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Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
As we write, there are four weeks until the premiere of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
Let's start with the basics: what is this film? And why is it important?
Many, many people walk through their lives hurting, or numb, or both. Emergencies cry out all over the place—the massive imprisonment of Black and Latino youth, running like an assembly line... the degradation and horrors visited upon women, from the bedroom to the streets to the state-backed sex trafficking... the drones of war and long-distance murder... the relentless destruction of the environment... and all over the planet, the steady, unending drumbeat of children being ground up by disease, ignorance, exploitation—millions and millions a year dying—as if being fed to a mythological monster.
What is needed is Revolution—Nothing Less!
Yet people don't see a way out. They don't see a way forward.
This film challenges that, and powerfully. This film can change that.
For decades, masses of people worldwide fought and sacrificed in their hundreds of millions to build a whole new world. Their achievements were great, but these first heroic attempts were defeated, and for nearly 40 years there has been no country that people could look to as a liberated society. During that time, the movement for revolution largely became disoriented and ebbed.
But fortunately, Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, did NOT. BA set about figuring out how to go forward—because the world still cried out, more desperately than ever, for revolution. He deepened the science of revolution, and applied that to understanding the triumphs, and the shortcomings, of the past. He revived and deepened Marx's insight that humanity's suffering was not due to a somehow unchanging and unchangeable human nature, but to real, material causes—fundamentally, to a system, of capitalism-imperialism. And more than that, he broke through on the strategy to actually make a revolution, and to a vision of a whole new world on a higher level than had ever been seen before.
That is huge. Huge. And the heart of it is contained in this film of a speech BA gave last fall. But this is more than just a film, more than even a very good film. As one of the filmmakers said, "This is a daring, substantive, scientific summoning to revolution. 6+ hours that can change how you see the world and what you do with the rest of your life."
The line in this film—the analysis that BA lays out but just as important, the way he opens up your vision and shows you how to go at things, how to understand and change the world, how we actually could make revolution, and how to deal with everything that stands in the way and the kind of world that we could bring into being if we follow through on all that—is powerful. This line can change people.
Right now, the premieres of this film are crucially important; but we have to conceive of them as, and make them be part of, something larger. The process of building for and then showing this film has to put revolution on the map in society in a big way and go a lot further in making BA a household word. But important as this is—and it is important—there is a particular mission to develop a growing core of people who are down with this, and broader circles and rungs of other people who are getting into this, engaging it, learning about it, and participating in some way, big or small, in the movement for revolution. The premiere of this film, and the whole process leading up to it, has to do this, and it has to develop the organized strength of this trend, and most of all the party at the core of it. Because you can't make revolution without a revolutionary party.
To put it another way, through the course of the next four weeks, and then taking a leap at the premieres themselves, this line has to find increasing material expression.
Again... Revolution—Nothing Less!
For two weeks now, people have been taking this out into the world. We've been changing things and learning things. But at every step of the way, we need to apply science to figure out what we are changing, where we are falling short, and how to do better. We need to make the most of the opportunity posed by this premiere... and we need a massive effort that is guided by, and enriching, the science to do that. It's not about telling cool stories—it has to be about changing the world, and drawing the lessons to help others change it.
Last week, we pointed to the need, as called for in the RCP's "On the Strategy for Revolution," "to be working consistently to accumulate forces—to prepare minds and organize people in growing numbers—for revolution," as a key part of the struggle to build these premieres. It's worth reprinting and reflecting again on the paragraph we cited:
All along the way, both in more "normal times" and especially in times of sharp breaks with the "normal routine," it is necessary to be working consistently to accumulate forces—to prepare minds and organize people in growing numbers—for revolution, among all those who can be rallied to the revolutionary cause. Among the millions and millions who catch hell in the hardest ways every day under this system. But also among many others who may not, on a daily basis, feel the hardest edge of this system's oppression but are demeaned and degraded, are alienated and often outraged, by what this system does, the relations among people it promotes and enforces, the brutality this embodies.
One thing: progress has been made, things have been learned, when revolutionaries put out the solid core of this line—Revolution—Nothing Less!... letting people get to know BA through BAsics, or an interview tape, or the Revolution talk... then allowing and enabling people to get into that on many different levels, bringing their aspirations and questions into a whole process... and then challenging them and providing them an immediate way to get with the movement for revolution.
Revolutionaries have to be way out into the world as a solid core around this line: Revolution—Nothing Less! We need to be putting BA in people's hands, in different ways, letting them know that we have the actual way forward out of this madness and how incredibly important that is! We should call bullshit bullshit when people run their stuff against this line, and we should welcome the controversy. But that's not enough. You've got to give people the ways to engage and actively get into that line, and spread it themselves. If you're on the campus—"let's get some coffee... when can we hang out and listen to this interview, or watch this DVD—how about now, for 15 minutes..." If someone's in a rush to pick up their kids or go to the market, walk with them, give them a hand, but whatever you do, get into this with them. Learn what they think of BAsics, or that quote card, or the radio interview or part of the Revolution Talk they saw. If there's someone there who's got a better grasp of the line or knows how to break it down... take the person over to them.
One important thing: we need to reach out more to take people along on these forays that take word of the premieres out broadly. People who are new to things, or who may not be new but aren't that clear on a lot of stuff, get a whole lot just by going out with the revolutionaries and seeing how they put out revolution and take on the bullshit. And the fact is that they contribute a lot as well, even by just standing with the revolution and being part of the whole scene. Again, it gets back to being serious: giving people a time and a place to be part of this, and then being there, manifesting and representing fully as who we are: revolutionary communists, people who get that what we are supposed to do is LEAD... with the WHOLE thing... the need, the basis, the possibility... the challenge to others to be part of this in some way big or small...the total refusal to accept or allow reactionary views to set the tone or the terms for things. THIS is the solid core we should be projecting... with the confidence of all of material history behind us and the great needs of humanity in mind... and settle for nothing less than what is true and what is necessary to do.
When people begin to relate to that, it is urgent that that goes further; we have to find ways to give that relationship real shape, connected to real organization.
We need it all: deeper engagement with BA, right there on the spot... forms of activity to be part of this and spread it, on all kinds of levels... and then deeper engagement off of that, and so on, scientifically summing up all along the way.
This is the spiral we have to unleash in order to make these premieres be what they have to be.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
Looking Ahead to the Premiere of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
Our forces must grow every step of the way—in the course of building for this film as part of accumulating forces for revolution. This was our orientation when we went to a community college where most of the multinational student body is from the basic people!
Even though there was no crowded central quad area, we found an area where there was a steady stream of students walking by around lunch time. We set up in this area with large displays of the film premiere along with displays of Trayvon Martin and another display of the many crimes of imperialism. Many students stopped and looked at these displays.
We agitated boldly and loudly, following the guidance in Revolution newspaper announcing the film. We said it was POSSIBLE to end the many manifestations of the horrors of this system, but it requires revolution—nothing less. We also agitated that this situation is intolerable, this situation is illegitimate, this shit must end and we must end it! We told people that we have leadership in BA, the vanguard organization in the Party, and the science of revolution brought forward in the new synthesis of BA. But what is missing is THEM, in order to further build this movement for revolution. Some students asked, “What’s so important about this film?” and why should they build for it. We pointed to the Revolution editorial (#294, February 10, 2013) and that if they are SERIOUS about ending this horror, they need to clear their schedules to engage with BA!
A lot of students were interested in Trayvon Martin and we told them that we cannot make revolution if people do not fight the power. We need revolution, nothing less; and we will not get to that without fighting the power. This was why it was so important to join with this national outpouring for Trayvon.
We had a boom box, loudly featuring the Cornel West interview with BA as well as the BA talk on Obama and the elections. People wanted to hear more, and a few students wanted to stay there for the duration. But we were not satisfied with people’s general interest in hearing BA’s voice. We needed to grow forces right on the spot. We announced boldly that we would have a Revolution Club meeting two hours later. We sharpened up the ideological challenge to people: you know there are horrors going on because of this system, so for you to simply go to class or be involved in daily life that keeps you from engaging with BA and this film is UNACCEPTABLE. About 24 students decided to give us numbers, several papers were bought, leaflets distributed, etc. There were some questions that came up, like around strategy ... how are you going to do it? And we distributed palm cards featuring the Michael Slate interview with Bob Avakian that answers these questions.
But we didn’t just say “we’ll get back to you” at some distant time. We called them, starting a half hour before the club meeting (some of them were in class). Sure enough a couple of students showed up and we started the first meeting of the Revolution Club on this campus, beginning with a reading of the basic principles of the Revolution Club: 1) humanity needs revolution and communism and 2) fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.
We talked a bit about the RCP’s statement “On the Strategy for Revolution” (the supplement to Chapter 3 of BAsics), especially about the point of thousands becoming millions and the importance of those few in the beginning in building forces “all along the way” (i.e., even in “normal times” the world is a horror). And the second Revolution Club principle led to a discussion about how to build for Trayvon Martin Day on campus on February 26! But most importantly, we urged the cruciality of attending the premiere of the film.
Going with the same orientation as at the community college, we aimed for a big outing—going to a big store in the ’hood on Saturday, February 9. However, it was a slow day at Walmart, so we moved our crew, complete with bullhorns, displays of Trayvon Martin, and a large poster for the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! We reassembled at a busy intersection where a Trayvon Martin Day is scheduled for February 26, and immediately began chanting “BA Says, BA Says, Revolution Nothing Less” and “Trayvon Martin didn’t have to die, We all know the reason why, the whole damn system is guilty,” and also “No more Trayvon Martins, No More Oscar Grants, No More Alan Bluefords, No more Ramarley Grahams ....”
The chants drew lots of attention from the passing cars, who honked support and sometimes bought papers as our crew weaved thru the traffic selling papers and leafleting for both Trayvon Martin Day and the premiere. Many copies of the page 3 Revolution editorial in issue #294 were also distributed to people just walking by, and they were challenged by what the editorial said, that you couldn’t use excuses of being too busy with whatever (family, drama in the ’hood, little corner reforms, etc.) if you were serious about wanting to end the hellish conditions on this planet. That it is your responsibility to engage with what Bob Avakian is saying!
Our crew was an interesting mix of age, race, and gender. We had a small group of high school students who enjoyed the hell out of coming out to this area, notorious for a high rate of homicide. Engaging with those who catch hell was something that really meant a lot to these students. Also, it was the first time some of them had been on the bullhorn!
The presence of this little crew of students had a profound impact on the whole character of the day; and they were in turn impacted by the responses of the basic people. (One of the students had been warned by their parents about the dangers of this area, but he instead felt that this was the place to be!) One of the passersby was a woman (a former Black Panther) whose son had been murdered by police a few years previous! This woman, who joined the crew on the spot, said that she felt proud of these young people coming out but then challenged the students with an old saying: “If you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” and told them that they had a responsibility to the future of the planet. That we didn’t want to have more police murders go on over and over when they got old! We needed a revolution, nothing less. And this was the message we then took on a small march through the ’hood down to the place where a Black man was killed by police in 2009.
Although we were small, our spirits were very strong as we chanted loudly together, old and young, Black, white, Asian, Latino, “BA says, BA says, Revolution—Nothing Less!” So to carry it further in building forces for revolution, we set a Revolution Club meeting in the ’hood on the very next day.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
February 26, 2013—One year since the murder of Trayvon Martin. One year since a self-styled vigilante, wannabe cop named George Zimmerman saw Trayvon’s Black skin and his hoodie and decided he “must be up to no good.” One year since Zimmerman gunned Trayvon down. One year since the cops in Sanford, Florida, found Zimmerman standing over Trayvon’s dead body and walked him into and out of the police station, letting the killer go free. And still, no justice.
The struggle for justice for Trayvon Martin is at a critical juncture. The trial of Trayvon’s killer is scheduled for June, but there is a real danger that the system will use Florida’s outrageous “Stand Your Ground” law to let Zimmerman go free. In the context of a system that stands in large part on white supremacy, “Stand Your Ground”-type laws that have been passed in more than half the states are basically lynching-enabling laws. They are unjust and illegitimate. The Florida law says a person is justified in the use of deadly force and does not have a duty to retreat if “He or she reasonably believes that such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another or to prevent the imminent commission of a forcible felony.”
On February 26, it is critical that people act! Take pictures of yourself and others wearing hoodies and acting to say NO MORE and send them to email@example.com and to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Trayvon’s murder touched the hearts of millions of people because it concentrated the way this system has put a bulls-eye on the backs of our youth. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in cities across the country and wore hoodies. Students from colleges throughout the South flowed into Sanford because they meant it when they said “We Are All Trayvon!”
This outpouring of rage is the ONLY reason this system—which was ready to let Zimmerman go free—backed up and charged him with second degree murder. This is the only reason Zimmerman now even faces the prospects of going to trial. BUT the (in)justice system has continued to work to let the man who murdered Trayvon go free. And we are at a critical juncture in the battle to get justice for Trayvon Martin—where the people must take to the streets again to make this happen.
Here’s a basic fact that is being covered up: Trayvon Martin would be alive today, if Zimmerman had stayed in his car—as he was told to do by the 911 dispatcher.
The court has allowed Zimmerman to gather all kinds of bullshit IRRELEVANT “evidence” to make his case that he had believed his life was threatened, like issuing a subpoena for Martin’s girlfriend’s Facebook page.
Meanwhile, the media has been pumping out totally IRRELEVANT things about Trayvon—that he was suspended from school, that he wrote graffiti on a locker, that he skipped school and was late for class. This is being used to turn reality UPSIDE DOWN—to demonize Trayvon and make it seem like Zimmerman is the victim. In April, the judge refused a prosecution request to issue a gag order that might have suppressed this, giving a clear green light to create broad public opinion that Zimmerman should not even go to trial.
For example, the Miami Herald wrote: “...a more complicated portrait began to emerge of a teenager whose problems at school ranged from getting spotted defacing lockers to getting caught with a marijuana baggie and women’s jewelry.” (March 26, 2012)
“A more complicated portrait”??? By these standards the vast majority of youth, of all nationalities, are suspicious and criminal—and would perhaps deserve to be gunned down. This is totally outrageous. But this is the kind of thing that is being put out in the media around this case.
And all that is irrelevant. There is no way Zimmerman could have known ANY of it the night that he murdered Trayvon Martin. So there is no basis for him to invoke things that he could not have known at the time as an excuse for killing Trayvon. And now there is a possibility that the system will let Zimmerman use the “Stand Your Ground” law to go free.
So all this adds up to a critical juncture in the struggle for justice: Trayvon Martin’s killer is invoking a lynch-mob law to justify killing a young Black man for wearing a hoodie and buying some Skittles. The media have been working for a year to spread gossip and irrelevant bullshit to criminalize Trayvon—who was doing nothing wrong—and to make his killer look good. The prosecutors, who are supposed to be prosecuting Travyon’s killer, are representatives of a system whose police kill hundreds of Black and Latino youth every year.
But the people cannot let this go down!
This is an emergency situation that demands urgent action on the anniversary of Trayvon’s murder—the kinds of creative, courageous, determined in-your-face protests that happened a year ago. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) has called on people to “Take to the Streets, Wear Hoodies and Show Your Outrage!” on February 26.
Their call says, in part:
On February 26, one year after the murder of Trayvon Martin, we must return to the streets, wear hoodies and act in other ways to show that we refuse to accept the bulls-eye that has been placed on the backs of Black youth. Gather your friends, neighbors and co-workers; and take pictures of what you do. ...
... On February 26, we must mark the murder of Trayvon by wearing hoodies, by gathering in appropriate places and demonstrating our defiance and our determination to refuse to accept this mistreatment. Gather coming out of school, gather in your neighborhoods.
We have to act in this way on the 26th. If we don’t, the courts could work like the cops did on the night Trayvon was murdered, by letting Zimmerman walk free again. And the authorities will continue to give a green light to racist vigilantes and killer cops to brutalize and murder our youth.
But if we do act in this way, it will show we refuse to accept in silence a declaration of open season on Black youth. It will say NO MORE to authorities who criminalize our youth. It will open the eyes of those who don’t experience this mistreatment to what’s really going on. And it will give heart to all those who live this injustice and hate it. When we pour into the streets and act in other ways with defiance and determination on February 26, we will be contributing to ending these outrages once and for all.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following is from an interview Revolution did with Carl Dix:
Some people say, we protested the murder of Trayvon Martin a year ago, but now we should wait and see what happens in the courts; or that protests will “get in the way of the courts working” and could actually work against Zimmerman getting convicted. There are also some who say the fix is already in, so there’s nothing you can do about it. Could you speak to this?
Carl Dix: It’s actually very important for people to get that it was their standing up and saying “not this time”—that this is the only reason Zimmerman even faces charges. And now, whether or not the case goes forward could really well be determined by whether the authorities still feel like that rage is there—that this rage could be coming at them and could further expose the system for the rotten, no good thing that it is, if Zimmerman goes free. And then a big question is posed for various figures in the the ruling class. Is it worse for the system to convict this racist, or is it worse to let him go? What will actually undermine the system the most? Because when you talk about the courts in this country, you’re not talking about some neutral institution that operates according to the laws of what’s right and wrong. You’re talking about an institution that is part and parcel of maintaining the exploitative and oppressive setup. And in this country the role that the courts have played as part of that, a lot of it is targeting of Blacks and Latinos and especially the youth because that is the section of society that the powers-that-be hate and fear. The ruling class remembers the 1960s and the way in which Black youth were at the forefront of standing up against the mistreatement of Black people. And the powers-that-be remember the powerful dynamic between the struggle of Black people and other struggles, like the struggle to end the Vietnam War and the fight against women’s oppression, and a broad revolutionary movement that encompassed not only Black people, but people of various nationalities, many different backgrounds, that rocked this system back on its heels. And the powers-that-be understand that the conditions this system is enforcing on tens of millions of people in the inner cities across this country, and even beyond the inner cities, are as bad, if not worse than the conditions that were forced on people in the 1960s. And the powers-that-be are moving to head off any kind of uprisings in relation to that through a program of criminalization of Black and Latino youth in large numbers—the warehousing in prisons, the disproportionate ways that the police harass, jack up, brutalize and even murder Black and Latino people, especially the youth. All of this is all part of conscious policies adopted that I like to refer to as a counter-insurgency being unleashed before the insurgency can break out and in order to prevent anything along the lines of an insurgency from breaking out. That’s how the authorities are looking at that.
So it’s important that people understand their role in relation to all that and whether they are going to stand up and say no more to that and not just in relation to a particular outrage but seeing that this is part and parcel of the way that the system comes at whole groupings of people, whole generations of people. And a lot of that comes down to what role do the revolutionaries play, what role do the people who see the need for revolution play? And that underscores the importance of taking the approach of “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution”; helping people to see the source of not only this problem they’re up against, but that it is the same as the problems that are being enforced on humanity, not only in this country, but throughout the world and that the solution to that is making revolution and getting rid of the capitalist-imperialist system once and for all. And particularly right now, focusing that up a lot around the premiere of this film, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! because it is a way to introduce people to the leadership that we have for this revolution. So that’s kind of how I see that question of the role that people’s activities play and need to continue to play and that people need to themselves understand. But that also needs to be done in the context of where this comes from and what’s needed to be done to get rid of it.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
An excerpt from Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, by Bob Avakian
This excerpt is from the section of the talk titled “Emmett Till and Jim Crow: Black people lived under a death sentence.” View this clip, as well as another relevant section titled “They’re selling postcards of the hanging” and other clips, online at RevolutionTalk Video Clips—Watch And Share and at www.youtube.com/revolutiontalk.
* * * * *
Then there’s the story of Emmett Till. Emmett Till was born and grew up in Chicago. In 1955, when he had just turned 14, he went to Mississippi to visit family there. His mother warned and she schooled him about what he would find in Mississippi, what a young Black male like himself should expect, what he must do and not do in order to stay alive. And think about the fact that a mother has to school her child that way just when he goes to visit family. But Emmett Till was full of life and full of fun. One day, while in Money, Mississippi, he made the fatal mistake of whistling at a white woman as he was leaving a store owned by her husband. A few days later, the storeowner and his brother-in-law came in the middle of the night with guns and took Emmett Till away. They were seen beating him as they drove him away. His relatives began looking for his body along river banks and under bridges where Black folks always look when things like this happen, as his uncle put it. Think about that, think about what that means—where Black folks always look when this kind of thing happens. Think about what that tells you about this country. Emmett Till’s body was found in a river. He was beaten and shot to death. Beaten so badly he could barely be recognized, even by his mother. A 14-year-old boy lynched. For what? For whistling at a white woman.
In an act of tremendous courage and large-mindedness, his mother, Mamie Till, displayed his body publicly in Chicago. And she refused to have it touched up so that all could see what had been done to him. His body was viewed by tens of thousands of Black people in Chicago.
The story of what happened to Emmett Till aroused deep anger among Black people all over the country. It shocked many white people in many parts of the country and it became an international news story and outrage.
But back in Mississippi, white people rallied to the defense of the men who had kidnapped and brutally murdered Emmett Till. These men were put on trial only because of the outrage around the country and around the world. Death threats and terror against Black people in the area where this lynching took place were increased to keep them from saying what they knew and how they felt about this lynching. In a court room that was segregated, with white people filling the seats, and the few Black people who were allowed in, forced to stand at the back, the jury of all white men found the murderers of Emmett Till not guilty in an hour. Their lawyers even accused Mamie Till and the NAACP of conspiring to cook up this whole story of the lynching. Actually, Emmett Till was alive in Detroit, these lawyers claimed. Not long after they were acquitted of this crime, the two men sold their story to a national magazine, telling in detail how they brutally murdered Emmett Till. But nothing was ever done to them. Despite a massive campaign calling for the federal government to indict these two men, the government refused. Sound familiar?
Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was President of the United States at the time, never even answered a telegram sent to him by Mamie Till. J. Edgar Hoover, head of the FBI, called this brutal lynching of Emmett Till “an alleged murder,” and he gave much more attention to investigating the involvement of communists in protesting this lynching than he ever did to the lynching itself. But the lynching of Emmett Till became a rallying cry for Black people. People stood up who had never stood up before, as Mamie Till put it.
In talking about these lynchings, I’m not exaggerating any of this. In fact, I’ve actually left out some of the most gruesome and disgusting details in talking about these lynchings because there is only so much of this that you can stand to talk about or to hear about. And these were not the so-called isolated incidents, the way they always try to tell us, whenever they get caught in one of their brutalities or murders, the way they try to cover up the real crimes of this system and those who rule it. Thousands of Black people were lynched in those times. And all Black people lived with a constant terror of this.
Listen to the following statement by the author of a book about lynching. He said, “It is doubtful that any Black male growing up in the rural South in the period 1900 to 1940 was not traumatized by a fear of being lynched.” What is he saying with this? Nothing less than this: no Black male growing up in the rural South in that period could be free of that fear. Every Black male was haunted and scarred deeply by that fear. Think about what that means and think about how this touched Black people as a whole. A sociologist who studied Black life in Mississippi in the 1930s learned how deeply the threat of lynching was in the minds of all Black people, from the very young to the very old. And in a PBS program on the system of segregation in the South, which was called the Jim Crow system, they quoted a psychologist who said that every Black person living in the South under Jim Crow was living actually under a death sentence. It might or might not actually get carried out, but it was always there. Black people could be killed for anything they did which might offend some white people and the whites who killed them would never be punished. A Black man could be lynched for looking at a white woman in a way that some white people thought was the wrong way, and the whites who killed them, again, would never be punished. Or a grown Black man could be killed for not calling a young white boy “sir,” or for not stepping off the sidewalk to make way for white people or for any reason or no reason at all. And this was related to the overall outrages to which Black people were subjected. This experience of lynching and its effect on the masses of Black people can in a real sense be taken as representing and concentrating the experience of Black people as a whole, long after literal slavery with all its horrors had been ended in the 1860s.
