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Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
On the Murder of Trayvon Martin and the Outrageous Acquittal of His Killer:
Updated July 20, 2013 8 am | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The whole country was rocked—and is rocking—over the outrageous acquittal of George Zimmerman. This must be a watershed moment. This must become the day that people look back on and say, “that’s when people began to see that you couldn’t reform this shit, and a whole different way—a revolution—was needed.” But that will take STRUGGLE—struggle in the streets that must not be allowed to die down...and struggle against ways of thinking that will take us right back into the arms of the forces that have been carrying out crime after crime after crime... for hundreds of years.
Right now download and print the materials from revcom.us and take them out. Go to the demonstrations that may be called in your city, whoever calls them, and bring this message. Go to where people gather and bring this message. If you can get a few people together to do this with you, all the better. And if a few people turn into 20 gathered round listening and speaking their own bitterness, take that 20 and march to where there are other people, bring this message, and keep this thing going.
Get copies of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, copies of Revolution #144, "The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need," the new 3 Strikes poster, palm cards with BAsics quote 1:13. Grab bundles of the current issue of Revolution. This newspaper can be—and needs to be—all over the place. Popularize revcom.us. Agitate, speak out. Go to showings of Fruitvale Station, to laundromats, everywhere people gather. It is not time to go back to normal.
In thousands of ways, and from many different angles, people on the bottom and people of all strata and nationalities are being told to accept this verdict—or to rely on the very system of justice that rendered George Zimmerman not guilty to make fundamental changes. People are being told that the only solution to a basic and foundational problem in this society is to once again turn for redress and justice to the very system that has produced and validated such atrocities. NO! What needs to happen now is for the struggle to continue and advance. Society needs to roil with debate and anger. The new cracks in the cement that glues this society together need to be widened and deepened. The determined fury of people needs to bust through again and again. Thousands are rightly questioning what America is really all about. By standing up and challenging all the ways people have been taught to think about this, people can and must become ever more consciously part of the movement for revolution that is being built right now in this society.
But first, let’s tell the truth about what this system has meant for Black people in this country...from its beginnings down to today. Let’s actually look squarely at what was revealed in the trial of George Zimmerman.
Put it this way—58 years ago a Black teenager named Emmett Till was murdered in Mississippi by some white men who decided he had “acted wrong,” and those white men were acquitted. Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie Till, said “NO MORE” and the uproar that she stoked was one big beginning factor that led millions of people to stand up and over the next two decades rock this country to its foundation. People needed revolution, and many fought for revolution, and many of those heroically laid down their lives—but we got reforms. Now, after all those reforms... after all the promises... after all the excuses... after all the Black faces in high places including even a Black president... a Black teenager named Trayvon Martin is murdered by a white man who decided he was “acting wrong,” and he too is acquitted.
It’s important that we keep fully getting into what actually happened here. It’s important that we learn everything we can about what kind of society this really is and how it operates. It’s important that we not “move on,” and talk about “reforms” and “conversations” and blah blah before we actually deeply get into this and learn what we need to learn.
George Zimmerman decided that Trayvon Martin, a Black teenager walking home at 7:15 at night, looked “suspicious.” He called 911 and without ever meeting or talking to Trayvon Martin, cursed him out as “a punk” and a “fucking asshole.” He said “they always get away”—and everybody knows, unless they consciously don’t want to know, that George Zimmerman was using “they” to mean “Black people.” He got out of his car to stalk Trayvon Martin, despite orders from 911 not to. And then, a few minutes later, George Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin with a bullet to the heart.
Stop right there. What does this tell you? It tells you that George Zimmerman had been taught by America to think that every Black person is guilty until proven innocent, a threat, a “problem”... and that every white person has the right to question, judge and hunt down any Black person who rubs him the wrong way. Ask yourself: how did George Zimmerman learn this? Ask yourself: how many times a day do these same vicious assumptions poison social interactions in schools, stores, the streets, workplaces, and—most deadly of all—with the police or wannabe pigs like Zimmerman? Ask yourself: does this have anything to do with how America was built and how it achieved and maintained its vaunted wealth, and the traditions it passed on to justify all that and to reinforce the new forms in which it goes on?
Then there’s the police. When the police arrived they tested the victim for drugs and let the killer—George Zimmerman—go home, that very night. Ask yourself: is this somehow unusual for the police to do? No, this is so accepted—and so integral to this system—that this didn’t even get brought up at the trial! This is how the police are trained, in every city of the country—in any conflict between a Black person and someone who is white, the white person is assumed to be in the right, even if the white person had murdered someone in their own neighborhood with only the flimsiest of stories to justify it. All a white person has to do is to say that the Black person “looked suspicious” and the pigs are right there with him.
What if the roles had been reversed? What if somehow Trayvon Martin fearing for his life had wrestled Zimmerman's gun away and in defending himself had shot Zimmerman? What do you think would have happened? If Trayvon Martin had not been immediately gunned down by the police, which is by far the most likely thing, he would have been sent to prison for a long long time. And in prison he would have joined hundreds of thousands of other Black and Latino youth who have been shipped off to America’s prison system—the biggest, and most discriminatory, in the whole world by far. Ask yourself: if this is the greatest country in the world... if America used to “discriminate” (a word which itself cleans up and covers over a history of kidnapping, rape, enslavement, lynching, humiliation and violence at every turn) but now is supposedly “post-racial” or at least “improving”—how do you account for the explosive growth of America’s prison system (ten times as many prisoners today as 50 years ago), with over half of those prisoners either Black or Latino in a country that is majority white?
It took a massive national movement to even force a trial of Zimmerman. Then what happened? First the media began to work to plant doubts and uncertainty—maybe Trayvon Martin had been doing something wrong, maybe he was a “bad kid,” and on and on and on. How many times did anyone in the mass media bring out the basic points made above about the history and present-day reality of this country? Ask yourself: WHY does the media work so hard to shape people’s thinking and WHY is it always in the direction of justifying what this system does or is planning to do?
Then it came to trial. First the judge made a number of outrageous rulings. First, Zimmerman’s lawyers invoked the Batson rule—which was originally designed to prevent prosecutors from engaging in a strategy dismissing almost all Black jurors without cause and was a rule that people had to fight tooth and nail for. The judge ruled in the defense’s favor—and ruled against the prosecution’s dismissing WHITE people who they felt were prejudiced in favor of Zimmerman. So a rule designed to prevent all-white juries was used to justify... an almost all-white jury! Then the judge said that the prosecution could use the word “profiling” but not RACIAL profiling. In other words you could say Zimmerman was profiling—but you could NOT say that it was because of race. These rulings meant two things: that the jury would be mainly white; and that they would not be challenged in their assumptions and thinking about race. This meant that even if some of the jurors said, “hey, this is clearly a case of murder”—which apparently some did—the other jurors would be sitting there with all the power of hundreds of years of white supremacist, racist thinking that every white person is taught, and they would use that and hammer down those who somehow saw the truth of the matter. This rigged things right from the beginning. What does that tell you about “equal justice before the law”? What does that tell you about how not just George Zimmerman, but the vast majority of whites are trained to view Black people? Here is an example of how “color-blindness” in a society riven by the pervasive, all-round oppression of people due to their skin color works to perpetuate that oppression.
Those decisions alone were probably enough to determine the verdict. But they still weren’t done. Rachel Jeantel—a young Black woman whom Trayvon had reached out to befriend—came on the stand to talk about the trauma of being on the phone as her friend Trayvon told her how he was being followed... and how his voice was suddenly cut off after hearing him shout “Get off, get off.” Rachel Jeantel was then hounded by Zimmerman’s attorney and, almost worse, was made into a target of media scorn and venom. The chorus—which again used all the “polite” but utterly racist code words—was as deafening as it was dehumanizing and disgusting. The level of personal attack focused on how she dressed, how she spoke, and all the rest... the snide sneering of the racist was broadcast from every television in the country. Zimmerman’s lawyers and the media snake-mouths tried to destroy her and when she maintained her certitude and her dignity and then showed defiance of this baiting—and to her great credit, she did—they went after her even more viciously. Make no mistake—this was done both to hammer the jury into the “right verdict” and to prepare public opinion for it AND TO REINFORCE ALL THE RACIST SHIT IN WHITE PEOPLE’S THINKING AND ALL THE DEFENSIVE OBSESSION WITH RESPECTABILITY IN SOME BLACK PEOPLE’S THINKING... while setting up this teenager to take the blame.
But then came the pigs! See how smoothly they backed up George Zimmerman. See how they skimmed over the blatant inconsistencies from one version of his story to another. See how the prosecutors refused to ask them about their egregious bias and intentional “incompetence” and then pandered to the white entitlement ways of thinking and being in this society in the whole way they presented their case and argued it to the jury. See how the jury—conditioned by ten million hours of TV and a lifetime of breathing the air, such as it is, of America—lapped it up. WHY do you think that is? WHAT does that tell you about how America works?
Yet still it wasn’t enough. A parade of witnesses came on to testify about how wonderful George Zimmerman was. And then, as a final blow, the defense was allowed to put on a witness who said that two young Black men had burglarized her house. What the FUCK did that have to do with the death of Trayvon Martin? How in the HELL was that in any way relevant? It wasn’t! All it was meant to do—in this trial in which we are being told “race was not an issue”—was to evoke the irrational, racial conditioning in the jury, instilled by decades of living in America.
In this light, here we have to quote an article we ran right after the verdict, talking about how the defense claimed that Trayvon Martin was armed with a deadly weapon—a chunk of sidewalk, which they waved around in front of the jury. In fact, Trayvon Martin didn’t have a chunk of anything. This demagogue was referring to the fact that Zimmerman claimed Trayvon hit Zimmerman’s head on the sidewalk. As our article pointed out, this means that any Black youth walking on a sidewalk can now be considered armed and dangerous.
So, no, Zimmerman was not acquitted because the case was hard to prove, as some educated idiots who very well know better proclaim from their perches on television. And no he was not mainly acquitted due to the prosecution’s “mistakes” (though their mistakes were plentiful and serious). And no he was not acquitted because the “system didn’t work this time.” He was acquitted because THE SYSTEM DID WORK—to draw on, to use, to reinforce and to in fact deepen the racism of this society.
The Revolutionary Communist Party has in many other places gone into WHY the system works like this (search revcom.us). How the mother’s milk of America was the blood of Native American Indians, driven from their land and made the victims of genocide, and the blood of Africans kidnapped from their lands and enslaved for generations. Why and how this was driven by the needs of capitalism and then capitalism-imperialism, with its profit-over-all mentality and its expand-or-die “logic of the game.” How the so-called founding fathers were slave owners and defenders of slave owners, and how they brought forward a perverted social order in which white people were endowed with a privileged status in relation to Black people and Native American Indians, and then Mexicans, and how this perverted sense of privilege was backed up by law and violence and permeated every social interaction in the whole society.
We have shown how these ideas and institutions flowed first from the economic relations that hinged on the enslavement and bitter exploitation of generations of Africans and their descendants...
then from share-cropping, with its lynch-mob rule and dehumanizing and violently humiliating codes of “Jim Crow”...
then “the great migration” to the cities and industrial jobs, always last hired and first fired, in the worst and dirtiest jobs when there were jobs...
and today the desolation of “post-industrial” America where millions of Black and Latino youth have no future other than, as Bob Avakian has said, “a boot up the ass or a bullet in the brain.” We have gone deeply into how these were woven into the fabric of the entire system—and then adjusted and re-woven with each succeeding generation, no matter how hard people fought against it.
