether the masses are gonna be chained in these conditions of unspeakable misery, and unnecessary misery, or whether there's actually gonna be a fighting chance to break out of this and get humanity to a whole different place. That's what this is all about, and that's what the role of individuals should be about: contributing whatever they can to that—not just as individuals, but as part of a collective process, as part of a broader revolutionary movement and, as they get to the point of being fully won to this, making the leap to becoming part of the Party that has to be at the core and play the leading role collectively in this whole revolutionary process.”

And the answer to this is Yes! This is what we NEED!!! People should be safe, but we should also take this opportunity to go out and be amongst the people, bring them BAsics, letting them know the world does not have to be this way, they have a productive role to play in transforming society, and we can find many collective ways to meet the needs of the people in general. This is a great opportunity for us to continue building a movement for revolution.

 

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-from-revolution-books-nyc-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

From Revolution Books in New York City

October 31, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

One of our correspondents found out the limits of what is permitted by police:

"I was driving around with a GOPRO camera mounted on my car to get some footage of the hurricane, it was not terribly bad in my area yet. We were on local streets, then decided to get on the highway for one exit toward entrance of the Whitestone Bridge, where there was a blockade. [A cop stopped us and] said he'd seen us driving around 10 times already with the same camera mounted on our car and we couldn't do this. We couldn't go over the bridge with the camera on, we told him we were getting off at the exit before the bridge. Then they told us to go home. Not entire a scary situation, but none the less a little rattling."

From Staten Island, someone called to say there is no power on the whole island. It's cold and dark, very little is open, no internet, and no gas so it's very hard to get around. National Guard is everywhere, standing around while the people themselves are doing the work to clear trees.

A supervisor at an emergency shelter complained to a volunteer that "these are homeless people, not real people that were evacuated because of the storm." In other words, the homeless should stay homeless.

Watching the dozens of houses burning out at Breezy Point reminded one person of Katrina:

 "In New Orleans whole poor neighborhoods got washed away, people died in their burning houses in a water land. But if one millionaire's house gets damaged or ransacked (God forbid that some property falls into the 'wrong' hands, the lament will be huge.")

The mandatory evacuation of "Zone A" -- areas in high risk of flooding -- continues, even though the water has receded. Meanwhile we are repeatedly assured that the New York Stock Exchange has suffered no damage and will soon be up and running.

Friday evening you are invited to come by Revolution Books for a wide-ranging discussion of the Hurricane Sandy disaster and the upcoming election. As a part of this, we will be listening to a recent recording of Bob Avakian speaking on the election.

   

The Revolution Books staff

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-from-revolution-club-harlem-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

From Revolution Club Harlem

October 31, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

The Revolution Club-Harlem and the Uptown Revolution distributors called and e-mailed many people mainly in the Harlem area, but all over the area, including in the evacuation zones, to communicate an important message:  "Remember Hurricane Katrina! The authorities fighting for its interest villifed Black and poor people in New Orleans, those hardest hit by the strom, and left tens of thousands to needlessly suffer, and many hundreds to die. The police, National Guard, and racist vigalanties were unleashed to brutalize and murder many others.  We must never let that happen again! The interests of this system are not the interests of the people!

It is in the interest of the people to look out for each other, work together, and prevent unnecessary suffering and loss of live- to stand up to the outrages of the authority.  We called on people to contact friends, family, classmates, workmates and others, and have them spread the word: Any attack by the authorities and their police and National Guard on the people should be reported to the  Rev Club and back into this network. Together, we are working on how to stand up against and stop such attacks. 

One young woman commended the Revolution club for taking the initiative to do this and said that the people in the projects are stereotyped but "what we have going in our favor is numbers."  She said she had a lot of ideas about this and was wrestling with what should be done about people dealing with food and water.  She was going to call her friends and have them report to her, then get back with us.

A student from an elite university who really got the Katrina connection and that the authorities'interests were not our interests.  In watching the coverage of this she said she could see that the authorities had done nothing to try to get people to work together and instead had threatened and tried to intimidate people.  She responded with enthusiasm as she became clear on the difference from the state with the revolutionary way of doing things of people taking responsibility for working in a collective way.  She said that she would call her friends and tell them to call her and get back to us.  She called at 3:30 a.m. with news about a disturbing video posted on Facebook of people "trying to swim to safety" and others who had been stranded in Coney Island.

