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Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
18th National Day of Protest Against Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation
October 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
October 22 is the 18th annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. At this moment, it’s more important than ever that O22 be marked powerfully by people acting across the U.S. As Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party says, “This has to be a day when all across the country people are taking to the streets in outrage, holding cultural events, teach-ins, and in other ways spotlighting the horrific reality of police brutality and murder, the widespread repression and the criminalization of whole generations of youth. This has got to be something that people respond to. (“In the Bitter Aftermath of the Trayvon Martin Verdict: The Outrages of AmeriKKKa... and the Need for Revolution,” online at revcom.us.)
In last week’s Revolution newspaper, we suggested: “A key point of method: It’s always important to begin efforts like this by asking the right questions.” One of the first questions you have to ask is: what is the situation in the world in which this O22 is taking place?
One level to this: O22 is aiming to draw forward mass and defiant resistance to wanton police brutality and murder. Young lives are cut short again and again and again. Jonathan Ferrell in North Carolina was looking for help after a car crash. Police shot him dead. 38-year-old Marlon Brown was run over by police chasing him through a dark lot. (To see the police’s painful disregard for Brown’s life, where they run into him head-on, search “Marlon Brown CNN” on YouTube.)
O22 is taking on repression—mass incarceration, spying, and attacks on political protest. In U.S. prisons, 80,000 people are being tortured in solitary confinement. The government is running vast networks of spying on everyone, inside and outside the U.S. And let’s not forget the brutality of the system’s response to the Occupy protests in the fall and winter of 2011 with mass arrests, riot police and beatings.
O22 is about ending the criminalization of a generation. Generations of Black and Latino youth are viewed by society as suspects and animals. There are gang injunctions in LA where more than a couple of youth cannot legally congregate on a street corner. And the murder of Trayvon Martin and the acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, sent the message, once again and even more blatantly, that you can kill a Black youth in America for no other reason than you think he’s up to no good, and you’ll receive no punishment.
There is much, much more that could be said, but even just this brief discussion of the lived impact of what we are called on to protest on October 22 should make us all determined to be on a mission to stop this. And to be on a mission to stop these crimes as part of putting an end to this whole system through revolution once and for all.
We need to appreciate how deeply police brutality impacts people’s lives. We need to listen to and learn from the anger out there—people’s insights and their determination to change things.
But as important as this is, it’s not the most essential thing. It’s even more important to understand what the sentiments of the people are in response to and flowing from. And we need to show other people how to understand that. Why? So we can get to the bottom of the problem and deal with it.
Think about it this way: If you have a serious medical problem, terrible pain that doesn’t go away, you’ve got to get to the root of the problem. You’re not going to deal with cancer with a band-aid, and you’re not going to fix a broken back with ice or aspirin. If we’re going to get anywhere dealing with police brutality, repression, and the criminalization of a generation, we need to get to the root of the problem to solve it. And struggle with other people to look at and work on the problem that way.
The heart of a whole world of problems lies with the very nature of this system. This is a capitalist-imperialist economy that lives on exploitation and operates through dog-eat-dog cutthroat competition. Those who rule over all this have a whole setup of oppression—armies, police, and spy networks—that enforce their system. And capitalism generates and pumps out ideas—like “look out for number one”—which are a product of and serve a system of exploitation and oppression.
The result: a world of horrors. From the sweatshops of Bangladesh, to the mines of Congo, to the global degradation of women, to the environmental crisis... and on and on.
And in many profound ways, the wealth and power of this country that is responsible for the lion’s share of that suffering—”the greatest country in the world,” as they call it—is built on the “foundational, bred-in-the-bone connection between capitalism and white supremacy,” as it’s put in the article, “On Obama’s August 28 Speech: The Battle Over the Truth About the African-American Experience and Present-Day Reality.” (This is a recent article in Revolution newspaper that should be gotten out all over and merits real study—both to learn from the substance of it, and to learn how the article wages a fight over how to arrive at what is true.)
In this article, and elsewhere at revcom.us, we get further into the development of this system—from slavery, through Jim Crow’s sharecropping, segregation, and KKK terror through to today’s “New Jim Crow” of mass incarceration and police murder.
While the forms of oppression have changed, the reality of this oppression—in the undergirding foundational core of America—is the same. And even as this system is wed to continuing this oppression in ever more brutal ways, this also presents real contradictions for this system that it doesn't have any other answer for.
Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, spoke to this in a talk a few years ago, Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution. People should get into the whole talk, but in relation to this question of the objective situation we’re working to transform in a direction more favorable to revolution, BA makes a profound point. This is from the section, “Racism and white supremacy, ruling class divisions and repolarization for revolution:”
This [the oppression of Black people as a foundational part of this system] remains a vulnerable point of this whole system. Even with very real changes in the situation of Black people, as part of the larger changes in the society (and the world) overall—including a growth of the “middle class” among Black people, an increase in college graduates and people in higher paying and prestigious professions, with a few holding powerful positions within the ruling political structures, even to the extent now of a “Black president”—the situation of Black people, and in particular that of millions and millions who are trapped in the oppressive and highly repressive conditions of the inner city ghettos, remains a very acute and profound contradiction for the American imperialist system as a whole and for its ruling class—something which has the potential to erupt totally out of the framework in which they can contain it. And something which, at the same time, is a point of very sharp contention and spur to mobilization, not only of potential revolutionary forces, but also now of reactionary and potential or actual fascist forces.
Once you understand this deeper reality, the objective nature of these contradictions, the more you recognize the volatility that exists.
Another level to understanding the situation in which this O22 is taking place is what the U.S. is facing internationally in its attempts to be the top imperialist power in the world. Right now, the U.S. is facing a lot of contradictions internationally—a situation that is not all under their control. A full discussion of this is beyond the scope of this article. But there’s one important element here to highlight—the contradiction they face between what they say they are about and what the reality of what they’re about actually is, and how that can get exposed in part through mass resistance within the U.S. borders. The U.S. claims to be the home of freedom and democracy, and claims that when it invades sovereign countries, or drops bombs on innocent civilians, it is doing so to help the people of the world. But the reality is they are the biggest perpetrator of war crimes and crimes against humanity. (See “Dissecting Obama’s Speech at the UN: The Truth Behind “Core Interests” and “American Exceptionalism” at revcom.us.)
Despite what is said in public halls, the U.S. actually does run a torture state—around the world and within the borders of their own country. And despite what they say about “human rights,” they incarcerate oppressed peoples within their own borders at a rate greater than any other country in the world. And despite what they say about “free speech” and civil liberties, they are spying on people in their millions and millions within the U.S. and around the world.
Right now, in this sharpening world situation, mass resistance within the U.S. could reverberate around the world—and could be part of people globally calling into question the legitimacy of this system as a whole. This won’t happen spontaneously, but is part of the overall objective terrain we are working on. To be clear, this kind of mass resistance is needed not just around October 22, but on other fronts as well, including defending the right to abortion and ending patriarchy.
Another defining contradiction that we need to understand is the ways in which the ruling class, and the different sections of the ruling class, are in an incredibly sharp conflict about how to handle the serious contradictions this system faces. (See “The Shutdown, the Showdown, and the Urgent Need for Repolarization...for Revolution” in this issue.)
We know where the Republicans are coming from: Making a hero and role model out of George Zimmerman, taking the right to vote away from Black people, maniacally insisting on the right of rural white racists to accumulate arsenals of weapons, and demanding more, and worse, police brutality. All part of a fascist agenda that includes self-righteous, vicious disdain for the poor, enslavement of women by forcing them to have children against their will (by banning abortion), and waging a war on immigrants.
But what about the Democrats? Obama has been forced to acknowledge some of the reality of Black people’s lives in this society, but the Democrats are working at this from the perspective of how to demobilize their base—to get people out of the streets and to convince them to think that change can be made within this system by acting within the accepted confines of the system.
Not only is Obama not willing or able to fundamentally challenge white supremacy and racism, he is at the head of a system that has this built into its very fabric—he is part of further enforcing this and himself panders to this racism and white supremacy. Over and over, Obama has joined the chorus blaming those who have been subjugated by America for their own oppression. He has also consistently upheld the right of the police to brutalize Black and Latino people. After the cops who killed Sean Bell were found not guilty, Obama came out publicly to say that people should respect the verdict. (Sean Bell was a young Black man in New York who was shot 50 times and killed the night before his wedding day.)
Why? Because white supremacy is a cohering foundational core of America and is still being relied on as part of the social glue of this system. To really go at that would entail going at the roots of this system—something those ruling won’t do and, frankly, can’t do. So on the one hand, you have Obama pandering to this racism at the same time as the fascist wing of the bourgeoisie is whipping it up. At the same time as the slow genocide of mass incarceration grinds on, impacting millions and millions of people... with the real potential of it speeding up to a fast genocide.
If, in the whole situation discussed here, there was defiant and widespread mass resistance, it would both cause many more people to question the reality that they are otherwise ignorant of or putting up with, and would create new challenges for the whole system. And one could imagine different sections of the ruling class trying to deal with this in different ways. But again—they don’t have complete freedom. For example, the Democrats/Obama might try to rein this back in and make people think “their concerns were being heard” but they’d be trying to do this without unraveling their whole thing or giving too much ground to these concerns... while these fascist forces are whipped up and could become increasingly whipped up... this wouldn’t all develop in a straight line but you can see how, in this very intense overall situation, including as a revolutionary force was posing a real alternative and influencing society... things really could break out of the control of this oppressive system.
Refer again to what BA describes about this: “...the situation of Black people, and in particular that of millions and millions who are trapped in the oppressive and highly repressive conditions of the inner city ghettos, remains a very acute and profound contradiction for the American imperialist system as a whole and for its ruling class—something which has the potential to erupt totally out of the framework in which they can contain it. And something which, at the same time, is a point of very sharp contention and spur to mobilization, not only of potential revolutionary forces, but also now of reactionary and potential or actual fascist forces.”
Working on this highly fraught and contradictory situation, what is the role of the movement for revolution in all this? What are the ways in which this could be acted upon by the movement for revolution to transform this situation, to repolarize society in a direction more favorable to the revolution that is needed? What is the process, the strategic approach to hastening, while awaiting, a revolutionary situation? These are big and important questions that readers should be urgently grappling with in relation to the whole terrain—and be getting together with others to talk more about.*
Specifically in relation to this day of protest on October 22, there is a pull to just go straight to thinking about “what’s being organized for O22?” in a narrower way, just looking at it in terms of this or that demonstration that should happen on the day itself. While what happens on that day is important—and people do need to be fighting the power—just going at it from that level doesn’t encompass all the necessity or freedom we face. If you come at things in that way, you won’t recognize all of what we’ve discussed up to this point—the ways in which what we’re part of calling on people to protest are major faultline contradictions of this system. Instead of starting with how people are responding to different abuses at any given point (important as it is to recognize this as part of reality), we need to start from the biggest picture.
Nor would you see the reality that while this system is committed to continuing with its great brutality and repression, the slow genocide of mass incarceration and criminalizing generations of youth—they are not all powerful and themselves are facing serious problems in keeping it all together in a rapidly changing world. All this is the raw material that needs to be repolarized for revolution. If you come at this from within any one outrage or another, you won’t get the full picture of reality.
We have to understand the largest necessity we face—making revolution. So, the answer isn’t just to “think bigger” but getting into how are we repolarizing societally... how are we hastening, while awaiting...
This is going to require a much broader strategic approach... with the struggle to change people’s thinking and how they think—throughout society—as the decisive element of that. People act—or don’t act—based on what they understand. Think about it: Is the main contradiction we face in building mass defiant resistance to police brutality and the slow genocide of mass incarceration as a part of the overall movement for revolution, that people aren’t organized? That they just don’t know the date and time of the demonstration? No—as important as it is to make known the date and time of the demonstration (providing people a vehicle to act as well as making known there are people who are serious about fighting this), the main thing holding people back is what they understand about the situation.