The only answer is Revolution...Nothing Less! And bringing a whole different world into being. And we have also gone deeply, in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, how all this could be DISMANTLED, UPROOTED AND FINALLY ELIMINATED through revolution, and how a whole new society could be built. (See also Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy and other works by Bob Avakian; special Revolution issue "The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need"; and other material on revcom.us.) These are all things to get into, deeply into, now—AS we are fighting the power. In particular, if you at all hunger to understand more deeply what the problem is and what the solution is, you need to get Bob Avakian’s speech BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and watch it all the way through, and you need to start reading BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian.
It’s like this: people have been brutalized and enslaved by this system since its founding, and if you ever begin to think that “maybe this time it’s different” the people who sit atop this system and enforce it will be forced both by the workings of their system (its rules, its laws, its logic) and their very nature to show you that the melody may be different, but the bloody fucking song is the same. Poison is poison, no matter how pretty the label. It is time now to face facts, and to set about seriously getting rid of this horror, this hell, that destroys people all over the planet (and the planet itself), day in day out, by the hour and by the minute.
Millions of people described their reaction to the verdict like this: “I’m not surprised... but I’m shocked.” “Shocked” in the sense that Carl Dix described it—like you’d been punched in the gut. “Shocked” in the sense of outraged. “Shocked” in the sense of “can’t take this no more, goddamnit!”
But this time was different. Different than any time since the Los Angeles rebellion of 1992 forced the retrial of the police who had been acquitted of brutally beating Rodney King—despite having the beating recorded on video tape and broadcast the world over! This time the shock began to go somewhere other than right back inside you, festering and tearing at you. After the Zimmerman acquittal, the outrage poured out in the social media, from celebrities and athletes and writers and artists, and—in the streets—from those most victimized by this system and those moved to stand with them.,. and against the system. Righteous acts of defiance rippled from LA to New York and in between. Among millions questions were raised—what kind of a society IS this, anyway? Why does this happen? What can we do about it? And how do I, how do WE, act... NOW?
Other places on this website and in this paper detail the intensity and scope of this resistance, and some of the character of this questioning, this much much needed interrogation and re-thinking of how hundreds of millions and yes, billions, live every day. In terms of what to do now, the answer is to find the ways to intensify and spread this resistance, and to broaden and deepen the questioning and criticism—while bringing the message of revolution, and drawing people into this revolution on many different levels and in many different ways. Where resistance and defiance have manifested strongly, join with those people and fight against the attempts to suppress it, while spreading the message of revolution. Where people have just started to stir, find the ways to build on that. Don’t let it die down. And where people are in turmoil over this, but have not yet acted, reach out to them. Reach out, right now, with this paper, promote revcom.us, and reach out with flyers, posters, stickers and with spoken agitation—right on the street, on buses, at basketball tournaments and movie lines and farmers’ markets... in public spaces of all kinds.
But here it's important to carefully note and understand that a number of forces also got out—and were given platforms—to redirect and misdirect this needed struggle and needed questioning. As for Obama’s disgusting statement right after the verdict, which would be pitiful if it weren’t so poisonous... well, just see our reply. ("Obama Sanctifies Cold-Blooded Murder")
But there are others as well, out and about. Some work for the powers-that-be and make no bones about it—they brag about their connections to Obama and the other gangsters on top. Others come at it from the viewpoint of people who want things to change but can’t see beyond the current system and its dog-eat-dog relations and the values that gives rise to, and can only imagine either slightly changing the system around the edges or changing the faces of those on top without getting at the roots of the problem.
There are those who say we need a “conversation.” What they really mean is “get out of the streets and pretend as if it’s all a matter of ‘listening better ’”—instead of getting to the truth of the matter. As one person said on Twitter, “we don’t need a conversation—America already spoke.” YES—and in the same basic bloody language it’s used for 400 years. No, we don’t need polite and muted conversation... we need REVOLUTION.
There are those who say we must demand an investigation from the Department of Justice. The same Department of Justice that presides over 2.24 million people in prison, that tortures 80,000 of them in solitary confinement, and that runs a school-to-prison pipeline from the ghettos, barrios and reservations straight to the penitentiaries. The same Department of Injustice that invents legal justifications for drone attacks on innocent people in the Middle East and for utterly unconstitutional spying on people, all over the world and in this country as well?!? Investigation?!? Are you fucking kidding? For what—so we can have more months and years of delay and distraction until things die down? HELL NO!! We don’t need investigation... we need REVOLUTION.
There are those who say we need prayer vigils. To pray for WHAT? And more than that, to pray to WHOM? The sooner we put aside fairy tales about how some non-existent god is going to take care of this... any day now... or how the victims of this system have gone to a heaven that doesn’t exist... the sooner we confront the reality that when this system kills people there is no afterworld that somehow redeems them... the sooner, in other words, that we actually confront the real problem—then the sooner we will get to the real solution. Anyway, who decided that African slaves and the descendants of African slaves have to kneel down to Jesus? We don’t need consolation... we need REVOLUTION!
Right now people from all walks of life—from those who face brutality and systematic abuse in their lives on a day-to-day basis, to those who are now recognizing the basic and fundamental injustice perpetrated in this society and questioning if this is the kind of world they want to uphold and live in—all need to be led to keep going up against all the ways that their righteous anger and outrage is being quieted down and derailed. For the revolutionaries this not only means being there in the midst of these struggles, but transforming how people are thinking. It means making real and concrete: Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.
Download and print the materials from revcom.us and take them out. Go to the demonstrations that may be called in your city, whoever calls them, and bring this message. Go to where people gather and bring this message. If you can get a few people together to do this with you, all the better. And if a few people turn into 20 gathered round listening and speaking their own bitterness, take that 20 and march to where there are other people, bring this message, and keep this thing going.
This must NOT die down. They must NOT get away with this. We must make this into the first day of the beginning of the end of... this system.
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
Obama on Trayvon Martin:
July 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On July 19, Barack Obama delivered a second public response to the murder of Trayvon Martin and the Zimmerman verdict. He said, "Trayvon Martin could have been me 35 years ago." He acknowledged "a lot of pain around what happened here." And he spoke—in a very limited way—to some of the indignity, outrage, injustice, and pain experienced by African-Americans. As such, his speech was seen by many who have been outraged by what has been exposed in the acquittal of Trayvon Martin's killer as a remarkable and unique event in U.S. history.
But when you break down what Obama said, and where he went with all this, the acknowledgement of some manifestations of white supremacy was in the service of upholding, seeking to shore up, and strengthen the system that historically, and today, enforces the oppression of Black people with a vengeance.
Originally, after the verdict, Obama issued a statement calling for "calm reflection." But the trial of George Zimmerman reeked with such a stench of racism—from jury selection to closing arguments to what was getting said on TV and posted in social networks—that it aroused broad and deep outrage and protest. And beyond that, profound questioning of the nature of this society.
As President of the United States, Barack Obama is the overseer of an empire that enslaves billions in child labor in India, deathtrap sweatshops in Bangladesh, and capitalist plantations in Latin America. That installs death-squad regimes and tortures people at Guantánamo. That is destroying the environment, that locks up more people in its prisons than any other nation on earth, and has produced a culture where no woman anywhere in the world can walk down a street without fear of vicious assault.
Obama would have preferred that his first response to the verdict, preaching "calm reflection," would have chilled people out. But as it has turned out, the cut is too deep, the anger too intense, and the credibility of this system stretched too thin for that. Society is sharply divided, with those outraged by the injustice of the "not guilty" verdict refusing to accept this profoundly unjust verdict.
In his speech, after listing a few examples of racism, Obama said, "I don't want to exaggerate this, but those sets of experiences inform how the African-American community interprets what happened one night in Florida."
A reader wrote to Revolution off of that:
"NO, Mr. Obama—this is not a fucking narrative or lens through which millions of people are interpreting the situation—this is the legal lynching of a young Black man—The Not Guilty verdict in the Trayvon Martin case slammed home the legacy of centuries of slavery and said it's OK to lynch Black youth in America. This is the reality that millions of people have been living under for hundreds of years, and it is the reality that millions more are opening their eyes to today because of what this verdict concentrated."
This is an important point in terms of how people understand and act on reality: there IS reality. While the experience of different nationalities within the U.S. is in fact starkly different, it flows out of one underlying reality, shared by all people in this country. The fact that a large section of relatively privileged people in this society are shielded from the grinding oppression imposed on tens of millions in the inner cities of the U.S., and beyond, does not mean such oppression doesn't exist!
The verdict in the Trayvon Martin murder case jolted significant sections of people out of a state of denial or acceptance about the situation Black and Latino people—especially youth—face in America 2013. People broadly are posing or questioning whether, despite all the pronouncements that with the election of Obama this is a "post-racial" society, things really haven't progressed since the days when Emmett Till was lynched in 1955.
At a moment when millions have demanded Justice!, Obama's response can be summed up as "No justice."
Obama made clear that it is very unlikely there will be any further government attempts at any level to prosecute Zimmerman: "I think it's important for people to have some clear expectations here. Traditionally, these are issues of state and local government, the criminal code. And law enforcement is traditionally done at the state and local levels, not at the federal levels."
Obama talked about better training for law enforcement "to reduce the kind of mistrust in the system that sometimes currently exists." But people do NOT need to trust in a system that is gunning down and locking up the youth. People need revolution to get rid of a system that forces Black parents to try to figure out whether to tell their children to not walk too fast or not walk too slow, so as not to be murdered by police or even some racist vigilante!
Obama obliquely referred to the "historical context" that gives rise to a high level of youth violence directed against each other, but he did NOT talk about the SYSTEM that has given rise to the incredible levels of unemployment in the Black community, the terrible schools, and the pipeline from those schools straight into America's bursting-at-the-seams prisons, with over a million Black and Latino people locked up and millions more either under the control of the penal system or else stigmatized for at one time having been locked up.
Obama talked about how to "bolster and reinforce our African-American boys" and give them "the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them"—without ever even touching on WHY they might not feel this way, and covering over the fact that you can convene roundtables and "partnerships" until throats are sore from talking and butts are sore from sitting and it will not do anything that can really alleviate the horrible situation of NO FUTURE faced by the millions and millions of these youth, here in the belly of the American Empire.
Obama ended his talk by telling people we need to continue on the journey towards a "more perfect union."
Millions are correctly outraged by the whole way the murder of Trayvon Martin went down, the way it was justified by the INjustice system, and all the ugly manifestations of white supremacy revealed through that. That outrage is very correct, to say the least! But the solution to that deeply embedded oppression will never be found in the framework of the present system and all the mythology invoked to justify it. That "more perfect union" has evolved from one horrific form of oppression of Black people to another—slavery, Jim Crow, and today the New Jim Crow.
We don't need to "perfect" that union, or this system. We need revolution. Right now that means continuing, broadening, and intensifying struggle against this bitterly unjust verdict and all the weight and horror it carries... and it means continuing, broadening, and intensifying the struggle over what and how people think... how they are processing this all, and getting people ready for what can actually uproot and eliminate all this: REVOLUTION.
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
July 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The civil rights movement of the 1950s and early 1960s, directed against legal segregation in the U.S., achieved great and important things, and people heroically shed their blood and gave their lives in that struggle. This should be honored deeply and the lessons of that great struggle learned to the fullest.
But by the mid-1960s that movement had run sharply into its limitations—the end of legal segregation and the right to vote were far from enough to deal with and uproot the systemic problems facing Black and other oppressed people. What arose in place of and in opposition to the civil rights movement was the revolutionary Black Liberation Struggle. (For more on this, read the special Revolution issue “The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System, and The Revolution We Need” at revcom.us)
The problem is NOT that things went too far at that point; the problem is that they didn’t go far enough—that is, the problem was that the movement for revolution, which by the late ’60s had spread to many groups in society, was not able to win, and the system was able to recover.
The solution is not to retreat to the past to solve the problems of today—it is to go forward to the future, through making revolution. Such a revolution IS possible and there is the leadership for it, in the Revolutionary Communist Party and its leader Bob Avakian—what is missing is YOU!