Some people with whom we'd left messages contacted us the next day to let us know that they were ok.  One woman called back twice with comments saying that she needed to contact my family and find out where they had to flee to in New Jersey.  I see what you're talking about people relying on each other and not relying on the venues set up by the system.

One young woman in the projects who related what authorities do to abuse the people to what has happened to her boyfriend with stop and frisk.  The buildings seemed to be full of folks and they don't want to evacuate because they "don't want to be thrown into some kind of shelter."  She asked that we send her the e-mail we were sending out so that she could send it to everybody she knows.

As we were making these calls we heard on NPR that reporters in Brooklyn were denied access to shelters.

In one evacuation zone a young woman who reported that she was reading BAsics by flashlight told of school buses that had come to evacuate people on Sunday evening.  Those who did not evacuate were portrayed by the mayor as being irresponsible, although much of this comes from people's distrust of the authorities.  Another reason became clear when we heard of one evacuation center that had flooded.

Before the storm hit on Monday night, the governor of Connecticut twisted the Katrina experience to blame those who did not evacuate, saying that CT faced a Katrina moment because 1000s of people were stranded in their homes because they had refused to evacuate and they should be prepared to sit on the roofs of their homes if necessary, rather than risk the lives of  "first-responders".

We know that this situation is far from over and this is driven home by the fact that NY Mayor Bloomberg just announced on TV that there had been "looting" in Coney Island and that "those who would take advantage of the situation" should know that there would be increased police presence on the streets tonight.

We plan to send reports out to people and continue to work with them.

 


 

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Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

From a Lower East Side Project: "The Water Tanks Have Run Out"

October 31, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Bloomberg hasn't mentioned anything about the Lower East Side. Im pretty sure he's mentioned about Battery Park City. I'm pretty sure he mentioned about Chelsea, Tribeca. Why not the Lower East Side? Where we got hit the hardest due to the fact that we got the river here. We have the river right beside us where it's surged almost 12 feet. Covering all of our area here in the LES, all the premises here. There hasn't been no clean up. Nothing. I mean, no one's telling us anything. you know, we have to go by radio. We have no way of getting contact. We have no cell phone, because there's no charger. We have nothing. We're like in No Man's Land. The water tanks have run out.

xxx
Housing project residents in lower Manhattan getting drinking water from a fire hydrant

 


 

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Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Coney Island, Brooklyn

October 31, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Felled trees lined the roads leading to Coney Island, more dramatic as we got closer.  Coney Island is a mixed neighborhood but mainly deeply impoverished – city housing projects line streets a block from the boardwalk hovering over old bungalows converted into multi family homes.  Much of it is Black and Latino mixed in with a large number of Russian immigrants, "and even Chinese people," said one public housing resident describing the neighborhood.

After reading the call in Revolution newspaper to get on the ground reporting, a couple of us read about an area in Coney Island where there had been some looting and according to one report, the streets were filled with people, and police.  This was an area seriously affected but little heard from so we piled into a car and headed out.  We drove around a bit before getting out of the car to get the lay of the land – a high tech NYPD command post with almost 100 police in the parking lot of the Rent-A-Center (one of these extortionist type rental place that preys on people's poverty, renting furniture and TV's with outrageously high interest rates), then as we rode down the main shopping street at least a couple cops on every corner standing and staring at the passerby's.  The streets were full of people bundled up in the cold, mud covered feet, waiting on the bus or making the mile long trek to the supermarket.   

The first thing that was clear as we got out of the car – people wanted to talk.  While some people were cautious at first about talking to the news media, when they started looking at the cover of Revolution newspaper and got a sense of where we were coming from, they opened up even more – speaking bitterness, anger and frustration at how they're being treated, and even desperation about what they're going without... the conditions they're being forced to deal with. One person from our crew described one of the young guys they spoke with as someone "with a quiet rage." 

At the same time, there was humor despite the hardship... people teasing each other, and us.  And even joy and pride in the ways some people found to come together and help each other.