Where is all this outrageous mass incarceration and police brutality and murder coming from? Is it our own fault and our own bad choices? Are all these Black and Latino youth really just criminals after all? Did the people who are being tortured in U.S. prisons do something to deserve it? Can the system causing all this be ended? What difference does protesting make? Should we act on our outrage against this or just give it up to god? Is this just human nature or something evil about the nature of white people? The wrong answers to these question present obstacles in people themselves understanding the reality—and acting to change it. And these wrong answers have been fought for and hammered at on a societal level by a whole range of class forces aiming to shape society in their interests.
There is a big battle going on right now about HOW people should understand this because these are objective faultline contradictions of this system that will keep resurfacing and getting fought out on different levels and in different ways. And through this multilayered and dynamic process, we can transform—in a very big way—how this is getting fought out and toward what end.
We need to go at this on different levels—simple and more complex, fighting to change the thinking of whole blocs of people at the same time and in the process of leading people to fight the power and uniting broadly with all those who want to see this happen. And we need to do that as a whole ensemble of revolutionary work.
Right now, people should be out in a big way—with showings of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—Nothing Less! Bob Avakian Live—on corners, on campuses, in stores and parks, and getting people connected with revcom.us and Revolution. We should make very broad use of the Three Strikes poster—getting into the full meaning of it with people. Deep excavation of where this police brutality, repression, and the criminalization of a generation is coming from, and how it is part of a whole world of hellish pain, and how to bring that to an end. How we are working to make a revolution to get rid of the system causing this and how fighting the power right now is part of that. We need to help people see what the different elements of this day have to do with each other. Why victims of this system—those who have lost loved ones or whose family members are incarcerated—should speak out not just about their own situation, but about the whole situation that is causing this. And why people who are not “under the gun” on a daily basis need to take this up. And we need to be engaging in all kinds of polemics and struggle about where this is coming from, and what is needed to stop it—to help sharpen how people are fighting, and toward what end.
You can see the potential for a powerful, defiant fight to bring people forward around all that is concentrated in O22. And this has to reverberate throughout all of society... with people fighting the power and increasingly coming to see the illegitimacy of a whole system that is causing this... people digging into and debating out what is the problem and what is the solution. All this is happening within a cauldron of contradictions and interpenetrating in ways we can’t foresee with all the other sharp contradictions breaking open in society. (Again, see “The Shutdown, the Showdown, and the Urgent Need To Repolarize... For Revolution” in this issue.) Doing this kind of work will compel other forces in society, with different positions in relation to the powers-that-be, and different outlooks on the problem and solution, to feel compelled to act on that situation in ways we can’t predict but can contribute to the larger complicated and dynamic mix.
And all this can contribute to a movement for REAL change, for revolution, if—through all this—the conscious revolutionary forces are fighting to impact and shape things in big ways, and working to change the whole political atmosphere. And in the process, transforming how blocs of people are thinking through struggle and debate, and building up the organized forces for that revolution.
How to do this? You’ll find a lot of material at revcom.us and in this issue on building a movement for revolution. But it starts with BA Everywhere: the mass campaign to raise big funds to project Bob Avakian’s vision and works into every corner of society. That is the leading edge on a mission to change the whole political atmosphere. And, along with that, connecting people with revcom.us and Revolution. The dynamic mix of people taking the political offensive around other major faultlines of this system, the enslavement and degradation of women, or the climate emergency created by the system of capitalism... all the while challenging and transforming people’s thinking in a revolutionary direction ... this is all part of fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution.
All this is what we have to be working on... aiming to radically change things in a direction more favorable for a revolution which can put an end to this nightmare of a system once and for all.
* Here we refer readers specifically to the Statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party, “On the Strategy for Revolution” as well as the beginning of Part 2 of BA’s talk, Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, which is reprinted in this issue: “Hastening while awaiting—not bowing down to necessity.” These works, taken together, concentrate a breakthrough in understanding how we can get from the situation we’re in now to a situation where revolution is possible, and how we need to be hastening, while awaiting, that revolutionary situation. [back]
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
Announcing a New Feature Documentary Film Coming This Fall:
October 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On April 11, 2011 Harlem Stage in NYC came alive with music, poetry, dance, visual art, and words of revolution on the occasion of the publication of Bob Avakian's BAsics
This film is the story of that night and the reflections of the artists and participants: what inspired them, their hopes and their dreams
Maggie Brown, David Murray, Matthew Shipp and William Parker, reg e. gaines and Shelly Gaines, Abiodun Oyewole, Outernational, Maluca Mala, Guillermo E. Brown, Moist Paula Henderson, excerpts from Tapsploitation, and Aladdin & Avirodh Sharma
Bob Avakian, Dr. Cornel West, Matthew Shipp, William Parker, Richard Brown, Annie Day, Leah Bonvissuto, Carl Dix, Abiodun Oyewole, reg e. gaines, Maggie Brown, Jesse Williams Massa, Sabel, Leo Mintek, Miles Solay, Aladdin, Kyle Goen, Dread Scott, Joe Veale, Alejandro del Fuego, and others
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
October 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On October 17, there will a screening of an excerpt from the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! on the UCLA campus. The following are recent statements about BA and the film from two Los Angeles-area professors: Juan Gómez-Quiñones, history professor at UCLA; and Dennis Loo, sociology professor at Cal State Pomona.
From Juan Gómez-Quiñones, professor of history, UCLA, and author:
Come Join Plato—Walk into the Sunlight*
As a professor teaching materials on social movements, I would propose and ask the following:
BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! is about a better world nothing less—a world we could imagine as better than this one. In this film BA [Bob Avakian] makes a call to consider the present and imagine the future differently from our everyday perspective, different from the angle of many of our usual teachers in required classes and required texts. This film is about us—nothing less.
If we stand back and see our society, the world on the news and even our own lives—we feel contradictory pressures of job, school or the environment, even our friends. In sum we feel the anxiety for the future: Will there be a future? We ask: What kind of future do I want? Why is there violence everywhere? Why does poverty spread and racism continue and why do more and more people engage in violence? In a class, we may ask: Why don’t we ever discuss, even argue about the present or the future?
BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! offers you one set of glasses to see, offers you one voice to hear critically. It challenges you to be a real person along with other real persons willing to say a different, better world is possible. This stance and awareness is critical thinking, taking charge to end the madness of the world as it is, to try changing yourself and the world.
* Refers to the statement by someone who saw the film and relates it to Plato’s allegory of the cave “in which Socrates describes a group of people who have been chained to the wall of a cave all their lives, facing the stone” and only see the world in shadows, that’s as close to reality as they come. The writer goes on: “Socrates tells us that the philosopher is like a prisoner freed from the cave, who can step outside, at last, in the freshness of truth, the real world. Bob Avakian’s analysis breaks apart the small framework in which we are manipulated.” Read entire statement and what others are saying about BA and the film at revcom.us. [back]
From Dennis Loo, professor of sociology, Cal State Pomona:
As someone whose life course was also deeply impacted by the 1960s' social movements when revolution was "on the table," even if it did not occur in the U.S., BA's tireless and deeply scientific approach and illuminating contributions to putting revolution back on the table are something that need to be popularized widely. For those who suspect or explicitly know that things as they are now are not the only way that the world has to be, this call in BA's talk and work is exceptionally vital. It would not be an exaggeration to say that it's a matter of life and death for untold numbers of people and the fate more broadly of the planet.
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
September 26, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On 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—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, and others who heard about it on KPFK radio, 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, LA. There were skater youth, a few homeless people, artists, students, professionals, and others.
The showing was a few days after Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted. In the days before the event, revolutionaries were in the streets with protests against the unjust verdict. And the BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—Nothing Less! 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. People came to the Central Library with a deep outrage about what is concentrated in the Zimmerman acquittal, saying that pushed them over the edge to want to get more deeply into revolution. 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.
The following is from interviews by Revolution reporters of people who came to the showing. The views expressed in these interviews are those of the people who were interviewed, and what was sparked in their thinking, and are not intended to represent the content of the film.
Q: What do you think of what you just saw?
Powerful. Very, very moving, insightful, very captivating, very awakening, that's for sure; very arousing in regards of awakening the emotions with all the injustices and with regards to what I've seen, it's a very awakening process, just what this man speaks about. It is just to bring you to the conclusion that this world is never what it seems like.
Shakespeare put it that the whole world is a stage and everybody is playing a part and if you are not a part of that part, then you are the one that's basically being thrown to the gutter. You are of little importance as he said, you know that it's sad that this country has so much hypocrisy involved with it and it has so much lies. The sad part about it is that people believe the lies.
You know the even more sadder part about it is that they don't question what is quote unquote, the truth. They don't even question it. They don't even ask whether, "Hey is that fact?" or "Hey, is that actually supposed to be that way?" or "Hey, is that right?" like he said if it is not affecting you, like most people say that is not affecting me. Well, fuck 'em. You know, it is affecting the world. What kind of morals do you have that you don't care that 10 million babies are dying out of starvation, poverty, apartheid. There is no difference to shooting 10 million babies and to not feed them. There is no difference because the end result is the same. They are dying, they are suffering, you know.
So I think that there is this injustice. It's nonsense and people should educate themselves. People should look behind. We need to know that past in order for us to know where we are going in the future, but I think that if you know the past that has been going on in this whole country as a whole then I think you are going to be real angry. You're going to be real angry and you're going to revolt and you're going to believe in the revolution and you're going to believe in change and you're going to want change. Overall, you're going to want change because change is good and this country is bad....
Why can you buy a $5 lottery ticket and then you could win $70 BILLION dollars when there are people STARVING. That makes no sense to me, so and the also surprising thing about it is the whole religious aspect part of it and it is true. I mean, why would a benevolent being or super-being allow such suffering in the whole world? It does not make sense to me and yet we still have people pious enough to drum things like this into little children; that you need to go to church....
Tell us a little about yourself and how you got here.
I'm 19. I'm a proud Chicano, an educated Chicano. I was born a statistic in the ghetto, in the gutter. I have witnessed many, many, many injustices in my walking the face of the earth. I'm a poet. I love literature. I study a lot of different kinds of philosophies in order for me to formulate my own philosophies in regards to the world, the way that it can be and the way that we see the world this day. And I think we need to learn a little about the past because there have been a lot of great thinkers and a lot of those great thinkers have been demonized or they have been thrown in the shadows and now the greatest thinkers that you may perhaps have now are the so-called rap musicians or the so-called TV hosts; whatever. You think that people have no clue that knowledge is power and how much knowledge can help you prevail in this game of life because it is a game and in the end it is going to be Game Over. And if you don't leave your mark in this earth you are just occupying space and you will leave no record of yourself, your thinking, or your philosophy if you don't participate in the revolution and speak your thoughts and act upon them....
What do you think of Avakian now that you have heard him?
I think Avakian is a very smart man, very insightful. He is very passionate about what he feels and that is the most important thing about it; because if you do not believe in what you are trying to preach, it has no currency with the people and I think that it is easier to preach than to be about it, but obviously if you are Avakian you have been about it for decades. So, much love and respect to Mr. Avakian and hopefully he continues to spread the word and hopefully he continues to spread the knowledge, most importantly, but ultimately it will come down to the people if you want to listen or not.
Tell us about your growing up?
I'm self-educated and there are people who hooked me up on this game of life and the whole society and the way it is structured. I was incarcerated and it was a tough thing that I had to overcome in my life. But it was a very educational experience when you are trapped like that in a room full of bricks all you have is your mind; and if you don't know how to travel the many dimensions that your mind possesses, you are really going to go crazy or you are going to be really bored throughout your whole time.
Where were you held?
In many juvenile halls and camps. I was 13 years old when I was first incarcerated; for vandalism; all the way till I was 18.
In and out?
Yes, it is something called recidivism. I'm pretty sure how you have heard that when you are incarcerated and you come out, it is a revolving door. Well, yes, I'm trying to say it is recidivism where it is more likely you are going to go back to jail to come back after your first sentence ONLY because the system implemented that with regards to probation and with regards to parole. They know you are going to come back to jail. They know you are. Either you have to prove them wrong or you just really don't give a crap and you are going to spend the rest of your life in jail . And I don't because I am so much of a genius.
How did you get out of it?