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
July 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This past May, Barack Obama told graduates at Morehouse College :
"We know that too many young men in our community continue to make bad choices. And I have to say, growing up, I made quite a few myself. And I have to confess, sometimes I wrote off my own failings as just another example of the world trying to keep a black man down.... But one of the things you've learned over the last four years is that there's no longer any room for excuses."
Here's what we've learned from the last four hundred years:
No more excuses...
For slavery: For the crack of the master's whip, for the maiming and killing of runaway slaves, for the dehumanization of a people...
For Jim Crow: For "whites only" laws, for Black men lynched for looking at a white woman "the wrong way," for not stepping off the sidewalk, or for doing nothing at all....
For the New Jim Crow: For more than a million Black and Latino people in jail, for rampant police brutality and murder, and now for a verdict that says any racist can kill any Black youth anywhere, any time, for anything.
And most of all:
NO MORE EXCUSES FOR THIS FUCKED-UP SYSTEM!
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
July 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In the wake of the George Zimmerman verdict, some people are saying that yes, maybe Black youth are targeted by racists like Zimmerman—but the real problem is “Black on Black violence.” In response to this wrong argument, we are reprinting this article from the Revolution special issue #144, "The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need."
People say: “You can’t talk of fundamental change while the people are all caught up in killing each other. First we have to stop this violence among the people, and then we can talk about making bigger change.”
The violent situation in many Black and Latino neighborhoods all over the country—where parents watch young children shot down in crossfires and kids grow up haunted by nightmares of gunfire, sure they won’t make it past 18—is a horror for the people. But the logic that the people must first somehow “fix themselves” as the necessary first step, before they can change the larger conditions people find themselves in, reverses cause and effect and, regardless of intent, directs people’s attention away from the source of the violence among the people—the capitalist-imperialist system which has created these conditions in the first place. The violence people commit against each other is not at root due to “bad choices” that need to be “solved first” but is due to the ways in which this system has confined people in a position where they are set against each other to survive.
People like Bill Cosby—as well as Bill Clinton and Barack Obama—not only go so far as to blame Black people for the horrendous situation into which this system has shoved them, with its dead-end set of “choices,” they do so with a phony pose of concern for Black people. These snakes do tremendous damage to Black people’s ability to understand the problem and to change the world accordingly, and they also justify all those racist lies in the minds of white people.
Yes, people do need to change—but they’re only going to transform themselves, fundamentally and in a liberating way, in the process of confronting the actual source of the problem and radically changing their conditions. This happened in large numbers in the revolutionary movement of the 1960s, when many former gangbangers and prisoners got out of that life and into making revolution and serving the people, making the rupture from “criminal-minded” to “revolutionary-minded.”
The factors that especially young people are responding to today—the fact that these youth really have nothing to lose under this system—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. But this will only happen based on FIGHTING the power, and not “working with it” or “within the system” to somehow keep a lid on things. We have to abolish the system that causes and enforces these conditions, bring into being a new society and new conditions in which such violence among the people will no longer have any basis, and will no longer take place. And it is in this process—of making revolution to change the larger circumstances while learning about the underlying dynamics that give rise to those circumstances—that people can, and must, transform themselves.
Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution!
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
Over $24,000 Raised!
July 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The BA Everywhere Summer 2013 Indiegogo crowdfunding effort ended on July 15 with a big success—surpassing the goal of $20,000 for a total of $24,606. This online campaign launches a whole summer of even bigger fundraising in order to spread much more widely in society the liberating vision and framework for a radically different world brought forward by Bob Avakian. In particular, the Indiegogo campaign raised the money necessary to launch the BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Van Tours in New York, Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles (with another round of Van Tours planned for August).
Hundreds of people donated to the Indiegogo campaign—from smaller contributions collected in the neighborhoods of oppressed people to larger contributions ranging up to $2,000. The campaign was kicked off early by two significant calls of support: from musician Matthew Shipp, who wrote, "BA is one of the few theorists asking the right questions and grappling for answers..."; and Dennis Loo, sociology professor, who challenged other educators "who want to see a different world" to match his $500 donation. All kinds of people were inspired to contribute. The following are just some of the statements from people who donated to the campaign.
A Challenge To All:
I am a single mother of 4 and living in the projects in Harlem NY.
For the Anti-4th of July picnic I made two drinks: lemonade and also half tea and half lemonade, and sold the drinks for $3 a cup. I raised $54 dollars for this indiegogo campaign.
Why? Because I want to get this Revolution on the Road Now!!!!
I challenge people to match my amount and more.
$2,000—I'm making the donation because the ENTIRE political discourse in the U.S. is skewed to the right. We need a broader conversation. I believe in personal liberty and collective welfare. They need to have the proper balance and right now self-interest is all most people focus on. A just system creates the greatest amount of good for the greatest number of people and does not foster dog-eat-dog individualism.
$300—from a supporter of the revolution given in the middle of the night, July 15, at a protest for Trayvon Martin.
$500—I see the situation in the world today from Egypt to Snowden and I feel having BA's vision of a radically different society out there is much needed and will make a big difference. I challenge other young professionals to contribute at least $250 each so that we can get a much needed discussion going in the world.
From an artist who donated a sculpture for the Indiegogo campaign: It gives me hope for humanity. This is just the beginning of my part in the revolution. Thinking globally and acting locally. Creating and sharing that change is in the future. I watched the film [BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!]. I saw the communist concepts for our future and seeing it as a realistic path...
$50—We have to get Bob Avakian out to people awakening in these outbreaks. I was reading the letter from Turkey ["A Spring Thunder Resonating Far and Wide," English, Spanish, and Turkish, revcom.us]. Without what BA is bringing forward, these upsurges will get sidetrack & not contribute all they can to moving humanity forward... Those who cannot be out physically in the midst of all this can make a big difference by making as big a financial contribution as you can for BA Everywhere—that way you will be.
$866—I volunteered to match $3 to every $1 raised in XXX because I must aid in creating a world worth living in. I usually find it difficult to go out & raise money, especially in the "hood," & especially among the youth, but I feel that those are critical forces if we're going to get past this capitalism/imperialism the world is mired in. The powers-that-be certainly are treating them as their enemy.
I challenge YOU to match what a team raises on a given day, donate now. Make that difference.
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
July 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On Saturday, July 20, 170 people filled the Mark Taper Forum of the Central Library in Los Angeles to watch the first two discs of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—Nothing Less! Bob Avakian Live. The audience was multinational and of all different ages, with people hearing about the event from all over the city. There were a number of people who regularly frequent this or other libraries, people who came from the Trayvon Martin protests taking place just a few blocks away earlier that day, others who heard about it on KPFK, the media sponsor that played a PSA regularly over the preceding days. Others heard about it at Artwalk, a music festival in East LA, or through the work of the revolutionaries in South Central. There were skater youth, a few homeless people, artists, students, professionals, and others.
People came with a deep outrage about what is concentrated in the acquittal of George Zimmerman, saying that pushed them over the edge to want to get more deeply into revolution. A bunch of people came out of curiosity; one guy said he knew he had to question his own assumptions about communism and wanted to hear more. Another guy came towards the beginning and kept stepping out to call his friends to come down because “there's a film with a guy talking about what we talk about all the time.” A group of three young Black women planned their day around going to two Trayvon Martin protests and stopping in to watch about an hour of the film.
Comments after included, “Wonderful truth telling! Remarkable.” A KPFK listener wrote, “Always looking for another system of government for I see too much dysfunction, dishonesty in the current one.” Another wrote, “Eye opening in your face, made a lot of great comments also touched on important topics that should concern the human race especially minorities or people who are being fed mass media corruption.” One person wrote simply, “Brilliant.”
Revolution reporters were able to interview a number of people, so more will be coming.
The week before the event, the revolutionaries were in the streets for justice for Trayvon Martin, and the BA Everywhere Van Tour was rolling through South Central, calling people out of their homes to watch clips of this film, engaging in on-the-spot speak-outs and talking about how they can and need to be part of the movement for revolution.
The night before, Revolution Books was filled with volunteers—making signs for the next day's demonstration and creating packets for the library film screening. Some of the volunteers were long-time revolutionaries and some came off a phone call they received earlier that day letting them know there was a big need to fill. A number of people came into the store off a big sign in the window: “Justice for Trayvon Martin! The whole damn system is guilty!” This attracted people who were seething about this verdict and wanted to get more deeply into why this happened. There was lively discussion about what was going on in the world and what this revolution is about. When Revolution newspaper posted the new article, “On the Murder of Trayvon Martin and the Outrageous Acquittal of His Killer: THEY MUST NOT—THEY WILL NOT—GET AWAY WITH THIS!!!” someone read it out loud while everyone stopped to listen. A Latino youth, after watching the first part of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—Nothing Less! said he never understood the reason for the mass incarceration of Black and Latino people before. “I get it, it's not just evil, they have to do this because they can't profit off these people anymore.”
After the screening on Saturday, a nearby restaurant gave a discount, so a bunch of revolutionaries and people we'd just met piled in for a huge amount of delicious Mexican food. We linked up with people from the Revolution Club who spent the day at the Trayvon Martin protest and helped lead a march that went from the main downtown protest all the way to Leimert Park! (Over a five-mile walk) The tables were filled with laughter and discussion in Spanish and English. People talked about what BA laid out in the film, about what it was going to take to not let the struggle around Trayvon Martin die down, and about what all was learned and changed that day.
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
July 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In mid-July, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Van Tours hit the streets for a week in four areas simultaneously—New York, Chicago, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Los Angeles. The Van Tours' objective: spreading the revolutionary vision concentrated in the work of Bob Avakian more widely and deeply among all strata in society, and involving people in the activity of raising really big money over the summer and into the fall so that BA truly becomes known everywhere.
Money to rent vans and video/sound equipment to show clips from BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and other expenses for the tours came from the successful online Indiegogo fund effort (see Over $24,000 Raised! BA Everywhere Online Fund Campaign Surpasses Goal). Volunteers were on board for a few days or for the whole week, taking out the film to different areas. These Van Tours were out among the people in the midst of the outrage and protest across the country around the verdict freeing Trayvon Martin's killer.
The scene in one area, the San Francisco Bay Area, gives a picture of how these Van Tours got out BA in the midst of all that's going on:
At the Revolution bookstore one night, there was an overflow crowd for a program on the prison hunger strike¸ with three ex-prisoners, a National Public Radio reporter, and Revolution writer Larry Everest speaking. The audience included many people new to the movement for revolution, including a number of university students. In the midst of the "jolt" in society around the Trayvon Martin verdict, revolutionaries have been going out and bringing forward new people into the mix—around the fight to stop mass incarceration, the BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS Van Tour, and the overall BA Everywhere campaign. A couple of young women who are new to the movement for revolution took out the BA Everywhere campaign to a protest around Trayvon Martin in Oakland—the first time they had taken up the campaign themselves.
The day after the verdict, the Van Tour went out to an intersection in a neighborhood of Black and Latino people. Youth who before this had been watching but had not engaged with the movement for revolution stopped and talked with the revolutionaries—about the injustice of the Trayvon Martin verdict, about what's the real source of the problem, and what is this revolution all about. People are being shaken and moved by the verdict, and many are looking for answers and leadership—while at the same time there are lots of contradictory views among the people.
Across the bay in San Francisco, the Van Tour met someone who watched several hours of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! on the video equipment set up in the van. The next day, he—along with several other young people—joined the tour for a day as a volunteer in another neighborhood.
People involved in the Van Tour report that doing this in the midst of all that's going on was "exciting and challenging." Plans were adjusted several times so that the van and the volunteers would be in the midst of those who are resisting and seeking solutions. The tour went out to different areas of middle class and well-off people, including a resort area north of San Francisco to get out BA to the vacationing gay crowd that mainly characterizes that area. A couple of young people, relatively new to the movement for revolution, went out with the van every day of the tour.