It immediately became clear that people are facing a life-threatening situation. There is no running water, no power and no heat in increasingly cold days and nights.  Medicines were destroyed in the flood when water came in.  And if you have no extra money after your supplies have run out, nobody is coming to help.  A couple people said they wanted to stop and talk but they were too hungry and thirsty and wanted to get the store to see what they had left.  This was about a mile walk from where we were, if not more.  A tall Black man in his late 20s paused to talk to a friend who was talking to us to say he was being forced to sell his new phone to get food and water for his hungry kids.  The main demands are food, water, medicine, heat and transportation. 

We spent a while in front of one of the housing projects – hearing from a large group of people, mainly women.  Gloria, a Black woman in her 40s had a lot of spirit and fire.  She kept insisting that we write down that Mayor Bloomberg was a dick, and wanted to know if she could go to his house to take a fucking bath.  The laughter at this was loud and bitter.   People talked about newborn babies in the cold up in the building, and about people on respirators and even kidney machines in their apartments with no electricity. 

There were different reports about how much warning people got to leave, and a general consensus that they didn't want to go to a shelter.  People here have enough experience with social services to know how alienating and dehumanizing putting yourself in the hands of this system can be.  One woman said she didn't want to come home with bed bugs, a man talked about being afraid his daughters would be messed with.  Those who did hear the warning heard this: "we're telling you to leave now but if you stay, there will be no help for you whatsoever."  (Mind you, this warning came in English in a building with a multitude of languages, including a number of homebound elderly people.)  An older man in a group on the street said the warnings were very minimal, and compared how when a politician comes around there are loudspeakers but nothing like that to warn people about this storm.

A sharp contrast: One woman, Veronica, described her fear at having two asthma attacks on Monday night in the pitch black with no paramedics, no cell phone service and no one to reach out to for help.  She made it through ok, but what if someone was even sicker she asked... no city or housing officials came through to check on anyone.  They were completely stranded.  But as soon as the stores and property began to be damaged, the police came running.  "What type of system is this?" asked Veronica. 

Almost no one we spoke with welcomed the police presence who instilled a quiet fear in most of the residents.  A young Black man in his 20s who talked with us for a while said, "if they weren't protecting all those stores, they'd be stopping and frisking every one of us."  Another said "the police are getting their quotas up, beating and shoving people."

Robert, a clear spoken man who'd spent 14 years in prison said that last night they put big klieg lights and police on every corner.  He said they've been treating the residents aggressively and hard and create a terrible negative feeling on the streets.  He talked about how these same police regularly set youth up in drug buys.  One undercover will give a young guy $30, tell him to do him a favor and go over to some other guy with this money and bring back some product.  And that there will be something in it for him.  Robert said they put this money in these kids' hands and they're broke, "how they gonna turn that down?"  But then, they go ahead with it and get busted by the other undercover.  "That's entrapment straight up, but they do it all the time."  He said that for himself, he's been out for a while but can't find work, and he's discriminated against every where he turns. 

A lot of people talked about what had happened the day before.  A young guy told us that "We were already living hard, and in one day things got a lot harder."  He said that "everybody was out here—it had to be a real problem and desperate situation that the older people were doing it too."  People were getting things they needed—Pampers, tissues, medicine from the pharmacy, water, food.  "This is how we're living now."  An older man described how some shopkeepers were trying to help the people, giving away anything perishable, food and other things people needed.  Some stores were barricading the doors—"and they got their comeuppance."

And later that night, the cops rode through the neighborhood with bullhorns saying that it was a Class A misdemeanor to be outside after 10 pm. 

We walk by an old repair shop. A group of three middle-aged Black men are outside, standing beside two water-logged portable generators they were repairing. I ask about the storm and the response from the city. They repeat what we've heard over and over. There's been no help from the authorities. People need water, food, other supplies. But nothing. One guy says that people are doing what they can to help each other. Another says that some stick together and some don't, but we are looking out for each other--getting people water, someone making breakfast for someone.

One looks at me and says forcefully, "This may be a high-crime neighborhood, but it's still a community." I ask about the generators that he is cleaning up. "We're going use them to help people." How so? "Whatever we can do. To charge cell-phones. For lighting. To help people with oxygen tanks." It's that bad? Yes. And then he adds, "people counted on me and these generators for BBQ's and birthdays. Now they can count on me in an emergency. This is the way we are."