Frederick Douglass was a slave himself who after he got his own freedom, spent his life fighting against the oppression of Black people and other injustices. Invited to speak at a July Fourth celebration [in 1852], Douglass made clear that July Fourth was nothing to celebrate and that America was guilty of great crimes. Here’s what he said about it: “What, to the American slave is your Fourth of July? I answer: a day that reveals to him, more than all other days in the year, the gross injustice and cruelty to which he is the constant victim. To him your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your denunciation of tyrants, brass-fronted impudence; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mockery; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all of your religious parade and solemnity, are, to him, mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages....
“There is not a nation on the earth guilty of practices more shocking and bloody than are the people of the United States at this very hour.” And Douglass also said, America may accuse others of savagery, but really it has no equal when it comes to this. He said, “For revolting barbarity and shameless hypocrisy, American reigns without a rival.”
As the saying goes, truer words were never spoken. Douglass spoke these words while slavery still legally existed in the United States, but his comments apply just as much even after outright slavery was ended, and all this time, while all these lynchings and other acts of incredible cruelty were being carried out, with all the oppression they embodied and enforced, all this time those who ruled this country, those who refused to do anything to stop these lynchings or other acts of terror and atrocities, those who were responsible for these and other barbaric crimes, all this time, they never stopped proclaiming, “This is the greatest country in the world... this is the greatest country that has ever been... this is the leader of the free world... this is the homeland of freedom and democracy.”
It is not just that many white people acted like depraved beasts. And it is not that some were actually devils, although it certainly may have seemed that way many times in the history of this country. The deeper thing is that all these horrors were shaped by, they were encouraged by, and they served to keep in effect a whole system, a system that could not have existed without first slavery, and then near-slavery. And segregation and terror centered in the South while the great majority of Black people lived there, chained in one way or another to the rural South and on white-owned plantations. White supremacy is built into the foundation of this country. It is something this system and those who rule it could not do without even if they wanted to, which they don’t. And this has continued down to the present. Despite all the false claims these days about how this is now a colorblind society, segregation and discrimination continue against Black people and other people of color. Every time there is a study or a survey to determine this, it shows without fail that segregation and discrimination exist in housing, in jobs, in schools, in health care, in every part of society. And this continues to be backed up with brutality and violence.
The last time I spoke publicly in this country, in 1979, I took a detour from the speaking tour to go to Chester, South Carolina because Black people there were uprising because a young Black male, in the year 1979, had been lynched for dating a white girl. And more recently in, yes, Texas, there was the horror of what was done to James Byrd, a Black man who was taken by white thugs and good ol’ boys, tied to the back of a pickup and dragged until his head was separated from his body and his body was dismembered.
This is still going on in this "greatest of all countries." But today, it is mostly the police who openly, as the police, carry out brutality and terror against Black youth and Black people in general. Applying that author’s statement on lynching to the present, we could put it this way. It is doubtful that there is a young Black male, growing up in the U.S. today, in the South or the North, who does not have a very real fear of being brutalized or even murdered by the police. And again, this touches all Black people. Another book on the history of lynching of Black people in the South makes this point—and think about this: Black parents learn to fear more for some sons than for others: those who were surly, who had attitude, or who were rebellious, or were careless, who had not learned the art of appearing to know their place. They were in greater danger. And tragically, parents had no choice but to try to keep their sons especially from showing those qualities—like self-confidence, curiosity, ambitiousness—that could be interpreted as insolence or arrogance by white people. However, this author goes on to say, there was only so much that could be done by the parents in trying to prevent disaster. Any unlucky circumstance could instantly put a Black man at deadly risk.
And today we see the same thing. In our Party’s work in the housing projects, one of the most heart-rending things we’ve learned is how Black mothers in the projects start to worry early on if the boys that they’ve given birth to start to show that they might grow up to be large. Because then they’ll have everything come down on them that comes down on a large Black male. Think of what this means, that a mother, from the time that her child is two or three years old, has to worry that he might grow up to be too big so he might be seen to be a threat by the police and then cut down and murdered brutally by them.
What kind of a society, what kind of system is this?
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
The Dorner Controversy Continues
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
During the last two weeks, the whole country was riveted to the events playing out in Southern California around Christopher Dorner. These events included the LAPD’s biggest manhunt ever, which came to a climax with the incineration of Dorner in a cabin while surrounded by police. The TV networks even split-screened this with preparation for Obama’s State of the Union speech.
But the controversy has not yet been quieted—and it SHOULD NOT BE.
Through this controversy, two very ugly truths about America have once again forced their way to the surface. The first truth: that for all the talk—and all the lies—the oppression of Black people, and other people of color, is FAR from over; on the contrary, it still festers and rages in different forms. The second truth: that for all the elections and endless campaigning and everything else, those who really rule this society exercise dictatorship.
In this article, we’re going to talk about both these truths. We’re going to get into the discussion and debate that has been raging around these two truths. And we’re going to talk about a third truth as well, one that is not ugly but a fact of great hope—one that has not come to the surface, but needs to: the truth that all this can only be dealt with by revolution, and that it is in fact possible to make such a revolution.
Let’s start with something very basic. What does it tell you that someone like this, who was “on the inside” and part of the machinery of the LAPD, considered the problem of racist brutality and corruption on the part of the LAPD so intolerable that he was driven to such extremes? What does it tell you that this person, who cited things like the Rodney King beating and the Rampart scandal [see box], said that things have not gotten better, or may have even gotten worse, since then? Does this not speak to the reality of the racist and murderous brutality of the police and the whole apparatus of repression of this system? Does this not serve to remind us how widespread, continual, and systematic this is?
The questions answer themselves. And here’s another thing to reflect on: what does it tell you that hundreds and thousands of people have felt compelled to rush into print to tell their stories backing up and deepening those charges? What does it mean when lawyers, professors, writers, and other commentators feel compelled to point to the same truths these hundreds and thousands are giving voice to? What does it mean when the LA Times feels compelled to report that as of Saturday they have received nearly 200 letters about this with “the primary target for criticism” being the LA Police Department, while only “a handful of readers spoke up in defense of the police”? And what does it say when people refuse to shut up even when what used to be called “responsible Negro leaders” and “responsible Negro voices” have told everybody to quiet down?
It tells you just how deep this oppression runs. It bears out that for all the talk of progress, there is today a vicious new twist in the knots of oppression: the NEW Jim Crow, a system of police brutality and murder, wholesale criminalization and mass incarceration, and legalized discrimination.
And this is not simply a particular feature of the LAPD. Go anywhere in America and you will learn that this marks the police and the “injustice system” in the country as a whole, in the service of a brutally oppressive system, a system which has white supremacy built into its very foundation and structure.
As Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA has said:
“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 the order that enforces all this oppression and madness.” (BAsics 1:24)
Think about that last line: “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.”
We’re going to come back to that point. But first we want to speak to some of the people who have rushed into print to hush it up and seal it up and shove what is coming to light back into the dark. Let’s take Connie Rice—who at one time was a critic of the police, but has lately worked closely with the police chiefs to “create a new culture.” These chiefs include William Bratton, who specializes in the racial profiling program known as stop-and-frisk.
Connie Rice, a prominent civil rights attorney in Los Angeles, starts her LA Times article, “Dorner’s LAPD Is On the Way Out” (February 9, 2013), by saying that it is important to acknowledge the history of the LAPD—but only in order to overcome the “disturbing support” that Dorner’s accusations received “from the Black community on the Internet and on black radio.” Rice talks about how Black officers now face an easier time in the department, and then asserts, with no evidence whatsoever, that it is “absolutely wrong” to say that the department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days.
Really?!? Let’s start with this: between 2007 and 2011, police in LA County killed 159 people. Let’s go from there to the “gang injunctions” that target Black and Latino youth and put them by the thousands and tens of thousands into the Jim Crow pipeline to prison. Let’s remember Manuel Jamines, a 37-year-old immigrant from Guatemala, shot in the head by police only 40 seconds after they confronted him. Let’s talk about the vicious repression of the political protesters of Occupy LA, shot with rubber bullets for writing with chalk during a downtown Art Walk. What about the LAPD military-style execution just last October of 23-year-old Kennedy Garcia, shot in the back as he lay cuffed on the ground on his stomach—for the crime of graffiti writing while Latino? What about Devin Brown, shot and killed by the LAPD as he sat behind the wheel of a car—Devin Brown who was 13 years old when the “reformed” LAPD took his life? And by the way, the “enlightened” Bratton stood by those pigs. What about the totally unprovoked and brutal LAPD attack on the mainly Latino May Day 2007 march demanding changes in immigration laws? What about the two Latina women shot by the LAPD for driving a pickup truck that they “thought” matched the description of Dorner’s (it didn’t, by the way)?
And it’s not just individual stories, important as they are. A 2008 study of the LAPD by Ian Ayres, a Yale Law School economist, found that Black people driving cars were nearly three times more likely to be stopped than white and other “non-minority” residents. “These stark statistics...give a numeric lens for the lived experience of ‘driving while Black’ or ‘driving while Hispanic.’”
Connie Rice says the good guys are in charge now. They may be slicker, but they are no more “good guys” than the openly racist rednecks who used to run the LAPD. So, no, Connie Rice—things have NOT changed in any kind of fundamental way. And no, to all those “deploring” how masses of people have been speaking out in the wake of this, expressing the truth in “impolite” ways—it is a VERY GOOD THING that all this is coming to the surface, and MORE needs to be unearthed.
Some people say that because the LAPD is now said to be mostly “minority” it can’t be racist. Let’s go back to that BA quote. The police “serve and protect the system that rules over the people.” A system. In other words, they are an instrument and no matter who becomes part of that instrument—white, Black, brown—they have to fill a certain role. What role? “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.”
You can talk about reforming the police all day long... you can put your energy into civilian review boards or minority recruitment or “community policing” or any of the other bullshit solutions that come down the pike... you can call for meaningless investigations from commissions and departments from now til Doomsday... But until those underlying relations of exploitation and oppression are dug up... and until the conditions of poverty, misery, and degradation those relations give rise to can be transformed by a revolutionary power... then pigs will be pigs will be pigs.
And this gets to the second big truth. Note how in the examples above, there are all kinds of things mixed together—sometimes the pigs unleash their force against political rallies, sometimes they illegally prevent people from even walking on the streets or driving around, and sometimes they just use terror in outrageous and utterly unjustified ways just to kind of make the point that they can, as a form of intimidation and to send a message to the oppressed that their lives don’t matter. In each of these cases, FORCE AND VIOLENCE is being used to suppress the oppressed or to prevent people from protesting against the system. FORCE AND VIOLENCE. Not reason, not persuasion, not debate. FORCE AND VIOLENCE. And what does this tell you? It tells you that for all the talk of democracy, for those on the bottom—and for those who dare question things in a way that the authorities find even remotely disturbing to their “order”—this is a DICTATORSHIP.
The force that they use and the wanton violence they inflict on people are totally illegitimate. The force and violence serve a system which has stolen the land and the lives of minority people for hundreds of years and today continues to oppress and exploit them in new ways. They serve a system which sends drone bombers and commandos all over the world to enforce its “top dog” position. They serve a system which reinforces and benefits from really horrific oppression of women and then claims this oppression is just “natural” when people stand up against it. They serve a system which is hell-bent on plundering and destroying the very planet that makes our lives possible. What possible legitimacy is there to ANY of their force and violence?
There is a way out of this madness. Revolution. And there is a way forward to that revolution—the vision and strategy developed by Bob Avakian, building on the revolutions of the past and taking them further. You can read about all this on our website (revcom.us) or in our paper. You can check out the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), which lays out how the madness of today could be overcome and things could be radically different and better, and on the road to a world without exploitation or oppression of any kind. You can go over our statement on strategy, which shows how a revolution could be made... including the important ways in which incidents like this one get people “searching for answers.” And if you’re at all serious about changing this madness... about finding out HOW it can be changed and what role you can play in this, as you learn more... you have to get with our Party.
The important thing is this:
We are building a movement for revolution—a revolution which, in order to have a real possibility of winning, would need to involve millions of people who have become convinced of the need for this revolution and who, with the emergence of a deep-going revolutionary crisis in society, would be determined to fight to carry out such a revolutionary struggle and to fight to win. All of the work we are doing is aimed at contributing to the development of such a revolutionary movement, guided by this strategic understanding, orientation, and approach. If you want to learn more about our strategy for revolution—as well as why we think such a revolution is urgently needed by the masses of humanity, and why and how it is possible—you should come to the premiere of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
Facts About LAPD: Rodney King Beating and Rampart Scandal
In March 1991, Rodney King, a young Black man, was pulled over while driving in LA. Twenty LAPD and Highway Patrol officers flooded the scene as a police helicopter circled overhead. In the following minutes, at least seven of the cops mercilessly beat and tasered King, crushing the bones in his face, breaking his teeth and ankle, and causing numerous lacerations and internal injuries. Other cops stood around laughing or sending racist radio messages to fellow pigs. Unknown to the cops, a resident across the street videotaped the savage assault. The video played on the news, and outrage spread across the U.S. and around the world. The anger was so deep and widespread that, in an attempt to contain the situation, prosecutors were forced to charge four of the cops with excessive force. As the trial approached, a judge moved the case from downtown LA to the overwhelmingly white suburb of Simi Valley where many cops and ex-cops live.
On April 29, 1992, the jury decision was announced on live TV—”not guilty” for all the cops. Almost immediately, Los Angeles—the second largest city in the U.S.—erupted in rebellion. Black people, joined by Latinos and people of many nationalities and coming from many different backgrounds, poured into the streets, refusing to accept the outrageous, unjust verdict in the trial of the cops who brutalized Rodney King. The 1992 LA Rebellion became the largest urban uprising in U.S. history.
• • •
In September 1999, LA cop Rafael Perez copped a plea on charges that he had stolen drugs from a police station for his own drug-supplying network. Perez—a member of the “anti-gang” CRASH unit of the Rampart Division in the immigrant neighborhood of Pico Union—began spilling the beans about years of criminal activity and violence against the people by CRASH cops. One crime he admitted to was how he and another cop forced 19-year-old Javier Francisco Ovando to his knees in the hallway of an apartment building, handcuffed him and shot him in the face. The cops planted a rifle on Ovando, and they claimed they fired in self-defense. Based on these lies, Ovando was sentenced to a 23-year jail term. When the truth came out, Ovando was freed—but he will spend the rest of his life in a wheelchair because of the shooting.
This sparked what came to be known as the Rampart scandal, which was fueled by infighting within the power structure in LA. The scandal revealed that CRASH cops stole drugs from dealers to sell on the street. They robbed people, and beat up or framed anyone who resisted or got in their way. They used “throw-down” guns to cover up police murders. While the scandal started at Rampart, the same things were exposed in divisions all over the city. And behind the cops were the commanders, judges, prosecutors and legislators who rewarded the cops, took part in railroading people who were framed by the lying cops, or covered up for the cops’ crimes. At one point a list was released of 3,300 people who had been convicted on the testimony of 20 cops who were suspended or fired through the scandal. Others were simply deported out of the U.S. when CRASH cops couldn’t come up with anything to frame them on. In November 2000, three of the cops were found guilty in a jury trial. These cops were not charged with the most serious crimes exposed through the scandal, including murder. A few weeks later, an LA judge simply threw out the jury’s verdict.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
We Call Bullshit
by Toby O’Ryan | February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
“There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.”—Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:1
1) The lie: Slavery was mainly ended through working within the political system.
The truth: it took a major war—a war that took more American lives than any other war in history—to settle the question.
2) The lie: Lincoln actually wanted to abolish slavery from the beginning, but had to hide his sentiments in order to do so. Only by virtue of his clever tactics could slavery actually be ended.
The truth: Lincoln only came to favor the immediate abolition of slavery in the south well into the Civil War, and only when the choice that presented itself was abolition or defeat for the Union; and he only supported full abolition throughout the whole country toward the very end of the war.
3) The lie: The Abolitionists (those favoring the immediate end of slavery) had to compromise to be effective.
The truth: The Abolitionists were able to polarize and repolarize the whole nation around this issue and actually create favorable conditions for the Civil War to end slavery, because, as a movement, they refused to compromise on questions of principle.
4) The lie: America’s history is one of solving, even if slowly at times, the “problem” of racial injustice.
The truth: America’s history, and present-day reality, is one of racism, constantly retrofitting itself in new forms. The U.S. system of capitalism has had a strong vein of white supremacy since its very beginning, and that vein is just as strong today.
And, correspondingly, there would be no American art and culture as we know it today without slavery, and the long shadow that it casts to the present day. More specifically, nearly every age has been marked by a major work on either slavery or the Civil War.
Now we have Lincoln, which aims to be the masterwork of this generation on the subject. In actual fact, Lincoln is a piece of sugar-coated poison that obfuscates, or covers over, some essential truths about America. Not so much by blatant lies or inventions (though there are some crude distortions and inventions created by the screenwriter Tony Kushner), as by half-truths and misrepresentations. Taken together, these serve to get over a number of specific wrong conclusions, all in service of a larger upside-down view of the world—both then and now.
This is NOT harmless. This is a big part of how people’s views of what is true are formed and reinforced and because of that it has to be thoroughly taken apart. So, let’s walk this through.
Lie Number One: The director Steven Spielberg and Kushner chose to focus Lincoln on the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution that forbade slavery and enabled Congress to pass laws to enforce that ban. The movie does so in a way that makes Lincoln’s legislative maneuvering seem to be the decisive element in the abolition of slavery. And the prospect that this movie will very likely be quickly inserted into the curriculum of every middle-school student in the country as the unit on the Civil War (just as Spielberg’s Schindler’s List is the unit on the Nazi genocide against the Jews of Europe) means that this is what most people will take away as the essential way that slavery was abolished.
While the movie goes on and on in this vein, the actual WAR that had to be fought to end slavery has very little screen time. We see at the beginning a scene of a battle that lasts less than a minute, and then another very brief scene toward the end in which Lincoln views the piled-up corpses of a battlefield and mournfully says to the Union commander Ulysses Grant that they have done “terrible things.” “Terrible”? It has to be said that this scene does not portray atrocities or war crimes, but soldiers who died to defend a system, a “way of life,” a “heritage” that rested on the enslavement and torture and utter oppression of millions and millions of human beings, generation after generation. (There is a very obvious Confederate flag among the dead to make just that point.) And even more to the point, why were the truly terrible horrors of slavery—the wholesale kidnapping and murder of millions, the indescribable cruelties of the “seasoning process” where people were broken and conditioned to be slaves, the generations of heartless exploitation, the literal centuries of torture and wholesale rape, the forcible splitting up of families and sale of children, over and over—why were all these not even mentioned in Lincoln and why was the exposure of slavery limited to when Mary Lincoln’s dressmaker says that she was hit by a shovel when she was a small child and when Lincoln’s son insists on looking at pictures of slaves? Here, as in so many other ways, the clearly fictional movie Django Unchained was far, far truer than the supposedly historically “accurate” Lincoln—and note that Quentin Tarantino, who directed and wrote Django Unchained, has said that he only included one-tenth of the real horror of slavery, because he didn’t think an audience could take more.
Well, was the 13th Amendment decisive? No, it was not. The decisive political turning point in the war was when Lincoln was forced, both by circumstance and mass opinion, to issue the Emancipation Proclamation (which freed the slaves, though only in the states that were part of the Confederacy) and then, later, to allow black men to enlist in the Union Army. And the Emancipation Proclamation had nothing to do with Congress—Lincoln issued it by executive order, totally bypassing Congress. (More about the Emancipation Proclamation shortly.) The 13th Amendment codified in law what had been won on the battlefield. Because of this—something that Kushner himself mentioned in an interview with Charlie Rose, saying that in all the books he read, only one author really went into detail on the 13th Amendment—most historians just don’t spend that much time on it.
Despite this, Spielberg and Kushner have chosen to give the strong impression that the most decisive thing was the legislation passed very late in the game through Lincoln’s clever combination of arm-twisting, bribery, and compromise. In the world that Spielberg and Kushner invent, congressional dealing is the engine of profound change; in the world that actually exists, masses of people fighting, sacrificing, and dying was and is necessary for any real basic change.
Lie Number Two: Lincoln, the movie implies, was actually against slavery from the beginning, but he needed to conceal his views. This is implied in a pivotal scene where Lincoln calls in the radical representative Thaddeus Stevens to persuade Stevens to tone down his stand in order to pass the 13th Amendment.
This scene is worth taking apart. Stevens lays out what he says will be the necessary program after the war to really break slavery and emancipate the slaves—the punishment of the southern leaders and slaveholders, the redistribution of land to the former slaves, the political empowerment of those ex-slaves, and the reinforcement of all that with armed occupation. He further says that the moral compass of white Americans has been hopelessly corrupted and corroded by slavery, and that the role of leaders is to LEAD—to not tail behind what people may want at any given moment. Lincoln demurs briefly on Stevens’ post-war program for Reconstruction, but then gives a pointed parable about while you do need a compass, a compass alone won’t tell you how to avoid swamps and other obstacles. The thrust and sense of this scene is that he and Stevens shared a common objective of ending slavery, but that Lincoln was pursuing this through wiser and more realistic means, and through a different kind of leadership to achieve the same end.
The truth is this: Lincoln’s political stance up until September 1862 was not for abolition of slavery, and not for the emancipation of the millions of black people held in bondage on hellish plantations. His position was opposition to the extension of slavery to new states outside the South while preserving slave relations within the South. During the first year and more of the Civil War, Lincoln continued to state that if the Union could be held together on the basis of continued slavery in the South, that would be fine with him; and that the purpose of the Civil War was NOT to free the slaves but to maintain the U.S. government as a single entity comprising both northern and southern states. And during this whole period, and again this extended all the way up until at least late 1862, Lincoln advocated that any blacks who were freed should be “resettled” in Africa.
This position was not just Lincoln’s, but corresponded to how the northern capitalists perceived their class interests at the time. The political representatives of these capitalists clashed with the representatives of the slave states on a whole range of issues. In brief, the capitalists wanted a unified national market within which to sell their goods, and wanted policies to protect that market and their infant industries from European competition; they wanted farming based on small-holding individual farmers which, at that time, was the most productive form of farming; and other things. The slaveholders, who depended on shipping raw materials like cotton, rice, and tobacco to Europe, did NOT want those things. They badly needed to expand the land available to agriculture using slaves, because that agriculture was NOT modern and tended to wear out the soil. Hence they opposed things like the “Homestead Act” (which gave free land west of the Mississippi—previously promised to Native Americans!—to small farmers), and the idea of a railway going from the Atlantic to the Pacific. (Both of these were passed in 1861, right after the war began.) And the slaveholders wanted to protect the deal struck in the Constitution that gave these slaveholders a virtual lock on some key institutions of political power. This led to increasingly bitter conflict in every sphere of life. But rather than shatter the power of the slaveholders, the capitalists sought to curb and gradually diminish their power, fearing the social upheaval that abolition could carry.