For more on the BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Van Tours, go to the "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" section of revcom.us—look for the BA Everywhere page, where you can find reports on the Van Tour and a lot more on the BA Everywhere campaign.
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
July 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
I went to the opening of Fruitvale Station on Friday, July 19. For those who don't know, Fruitvale Station is a superbly acted movie that tells the story of Oscar Grant, the 24 hours leading up to his murder and his cold-blooded execution by BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit police) in Oakland, Calif., on New Year's Eve in 2009. The BA Everywhere Van Tour was out in front of this major movie theater complex in downtown Chicago. Theatergoers of all nationalities were signing a banner calling out Trayvon's murder and lots of palm cards for the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! were getting into people's hands.
You have to see Fruitvale Station, opening in theaters nationwide on July 26... that is all I can say. The world lost someone special when Oscar Grant's life was stolen by pigs and the whole weight of the not guilty verdict for Zimmerman punches you in the gut again. People were sitting silently stunned, some crying, from the portrayal of Oscar Grant's murder, as words flashed across the screen telling what happened in the wake of his murder. Those words were coming almost too fast to sink in. Then, from the back of the large theater auditorium, a very firm, clear voice calls out the words scrolling on the screen: "sentenced to two years, served 11 months" —the voice really sounded like it was part of the movie. Then, as the credits begin to roll, still no one has moved ... the voice again commanding: "Oscar Grant did not have to die, we all know the reason why, the whole damn system is guilty." It sounded like part of the movie soundtrack and I think people were riveted. But when the voice continued ... "Trayvon Martin did not have to die, we all know the reason why ... if you want to find out how to put an end to this once and for all, see me about the revolution being led by Bob Avakian," it dawned on the collective consciousness that this was not part of the movie. It was one of the members of the BA Everywhere Van Tour in the back of the auditorium. The audience broke into applause for the courageous truth told in the movie and for the revolutionary giving voice to the outrage of Oscar's and Trayvon's murders (along with countless others) and telling people that there is a way out of this insanity through revolution.
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
By Name | July 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
July 20—About 700 people rallied in downtown Houston as part of nationwide actions for Justice for Trayvon Martin. Many in the overwhelmingly Black, largely middle class crowd brought their own signs and banners, or personalized T-shirts with their messages for Trayvon.
The event was dominated by congressional representatives and other elected officials, and various religious leaders. But a tone that influenced the entire event came towards the beginning when a Revolution squad marched into the plaza, chanting, singing, and carrying signs and banners demanding Justice for Trayvon, and declaring to the system "Three Strikes and You're Out."
The revolutionaries and others held a 30-minute rally involving over 100 people before the official rally began. Several people spoke of their bitterness towards the police and how they had treated them and loved ones. The biggest response from the gathering crowd came when a revolutionary read Bob Avakian's "Three Strikes" quote, and about $80 was raised from the sale of 300 of the posters with this quote, which were probably the most prominent visual display at the entire rally. About 50 copies of Revolution were sold.
There was a great deal of latent anger in the crowd. Many, many people spoke to us of how determined they feel to see this through to justice for Trayvon, and that this movement can't stop. People brought up the long, bloody history of the U.S., and in particular gave thoughtful responses to what everyone should think about—and do about—a system that produced the lynching of Emmett Till 58 years ago and of Trayvon Martin last year.
One man said to us, "Individual racism is horrible, but what we got here is institutionalized racism, and that's more horrible. It's why I say we're up against a whole system. It's not just individuals. That's why this guy (Zimmerman) got off."
The crew of revolutionaries again marched and rallied at the end of the official event, about 10 people stronger than when they first came in. People later went to take out the movement for revolution to neighborhoods in the Third Ward. A showing of one disc of the movie BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live is scheduled for a Third Ward library next Saturday, July 27.
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
July 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
After send-off rallies on July 23 in New York City and San Francisco, caravans are travelling from both coasts, rallying and gathering support along the way, arriving in North Dakota before August 1 when new laws are set to shut down the last abortion clinic in the state. Then, down to Wichita where those who courageously re-opened the clinic of Dr. George Tiller following his assassination by an anti-abortion gunman are facing serious and escalating threat. On to Jackson, Mississippi, where a temporary court injunction is the only thing keeping the last remaining clinic in the state open. All along the way, the Freedom Ride will protest and confront the anti-abortion woman-haters, erect visual displays that tell the truth about abortion and birth control, collect and amplify women's abortion stories in order to break the silence, defend the clinics and providers most under attack, and meet with people to build lasting organization to DEFEAT the whole war on women.
For more info and updates, go online to stoppatriarchy.org and revcom.us
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
by Sunsara Taylor and David Gunn, Jr. | July 12, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Across the country, people are waking up to the state of emergency facing the right to abortion. As legislators in Texas push hard to close down 37 of 42 abortion clinics statewide, new laws in North Carolina would close four of their five remaining clinics. Meanwhile, Ohio's recently passed budget could close as many as three abortion clinics. North Dakota, on August 1, may become the first state to effectively ban abortion. Already Mississippi's last abortion clinic is merely an appellate ruling away from closure. We could go on.
If we do not reverse this trajectory now, we will condemn future generations of women and girls to forced motherhood, to lives of open enslavement, terror, and life-crushing shame. Women will be forced to have children they do not want, trapping them in abusive relationships, driving them into poverty, forcing them out of school, and extinguishing their dreams. Women will go to desperate and dangerous measures to terminate unwanted pregnancies, once again flooding emergency rooms and turning up dead women in cheap motels with blood caked between their legs.
We face two divergent roads: Either we seize control of the debate and reset the terms and whole trajectory of this fight; or we continue down the road of "established conventional wisdom," only to awaken before long to an unrecognizable and untenable situation for women. What each of us does matters, and matters tremendously.
It is in this context that we initiated an Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Our echo of the Civil Rights Freedom Rides is intentional and fitting. Women who cannot decide for themselves if and when they have children are not free. On the contrary, they are mere child-bearing chattel whose purpose is to serve and not actively choose their destinies.
Volunteers on this Freedom Ride will caravan from both coasts to North Dakota, traverse through the middle of the country into Wichita, and head due south to Jackson, Mississippi. Our aim is threefold: one, we must move beyond localized fights and launch a national counter-offensive; two, we must radically reset the political, moral, and ideological terms of this fight so that millions understand that this fight is about women's liberation or women's enslavement; lastly, and of paramount importance, we must call forth the mass independent political resistance that is necessary to defeat this war on women.
As the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride evolved from conception to genesis, many have responded with enthusiastic and unequivocal support. Regular people from across the country as well as those who have been on the front lines of the abortion rights struggle are joining with us in demanding abortion rights without compromise and thanking us for daring to travel to where women's rights face the harshest threat.
However, some who share our passion for the cause have raised concerns and even opposition to this action. They fear the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride will be too confrontational, too vociferous for abortion, and may turn off avenues of support.
Some have argued that it is wrong for people to come into local areas from the outside. Others argue that mass political protest will endanger the chances of winning important court cases and that it is better to rely on official channels of politics.
Because the future of women is at stake, we feel it is critical to address these concerns head on. In fact, it is exactly the faulty logic at the root of these concerns that has contributed to all of us finding ourselves in such a dire situation.
First, while local ground conditions are different and unique in some ways, the fact that every clinic and every state is facing heightened assault is not unique nor is it local. We all face a national assault on abortion rights which requires a national counter-offensive. Not only is it utterly immoral for us to abandon the women living in the states most under direct duress, it is delusional to think that what happens in states like Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota and Kansas will not come soon to a theater near you. Our futures are bound together and we all share the responsibility to take this on and turn the tide where the attacks are the most severe.
Second, while it is true that a great many people—including many who support abortion rights—are defensive about abortion, they should not be ashamed and this defensiveness and shame is precisely something we must eradicate.
Among the reasons many are defensive about abortion are decades of propaganda by those who oppose women's equality but posture as defenders of "babies"; meanwhile, supporters of abortion rights have too often been conciliatory, muted, and compromising. This must stop. This fight has never been about babies. It has always been about controlling women. This is why there is not a single major anti-abortion organization that supports birth control.
If we want to turn the tide, we have to tell the truth: there is absolutely nothing wrong with abortion. Fetuses are NOT babies. Abortion is NOT murder. Women are NOT incubators.
A great many people are hungry for this message. They are furious and searching for a meaningful vehicle to make their outrage felt. It is only by asserting the positive morality of abortion rights that we can call forth and mobilize the tens of thousands who already share our resolve. Only through direct action and a polemical shift can all of us stand together and change how millions of others are thinking. Shouldn't this emergency situation awaken us to the need to change public opinion, not accommodate it?
History has proven that directly confronting oppressive social norms can be disruptive and scary; yet it is a necessary and uplifting part of making any significant positive change. Many argued that it was wiser for LGBT people to stay closeted until society was more accepting; others counseled against the Civil Rights Freedom Rides out of fear that it would only rile up the opposition, but it was only when people took that risk and got "in your face" that broader public opinion and actions began to change.
We must create a situation where being anti-abortion is seen to be as socially unacceptable as it is to advocate lynchings, anti-LGBT violence, or rape (although, if you listen to some on the Right, rape advocacy is not necessarily off their table). When we reach that summit, we will be on our way to turning the tide.
Third, while court cases are important—even essential—it is only through truly massive independent political struggle that we stand a chance at defeating the truly unyielding and powerful foe we face. Every setback the anti-abortion movement experiences only makes them more determined and every victory only makes them more aggressive. They will not be appeased if we lie low. No court case or election or new law will stop them. Not only has the existing power structure proven unwilling or unable to do so, people who believe they are on a "mission from God" are not bound by human laws and do not yield to public opinion.
But they can be defeated. Forced motherhood is deeply opposed to the interests of humanity. If we get out there and tell the truth, if we resist, if we clarify the stakes of this battle, and if we mobilize wave upon wave of the masses to get off the sidelines and into the streets with us, we can win. There is a tremendous reservoir of people who can and must be called forth to join in this struggle. We have seen this vividly in Texas. Let us not underestimate the potential that exists in every state across this country.
We stand at a crossroads. For the future of women everywhere, let us refuse the worn pathways that have allowed us to lose so much ground. We must not lay low, hope these attacks will blow over, and allow women in some parts of the country to be forced into mandatory motherhood while hoping to preserve the rights of a shrinking few. We cannot continue to foster the attitude that abortion is the 21st century's Scarlet Letter while allowing abortion providers to be further stigmatized and demonized. We cannot recoil from the massive fight that urgently needs fighting at this moment in this time.
Now is the time for courage, for truth-telling, for stepping out and launching an uncompromising counter-offensive. We have right on our side. We call on everyone who cares about the future of women to join with us in strengthening the national impact and influence of this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Join with us at our kick-off rallies in New York City and San Francisco on July 23. Caravan to meet us in North Dakota, Wichita, Kansas, and Jackson, Mississippi. Send a donation or a message of support. Reach out to individuals and religious communities that can provide safe passage to the courageous individuals who are giving up their summers and putting everything they have into winning a different and far better future for women. Most importantly, let us together take the rough road to victory. It may be less traveled, but only through struggle can we reap the benefits of love's labor won.
To learn more about and get involved with the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, go to: http://www.stoppatriarchy.org/
Sunsara Taylor writes for Revolution newspaper (revcom.us) and is an initiator of the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women (StopPatriarchy.org)
David Gunn, Jr. is the son of David Gunn, Sr., the first abortion doctor to be assassinated by an anti-abortion gunman, and blogs for Abortion.ws
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
California Prison Authorities Attack Hunger Strikers
by Larry Everest | July 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
July 22 marks Day 15 of the very powerful and extremely significant California prisoners’ hunger strike, and thousands of prisoners are continuing to refuse food or supporting the strike in other ways.