Another says to me, come across the street, let me take you in the building and show you what people are going through. It's 13 stories or so. There's a thick layer of mud on the entrance level. He says, "If the city came here with clean up equipment, there'd be lots of people here to help out." Then he takes us further in and shows us the stairway that people have to climb. The stairwell is dark, the concrete steps are wet. He says, "Listen, you'll hear people coming down." And I do. People are lighting their way down the steps with cell-phones, with tiny flashlights, and some have no light. It's very dangerous, especially for older people.

Outside the building we found people had managed to get one of the fire hydrants turned on.  While the water was not drinkable, they were filling up five gallon buckets of water and bringing them up the stairs to people.  This was the only water available.

In finding out more about the scene in the neighborhood, a couple people told us to head over to a store just a couple blocks away where the store owner had been giving out food.  This took us closer to the ocean and we saw the sand spilling over the steps that led to the boardwalk... the local high school's flooded floors being pumped, and everywhere and on everything, a grey sandy mud.

Neighbors pitch in to clean up neighborhood store in Coney Island, Brooklyn, after Hurricane Sandy. PHOTO: Special to Revolution

The scene in front of the store we were told about was genuinely festive.  There were several dozen people coming in and out cleaning up debris.  One guy said he lived in the neighborhood and wanted to help out, he was running out to get more tools.  Another, named Mano, said he's lived in the neighborhood for forty years and wanted to help his favorite grocer.  He said everyone in the neighborhood did and said proudly there were people here helping from at least three different buildings in the projects.  A Palestinian man owns the store with his brother.  His father opened it in the mid 80s.  He said he tries to help people out in the neighborhood as much as he can, but today, they're helping him out.  They did give out food all morning, and were going to give more out later that day.  And he told us how when people were stocking up on Sunday, he lowered his prices to help people out, or let them pay what they could.

I asked why he was doing this and he said his father taught him from an early age, "money goes and comes, but character and respect... those are for life."  He added that, "whether you're cheap or generous, those things are not born, they are taught."  As we were talking, everyone that came up gave him a hug around the shoulders or pat on the back and said to me, "this is a kind man," "this man is like my brother," "we grew up together."  One man said smiling, covered in mud from helping, "this is my favorite store in the whole world, not just the neighborhood, but the whole world." 

We talked about how inspiring this was and what it shows about many people's desire in this kind of situation to come together, and what difference it would make if there were a system that fostered this instead of forcibly keeping apart.  He agreed that this system sets people against each other, and in response to what I said briefly about the potential for revolution, answered with a tired grin on his face, "I hope so."

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-notes-from-breezy-point-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Notes from Breezy Point

October 31, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Breezy Point is a neighborhood of about 12,000 people in the New York City borough of Queens, on the western end of the skinny Rockaway peninsula. In the face of a hurricane on the Atlantic Ocean it is completely vulnerable and there was a mandatory evacuation order for this area. The night Hurricane Sandy hit, the news showed horrible fires raging through the neighborhood – the flames zooming across the rooftops at super speeds because of the fierce winds. By the morning, some 80-100 homes had been burned to the ground and nearby, on the beachfront side, many more homes were devastated by floods and wind. A team from Revolution newspaper went out there to talk to people, many who had lost their homes.

To get to the peninsula you have to cross a bridge and immediately after this, there was a police checkpoint where they were stopping all the cars and asking everyone what they were doing in the area. If you didn't live there you couldn't drive in and had to you're your car and walk in (which was a long way to Breezy Point). When I walked back past the checkpoint, I heard one guy in a car explain what he was doing there, telling the cop that he was from Allstate Insurance and he was immediately waved through. But photographers and most press people had to hike in.

This is a mainly upper working class, middle class, pretty exclusively white neighborhood. Lots of cops and firemen, but also nurses, teachers, city workers and some doctors and lawyers. This is a very, very tight-knit community (as the people there will tell you) and lots of people have owned these homes and lived in them for generations.

As we walked down the road toward the beach you could already start seeing the destruction, but then as it turned out, this was nothing compared to what we would see when we got to the beachfront. The destruction was very severe. You have to walk in pretty far, past a lot of houses that mainly got damaged by flooding. But then, you take a turn, go up a ways and then turn on to the beach and this is where you see all the homes that were severely damaged. Some of them down to the ground, some smashed up beyond repair, windows blown out, some houses just seemed split into two.

On the beachfront, lots of damage – flooding and many houses just destroyed by wind.