Well, the best way I can put it is that I just got tired. That is not a lifestyle that I would actually make a career out of and you know most of the times I was incarcerated, it was unjustifiable. I am not so comfortable in tapping into the details but I am going to say that I've wasted a lot of my youth incarcerated, but look at me. I have some brains to say "Hey"— you know, I'm going to use this time that I'm incarcerated to open the many doors that I have in this mansion I call my brain and I'm really going to try to find out who I am inside. I'm really going to try and figure out what I'm really passionate about and what moves me to just want to go all the way with what I feel—with what I need to go all the way with.
I just saw the program here called the BA Revolution. I was not prepared for this. However, it was mind blowing. Thank you.
... The length of the matter is quite exhausting for my level of concentration and one of the reasons I use the word, "mind blowing" is because it started to mention the truth there apparent. When I left the speech he mentioned that we don't want to get into a revolution because we feel comforting. He did not say it that way, but for the capitalist exploitation that is going on and that is mind blowing for me.
Phrases that he used that are, for instance, that I never completed reading Das Kapital but he did...But he did mention all this primitive accumulation of capitalism and also the other part of the parasitic ... or the parasites of society and you do not have to be a part of the ruling class to be that. Ha, Ha. Before I stick my foot into my mouth, I better get going.
...I'm just a poor person. And even if I don't indulge in anything that I enjoy, I'm still going to be poor. I'm not homeless; I have a little room that I stay in. I'm not a homeless or a street person, but I am a skid row person. Thank you.
I'm from Los Angeles. I'm a college student and basically one of my history teachers told me about Bob Avakian and I said "Wow"— that he is the man leading a communist movement here and it sounded pretty... it did not sound right, a person leading a communist movement here in the United States? I did not put too much into it. But, I was at Art Walk one time a couple of weeks back and there was this guy, and we talked and he emphasized that we should watch the film and I thought, "Why not come?"
I read the Communist Manifesto as well a while ago.... I got the Manifesto and started reading it and I thought it made a very good point about that we need class consciousness. Is that right? Of course. I believe that if it is that I have class consciousness that's why I am here.
I watched a little bit of the film. So with men and women conventions where the woman stays at home while the man is out there hunting, so to speak; and nowadays the man is out there working and the woman stays at home and takes care of the children, picks them up from school, whatever. And that's [why] I thought Bob Avakian made a great point about us humans progress and the things that happen through necessity and it was necessity for the woman to do these things and now its convention. I was just like wow, he's absolutely right.
At first in hearing about him is that he is just another person.... Hearing and watching the film, he is very candid. He's very persevering in the cause. I think that is very inspirational. I think that it is very good for all of this to have a person like that...
(a) I found out about this from someone from Revolution Books when I was at an atheist meeting down the road from the bookstore. They told me they were having an event at the bookstore with [Professor] Dennis Loo and Michael Slate, and I thought this is great, so I came down from there and got on the email list and starting getting emails and thought that this would be really a way to get involved. In the past couple of years especially I formulated strong opinions and emotions and definitely want to change things from the way they are now.
I graduated from college a few years ago in Ohio, a small community college in Ohio. I do physical therapy for a living and I've been here in L.A. for about 6 months.
(b) I'm from Sacramento, California. I moved to LA 3 months ago. I've been tagging along with (a) to all these speaking events and all these motivational events and let me tell you, they are very compelling. I've been going with him to the atheist meetings as well... I've just been going to these meetings and have just started to understand; and it's been going great though.
(a) I thought the speech and listening to Bob Avakian speak is wonderful. He is hitting on so many different topics and they are all interrelated and I thought he was right on point with everything he is talking about and it is really, really motivational, and talking about all this stuff because I'm sure he has spent his whole life researching and talking with other professionals and formulating his strong beliefs and opinions, so it is really great to hear someone that really knows what they are talking about and to really get in depth with it.
The thing that surprised me the most was going deep into history when the U.S. was first founded and came across and how things were already starting to be corrupted way back then and it was not something in the recent past, like it was 1,2,3 hundred years. That was the biggest surprise. I could have figured if it was true or false, I could have gotten it right, but you know in being an open-ended answer response; that was interesting.
(b) So this was the first time ever hearing about him. Let me tell you he is quite a speaker, alright.... It was very powerful and somewhat emotional because it is a shame that many people don't know about him and it kind of hit me as well, so hopefully I'll be able to now mention him and get more people involved because we need more people, obviously. Yeh, it was pretty good.
The title is Revolution...Nothing Less! You've only seen a couple hours and there is more to come; but what do you think of that title? What comes across?
(a) Initially, what comes across my mind is that, wow, this is going to be hard initially with the way that the system works and he talked about that and it is not going to be easy it is going to be a struggle and he used that word a lot, so I guess that there are baby steps in a sense of getting the word out and getting more involved and doing events and things like that. I'm interested in learning on how to further educate people and get the revolution going to full strength.
(a) Revolution!!! Yeah....I think that now people are starting to get an idea of what is going on in the world and going out to do the best we can. I'm not very good with these types of things. Yeah... it is mesmerizing, how he is so fluidly....
You mentioned ideas for spreading this.... We have a campaign now to get BA Everywhere and it is mainly a fundraising campaign to be able to amplify this voice, and the ideas you guys have are very important.
(a) The first thing that comes to mind is social media. I'm sure you've heard that all day; especially with the youth. I would say, Facebook comes to mind and I have not done much research and don't know if there is much Revolution, BA Speaks on Facebook, but recruiting people and educating them on how to use these tools. I use them but am not a pro. Getting people involved to spread the word. People who maybe have a marketing background; things like that to really help spread the word will be huge in getting the numbers to grow.
Getting out on the ground is a great way to do it. Recruiting people to go and spread the word, pass out flyers, what have you, other than social media.
Tell me how you think about the Trayvon Martin verdict and what it reveals?
(a) It reveals something that is completely fucked. It is an outrage and in a way you can't believe it and in another way you can completely understand how the verdict came out with the stand your ground laws and the way our society is ran and how Black and Latinos are criminalized and profiled and the whole 9 yards. So it is really saddening and many other adjectives come to mind. It is absolutely horrible.
(b) I feel that many people are not informed and that's how this all works out. To me it is a shock. All he had is Arizona and Skittles and the other guy had a gun. Come on— really? I don't know. Just shocked.
How do you feel about the response, the resistance?
(a) So far it is great; a lot of the protests that broke out. Initially I was at an event for animal rights and a friend texted me of the outcome and of course, I was outraged and I was sure there were going to be protests everywhere. And I said, "You watch" and he said, "Oh no. No there won't." and I said, "You're full of shit. Trust me on that." (Laughter). There have been massive protests and I think that is great. People need to get out there because if everyone is subservient to the laws and the powers that be nothing will change. That's the key and that's why I want to get more involved.
I'm a librarian. I work with a special collection in the system dealing with the experiences of Black people. Someone from Revolution Books comes by the library frequently, trying to get us to put the Revolution paper out in the library, so that the library customers can read it. And we have gotten approval to do that; we don't have a subscription but we will be putting it out.
We put the announcement cards about this talk out in the library, quite a few, and lots of customers picked them up. I don't know if they made it down here or not; there's quite a few people who are into it.
I saw about three hours of it. It's very powerful because everything he said that reflects history, particularly the history of Black people in this country is very accurate, right on. And I like how he connects the dots. A lot of people go around pretending that some of what is happening now is like new. It is not. It is all connected and how he goes back in history to the beginning of time of where civilizations evolved and how our government structures evolved. I think it is what people need to know to understand what context they are operating in and to see, hopefully, how they can change things. But that's the tough part. He talks a lot about what is, how it is, why it is, but it is still a little vague about what can we really do to change things.
There are a couple more hours of this talk. We are only showing four hours, but there are three DVDs of the whole thing that you can show to your friends and relatives.
Okay, I'll go ahead and get it for the Resource Center.... There were some elements about things we need to think about—what we need to do, what we can do, but I think a lot of people have a thing about what can I do? Besides, they go down to the Federal Court Building today [Al Sharpton's demo] with the signs, but there are laws that need to be changed. There's structural things that need to be changed, but I think that the average person, like me sometimes are at a loss by how can I really do this?
I don't want to live in the South anymore because of what I experienced growing up in the '50s and '60s, the South like South Carolina. I moved away. I don't want to go back there and have anything to do with that structure, and when I hear about what politicians in South Carolina are doing and their thinking and their tendencies to want to suppress whether voting or whatever. I don't want to go back to any parts of that. It's like, am I supposed to be so responsible that I need to change that structure. How can I do that?
I'm so totally overwhelmed. So when the revolution really comes, could we really win? Okay, I'm going to get it [the full set of the talk.] Talking about Malcolm X; you know ex-gang members come to the library and they are talking about your books that are at our library. And this is what I do as the librarian at the Black Resource Center; I invite authors to give presentations. In fact one is coming in August with other authors who wrote a book about street life and now they are trying to help others.
Well, what you are doing is that you are showing up at all these different venues and doing things like this. You are on the radio. For young people, I don't know how this works any more and for LAUSD (LA Unified School District) on how to get to students anymore...
You know, it would still be controversial [to show it at her library] and there are a lot of people in the community who do not want to hear too much criticism of Obama. You know, whether it is true or not and what Avakian was saying. It does not matter... But yeah, I think it could be something we could do at our library. It is very long; we could do a couple of hours over a couple of weeks... So, I'll be talking about it and I think that a lot of people would approve of having that [BA Speaks] at our library.
I'm 19 years old and found out about this event at my Junior College. I was handed a flyer; then I saw the person who handed it to me and I decided to go up and ask some questions and yes I was invited to this event so I decided to go.
I don't know much [about Avakian] and that is one of the reasons I came here; to learn more about the revolution because I have always been fascinated by this so I decided to come and see what it had to offer....
Well, I'm now thinking about switching my party from Democrat to a third party because it's the kind of thing where there is so much explained and so much to hear that if you missed any of it, you'd get mad at yourself. It was like one of those kinds of films. It is really that I would recommend it. I just think that communism is under-rated. It is under-rated. People don't think. They just look at it in a way and they refuse to open their mind up to see the details of it. I really hope the revolution does start and I think that maybe it will. You know...
The thing is that unfortunately if you want to have any influence, because I love politics and I just think the way I want to do it is that I want to become a politician and the only way to do that is to have influence. Unfortunately the Revolutionary Communist Party is not strong enough to have the influence and I want to become an elected official and then afterwards help the revolution and then go from there....
Personally, what I think is that there has to be a way for example, with Bangladesh and South East Asia where there are all those sweatshops, I just think... I feel that if every woman working in those factories would stand up and refuse to work, there is nothing they could do. The only choice would be to attack them and that is a big no-no because the way the world would respond to that. So, if they refuse to work, the capitalist will have no choice but to conform and listen to us and to start acting right. You know. I do think that there is a big possibility for a revolution.
I have been a huge supporter of Obama and I know that he sort of made it harder for Black people to do well in life but not to that extent. The whole joke about making a drone strike is appalling to me. I never expected him to say anything like that... Avakian? He's a smart dude. (laughs) He's intelligent. He's done his homework. He just knows so much about the issues. It's like a guy who knows the details of one thing, but Avakian knows the details of different things. It is almost as if he specializes in all the issues and that is amazing. He is very good at communicating and that is for sure. I was...it has changed my life.
I'm going to show the whole thing to my mom because she needs to see this. I have to get this video.
Showing it to your mom is a good thing, and let's think about showing it at your junior college...
That's a good idea. I think that is such a very, very good idea, but I've got to look up how to do it, how to get it shown to people. I'll go and explore the internet on how to do it. I should go to the information office or someone working at the school on how to get a video shown at the place.
Seems like I should have already known, and if I did, a light bulb went off in my head; oh that's what they're doing; or that's what's really going down. I know that's what's going down, what he's saying; but I didn't know it was like that—the brainwash.
What do you think about Avakian?
I love him. I thought communism was about—always thought about Russia; and he explained it differently than how I really thought. And I tried to get a lot of people even in my family to come; "I'm not with communism, and all of that." And I really wish my brother came.