On July 8, prisoners across the state launched their third hunger strike in the past two years to fight for their basic rights and, humanity, especially to end long-term solitary confinement as well as other demands.*
Some 80,000 prisoners across the U.S.—over 10,000 in California alone—are kept in long-term solitary confinement. In California, thousands are thrown in solitary, not for any crime they’ve supposedly committed, but for alleged “gang associations.” Attorney Carol Strickman of the Prison Hunger Strike Solidarity described the conditions in the Pelican Bay State Prison (PBSP) SHUs [Security Housing Units]: “There’s a horrible, near total, lack of human contact... Prisoners are confined to these 8 foot x 10 foot cells for 22-and-a half to 24 hours a day—without natural light, without being able to look outside the prison walls... There’s no meaningful human interaction... chronic sleep deprivation [is] part of the cruel and unusual punishment that prisoners are subjected to.” Prisoners have been held in solitary confinement for years—even decades. All this amounts to torture, Strickman added.
On June 20 of this year, the PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Representatives announced they were resuming their hunger strike because the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) had broken its promise to address prisoner demands and institute fundamental reforms.
According to the CDCR’s own figures, since the strike began on July 8, nearly 30,000 prisoners across the state have refused food and 2,300 prisoners have refused to work each day. The hunger strike continues to have deep support throughout the prison system with unprecedented numbers taking part. On July 11, 12,421 prisoners refused food; 4,487 remained on hunger strike for a full week.
The CDCR has responded to this just, nonviolent political struggle with even more vicious retaliation than in the 2011 hunger strikes—in some cases further isolating and torturing those already subjected to the torture of solitary confinement.
Prison authorities have declared the strike a mass disturbance that can add time to prisoners’ sentences and take away basic necessities that prison authorities label “privileges.” They’ve been confiscating commissary food that prisoners bought to keep in their cells.
Thousands of prisoners across California, joined by prisoners in other states, are standing up against the cruel and unjust conditions of solitary confinement that amount to torture. They are doing so at great personal cost in the most difficult of circumstances. And they are putting their lives on the line “not only to improve our own conditions but also as an act of solidarity with all prisoners and oppressed people around the world.” (From the "July 9 message from the Pelican Bay Short Corridor representatives. Greetings to our supporters and all people of conscience.")
They are setting a heroic example. We have to do our part! The strike is entering its third week. This is a critical moment—everyone who wants to see an end to state-sanctioned torture and to support those fighting for their humanity and basic rights needs to support these prisoners NOW and demand that prison authorities STOP their vicious retaliatory attacks on the hunger strikers.
The CDCR has especially targeted those they consider more politically conscious including 14 prisoners who signed last summer’s historic Agreement to End Hostilities Among Racial Groups, which called for an end to conflicts among oppressed peoples of different nationalities in and outside prison. This historic and inspiring call was a direct challenge to the CDCR’s strategy of fomenting racial hostility to divide and then vilify the prisoners. On the fourth day of the strike, they removed all 14 from their regular SHU cells and put them in Ad-Seg (Administrative Segregation, known as “the hole”), without access to their legal papers, television, or radio.
This is clearly an attempt to prevent these men from communicating with each other and anyone else; knowing what is happening in the outside world; and getting news of the strike itself.
As if this weren’t bad enough, there are reports that these and other prisoners are now being deliberately frozen. “The prisoners who have been moved to Ad-Seg, as well as prisoners still in SHU, reported yesterday that it is ‘freezing cold’ in their cells,” Strickman wrote on July 18. “The prison is pumping in cold air and keeping doors to the outside open... Extreme temperatures are a torture method.”
On July 18, the Los Angeles Times reported that four prisoners were being treated for medical problems. Attorney Marilyn McMahon, executive director of California Prison Focus and a member of the team mediating between prisoners and prison authorities’, has been banned from all California State Prisons in an attempt to further isolate the prisoners and prevent the world from knowing what kinds of suppression and brutality—on top of the suppression and brutality prisoners already face—is taking place behind prison walls. “I am a target because I do help them communicate with the outside world,” McMahon said. “We are a way of prisoners breaking through the black box.”
The CDCR claims the hunger strike is weakening, as they continue to stonewall prisoner demands. This is ludicrous and criminal. At least 1,457 prisoners have been fasting for 11 days and counting. This is heroic and tremendously significant.
Prisoner representatives say they “remain strong and united!” in the face of this brutality. In a July 16 message, PBSP-SHU Short Corridor Representatives stated:
“Specifically, on July 11, 2013, we were placed in Administrative Segregation (Ad-Seg), where we are subjected to more torturous conditions than in the SHU. Despite this diabolical act on the part of the CDCR intended to break our resolve and hasten our deaths, we remain strong and united! We are 100% committed to our cause and will end our peaceful action when CDCR signs a legally binding agreement to our demands.”
The families of hunger striking prisoners are extremely worried for the health and lives of their loved ones. Former prisoners have told the Stop Mass Incarceration Network that they are worried the CDCR could even cut off water to cells under the pretext that prisoners have contraband.
The CDCR’s cruel actions are aimed at breaking the strike and maintaining their system of torture through long-term solitary confinement. (On a recent radio show, CDCR spokesperson Terry Thornton made the ludicrous claim that solitary confinement in a SHU cell wasn’t really solitary confinement because prisoners had occasional contact with guards!) And according to the mediation team, California officials “have expressed no willingness to open discussions about the current strike.” (Los Angeles Times, July 18)
The California prison authorities’ cruel retaliation against non-violent hunger strikers and their refusal to seriously consider their just and basic demands further expose the violent, unjust, and completely illegitimate nature of the U.S. prison system. It points to the basic reality that U.S. democracy and the power of the ruling class rests on a whole system of mass incarceration and systematic abuse and torture in California’s dungeons and dungeons across the country. This is not something the powers-that-be will back off from unless very broad and powerful support for the prisoners is built, and the crimes of the system are exposed throughout society and the world.
The prisoners want to eat, they do not want to die, but they refuse to live “buried alive” and “entombed” in isolation units. Anyone with an ounce of conscience and humanity must stand with these courageous prisoners and do all you can to fight for their just demands, to end the torture of long-term solitary confinement and the whole system of mass incarceration. Such support cannot be limited to petitioning and appealing to the very authorities who created and maintain these hellholes and who are now punishing the hunger strikers. A society-wide outcry and mass political resistance are what’s called for.
Go to: www.stopmassincarceration.net to get involved and support the prisoner hunger strikers.
* The prisoner’s five core demands are to eliminate group punishments; abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria; comply with the recommendation of the U.S. Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement; provide adequate and nutritious food; and expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite SHU inmates. [back]
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
The U.S. Constitution and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)
Part 4: Breaking the Chains in a New Socialist Society
The U.S. Constitution was drafted, debated, and approved by slave owners and exploiters. Despite this profound truth about the historical birth of the United States, many people argue that the U.S. Constitution has protected and expanded the political and civil rights of the people; and that it continues to provide the legal foundation and political vision for overcoming existing inequalities and injustices. But this message—that the U.S. Constitution establishes a vision and basis for achieving a society where "everyone is equal"—is profoundly UNTRUE and actually does great harm. From the very beginning this Constitution has provided the legal framework and justifications for a society torn by deep inequalities, and the preservation of a whole economic and social setup in which a relatively small number of people rule over an exploitative society, and maintain that dominance.
In 2010, the Revolutionary Communist Party published the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).1 This visionary document, based on the new synthesis of communism developed over decades by Bob Avakian, provides the framework for a whole new society, a framework to advance to a communist world—a world no longer divided into antagonistic social groups, where people will instead live and work together as a freely associating community of human beings all over the planet.
This series compares and contrasts the U.S. Constitution and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal)—in relation to the enslavement, oppression, and emancipation of African-American people. We encourage readers to discuss and study this series; spread and share it among your friends; get it into the classrooms, communities, and prisons; and send us your comments. See Revolution #264 (April 1, 2012) for the introduction to this series; #270 (May 27) for Part 1: A Slaveholders' Union; #271 (June 10) for Part 2: Reconstruction, and the First Great Betrayal, 1867-1896; and #275 (June 11) for Part 3: Battleground Over Segregated Education in the 1950s and 1960s (see earlier parts of the series here). This is the fourth and final part of this series.
This series has taken a hard look at what the U.S. Constitution has meant for African-American people since the founding of the United States of America. Some important truths have been revealed:
Today the U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world, with the majority of the prison population made up of Blacks and Latinos. It is a society where youth whose ancestors were Black slaves are deprived of a decent education, and are unable to find work in a system that has no place for them. They are relentlessly hounded by armed police enforcers of the system that oppresses them, and are locked away for years in crowded prisons—many times driven mad in conditions of solitary confinement that amount to illegal, inhumane, and immoral torture. And all of this takes place within the framework of the U.S. Constitution, and the whole legal and "justice" system that derives from this Constitution.
This is the reality of American history and present day society.
Why have the U.S. Constitution and the "laws of the land" consistently allowed for these atrocities? Why have the U.S. Constitution and the "laws of the land" perpetuated the condition of Black people as an oppressed people? It's not mainly because of white supremacist judges or racist lawmakers writing racist laws—even though this has and continues to exist. There is something far more fundamental involved: the U.S. Constitution, the laws stemming from it, and the whole legal-repressive system enforcing these laws reflect the very nature of U.S. society.
As Bob Avakian has written, "Constitutions, where there is a necessity for them and they play an indispensable role, establish the basic framework, principles and provisions (or, more baldly, the 'rules') for how a government can and must function, how state power shall be exercised."3
With regard to the United States of America, its Constitution embodies the basic rules for how to enforce economic and social relations of exploitation and oppression. The U.S. government has functioned consistently to protect and expand a property rights system based on the control of the means of producing wealth by a small capitalist class that exploits wage laborers. The so-called Founding Fathers established a system of government serving capitalism—and, for more than 70 years, the preservation of slavery.
The continuing oppression of whole peoples has been foundational and is a defining and integral feature of the entire fabric of U.S. society. The history of Black people in this country is one in which the U.S. Constitution and the laws derived from it have been wielded by the ruling capitalist class to develop and maintain white supremacy while deepening the oppression of Black people—even as this has taken different and changing forms and expressions.
Now let's take Avakian's point about how constitutions establish "rules" for how a government can and must function and how state power shall be exercised—and apply it to a whole different kind of society, a socialist society.
Let's look at the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) that is based on Avakian's new synthesis of communism and see what kind of society this Constitution provides the institutional framework for. The introductory explanation of the nature, purpose, and role of the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America starts off by saying:
"This Constitution (Draft Proposal) is written with the future in mind. It is intended to set forth a basic model, and fundamental principles and guidelines, for the nature and functioning of a vastly different society and government than now exists: the New Socialist Republic in North America, a socialist state which would embody, institutionalize and promote radically different relations and values among people; a socialist state whose final and fundamental aim would be to achieve, together with the revolutionary struggle throughout the world, the emancipation of humanity as a whole and the opening of a whole new epoch in human history—communism—with the final abolition of all exploitative and oppressive relations among human beings and the destructive antagonistic conflicts to which these relations give rise."4
Today we ARE building a movement for revolution—a revolution that WILL put this visionary document into practice. So it is extremely important, exciting, and relevant to study, discuss, and debate what the rules of a whole new game will be... and how they will be a guide for those who will lead the new state power for what to do on Day One, and after.
This Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) would take effect in a society where the capitalist-imperialist state of the U.S. and its institutions would have been defeated, abolished, and dismantled by masses of people, led by their vanguard, the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. In its place a new, revolutionary state would have been born.