Many of the people we talked to who were there either checking on their home or trying to salvage belongings were in a state of shock, especially the ones whose homes had been burned to the ground. They were not really thinking beyond that day in terms of what they were going to do next.

One thing to note is that in the beachfront area, about 50% of the people are year-round-residents; 50% only live there during the summer. This means that they have another house that they live in (and can now go live in). There is a sharp contrast here to other areas where people who have lost their homes, either have no where to go, no support system, etc. No one here was talking about going to a shelter, most were staying with friends, relatives or had other houses. Because there are so many cops and firemen and other city workers in the area, there seems to be a lot of confidence in the authorities. As we were leaving, it was getting dark and lots of cops who live there were going in to stay the night to "guard against looters" (someone told us).

People did say that the authorities came around several times before the storm, telling them that there was a mandatory evacuation order, they also called people every two hours to tell them this. There were quite a few people we talked to who said they stayed during the storm, or knew others who did. But seemed like most people left. Those who stayed talked about how ferocious the waters were, how quickly they came up, in 20-30 minutes they were five feet high.

It was somewhat hard to talk to people, some of them were almost in tears – or just clearly in a semi-state of shock. But some people were also trying to be optimistic, saying that the community would survive. There seemed to be some sense of "pulling together" – coming from the fact that this is a very tight-knit, a community somewhat known for not welcoming "outsiders."

One woman who is a nurse talked about the history of the place, that some of the platforms that the homes are built on are the original ones going back to the squatter tents in the early 1900s. The neighborhood became a co-op in the 1960s and they successfully fought the government when the feds came in and wanted to make the beach public, she was very proud of that. She said in order to get into the neighborhood you have to have three people in the neighborhood vouch for you. People there say that "this is what has keep the neighborhood the safest one around, where everyone knows each other", etc. She was explaining this and then paused for a long time, then said, " we do need to diversify." There is clearly still lot of racism in this area. But when she was asked what she meant by this, she said, "well, we need to have different cultures, that's makes it more interesting."  When asked if others in the community want this to happen, she said yes, lots of people do, that they work in the city with lots of other kinds of people already, are friends with them, etc. I commented to her, that lots of people might be surprised to hear someone from that community say that, that they would think that this neighborhood is against letting others in. She said, no, things are changing, people are ready for this and it's going to happen. This was interesting. This woman also had a lot of confidence that the government was going to help people – she said that lots of people there were hit hard by 9-11 (someone else told us that 29 firemen and cops from this neighborhood died in 9-11); she said so many people from this community work for the city, etc. – as if this meant that the government would therefore take care of them.

In talking to a number of other people, there seemed to be quite a few in the community who didn't think the storm was going to be that bad – thought it was going to be like Hurricane Irene last year. Maybe they were Not influenced by the media/official lack of alarm at the approaching storm, but there did seem to be some people who didn't think it was going to be as bad as it turned out, even if they left, they were shocked when they came back to find such devastation.

There was lots of news coverage out there – major news, weather channel, Spanish news, etc.

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-voices-of-loved-ones-of-prisoners-at-rikers-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Voices of Loved Ones of Prisoners at Rikers

October 31, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

As the report from a reader in the wake of the "perfect storm" noted, "In New York City 'stop-and-frisk' serves as a pipeline to the prisons, with the prison on New York City's Rikers Island a big cog in the mass incarceration machinery." Here are what some loved ones of prisoners at Rikers and a former prisoner had to say after the hurricane.

From Luz and Linda, Latinas in their late '30s: "I heard Bloomberg the other day talk about the prisoners at Rikers, he said 'Oh don't worry, they're not going to escape' – some crazy stupid shit like that, instead of asking if they're going to be okay, he's worried about if they're going to escape.  That's pretty stupid.  Me and her have been here four times since Monday, including twice yesterday and each time they tellin us 'the system is down,' and we're coming from the Bronx; they don't have the computers runnin or something.  And each time we have to wait three hours to get off, after being told each time that we should come, only to be told we can't help you.  And this is besides my daughter's husband coming last night and they told him the same thing.  He couldn't bail her out.  You mean to tell me that if computers go down you don't have any way to get people out who need to be bailed out?  You see they have their own system here.  And it's funny 'cause they know how to track everyone else out there with their technology. 