So, what are you going to say to them now about why they should watch it?
Cause we want change, especially our people. We want change for the world, but there was a revolution in the 60s, I was around. I did see it and if anybody missed it, then they were asleep or weren't born. But there was a revolution. Cause people changed things. Even though things changed, that's why I need to know more about what Bob Avakian was talking about. Because it did change in the 60s, but it's still, it changed for the better, but what happened.
(a) I'm 19 years old; I'm an L.A. native; I've lived here all my life. I go to school at the moment, at a JC. I found out about this today because my friend called me after he experienced it, so I came from home to check it out.
(b) Me; my dad's very pro Black; and I'm very pro Black; I know some of the original Panthers from back in the day; and I got my own little thing going. I'm not very familiar with downtown; I had got lost and I was looking for somewhere to use the bathroom, and I ran in here and I was reading one of the papers, and one of the guys asked me what I thought of the DVD, and I hadn't seen the DVD yet, so I went inside and watched it, and he (a) called me while I was watching it.
(a) Yeah, well I live in Hollywood so it's like a 10 minute train ride. BA was talking about what's wrong with this country; how to change it. How we need a revolutionary party that is really pushing forward for it, and how to be a part of it; how to inspire other people to do the same thing, because we're tired of living through this.
(b) We're dealing with the police all the time; ... you get five days for nothing.
(a) Literally. A lot of people you hear them say that they went to jail for nothing by the police and people automatically assume you must have done something. No! You don't have to do nothin. You don't have to do anything. These code books are so thick, and they include so many offenses, just so that they can find you on one thing or another. I've had friends go to jail for literally spitting on the sidewalk. And then the officer saying, "Oh, you're disrespecting a peace officer" or something, and go to jail for that.
(b) I got arrested for five days. The charges were dropped. I didn't do anything. They said I was selling weed; I didn't have any weed in my pocket,...
(a) ...which is legal in the state, for medical ...
(b) It ain't just a Black thing; I know someone who went to jail for tossing a cigarette on the ground; that's a regular thing that people do.
(a) They want to keep us in two separate camps, when in reality we can only achieve our goal by being one big tent working for the same thing. And they give us misconceptions about ourselves; they tell white people that Black people are criminals, and they tell Black people that white people are ... so we can never find that middle ground
So tell us your response to this film; what did you think?
(b) It was surprising to me to see a white dude that's standing up for Black people. It's my philosophy and the way I get by, everything in this system is backwards; everything is backwards in this system; if you want to make it you've got to do everything the opposite. For example, you look at 'united we stand, divided we fall.' No; united THEY stand; they divide us, and WE fall. That's how it is. And that's exactly what they do. They divide us by fences, neighborhoods, apartments, nationalities,... everything, and they influence it to the max. They don't promote togetherness. The only united... only the army. What they do is, they divide the country, and they divide the people in their own country, and they conquer them...
What did you think was the most important thing that you saw?
(a) The most important thing that I saw, was that somebody was actually doing that and getting people in; personally I think it's going to take a more multi-faceted approach to really get things done, but I think this is a great start; and I'd really love to be a part of it. There's a lot of truth going on there; and it's the beginning of something great.
What do you mean by "more multi-faceted?"
(a) You can't just attack this problem in this way only. Not only do you have to give seminars like this, not only do you have to be selling merchandise, you have to be doing social media; you have to get lawmakers on your side; you have to find lawyers; doctors; you have to find people that are reputable; police officers; and bring them into it, also. And only then could you really do it.
The most important thing you got from the film?
2) Well it's good to know it ain't just Black people fighting for Blacks; cause I don't usually see that.
What was the most surprising thing?
(a) No police came in, and broke us up, and had us declared a terrorist organization. We didn't get called any terrorists.
(b) The most surprising thing, is they let us hold it, in the first place.
(a) The most surprising thing in the film is that he said "communist" and I didn't have a bad reaction to it. That's the most surprising thing. They program us, "'communist,' that's bad." I didn't have that reaction. I didn't get that vibe; that surprised me.
And what about the title of the talk—Revolution—Nothing Less!
(b) The revolution has already begun. Even before I came here...
(a) You were at the protest in Hollywood too, huh; the one where we shut down the freeway, and marched down Hollywood Blvd., all the way around and Sunset?
(b) I was, but I can't get into no more trouble. I can't get into any more trouble. I'm already caught up, and I can't get into any more trouble, So I didn't go to the march.
There are many different ways that you can contribute to the revolution. That's important to understand. Social media, if you know how to do it. Working in different ways; passing out flyers and posting posters; raising money; studying and learning more...
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
September 26, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On August 31, there was a showing of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! at the ICE Lawndale movie theater in West Side Chicago. The following are from interviews with people who came to the showing. The views expressed in these interviews are those of the people who were interviewed, and what was sparked in their thinking, and are not intended to represent the content of the film.
I live on the southeast side of Chicago. I’m a student at [one of the City Colleges]. I’m Phi Beta Kappa, Honors Society, 4.0 GPA. How I found out about the film was that organizers showed up at school one day last spring with these stickers that said “abortion with no apology.” I’m like “Wow, seriously.” And then she had a sticker that said something about porn. And I’m looking like “she’s brave!” So I walked up to the table and they said they had tickets to this film [this was the premiere in March]. And I said “there’s a movie like this?!” So a couple of friends and I purchased tickets and we ended up at Columbia College for the 8 hour session. And the first this BA said was “Fuck the pigs!” I said “I like this movie!” And from that point on, we sat there, we listened to the movie, we’ve been going to the revcom.us site looking up different things. One particular article that BA wrote that got our attention was Nat Turner vs. Thomas Jefferson. I thought it was a real bold question but you gotta see both sides. Was Thomas Jefferson an OK dude because he didn’t directly kill people but he had a hand in a lot of people’s massacre? Or was Nat Turner justified by trying to gain his independence by his oppressors? So it was a nice article and in turn a lot of the student body here is getting into the revolution. They’re actually paying attention. I think this film and a lot of things the organizers brought to the school woke a lot of us up. Especially about the mass incarceration of our kind—men and women. We make up 52% of the jail population.
Revolution: Obviously you’ve been looking at this stuff for a little bit and was there anything this time that surprised you in what BA said? What was your impression before and now about BA?
The first time, me and BA really didn’t get along ‘cause he said there’s no God and I grew up in a strict Baptist family and I went to Catholic school so there’s always been existing a notion there is a God. And I walked back in today not being shocked by hearing him say there’s no fucking God. I wasn’t shocked this time. I was like “OK” and I really opened my mind up to a lot of things he was saying. Every time you watch this film you get something different out of it. The first time I just got ‘massacre of Black people.’ This time I see it as minorities, period, as a whole, getting massacred and mistreated and misunderstood.
Revolution: What about the title of the film, the point he makes throughout, that it’s going to take REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, to solve these problems?
I agree. ‘Cause you got a ruling class that feel entitled to rule over a certain group, or keep things to a certain way that they can stay feeling superior.... So, I really didn’t pay attention to that statement the first time I saw it, but this time I really see his point. I’m gonna make you notice me. Get the fuck back.
Revolution: One of the things he says that is controversial with some people, I don’t think with you, is that those who are on the bottom of this society can be the backbone of a whole revolutionary struggle for a whole different kind of society.
That’s what it’s been through history. If you look at history, it’s the peasants who rose up and made the higher class pay attention. And in turn, took over lands. And like BA says, that’s what’s going to happen. You talk about the middle class, they’re really not an option, cause there’s more poor people than middle class people. So when the poor people rise up, what’s the middle class gonna do—either fall in line or get crushed. That’s it in reality. So, revolution, nothing else, I agree.
Revolution: And the other thing that he goes into is that it’s actually in the interest of some of these other classes of people to have a radical transformation. They may not understand that at the moment, but they’ve lost a lot of their humanity being caught up in this system and going along with it. So they need to be liberated too, it’s not about revenge.
It’s not about revenge, it’s about them understanding and accepting that we are all just human. Nobody is superior to the other. And just because my child has more melanin in his skin, he shouldn’t be subject to a life in prison to send your child to college. Or subject to a life in prison because they had the same bar fight that your child had but they got hit with a felony and your child got off. The police took your child home and gave mine a felony. So now mine is doomed to a life of peasant jobs or can’t get a job at all. And yours did the same thing and they’re sitting up there in corporate America.
I live on the south side of Chicago and I found out about the film from my old teacher. I’ve always been interested in revolutions and trying to make the world a better place. Even though I never knew what to do. So I always grew up—heroes and other things and I was like, that’s what I wanted to be. So it just pushed me toward what I would actually have to do to make the world a better place—for everybody, not just certain people. That’s just how I viewed it.
Revolution: What stood out about what BA had to say and the question of how do you go about it?
It was a lot of information that I still have to sift through. But you know, to me it was very informational. It helps shatter some illusions that I had in my mind.
Like communism. All throughout my life, and probably throughout yours, everybody talks bad about communism. And when I first heard “communism” I thought it doesn’t make any sense to follow a communist. That’s before I actually looked into communism. The pros and cons of both—what do you call it?—political stances. And it’s not as bad but no stance is really perfect. There can be flaws in either one of them. But communism, it’s not something that you can just deny. It’s something that can work all the same. It can be tried, at least, to help everyone.
Revolution: And it has been tried, and I don’t know if you’ve had a chance to get into what Avakian has said about those past experiences of socialism and communism. He’s taken a very sober, scientific look at that and pointed out what needs to be upheld and also what the shortcomings were and how can do much better. So that’s worth getting into. Another thing I want to ask is what surprised you the most about anything he may have said?
The biggest surprise I had is the actual depth of thinking that he had. How much detail he went into about the way things worked. I thought that I thought deeply. But from the length of the film and everything in between, all the papers and cards and planning that went along with it, it surprised me personally. I thought that I had a plan on making things bigger and better and this is somebody been doing it for decades. And I didn’t really know about anyone. I thought all the revolutionaries were dead and I would have to start over.
Revolution: So what is your impression of BA as a leader at this point?
I just see him as someone who has lived his life wanting to do something positive and he’s going to continue his life doing something positive. And more people should be part of the revolution. If not the same revolution, but doing something similar. Doing something that’s going to help better people. He has dedicated his life to it. He’s being successful in it. So that’s something that’s stood out to me about him.
Revolution: One of the things he says that is controversial for some people is that it’s going to take revolution, nothing less, to actually make a change for the better. How do you see that?
Hmm. That’s a good question. Revolution, nothing less, that’s a bold term. It’s very bold. It’s hard. I mean if you want to come at it in a realistic level, it’s a very hard thing. That he is actually telling people straight out, not sugar-coating anything. Not trying to soften it, just tell you straight what is happening, what it’s going to take and if you are going to be a part of it, be a part of it. If you’re not, don’t stand in the way.
Revolution: One last question. One of the things he says is that people who are on the bottom of society, those who have been beaten down by this system, can be the backbone of a struggle to liberate themselves and all of humanity. What are your thoughts on that assertion?
My thoughts on that would be: it could be true, very true. Those are the people who have felt it the most so those are the people who should want to change it the most. And they deserve the support from others. They are human just like everyone else and we are in it together, no matter where you stand.
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA | November 25, 2007 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following section from Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity concentrates a seminal contribution of Bob Avakian to the science of communism. This short section concentrates a whole approach to revolutionary strategy, and it provides an excellent illustration of the method and approach at the heart of BA's work and contributions. We reprint it now for people to seriously dig into and reflect on, and to apply to understanding—and changing—reality.
Hastening while awaiting—not bowing down to necessity
Next I want to talk about “Enriched What Is To Be Done-ism” and its role in building a revolutionary and communist movement. I want to begin by reviewing some important points relating to the whole orientation and strategic approach of “hastening while awaiting” the development of a revolutionary situation in a country like the U.S.