This only changed a year into the Civil War, when Lincoln—and again, the mainstream of the class he represented—realized that unless the U.S. government freed the slaves, there was a great danger that the war would be ended on slaveholder terms. By freeing the slaves, the North did three important things: they encouraged a massive movement of slaves running away from the southern plantations, badly crippling production; they made available a huge reserve of black soldiers, which they soon tapped and which proved crucial to the war; and they endowed the soldiers and civilians of the North with a moral mission. Still, it took another two-and-one-half years of grinding bloody war to crush the slaveholders.
As for Lincoln’s personal views, the best evidence seems to be that he found slavery personally distasteful but had very little love for black people. As noted, he favored “resettlement” of black people in Africa, and as late as August 1862, he recommended this to a group of free African-American leaders he met with—a meeting at which he also seemed to blame them for the war! The very good series on PBS, The Abolitionists, details this, as well as Lincoln’s actual stand on slavery. Far from being the “purest man in America,” as the movie claims Stevens called him, Lincoln’s morality, as on display in this 1862 meeting, was the reptilian calculation typical of capitalism, mixed in with white supremacist entitlement: “Who cares about justice? Since you former slaves might get in the way, why don’t you just get yourselves to Africa, where maybe we could use you to colonize other people?”
But Kushner won’t have this, either in his screenplay or his view of the world. Both in the movie and then in the interview with Charlie Rose, he explains away statements made by Lincoln throughout his life as political ploys to keep in line the states that kept slaves but did not leave the Union. In other words, according to Kushner, all this time Honest Abe was lying. There’s no proof for that position; all there really is, is Tony Kushner’s desire to project his own values and wishful thinking on to Lincoln.
Why go into this? Because wishful thinking about Lincoln is typical of all too many people beyond Tony Kushner and does great damage. Kushner, who at one time in his life took important progressive stands, now invokes this view of Lincoln and the logic behind it to defend and extol the war criminal Barack Obama, as he did in the Charlie Rose interview. The belief that Lincoln was motivated by dreams of emancipation—rather than what best served the interests of the capitalist class—allows people like Kushner, who has no small degree of privilege, to stay in a comfort zone where they don’t have to think too much about the great injustices that may have outraged them when young and where they don’t have to face what it really might take to deal with those injustices. Actually, the ways in which Kushner (and Spielberg, presumably) are using this movie to push a particular political line are pretty blatantly on display in this Rose interview—including at the end, when Kushner says that in his youth he was more drawn to revolution, but now he’s thinking that slow evolution may be more the way to go. Not to write off people like Kushner, but they need to come to grips with reality and stop deceiving themselves and others.
This leads us to Lie Number Three: “In order to emancipate the slaves, the radicals had to compromise their principles.” The climactic scene of the movie features Thaddeus Stevens giving a speech in the House of Representatives renouncing his long-held principle of full social equality for black people, in order to pass the 13th Amendment. (The amendment outlawed slavery and gave black people equality before the law—before that amendment, the official law of the U.S. was that black people had no rights that any white person was bound to respect (!)—but the 13th Amendment did not grant them the vote or other social and political rights.)
This conveniently leaves out the most important fact about the abolitionists: for 30 years they refused to back down and refused to compromise on their views, fighting in many ways for the abolition of slavery, often losing their lives in the process. Indeed, they sought to continually escalate the struggle. But Stevens’ betrayal of principle—and the scene of his peaceful self-satisfaction at having done so—is necessary to make Lincoln the great hero of Spielberg’s and Kushner’s imaginations. Even if Stevens did this—and I haven’t been able to confirm it—this is a case of using one “outlier” fact to obscure a much greater truth. And again, people can and should watch the PBS series referred to earlier.
Lie Number Four: “There are still injustices in America, but Lincoln and the history of Black people generally shows that American democracy will make things better in the end.” Throughout the movie, there are rather crude nudges in the ribs to look back and see “how far we’ve come.” At one point, a black soldier tells Lincoln that soon there will be black officers and then black lieutenants and so on, while Lincoln smiles benignly. But what are the facts? Yes, there have been tremendous struggles and great sacrifices. The Civil War witnessed the deaths of 35,000 black soldiers, a casualty rate twice that of whites. But very quickly after the war—in the space of 10 years—black people were clamped into a different form of servitude: sharecropping and Jim Crow, enforced by Jim Crow terror. Following that, again through tremendous social, political, and economic upheaval, the masses of Black people migrated to cities—only once again to be put, in their masses, in the lowest part of the social order, super-exploited as wage workers, if they could find work at all. The civil rights and then the Black liberation struggles arose in response. And again, many sacrificed their lives, but the system, while rocked once more, was not shattered. Instead, there were a few concessions—and new, more twisted forms of oppression. So now we have a “new Jim Crow” of police brutality and murder, wholesale criminalization and mass incarceration, and legalized discrimination. How does any of this prove the illusion that Tony Kushner and Steven Spielberg are pushing in Lincoln?
Having said all that, there is one bit of truth in the giant vat of bullshit that is Lincoln. This is the notion that had Lincoln lived, he would have “gone easy” on the defeated southern slaveholders. This is shown when Lincoln, toward the end of the movie, says that he “wouldn’t mind” if Jefferson Davis, the leader of the Confederacy, was allowed to escape to another country, rather than face prison. In actual fact, this is not that far from what happened. Even though Davis himself ended up serving several years, almost all of the other Confederate officials served little or no time and returned to high positions of power.
To take one stark example that says everything: John Brown, the abolitionist who raided a federal arsenal at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia, to seize guns and distribute them to slaves, was hanged within two months of the incident, as were the vast majority of his band. Robert E. Lee, who led the Confederate Army, was given high honors—and the movie makes a big point of showing how the Union Army allowed Lee to keep his sword (a big symbol of honor) when he surrendered and then tipped their hats to him as he rode away.
What is not shown in Lincoln is that after the surrender and following Lincoln’s assassination, the former slaveholders remained basically unrepentant and unleashed a reign of terror against the ex-slaves. The “radical” faction of the Republican Party, including Thaddeus Stevens, pushed through legislation that enabled Black people to vote and hold political office, as well as own land, and sent the army there to protect them. But in just a few short years, things shifted once again and it more suited the interests of the bourgeoisie overall to re-integrate their former slaveholding rivals into the ruling structures and to re-subjugate the former slaves in new forms. By 1876, the short period of Reconstruction had been betrayed and the new reign of Jim Crow, with all its horrors, was firmly implanted.
And here we have to say that this is a prime example of what all the “reaching across the aisle” and “seeking compromise” (with slaveholders!) gets you, what it can only get you, and what it has always been intended to get you: the same essential division into oppressor and oppressed, sometimes with slightly different content. And in the case of America, it gets you the same compact between different ruling class interests to preserve and update the institutions of white supremacy at the core of the U.S. capitalist system and social order—even if today a Black man presides over those institutions.
If the history of America proves anything, it is that this centuries-old injustice cannot be dealt with within the confines of this system; that revolution, and nothing less than revolution, is needed; and that anything else is bullshit.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
Recently, in watching the new documentary film, The House I Live In, directed by Eugene Jarecki, an exposé of the drug war, the reality of the "slow genocide that could turn into a fast genocide" hit me again, powerfully.
For example, you have Ronald Reagan, during a speech, angrily exclaiming, "We intend to end the drug menace and to eliminate this dark, evil enemy within." Ostensibly, it's the drug war he's talking about, but not so covered up or coded is the actual program that involves the extermination of Black people in the U.S. I mean, he tells you this almost straight-up. Go see the film to really get how genocidal these comments are, and consciously so.
Something else to glean from this film is how successive administrations, from Nixon to Reagan, from Bush Sr. to Clinton and then through the turn of the century, consciously drove this drug war—and the vicious, racist revenge associated with this program. This war on drugs, which really is a war on the people, includes the arrests of 45 million people since it was started by Nixon, including a huge percentage of Blacks and Latinos, and of course the astronomical numbers of people not only arrested but imprisoned, some for decades, on nonviolent drug violations. A conscious post-1960s counter-revolutionary onslaught indeed.
However, a weakness in the film is the illusions it sows about how some forces in the U.S. Congress, and other spheres of officialdom, are coming to their senses and by implication can be relied upon to lead an effort to turn the tide. This type of reform-minded reliance on the powers can only end in disaster.
In the past period, Carl Dix and others have given speeches titled "Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide/Break The Silence!" where the situation we confront has been spelled out. Massive resistance has and is being called for to stop this dangerous genocidal trajectory. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network promotes this understanding and has been spreading this slogan. Ultimately, fundamental change, a real revolution of millions, is required to sweep away the system responsible for and driving this dangerous trajectory. For those who think genocide "could never happen here," the reality is that it already has happened here. And it was an almost total and complete extermination of a people. And it was not too long ago. Or ask yourself, what country in the world turned genocide—"cowboys and Indians"—into a children's game?
In thinking about this, including how the Christian fascist genocidal political program especially revolves around issues of "crime and punishment"—specifically the use of the "Biblical Model" as law and moral code in the U.S., which has "an unmistakable suggestion of the 'final solution' against the masses of people in the inner cities as well as preparation for the use of extreme repression, and even execution, to punish a broad array of activities which today are treated as minor offenses or no crime at all." (See Bob Avakian's book Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, especially Part Three.) I am reminded of this quote from the memoirs of Izhak Zuckerman, one of the few leaders of the 1943 Warsaw Ghetto uprising who survived when the Germans crushed it:
"In 1939 we did not understand—we refused to believe—both out of ignorance and from the desire not to see... If only we had realized; if only we had understood; if only we had been able to turn the historical tide back to the year 1939, we should have shouted 'Revolt at once!' For then we were at the height of our strength. Then we were possessed of vigor and self-respect."
"Never Again"—understood correctly: never again shall it be allowed that crimes against humanity can go on and people will be able to plead ignorance or impotence as an excuse for doing nothing to stop those crimes. Food for thought, and time to take a stand, and act.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
From A World To Win News Service
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
February 13, 2013. A World to Win News Service. The French military intervention in Mali—taking the North of the country in a firestorm of imperialist arrogance and air power—has the French rulers and press gloating about easy victories and the apparent support of much of the Malian population and a majority of the French too, arguing "There's no other solution." A small demonstration of Malians in the southern capital city of Bamako disputed this charade of "liberation" with hand-printed signs reading, "Down with imperialist interests, down with ECOWAS." (Economic Community of West African States)
This crisis in Mali reveals a maelstrom of contradictions in the entire region of West and North Africa known as the Sahel-Sahara that no imperialist army or state will even begin to solve. In fact their role is certain to accelerate the contradictions that have spun into a war and a multi-national occupation of Mali spearheaded by French imperialism. It is the imperialists who are largely responsible for the impoverished, very short and crushed lives most Malians lead.
The immediate war was triggered by the descent from the North of an alliance of armed Islamic forces who had seized control of the key northern cities last spring. In early January 2013 they advanced right up to the doorstep of the southern region where Mali's central state is headquartered, 90 percent of the population live and most of its resources are to be found. Yet the crisis is long in the making, with French colonial and imperialist footprints, along with those of many others, all over it.
Last March 2012, just before national elections, junior army officers, some trained and equipped by the U.S., staged a coup d'état and ousted Malian President Amadou Toumani Touré, allegedly because he hadn't taken a strong enough stand against the most recent rebellion by the Tuareg minority in January 2012. Within a short time, the Tuareg National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA), reinforced by a large number of defections from the Malian army itself, including some Tuareg officers, declared the North to be independent, under the name of Azawad. Touré fled to Senegal.
A friend of Muammar Gaddafi who supported the Libyan government and opposed France's intervention there, Touré claims to have warned NATO that overthrowing Gaddafi would have destabilizing effects in the region. The interim government that replaced Touré in Bamako has little legitimacy among the population. The national army, quickly overrun by the offensive in the North, was left weakened, dysfunctional and divided, just like the rest of the Malian state.
The French plan to intervene was already in preparation, but was speeded up when the jihadists descended towards the southern cities of Mali in a stream of 300 pick-up trucks. The French government had got a UN Security Council resolution passed in December 2012 to allow military intervention primarily by West African ECOWAS soldiers that France would command and train. The neighboring countries Niger, Burkina Faso and Nigeria were dragging their boots until the terms of financing this all-African ground-force-for-hire were spelled out. At the January 29, 2013 meeting of the African Union in Addis Ababa, a first sum of $470 USD million was raised, mainly by imperialist powers.
The French enlisted the help of these West African troops under the guise of Africans "settling their own affairs" in order to "peacefully [!] restore the territorial integrity of Mali." This meant, at least for public opinion's sake, driving out the Islamist jihadists from northern Mali who reportedly had cast aside the Tuareg-based MNLA and imposed their authority. The French imperialists also clearly aim to prepare the ground for a reinforced central state apparatus in Mali, in line with strengthening French interests in its historical zone of influence. The alternative press in France is calling out Francois Hollande for his hypocrisy, since less than a year ago, during his successful campaign for the French presidency, he was heard insisting on an end to "FrancAfrique" (France's privileged relationship with its former West African colonies and interference in their affairs).
Thus with U.S. and British intelligence and logistical support and the Algerian government's agreement to let France use its airspace, the French moved into northern Mali on January 11. In what they said was an act of retaliation, jihadist forces attacked a British Petroleum gas production site in southern Algeria, taking some 40 foreign hostages. The Algerian government wasted no time negotiating and brutally ended the operation in its southern desert, bombing the jeeps with hostages on board retreating to Libya and killing some 70 people. Many believe Algeria, which has the largest army in North Africa, is pursuing regional interests of its own.
On February 11, 2013, while French and Malian troops with some West African soldiers' assistance had taken control of the northern cities—mostly through air superiority and little on-the-ground fighting—Islamic Mujao forces re-entered the city of Gao via boats on the Niger River and attacked the police station. The fighting lasted a few hours, backed by French airpower and, significantly, involved suicide bombers for the first time. French and Malian troops have moved into the mountainous areas in the eastern province of Kidal, to where it was assumed the Islamic forces would retreat. Much of the debate around the world has focused on the new "Sahel-istan"—in other words, the potential "bogging down" of the French army in Mali, with Hollande revising the schedule of French troop withdrawal on nearly a daily basis. Sound familiar?
Mali—a large country sitting geographically at the heart of the French West African colonial empire and one of the world's poorest—became formally independent from France in 1960 but has continued a dependent (if sometimes strained) relationship since that time, its economy straightjacketed by imperialist domination and international financial institutions. After independence the pro-Soviet "socialist-leaning" Modibo Keita took power. He was a close ally of Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah and Guinea's Sekou Touré, with ties to Cuba and China, and the Algerian and other liberation movements in Africa. Keita was overthrown in 1968 and replaced by a more imperialist-compliant regime in the first of several military coups d'etat over the past 45 years, reflecting the weakness and instability of the Malian state. A multi-party constitution was adopted only in 1992, after student-led rioting against the government, and a Tuareg revolt had been brutally repressed in 1991 by Touré's predecessor.
For the Malian people it's been a story of overwhelming poverty rooted in neo-colonial relations of domination and dependence under the watch of client governments and the IMF. This has kept the development of the country's productive forces at a very low level. Mali's immense territory straddles the Saharan Desert in the North and Sahel grasslands in the South, and is divided by the Niger River Valley. Only 4 percent of the land is arable but 80 percent of the people are involved in agriculture, either growing crops or animal herding and fishing.
One feature of French colonialism was the cash crop policy of monocultures—peanuts in Senegal for example, and in Mali, cotton for France's own textile needs. So instead of varied food crops for mainly local needs, peasant farmers are contracted to grow cotton and even more cotton, in an effort to boost national export earnings, but in the process becoming chained to foreign distributors and volatile imperialist markets like so many countries in Africa and the third world. When world market prices for cotton crashed starting in the late 1990s, caused partly by subsidized dumping of cheaper European and American cotton, Malian farmers were the ones to suffer, and national debts mounted.
In the 1990s under IMF structural readjustment plans, Mali was assigned to the category of Highly Indebted Poor Countries, which after six years of belt tightening supposedly in exchange for debt relief—but in reality to cut the rich countries' losses—ended up with even higher debt service payments than before. The 2006 independent film Bamako by Abderrahmane Sissako stages a mock courtyard trial of the IMF, World Bank and Western interests, showing the devastating effects of structural adjustment on Mali. (http://artthreat.net/2007/04/bamako-film-puts-the-world-bank-on-trial-and-wins/).
A relatively small bourgeoisie in and around the state has grown wealthy from gold mine profits in the eastern part of the country (although 80 percent are siphoned off, mainly by South African and Canadian multinationals, Mali is Africa's third largest gold producer). They also benefit from the extensive donor aid and skim off profits from the vast networks trafficking drugs and other commodities. Yet the state itself has carried out very little infrastructural and other development in either the North or the South and has never had much support from the population. Of the some 15,000 kilometers of roads, less than 2,000 km are paved, for example. Healthcare is abysmal and life expectancy only 49 years (with only 2 percent living past the age of 65).
In the main, the tiny educated elite travel to Dakar, Abidjan or Paris for their studies and few new schools have been built over the decades, resulting in an astonishingly low literacy rate, especially among women. Less than 30 percent of the population votes in national elections. Keeping the masses illiterate and ignorant is partly a political strategy too, scholars argue: the state fears the rise of politically astute students and educated strata that are more likely to expose and challenge it.
So while many Malians at first welcomed the "rescue" by French forces from the reactionary and intolerable exactions, amputations and suppressions of basic freedoms under jihadist rule in the northern cities, it is important to understand the heavy hand of imperialism in Mali's highly distorted economic development that has been long opposed and exposed by revolutionary and nationalist political movements against the regime and in the region.
The Tuareg minority, related to the Berbers of North Africa's coastal mountains, is itself composed of several different tribal groupings. Together with people of Arab origin, Tuaregs are estimated to make up 10 percent of the 15 million total population and live primarily in the North. Since 1960 Tuaregs have led four separate rebellions against the central Malian government and its neglect of the northern region, centered around the demand for autonomy there. Mostly nomadic herders, they are spread across a more or less contiguous area in several countries—Algeria, Libya and Niger as well as Mali.
With significant investments in Mali and ties to both the Malian state and the movement for autonomy in the North, Gaddafi had also incorporated Tuaregs into the Libyan army. Thus after the imperialists invaded, led by then French president Nicolas Sarkozy's Mirage jets in March 2011, and Gaddafi's government eventually collapsed, Tuaregs seized modern Libyan weapons and headed for northern Mali, according to numerous reports. Although this is likely only one reason for the plentiful supply of guns and equipment in Mali, it begins to explain why the poorly organized Malian army was easily defeated when the Tuareg movement took over northern cities and declared Azawad independent.
Then also heavily-armed and well-equipped jihadist forces, organized into groups such as Ansar-al-Dine, Mujao and Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI), took over militarily as the MNLA pulled back and reportedly offered to negotiate. The French maintain they are bombing only the jihadist groups (with numerous civilian casualties) and many within French political circles are arguing for talks with the MNLA, while others say they are only a political cover for the jihadists who settled in the main town of Timbuktu as well as Gao and others along the Niger River. Competing heads of clans still figure heavily in the social structures of the northern territory and are said to be another factor in what appears to be constant reshaping of alliances and splits between Islamic armed groups. Local residents apparently told reporters that the armed group who invaded and took over Konna last April 2012 was composed of lighter-skinned Tuaregs and Arabs as well as blacks speaking several different languages from Mali and from the neighboring countries of Niger and Nigeria. According to press accounts, Canadian and French citizens also were involved in the militias.
As soon as the French launched their air strikes in mid-January, driving the Islamic forces further into the desert areas, some emboldened Malian army soldiers carried out retaliatory acts against people they suspected of supporting the Islamists (perhaps this was not unrelated to the army's having been routed by them a year ago). This helped fuel press reports that ethnic conflicts were behind the war. In addition, local residents furiously targeted mainly Arab businesses, many run by merchants from neighboring Mauritania with a long history in Mali. When these stores were ransacked, large caches of ammunition were found in some of them that merchants had either stocked willingly or under pressure for the Islamic forces. This increased suspicion that Arab merchants had supported the Islamists during the 10-month occupation.
In fact imperialist meddling does stir up the possibilities for these divisions to take nasty forms among the people. The African Arab slave trade predating colonization also left its mark on ethnic divisions between North and South. Many Malians are quick to say that they have lived for centuries with numerous different languages and tribal groupings, mostly black-skinned, but also mixed (Peul) and lighter skinned peoples, and that these ethnic differences are not the main factor driving this crisis as the media has sometimes implied.
Ninety percent of the Malian people are Sunni Moslems, the remaining 10 percent mostly animist. Thus much of the local population in the northern cities initially did not see a strong distinction between themselves and the Islamists, and did not put up much resistance to them. However, reports say most people quickly turned against the fundamentalists who made life miserable for them by banning radio and television (including televised football events!), beating women, cutting off hands for "blasphemy" or "loose moral behavior," and carrying out executions under the new and much harsher version of Islamic law they rapidly imposed on the population.
In the process of the foreign grab for Africa's land, resources and zones of influence that has also benefited small parasitic ruling classes and elites, imperialist relations of domination and organized dependence become mixed with remaining pre-capitalist social relations. In Mali, this includes a not-so-distant past of slavery, not legally abolished until 1905. Scholars describe a caste-like system in which some tribal/ethnic groups were vassals (often referred to as slaves) of others, including among the Tuaregs. There are reports that the current war has also created the social terrain for "masters" in the North to recuperate their former vassals, or their children, still recognized as belonging to inferior castes, thus stirring up further resentment.
Under Islam, the traditional social code of polygamy and child marriages as well as female genital mutilation represents a huge oppressive burden on Malian women. On top of this, when Islamic fundamentalists occupied the northern cities they began flogging women in public for not fully covering themselves with the newly-imposed veil, reportedly whether they were young girls, grandmothers or pregnant mothers. Suddenly women were not even allowed to talk to their own brothers in public.
Scholars argue that the Islamization of the Malian state has in fact already been well underway for some time and that Moslem law in the form of shariah is already mixed in practice with "modern jurisprudence." The absence of the state from the daily lives of most of the population, heightened by the 2012 coup d'etat, created a vacuum that "moderate" Islamic forces in the High Islamic Council have stepped into more vigorously, both providing services to the people and taking up a cabinet post in the government. The New York Times reports that they oppose the jihadists and have already played an important political role for the Malian government by negotiating the multimillion-euro ransoms paid for the release of hostages taken in the North by AQMI over the past decade.
In a word, the North is awash in money and guns, but has no paved roads or electricity. In addition to not developing the region, the deposed central government in Bamako is accused of tolerating organized criminal trafficking networks, from which it profited nicely. Customs officials are apparently generously compensated or rare in the porous border area that Mali shares with Mauritania, Algeria and Niger and some Bamako bureaucrats are said to have become rich on sources other than government salaries.
Centuries-old trading routes have become conduits for cigarettes, drugs and other forms of trafficking in the northern region, at the vortex of the southern Algerian and Libyan Sahara, Niger and west from Mauritania. In addition to cocaine, Moroccan cannabis resin and a significant amount of ransom "business" through hostage-taking in the past several years, trade has expanded into guns, through the changing political situation in North Africa. The control of smuggling also appears to be intertwined in the Tuareg political rebellions. At stake are large profits both from trafficking and from taxes numerous networks controlling the routes impose on each other as goods are moved through the region. To try to maintain its authority and keep control over the north, in 2006 the Malian government utilized these rivalries by pitting one group of Tuareg rebels against others.