The relations at the base of this socialist society would be radically transformed from the old, capitalist ways. Instead of a handful of capitalists monopolizing ownership of the wealth produced by the labor of millions of people, the means of producing society's material needs would be placed under socialist state public ownership, with the economy serving the betterment of society and humanity, the advance of the world revolution, and the protection of the environment.
Further, the relations among people in a socialist economy would be dramatically changed. People would not be pitted against each other in a struggle to survive in the capitalist snake pit, but millions and millions of people would work "based on and promoting relations and values of people working cooperatively for the common good and for the interests of world humanity"5; and where the spheres of social consumption were being expanded continually, and consciously.
It is through the overall process of making revolution and moving, through waves of struggle and transformation, to a communist world that it will be possible to overcome the effects and legacy of the oppression of Black people and all relations of social inequality. The struggle in socialist society to dig up the soil that breeds capitalism, to change people's thinking, to forge new values, and to defeat attempts at counterrevolution will be complex and protracted, and the outcome is not a sure thing.
But with a new state power, it can be accomplished. And decisive measures and changes will take effect right away! The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic provides the necessary direction and framework. The police forces of the old society that had brutalized and degraded Black and Latino youth, that functioned as an occupying army, that maimed and killed in the name of security—they will have been disbanded with the seizure of state power. New public security forces will be created. They will protect the victories of the revolution. They will ensure the safety and rights of the people, including the right to take responsibility for the direction of society. These new public security forces will help people resolve disputes and problems among themselves in non-antagonistic ways.
Right away, resources will be channeled into the former ghettoes and barrios to provide housing and health care, cultural and recreational facilities. People will have the opportunity to engage in meaningful work that contributes to the all-around transformation of society. The society envisioned by this Constitution is one in which architects, urban planners, ecologists, artists, and other professionals will be joining with the youth and with residents of these areas to solve problems and learn from each other—and take part together in great debates and struggle over how to move society forward and overcome the scars of the past.
On the question of doing away with national oppression the Preamble to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) states:
"The New Socialist Republic in North America is a multi-national and multi-lingual state, which is based on the principle of equality between different nationalities and cultures and has as one of its essential objectives fully overcoming national oppression and inequality, which was such a fundamental part of the imperialist USA throughout its history. Only on the basis of these principles and objectives can divisions among humanity by country and nation be finally overcome and surpassed and a world community of freely associating human beings be brought into being. This orientation is also embodied in the various institutions of the state and in the functioning of the government in the New Socialist Republic in North America."6
The Constitution later explains:
"In light of the egregious crimes, oppression and injustice perpetrated by the former ruling class and government of the United States of America against various minority nationalities, to give expression to the voluntary union and growing unity of the various peoples within the New Socialist Republic in North America, and to give the most powerful effect to the principles and objectives set forth in this Constitution, discrimination against minority nationalities, in every sphere of society, including segregation in housing, education and other areas, shall be outlawed and prohibited, and concrete measures and steps shall be adopted and carried out, by the government at the central and other levels, to overcome the effects of discrimination and segregation, and the whole legacy of oppression, to which these peoples have been subjected."7
And then the Constitution goes on to say:
"As one important dimension of this, in regions (or other areas) of significant population concentration of minority nationalities which were oppressed within the borders of the former imperialist USA, there shall be the right of the people of those nationalities to autonomy, in the form of self-government within the overall territory, framework and structure of the New Socialist Republic in North America and its unified socialist economy, system of law, armed forces, and conduct of foreign relations."8
The Constitution makes clear that Black people, Chicano people, and other formerly oppressed nationalities, while having the right to live in such autonomous regions, will not be required to live in these areas—this will be a matter of choice. And the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic also makes clear that the new government, at all levels, would be working to overcome the effects of discrimination and segregation and would be promoting integration and unity among the various nationalities on the basis of equality. Resources and assistance will be provided to the autonomous regions.
This Constitution upholds the right of Black people to self-determination, up to and including the right to secede and form an independent republic. The Constitution sets out the procedures enabling the African-American people to decide this matter without force or coercion.
This is a whole different society and orientation for leading society. The U.S. Constitution pretends there is equality while the system perpetuates inequality. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) stands for genuine equality while also recognizing the special measures that must be taken to redress and overcome the historical effects and continuing expressions of inequality.
Tackling the legacy of racism and overcoming inequality, along with the struggle to uproot patriarchy and the oppression of women, will be defining features of the new socialist society.
Take the question of education. Here we are in 2012, and segregation remains in force; as we pointed out in Part 3 ("Battleground Over Segregated Education in the 1950s and 1960s"), a third of all Black and Latino children sit in classrooms that are 90 to 100 percent Black and Latino. Many of these children must pass through metal detectors and gauntlets of security guards to go to school. Many of them are in overcrowded classrooms starved for resources, and many of these youth are written off at an early age.
Here we are in 2012, and affirmative action, which was supposed to open up opportunity long denied Black and other minority nationalities as well as women, has been gutted by the courts, including the Supreme Court—in the name of a "color blind society." But consider this fact: nationwide, in 2006 2.2 percent of doctors and medical students were Black—a lower percentage than 100 years ago.9 So under the pretext of achieving a "color blind society," the discrimination against—the oppression of—Black people continues and has been given the legal seal of approval by the U.S. Supreme Court and the U.S. Constitution.
Let's turn to education in the socialist society. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) explains that the new educational system will provide for well-rounded learning, as well as specialization, at government expense. A core principle of the educational system will be to promote the pursuit of the truth wherever it leads, with a spirit of critical thinking and scientific curiosity. A central purpose of the educational system will be "to enable students (and the people broadly) to learn deeply about the reality of, and the basis for, the oppression of whole peoples, and the domination and oppression of women, in the former imperialist USA and throughout the world where societies have been founded on exploitation and ruled by exploiting classes—and, on this basis, to become deeply dedicated to and actively involved in the fight to uproot and eliminate all such relations of inequality and oppression. ..."10
Education in the new socialist society will be oriented towards "overcoming, in society (and ultimately the world) as a whole, such antagonism relating to the division between mental and physical work, which is deeply rooted in the development of societies marked by oppressive and exploitative relations and which itself is a source of such relations, shall be a concern of the state overall, and attention shall be paid to this in all spheres of society"11.
Unlike the old capitalist society where oppressed people's culture and language was denigrated and denied—the new socialist society will bring into being something rather extraordinary: a bi-lingual/multi-lingual educational system and a whole society that promotes critical thinking; equality of cultures and languages; and the real study of the whole history and remaining expressions of the historic oppression of minority nationalities.
This is a society that will be putting the interests of world humanity first and instilling people with an internationalist understanding and spirit.
Think about how totally opposite this is to what now exists in U.S. society. Look at the situation in Arizona where government authority is trying to ban the teaching of Chicano Studies. Look at how in this society immigrants are told to "Speak English" and scolded for speaking their own languages; or how Black people are discriminated against for not speaking so-called "proper English."
We don't have to live this way. The masses of Black people and other oppressed nationalities do not have to endure the ongoing horrors of America as the price of some mythical "progress towards freedom" guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. No, the U.S. Constitution is, as Bob Avakian has put it, the "instrument enforcing ... exploitation and oppression."12
But there is a way out, a way forward, a vision for a radically different and better society, and a strategy to get there. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) is the legal-political framework for a truly emancipating society, where the masses of the people and their vanguard are confronting the challenge of advancing to a world where the divisions among people based on nationality, gender, and class will have been overcome: a world where people produce for the common good and the betterment of the planet, and are fully engaged in cultural, scientific, and political life, instead of millions of people slaving away in body- and spirit-crushing work, condemned to lives of wretched poverty and deprivation for the enrichment of a handful.
2. Africana: The Encyclopedia of the African and African American Experience—The Concise Desk Reference, Kwame Anthony Appiah and Henry Louis Gates Jr., Running Press, 2003.
These murderous activities, carried out by mobs, cheered on by whole families, were protected by the U.S. Constitution and its laws. [back]
3. Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon, Part 1: Revolution and the State, From a talk given in 2010. [back]
4. Constitution (Draft Proposal), p i [back]
5. Ibid., p 79 [back]
6. Ibid., p 5 [back]
7. Ibid., p 51 [back]
8. Ibid., pp 51-52 [back]
10. Constitution (Draft Proposal), pp 32-33 [back]
11. Ibid., p 32 [back]
12. Birds Cannot Give Rise to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon [back]
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
NEWSFLASH!! Tuesday, July 23
July 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Gregory Koger, revolutionary communist and ex-prisoner, was taken from a courtroom today and sent back to Cook County Jail in Chicago to serve the remainder of a 300-day sentence. Gregory had been convicted of trespass and resisting arrest almost four years ago. But this case has never been about trespass or resisting arrest. It has been about the political prosecution of a revolutionary.
Very importantly, at a rally and press conference before today's hearing, Gregory announced that while in Cook County Jail he would join the California prisoners hunger strike, now at Day 16, in solidarity with the demand to end solitary confinement.
When his case was called today, Gregory and his lawyers were told that the judge had rejected Gregory's post-conviction relief petition three months ago, on April 15, although no notice had been sent to Gregory or his lawyers. In fact, his lawyer protested that they had been checking Gregory's court file regularly and had not found any indication in it of the judge's order. To this, the judge casually replied that wasn't her problem, it was the responsibility of the clerk of court! This is not some inconsequential bureaucratic error. The fact that this ruling was hidden from the defendant and his lawyers for three months means that the normal deadline for Gregory to appeal the judge's rejection of the post-conviction relief petition passed over 60 days ago. This is one more travesty of justice in this completely prejudicial case that almost defies comprehension. His attorney, Jed Stone said afterwards that the unannounced order by the judge denying Gregory's petition for post-conviction relief was "like a secret ruling..." A legal response has yet to be formulated for this blatant trampling on his legal right to appeal, but clearly this cannot go unchallenged.
The judge also said Gregory was supposed to have appeared in court on April 15 but, again, neither Gregory nor his lawyers had received notice of that court date. This judge had already shown her contempt for Gregory in previous hearings, and she outdid herself at this one. She went from outrageous to absurd when she said the prosecutors told her that Gregory had been seen in the courthouse on April 15 but left before his case was called! This "sighting" of Gregory is a complete fabrication in service of the railroad of Gregory Koger. And on the basis of this bogus "evidence" she issued a warrant for his arrest. In the words of attorney Jed Stone, "In my 38 years as an attorney I have never seen anything like the blatant, sloppy and disingenuous actions of the Court today."
An ex-prisoner and former jailhouse lawyer, with deep working knowledge of the law and legal procedure, said afterwards, "People told me how bizarre and strange this case is, but until I saw it myself today, I didn't really believe it." After waiting for Gregory's case to be called and watching the machinery of justice grind up one after another defendant, through patronizing lectures, sentences and at times jailings, one young supporter said, "I thought that was me. I thought that crap only happened to me, that it happened to me because of me. I didn't realize it happened to everyone else, too."
Over 50 supporters who filled the courtroom expressed their outrage at this political persecution at another rally outside after court. An important message was read from Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution and initiator of End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women. It said in part, "No harm must come to him if he is taken into the clutches of the enemy. Everyone who cares about justice, who wants to see the youth on the bottom of society aspire to something better, who knows the horrors carried out against people in this country's dungeons and jails, and who yearns for a better world must have Gregory's back." Then two dozen people headed straight to the jail to demonstrate their support for Gregory and for the California prisoners on hunger strike against torture.