I spoke earlier about the outlook and approach of revisionist “determinist realism”* which, among other things, involves a passive approach to objective reality (or necessity), which sees the objective factor as purely objective—and purely “external,” if you will—and doesn’t grasp the living dialectical relation between the objective and subjective factors and the ability of the latter (the subjective factor—the conscious actions of people) to react back on and to transform the former (the objective factor—the objective conditions). In other words, this “determinist realism” doesn’t grasp the essential orientation, and possibility, of transforming necessity into freedom. It doesn’t really, or fully, grasp the contradictoriness of all of reality, including the necessity that one is confronted with at any given time. So, one of the essential features of “determinist realism” is that it dismisses as “voluntarism” any dialectical grasp of the relation between the subjective and objective factors, and sees things in very linear, undifferentiated ways, as essentially uniform and without contradiction, rather than in a living and dynamic and moving and changing way.
Of course, it is necessary not to fall into voluntarism. There are many different ways in which such voluntarism can be expressed, leading to various kinds of (usually “ultra-left”) errors and deviations, if you will—including in the form of giving in to infantilist or adventurist impulses—all of which is also extremely harmful. But—particularly in a protracted or prolonged situation in which the objective conditions for revolution (that is, for the all-out struggle to seize power) have not yet emerged—by far the much greater danger, and one that is reinforced by this objective situation, is this kind of determinist realism which doesn’t grasp correctly the dialectical relation between the objective and subjective factors, and sees them in static, undialectical, and unchanging terms.
It is true that we cannot, by our mere will, or even merely by our actions themselves, transform the objective conditions in a qualitative sense—into a revolutionary situation. This cannot be done merely by our operating on, or reacting back on, the objective conditions through our conscious initiative. On the other hand, once again a phrase from Lenin has important application here. With regard to the labor aristocracy—the sections of the working class in imperialist countries which are, to no small extent, bribed from the spoils of imperialist exploitation and plunder throughout the world, and particularly in the colonies—Lenin made the point that nobody can say with certainty where these more “bourgeoisified” sections of the working class are going to line up in the event of the revolution—which parts of them are going to be with the revolution when the ultimate showdown comes, and which are going to go with the counter-revolution—nobody can say exactly how that is going to fall out, Lenin insisted. And applying this same principle, we can say that nobody can say exactly what the conscious initiative of the revolutionaries might be capable of producing, in reacting upon the objective situation at any given time—in part because nobody can predict all the other things that all the different forces in the world will be doing. Nobody’s understanding can encompass all that at a given time. We can identify trends and patterns, but there is the role of accident as well as the role of causality. And there is the fact that, although changes in what’s objective for us won’t come entirely, or perhaps not even mainly, through our “working on” the objective conditions (in some direct, one-to-one sense), nevertheless our “working on” them can bring about certain changes within a given framework of objective conditions and—in conjunction with and as part of a “mix,” together with many other elements, including other forces acting on the objective situation from their own viewpoints—this can, under certain circumstances, be part of the coming together of factors which does result in a qualitative change. And, again, it is important to emphasize that nobody can know exactly how all that will work out.
Revolution is not made by “formulas,” or by acting in accordance with stereotypical notions and preconceptions—it is a much more living, rich, and complex process than that. But it is an essential characteristic of revisionism (phony communism which has replaced a revolutionary orientation with a gradualist, and ultimately reformist one) to decide and declare that until some deus ex machina—some god-like EXTERNAL FACTOR—intervenes, there can be no essential change in the objective conditions and the most we can do, at any point, is to accept the given framework and work within it, rather than (as we have very correctly formulated it) constantly straining against the limits of the objective framework and seeking to transform the objective conditions to the maximum degree possible at any given time, always being tense to the possibility of different things coming together which bring about (or make possible the bringing about of) an actual qualitative rupture and leap in the objective situation.
So that is a point of basic orientation in terms of applying materialism, and dialectics, in hastening while awaiting the emergence of a revolutionary situation. It’s not just that, in some abstract moral sense, it’s better to hasten than just await—though, of course, it is—but this has to do with a dynamic understanding of the motion and development of material reality and the interpenetration of different contradictions, and the truth that, as Lenin emphasized, all boundaries in nature and society, while real, are conditional and relative, not absolute. (Mao also emphasized this same basic principle in pointing out that, since the range of things is vast and things are interconnected, what’s universal in one context is particular in another.) The application of this principle to what is being discussed here underlines that it is only relatively, and not absolutely, that the objective conditions are “objective” for us—they are, but not in absolute terms. And, along with this, what is external to a given situation can become internal, as a result of the motion—and changes that are brought about through the motion—of contradictions. So, if you are looking at things only in a linear way, then you only see the possibilities that are straight ahead—you have a kind of blinders on. On the other hand, if you have a correct, dialectical materialist approach, you recognize that many things can happen that are unanticipated, and you have to be constantly tense to that possibility while consistently working to transform necessity into freedom. So, again, that is a basic point of orientation.
Read the entire talk:
Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity
* The subject of “determinist realism” is spoken to in part 1: “Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right”—available at revcom.us—and, in the serialization of part 1, is found in “Marxism as a Science—In Opposition to Mechanical Materialism, Idealism and Religiosity,” in Revolution #109, Nov. 18, 2007. [back]
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
By Larry Everest | Updated October 8, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On September 24, President Barack Obama gave a major address at the United Nations General Assembly at its annual meeting.
This speech came at a time of fluid change in the world and especially in the Middle East. Masses have risen up in their millions, seeking a way out. Different forces with different programs—including extremely reactionary ones—have been contending. Within all this, different imperialists—especially the U.S., the West European powers, and Russia—have tried to assert their interests and their will. This has taken outright military form, as well as intense political maneuvering. So this speech by Obama has unusual importance.
Obama said many things in his speech, but two main themes stuck out. First, he laid out certain U.S. “core interests” in the Middle East and claimed the right to use military force to defend those interests. Second, he asserted that the U.S. is an “exceptional” country which therefore has exceptional rights.
These are extraordinary claims, which, if made by any other power, would provoke howls of outrage from the media and people like Obama himself. But spoken by Obama, they caused very little comment and not even a murmur of protest in the mainstream U.S. media show, unless it was to call for even more blatant assertions of U.S. power. This itself shows how much attention is paid to getting people in the U.S. to “think like Americans” and just how deeply ingrained that it is; and for this reason alone—though there are more—it is important to dissect this speech.
Early in his speech to the UN, Obama revealed some of the problems facing the U.S. in the Middle East:
“[T]he convulsions in the Middle East and North Africa have laid bare deep divisions within societies, as an old order is upended and people grapple with what comes next. Peaceful movements have too often been answered by violence—from those resisting change and from extremists trying to hijack change. Sectarian conflict has reemerged. And the potential spread of weapons of mass destruction continues to cast a shadow over the pursuit of peace.”
Obama speaks of attempts to repress or hijack mass upheavals against the region’s “old order,” as if the U.S. has had nothing to do with either. In reality, the U.S. has done both.
To name but a few examples: In Egypt, the U.S. was deeply involved in the military’s ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, then in efforts to influence and contain the political forces who’d risen up against Mubarak, and recently in supporting the violent coup and crackdown by the Egyptian military against the Muslim Brotherhood.
In Bahrain, the U.S. supported Saudi Arabia’s military intervention in neighboring Bahrain to crush peaceful protests against that oppressive pro-U.S. regime.
In Palestine, the U.S. supports Israel’s imposition of an ongoing, everyday state of brutal violent repression, which is the continuation of decades of violent ethnic cleansing on which that state is built.
As for “hijacking” mass upheaval, the U.S. seized on protests in Libya to join with a cabal of imperialist powers to literally bomb a new regime into power.
And the U.S. played a key role in transforming protests against the brutal rule of Syria’s Bashar al-Assad into a gruesomely horrific civil war. Fighting between a range of contending reactionary forces sponsored by the U.S., Russia, Iran, and others has driven over a million people into hellish refugee camps. The suffering of these refugees is not what’s driving the actions and maneuvers of U.S. or its rivals. Syria is a very strategic ally of both Iran and Russia, and the U.S.’ apparent policy of seriously weakening that regime by fanning a draining civil war is seen as a major threat by those countries. And at the same time, the Syria situation is fraught with peril for U.S. interests as well. It has provided an opening of Islamic Jihadists. Situated in the heart of the region, turmoil in Syria has spilled over into and could destabilize neighboring countries, including U.S. allies like Jordan and Turkey. And it threatens to unravel the whole situation in the Middle East in a way that could further undermine U.S. domination.
So Obama is not coming at this as a well-meaning friend of “peaceful movements” fighting for “change” against the “old order.” He’s speaking—and acting—as the commander in chief of a principal architect and the main beneficiary of the “old order,” a global power which has been—and still is—up to its neck in the blood of the masses of people throughout the region.
Delving into everything that Obama covered (and refuting all his lies, distortions, half-truths, and omissions) is far beyond the scope of this article. But a key focus of the speech was Obama’s effort to address an acute contradiction the U.S. faces between its words and its deeds.
America’s rulers claim to be friends of the people and critics of the “old order,” not leaders of an empire just out for itself, but rather advancing the “interests of all,” as Obama put it. “The notion of American empire may be useful propaganda,” Obama said at the UN, “but it isn’t borne out by America’s current policy or by public opinion.”
However, when Obama outlined “what has been U.S. policy toward the Middle East and North Africa and what will be my policy during the remainder of my presidency” he spelled out the needs and demands of an empire:
“The United States of America is prepared to use all elements of our power, including military force, to secure our core interests in the region.
"We will confront external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War.
“We will ensure the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.
“We will dismantle terrorist networks that threaten our people. Wherever possible, we will build the capacity of our partners, respect the sovereignty of nations, and work to address the root causes of terror. But when it’s necessary to defend the United States against terrorist attack, we will take direct action.
“And finally, we will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction. Just as we consider the use of chemical weapons in Syria to be a threat to our own national security, we reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region and undermine the global nonproliferation regime.”
Think about what is being said here. First, Obama is saying that the U.S. has the right to use military force, including waging war and possibly murdering thousands upon thousands as it has in the past, in order to “secure our core interests in the region.”
This region is over 5,000 miles from U.S. shores and home to hundreds of millions of people. Imagine how the U.S. establishment and media would respond if Vladimir Putin had declared to the UN that Russia would go to great lengths, including using all the military force at its disposal, to ensure its core interests in Latin America?
There would have been an immediate uproar, with Putin denounced as a madman and aggressor violating international norms; a political crisis would have ensued between the U.S. and Russia, and Russia would almost certainly have been threatened with war if it carried out such a declaration.
More fundamentally, doesn’t this point to the reality that, despite Obama’s denials, the U.S. capitalist-imperialist system depends on controlling far-flung regions around the world—in other words, it is a modern-day empire?
What is on Obama’s list of core U.S. interests? One is confronting “external aggression against our allies and partners, as we did in the Gulf War.” Who are the allies and partners he’s talking about?
First, and foremost, the settler-colonial state of Israel, whose existence—as noted earlier—is based on the ethnic cleansing and towering, ongoing crimes against the Palestinian people, and war after war against its neighbors.
Then there are those models of “democracy, human rights,” and equality for women that Obama proclaimed are core U.S. values. Perhaps here Obama is talking about the closest U.S. ally in the region, outside of Israel: Saudi Arabia, a hereditary monarchy with as few vestiges of formal democracy as any country on earth, and the last to ban women from voting. Days after Obama spoke at the UN, a website advocating the right of women to drive was shut down by the regime.
Then there’s Egypt, which has been ruled by a U.S.-funded ($1.3 billion a year) and trained military for 30-plus years. After General Hosni Mubarak’s fall in 2011, the U.S. claimed to be supporting the people and democracy. But this past July, Obama gave the go-ahead to a military coup ousting elected President Mohamed Morsi (which the U.S. to this day refuses to call a “coup”), and to its massacre of over 1,000 anti-coup demonstrators.
At one point in his speech, Obama justified support for such tyrannies by again whitewashing their depravity: “The United States will at times work with governments that do not meet, at least in our view, the highest international expectations, but who work with us on our core interests.” As if Saudi and Egyptian torture chambers, and Israel’s ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity are merely a notch below “the highest international expectations.”
So again, how does propping up these obsolete, reactionary regimes at the heart of the “old order in the region,” which have inflicted so much suffering, make the U.S. a friend of the people and an agent of positive change?