Mali shares borders with seven West and North African countries, all former French colonies and the dynamics of the conflict are clearly regional in nature. Stretching from Senegal on the western coast across the Sahel to Sudan and Chad, Islam is historically the main religion, and most countries have radicalized Islamic movements.
Whatever France's stated immediate aim and belligerent means of achieving it, clearly France has been accelerating its efforts to shore up its influence in the Sahara-Sahel. Contrary to its image after refusing to join the war against Iraq initiated by former president G.W. Bush, the French state has not been idle militarily. Far from it. Sarkozy dispatched troops to Afghanistan and into the conflict in Ivory Coast, and recently special forces into Somalia. Deploying 2,000 Chadian mercenary soldiers in Mali's North, who are not part of ECOWAS but have plenty of experience in previous conflicts in Central African Republic on France's behalf, also figures into its strategic plans, experts point out. Despite the talk of ending "Francafrique," the business daily Les Echos wrote that in Mali the stakes for France are its future presence in Africa.
A new political order and the role of the imperialist powers within it are being fought out and recast in the region. The crumbling of the old order of post-independence states in the Sahel-Sahara has been accelerated by the mass uprisings against the U.S.'s Mubarak in Egypt and France's Ben Ali in Tunisia. There is also the instability and opening that Gaddafi's fall in Libya created, together with other armed conflicts in the Sahel, notably Sudan. And the antagonism between Western imperialism and the political Islam shaping many developments in the Middle East is influencing the internal dynamics and struggle over this recasting of political configurations in West and North Africa as well.
Algeria, also a French colony until France lost a bitter war of independence, is considered by many a key player in the machinations behind the crisis in Mali. In worrying that France may finds itself bogged down in Mali like the U.S. in Afghanistan, Le Monde writes that it must rely on the Algerian army. At the same time Algeria's links with the U.S. have grown steadily stronger in the "fight against terrorism" since the 1990s when the Algerian army carried out massacres of both civilians and armed jihadists following the Islamist electoral victory. This has included significant provisions of arms.
The U.S. is increasingly a major player in this geopolitical recasting of the region, through active intelligence bases in several countries, training soldiers and solidifying ties with the leadership of a number of West African armed forces. The U.S.-Africa Command, or Africom, was set up under George W. Bush in 2008 expressly for the purpose of monitoring Islamist forces and preventing their implantation in a West African state where they could find a haven. According to Rudolph Atallah, former U.S. director of counterterrorism for Africa, the Sahel is a "destabilized region with ethnic conflict that if not dealt with quickly many disgruntled groups will be recruited by Al Qaida." He said that military intervention is one approach the U.S. is considering in Mali, while assisting France and helping to pay the bill. U.S. drones are already flying in Malian skies. In fact it appears that the imperialists are actively destabilizing the region for an outcome more to their liking, sometimes cooperating and sometimes acting on their own. Already huge camps of Malian refugees fleeing the fighting sprawl along the borders and are causing tensions with neighboring states.
Economic interests and particularly exploring new energy sources also underpin the scramble to reshape states and political configurations in the Sahel. France is heavily dependent upon uranium deposits in Niger for its nuclear power. Several imperialist countries, together with Algeria, Qatar and China (a rising aggressive presence throughout Africa) have their eye on the untapped gas fields, oil and uranium deposits apparently lying under the northern desert sands in Mali. China recently constructed a third bridge in Bamako and in many African countries it has combined commercial penetration with infrastructure development.
For the people of Mali nothing good can come out of French imperialist military intervention, with or without West African or UN troops to project a different image, or out of religious rule. In fact, imperialist domination has provided the conditions for obscurantism to persist and grow in new forms. Both imperialism and Islamic rule maintain the Malian people in a position of continued subordination to dominant interests and the whole ensemble of economic and social relations they need to break out of to build a radically different society.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
The world is truly a horror—this is not our imagination/creation/nightmare-fantasy; and there will objectively be—and are—people, a section of people who want this to end, who want to know “the way out” of this horror, who will join with us in this absolute greatest of endeavors: bringing an end to this madness.
If the most-mass incarcerated system and society in history can get away talking about “gulags” I don’t know what madness is. If slaveowners are celebrated as the founders of freedom and equality, I don’t know what madness is. If a pornified society is the beacon of women’s liberation, I don’t know what madness is. If Afghan children are lesser humans than those in Picasso’s Guernica, I don’t know what madness is. If Exxon is besting Apple as the world’s largest company is an event in a world of global warming and sweatshops, I don’t know what madness is. If this is “the best of all possible worlds,” I don’t know what madness is. This is not just “our” madness, but “our” problem!
Neither is the solution, the way out “our” solution. It is objective—the most scientific, advanced assessment of the way forward. Why won’t and why can’t people be won to it—if we take it out for what it is, not something else or less. And if we fight for it and struggle for it. Does the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) offer a sweeping and very concrete vision that is materialist, liberating and a radically different and far better society than this one, that is also a transition to getting beyond masters and slaves as part of a world process? Does the Statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party “On the Strategy for Revolution” together with the article “On The Possibility of Revolution” correctly identify and address the major questions involved in forging the society envisioned by that Constitution and put forth the strategy and the pathways? Do major works by BA like Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity and Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon correctly identify and address the major questions in how to make revolution (in a society and country like this)? Do we have the necessary leadership in BA and the Party he leads? Are these objectively true?
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In 2011 the BA Everywhere campaign was launched with the goal of involving many thousands of people in raising big money to get BA’s revolutionary vision and works into every corner of society, to radically change the whole atmosphere in society and the whole way that people think about the possibility of a different kind of world beyond exploitation and oppression.
The premiere of the new film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live on March 16-17 marks a key juncture in this campaign. Through promotion, advertising, and all the work of building for these premieres, hundreds of thousands of people around the country will hear about this revolutionary leader and his urgent and compelling message of “Revolution—Nothing Less!” And many hundreds will be challenged to step into theaters, sit down, and experience this life-changing talk by Bob Avakian. This will be a giant leap in projecting BA out into society!
Step up and step out now to everyone you know with bold initiatives to raise lots of funds to help push forward the whole BA Everywhere effort. Tens of thousands of dollars are urgently needed to plan, promote, and put on the premieres being held in major cities across the country and then to propel BA’s voice out there on an even grander scale in the wake of these premieres. There is great potential to reach and involve thousands of people in a multitude of ways in raising and contributing funds.
Remember this: We have a compelling message to bring to people—revolution, and nothing less, is what’s needed and THIS is where their money and their energies need to go if they really want to do something about the emergency situation that faces humanity: millions starving, drone attacks terrorizing and murdering thousands, women—half of humanity—facing brutality and degradation, over two million in prison in the U.S., the planet facing destruction, and so much more. Nothing less than revolution can address and solve these problems.
Right now all kinds of fundraising activities need to be organized and unleashed:
Through all this people will be opening their eyes to confront the horror of how the world really is and opening up their thinking to the fact that it really it doesn’t have to be this way—and then be challenged with the fact that it’s up to us to get with this, to contribute financially and to get it out there to everyone else who hates the way things are and get them involved and engaged and ask them to support this movement financially.
Making all this a reality will bring forth more organization, more engagement and more resources from which to greatly expand the efforts to spread BA Everywhere and the message of REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The shooting death of Hadiya Pendleton, a 15-year-old Black high school student, at the hands of another Black youth has been on the minds of people in Chicago over the last several weeks. The media lauded her as “so promising,” in contrast to the “bad” youth who are constantly demonized, and the fact that this happened only blocks from Obama’s house in Chicago right after Hadiya Pendleton was in DC as part of the parade for Obama’s second inauguration made this killing international news. In this light, the following, from “The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have. A Message, And a Call, From the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA” is food for thought:
For millions in the inner cities, if they are not killed at an early age, their likely future is prison (nearly 1 in 8 young Black men is incarcerated, the prisons are overflowing with Blacks and Latinos, and this country has the highest rate of incarceration of women in the world). This system has robbed so many youth of the chance for a decent life and has got far too many living, dying and killing for nothing—nothing good—nothing more than messing up people and murdering each other on the streets of the cities here...or joining the military, being trained to be murderers on a mass scale, massacring people in countries across the globe. A system which offers millions and millions of youth no greater purpose, no better fate, than crime and punishment, or to become a mindless killing machine for the system itself—that alone is reason enough to sweep this system from the face of the earth! (See the entire Message and Call.)
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Four thousand French troops invaded the North African country of Mali in January. They drove Islamic Jihadists from their strongholds in the cities and towns of northern Mali. While a picture of the French occupation of Mali is just emerging, including evidence that it is setting off indiscriminate massacres of religious and ethnic groups accused of aligning with the Jihadists, the "international community" has applauded the invasion as a grand victory for human rights.
Jihadists who seized control of large areas of Mali banned radio and television, beat women, cut off the hands of people who were accused of "blasphemy" or "loose moral behavior," and executed people to enforce a draconian version of Islamic law.
But their crimes aren't even in the same league as those of the French invaders.
Modern France—the proclaimed land of "liberty, equality, fraternity"—was built to a great degree on top of the blood, bones, land, and cultures of the enslaved peoples of a huge region of North Africa and Southeast Asia.
In the 19th and 20th centuries, a tenth of the earth's surface was colonized by France—an empire that at times ranged into the Americas, the Caribbean, and Asia. The French empire suffered setbacks in North America at the hands of their British rivals and their attempt to colonize Mexico was defeated by Mexican forces in 1867. They were driven out of Haiti when the African slaves rose up against their colonial masters.
But French colonialism was entrenched in North Africa and Southeast Asia. In the later half of the 1800s, the French colonized Indochina—the countries of Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos. French capitalists turned vast tracts of forest into rubber plantations. Tens of thousands of Indochinese labored in the plantations under what were described by one worker as "hell on earth." According to official (and likely underreported) French statistics, 17 percent of the workforce at one plantation died in the year 1927 alone.
By the early 1900s, through wars, alliances with local rulers, and systematically provoking conflicts between different peoples in the region, the French established control over much of North, West, and Central Africa including what are now the countries of Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea, Mali, Ivory Coast, Benin, Niger, Chad, the Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
France didn't abolish slavery in its African colonies until 1905. U.S. academic David P. Forsythe wrote, "From Senegal and Mauritania in the west to Niger in the east (what became French Africa), there was a parallel series of ruinous wars, resulting in tremendous numbers of people being violently enslaved. At the beginning of the twentieth century there may have been between 3 and 3.5 million slaves, representing over 30 percent of the total population, within this sparsely populated region."
Today, the French are hailed by the so-called "international community" for saving important cultural artifacts from the Jihadists in the fabled Malian city of Timbuktu. But if you are looking for plundered cultural and historic art and culture from Timbuktu, a good place to start would be the many French museums of artifacts stolen from Africa by the French colonial rulers.
The French ruling class and their ideologues—those celebrated icons of enlightenment and bourgeois democracy—justified all this with the crudest racism. In 1886 the French bourgeois republican Jules Ferry declared: "The higher races have a right over the lower races, they have a duty to civilize the inferior races."
After World War 2, the French waged a counter-revolutionary war of occupation in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos, killing hundreds of thousands of liberation fighters and civilians. After the defeat of the French in 1954, the U.S. took over the imperialist domination of Vietnam and waged its own war against the peoples of Indochina until being defeated in the mid-1970s.
And between 1954 and 1962, France sent 400,000 troops into Algeria to attempt to crush the independence movement. The French forces killed over 100,000 Algerians before being driven out.
The success of liberation struggles, along with the dismemberment of traditional-style empires and the rise of U.S. imperialism, provoked a series of crises for the French ruling class and brought the end—in the main—to formal French colonialism. But what emerged instead was neocolonialism, which maintained the same basic oppressive relationships between France and its (former) colonies, but in the form of nominally independent states.
Of every thousand children born in Mali, 109 die in infancy. By contrast, in capitalist-imperialist countries, the infant mortality rate is in the range of three, four or five children per thousand. Those additional 100 children in every thousand who die in infancy in Mali are direct victims of the workings of imperialism—with the French ruling class the main "beneficiaries" of the brutal exploitation of the people of Mali.
Financial instruments of international capitalism-imperialism like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) impose policies that contort the economy of Mali in service of foreign capitalist-imperialist investment. IMF policies force peasants in Mali to use scarce arable land to grow cotton for export to France instead of food to feed themselves and their children. That, in part, is why 27 percent of the children in Mali are dangerously underweight. And when world market prices for cotton crashed starting in the late 1990s, Malian farmers suffered even more extreme privation, and Mali's national debts to imperialist financial institutions mounted.
The legacy and present-day operation of imperialism produced the most profound and horrific scars on the economic, political, and social landscape in Africa, including setting the stage for endless fratricidal conflict among peoples in Africa that has been an essential element in colonial and neocolonial domination. France, for example, was deeply involved in provoking and perpetuating the horrific genocide in Rwanda in 1984 that resulted in the killing of between half a million and a million people. A Rwandan commission determined that France helped train the ethnic Hutu militia that carried out much of the killing, helped plan the genocide, and participated in the killings. The report accused 33 senior French military and political officials of involvement in the Rwandan genocide including François Mitterrand, the president of France at the time. The Rwandan report said, "French soldiers themselves directly were involved in assassinations of Tutsis and Hutus accused of hiding Tutsis." ("Rwanda: French Accused in Genocide," AP, August 6, 2008)
Such are the baby-killing, genocidal "liberators" of Mali.
Mali borders countries that are in the crosshairs of both sides in the clash between Western imperialism and Islamic Jihad. The French invasion of Mali is not just to enforce imperialist super-exploitation of the people of Mali. It is a move on the part of the Western imperialists—with the U.S. providing substantial backing to the French invaders—in that conflict.
Today, far too many of the kinds of people in countries like France and the USA who correctly opposed the wars against the people of Vietnam or Algeria are at best passively complicit with the same kinds of crimes carried out by their own ruling classes against people around the world, including the French invasion of Mali—so long as those invasions are justified as keeping people in those countries safe from "the terrorists," fighting Jihad, and bringing "democracy" to Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
But Western imperialism is still imperialism. The crimes carried out by the Jihadists in North Africa can't touch the scale of horrors brought by just French colonialism and imperialism alone—which again enslaved some three million people in North Africa and that today, is responsible for the deaths, in infancy, of over 100 of every 1,000 children born in Mali. If you didn't know that when you started reading this article, you know it now.
The U.S. and its allies (with France "walking point" in its former colonies in Africa) have carried out and continue to commit monstrous crimes in the name of opposing Islamic fundamentalism. The following points, emphasized in recent articles in Revolution, are crucial in getting at the reality behind this imperialist justification.
First, the rise of Islamic fundamentalism is in large part a product of the workings of imperialism (including specific policies of the CIA in Afghanistan, where it backed and funded Islamic fundamentalists going up against the Soviet Union).
Second, the crimes of U.S. imperialism—from the Foxconn sweatshops in China to the environmental emergency, from mass incarceration in the USA to the intolerable infant mortality rates in North Africa, dwarf even the aspirations of these reactionary Islamic forces.
Third, if you don't oppose, but instead fall into active or passive complicity with either "the West" (the U.S. and other imperialists including the French) or Islamic Jihad, you strengthen them both—in the vicious cycle where every drone attack that wipes out a wedding party in Pakistan (with far, far too little protest in the U.S.) serves to recruit more Jihadists, and on and on.
Bob Avakian's analysis of "the two outmodeds"—two clashing reactionary forces that represent ways of thinking and organizing society that belong in the past—provides a concise and powerful tool for understanding this conflict and acting to change the terms of things:
What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these "outmodeds," you end up strengthening both.
While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these "historically outmodeds" has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system, and in particular the U.S. imperialists.
When you start from the interests of humanity, then instead of aligning with "our government" and celebrating and defending its immoral and criminal actions around the world, the challenge is to break out of the terms of these "two outmodeds" and be part of what Bob Avakian has posed as "bringing forward another way." There is a different way the world can be, and a real alternative to capitalism and all forms of oppression in the new synthesis of communism that BA has developed, and in his ongoing revolutionary leadership.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
Taking the Revolution to One Billion Rising:
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. One Billion Women. On February 14, people across the U.S. and around the world responded to a call from the V-Day movement for “ONE BILLION women and those who love them ... to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence.” Revolution had called on readers to join these events and get out A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity; palm cards of quote 3:22 from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian; and promotional material about the film premiering in March, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Revolution received the following report from a reader in Chicago:
Hundreds of women of all nationalities and some men swarmed into downtown to participate in One Billion Rising. The energy and excitement was palpable. As the crowd continued to build, a group of us revolutionaries marched into the middle of the plaza before the dance began, chanting “Break the chains, unleash the fury of women as a mighty force for revolution.” Smiles came across people’s faces. We focused on taking out the March film premiere of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
The fact that the One Billion Rising events were going on all over the world really inspired people. Many young women took up our stickers “Create a World without Rape” and “Fight for the Emancipation of Women all over the World.”
As the MC called for the One Billion Rising dance, the plaza was packed. Mainly young women, but also some older women joined in. It was 20 minutes of nonstop joy—women showing their strength, dancing, screaming, and yelling all together. At the end many hugged each other in a show of solidarity.
We asked women, “Why are you here rising?” One of the young women, who said she had been raped herself, said she came out “so that my sister, my mother, no woman anywhere would ever have to suffer this!” Another woman said, “I was raped when I was 12. I didn’t even know what rape was.” Many of the women who we spoke to had been assaulted at one point in their lives. One woman told me, “He hit me once and that was it. I walked, but many others don’t.” We met a number of women who had struggled to break with abusive relationships. One woman said, “I don’t think that people realize it is the people themselves being active that has the only possibility of bringing change,” adding, “I’m sick of the tag team of the Democrats versus the Republicans.” As it turns out, she hasn’t given up altogether on the elections but is grappling with it.
A different woman told of seeing footage on the morning news of women in India and Afghanistan—all part of One Billion Rising. She was elated to be part of a global movement! The elation was there too when a woman spoke about standing up today—she kept smiling the biggest smile, even as she spoke about being a victim of rape.
But the big question many wrestled with was what it would take to stop this violence against women and others. We found that many of the women didn’t look at what was going on as a single issue; many linked it to the whole direction the world is going in, from torture, drones, police brutality, what was happening to the youth, to the oppression of women.
We got into it with people. We went right into the mix with revolution and the premiere of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! One woman responded, “Well, if that’s what it would take to end these crimes, then yes, revolution! Whatever it takes!” At the same time, this was a real point of controversy. One woman said, “Well, we have to just keep at it and little by little things will get better.” When asked how so, she insisted, “What I mean is that social inequality is being reduced over time.” A gray-haired woman jumped into it, saying, “Well, I’ve been doing this for many years and the issues are all the same! No change in over 30 years and actually it’s even worse! I am not saying to give up, not at all—but these things are systemic!” Several said they’d like to come to the film, and to the bookstore. One woman said, “Isn’t it funny that the same people who want you to go along with all this just stay quiet and not speak out; they are the same people who lie to you about things like communism!”
We showed them Revolution newspaper and A Declaration: For Women’s Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanityand gave them the flier for the film, asking them what they thought was the root cause for the culture of rape, patriarchy, and the oppression of women. Several stopped for a minute and searched for an answer. The vast majority said they didn’t know or they hadn’t thought about it. We pointed out that without knowing the problem, you can’t come up with a solution that will get rid of not just this but all the other horrors in the world—and not just in this society. They need to see this film and engage with BA. Many also took the Stop Patriarchy and Pornography flier that we got out in the crowd.
One younger white woman started talking about U.S. drones. Another woman said how disappointed she was with Obama and felt like she’d been fooled. One woman said in response, “This [One Billion Rising] is the revolution” and we got into how more resistance is needed against the oppression of women but in and of itself that won’t end the oppression of women or all the many crimes of this system; how women have been resisting for decades and it’s worse and will be until we have a communist revolution that gets rid of capitalism. Many young women agreed that the situation for women is getting worse, that the talk of equality isn’t true. Several brought up examples of how it’s gotten worse since they were coming up, and these were women in their early 20s.
One thing that came up was that many had not heard of BA. We said, “That’s why we’re out here” and we talked about what he stood for and the approach to problem and solution. Another woman had already gotten a small stack of cards and said she was coming with others to the movie. She didn’t have the CD of the Cornel West interview with BA so we got her one. She was excited about it. We asked her for a donation and she pulled out $5. One of the things that resonated strongly with her was that we were posing that people had to step up and take up responsibility for being part of the revolution.
The march took off for the performance center to dance again and to keep going into the night.
The determination and vibrant spirit of the crowd filled the air and many thanked us for being there. This rising brought together some very new and fresh forces, people who don’t go to demonstrations and protest. This was a very favorable development and one we need to seize on and take higher, as part of building strength and a deeper understanding of why BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! is a must see if you are serious about ending all oppression and emancipating humanity.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Presides over an archaic institution dedicated to an imaginary being. As the Catholic Church’s Supreme Pontiff, enforces medieval standards of behavior: no sex outside traditional marriage, no birth control or abortion, no homosexuality. Stifles thought and censures dissidents within the church. Denounces modern life and atheists. Promotes the interests of modern imperialists while speaking the dead language of ancient imperial Rome.
His Holiness assumes the mantle of infallibility and presides as Bishop of Rome, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Successor of the Prince of the Apostles, Supreme Pontiff of the Universal Church, Primate of Italy, Archbishop and Metropolitan of the Roman Province, Sovereign of the State of Vatican City, Servant of the Servants of God.
Qualifications for this position include: Ordination as a priest and steady progress through the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. Commitment to the defense of the sanctity of life of fetuses while demanding the subordination of women to their husbands, children, and fetuses. Demonstrated ability to promote superstition and ignorance and to stifle critical thinking.
His Holiness will enslave women, forcing them to bear children against their will by opposing all forms of birth control, including abortion. He must administer a worldwide network that carries out and covers up unspeakable sexual abuse against children. He will demonize and destroy gay people, enforcing the words of the incumbent Pope Benedict that gay people are “manipulating their God-given gender to suit their sexual choice” and destroying the “very essence of the human creature.”
In the footsteps of Pope Benedict XVI, special consideration for:
*Experience in canon law enforcement as a member of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (formerly the Supreme Sacred Congregation of the Roman and Universal Inquisition). [The inquisitions were a series of campaigns against Jews, Muslims, and those who questioned the authority of the church or deviated from official doctrine. During the 600 years of the inquisitions, the church terrorized, tortured, imprisoned, robbed, or killed hundreds of thousands of people.]
*Demonstrated ability to hide thousands of priests who sexually abused children, protect them from prosecution, and cover for bishops who transferred sexual predators to places where they could find new victims.
*Prior membership in Hitler Youth is a plus. [Joseph Ratzinger, who later became Pope Benedict XVI, joined the Hitler youth when he was 14 and went on to serve in the German—Nazi—military.]
Benefits include lifetime employment, an exclusive wardrobe, the Popemobile, and adulation by compliant and adoring throngs.