The sharp contrast between Gregory and all the forces who have stepped up to support him on the one side and the ugly vindictiveness of the judge and prosecutor on the other was plain for all to see. People came to court that day from as far away as Michigan, Indiana, and downstate Illinois. Wearing orange marigolds and stickers with Gregory's face saying "Not One More Day!" the supporters included six ex-prisoners, a torture survivor from Chile who went on hunger strike against the Pinochet regime, scientists, lawyers, doctors, anti-war activists and veterans, a priest, a world-renowned musician, a retired businessman, and revolutionaries. Several of these spoke briefly before the hearing and afterwards, Gregory's attorney Jed Stone and several revolutionaries spoke, and the statements from Sunsara Taylor and activist Cindy Sheehan were read. (See below for the statements.)
Gregory Koger has been fighting his prosecution since his arrest on November 1, 2009, at the Ethical [sic] Humanist Society of Chicago. Gregory was peacefully videotaping a statement by Sunsara Taylor opposing the censorship of her scheduled talk at the society that day.
Gregory had come up on the mean streets and by age 17 he had been sucked into the meat grinding machine of the U.S. courts and prisons. He ended up doing 11 years in state prison, 6 of which were in solitary confinement. While in prison, Gregory began reading as much revolutionary literature he could get his hands on. Among the publications he devoured was the Revolutionary Worker, later to become Revolution, the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Through the work of the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund, Gregory was able to regularly read Revolution and other literature, including the works of Bob Avakian. All this made a dramatic difference in how Gregory began to see the world, how it got as fucked up as it is, how he and others like him came to be in the situation they were in, and the fact that there is a viable and visionary revolutionary path out of it. He transformed himself and has dedicated his life since his release to opposing injustice and struggling for a liberated world for all humanity.
After his arrest for videotaping in 2009, the powers-that-be came down with full force on Gregory. His past record was thrown in his face by the prosecutor and judge as "proof" of his incorrigible criminal nature. At his original sentencing, the judge had claimed that Gregory "chose a path of violence" and "endangered every single person in [the EHSC] auditorium that day"—for videotaping with an iPhone! The judge then questioned "whether he really has any rehabilitative potential." The intention was to punish Gregory for his political transformation and to send a warning to the rest of those in society, especially those on the bottom, who yearn and hunger for a better world, that they dare not try to change the world and themselves in the process.
But throughout the legal battle against his conviction, Gregory has deepened his understanding of, desire for, and many contributions to the whole struggle to emancipate all of humanity through revolution. In the recent days leading up to this court date, Gregory helped lead a protest march in downtown Chicago only hours after the racist vigilante Zimmerman was acquitted in the murder of Trayvon Martin, and also spoke out in support of California hunger strikers on radio shows such as WBEZ's Worldview, WVON's Cliff Kelley Show, and KPFK's Michael Slate Show.
Plans are being made for taking on the latest outrageous moves of the judge and "justice" system against Gregory. A petition on the website change.org in the next day or two will call on the Cook County Sherriff to take Gregory out of jail and put him on house arrest. Watch revcom.us and dropthecharges.net for further news and to send statements of protest and support.
For the history of Gregory's case, see "Post-Conviction Relief Petition Filed, Overturn the Wrongful Conviction of Gregory Koger—Not One More Day in Jail!" and "From Gregory Koger: Stand with Me on July 23...and Support the Prisoners' Hunger Strike," both on revcom.us, and also go to dropthecharges.net, the web site of Gregory's defense committee.
* * * * *
Gregory Koger is a friend, a comrade, and an inspiration not only to myself but to many, many others both inside this nation's prisons and outside. His life, starting from a very early age, was shaped by the deprivations and horrors of the way this system works and he, like millions and literally billions around the world, was never valued in the least by this system. He was imprisoned as a teenager and held in the indescribable torture of solitary confinement for years. But despite its degradation and brutality, its concrete walls and its psychological torment, this system did not succeed in breaking Gregory. Instead, Gregory fought to lift his head, to understand where all the horrors that he and so many others experienced came from, to grapple with revolutionary theory, to lift his sights to real communist revolution as it has been re-envisioned by Bob Avakian, and to come together with others to bring into a being a world without mass incarceration, without the grinding wars, without environmental destruction, and without violence and degradation against women. A world where humanity could live free from every form of exploitation and oppression and could truly flourish.
Many have been inspired by, learned from, and joined with Gregory in his commitment to fighting for a better world. They have seen in him not only a strong revolutionary brother, but one example of what many whose lives have been counted as nothing by this system can lift their heads and become in the fight for human emancipation. For this, the system has reacted with punishment and violence.
For almost four years Gregory has been unjustly persecuted for his role in peacefully documenting a political statement in opposition to censorship carried out by the "Ethical" Humanist Society of Chicago. He has already served 60 days in jail and now faces the prospect of being mandated to serve the rest of the time in his outrageous 300 day sentence.
All this only shows more clearly the utter bankruptcy and illegitimacy of this country's criminal in-justice system. His strength in the face of this has given many others strength. Now, we must all rally together to demand: This persecution must stop! Gregory must not do one more day of illegitimate time in jail. No harm must come to him if he is taken into the clutches of the enemy. Everyone who cares about justice, who wants to see the youth on the bottom of society aspire to something better, who knows the horrors carried out against people in this country's dungeons and jails, and who yearns for a better world must have Gregory's back.
July 23, 2013
My good friend and comrade Gregory Koger is another victim of the so-called justice system here in the United States. Not only is Gregory a victim of a deeply unjust institution, he is also a victim of the "Ethical" "Humanist" Society in Chicago! Gregory did nothing wrong, I support him 100% and denounce this further travesty of justice! Free Gregory and all other political prisoners in this "free" country!
July 23, 2013
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
July 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On July 23 in San Francisco and New York, there were send-off rallies for the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, now hitting the road from each coast for a month, joining together in North Dakota and culminating in Jackson, Mississippi.
Abortion Rights Are at a Crossroads:
This is NOT a Time to Lay Low—It is Time for Massive Uncompromising Struggle!
by Sunsara Taylor and David Gunn, Jr.
In New York, despite at times heavy rain, a core of 50 people were joined by well over 50 others whom came for parts of the rally. Many more who were passing by stopped to check it out, listened and got flyers and stickers. Through the course of the gathering, people got a sense that something that was out to boldly change the whole political landscape on this crucial battlefront was beginning. Support for the Freedom Ride was expressed with pledges from many others "to have their backs," quite important given the ferocious attacks on abortion providers in the areas that the ride would be going. That abortion on demand and without apology is a basic right and without it women are enslaved was expressed in many ways, ranging from testimony of young women facing an unwanted pregnancy to that the doctors who perform abortions at great personal risk.
Sonia Ossario, president of the NYC Chapter of the National Organization for Women, said, "Women's lives are at risk and this is totally unacceptable" and saluted the "fierce and tireless advocates on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride."
A statement was read from Eve Ensler: "I am proud of the women and men who will be traveling from both coasts and down the middle of the country in this summer's Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. I urge all to follow their daring and rise with them to reclaim our lives, our bodies, our own reproductive decisions, and our futures. There is no time to waste." [see whole statement]
Carl Dix from the Revolutionary Communist Party, along with members of the NYC Revolution Club, spoke of the importance of this Freedom Ride and the connections with the battle against mass incarceration and the national outrage around the acquittal of George Zimmerman. They put it all within the context of the RCP's strategy for revolution, as concentrated in "Fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution," which sparked some significant debate and discussion after the rally.
Merle Hoffman, founder/president of Choices Women's Medical Center, sent a six-foot-wide coat hanger to take on the tour, representing the horror of what happens when abortion is not legally available to women. Linda Prine, Director of Women's Health at the Institute for Family Health, spoke of what it is like to provide and train medical professionals to provide abortions, and the difficulties and dangers they actually face when conducting abortions outside of New York City. She commended the Freedom Ride for "taking the offensive instead of always being on the defensive."
One woman was so moved by what she heard at the rally that she came to the stage to share the story of her best friend from before Roe v. Wade, who was raised Catholic and, when she learned that she was pregnant, shot herself and died.
Read Sunsara Taylor's blog: "1st Day on the Road with the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride".
Sunsara Taylor, a supporter of the Revolutionary Communist Party and an initiator of the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women, spoke of the origins of patriarchy in class-divided society and of the vision and leadership for revolution, leading to an end to patriarchy and for the liberation of women and the emancipation of all humanity.
The grand finale of the rally was the calling forward of the Freedom Riders and of dozens of people signing up to support and "have the backs" of those leaving on the Freedom Ride. For reports on the Freedom Ride as it unfolds, click here or go to stoppatriarchy.org.
From a reader:
July 23—About 40 people rallied at a San Francisco park to send off the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. Speakers included the current and former presidents of the SF chapter of NOW, Somer Loen and Monalisa Wallace; a member of the Revolution Club; Pat Maginnis, who has been fighting for abortion rights since 1959; and Andrea Strong of Stop Patriarchy.
Alex, the rally MC, said, "We're telling the truth all over this nation, that fetuses are not babies, women are not incubators and abortion is not murder. Abortion is responsible, it's moral, it's positive, it's liberating."
A young woman who is one of the volunteers for the Freedom Ride said, "I'm 17 and you want to know what really pisses me off? When the anti-abortion bigots call my generation pro-life. No! Sorry. My generation is the one that has been lied to and kept in the dark about abortion. We've been given little to no sex education and this has been systematic and widespread—even in California, sex education is a joke! We never knew what it was like to live in a country where abortion is illegal. We can't say we fully understand that. Because we never had to make the choice between submerging ourselves in a scalding bath or throwing ourselves down a flight of stairs. We never chose between bleach or Lysol. Or a knitting needle, a shard of glass, or a wire coat hanger. But we do have a choice before us. We have a choice of whether or not we're going to go back to that, and let that be our reality, or whether we're going to fight this shit and make sure we don't go back."
A Black woman who came to the rally told us: "I think shutting down all the clinics in the state makes no sense. Because that means a woman has to go to a whole other state to get an abortion. And we are talking about people in poverty. I am in poverty. I live in poverty so how am I supposed to go to another state to get an abortion? It's like they're taking away everything and blaming the problems with the economy on people on welfare. But they won't allow the people on welfare to make their own decision on whether or not they want to add to their family. So they're enclosing them in a circle that there's no escape from... Yes, I support the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride!"
Andrea Strong from Stop Patriarchy spoke about the attacks on abortion rights and the whole war on women, and said, "We carry with us not just the knowledge of the current lived experiences of women, and all the horror of that, but we carry with us the potential to transform people. To turn this whole tide around—the state of emergency around abortion rights—and to go in the face of and STOP this whole war on women. Now is not the time to give up. Now is not the time to lay low or rely on the Democrats, or to simply fight the good fight, nor to settle for anything less but the full liberation of women. Now is the time for mass and massive, uncompromising resistance. Now is the time to go to the places that are the most under attack and to launch this Abortion Rights Freedom Ride... Let's not stop until we cause the whole world to change."
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
July 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
To the editors:
I want to respond to the article on "jolts" recently posted on revcom.us ["There is a Jolt! What Is Our Responsibility NOW?"]. The article focused attention just where it needs to be: on how today's intense juncture around Trayvon Martin should be understood—and acted on—from the framework of the Party's strategy for revolution. I won't try to repeat all the valuable points in that letter; what follows are a few notes in response to this piece, and to further reflecting on the Party's statement "On the Strategy for Revolution."
In all such cases, fighting the power demands tactical leadership. People may feel compelled to act from our agitation, but there has to be leadership on HOW to act. Other forces will rush in from their own viewpoint, often to lead things in a wrong direction and sometimes even to prevent masses of people from standing up. Things like this should not be allowed to go down. Everything will be led by one line or another, one world outlook or another, and which line leads determines everything.