Then Obama says the U.S. is committed to ensuring “the free flow of energy from the region to the world. Although America is steadily reducing our own dependence on imported oil, the world still depends on the region’s energy supply, and a severe disruption could destabilize the entire global economy.”
This is posed as if the U.S. is doing the world a favor by ensuring that oil continues to flow. But in reality, the issue for the U.S. has never been simply accessing Middle East oil for its own consumption. U.S. control of the flow of oil from the Middle East—home to 60 percent of the world’s known energy reserves—has been a key element of U.S. global domination because it’s not only a source of massive profits for U.S. capital, it’s also given the U.S. a whip hand over the global economy and all countries that depend on importing (or exporting) oil. (The Middle East is also an economic and military-strategic crossroads and choke point.) The leverage of this globally strategic resource has been exercised in large part via the U.S. client state Saudi Arabia—the world’s largest oil producer. The Gulf War of 1991—which Obama upholds—was fought, among other things, to protect Saudi Arabia and ensure that Iraq under Saddam Hussein had no serious leverage over the Gulf States, world oil markets, or in the Middle East more broadly.
The extraction of Middle East oil for the benefit of a handful of wealthy, imperialist powers including the U.S., Europe, and Japan, while people in the Middle East and other oppressed, or Third World, countries live lives of torment, uncertainty, and destitution, is a glaring example of empire, or imperialism. Since the turn of the 20th century, Western oil conglomerates have amassed billions in profits from the region’s petroleum, beginning in 1901 with the establishment of the British oil giant which is today BP in Iran; to the post-World War 2 period when, between 1948 and 1960, Western capital made an estimated $12.8 billion in profits, to today when Exxon-Mobil, the world’s largest energy company and most profitable corporation ($44.9 billion in 2012) obtains 25 percent of its oil and natural gas from the Asia-Pacific region and the Middle East. This is one reason why the 340 million people living in the less developed countries in the Middle East-North Africa region make on average $3,400 a year (with millions living in deep, deep poverty), while those in the 34 wealthiest countries in the world average over ten times more income.
Obama said the U.S. was fighting “terrorist networks that threaten our people,” and asserted the U.S. had the right to “take direct action” to “defend the United States against terrorist attack.”
Some of the attacks the U.S. carries out in the Middle East and beyond are directed at reactionary forces which, on a much, much smaller scale than the U.S., have an oppressive agenda and advance their aims with attacks on innocent civilians. But even when the U.S. launches attacks on these forces, the concern is not saving lives, in any essential way, but striking at these forces to the extent they impede the functioning of imperialism.
Beyond that, and overwhelmingly, the U.S. is killing thousands who have had nothing to do with any attacks on the U.S. in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia and perhaps other countries. Take but one dimension of the U.S. “war on terror”: drone strikes. It is difficult to obtain precise statistics on the numbers killed, but one Stanford University and NYU Law School study, “Living Under Drones,” found that “from June 2004 through mid-September 2012, available data indicate that drone strikes killed 2,562-3,325 people in Pakistan, of whom 474-881 were civilians, including 176 children.” Another study found that U.S. government figures listed 1,160 U.S. drone strikes in Afghanistan since January 2009. In Yemen, the U.S. has murdered an estimated 400 civilians with drones.
These attacks violate international law and the UN principles Obama claims to uphold.
Another core U.S. interest is preventing the spread of WMD: the U.S. “will not tolerate the development or use of weapons of mass destruction,” Obama says. “We reject the development of nuclear weapons that could trigger a nuclear arms race in the region and undermine the global nonproliferation regime.”
How does this statement square with the fact that the U.S. helps sponsor Israel’s possession of 200-400 nuclear warheads, an arsenal it helped Israel develop. Yet the open secret of Israel’s nuclear force is rarely mentioned and never criticized in the U.S. media nor by U.S. politicians when the question of “nuclear weapons in the Middle East” comes up.
Nor is the U.S. foreswearing its own use of nuclear weapons. It has issued nuclear threats numerous times in the region, including in 1958 as a warning to Iraq’s new nationalist regime, in 1973 to prevent the Soviet Union from intervening in the Arab-Israeli war, and in 1980 to head off any Soviet move into Iran. And the Los Angeles Times reported that two months before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Pentagon was “quietly preparing for the possible use of nuclear weapons.” (Larry Everest, Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda, pp. 66, 75, 90-91, 22-23)
Obama threatened possible military action against Syria over its alleged use of chemical weapons, and against Iran for having a nuclear enrichment program, even while saying he wanted to pursue diplomacy first. In other words, the U.S. is threatening to violently protect the U.S.-Israeli nuclear monopoly to enforce its stranglehold over the region.
Also unmentioned in Obama’s speech (or given any prominence in the media) is U.S. support for Saddam Hussein’s murderous chemical weapons attacks during the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war. Last month Foreign Policy magazine reported:
"In 1988, during the waning days of Iraq's war with Iran, the United States learned through satellite imagery that Iran was about to gain a major strategic advantage by exploiting a hole in Iraqi defenses. U.S. intelligence officials conveyed the location of the Iranian troops to Iraq, fully aware that Hussein's military would attack with chemical weapons, including sarin, a lethal nerve agent...
“The nerve agent causes dizziness, respiratory distress, and muscle convulsions, and can lead to death. CIA analysts could not precisely determine the Iranian casualty figures because they lacked access to Iranian officials and documents. But the agency gauged the number of dead as somewhere between 'hundreds' and 'thousands' in each of the four cases where chemical weapons were used prior to a military offensive."
Installing and propping up brutal tyrants, launching or provoking wars that have brought region-wide misery, and orchestrating the use of sarin nerve gas, to maintain the profits and geopolitical position of an empire: How has enforcing of the “core interests” laid out by Obama been in the “interests of all”?
“During this section of the speech my jaw sort of hit the floor,” Jeremy Scahill told Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! (September 25). “He basically came out and said the United States is an imperialist nation and we are going to do whatever we need to conquer areas to take resources from around the world. I mean, it was a really naked sort of declaration of imperialism, and I don’t use that word lightly, but it really is." How is Scahill’s assessment in any way inaccurate?
A week before Obama’s speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin had published an extraordinary September 11 opinion piece in the New York Times. Putin was representing the interests of Russian imperialism, for whom the Assad regime in Syria is a key ally. But Putin directly challenged Obama’s claims in his September 10 speech that the U.S. had the right to launch a military attack on Syria without UN approval because it’s “exceptional.”
Putin countered, “I would rather disagree with a case he made on American exceptionalism, stating that the United States’ policy is ‘what makes America different. It’s what makes us exceptional.’ It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation.” (“A Plea for Caution from Russia”)
Obama felt compelled to respond.
By saying that no, the U.S. played by the same rules as everyone else?
Hardly! He declared:
“The danger for the world is not an America that is too eager to immerse itself in the affairs of other countries, or to take on every problem in the region as its own. The danger for the world is that the United States, after a decade of war—rightly concerned about issues back home, aware of the hostility that our engagement in the region has engendered throughout the Muslim world—may disengage, creating a vacuum of leadership that no other nation is ready to fill.
“I believe such disengagement would be a mistake. I believe America must remain engaged for our own security. But I also believe the world is better for it. Some may disagree, but I believe America is exceptional—in part because we have shown a willingness through the sacrifice of blood and treasure to stand up not only for our own narrow self-interests, but for the interests of all."
The U.S. is indeed exceptional—it’s exceptional in the death and destruction it’s wreaked on the planet—including the Middle East. No other power even comes close to the U.S. in the number of countries bombed, bullied, invaded or occupied and the millions murdered—from the 150,000-250,000 incinerated in the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan; to the two to three million killed in Vietnam and Southeast Asia during the 1960s and 1970s; to the hundreds of thousands massacred by U.S.-backed death squads in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1980s. Many books have been written detailing these crimes and their staggering toll.
But most people in this country are unaware of (or in some cases refuse to fully confront) this history. Even more enlightened people may think the U.S. may have “made mistakes,” but basically agree with Obama that on balance “the world is better” because of U.S. actions, and that it isn’t acting “only for our own narrow self-interests, but for the interests of all.” Or at least they wish it were so, and believe it is possible.
This is why it is so important to bring out what motivates U.S. actions (as we’ll dig into below), the means the U.S. employs, and the horrific impacts of its actions—all realities that Obama skirts, lies about, and obscures.
Take one example: Iraq.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq was a war of aggression based on the deliberate lie that Saddam Hussein had WMD. And it was sold as a good thing for the people of Iraq and beyond. But it was not about advancing the “interests of all,” it was launched as part of a strategy to create an unchallenged and unchallengeable U.S. empire as Bush regime thinkers spelled out explicitly in policy papers.
Neither Iraq nor the world was “better” for what the U.S. did. At least 121,754 Iraqis were killed between March 2003 and December 31, 2011 (when U.S. military forces withdrew); between 655,000 and 1 million Iraqis died from the direct and indirect impacts of the war and occupation (including to water and power systems, healthcare, and food production); it’s estimated that over 4 million Iraqis were injured, and 4.5 million driven from their homes.
Yet during his review of U.S. military actions, Obama never says a word about this staggering Iraqi toll. He makes a glancing reference to the ongoing civil war (“In Iraq, killings and car bombs continue to be a terrible part of life”). But he implies that the U.S. made a noble attempt to bring democracy to Iraq, but was thwarted by problems within Iraqi society (“Iraq shows us that democracy cannot simply be imposed by force”) and the re-emergence of “sectarian conflict.”
This is a lie and a cover-up: the U.S. invasion and occupation (which was never about self-determination for Iraq) fueled Islamic fundamentalism and sectarian and religious conflict in many ways, including backing reactionary religious fundamentalist violence of all kinds to impose its rule through “divide and conquer.”
One can look at the history of any country in the region and come to the same conclusion: that the Middle East is NOT a better place for what the U.S. has done. And more U.S. intervention, attacks, and wars won’t be any better.
Many people reading this article, this far, will agree that what the U.S. has brought to the world has not been good. But there is an intellectual and yes, moral responsibility to take that further: to confront the fact that the U.S. cannot bring anything good to the world. It is an imperialist power.
Obama’s rhetoric about democracy, human rights, women’s rights, and peace are utter bullshit, and a cover for exploitation, oppression, and war and the devastation of whole societies when that serves the U.S. empire.
The “core interests” that Obama proclaimed in his speech are diametrically opposed to the interests of humanity. And that is true despite the fact that he can point to smaller-scale exploiters and oppressors and call out their crimes (while ignoring the crimes of the U.S. which are vastly greater in scale). The interests of humanity, the world over, lie in getting rid of empires, getting rid of the oppressive institutions on which they rest, and getting rid of the choking webs of exploitation that undergird it all. And the interests of humanity demand, now, the exposure of not only the lies but the ways we are trained to think which justify and excuse all this... and the struggle, right now, against every move to defend, reinforce and expand those empires.
That is why it is not just a “nice idea,” but represents the actual interests of the people of the world to insist: Stop thinking like Americans, and start thinking about humanity!
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
October 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This past summer, after the system exonerated the murderer of Trayvon Martin, people everywhere saw signs in Sanford, Florida—“We Are All Trayvon Martin,” “The Whole Damn System Is Guilty,” “BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!”—prominently signed with “revcom.us.”
In the few days after the jolt of that verdict, the number of daily visits to revcom.us tripled, at a time when a great many people around the country were searching for answers to why this happened, what it says about the society we live in, and what to do about it. For the month of July, over 84,000 different people visited revcom.us, 12,000 more than any previous month.
As people lift their heads, because of that verdict or because of other jolts in the mix right now, their ability to find revcom.us and learn how what has moved them relates to all the outrages people face around the world; how this is the result of the system we live under, how this can be resolved with revolution; that there is a strategy for that revolution; that there is the vision, understanding and leadership we have for this; and that they can find their place in it—this depends on you.