Interested clerics should apply to:
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
Building for the Premiere of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
February 19, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revolution received the following from a reader:
In being part of the work to build for the nationwide premiere of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, I have been thinking a lot about what Bob Avakian modeled in this talk (I am among those who had the incredible experience of previewing this film) and striving to apply that. In that light, I want to share some experience—particularly some experience of challenging straight up to the youth from among the most oppressed to get with this revolution, including many who at first usually ignore or brush us off.
A lot of the times when we are out in the neighborhoods of the oppressed, we have one person agitating about the revolution and the rest of us will generally approach those who we can see visibly responding to this agitation. While it would be wrong to ignore those who are attracted to this agitation, we haven’t enough made it our practice to step to and challenge the younger people who more often than not just walk on by or say, dismiss us with a phrase like, “I’m good.” So, recently I made it my mission to step to these youth and challenge them in the way that BA modeled in his speech.
Usually I said something like, “Look, if you like the way the police do you—with their stop and frisk and brutality and terror and the mass incarceration... if you like the way this country does people just like you all over the world—with their bombs and wars and torture, then go ahead and keep walking. But if you hate this shit, if you burn with rage over this shit and want to see all this ended, then you need to stop walking and get serious and get into this revolution—get with Bob Avakian and the real revolution to fight our way out of this.” Things varied in how they unfolded, but a lot of times this is how it went with the young people I was addressing and from there I would go straight into the quote on the back of the film premiere palm-card from BA about how those who this system has cast off and counts as less than human can be the backbone and driving force not only in the fight to end their own oppression but all forms of oppression all over the world and the emancipation of humanity.
About 80% of the youth (or groups of youth) that I stepped to in this way ended up with at least one person stopping and getting serious—at least for the brief exchange. Often this meant that they divided up with their friends. One group of four had a guy who seemed to be listening more as I spoke, but the whole group kept walking. One of the friends jumped out in a more backwards way and said they weren’t with what I was saying and that they are all good. This pulled on the first guy I mentioned (who had seemed to be resonating with what I was saying) and so this first guy then made a stupid comment himself about how he likes bombs being dropped and is fine with that. With that, I looked this first guy straight in the eye and said, “That’s bullshit and you know it. Look at you—you could’ve been Ramarley Graham—you are living in a country that could kill you today and you know as well as I do that the cops who did it would get away with ‘justifiable homicide.’ That is fucked up! And those bombs are doing the same thing to people like you over in Afghanistan and Pakistan and elsewhere. So, now lets get serious.” At this, this young guy stopped walking and stopped joking. When his friends called to him to catch up (they had kept walking) he told them to go ahead and he stayed. We went into the quote from last week’s centerfold in Revolution newspaper, “On Choices... And Radical Changes” from BA and then got into what the upcoming film, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! is. He took a stack of palm-cards and gave a way to be reached.
By no means at all do I mean to say that this was sufficient—we need to and can solve the ways to take this even further on the spot and involve people through this kind of struggle as well as actual forms to follow through on this in an ongoing way. But I am sharing this because the response was very powerful—even to this very initial level of going out with this orientation—and we have to do more work on this foundation and develop the ways to take this even further as part of actually building this movement for revolution—including among this very critical social base.
Almost this exact same pattern repeated itself several times as I particularly focused in this way. A group would split up upon being challenged and one or two guys would tell his friends (who would be pressuring him to catch up—but not only to catch up physically) to go ahead without him. In another instance, I called out a guy specifically for glancing at the palm-card and then conspicuously throwing it on the ground. I didn’t just diss him for doing this, though, I challenged him over what this was he was throwing away and he actually came back and got into the BA quotes with me in a similar way. Another guy who stopped and told his friends to go ahead without him especially liked the quote from BA on the palm-card about how those who this system has cast off can become the backbone and driving force in the fight to emancipate all humanity. With him, and with others, I put a lot of emphasis on the word “fight” in reading the quote and he responded emphatically, “I want to be part of that.”
I want to emphasize again that this is very limited experience—by no means am I putting this experience forward as “the model” particularly because I/we were not able to take this any further than turning people around on the spot and getting them to take palm-cards (I don’t have the sense that the seriousness with which this provoked people to engage on the spot will translate into these folks attending the film and being involved in this movement for revolution in an ongoing way unless this gets reinforced through a whole lot of other means and we begin drawing them into the fight to make this film a great success as part of making revolution). But, I do feel that this experience was enough to sum up that the approach BA was fighting for and modeling is one which has tremendous—and yet, vastly untapped—potential.
There were two young guys who seemed to be posted up on one of the corners we marched to who really stayed consolidated against what I put forward in this way. The young Latino guy really was most insistent that this wasn’t what they cared about and the young Black guy seemed a bit interested/conflicted but finally, after his friend made it clear he didn’t want to hear more he also said he wasn’t interested either at which point I told them that was simply fucked up and walked away. This was sharp in a way that is very different than saying, “Okay, never mind,” which is more the feel usually.
Anyway, I don’t get the sense that this type of straight-up challenge to those who most desperately need, and need to become the backbone and driving force of, this revolution is going on enough.
With a lot of young people—this was both young men and young women—I went through the Choices centerfold with them. Mostly I read this out loud to them because there are a lot of big ideas in this quote to take in, because of varying literacy levels, and because I know for myself that it is hard to read and understand something quickly on the street with someone watching you and lots of background distractions. So, I would read it well so that it more came alive to people (worth noting, when I read this with one group of young Black men the guy who seemed to be a leader among them first responded by saying, “I like how you read that, with a lot of conviction. It’s clear you really believe this”).
A LOT of the youth I read this quote, “On Choices... And Radical Changes,” responded by recognizing what it was saying, “That’s saying it’s our environment.” One guy said, “I have been preaching this all the time, it’s our environment.” He seemed more of a brave element and I both united with this but also challenged him that BA was saying that but is also saying more than that, that we have to change these conditions and relations through fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution and that the only way ultimately is through revolution aiming for communism and he has to play a role in this. This led to more struggle and he took a stack of cards to get out about the film.
Many of the youth got in a basic way that this quote was saying that their lives weren’t only determined by their choices but also by their environment and their conditions. But, as we went into this more deeply it was clear they still felt on a big level that really if they just made the right choices they could steer clear of the pitfalls and dangers imposed by these conditions and they certainly did not spontaneously recognize what BA is saying about how all this can be changed and their role and responsibility in that.
One 21-year-old Black man who is currently in community college had met the Revolution Club before and was very interested in talking. We went through that quote and he “agreed” but then later posed that some people need to get into a different mind-set (he described how angry he used to be all the time as well as how destructive he was) and he is trying to help reach individual youth before they end up like he was before he turned himself around. A couple years back he spent a month in jail, after which his mother sent him down South with some relatives so that he wouldn’t get sucked right back into the same gang life he’d been pulled into. He went from self-described thug to first a Christian then a Muslim and now someone who is not very religious but instead is pursuing his education and looking for ways to reach out to and assist the youth caught up in poverty and crime. He deeply agreed that what holds people down is the conditions they are trapped in and spoke passionately about the cruelty of people being forced to grow up in the projects and the pull of gang life in that context. But still he came back to helping individuals change their mind-set.
I listened for a while, learning both from the life experience he was sharing and from the insights and perspective through which he was processing it, but then at a certain point I told him, “You could do all that and still end up the next Trayvon or Sean Bell.” I told him what BA said in the Revolution Talk (Revolution: Why Its Necessary; Why It’s Possible; What It’s All About) about the lynchings in the South and how every Black person lived under an active death sentence that may or may not be carried out but is always there. Then I talked about how BA “updated” that statement to today and I included him in it, “There is an active death sentence over you right now and it will be there no matter how you change your thinking and the same goes for other Black youth and Latinos as well. The only way we get can rid of that is through making revolution.” It was clear that this really shook him and provoked him. He had a co-existing (still does) feeling that the problem is caused by bigger societal forces but that it could be dealt with by reaching people individually. He seemed to get his first firm sense that “reaching individuals and changing their mind-set” as a “solution” is at odds with the larger reality that he lives in and was coming to a sharper understanding of. This spurred the engagement deeper. He had originally said he liked what he was hearing and would, “Look into this when he has time.” We left it that he has to make the time to come out with the Revolution Club and be part of making this film a big deal even as he is learning more and digging in. He took a stack of cards to get to the youth he works with and gave his number and email.
On another tip, I feel that there is still some confusion among people building for this premiere between just getting some controversy and a scene going (on whatever basis) and actually planting a pole around THIS FILM and ITS TITLE (BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!) and then drawing people into active engagement and involvement with the content of this revolution and its leader towards the premiere.
I think the recent editorial puts forward very powerfully the importance of this film and the great need it is filling. Most people have no idea just how vast and deeply entrenched the horrors of the world are or the fact that we do not have to continue to live this way, that a solution to all this exists in the communist revolution that has been re-envisioned by Bob Avakian and is being led by BA and the Revolutionary Communist Party. It is very important to put forward revolution as the leading edge of our work and what BA gets into in this talk and why people need to hear that—and from there take on wrong ideas or backwards thinking that comes up as part of and in order to move people forward off all that and to see the need to deeply engage and spread word of this film premiere that is coming soon.
In contrast to this, sometimes we still too much start from people’s wrong ideas (and often we don’t even do a very good job of struggling to transform those backwards ideas). Again, what we really lead with is what this revolution is all about and the importance of BA and this upcoming premiere as a critical part of that. We should not at all shy away from controversies that might arise as we do this, but stirring up a controversy is not an “end in itself.” As with everything else, we have to take on these controversial questions (whether they be over Obama or religion or NGOs or anything else) as part of and in the service of building a movement for revolution, deepening people’s sense of the actual problem and the actual solution, building anticipation and involvement towards this film where BA will get into all this in an even more vivid, concentrated, sweeping, scientific and urgent way.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
For 10 years (from 1996 to 2006), a very important People's War took place in Nepal. Under the leadership of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), small forces were able to challenge the old state, then ruled by a monarchy. The party's stated goal was to carry through a New Democratic Revolution as the first stage of a revolution that would then go forward to the socialist stage, as Mao had done in China. The revolution met with a tremendous response among the millions of peasants and workers and educated youth in Nepal. A powerful People's Liberation Army [PLA] was formed; most of the countryside of Nepal was taken out of the grip of the traditional feudal and comprador capitalist rulers; and liberated base areas were proclaimed in much of the country. The revolution also won increasing support from middle-class elements centered in the capital and other cities of the country. The strength of the revolution also intensified the disarray of the ruling classes, and many of them concluded that it would be impossible to continue to rule Nepal under the old monarchy. At the same time, the desperate rulers and armed forces of the old state, backed up by India, and Western imperialist powers, and with support from the new capitalist rulers in China as well, fought ferociously against the revolutionary forces.
Unfortunately, in 2005 a crucial shift in the line of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) took place at the Chunwang meeting. That Central Committee meeting of the party ratified a policy of abandoning the goal of establishing a new state, a people's republic led by the proletariat and its party, in favor of fighting for a "democratic state." Once this line was set, a whole series of shifts in strategy, tactics, and policy also took place. Agreements for a "multi-party democracy" were made with the main reactionary political parties in Nepal. And in November 2006, the Comprehensive Peace Agreement was signed which: formally ended the People's War; agreed to a plan to merge the PLA into the reactionary army of the old state; disbanded the organs of power that had been established in the liberated base areas; and established elections to a Constituent Assembly. An interim government was formed with the CPN(M) holding some of the ministries.
During this period the CPN(M) was reorganized as the United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), uniting with other parties and individuals who had not been involved in the People's War or who had even opposed it.
Elections were held in 2008. The UCPN(M) won the largest number of seats in the Constituent Assembly and a government was formed with UCPN(M) chairman Prachanda as Prime Minister.
Throughout this period of reversal of the revolution, sharp debate took place, first privately and then publicly, between the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and the UCPN(M). A series of letters were sent by the RCP, USA which sharply criticized and struggled against the revisionist line that had been adopted by the UCPN(M) and the consequences of that line. [See "On Developments in Nepal and the Stakes for the Communist Movement: Letters to the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, 2005-2008 (With a Reply from the CPN(M), 2006)."]
Under pressure from the army and the leaders of the old state, the Prachanda government resigned in 2009 and a new government was formed by the previous opponents of the People's War.
In November 2011, after a prolonged governmental crisis, a new government was formed with Baburam Bhattarai, a prominent leader of the party as Prime Minister. This government quickly moved to finalize the destruction of the revolution [See "Baburam Bhattarai—Chosen Gravedigger of the Nepal Revolution," Revolution, September 11, 2011.]
Throughout this period many members and supporters of the UCPN(M) became increasingly uncomfortable with the direction things were going, as the fruits of the revolution were abandoned one by one. Some of these forces inside the UCPN(M) formed an opposition to the leadership of Chairman Prachanda. Eventually these forces left the party in 2012 and formed a separate party, taking the original name of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist).
The newly reorganized CPN(M) recently held its founding Congress. While the new party has attracted those who hate the increasingly ugly results coming from the reversal of the revolution, the new CPN(M) has unfortunately been unable to decisively break from the essential problems of line, and resulting practice, of the UCPN(M)—the line which has led to this disastrous situation for the revolution.
In this light, a supporter of the RCP, USA, who had long been associated with building support for the revolution in Nepal, was invited to offer opinions to the recent Congress. What follows is a slightly edited transcript of what was conveyed to that Congress.
* * * * *
The following is a contribution to the recently held Congress of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) made by a long time supporter of the revolution in Nepal who is a supporter of the RCP, USA and the new synthesis of Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
Greetings comrades. Let's get straight to the point. We are at a critical crossroads, not only in the revolution in Nepal but also in the international communist movement. A few years ago, millions in Nepal looked to the Maoists as their hope to end oppression. Now the masses' former leaders have become the ugly face of their oppressors and exploiters. Much of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement is being turned into apologists of revisionism. What happened—what's the problem—and what's the solution?
As a supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, I want to render support to anyone who wants to get the revolution back on track. But saving the revolution requires above all else a radical rupture with the line that has led to this disaster—a rupture that has still not been made.
I have heard a lot of talk about how the problem is that Prachanda and Bhattarai betrayed the revolution—they sold out to India. Listen to what Engels, Marx's closest comrade, said about the betrayal of leaders:
"...when you inquire into the causes of the counter revolutionary success, you are met on every hand with the ready-made reply that it was 'Citizen So and So' who betrayed the people. But this reply does not explain anything. It does not even explain how it came to pass that the people allowed themselves to be betrayed. And what poor chance stands a political party whose entire stock in trade consists in the knowledge of the solitary fact that 'Citizen So-and-So' is not to be trusted."
Think of what Engels asks: why did the people allow themselves to be betrayed? This gets to Mao's concentrated summation: the correctness or incorrectness of line is decisive. A wrong line will transform even the best fighters. A correct line can help remold even those who have lost their path.
I don't see the history of the party as a steady effort to achieve a more correct line. While there was always two-line struggle in the party, the crucial turning point came when a revisionist line emerged seven years ago and became dominant, and almost everybody went along with the main points. Take the Constituent Assembly elections in 2008. Many comrades in Nepal were concerned about the danger of reformism. But still the entire party and most of RIM [Revolutionary Internationalist Movement] hailed the victory as "the election miracle." Why a miracle? It was a way of telling yourself that yes, we all know that advancing revolution through a bourgeois parliament defies the laws of class society, yes we know it goes against the ABCs of Marxism, so it's like divine intervention. No it wasn't. It was a trap set by very real-life imperialists and reactionaries, and it represented a giant step into the parliamentary swamp. Whatever Prachanda's intentions, why did the party allow itself to be swept up in this bourgeois democratic trap?
Because the party was in the grip of revisionist thinking. Once a revisionist line became dominant in October 2005 at Chunwang, then everything else flowed from that, and all the tactics served that line. Without rupturing with the line, you will have Prachandism without Prachanda.
Over and over I have heard comrades say that the problem was that Prachanda said one thing, but he did another. This view is just another expression of refusing to face the fact that the problem was the collective line of the party. The main problem with Prachanda is not that he didn't do what he said, but that he acted in conformity with the revisionist line. In a fundamental sense he did exactly what he said he would do. Prachanda implemented exactly the revisionist line that was adopted and dominated the party for the last seven years.
If you don't know the problem, you won't find the solution. What was the problem? The revisionist line was wrong on key issues, including the state, nationalism, and communist methodology. The revisionist line negated the Marxist understanding of the state. It talked of a "transitional classless republic" and promoted all kinds of illusions about multi-party elections and bourgeois democracy. The revisionist line negated that in class society each ruling class will institute a different form of democracy to serve its interests and its class rule; the parliamentary democracy imposed on Nepal could only reinforce the rule of the reactionary classes and lead to the dismantling of the base areas and PLA [People's Liberation Army].
This revisionist line was marked by nationalism. Remember the election slogan of turning Nepal into the Switzerland of South Asia. And as we all know, Switzerland is not exactly a base area of the world revolution. It is a small reactionary state that is connected to the bigger imperialist powers and serves their interests. This is the model that Prachanda meant when he said Nepal should be the dynamic hub between India and China. But no one opposed it. All this was done with a methodology characterized by eclectics, which was called fusion, and by pragmatism and realpolitik, in other words, sacrificing principle for the hope of short-term gains.
The party abandoned the goal of setting up a powerful proletarian state led by the vanguard party to serve the world revolution. It replaced the communist vision with revisionist notions of restructuring the state, which meant that whatever tactics you used you would only end up reforming the existing reactionary state. Think back to May, two and a half years ago. Hundreds of thousands came to Kathmandu ready to give their lives for an insurrection. But with a wrong view of the state in command, even if that tactic had succeeded, the result would not have been the dismantling of the old state power and the destruction of the reactionary army. The whole strategy was based on getting a large section of the reactionary officer corps to go along with this so-called "insurrection." Even if you had succeeded, the result would have been more like Hugo Chavez in Venezuela than like Mao in China. Whether you reached this reformist result through peaceful means or through violent means does not change the essence of things.
With a revisionist line securely in command of the comrades' thinking, Prachanda and Bhattarai were content to allow the party opposition forces to mobilize the masses as a kind of pressure group. This is not a picture of the struggle for a revolutionary line making steady progress. Instead, the opposition for the last years functioned like a safety valve, where those in the party who were unhappy with where things were going could let off steam. No real repudiation was made of the revisionist line. In this way, the power of the revolutionary upsurge was lost, and the old reactionary state was legitimized by seven years of the Maoists taking part in electoral politics.
Over and over during the last few years, I have heard the explanation for a refusal to make a decisive rupture with revisionism: you don't understand, the revolution can't succeed without Prachanda, we have to keep fighting within the party to win him over. In other words, the correctness or incorrectness of the line is less important than losing Prachanda.
The pragmatism and democratic illusions that dominated for seven years have to be dug up and broken with—and much remains to be done. Do you think the task is over? No, it has just begun. Everyone agrees that Prachanda and Bhattarai's shameless cooperation with India stinks of pragmatism and realpolitik, betraying principles for bourgeois positioning. But how different is the CPN(M)'s approach to China? The Chinese revisionists have turned China into the sweatshop of global imperialism. It is one of the most unequal societies on earth. Yes, there is a need for diplomacy and making use of contradictions among the enemy, I understand that. But that is different than basing the strategy on realpolitik maneuvers. I have been told, "We are clear on the nature of China." Show me one single article of exposure in your press about the horrors of capitalism in China. Think of the confusion this is causing to people around the world. Millions want to see genuine change but they can also see what China has done to the masses there and in Africa and elsewhere—all in the name of communism. Making use of contradictions among reactionaries must be handled not according to the criteria of nationalism, but on proletarian internationalism.
Now you are talking about uniting "everyone" against India, even die-hard anti-people forces and proven destroyers of revolution like the Chinese bourgeoisie. Isn't this really just a new sub-stage, like the old CPA [Comprehensive Peace Agreement] sub-stage of uniting "everyone," including India, against the monarchy? (Of course it was correct and necessary to rally people against the monarchy, but as part of the NDR [New Democratic Revolution] and not by creating a special sub-stage as was argued and practiced.) Is what is being proposed now really any better? What about the fundamental changes and class realignment of the new democratic revolution? What about the workers and peasants and the revolutionary intellectuals? The problem is not that many nationalists and bourgeois democrats joined the revolution: they need to be part of the revolution, especially in its new democratic stage. But they need to be led by a proletarian internationalist vision.
A radical rupture is needed with the nationalism that dominated for the last seven years. Prachanda's nationalist election promise to turn Nepal into Switzerland wound up in the same old capitulation to India. And isn't this nationalism also one reason why so many comrades dismissed the RCP polemics against the revisionist line that started seven years ago? Once again, in part because comrades thought that who wrote the polemics was more important than the line they advocated.
What is happening in Nepal is part of a larger global process. Marxism-Leninism-Maoism is dividing into two and the science is advancing to a new stage. There are some in the international communist movement who say they are your friends and yet viciously attack the RCP and Chairman Avakian's new synthesis of communism. I suppose they are indeed friends of something here: they cheered when you signed the Comprehensive Peace Agreement, they cheered when you participated in the CA[Constituent Assembly] elections, and they're cheering today too. You tell me whether they are friends of revolution!
I just read a recent statement from one of these false friends who was not at all repentant about cheering for the wrong line the whole time during the last seven years. This so-called friend of Nepal condemned the RCP as "dogmatist" for opposing the Maobadi's [Maoists'] line during the last seven years, and he argued that just because the Nepal party's line was wrong didn't mean the revolution had to end up in failure. This is like saying, you go to Tribhuvan airport, the plane is listed as going to Delhi, it's a small plane built for short flights, it has only enough fuel for Delhi, the flight plan is for Delhi, and the pilot announces the plane is going to Delhi—and then when you land, you throw your hands up in amazement, oh my god, we're in Delhi! Tell me please, where on earth has a revisionist line ever led to revolution!
Now these re-organizers of the international communist movement want your party to sign on to a new organization that they say will be based on "People's War as the strategic anchor." So this new international communist movement is openly announcing it will not be based on a correct political and ideological line but on practical achievements. Doing this would repeat exactly one of the main problems that led the revolution to disaster here in the first place—separating your goal from your strategy of how to get there. Think about what happened in 2005. While Bhattarai was fighting hard over big questions like state power, while Bhattarai was reversing verdicts on the dictatorship of the proletariat and on the experience of Russia and China and replacing this with multi-party bourgeois democracy, all too many comrades were content to ignore this and just focus on the immediate struggle. The comrades lost sight of the main purpose of fighting the people's war in the first place: to dismantle the old state and establish a new revolutionary power as part of advancing the world revolution. For the last 30 years there has been a worldwide imperialist onslaught against the experience of the Soviet Union and China, telling everyone that communist revolution leads to disaster. How do you answer this? How would you organize the economy of a socialist Nepal? How would the new revolutionary state relate to revolution in South Asia and the rest of the world—do you want "good relations" with India, or do you want to help the oppressed in India overthrow that reactionary expansionist power?
The new democratic revolution means a combination of social revolution and national revolution—you can't have one without the other. This is not fundamentally a question of a government with "good guys" in charge. It is a different state power, a different class alliance. It means tearing up the old production relations and bringing into being new ones. It means agrarian revolution, uprooting caste discrimination, and mobilizing the masses to transform the world, not trying to get a better position in a reactionary world. And everything you do, including the way you fight revolutionary war, has to be linked to a clear vision of where you're going.