"So here it is:  I'm not able to bail my daughter out; she was an innocent bystander and she was trying to break up a fight and they give her $500 bail for that, it's ridiculous, and she ends up here.  It's ridiculous.  And she has a baby that's one year old.  And she's treated like she's guilty.  She needs to get out of here, and they need to fix this service fast.  Do you know that these last four days they didn't have any commissary working?  So she couldn't get any stuff except for the food they give you.  You also need to know that we don't have the means for this.  Realize we are coming from the Bronx by car finally where we have to pay the toll to try to bail her out four times.  In the news – that whack-ass media – their concern is with the very rich downtown.  We are nobodies.  You have to understand how people get caught up.  In this world now; in this country you are guilty until you are proven innocent if you are poor, and they are treating us like we're criminals.  When you look on the news, you don't hear nothing about poor people and what they're going through with this hurricane.  The news just covers the rich, and I'm sorry, if you're Black or Brown, you're not going to get your story told.  And because the courts are not working [the courts haven't opened up yet] with this hurricane goin on, nobody could be bailed out.  But they will get their police departments open and arresting people like they're doin in the Rockaways.  They will tell you all about that."

"And [her daughter] is like so many others – they're just guilty, and they don't think about them again.  Even if you try to be a good citizen, you can't.  That's what people don't understand."

Margaret, Black, in her '40s: "They treat us like we're animals.  To them we're just animals.  People on the inside need just as much help as people on the outside.  I'm visiting my son in here.  He has a problem with alcohol, and he hits when he's drunk.  He needs help, not jail.  They should put him inside of a program or something to help him, not punish him.  Why you put somebody in jail if they're an alcoholic.  For my son and everybody else here at Rikers:  can you afford a good lawyer for 5 or 6 thousand dollars?  You can't.  And they know you can't.  Instead they give you someone who they appoint, and what do you expect if they are with [the courts]?  They in cahoots; they're like family.  They all know each other... 

"You should know about my son:  that because he is a little slow, he is always picked on for stop-and-frisk."

Margaret enacts a whole scenario for us of what her son goes through when he is stopped and frisked: "They stop him and he says 'you got to call my mother.' They ask 'what do we have to call your mother for? You're a grown man.'  'What's in your pockets?  Why do you look guilty?' And why?  Because he is 25 years old and he looks like he's doin something wrong.  He's 25 years old and they don't know that he is slow.  Like I said, he needs help.  And you know another thing?  They go by your address and keep pressuring on you.  And they keep the pressure on certain neighborhoods.  So you're guilty for living in these neighborhoods.

Junior, Puerto Rican, about 21 years old, who spent a week inside:  "Pretty much, like I was saying – Rikers – they don't treat people fair and the service sucks.  There are a lot of people in here who are innocent and people outside don't know this.  The news is just leaving us out of it.  I feel like they're not even worried about us.  We live life how it comes.  We struggle.  And sometimes people end up in the wrong place at the wrong times.  You got to realize, I'm not high class, I'm low class.  I was just in Rikers for some dumb shit.  People who are in here who are innocent, it's messed up.  But even those who are guilty, it's life; we kind of expect to be here.  I just wished things were different, that people like us would be helped out more.  They are not trying to help out the people in here at all.  Let's put it this way: people who are in here are either starving; they are freezing in the winter and hot in the summer time.  It's always a complaint.  There shouldn't be a complaint.  If there wasn't no complaints that means they'd be helping us." 

Talking about stop and frisk, Junior said that he was stopped six or seven times in three days.  He is always stopped and frisked.  "Where I live they assume you're a hoodlum so they stop you."  He plays it out: "A cop tells you 'get over here,' and I ask him what did I do? You're supposed to pull me over for a reason, not for nothing... Only did a week, but in here I ate the food, like a hot dog, it was raw, you bite into it and you break your teeth."