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
November 2-6, Jackson, Mississippi
October 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received this announcement from StopPatriarchy.org:
STOP PATRIARCHY CALLS ON YOU TO JOIN IN DEFENDING ABORTION RIGHTS AND THE LAST ABORTION CLINIC IN MISSISSIPPI
The anti-abortion fanatics of "Operation Save America/Operation Rescue" (OSA/OR) are planning an extended protest against Jackson Women's Health Organization, the last remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi, from November 2-6. They aim to make Mississippi a so-called "State of Refuge" where women will have no access to abortion and are forced to have children against their will. Meanwhile, this clinic is only open due to a judge’s order postponing the implementation of a law that would close it down. THIS IS A STATE OF EMERGENCY! This must be opposed! Come to Jackson November 2-6 to support the clinic and to demand Abortion on Demand & Without Apology!
This siege on the last clinic in Mississippi is part of a national assault on women’s abortion rights. It is an attack on women in Mississippi and women everywhere. Everyone has a responsibility to oppose this and we must rely on ourselves. From around the country and on the ground in Jackson, we must resist! Forced motherhood is female enslavement.
We are pleased that WakeUpMississippi.org, who we worked with this past summer in Jackson during the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, is organizing for people to come and stand with Jackson Women’s Health Organization, to say, “THIS CLINIC IS A REFUGE.”
Stop Patriarchy is making plans now to be in Jackson, November 2-6. Join us on the ground or through your message of support, financial contribution, or satellite protest/actions. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
October 5, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Herman Wallace was a courageous fighter for justice, a political prisoner who this system locked up in conditions of torture, in solitary confinement, for 41 years.
On Tuesday, October 1, Herman Wallace was finally freed after a federal judge ruled that his original indictment in the killing of a prison guard had been unconstitutional. Three days later, on Friday morning, October 4, Herman Wallace died of cancer in New Orleans. He was 71.
The story of what the U.S. government did to him is an outrage and an indictment of this whole system and its so-called "system of justice." The life of Herman Wallace is one of inspiration.
Herman Wallace spent 41 years in prison, since 1971, most of it at the infamous Angola prison farm, which, fittingly, was a former slave plantation on the banks of the Mississippi River.
In a radio interview earlier this year, Wallace described what it was like to be caged in a 6 foot by 9 foot cell: "Where we stay, we're usually in the cell for 23 hours, and an hour out. I'm not 'out.' I may come out of the hole here, but I'm still locked up on that unit. I'm locked up. I can't get around that. Anywhere I go, I have to be in chains. Chains have become a part of my existence. And that's one of the things that people have to fully understand. But understanding it is one thing, but experiencing it is quite another."
These conditions of solitary confinement are internationally recognized as a crime against humanity. Yet it is these conditions that are routinely meted out as punishment in this country to tens of thousands of prisoners throughout the U.S. in "supermax" or "restrictive segregation" units.
In 1974, Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, also a prisoner in Angola, were unjustly and wrongly convicted in the stabbing death of a prison guard. After the guard was killed, Wallace and Woodfox were placed in solitary confinement, along with Robert King. Prison officials claimed King was involved in the guard's death although he was never charged with it. Together, Herman Wallace, Albert Woodfox, and Robert King are the Angola 3.
The three spent over one hundred years in solitary for a crime they did not commit. All three stood strong in the face of sadistic and vengeful persecution by prison and judicial authorities.
Robert King was released from prison, after 29 years in solitary, when a judge overturned his original conviction. Albert Woodfox is still in prison. His conviction for involvement in the guard's death has been overturned three times, but each time the state of Louisiana has kept him in prison, in the torment of solitary.
The persecution and heartless torment, year after year, of the Angola 3 is a towering crime of this system that must never be forgotten, must never be forgiven. It is a concentration of the cold reality of this capitalist-imperialist system, and the "freedom and democracy" proclaimed by its defenders.
The Angola 3 were singled out for punishment for blatantly political reasons. The three were part of a generation of youth who became radicalized in their millions during the great upheavals of the 1960s. While in prison, these three youths from the ghettoes of New Orleans became revolutionaries associated with the Black Panther Party. They organized fellow prisoners and studied the history and theory of revolution. They were an inspiration and example to prisoners and people outside the prisons. For the Louisiana prison authorities, this was their unforgiveable crime.
Robert King described how he became a revolutionary in prison in an interview several years ago with Dennis Bernstein of Pacifica Radio: "Many of the Panthers that were arrested in a shootout [with New Orleans police] came to the Parrish Prison. I became aware of what was taking place and I met those guys. We started to do things. We became an extension of the Black Panther Party. We carried its program into the Parrish Prison through certain means of communication. We started to deal with conditions in the Parrish Prison. We organized a hunger strike. At one time we got almost the whole prison—I think about 700 prisoners—to go on a hunger strike. The prison conditions were so horrible."
When Robert King was sent to Angola, he was able to hook up with Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, who had already started an Angola chapter of the Black Panther Party. The brutal, utterly inhumane and racist treatment of the Angola work farm was—and is—almost unchanged since its days as a slave plantation in the 1800s. Armed guards on horseback monitor gangs of Black men forced to work in the cotton and cane fields. The minority of white prisoners are given preferential treatment in housing, food, and everything else. Vicious beatings and rapes are meted out as punishment. Robert King said: "Herman and Albert and other folks recognized the violation of human rights in prison, and they were trying to achieve a better prison and living conditions. And as a result of that, they were targeted."
The government's case against the Angola 3 was riddled with lies, inconsistencies, and fabrications. The state claimed it "lost" DNA evidence favorable to the three. Bloody prints found at the scene of the killing do not match any of the three. All three men had multiple witnesses who testified that each of them was far from the murder scene when the killing happened.
But Herman and Albert were convicted for the guard's murder and punished relentlessly for their revolutionary politics. The current Angola warden justified the decades they spent in solitary in a court deposition: "Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace is locked in time with the Black Panther revolutionary actions they were doing way back when." He said that if he released them to the general prison population "I would have me all kinds of problems, more than I could stand."
But the three never broke. Albert Woodfox spoke for all three in the movie, In the Land of the Free when he explained: "I thought that my cause, then and now, was noble. So therefore, they could never break me. They might bend me a little bit, they might cause me a lot of pain. They might even take my life. But they will never be able to break me."
The powers-that-be kept Herman Wallace behind bars for more than half his life, but they were unsuccessful in breaking his spirit. From the depths of this system's horrific dungeons Herman Wallace joined the struggle against inhumane prison conditions and answered letters from people who wrote to him about his case. He struck up a correspondence with an artist who asked him to describe his "dream house"—and his drawings were then turned into a scale model that became an art installation seen in galleries in a dozen countries. Just think about the fact that this tremendous and creative human resource for society, Herman Wallace, was locked up and tortured by this system for 41 years! (The documentary film Herman's House was shown on PBS in July.)
The state of Louisiana sought to punish Herman Wallace up to the moment of his death. A report on the New Orleans Times-Picayune web site said that the District Attorney for West Feliciana Parish re-indicted Herman for murder two days after he was released and went to a home in New Orleans to die. The D.A. was quoted as saying "I say he is a murderer..."
Herman Wallace spent most of his life in one of the most brutal and racist prisons in this country. He was deprived of the most basic human contact, day after day, for 41 years. Over and over he was tormented by the sadistic, bottomless cruelty of this capitalist-imperialist system's legal and police structures.
But from his tiny cell in the depths of a prison deep in the Louisiana swamps, Herman's enormous courage and unvanquished revolutionary spirit touched, inspired, and gave strength to countless people around the world. Three movies have been made about the Angola 3, and shown around the world. Thousands of people in many countries have rallied to their defense and signed petitions for their release.
As he faced his death, Herman Wallace courageously released a final statement: "I want the world to know that I am an innocent man and that Albert Woodfox is innocent as well. We are just two of thousands of wrongfully convicted prisoners held captive in the American Gulag. We mourn for the family of Brent Miller [the murdered prison guard] and the many other victims of murder who will never be able to find closure for the loss of their loved ones due to the unjust criminal justice system in this country. We mourn for the loss of the families of those unjustly accused who suffer the loss of their loved ones as well.
"Only a handful of prisoners globally have withstood the duration of years of harsh and solitary confinement that Albert and myself have. The State may have stolen my life, but my spirit will continue to struggle along with Albert and the many comrades that have joined us along the way here in the belly of the beast.
"In 1970 I took an oath to dedicate my life as a servant of the people, and although I'm down on my back, I remain at your service. I want to thank all of you, my devoted supporters, for being with me to the end."
After more than four decades of being tortured by this system, Herman Wallace was finally able to spend a few days, able to see the sun, the moon, able to embrace loved ones—a brief respite from the horrors of solitary confinement. His lawyers said in a statement: "One of the final things that Herman said to us was, 'I am free. I am free.'" But what is achingly sad—and utterly maddening—is that this vengeful system robbed him of almost all of his adult life.
In the future, after we get rid of this system, people may ask, a new generation may ask, "How bad was it?" The story of Herman Wallace would certainly stand as a powerful and painful illustration of the old society.
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
by Sunsara Taylor | September 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Recently, I went out for a few hours to a couple of elite college campuses. This outing was focused on active social investigation, and I teamed up with a young revolutionary.
We spoke to eight students altogether. We also got out a couple hundred palm cards for an upcoming showing of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live just in the course of walking from place to place.
Overall, we encountered a lot of contradictoriness in people’s thinking. Some people seemed pretty consciously disengaged from the world or at least from trying to think about or change the world in any sort of macro sense. This existed together with a lot of deep concern about the world when we probed different subjects combined, but also a lot of fear of “totalizing” ideas (approaches that try to take on analyzing and changing the whole world), and a very strong and consistent aversion to acknowledging anything to be objectively true.
While our sample was too small to draw hard conclusions from this one outing, it was interesting that the younger students we spoke to were much more open, and the graduate students were much more consolidated in asserting that it is wrong and even dangerous to assert anything to be true or go at changing the whole world. The younger students were more open and searching even as they have a lot of conventional thinking about how to think (I will get into this more).
It was also striking how completely ignorant the students we spoke to were about the Black national question (the history and present-day reality of oppression of Black people from slavery down to today’s regime of mass incarceration, criminalization, and police terror) and the conditions of other oppressed national groupings; how little it seemed to have occurred to them to think about the relationship between different social patterns; how much they were either influenced by or wed to just figuring out the one small part they could think about and do something about (rather than looking at the larger world); and how many times students put forward major ideas or “agreed” with big ideas that were totally inconsistent with other major ideas they were also professing (such as agreeing with Bob Avakian's statement “American Lives Are Not More Important Than Other People’s Lives” and then saying, “Exactly, I mean an attack on Syria will endanger American soldiers”—the student who said this actually did hear and really like the former statement, but it was so quickly translated back into their pre-existing framework that it became the latter statement quite seamlessly to them).
In relationship to communism and communist revolution, this was quite interesting as well. It seemed that their fear and reticence to consider genuine communism flowed as much from their fear of “totalizing” ideas (this was not the word anyone we talked to used, but what I drew from what they were putting forward) and from their sense that communism goes “against human nature,” as it did from any particular sense of the “horrors" of the first wave of communist revolution. Not to say those misconceptions about communism didn’t exist (a couple people spoke about relatives from the former Soviet Union who had told them that it was awful), but these kinds of claims about the supposed “crimes” of the previous communist revolutions weren’t the first thing their aversion hinged on.
At the same time, one young woman (a freshman) said, “Well, it depends on what level of communism you are talking about. Something like North Korea, which is the most extreme, is very bad. But something like universal healthcare—that would be good. And I don’t know that much about it, but I heard they have very good healthcare in Cuba.”
What was most notable here was the total ignorance as to what socialism and communism actually are! When I am talking about the history of genuine communist revolution, I am speaking about the Soviet Union from 1917 to 1956 and in China from 1949 to 1976. There are no genuine socialist countries today. And just providing a few social services (like healthcare) in the context of a capitalist-imperialist system does not make the system socialist! (Speaking of which, the question of healthcare came up from several students as one of the most pressing things they are confronting—not just themselves, but the thing they are thinking about as a major pressing issue.)