How can anyone who is serious about saving the Nepal revolution from the disaster it's facing not want to engage with the thinking of the party that first so loudly sounded the alarm about the revisionist line, seven years ago? How can you not want to know more about the understanding that dared to go straight up against the tide of spontaneity sweeping the party and much of RIM into the revisionist swamp? I urge you to engage with the new synthesis of Comrade Avakian. He has a lot to say about these problems of pragmatism, realpolitik, nationalism, and eclectics that have sabotaged your own revolution and the entire international communist movement. He is addressing and providing basic answers in defense of the experience of proletarian revolution and how we communists can do even better in the future.
To conclude: 20 years ago, as the revolutionaries faced the setback that had occurred in Peru, the Nepalese revolutionaries stepped forward, saying we will leap into the breach. Today the situation of the communist movement at the planetary level is much more critical and requires much greater boldness—to step forward to be part of rescuing the communist project and leading it forward to greater heights. But this will not be done without a wrenching rupture with the revisionist line that has dominated the movement in Nepal for years now—as Mao said, the correctness or incorrectness of political line is indeed decisive.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In reading the article in Revolution, "The Dorner Controversy Continues: The Outrage of Police Repression, the Reality of Dictatorship... and the Need for Revolution," (#296, February 24, 2013) I was struck by the two statements: 1) "...those who really rule this society exercise dictatorship" and 2) in exercising this dictatorship they will use "Force and Violence" that "are totally illegitimate." It also made me think of BAsics 1:23 where BA describes "dictatorship" as "When a monopoly of political power—and in a concentrated way, the monopoly of 'legitimate' armed force—is in the hands of one group in society, and that group excludes the others from that monopoly of power and force, then that is a dictatorship of the ruling group—or class..."
I was thinking about some of the extreme ways the pigs in the Los Angeles area used "illegitimate" force and violence, as well as other tactics during the Dorner manhunt. During the manhunt, the pigs unleashed themselves like rabid dogs with no respect for human kind. It was clear to many that this massive show and use of "illegitimate" force had nothing to do with protecting the public and had everything to do protecting themselves.
First off, they opened fire on several civilians with the intent to kill them. In the first incident, early in the morning, at least seven cops unloaded over a 100 rounds at a pickup driven by two Latinas, who were delivering newspapers, one is the 71-year old mother of the other. Both were hit and the older Latina was seriously wounded in the back. Their truck was struck over a dozen times with the rest of the bullets striking nearby cars, trees and garage doors. People said the fact that they were not dead and that others were not hit "was a miracle." To be clear, the pickup truck they were driving, a bright blue Toyota Tacoma, did not match the pickup that Dorner was driving, a dark gray Nissan Titan. People in the neighborhood were commenting that it was obvious that this was clearly "street justice" being administered by those "who wanted to execute" Dorner.
Minutes later, in a second incident, the pigs rammed a black Honda Ridgeline pickup and then fired three shots. A white male was driving the truck, on the way to going surfing. He was stopped and questioned and was asked to turn his truck around. While doing that, the pigs rammed him with their vehicle and opened fire, failing to hit him. It was reported that his Honda Ridgeline has a very distinctive truck bed-frame that is different from other pickups.
Secondly, they became judge, jury, and executioner while Dorner was trapped in an isolated cabin. Despite the fact that they had him completely surrounded and were battering down the cabin with a remote-controlled demolition vehicle, they decided to kill him on the spot by using a particular type of tear gas, called "burners," a more powerful type of tear gas that gives off intense heat and causes fires. It clear that was their intention as it was reported that a "SWAT radio transmission, in addition to the comments of at least one officer could be heard by a TV reporter calling for the cabin to be burned down." "Seven burners deployed," called out a pig, and then a few seconds later, "And we have a fire,"
Two other methods, one which was used and the other which was probably was not used are being discussed by people. In an all out effort to get the public involved in this manhunt the cops offered a $1 million award for the arrest and conviction of Dorner. Arrest and conviction? That was never going to happen. However, in order to get this out broadly and to get the public help with the manhunt, they used what are called, "blue alert" billboards that are put into use when a cop is killed or injured. These are not the same as the "Amber Alert" electronic freeway signs that can only use letters and numbers to describe a vehicle that was used to kidnap a child. They are full-colored, video bill boards, that had, "LAPD ALERT," Dorner's photo, "WANTED," $1 Million Dollar Reward," and a phone number to call.
The other thing people are discussing is whether the cops used drones during the Dorner manhunt. It appears they did not do that, despite the fact that the English newspaper, The Express, reported that drones were used against Dorner. The LAPD would not deny or confirm the use of a drone or fly-bot. However, the fact that this has become a discussion has opened up what is going on with the domestic use of drones in this country. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has published a list of 61 entities that have applied to use drones, with the list now at 81. It has been reported that among the 81 entities that applied to fly drones, there are several universities, police departments and government agencies including the U.S. Army, the FBI, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA and the Department of Homeland Security (which already flies Predator drones to patrol the border with Mexico).
In speaking about the use of domestic drones, Marjorie Cohn, a professor at the Thomas Jefferson School of Law stated: "I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility. I think that they may well be used for police actions, demonstrations, civil disobedience, things like that. I can see, for example, if they were to use drones for surveillance and find this guy Dorner who's now on the loose... I wouldn't be at all surprised if they didn't use a drone to kill him if they had the technology available" (statement given to Mint Press, an online news organization).
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
As everyone in Chicago knows—and many across the country have heard—Hadiya Pendleton was a vivacious student who was tragically shot to death at a park near her high school on the south side of Chicago a week after marching in the inaugural parade in Washington D.C. Michelle Obama attended her funeral and President Obama flew into town to speak at a different high school, one with “at risk kids.”
In his speech Obama did NOT SAY that the fact that there is absolutely no future for these “at risk” youth is intolerable and everything conceivable should be done to immediately change the situation that is stealing their dreams and their lives. Obama did NOT SAY anything about the high school students killed after school by Chicago police, students like Dakota Bright last November.
In fact what Obama DID SAY was “We may not be able to save every child from gun violence, but if we save a few, that starts changing the atmosphere in our community. We may not be able to get everybody a job right away, but if we get a few folks a job, then everybody starts feeling a little more hopeful and a little more encouraged.”
A few saved lives, a few jobs ... This was a stunning admission that this system does not and can not have any different future for these youth in the face of a situation where there is 94% unemployment of teens in Chicago households that make less than $40,000 /year. (Source: Center for Labor Market Studies, Northeastern University in Boston). Other studies put the unemployment rate among Black teens between 45% and 80% in Chicago. By any measure the situation is dire and worsening.
And Obama’s emphasis in his speech on personal transformation and responsibility and the idea that if these youth work hard and make the right choices then they can be anything they want to be is a cruel and vicious lie. Obama is doing great harm to these Black children while doing a great service to this capitalist system in trying to keep those on the bottom of society quiet while their lives and dreams are destroyed every day.
The real answer this system has to this crisis is more police and the police’s intensified reign of terror on the street. This was immediately demonstrated two days after Obama spoke when police shot and critically injured a 23-year-old on the west side of Chicago on Saturday at noon. Police claim he was fleeing a location where drugs were being sold and they admit he didn’t have a gun.
The Chicago Sun Times reported, “Cops place bull's-eye on suspected gang of Hadiya's alleged killers.” Chicago police officials vowed to target every member of this gang as part of a strategy that they called “group accountability.” This means repeated arrests of anyone suspected of being associated with a particular gang for anything that the police can frame them for—from driving with a cell phone to more serious charges and this can be the excuse to gun them down.
Police had a massive reward to find a suspect in Hadiya’s murder. According to news accounts, the first tip came from someone in jail which led to a parolee on whom the authorities used their “leverage” to throw him back in prison to coerce him to “give up” the two young men who have been charged with murder.
The ironies in the whole situation are many. The sister of one of the accused men attended Obama’s speech at her high school. The young man accused graduated from the same high school as Hadiya and his teachers describe him as smart and charming. His stepfather says he was not in a gang, that he worked at Macy’s and was soon to leave for basic training in the Air Force (where if he killed someone in Pakistan or Afghanistan he would have been praised by Obama!).
The police and the authorities rushed to arrest these youth and then convict them in the media in the wake of Hadiya’s death.
Contrast this with how police who shoot people are treated by the authorities. In the case of Chicago police officer Sierra who was filmed on a police car videocam actually executing Flint Farmer as he lay face down on the ground, deliberately firing 3 shots into Farmer. And what happened to Sierra? He was rewarded with a $75K/year job at the city’s 311 call center. The City of Chicago was even forced to pay Farmer’s estate over 4 million dollars and yet still claims Farmer’s murder was justifiable homicide. There have been three major articles in the Chicago Tribune exposing Farmer’s murder and Sierra’s earlier killing of Darius Pinex and the shooting of a teenager all within the space of a few months and STILL not even a slap on the wrist!
All of this is why it has resonated with people when revolutionaries have taken out two quotes on flyers and nine-foot high cardboard displays. These quotes were also passed out at the high school before Obama spoke there and in the wake of Obama’s visit. And they were passed out at a Lupe Fiasco appearance and went directly to the scene of the police shooting of a young man on the west side within an hour after it happened.
This quote from the "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have. A Message, And a Call, From the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA" captures the situation:
For millions in the inner cities, if they are not killed at an early age, their likely future is prison (nearly 1 in 8 young Black men is incarcerated, the prisons are overflowing with Blacks and Latinos, and this country has the highest rate of incarceration of women in the world). This system has robbed so many youth of the chance for a decent life and has got far too many living, dying and killing for nothing—nothing good—nothing more than messing up people and murdering each other on the streets of the cities here...or joining the military, being trained to be murderers on a mass scale, massacring people in countries across the globe. A system which offers millions and millions of youth no greater purpose, no better fate, than crime and punishment, or to become a mindless killing machine for the system itself—that alone is reason enough to sweep this system from the face of the earth!
The other, a quote from BAsics, gets at how the very factors that especially young people are responding to today and the fact is that these youth really have nothing to lose under this system. These forces that drive them to get into all kinds of harmful shit are the very same driving forces that could impel them in a whole other direction if they could be ruptured with that "gangsta" outlook and if their anger, alienation, and rebelliousness could instead be channeled at the source of the problem, and tempered and transformed with revolutionary science and a morality of liberation. This is a pathway to transforming the urgent necessity that we face to build a movement for revolution:
People say: “You mean to tell me that these youth running around selling drugs and killing each other, and caught up in all kinds of other stuff, can be a backbone of this revolutionary state power in the future?” Yes—but not as they are now, and not without struggle. They weren’t always selling drugs and killing each other, and the rest of it—and they don’t have to be into all that in the future. Ask yourself; how does it happen that you go from beautiful children to supposedly “irredeemable monsters” in a few years? It’s because of the system, and what it does to people—not because of “unchanging and unchangeable human nature.”
As the revolutionaries go out into the neighborhoods and schools, they are actively promoting the film of a major speech by Bob Avakian: BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! This is pivotal to building the movement for revolution.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 19, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We want to share with our readers some thoughts and comments from someone who saw the rough cut of the film: BA Speaks: REVOLUTION – NOTHING LESS! and the response of a teacher after listening to the interview Cornel West did with BA.
Here's what I have to say. Feel free to use it.
I have just seen the first two hours, of six, of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! It was like plunging into a very blue, very icy pool. I got out shivering, sad, angry, and very worried. About my life and all of our lives.
Two wildly strange things came into my mind during the hours afterward. The first is from John 8:32: "And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." The second is Plato's allegory of the cave, in which Socrates describes a group of people who have been chained to the wall of a cave all their lives, facing the stone. These people watch shadows projected on the wall by things passing in front of a fire behind them. The shadows are as close as the prisoners ever get to reality. Socrates tells us that the philosopher is like a prisoner freed from the cave, who can step outside, at last, into the freshness of truth, the real world.
Bob Avakian's analysis breaks apart the small framework in which we are manipulated. He presents the big picture of Western Civilization and Capitalism—and a corrupted and tragic history it is. Mr. Avakian tell us the truth, wakes us to reality. He urges us to notice how the culture, which we breathe like air, really is in business of blinding, numbing, binding, and using us by its entertainments, diversions, and coercions. How frightening to acknowledge how we have become so enthralled by getting and spending. How we are kept fighting each other instead of the grotesque matrix that holds all of us.
So, the first step toward liberty is to know reality. And reality stings us, because we can begin to see how we have been fooled, how we've let ourselves be gulled and manipulated. But there it is. In the beginning is the adult satisfaction of facing reality. This is good in politics, art, and personal life. Real living and real freedom have to start with the real.
Then what? Well, there are four more hours of Bob Avakian live that I haven't seen yet. And I'm terribly interested to see what he thinks can be done, once reality is grasped. I don't have a clue yet. I confess that I'm temperamentally unsuited to "masses." Masses scare me, and the individual, I worry, shrinks into nothing there. I don't know what a "revolution" means, or how it could be accomplished without anarchy. But, as Mr. Avakian says (and I agree with him): the world is not writ in stone; things can be different than they have been; history and the future are not the will of God.
In the end, I'm open to hear and consider. It seems crucial. We'll all benefit by a splash of the clean, cold water of reality.
Every working person should be outraged, it should be obvious to everyone who wants a decent life, they should be outraged. He [BA] is calling attention to the obvious. We don’t have to tell people about the banks, the foreclosures, police brutality, the educational system, the unequal distribution of wealth, the unemployment in the inner cities, this should be obvious. And it isn’t just happening in the U.S.—look at Spain, Portugal, Greece, Italy: 50% of the youth are unemployed, they’re taking their social security and dismantling the whole economic & social safety net. This is a global phenomenon. This is not a ‘mistake,’ but a well- organized plan to cripple these economies. It’s not just happening spontaneously, and it’s not because capitalism has failed, but capitalism may be entering a new phase which involves destroying the middle class, disempowering the middle class worldwide. It’s going in a different direction which includes the control and privatization of public education and health care.
This system teaches us to be “servants of the empire,” how it’s ok to kill people in the name of American safety. What about the safety of the people being killed? Ask the kids in Palestine. We have been taught to go along with this, the economic embargo of Iran that’s strangling the Iranian people, the genocidal policy that resulted in a million people being killed in Iraq. We bomb, then invade, and most Americans say, “I have too many problems of my own, I have to worry about my own resources.” This is a well-organized, world-wide phenomenon, and a most important aspect is fear. We are losing our jobs, our livelihood, our benefits. This is happening around the world. We have been brainwashed, we should be outraged.
Look at how we have justified mass incarceration, how Black people and Latinos are targeted and “guilty;” Look at education, how teachers are supposed to teach how to be “more productive,” to serve the economic system; Look at the role of religion, how it has alienated people. They have magic at their disposal, heavenly promise. They try to teach us to live in an imaginary future, not teaching people to question their earthly experience: to question that set of beliefs is revolutionary (try to understand how rape is the will of god!).
He [BA ] is bringing out the point that this communist revolution is based on science, opposed to faith and dogma, and that things don’t need to be like this. What about equality and caring among people, not “I’m going to take care of my own!” BA’s central message is to educate people about what’s happening and what to do about it. Like Frederick Douglass and Che, they were demanding a just society. People do have to be led: this means “showing” the way forward. He [BA] is saying that if you don’t wake-up you’re going to be in chains. People in the U.S. have been so indoctrinated with anti-communist, anti-socialist propaganda—it’s a major hurdle to developing a movement. This kind of broadcast is badly needed, can help change the atmosphere. We need a revolution. Nothing short of revolution is going to put a stop to the road the capitalists are headed down. How is this going to get done? We need more concrete details, more understanding of how it’s going to happen.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
At an elite university...
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Before heading out to an elite campus to build for the nationwide premiere of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! our team read and had a quick discussion of the posting "Stepping To and Really Challenging the Youth." First I want to encourage other readers to get into that deeply, and especially to really dig into and wrestle with the challenges posed in the editorial "What the World Needs Now." And then I want to share some experience based on that. It specifically addresses the challenge and importance of bringing forward youth who are among those who catch hell every day under this system. But I also thought it has relevance beyond that in how we step to people.
The "Stepping To..." correspondence makes the point that "While it would be wrong to ignore those who are attracted to [our] agitation, we haven't enough made it our practice to step to and challenge the younger people who more often than not just walk on by or say, dismiss us with a phrase like, 'I'm good.'"
Only by changing our approach—in that way—can we reveal potential for revolution, and for the potential for the premiere of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! which would not be apparent if we didn't persist with people in this way. We have to expose and bring forward potential that is buried beneath the surface.
Challenging people this way drew much sharper lines of demarcation between tolerating this system and its horrors in this or that form—on the one hand, and deciding that you are not going to do that. For example, some frat-boy types were just openly saying—in response to our agitation—that it was OK with them if millions of children around the world die of preventable diseases because of capitalism. When I chased them down the street—insisting they defend that stand if they could—other students stopped, took palm cards for the premiere, and took the whole thing more seriously, including one guy who had apparently just come from a ski trip as he had his ski jacket, lift pass, and equipment with him.
Another person was almost as smug in insisting that she is doing her part by donating to organizations that help alleviate world hunger, and that she was offended that we were saying anything less than revolution was essentially bullshit. I told her that those donations she makes might make her feel better, but they didn't make a dent in global hunger that is created, unnecessarily, by the workings of imperialism. Here too, people who had been walking past turned around to get palm cards for the film premiere.
But then there are those people who just walk by with their headphones on—literally or figuratively. And sometimes there is anger that is just buried beneath scar tissue so to speak, that doesn't really come to the surface until you persist with them. One young African-American woman who I challenged to stop walking, pull out her ear plugs, and get into the revolution did pull out her ear plugs. After we had walked a couple blocks, with me doing most of the talking, she gave me a look as if to say "OK, and, so..." I said, look, come back to where we started out at and listen to the interview Cornel West did with BA. I showed her Cornel West's introduction to BA that is on the palmcard for the premiere. She said she was late for a lunch date (this was, after all, lunch time), but she decided to let her friend wait a bit. She listened to the interview up to where BA explains the difference between communist revolution and what Martin Luther King was about. After that, she pulled out the headphones and said, "OK, how do we stop this?"
At this point, we were in somewhat new territory—and I definitely felt challenged to implement on the spot the approach of deeper engagement combined with immediate and substantial enlisting people in the movement for revolution. In part I put the challenge to her—what can you do now? She took stacks of cards, and we walked through how she and her friends can use the QR codes to jump right to revcom.us on their smartphones and listen together. I told her she would find ways to connect with others like herself at revcom.us, and learn more about the revolution. I got a way to get in touch with her. In summing this up with the team afterwards, we felt we need better forms for instant activism, and that we should be enlisting people like her in the Revolution Club right away.
I'll bring up another exchange to give some feel for the complexity of things out there, and the need to actually engage people with BA as deeply as possible as soon as possible. This was another person I followed down the street, who at first had shrugged her shoulders in response to our agitation about the premiere and the role it has to play in building the movement for revolution. After sort of a one-way conversation with her for a while, she stopped to talk. She teaches in an Anthropology Department which she said was "the last holdout of radicalism" on her campus. I said that is important, but it isn't enough, and if that's good enough for you, that's a way of making your peace with a system that you shouldn't and don't need to make peace with. It doesn't stop the president from executing anyone anywhere without a trial, or the environmental emergency, or 2.4 million people in U.S. jails. And how can you be satisfied with anything less.
This led to her raising that communism from its beginning, especially the work of Frederick Engels (who worked closely with Karl Marx who founded communism) was stamped with patriarchy. I did my best to argue that BA's new synthesis of communism does not cover over or shine on weaknesses in the conception and experience of communist revolution, even as it upholds as the main thing, the great contributions—including the radical advances in women's liberation. And that she should zap the QR code on the palm card for the premiere and listen to BA's interview with Michael Slate there.
We also had more deep engagement with another woman who listened to part of the Cornel West interview with BA. She hit the pause button when the issue of women's oppression came up and more or less exploded in an rant of outrage—she had recently been involved in women's empowerment activism in South Africa, and her anger was a combination of outrage at the widespread violence against women there and around the world, but also kept pointing to the disorientation of the masses of people in the townships in South Africa after the fall of apartheid as a reason why revolution can't happen. We got as far as we could on the spot on that but really struggled with her to listen to the BA interview with Michael Slate, especially on the theme of supposedly unchanging human nature and to understand "what happened to the revolution" that so set the terms of things in the sixties. While her engagement with the BA interview that Cornel West did was too short, it did give her a sense that this is someone with some deep thinking, not just some movement with some "idealist" vision of how the world should be. She headed to class with a stack of palm cards, and gave us a way to stay in touch. One thing I tried to emphasize is that it was quite possible that her "leftist" teacher, who she was counting on to be supportive of her inviting people to the premiere, might not be so radical or have a positive response, but the point was, this is really what the world needs and she should insist people seriously engage with what BA is saying in these radio interviews, and not dismiss it because it doesn't fit into their comfort zone or whatever.
One note: We have to do much, much better—get into a whole other track—on raising funds. We collected some small contributions from people for getting BA out there, including with the premiere of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! But we all felt that we weren't really conveying to people the seriousness of raising a LOT of money to do this—which right now is a huge obstacle to making this all happen. And that is something we can and should do with people right on the spot, as part of transforming our work so as to really speak to and overcome all the big challenges we are up against in building this movement for revolution, and turning those big challenges into openings in to the movement for revolution.
Again, while these experiences were exciting and eye-opening, my own feeling is they are still only a crack in opening up a door. We are rupturing people out of the various ways they have found to get through the day under this system. We ain't gonna do that without seriousness and substance. As those of us who have seen a preview version of this film know, everyone will get that at the premieres of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! But even to get people there, on the right basis, we have to engage more sharply and deeply with people, involve them more substantially, on the spot, and then sustain and maintain their connection to the movement for revolution.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 26, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
February 22, 2013. Many hundreds streamed in to hear Michelle Alexander speak on “The New Jim Crow” at a major university. The crowd was roughly half students and half people (mainly Black) from the community. Most people got two things from the revolutionaries as they entered: 1) a poster of BA’s statement on “3 Strikes and You’re Out!” combined with searing photos from Slavery, Jim Crow and the New Jim Crow and 2) a palm card for the film premiere of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! So from the start most people had in their hands a concentration of the problem—400 years of the oppression of Black people—and the solution—a revolution led by BA and how to become part of this. Some people were already grappling with what is the solution so they also got copies of Revolution Newspaper on the way in. And inside the venue we passed out hundreds of copies of the editorial from Revolution newspaper describing the importance of the film premiere.
In terms of laying out the horrific scope and details of the New Jim Crow, Michelle Alexander’s presentation slammed people against the wall. Even people who already knew something about this were stunned by what they learned. Alexander began her presentation by stating that there can be no solution to this unless we are willing to confront the truth. And then she went at it. From the 1960s to the 1990s, the number of Black men with industrial jobs (even shitty ones) dropped from 70% to 28%. Half the Black men in large urban areas have been to prison. In Chicago, if you count the people now in prison, it is 80% of the Black men. In the U.S. as a whole, there are 60 million men with criminal records. And a felony conviction pretty much ruins your life—you can’t get a job, public housing or food stamps. In many states you can’t vote or serve on a jury. And in Ohio you can’t even be a barber if you have a record. No wonder 70% of prisoners end up back in jail. A Black child has less chance of being raised by two parents today than under slavery—because so many Black men are in jail. From 1980 to 2000, drug convictions—most of them involving no violence—made up 2/3 of the huge increase in the prison population. The main pillars of this “war on drugs” —which is really a war on Black people—were put in place by Bill Clinton, a Democrat and have now been follow up on by Obama, another Democrat.