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/jacob-riis-projects-lower-east-side-of-manhattan-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Jacob Riis Projects, Lower East Side of Manhattan

October 31, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

Two of us went to the Jacob Riis housing projects on Avenue D in the lower east side in New York City to interview people today, Wednesday, after the storm. These multinational projects are two blocks away from the East River in an area isolated from shops or the hubbub that make up the east village. It is also three blocks from the Con Ed power plant that went down during the storm. I spoke to two Latino men and two Latino women who are outraged at the conditions people there went through during the storm and are still going through. They had this to say:

At the beginning of the storm, the water rose to about four feet covering the cars parked at the projects. People went out to push their cars away from the water, and others came out to help. Several cars had floated to different spots. The water had flooded from the river to Avenue D and further east to Avenue A or 1st Avenue. We saw some men who were cleaning out their cars and I did not think much about it but there was more to it than meets the eye. Normally, rats get into cars parked around the projects by eating out the bottoms of the cars. After the storm, rats and leaves were found in some cars and the men cleaning out their cars were cleaning cars that were flooded on the inside. There were hundreds of big, drowned rats in the projects which were cleared yesterday. I got a picture of one that was not cleared. As we were talking, some guys came by inquiring about where to charge their phones and the women pointed them to a car nearby.

Across the street, some Asian and Latino people were filling up bucket and plastic jugs from a fire hydrant to take into their apartments in buildings which were about 15 stories high with no working elevators. Before the hydrant was opened, only one little water spout on the side of this particular building was available to people for water. Turning to area on the left of the entrance, the women pointed to a sink hole caused by the storm. When they questioned the building maintenance about whether the sink hole impacted the foundation of the building, they were not re-assured by the response that it was fine, which was not based on an assessment by structural engineers.

The two Latino women talked about people helping each other and collectivity. During the storm, they and others went door to door knocking every few hours to make sure people were okay. As there was no electricity, people cooked the food before it spoiled and took it around to others to share. Some people have no food and this is the only way they were able to eat. They also talked about some masked guys who knocked on doors of some elderly people and robbed them when the elderly opened their doors. A big problem now is that the city is reporting the electricity will not be up for about four days. WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO THE PEOPLE THERE WHO HAVE NO FOOD, NO WATER AND NO ELECTRICITY? There is also concern of this being the end of the month and how will people have access to their disability or other source of income, or even be able to get to a bank to get it.

We were joined by an older Latino guy who was sweeping the leaves left from the flood. He talked about each of the buildings having several people on oxygen. In his building, about 12 people are on oxygen tanks. The day of the storm, one woman was almost out of oxygen so her son went to Bellevue Hospital nearby to get it. By the time he got back, she was dead. This man's roommate had an amputated foot and needed oxygen. He went to Bellevue and was told to go to Beth Israel Medical Center another short distance away. He has not heard from his roommate since then and has run out of cell phone battery. He was angry that people are dying and will be dying of lack of oxygen tanks. He also carried a 75 year old woman to the 12th floor on his back to her home, and later carried up several gallons of water to her.

For the last storm, Hurricane Irene, people there were evacuated to Seward Park High School. This time, evacuation was not offered. Why is that?

People were outraged that, here they live three blocks from the Con Edison power station and they cannot get electricity. Not only their apartments, but the hallways and stairs have absolutely no light. They talked about seeing light in Battery Park City and how under this system, there is no regard for poor people. What will make life even more difficult in future will be the closing of Path Mark market (frequented by many tenants who walk to it with their shopping cars for food) further south, for another development for the super rich by Trump. There will be no good alternative for food.

These are the projects where the October 22 National Day of Protest against Police Brutality, Repression and Criminalization of a Generation ended the march for the last two years. The people I was interviewing remember the march and pointed to the newspaper cover saying that they supported ending stop and frisk. One of the men who spoke to the other interviewer initially, asked "what can you do" to this whole situation. I spoke to people speaking out to demand food, medical resources, electricity... He spoke to the '60s and wanting the spirit of that versus the me, me, me mentality of youth wanting parents to buy $100 sneakers over paying the rent. He was involved in the Young Lords in the '60s and sums up the leaders of that movement as sold out or given up for media jobs. I basically said – not true – and spoke to BA's history and his leading the revolution, and asked him to read out loud the second page blurb in Revolution newspaper, "Who is Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party?" At the part of "...and really fight to win" he paused to say, "That's beautiful." He said he really liked the whole piece, and we will be in touch.

On a personal note, all of the news I have seen, none covers the people living in the projects or poor people. The tenants at the Jacob Riis projects are left to fend for themselves with very little resources.

As I left, one woman said, "Thank you for being our voice."