The more our Party's revolutionary viewpoint and strategy is spread and gains influence throughout society...the more that people come to understand and agree with what the Party is all about, and join its ranks on that basis...the more the Party's "reach" extends to every corner of the country...the greater its organizational strength and its ability to withstand and to lead people forward in the face of government repression aimed at crushing resistance and killing off revolution—the more the basis for revolution will be prepared and the more favorable the chance of winning.
This has to be posed as an active question to people—how will they, in the words of the strategy statement, "support and strengthen our Party as the overall leadership of this revolution," which is the absolutely necessary instrument to lead the masses to make revolution. Without such a party, there is no way for masses of people to scientifically know and transform the world toward human emancipation; only with such an instrument does that become possible.
The challenge is on each of us, and on our movement as a whole: to cast off, to rupture with, the habits of thinking and action conditioned by too many years of so-called "normal times" and to rise to what the situation demands.
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
July 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On July 13, 400 people—supporters and families of prisoners in California's prisons—gathered in César Chavez Park, a few miles from the gates of Corcoran State Prison. Organized by Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity and built by other groups including the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, people came in buses and carpools from Northern, Southern, and Central California. We met one another in a park, and then set out with our banners and signs on a long march in 100+ degree heat to a rally right outside the prison.
Corcoran State Prison is one of four prisons in California that have Security Housing Units (SHUs). In this strike, and the two previous hunger strikes last year, Corcoran has been a strong center of prisoner resistance, and many of the families attending the rally had loved ones inside. Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) activists and everyone we spoke to there all commented on the strength we all took away from the day, meeting and learning from one another. Some, especially among ex-prisoners and their families, noted that the gathering itself, with many nationalities and areas represented, was indicative of the transformative effect of the signing of the "Agreement to end hostilities" that was signed in August 2012.
An overflow crowd was present at Revolution Books in Berkeley to hear powerful and indicting testimony from a panel of speakers, exposing from different angles the torture of long-term solitary confinement and upholding the courageous California prison hunger strikers. Two students from the University of California, Berkeley (UCB), who themselves were captives for five years in the torture cells of Pelican Bay State Prison SHUs, anchored the panel with their testimony. They were joined by Andres Conteris of the group "Close Gitmo," who visited prisoners in the Pelican Bay SHU shortly before they began their hunger strike, and brought messages from them; Michael Montgomery, a National Public Radio reporter who has done significant, consistent (and singular) work covering the prisons, including exposing the inhumane brutality of solitary confinement in California prisons; and Larry Everest, a writer for Revolution newspaper, who is active in SMIN.
Montgomery vividly traced and exposed the suffering that prisoners endure in the SHU and the arbitrary decisions by the prison authorities that confine them there, sometimes for decades. One of the UCB students talked about the war on drugs, about how in the last decades in California there have been 22 prisons built and only one college. The other UCB student, a Latino, talked about growing up, about how the homies who were most respected all went to the SHU in Pelican Bay, and how he wanted to go there from an early age. He spoke about how he was in a pod with "southerners" [this refers to prisoners from Southern California] and one white guy, and how the Latinos took care of, took food and other items to, that white prisoner because he had no one. Later, when he decided to study for his GED, the white prisoner tutored him in math every night at 5 pm. Stories like these blew a hole through the conception that the people in the SHU have no humanity. Everest situated this explosion of the prison population and rise of solitary confinement in a system of mass incarceration—a counterinsurgency before the insurgency—rooted in the evolving demands of global imperialism—and pointed to the hunger strike and the "Agreement to End Hostilities" as proof of the revolutionary potential of those the system vilifies as the "worst of the worst."
The program drew forward many formerly incarcerated persons who also had spent time in the SHU, as well as family members of loved ones in solitary confinement. The Q&A was peppered with back and forth between the panelists and the audience, with people both asking questions and speaking from their own experience. One woman, a mother of a young man being tortured in the Pelican Bay SHU, brought a stack of 68 signed copies of the "Emergency Call" which she has gotten signed from friends and strangers alike, everywhere she goes in and around Oakland. Another woman asked for help in visiting her son who is in Pelican Bay. She had visited him in five different prisons but was suddenly denied access when he was moved to Pelican Bay. A Black man spoke of his years in solitary confinement and said that it was books, like the ones "in this store," that helped keep him together, and keep him sane through those years.
Everest's call for urgent action to support the prisoners was not lost on the people present. Afterward a quickly called meeting of SMIN was held.
SF Bay Area
At noon, people from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Code Pink, and the Social Justice Committee of the Unitarian Fellowship of Berkeley converged on the California State Building on a busy San Francisco corner. One member of Code Pink, who is on her 34th day of a hunger strike in support of protesting Guantánamo and California prisoners, came to the rally.
Then the convergence headed off to a corner in Oakland (known among rebels of the East Bay as Oscar Grant Plaza), the home of the Oscar Grant rebellions and the site of Oakland Occupy. This has also been the corner at which the Stop Mass Incarceration Network has had a consistent presence for Justice for Trayvon Martin and the California prison hunger strikers. This spot had seen powerful marches nearly every day of the week after the verdict came down finding George Zimmerman not guilty. This plaza is where a "Day After the Verdict" rally and march called and built for by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network erupted into truly mass protest. The scene there is becoming very polarized, with some reactionary fools being hyped up by the media about "outsiders" coming into town, stirring up trouble and breaking some windows. But as some started spouting their reactionary views and getting in the faces of speakers, many of the people who were previously only watching stepped up to take the bullhorn. The crowd grew. One of the people on the bullhorn building support for the hunger strike was one of the UC Berkeley students who had spent many years in the Pelican Bay SHU. One youngster whose parent had been in prison told us he'd gotten out 70 leaflets to the crowd. People in the crowd signed the banners about both Trayvon and the prison hunger strike.
Afterward, our group joined a rally, and then a march of about 300 people took to the streets. We marched to East Oakland and the Fruitvale BART Station, the site of the murder of Oscar Grant and the spot made famous in the new movie, Fruitvale Station. Another rally was held there, where a member of SMIN called on folks to step forward and support the hunger strikers.
On Friday, July 19, Day 12 of the prisoner hunger strike, the Stop Mass Incarceration Network called for a Day of National Action in Solidarity with the strike. The day came at a serious crossroads in the strike, when prison officials and the State of California have intensified their retaliation against hunger strike prisoners and their legal support network. The Day of National Action and Solidarity also took up the slogans "No More Trayvon Martins" and "No More Criminalization of a Generation." In Los Angeles, SMIN carried out a day of mobile actions.
First, there was a lightning press event at the corner of Crenshaw and Vernon in Leimert Park at 10 am. Families with loved ones participating in the strike, and others with SMIN, wanted to bring the reality of solitary confinement torture and the hunger strike into the area where the protests for Justice for Trayvon Martin after the Zimmerman verdict had been most powerful, and to support both. The press event featured families who have relatives in Pelican Bay, whose stories were told on Press TV and Univision KMEX Channel 34 in Southern California. Graciela Martinez told media that the torture of SHU prisoners not only continued after years and decades, but retaliation by prison authorities had escalated once the hunger strike began, and they were going up to Pelican Bay that afternoon, after the Day of National Action and Solidarity, because of great concern for the hunger strikers. Graciela told how prison officials were isolating prisoner representatives, freezing them in isolation cells, ransacking their cells and removing legal materials, denying medicine to hunger strikers with chronic illnesses, banning their lawyers from Pelican Bay and other state prisons, etc. As part of the Day of Action, these family members had plans to distribute the SMIN Emergency Call! Join Us In Stopping Torture in U.S. Prisons! in towns up and down California on their trip to and back from Pelican Bay that afternoon.
At noon, the protesters met on the Crenshaw Blvd. overpass at the Interstate 10 Freeway, the site just days before where hundreds had stopped traffic on the freeway to show their outrage at the Zimmerman verdict which represents the declaration of open season on Black and Latino youth. Right at that spot, thousands of motorists passed and hundreds honked in support, as families with loved ones in the SHU, high school students, and political activists held giant banners saying "We Are All Trayvon Martin—The Whole Damn System Is Guilty" and "Pelican Bay Prisoner Hunger Strike—End Solitary Torture," and "Support the CA Prisoner Hunger Strikers."
In the course of a little over an hour, 5,000 cars passed and traffic came to a near standstill at certain points, as motorists read the banners and signs, honked, and raised their fists in support. A crew then made its way to the Santa Monica Promenade, where hundreds of youth on summer vacation, international tourists, and local shoppers congregate. As high school activists passed out stickers and the Emergency Call to stop torture, people from all walks of life came up to take pictures of themselves with the banners as the backdrop, and an impromptu rally was held addressing dozens of skater youth, who listened intensely to the speeches and in many cases took up distributing "5 Demands—CA Prisoners on Hunger Strike—We Have Your Backs," and "We Are All Trayvon—The Whole Damn System is Guilty," and stickers.
People! This hunger strike is now is now ending its 17th day. The human beings in solitary confinement are putting their very lives on the line to change the cruel, unjust, and torturous conditions they are forced to live in, day after day, decade after decade. They state that they are doing this "to not only improve their conditions but also as an act of solidarity with all prisoners and oppressed people around the world."
It is on us to spread the knowledge of this just strike throughout society. And more, to join with the prisoners in resolutely opposing the inhumane treatment they endure at the hands of the prison authorities and demanding that prison authorities meet their just demands. We must also demand that the prison authorities stop their vicious retaliatory attacks on the hunger strikers.
The heroism of these prisoners should move all of us to stand with them with determination and compel us to step up and support their struggle on many fronts and in many ways.
Revolution #311 July 28, 2013
From a Prisoner at Pelican Bay SHU
July 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We greatly appreciate receiving these letters from prisoners and encourage prisoners to keep sending us correspondence. The views expressed by the writers of these letters are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.
Our peaceful protest here at Pelican Bay SHU [Security Housing Unit] is alive and well. Today makes day nine and we are going strong and intend to continue indefinitely! The state has refused to meet our 5 demands and so we refuse to continue to be tortured in such a horrible way. So far the prison has taken 14 of those they are calling "strike leaders" and segregated them from everyone else. This will only serve to push our efforts forward stronger because we are being punished for exercising our right to peaceful protest.
Pelican Bay SHU will one day be closed and used as a museum to show what horrors Amerika stooped to and to show future generations the crimes against humanity that the people endured in Pelican Bay. The SHUs in California hold more Chicanos than any other nationality even though Chicanos are a minority in California prisons. Black and Brown prisoners fill California prisons to the point the courts had to tell—order the Governor to reduce the prison population; Governor Brown has so far refused. We know we will get no movement out of relying on the state and we know we cannot gain anything individually but just like out in U.S. society our freedom will only come out of a United Front.
Most of us in SHU like our counter parts in SuperMax dungeons across the U.S. and beyond have lived a life full of despair, we have felt the brunt of state repression of being hunted by the pigs in our community and resisted from being neutralized in so many ways by the state. We know what living years with hunger pains is—our entire existence is like one big hunger strike. But we astound the state, they are amazed and frightened at our resilience and when the clubs don't work and the mace and bullets don't work they will attack our mind—psychologically.
The SHU and Supermax exist as psychological warfare where poor rebellious peoples mostly from the oppressed nations are targeted in an attempt to either break us or neutralize us mentally. Most suicides occur in prisons where people are in SHU or solitary confinement, isolation is a known method of torture and yet California has thousands in this style of captivity. Why? Because it is part of the program employed by the state on the "figure of authority" i.e., the target. This is like any military operation only we do not wear fatigues we wear prison jumpsuits. The weapon of choice is not a 50 caliber it's an isolation cell and the battlefield is not some desert it's the barrio and ghetto.
Let us see what we are up against and how we are being picked off, these are new methods in the predators' arsenal that we should identify as it is a war we are engaged in, a low intensity war launched on poor people!