And through all this exposure, Michelle Alexander called on people to REFUSE to demonize the victims of all this—the masses of poor Black people whose lives have been ruined by this new form of racial caste system in America. She called out for compassion and understanding and a huge campaign of resistance to put an end to the war on drugs and mass incarceration.
On the way out lots of people seemed to have revolution on their mind. Many of them approached the revolutionaries to find out more about this film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! A whole group of Black youth from a local high school wanted to dig into revolution more, so we set up to meet them the next day right after school at a nearby cafe. Other Black people from the community got into deep conversations about the need for revolution and wanted to know more about BA. So we made a phone call to a local bookstore owner and set up a group listening of “Cornel West Interviews Bob Avakian” at his store for Sunday. Two young Black women students from another local college were so excited to meet the revolution that they were literally jumping up and down. They demanded that we sit right down there and explain to them what this revolution was about. And the more they heard the more excited they got. Both of them are involved in fighting mass incarceration and one of them is putting on the Vagina Monologues at her school. The later had already put together that there is a connection between the oppression of women and the oppression of Black people—and all that has to go. The other said that, “this is just what I have been looking for all my life. I have so much energy to do something that really matters—not all the stupid shit that we pay all this money to learn in college.” So we immediately made plans to come to their school and play the interview of Cornel West interviewing Bob Avakian with them and their friends on Saturday and discuss ways they can be part of the movement for revolution and build for the premiere. Another Black woman who is a student at an all Black local college said that she wanted to have a discussion of the film premiere in one of her classes, so we are following up with her to make this happen.
* * * * *
The above approach reflected something new for us in terms of how we approached interested people. We were challenging people right on the spot to dig into BA and we were making plans with them for how to do this—with group listenings to the interviews as the main focus. We also summed up that the group listenings were a critical first step—as opposed to inviting people to an organizing meeting to build for the premieres—because the interviews focus on the content of what this revolution and this leader are all about. Once people begin to get that, then we can find the ways to involve them in fighting to make the premiere a major leap in building the movement for revolution.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 27, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
It is possible to make major advances toward revolution through the nationwide premieres that launch BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! into society. "Yes, this is a film but that is not its essence. This is a daring, substantive, scientific, summoning to revolution. 6+ hours that can change how you see the world and what you do with the rest of your life. Is this hype? No."
To do that, everyone involved in this will need to continue to return to the film itself, and to the editorials that lay out its significance in the fight to make revolution. And people will need to return to this site, daily, for the articles, letters and pictures that give a sense of how we are transforming, and learning more deeply about, the world. That is fundamental, and if we lose our grip on that we will not do what we need to do, and what is possible, with this premiere.
Also critical: people are the most precious resource of all. The time spent with people watching the rough-cut of the film, or listening to the recent interviews BA has done with Cornel West and Michael Slate, or getting into the Revolution Talk DVD—this is time very well-spent. Indeed, it is essential. And if we are not involving people every step of the way, enabling them to contribute in ways large and small, then too—we will not do what we need to do, and what is possible, with this premiere.
And all this to serve and be part of making the premiere itself MAJOR and a turning point in building the movement FOR revolution. We need to turn people out to this—and we need to turn people out who are primed for it, ready to spend the day getting into the revolution, and what it's all about. And people also need to be primed to come out of this experience with ways to engage with and contribute to this movement for revolution.
But we also need a plan to go very broadly. What follows is a framework that can guide everyone working on this in a unified way, every day for the next two weeks. We will be updating this as we go, based on new developments. So stay with it. At the same time, important as this plan is, people need to be tense toward political outbreaks, key conferences that you find out about, cultural events. Be on lookout for: poetry slam contests, happening in some cities...
Three key things right now, and through the premiere:
1) WE NEED A MAJOR VISUAL PRESENCE IN KEY NEIGHBORHOODS, AS WELL AS CITYWIDE. This poster must get up and out in a big way!! This creates broad awareness of the premiere; the beautiful art welded to the powerful message of the title [BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!] sets very good terms and is truly a breath of fresh air in its own right—and a challenge—for those who hunger for a better world; it reinforces those who are thinking of coming and lets people know who might be interested but otherwise wouldn't hear of it; and it is a truly excellent way for people to participate in building the premieres.
2) SELL TICKETS: Ticket sales are a major way that people seal their commitment, and in and of themselves they create momentum and reality for the premieres. And, very important: organize people in groups to come, and make sure that people have the necessary transportation.
Moreover, there are people who can be activated to themselves sell tickets, and who could take responsibility for blocks of tickets. Once they do, it becomes very important to do follow-up and work through with them.
3) MAKE SURE THAT WE ARE TALKING TO AND WORKING WITH PEOPLE WHO DID SEE BA IN THE FALL, AND WORK WITH THEM TO SPREAD THE WORD!!!
Follow-up off Day of Remembrance, Defiance and Determination for Trayvon Martin. Back to the neighborhoods, campuses and so on where this was done. Sum up with people; find ways to involve; SELL TICKETS. Distribute, post posters.
IMPORTANT: send pictures, videos, etc. of what people did to website/paper so that people can see what they did... solicit reports, thinking from people who participated...
If promotional radio announcements have not been distributed yet, absolutely important to distribute today!! If already distributed, think of wider outreach. If people at the radio station are friendly, interested, play them the Cornel West interview of BA. Begin pushing now, if not already, on media. Internet radio shows. If interviews can be set up with people like Sunsara Taylor, Carl Dix, and Raymond Lotta, then set them up and contact them.
If there are meetings tonight, use them to assemble teams for weekend [see below].
Beginning today: periodic e-mail blasts on the premiere. These will be prepared and can be sent out in a unified way. [See here for updates on how to get, and use.] Who should send these? Bookstores to their e-lists; spokespeople and public figures who support this premiere; and definitely out to all the people whose names have been collected in the last few weeks and months, but whom we have not been able to take the time to personally get down with. These e-mail blasts will be a way to keep this in people's minds, reinforcing message that they get in other ways.
Out to supermarkets in late afternoon, evening: major shopping day due to food stamps coming out.
Out to cultural venues in evening.
Assemble materials for major effort toward poster saturation in key areas this weekend.
Team should assemble to get testimonials on youtube, other ways...from all kinds of people on the theme of, "I'm going to be at the premiere, here's why, you should too."
Assemble team to solicit major donations.
Major effort today and tomorrow with posters; as key part of this: return to people who have agreed to post posters and talk with them about response, and other ways they can be involved; leave materials and if possible listen to interview with them; continue to go back and replace any posters that are removed...
Involve people in this in many different ways...including fund-raising (both donating themselves and putting cans in their stores, community centers, etc.).
Use with everybody who posts poster: "Contended Question."
Major effort this weekend to sell tickets. Aim for 1/3 of house sold by Monday, March 4. Ask everyone you talk to to buy their tickets now.
Collect testimonials from people on the spot as we get out posters and sell tickets.
Major effort this weekend to contact and MEET WITH potential large and middle donors, with volunteer task force spearheading this [those who have thinking, plans – send to revcom.us]. Have available people who can talk with knowledge about revolution and the new synthesis of communism, but also people who are coming into this newer.
- see above
Assess postering and fund-raising efforts, and the weekend overall.
Second day of e-mail blasts. There will be something new today to send.
Send youtube and other testimonials in to revcom.us.
Begin to systematically get posters up on key campuses and in and around key high schools, including in classrooms, nearby hangouts and transportation hubs; get profs to put on doors, department bulletin boards, residence halls, etc.... high school teachers to post in classrooms.
Set up announcements, speaking engagements for International Women's Day on campuses, high schools for later in week (if possible begin this work earlier).
Get back to people who expressed interest, or got involved; and keep selling tickets.
Pull together people who want to work on BA Everywhere in meeting(s) during this period; plan activity.
Wednesday night: make sure people have materials for International Women's Day. This includes materials around the premiere, as well as the Declaration.
Take International Women's Day (IWD) on to the campuses... take Revolution newspaper out in big way, hold on-the-spot speakouts and rallies, refresh and renew postering on campus. Make connection: liberation of women and all-the-way revolution—if you want to know how revolution and a whole new world is possible, you MUST see BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! See above. Play interview with Cornel West, utilize videos of the Revolution talk. SELL TICKETS!
IWD on to the campuses again!
IWD out to the cultural venues; but also unite with any initiatives undertaken that night by Stoppatriarchy.org.
IWD in the neighborhoods of oppressed masses. Hold speak-outs, on the spot rallies; play parts of Revolution Talk DVD. At the same time, some people should go unite with any initiatives undertaken that day by Stoppatriarchy.org and other initiatives by other people sincerely concerned with the oppression of women). Get paper out in these areas massively, have on-the-spot rallies, marches.
Send reports and visuals from past three days to revcom.us by Saturday night.
See March 9.
All through weekend, constant efforts to sell tickets, raise money.
All through the weekend, special squads whose mission is to refresh and spread the visual presence.
Assess ticket sales (should be 2/3 sold at this point). Assess postering (posters should be up and spreading). Assess state of struggle over this (counterattacks from anti-revolutionary forces, how these are being handled and turned into good things). Find ways to draw new people into activity (meetings of BA Everywhere committee, bookstore volunteers, Revolution Clubs?).
All week: posters, mini-rallies, mass fund-raising and ticket sales, in areas where this is percolating... take nothing for granted.
All week: step up efforts on "I'm going, and you should too." Twitter, Facebook, etc.
Early in week: pull together larger crew to assist production staff for event.
Friday afternoon and evening: meetings of larger crew to assist core pulled together earlier in the week. Ushering, tables, security, welcoming, etc. – many much-needed things to do and ways for people to participate.
Make sure venue, staffing and follow-up are commensurate and in fundamental harmony with the film itself!
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received the following blurb about the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
The down-pressed peoples of the World needs and are crying out for Revolution—Nothing less! Comrade Bob Avakian painstakingly outlines in a simple, clear and forward way, the tactics and strategy of how revolution can be made and maintained within the borders of the United Snakes of America. He speaks with much courage and determination about the serious need for revolution and the crucial importance for it to be fuelled by revolutionary theory and the revolutionary science of Marxism Leninism-Mao Tsetung Thought, so as to bring about a more humane understanding of society. Comrade leader Bob Avakian and the RCP are definitely leading the political pack in challenging the core of imperialist-capitalist America. His passion and love for the working class and other working peoples are unmeasurable, and must be admired. As a living revolutionary stalwart of the peoples struggle, Comrade Avakian is not about just talk, he has been walking the walk, and organizing among the masses of down-pressed peoples for close to five (5) decades across race and class lines. In BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, Comrade Avakian takes time to hammer out a clear detailed and decisive revolutionary line for making revolution in Imperial United States of America. As a revolutionary active in Caribbean political struggles from the late 1960's, I hereby recommend this docu/film as a must see, for anyone seriously interested in bringing about revolutionary change for the down trodden masses of humanity.
Ready for Liberation
Manager of a Pan African bookstore, Chicago
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
by Sunsara Taylor | February 27, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
One year ago yesterday, Trayvon Martin was still alive and visiting his father in Sanford, Florida. A little after 7 pm his life was cut short by a racist vigilante as he walked home from the corner store with his hoodie up to protect him from the rain. As millions around the world now know, George Zimmerman, the wanna-be-cop who admitted to having killed Trayvon, was not even arrested. It wasn’t until Trayvon’s parents, Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin, and soon afterwards tens of thousands of others around the country stood up and demanded justice that Zimmerman was finally arrested. Still, today he is free and a whole year’s worth of media has been ratcheted up to “humanize” Zimmerman, to tarnish the character of Trayvon Martin, and obscure the basic facts of the case—like the fact that Trayvon was doing nothing but walking home talking on the phone to his girlfriend and if Zimmerman hadn’t been out acting as a wanna-be-cop who thought a Black youth in a hoodie must’ve been up to no good a young man would still be alive today.
Refusing to let the tremendous anger that had spilled forth from Black people as well as many others over this murder and all it concentrates, be swept under the rug, to be suppressed, refusing to let this case become yet another green light to any racist that they can go out and murder Black youth, and determined to lead people to fight against this outrage as part of building up the strength to put an end to this madness and as one means through which people transform themselves for revolution, I ran for the day with the Revolution Club through a full day of Remembrance, Defiance and Determination for Trayvon Martin.
Our day had several chapters, a lot of lessons, and a lot to build on and take further—through struggle.
Our day started at a university with a high concentration of Black and Latino students. Our plan was to hold a rally and speakout at noon. When we arrived we spent a few minutes going table to table in the cafeteria telling people it was the anniversary of Trayvon’s murder. A lot of people were appreciative, but they were also clearly in the mode of continuing their conversations and their lunches as opposed to getting up and joining the speakout.
We challenged these students. Often I would look right at the Black students at the table and say, “Let’s not bullshit here, right now this young man—like all Black youth in this country—has an active death warrant hanging over his head. It may or may not be carried out but it is always there—and you know as well as I do that if some racist cop, or some wannabe cop, were to murder this young brother, if the murderer were even taken to court (which rarely happens) it almost for sure would be deemed ‘justifiable homicide.’” Sometimes I would include further exposure of how Trayvon’s case had been handled—how the pigs had tested Trayvon’s body for drugs but not Zimmerman’s or other facts—but always I would continue to put the challenge to the students. “This is what it means—and what it has always meant to be Black in America. First slavery, then Jim Crow and now the New Jim Crow of police terror, mass incarceration and criminalization. As Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party puts it, that’s three strikes for this system. We need a revolution and nothing less! And right now we are building the movement for revolution. If this shit is not okay with you—you need to be part of standing up against it right now and you need to be digging into why this revolution is necessary and possible, learning how we can end all of this once and for all and bring into being a far better world.”
In other words, we didn’t rest with people being broadly supportive—we struggled with them over what this case really means, the larger reality it concentrates, the fact that there is a way out, the fact that there are concrete ways for them to act now to be part of changing all this and to be digging in to find out how to end it all for good. The film premiere and the need to fight the power were not “two different things we are doing that you might be interested in” but two powerful dimensions of a revolutionary strategy for how we transform conditions and people to bring closer and prepare to be able to seize on a revolutionary crisis when one opens up.
People went from casually supportive to very serious and even, in many cases, shaken. I could hear them struggling with each other after I left.
As others continued to go to all the tables, myself and a couple people from the Revolution Club went out to the crowded area where the speakout was to take place. We held up posters of Trayvon that said, “We are all Trayvon Martin—The Whole Damn System is Guilty!” and began agitating off the same basic points made at the tables. Quickly a young woman jumped up to join in holding up a poster. Asked why, she said, “Well, I’m Black and it could have been me.”
Most of the students in the area were listening intently and there was clearly a section that was gathering from a distance—you know how people sort of “lurk” nearby, clearly checking things out but not yet sure they want to conspicuously “join in.” A few students came and asked for posters that they could carry throughout the day with them.
But, before we could go further an opportunist from a profoundly non-revolutionary revisionist trend approached and began yelling over us about how the RCP supposedly supports the Democrats, distorting the very powerful and important work the Party spearheaded in leading people to try to drive out the Bush regime years ago. At first some of our crew responded by drowning him out and telling students he had nothing to do with real revolution. But they didn’t give a lot of substance and you could see many of the same students who had been getting drawn in starting to withdraw. It wasn’t clear to anyone yet what the political differences were and why they mattered and it can be profoundly demoralizing to new people when they see those who claim to be standing up for the people arguing with each other over what appears to be petty rivalries or egos.
Here it is important to note that opportunists and revisionists don’t really have to win the argument, they just have to succeed in turning people off from the real revolution. And, at a time when most people are not into revolution and have a lot of spontaneous aversion to the idea of leadership and especially individual leaders, these opportunists and revisionists have a lot of spontaneity going for them in getting people to tune out from the real revolution.
However, reality is what it is—the world truly is a horror and it is not due to human nature, it is due to the nature of the system and we have the revolutionary leadership and strategy to fight our way out of this and to emancipate all humanity and this is in the interests of the vast majority of humanity. Revolution really is in people’s interests, revisionism is not. In light of this, we quickly changed approaches and decided to let the guy run out some of what he had to say so the students could hear it and then hear our response to it.
He ran out a bunch of lies about the RCP supposedly having supported the Democrats and fostered illusions about elections and this system, he went into a spiel about how everyone needs to support the struggle of the working class, and then he insisted that students find out about “real Marxism.” After he had finished, we reset the terms by first noting that the one thing this guy never talked about, and the one thing that “real Marxism” is actually all about, is actual revolution. We described what a real revolution is and why one is needed—going back to the “three strikes” of this system as just one example of why we need a real revolution (slavery, Jim Crow and the new Jim Crow)—and how Trayvon Martin is one more example of this. This is why we need a real revolution and this is what the RCP and its leader Bob Avakian has forged the strategy and vision of and is actively leading people to prepare for and hasten right now. People standing up today around Trayvon as part of fighting the power and transforming the people for revolution and on the 16th people need to get into this revolution in its greatest substance and content at the premiere of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! We noted that a lot of what the guy had said about the RCP supporting the Democrats was just bullshit and lies, but also that they need to learn the real deal about the elections and why they are a trap and what it takes to bring about real and meaningful change and this is another dimension of what they will get from the film, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Repeatedly we underscored that only BA and this Party, and the Revolution Clubs acting to strengthen the movement for revolution led by this Party, have answers to how we get out of this and there is nothing more important that any of them could be learning about and contributing to than that.
This approach of actually opening up the debate, but refusing to respond on the petty and narrow terms of the opportunist, did begin to draw the students back in and was opening up bigger questions for them. Unfortunately, at this point campus security showed up in force, surrounded us and threatened to arrest us for daring to be on campus.
We had a big day before us and only 17 days till the film premiere, so we felt it wasn’t right to risk arrest. But, we also weren’t in a huge hurry to leave. As we were surrounded we led the students who had gathered in a mic-check about how they have a right and the responsibility to have these questions engaged on their campus and how they need to step in and be part of the fight to put a stop to the outrageous genocide being waged against our youth and to get into the source of this problem and its solution through revolution. We had a call and response about the importance of fighting for no more Trayvon Martins and for coming out on March 16 to hear BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! We didn’t leave before getting a way to stay connected to many of the students who had been drawn in by this point.
Leaving, we were very dissatisfied. There is a lot to sum up about the potential that was revealed and how to draw on this to transform the situation so that hundreds of students on that campus are actively thinking about and debating this revolution and dozens are beginning to get actively involved in real ways (which there is clearly the potential for right now).
Once we were outside the building, a couple of us heard a bunch of laughter and cheering going on somewhere out of sight. We followed the noise and discovered that there was a group of about 25 students, many of them part of a fraternity, gathered on the platform beneath the campus flagpole. They were dressed up in all sorts of ridiculous masks and costumes and one person was set up a distance from them with a camera. Turns out they were recording a YouTube of the “Harlem Shake” (for those who don’t know, this is something of a dance/joke that has gone viral on YouTube with many different people making their own videos).
I ran up and announced that it was the anniversary of Trayvon’s murder and showed them that I had about thirty signs with Trayvon’s face and asked them to all hold one and take a picture. With almost no debate, they grabbed for the posters. For a second they were going to do the “shake” with the posters, then one of them said, “Wait, the shake is really a joke and Trayvon is very serious,” so they decided to stop dancing and just hold the posters for a minute. After the picture had been taken, they gave the posters back, thanked us, and resumed their hilarity.
The story is worth telling because a big and ongoing struggle we have been having is whether it is sufficient to sort of throw out our revolutionary line and wait to see who it attracts, or whether we have to go out and fight for and put it in people’s faces and create a situation where they have to decide where they stand in relationship to it. While this was not the deepest engagement or even the most advanced expression of fighting the power, it is significant in what it revealed and what it gave expression to when we stepped to people with confidence and certitude and led them to take a stand right there on the spot.
By the time we all regrouped, quite a few more revolutionaries had joined us and we had a pretty big crew. It was essential that we took a few minutes to sum up our experience and to wrestle with how we were going to do better in our next round at the high school. This included going further into both what our message needed to be and how we would represent as more than just a bunch of individuals doing good political work with other individuals all in the same area, but instead as a real critical mass and social force for revolution.
It was brief, but there was some struggle over whether we should mainly unfold what we are doing through the particularity of Trayvon’s case and how to win justice for Trayvon, or whether we would come from what Trayvon’s case concentrates about this system and why we need Revolution and Nothing Less and the full mission of the Revolution Club.
One person argued that we should step to the youth by arguing that if it hadn’t been for the massive protest that George Zimmerman never would have been arrested and if we don’t stay in the streets around this George Zimmerman would almost certainly walk free. This was objectively different than what the leader of the Revolution Club had been arguing; that we not be confined within the terms of the struggle around Trayvon and then “add on” revolution, but instead how we need to step from what the case of Trayvon reveals about the fundamental nature of this system and how we need to fight around as part of building up the strength to put an end to this madness through revolution and for the same reason people need to be getting deeply into the revolutionary leadership and the answers provided for how we end all this for good by Bob Avakian in the film, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
We also wrestled with how to make the greatest impact with the numbers we had. This included our visual impact (pinning signs and slogans on all of us so we were clearly part of a collective force) as well as some division of labor (some agitating, some with the DVD set up to show clips of BA, some with the newspaper and all of us responding to and acting together when led to by myself or the Club leader).
Then we set up in a park that a lot of students come through after they get out of school. As soon as school let out, we began agitating and holding up our signs of Trayvon and many students took a very serious interest. A few stopped for a minute, but most gave their approval and kept streaming by us. One member of the Club said, “We have to start marching,” and so we took off marching in the same direction as the flow of students and many of them began chanting with us. Still, when we got to the other end of the park, these students kept going and we were back to our same crew.
At this point it was very decisive that we had talked through actually acting as a collective force and not just a bunch of individuals like we often do. A couple of people set up with the sound-system on a ledge and began agitating as students continued to stream by. Not far from them was a crowd of students hanging out and goofing off and not in a hurry to go somewhere. These students could hear the agitation, but they were clearly on the “outside” and would have to decide to leave their friends to join in the rally. We quickly pulled the agitators off the ledge and brought them over to this crowd of students. Applying the lessons from the experience of the Harlem Shake crowd, we went right up to this group of students and fought for them to take up the fight around Trayvon and the need for revolution.
This, in combination with the kind of agitation and orientation we had struggled over, had an immediate effect. All these students knew about Trayvon and once we began speaking passionately and substantively about this case—and as we gave them signs and a way to take this up on the spot—almost all of them joined in. Still, as we agitated they were sort of “in and out” in their attention and we were struggling keep their attention. One of them started yelling, “When I say Trayvon, you say Martin. Trayvon!” and his friends responded, “Martin!” We recognized that this was giving people a way to take part and picked up on this chant with him. This gave further shape to the crowd as people saw their friends joining in and also saw a way to do the same. A few of the young guys put their arms around each other and started marching around in a circle. A few young women started yelling out things like, “Stop treating us different because we are Black! We have rights!” Other students who were still streaming by took a more active interest.