 


 

Permalink: http://revcom.us/a/284/hurricane-sandy-report-from-red-hook-brooklyn-en.html

Revolution #284 November 4, 2012

Report from Red Hook, Brooklyn

October 31, 2012 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us

 

A group of us went out to Red Hook to find out what is happening to the people in the wake of the "perfect storm." There are two fairly distinct parts of Red Hook—a housing project that is the largest in Brooklyn and where around 5,000 people live, and an area that used to be an old Italian immigrant neighborhood and now has small shops and homes and a new wave of artists and others. This is a fairly isolated area, with no subway lines nearby and the water on one side and the expressway on the other.

To put it in a few words: the situation for the people in Red Hook, especially in the project, has been terrible since the storm—many living without electricity, hot water, and heat (as the temperatures dipped because of the cold front that was part of the "perfect storm").

The housing project is in "Zone A," which the city authorities had declared before Hurricane Sandy hit as areas where the residents were under a mandatory evacuation order. The residents are overwhelmingly African American, with some Latinos. Many, if not most, of the people did not obey the evacuation order. Some people said they never heard about the evacuation order, others said that they were never informed about where to go or how to get there, and many said that they were afraid of their apartments getting broken into.

People talked about riding out the storm, watching from their windows as the streets turned to rivers and inundating the cars that had not been moved. But the worst was what happened after the height of the storm surge on Monday night. One woman, who works as a bus driver, said she and her seven kids had evacuated and spent two days at a hotel, all she could afford—only to come back to the harrowing situation in her building, and all the food in the fridge spoiled. The lack of electricity and hot water is not just an inconvenience but life-threatening for people who are elderly or ill. Some of the buildings in the project are high-rises with 14 or more stories—so just think about what a lack of a functioning elevator means for people living there. Our team was chilled to the bone just walking around the area for a couple of hours—what is it like for people having to live in the continuing dark and increasing cold?

Help from the authorities has been non-existent or very slow in coming, with people given little information about what is happening. And like elsewhere, the refusal of people to evacuate is being used as an excuse to blame them for the situation they are in. A young Black woman, whose friend lives in the Red Hook project, said she called 311 to ask what was going on with the lack of help. She was told, basically, "You refused mandatory evacuation, and you shouldn't even be there." Then...click.

The word and sentiment we kept hearing from people we met were that they felt "abandoned." People are trying to pull together to help each other the best they can (while there are also the workings of the system that pull people apart, like some people who work but have a hard time feeding their families complaining about those getting food stamps). A middle-aged Black woman who recently went through a serious surgery, said she could not imagine how she could have survived if a friend of hers had not come over to help out—and such scenes were no doubt repeated all over the project. Another woman mentioned the "kids with guns"—not to talk bad about them, but to say that they were pitching in, trying to raise money for a barbecue for the kids who were missing out on Halloween.

There are also people with the Occupy movement and others, who have been working in the neighborhood to coordinate volunteers and donations coming in from other areas, and encouraging people to demand their rights.

But the people, in Red Hook and all over the whole region affected by the hurricane, are facing huge problems and the machinery of a whole system that has certain agendas and priorities that have nothing to do with the real interests of the people. The situation puts a spotlight on the insane workings of the system—and the need for a radically different, and much better, system. When we raised this to people, and told them that there is a movement for revolution working toward this goal, there was a lot of interest. You could really see how "jolts" like the "perfect storm" that just hit northeast U.S. can shake up the "normal" routine of people's lives and open up possibilities for people to consider alternatives to this system.

Speaking of "normal"—there's a lot of talk in the media about when things would "get back to normal" in the wake of Sandy. But for people in places like the Red Hook housing project, "normal" means the horrors of police terror, racism, and poverty. We heard many stories people victimized by the NYPD "stop-and-frisk"—a young man arrested for just cutting across a closed park to save a few minutes on the way home, a middle-aged Black woman (the same woman mentioned above), who was walking to the store just days after her surgery when she was harassed by cops who demanded she show her ID, etc., etc. Other people talked about having their gas or electricity shut off for weeks or even months, even before the storm, or residents getting kicked out into the street just for missing one rent payment.

There wasn't the same kind of raw anger when we talked to people in the other area of Red Hook. But actually, the flood damage was much more serious here, with the waters ruining shops and first-floor apartments. Many small store owners were facing tens of thousands of dollars in damage, which meant going out of business for some. One barber we talked said the floodwaters had severely damaged his shop—and also ruined his home, which is in another hard-hit area of Brooklyn.