Still, the students with us were “in and out” in terms of their attention and even some of them were wandering away. I took the bullhorn and spoke very briefly to the stakes of this case, but even more this time I spoke to how righteous it was for these students to take up these chants and to take up this case. I called on them to speak about why they were doing this. I went to a young Latina who had been yelling and invited/encouraged/challenged her to tell people why this mattered to her.
She took the microphone and began telling the story of how her cousin was killed by police. All her friends got really quiet and listened intently as she described how he was accused of having a gun but really it was an inhaler, how he left behind a wife and twin babies he never met, and how they still have never seen justice in his case. After she was done, we upheld how courageous and important it was for her to have taken the mic and we called on her peers to show her some love. They did this and you could see how the group dynamic was changing further. Others who had been resisting the idea of speaking when I first posed it were starting to get the sense that it would be something that their peers would uphold and see as righteous and so then a young Black man stepped forward with less hesitation.
He spoke about how he knows a lot of people who have been mistreated by the police. He said, “I don’t want to stereotype, but I don’t think the government likes Black people.” He described being followed going into stores and treated like he must be up to no good. He also spoke about how the government kills people like Martin Luther King and Gandhi, even though they are non-violent. One of the most important things that he did, though, was to challenge some of the other students who were leaving, calling them out by name and telling them to get serious. Perhaps he would have done this anyway, but my sense is that he was much bolder about this precisely because we had established a dynamic where the youth were reinforcing each other for stepping out and speaking and joining in.
While he was speaking, a group from another school came over to see what was happening. They yelled some things out about discrimination but looked like they were going to keep walking. An older revolutionary challenged them that they had to join in. It took a lot of struggle. Finally, one of them spoke about how Latinas are stereotyped and treated like they are just stupid and catty and that is not true.
As important as all this was, it still had the dynamic of sort of a rolling group of people stepping into something the revolutionaries were doing. We had to do something that would take all this somewhere—it was time to march!
We called on the youth to take this anger into the streets and wake other people up. It was a fight—and far from everyone who was gathered decided to join in—but some of the youth took off with us chanting loudly back and forth as we went, “When I say ‘Trayvon,’ you say ‘Martin,’” and, “When I say ‘revolution,’ you say ‘nothing less.’”
Off we went on one of the most defiant and joyous marches I can remember. A group of young women were up in the front literally jumping up and down screaming out the chants and waving their arms around. Before long, they took over leading the chants and were playing with the tempo of calling out Trayvon’s name. This freed many of us up to run along the sides and call on others to join in. A good number did. And everyone stopped and stared and cracked open a big smile. The energy of these youth was infectious—both their rage and their joy.
About half way down the first block, one of them who had been joining in the response part of the chant ran up and took the microphone. She wanted the other chant and began yelling, “When I say revolution, you say nothing less!”
By the time we were on the second block, passing and gathering the attention of many basic masses along the way, another young woman took the mic and began singing the chants with an extraordinary voice filled with passion, hurt, and defiance. The feel of the whole thing, as the youth were more unleashed and creative in taking the lead, as they absorbed and were buoyed by the responses they were getting, and as we were agitating along the sides and sometimes with all of them, was transforming and the march was becoming a real political force.
We stopped after a couple blocks on the corner of a major hospital and held a rally and speakout. New people had joined in during the march and quite a few people from the hospital and the street were drawn in. The revolutionaries took turns with the youth. We’d get into what the whole case of Trayvon concentrates, the need for revolution, the tremendous importance of the upcoming premiere on March 16 and the righteousness of people standing up to fight the power today and transform the people for revolution. The youth would speak bitterness about their own lives, give expression to their dream of seeing a world where people are treated all the same, and tell people how good it felt to be part of standing up. In between different speakers, the woman with the incredible voice would sing and lift up everyone’s spirits and fill people with pride.
A Black woman in a wheelchair who was coming out of the hospital was among those who gathered to listen. I could tell as I watched her responding to the youth that she had something to share so we brought the microphone over to her. She spoke with tremendous anger about the case of Trayvon and explained how she is afraid for the life of her own son, how this fear drove her to send her son out of NYC so that he is less likely to get caught up in the kind of trouble that could steal his life. She spoke of remembering Emmett Till (we had been agitating about his case and how little has changed and how this shows the need to not only fight but to WIN this time, to make REAL REVOLUTION) and agreed that nothing had fundamentally changed and she hoped it was true that we could end this.
A middle-aged Black man who was holding a three year old son took the mic next. His comments were brief, just explaining that he has seen too much racism in his life and didn’t want his son to have to live through all that too. Everyone melted when his son started babbling something about his dad into the microphone as his father spoke.
Here on the corner, we went even further in talking about what the case of Trayvon concentrates and why we need revolution, how we are out there as part of a strategy to fight the power and transform the people for revolution, to organize the thousands who will influence millions and be trained to lead millions to make revolution when there is the emergence of an all-out revolutionary crisis and how we have the leadership and vision to take this all the way and establish a whole better society leading to a communist world. We challenged people to get serious about being part of this, that there is nothing more important than getting into these answers and engaging this leadership. We talked about BA and had people do a call and response about the date and the title of the upcoming film premiere.
Before leaving we sold a bunch of newspapers and got a lot of contact info (including not only from the woman in the wheelchair but also her young Black male attendant and many others).
We thought we were done and so I called the students together and told them they have to get into the Revolution Club. One of them yelled back, “I am IN the revolution club!” I said that was righteous and that she should see that through as well as the rest of them and introduced them more formally to Noche Diaz, explaining a little about his case (he is facing 4½ years for non-violently observing and protesting police brutality) and then Noche told them more about the club. They all signed up. But they weren’t done. They wanted to march some more.
So, we all took off again and repeated the same march back to their school. This time they led all the chants up until about half way back. Then one of them grabbed the mic and brought it back over to us and said, “I think you should tell everyone why we are here.” They recognized the need for some things to be gotten into for those we were passing that they couldn’t yet break down.
When we got back to our starting point, the young women wanted to speak out one more time. But this time a group of guys started approaching them on an entirely different basis, asking things like, “Do you have a boyfriend?” or, “Hey you look good.” This threw them off from what they were saying and a young guy from the Club stepped up and did some agitation about how woman are human beings and our comrades in the struggle for a better world, not objects to look at. He spoke powerfully about how a cornerstone of this revolution is the full liberation of women and how we are against catcalling and objectifying and abusing women. This opened up a whole new and final round to our rally as a couple of these young women picked up on what he had said, saying, “I am not just something to look at, I am a human being and a freedom fighter.”
Finally, we pulled people together one last time. It was noteworthy that as this march and rolling speakout went on, not only did this crew get forged into a collective force, they also got more seriously interested in the bigger ideas that we revolutionaries were putting forward. They had sort of listened in the beginning as we broke down what real revolution was and where all this needed to go, but by the end they were asking questions about revolution and discussing seriously what it would mean to be part of the Revolution Club and the importance of attending BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
They suggested that we come into their school and we made plans to work to do that. But we also made a point of going into what is said in, “BA: A Contended Question.” We explained how BA concentrates the most radical remaking of this world and because of this many people love him and some people hate him, precisely because of what he concentrates. We told them they should take this to their progressive teachers and there is a very good chance this will go well and we would love to come in. But, they shouldn’t be thrown off if some of them are not so favorable or even if some of them say things like, “It is good to be concerned about these issues, but don’t get into BA or get with those people.” We reiterated that there is nothing more important than the questions BA is answering and they needed to get into them for themselves and if they run into anything that they can’t answer, new questions, positive responses and negative responses, they need to come back and get into them with us because this is what humanity needs from us all.
When they finally left, we had a brief summation. A lot of what we summed up are things that have infused the way I have recounted this—the decisiveness of us going straight up to the youth and creating situation where they had to delineate themselves in relation to the revolutionary pole we were planting (as opposed to just doing our thing near them and hoping they came over), the effect the youth had on each other—and on all the others in the area—as they stepped into this, the beauty and creativity that poured out of them as they stepped into this in their own ways, and the way that they got more serious about the bigger questions we had been posing about revolution as the day we fought things through both in leading them to fight the power and in continuing to fight for them to lift their heads to these bigger questions.
There is one particular exchange from this summation that I really want to highlight though. Towards the end, one of the Club members spoke with great appreciation for the determination and spirit of especially the young women in taking the lead throughout this afternoon, for their singing and their stories, for their determination and their seriousness. He capped it off by saying, “I just have one word to sum up this experience: unleashing!”
While there certainly was a lot of unleashing that had gone on, and while it was clear that there was no replacing the irrepressibility and infectiousness of the energy and spirit of those youth, it was actually not correct to boil the experience down to “unleashing.” Really, it is correct to describe the afternoon as a process involving two words: leading and unleashing. And there is a dialectical relationship between those two elements. I spoke about—and I recommend to all reading—the section of Grasp Revolution, Promote Production—Questions of Outlook and Method, Some Points of the New Situation by Bob Avakian where he deals directly with the dialectical relationship between leading and unleashing. Really, you cannot do one without the other—just like there is a dialectical relationship between leading and learning. Both those dialectics were involved in the advances we wrenched out of the afternoon—and both of those dialectics will be essential to taking all of this somewhere (actually organizing people into the revolution and continuing to plant the pole more broadly, as opposed to letting this be just a “good thing we did once” and letting all the people and momentum wash away).
It seemed people quickly recognized that this was true. One person who had been quiet up until then made the poignant comment, “Yeah, those women who led all this, I saw them right before that tell [one of our comrades], ‘No, I am not going to do that.’” These young women who were so unleashed were the same young women who only minutes before were thinking that they couldn’t and shouldn’t and didn’t want to be any part of this revolution. Transforming that and unleashing what was suppressed within them took leadership! These dialectics, between leading and unleashing and between leading and learning, were very much at play throughout the day and need to be much more consciously recognized and applied to everything we are doing. If we think we are leading just because we are saying the “right things” off to the side and not fighting to really unleash the revolutionary potential that is suppressed within people, we are going to leave the masses on the sidelines. Similarly, if we see only the initiative and positive qualities of the youth when they step out and fail to recognize how decisive our leadership is in uncorking that—and how essential it will be to not only continue that in the streets but to accumulate forces for revolution—we will allow this (and other) advance(s) to dissipate and once again leave the masses on the sidelines and leave the world fundamentally unchanged.
Next we rolled down to Union Square where a rally had been called by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network for 4 pm and where Trayvon Martin’s parents had announced they would be at 6 pm. Word of this gathering had been getting out all day on NPR and 1010 WINS radio as well as, presumably, other places so we were determined to make our collective presence felt and to plant a very powerful pole around Revolution—Nothing Less.
When we arrived there were already a hundred or so people gathered. But they were milling about and nothing organized was yet happening. Off to my left I could see one of the young revolutionaries getting into conversation with someone and quickly drawing a small knot of people in who were listening. Off to my right I could see the same thing happening with another young revolutionary. The scene was tense and people were eager for leadership, but our crew was once again acting more as a bunch of revolutionary individuals all doing “good things” but not amounting to what was actually possible or needed.
Myself and the leader of the Revolution Club called people together but people took their time, finishing up their conversations and getting drawn into other things. Figuring that it was wrong to let these important, but dispersed, interactions set the limits for what we were doing and figuring that once we started something different the rest of the Club would catch on, we stepped out and did a mic check. Immediately the rest of the Club came together and amplified this and a crowd began forming. First it was about twenty, then forty and soon there were at least a hundred people crowded in around us repeating what we were saying.
We again agitated about what this case of Trayvon means — all that it concentrates about this system and why we need real revolution, we got into our strategy of fighting the power and transforming the people for revolution, how fighting today fits into this, why it is righteous that people came out but also why people have to go further, to get to the Magic Johnson theater on March 16 for BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! to dig into the biggest questions of our time and the answers provided by BA as to how we can not only fight but actually win so that a generation from now people are not still mourning the murder of Black youth, the raping of women, the bombing of people around the world, the destruction of the environment (if we make it that long, given how this system is burning up the planet), and why people need to get into the Revolution Club and join us in taking to the streets after the vigil with the parents.
Different members of the Revolution Club took turns agitating and the crowd drew bigger and bigger. Soon, we had to give them some direction to disperse and regroup on the edge of the steps so that the speakers could be up above and the crowd could be below so that everyone could see and hear. The crowd was won to this very quickly and soon we regrouped the whole affair in such a way that we could easily speak to and be seen by hundreds of people who had gathered.
People were hungry for leadership—for the kind of penetrating indictment we were making of this system, for some concrete form and expression to the otherwise atomized individuals that had shown up, for the ideological challenge we repeatedly made to people about the need for them to confront and follow through on what the real implications of Trayvon’s case are. It was uneven in our agitation, but what came through as a whole was not merely letting people know that we are revolutionaries and that we are into BA and a hope that this would turn them on. We put forward the challenge to them that even if communist revolution sounds extreme, the extreme of the actual genocide going on right now demands that they engage it with an open mind and a sincere heart. We upheld the righteousness of how much oppressed people and others have fought for liberation for generations, including the generation that stood up around Emmett Till—but that this generation needs to be the generation that goes all the way and ends this, nothing less is acceptable and that BA has summed up the lessons of how not only to fight but to win, and not just win in the sense of defeating and dismantling the armed repression of this state (its courts, military, prisons, police forces, etc.) when a revolutionary situation emerges in the future, but also wins in the sense of brings into being a revolutionary state power that is uprooting all this exploitation and oppression and transitioning to a whole better genuinely communist world free of all forms of exploitation and oppression. Everyone here, we said, has a responsibility to seriously get into this. There is nothing more important and while it is absolutely essential that people came out to fight on this day, we have to get serious about going all the way or we are betraying the very things that moved us to be in the streets. I could see the faces of people in the crowd as they were nodding and taking this very seriously. We led people to again repeat the date and the title of the film premiere, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! And we got into why it was important that we not go home, but instead march into the night, after the parents of Trayvon held their vigil. We held a rally in this way for probably 45 minutes, including welcoming up others to speak bitterness about their own experiences of police abuse.
During this time, people were setting up nearby for where the parents were going to show up and that rally began to take shape. We broke up the rally we were holding and all went over and joined in. As we did this, people from the crowd came up to us to thank us for what we had done and to sign up with the Revolution Club.
During the official vigil, some of the lawyers and others put forward a very different message than we had been. Some claimed that the murder of Trayvon had nothing to do with the color of his skin. Others recognized that this was about his race but claimed that America is the greatest nation on earth and has been being healed by the response to Trayvon’s killing. Trayvon’s parents spoke passionately about their love for their son and the tremendous pain of losing him as well as the strength they feel that so many are out to remember him. At 7:17, the moment of Trayvon’s murder, people lit candles for him and then his mother led them in all blowing them out at the same moment. There was a prayer that cried out to a non-existent god and claimed that Trayvon was in a better place. Jamie Fox spoke from the heart about being the father of a 17-year-old and having to confront the pain of what it would mean if she had been the one taken and expressed a lot of love and support for Trayvon’s parents.
All of this was very tightly organized and controlled and when the candles were blown out they all very quickly left.
Once again, there was a situation where things could have just dispersed and wound down for the night. We were determined that wouldn’t happen.
Immediately we began a mic check again and dozens of people joined in and the whole park could hear us. We upheld the courage and determination of the parents to be out here in the streets and of everyone else for being out too, but we went immediately and directly at the lie of the U.S. being the greatest country in the world. “No it is NOT!” we yelled, and many joined us in response. We talked about slavery and Jim Crow and the New Jim Crow, we talked about the drones and the wars, the rape and violence against women. We called out again the need for Revolution—Nothing Less and got the crowd chanting that in a call and response. Then we called on people to join us in taking to the streets.
We chanted and marched and a sizeable section of the crowd came with us. Two of the chants they particularly liked were, “The whole damn system is guilty! The whole damn system is guilty!” and, “I sag my pants, I rock my hoodie. NYPD keep your hands off me!”
Once again, it was striking that a number of young women stepped to the front and were jumping up and down screaming at the tops of their lungs. Tons of cops lined this march as we set off through the Village in the night, clearly nervous about the energy of the crowd and the receptivity of those we were passing. Others joined in and the march was loud as fuck.
At a certain point I went through the crowd and asked people, “Have you gotten connected to the Revolution yet?” I held out a clipboard and have never had such eager response among a march of people to want to stay connected with this revolution and who were so clear that we were talking about communist revolution and the leadership of BA. It was not at all that most of them knew who BA is or had a strong favorable opinion about communism, but it was clear to them that this is what we were about and they were very attracted to what they understood about this and the ideological challenge that they get into it as well as the expression that their anger was being led to take in this defiant march.
I don’t have it in me to write with as much detail the whole dynamics of this march as I did about the one in the afternoon (and you probably don’t have it in you to read about it in that much detail), but as we went some new people joined and some people dwindled. But a core stayed with it the whole way and was angry and joyous and very attracted to what the Club had been putting out. By the time we decided to wrap up, we gathered for one last mic-check and speakout on a corner. We told them again about the revolution, about the premiere and had everyone chant the date and title and then we invited them to join us in a near-by fast food restaurant.
A core of young people who had been with us all evening came with us. We spent the next hour and a half getting into a rip-roaring discussion, learning what had drawn them out to the protest and what had further attracted them to the revolution, debating questions of whether Cuba was a revolutionary model (it is not), what real socialism is and why that matters to be grappling with that now, questions of human nature, questions of strategy for revolution, whether we need “horizontalism” or a communist vanguard to make revolution and various other controversies coming off of Occupy, why the previous revolutions were defeated (and why they didn’t fail) but also why humanity needs the new synthesis of BA, the importance of people attending and helping build for the premiere, and much more. As all this was going on, others from the fast food joint got drawn in.
This kicked off a whole new round when two young men, one Black and one Latino, argued in favor of stop-and-frisk as the only reason people like them and others they grew up with aren’t carrying guns more often and killing more people. We got into a very deep debate where we read BA’s quote, “On Choices... and Radical Changes,” and into what it is really going to take to get the youth out of killing each other and how the only answer is making revolution and drawing them into making this revolution. Blaming them for their bad choices only reinforces their oppression. These guys were indignant of the idea that these youth aren’t responsible for the bad choices they make, but as we went deeper—especially utilizing that quote from BA and breaking it down and making them respond to it—they didn’t get won over but they continually had to admit that the larger critique we were making of the system and the context for these youth’s choices was true.
After a lot of wild struggle over this, we queued up the section of the Revolution Talk where BA gets into the example of the prisons in California and the Corcoran SHU. New people from other tables gathered in to watch and everyone laughed and got into the agitation BA did about how the youth aren’t “regulating shit” on the corners, while understanding why they get into it also struggling with them to see the bigger picture and to be about fighting for the emancipation of all humanity.
One young woman who comes from a background where the youth are into that kind of life and who is part of the initiative to End Porn and Patriarchy, has been interested in watching this DVD with me but we keep postponing due to various scheduling conflicts. This was her first time seeing a clip, and her first time meeting the Revolution Club. She commented that BA was hilarious and she was now even more interested in watching more. Others in the restaurant gave their contact info to us. The two friends who were still defending stop-and-frisk said they found BA very serious and were definitely going to be at the premiere in Harlem. And a bunch of the folks from the march made plans to join us at Revolution Books on Thursday when we are getting into the section of Michael Slate’s interview with BA on, “Is it crazy to think you could make revolution?”
We cannot take for granted that any of this will happen if we do not continue to lead this process, but all of this opened up and revealed and began to transform the tremendous potential that exists for people to relate to and get active with even as they are learning more about this revolutionary line if we take it out as what it actually is.
I wasn’t able to stick around to be part of the Revolution Club’s summation of the day or to be part of their planning for what comes next. Nor am I able to sit down with all of you who are reading this and fighting to be part of applying the RCP’s strategy for making revolution, including right now by actively and aggressively building for the upcoming premieres of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
But it is absolutely critical that we do not underestimate the tremendous potential and hunger for real revolution that exists when we go out with it as what it is and when we actively apply our strategy for revolution, including fighting the power and transforming the people for revolution, lifting people’s sights to see what is at stake and what is actually possible, challenging people ideologically on their responsibility to act in relation to all this and to dig in deeper, and when we give people meaningful ways to begin doing that on the spot.
None of what I describe in this one exciting day is “the formula” of how we should do our work. There were ways that openings presented themselves yesterday that are different than what we will encounter the next time we go out. But the potential of yesterday would never have been revealed if we had not acted on it in a living way—rooted on our firm understanding of the need for Revolution and Nothing Less but also fighting at every point to identify both the obstacles that needed to be taken on and the potential pathways that were being revealed. I also in no way think that what we accomplished yesterday sets the limit for what potentially could have been accomplished—or for what we should be aiming for as we go forward.
Also, there are big obstacles in our path to making this revolution that we have to collectively wrestle with as scientists, rooted in and applying our strategy and on that foundation thinking critically and creatively about how to solve problems. We have to make breakthroughs on the campuses and even as much potential has been revealed we have not yet forged a dynamic where that potential is being tapped and transformed into a growing pole and force. We have to make breakthroughs in actually bringing new people into the movement for revolution—into the Revolution Club and into other forms of organization where people are both part of changing the world and themselves, including right now especially getting into BA and building for the premieres and seeing the difference these can make in society and in their own commitment to follow through on their concerns for humanity.
One of the biggest lessons of the day, and one which had to be fought for repeatedly and which remains very important to continue to fight for, is the need for us to really pull together as communists and as scientists to identify, wrestle with, and solve the problems of making this revolution. This requires wrestling not simply in a formalistic way with “what should we do” or “what should we say,” but with what are we learning as we apply our line and as we probe reality with our line, what are we transforming, what is being revealed and what do we make of it, and how do we take all of this further—involving PEOPLE every step along the way—to build this movement for revolution.
In short, the “seventh chapter” really isn’t a chapter. It is a challenge. And it is one that is on all of us and requires all of us. Success in these premieres could change a tremendous amount—in the terrain and in the organized strength and influence of this revolution—at a time when the world really is crying out for revolution and the new synthesis of communism. Whether you are brand new or been at this for a long time, let’s pull together with all our science, our passion, our collectivity and our determination to really make every single one of the next 16 days count.
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
Revolution #296 February 24, 2013
February 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I think it would be very good to develop some tags—short sharp formulations that go along with some of our promotional materials—that convey clearing one day to come together with others in theaters around the country to engage the most pressing questions of our time as spoken to by the leader who has made possible a whole new world.
Maybe the wording could be sharper, but what I am trying to get at is two dimensions we need to more project as very positive and part of what we are doing with this premiere. Both dimensions of this have to do with how this premiere is more than just something for your own education or edification. First, that it is a happening—an event around the country that will constitute a coming together to engage and get into this revolution and give the sense that this is part of going somewhere (even as people will be at different levels in wanting to attend and will relate to this in a variety of ways). The second dimension is the “Clear the day” part—actually making clear that this is not just a film, this is a day spent together with others experiencing the leadership of BA. The 6+ hours is a reflection of seriousness and I think we have to make this a much more positive part of what we are projecting—or else we won’t get people on the right basis (the possibility of people leaving after an hour or two and the possibility of people actually not realizing until the day before or week before that it is an all day commitment and having real-world conflicts that they could have prepared for if they had really been clear on what this entails). I really feel that the thing of “clear the day to join with others nationwide to hear from the leader of the revolution, because the world does not have to be this way” or something else that captures this, would be important.