What we did was to approach people sitting outside, introduce ourselves, and say we work with Revolution newspaper/revcom.us and the movement for revolution and we are trying to learn some about what is on the minds of students in relationship to what is happening around the world and to their campus life and studies, and what they are getting into and personally grappling with that is important to them either socially, personally, or otherwise. With those who said they had a few minutes to talk, we would sit down and ask a lot of questions and listen and then probe further. Early on we would introduce Bob Avakian—BA—and the essence of his work, both to make clear where we are coming from and because some of our questions (and sometimes struggle) would then unfold in relationship to that.
The first young woman we spoke to was a freshman studying biology and dance. She said the biggest concerns she thinks about are climate change and the environment; what is developing internationally in Syria and how this reminds her of the Iraq war (she was too young when it was launched to really have been paying attention then, but this is the opinion she has formed of what she thinks it was like); and how outrageous it is that Americans don’t have decent healthcare.
Regarding healthcare, this was both something that was on her mind because of the ongoing political debates over it, but also because one of her high school teachers has leukemia and is going seriously into debt since his insurance doesn’t cover the needed treatment. It is really horrible—both the fear and turmoil he is in medically but the extra burden from how the finances and insurance are fucking him even more and leaving him destitute. She had visited him the previous week, and this was very pressing and visceral to her.
Regarding Syria, she kept coming at it from how "we" have a lot of energy resources “at home” and can do without the Middle East’s oil if we were just smarter. She didn’t think the U.S. should be bombing because she thought “it's not right but also it would put U.S. soldiers in harm's way.” I shared the "American Lives..." quote (which is from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian). She was very emphatic in responding affirmatively to the quote—but then merged this right back into talking about the safety of U.S. troops.
She expressed disappointment in Obama, saying she had thought he was going to bring in a lot of change but really hadn’t. But she actually came at this in two different ways which were in contradiction with each other, but without treating them as contradictory. She said he hadn’t brought very much change at all and was keeping a lot of the same stuff going as Bush had—but she also said that he had done what he could like pull the troops (or most of the troops) out of Iraq. She didn’t have many specifics on either side of this argument, but expressed both frustration and disappointment in him and a defense for what he has been doing.
She went to high school at a good public school in a major city, and this seemed to have influenced the fact that she seemed more engaged in the world than many others. She was definitely progressive but also pretty mainstream in how she approached issues. She was very happy to have spoken with us, and she got the Revolution newspaper and gave a way to stay in touch. It wasn’t like she wanted to get actively involved in the movement for revolution, but she had enjoyed talking with us and was interested.
Next we approached two Black students sitting in the sun. They were grad students majoring in body movement/dance woven in with larger theories of psychology and sociology. They said they don’t talk about the whole world and what is happening in it all that much, but sometimes the two of them talk about things because they spend a lot of time together. Recently, they had talked about the verdict that freed Trayvon Martin's killer, George Zimmerman. I asked what they thought, and they said it was “complicated.” He said that the jury did the only thing they could given the evidence. She said, “No one can say for sure what happened there except Zimmerman and Trayvon. And unfortunately Trayvon is dead so we’ll never know.” She blamed the prosecution for not putting up a good case but didn’t take this thought any further.
I got a bit into what this case represented: that the verdict was not “complicated” but a green light given by the state for police and racist vigilantes to murder Black youth, which is what has been going on. If Zimmerman hadn't gotten out of his car in the first place, Trayvon would still be alive—it was very simple. The woman nodded to a few things I said, but the man argued that while what I was saying was right it is not the only thing that is right and other people feel just as strongly in the opposite way, and he just tries to understand all sides.
This led to a huge argument between us. Essentially, he said that Zimmerman’s fears were “real” and “very human” and we can’t judge him. He also said, “I don’t believe in prisons anyway,” so this contributed to him deciding to accept how things turned out. He said he always tries to accept things because this is how he tries to look at the world.
I united with his sentiment that prisons—especially the way they are part of a whole slow genocide of Black people in this country (which I did some exposure about)—are a huge problem, but argued that acquitting Zimmerman was giving a green light for open season on Black youth. I argued that these are different levels of contradiction, and that in this case the green light for targeting Black youth is what was principal and why this verdict was so clearly wrong. He strongly reacted against that, arguing again that Zimmerman’s "fears" were very real and that I couldn’t say they weren’t.
I responded that while I have no basis to know whether Zimmerman was really scared or not, I do know that he never should have gotten out of his car. Further, even if Zimmerman actually had felt fearful, those fears were not legitimate, whereas Trayon’s fears and the fear of Black youth everywhere in this country about what might happen to them at the hands of police and racists, and the fears of Black mothers for their sons, are very real and very legitimate. Just because someone may be sincere in their emotions and what they are “experiencing” doesn’t mean they are valid in seeing and feeling things in that way and are justified in acting on the impulses those feelings create.
This became a very sharp argument. The guy fought back very politely—even at times a little wishy-washy in his language—but very fiercely and stubbornly in his content and framework. He said that it is wrong to call Zimmerman’s fears illegitimate—that as soon as I "disconnect from the humanity of [Zimmerman]," that is how terrible things happen. In other words, according to him, my thinking was laying the basis for terrible things in the world. I pulled back the lens and gave the examples of Jim Crow and lynchings—the active death sentence on all Black men that may or may not be carried out but always could be. There was a LEGITIMATE fear flowing from that among Black men and Black people generally.
On the converse, while it was certainly the case that many white people feared the anger of Black people and feared them on the basis of prejudices and racist stereotypes that had been whipped up, and while some of that probably fed into some of the ways in which white people carried out horrendous crimes against Black people, that doesn’t make those feelings legitimate! Even if sentiments like that were very sincerely felt, they were ILLEGITIMATE in two senses: 1. There actually wasn’t a constant threat against the lives and safety and humanity of white people at the hands of Black people, and 2. In terms of Black people’s anger lashing out and rising up against the white racist power structure—that is something to welcome and support, not fear and suppress.
This stopped the guy for a minute. I opened up Revolution newspaper (with the centerfold featuring BA's piece "A Question Sharply Posed") and said, “Nat Turner or Thomas Jefferson?” He said, “I don’t get the point. How is that relevant?” I asked him if he thought Nat Turner should have not risen up in rebellion and instead should have gone to the slave-masters and empathized with how they were feeling and connected with their humanity—would that have changed the condition of the slaves? He didn’t like this but also didn’t respond. He shifted back to telling me that it is wrong to say that the very human parts of all kinds of people should be disregarded, that to bring things together and overcome the problems of the world we all have to connect with the humanity in others and identify with them. And he tries to do this for Zimmerman and everyone else.
My friend, the young revolutionary, asked him if he thinks objective reality exists. He said, “That’s very complicated and I don’t want to talk about it.” We probed this a little, but he really wouldn’t open it up fully and kept saying that everyone’s experiences are valid.
He said he refuses to see people as social groupings, arguing that this actually reinforces the divisions we claim to be wanting to end. Instead, he sees everything as just individuals who needed to be understood and assisted. At one point we discussed how one in three women will be raped or beaten in her life—that is a social pattern, and it can’t be dealt with just by assisting and understanding each woman or even connecting with and working to understand each rapist and help them find their own humanity again, etc. We have to change the world and the society that is creating men who view and treat women this way. He objected and said he works with domestic abuse victims and perpetrators in the community through his dance program, and they help the men as much as the women and don’t just write either of them off. He again asserted that he opposes prisons and sees the men also as people who need empathy. Then he tried to close the conversation by saying, “We are working on the same thing, I am just doing it with these individuals through dance and understanding and you are doing it on a world level.”
I said, no, we are doing different things—not that they can’t relate to each other or what he is doing cannot contribute anything, but humanity needs revolution, and I got a little into that. I told him he wasn’t even responding to what I had said—I had specifically said when bringing up the epidemic of rape that my point is not to write off all these men as if none of them can change or be part of something liberating, but that is a process of struggle, not just empathy. And changing the world to get rid of a culture that produces rape on such a mass scale requires struggle (not at the level of every individual man but of the structures and culture of society that shape men) and ultimately revolution. He just refused to look at society as anything more than a collection of individuals.
After this discussion, my friend and I were both pretty angry at a lot of what was said. At one point, my friend complained, “He never even called the men rapists. He talked about them the same as the women and never used the word rapist.” This provoked a little discussion between us, because I didn’t actually have a problem with that part of what he had said. I posed that while I wouldn’t abandon using the word “rapist” to describe men who rape women, I also think there is something positive to not treating every man who rapes a woman as if that is their essence forever. A lot of these men can change, and that element of what this guy we had just spoken with was inclined towards I thought was true and positive.
What had frustrated me so much was the idea he was putting forward that that kind of change could or should happen absent massive struggle to change all of society—that was wrong and frankly ridiculous. This was a brief exchange between us, but I think it was important.
As part of this, we spoke specifically about how some of the prisoners who write in to Revolution explain how they got caught up in petty bullshit for which they never should’ve been sent to prison, but others say straight up that they did some shit they are quite ashamed of, but they actually have transformed and are playing a role in making revolution. In discussing this, it brought me back to the very important piece that had been in Revolution about the Steubenville rape case (after the conviction of two high school football players for the rape of a 16-year-old woman). The piece talked about how there was some justice but no cause for celebration in the guilty verdict; about how while it would be a horrible injustice if the young men had been declared “not guilty” given the evidence, we also shouldn’t celebrate two guys being sent to prison, nor should we allow ourselves to think only on those terms. What is needed it to make revolution, to get rid of the culture and the system that shapes this culture that gives rise to widespread callous and abusive attitudes among men towards women and how this gets acted out through porn, rape, and other forms of violence and degradation against women.
Next we spoke to two young women who told us that they didn’t have very much time and were heading to class in three minutes. We asked them to tell us one thing that weighed on their minds about the state of the world or their academic life or just overall thinking about their lives and their futures. One said, “Well, I am pretty narcissistic so you probably don’t want to talk about me, I only really ever think about myself.” Then they both said that they are from Russian families and worry most about relations with Russia and whether it is safe to go home and visit. That was all we got into with them.
Two young white women had been sitting discussing something with each other very intently for the past 45 minutes and we approached them. They lit up and said, “Wow, we were just talking about some of that.” We asked what they’d been talking about and one began, “I just started the school of social work and I have begun working with people with drug addiction up in [an oppressed neighborhood].” She went on to describe how while she is busy working with the individual and trying to help them, the “policies” are such that they seem to be working against what she and others in social work are doing. The problem seems bigger than what they are able to go at and solve. At the same time, they explained, some people go into policy and they too then get overwhelmed—sort of by politics or bureaucracy, they weren’t sure exactly what bogs them down but that is their sense.
At one point I said something like, “So, it's not the case that if people just make the right choices, take personal responsibility, and pull up their pants and all that, they will all stay out of trouble?” They dove into this and clearly had been struggling a lot over it. One said, “Yeah, I mean maybe people make bad choices, but then even if they did when they get to that point and they are addicted and down and out someone needs to reach out to them at that point and help them through.” The other was more straining for the fact that their circumstances make it so hard for those people, and other people don’t understand this. But she was seeing it very individually.
I posed that people do make choices but not in a vacuum—they do it in a social and political framework and circumstances that are not of their choosing. They don’t choose the choices they are confronted by, and we have to change THAT, not just help individuals. There was verbal assent to this, but the two women mainly continued and merged this together with their point about how despite people’s bad choices they still need help.
Then one of them got into it about how badly paid and treated social workers are—including often by their clients, but also by society that doesn’t value them enough. So you have to make this very hard choice of whether you are going to go into this field. Someone needs to do it, and the help is really needed—but then you will struggle financially and emotionally and not be treated well. “It says something about our society that the ‘helpers’ aren’t treated well. You would think they would be treated very well if our society’s values were right.”
I posed, “Doesn’t it say something deeper about society that there is a NEED for social work the way it is today—on such a massive scale of people locked out and exploited and oppressed? Shouldn’t we be working on THAT?” It's not that in a revolutionary society we won’t have to assist individuals in trying circumstances and have a role for that institutionally, we will almost certainly need that—but that wouldn’t be whole sections of society. They wouldn’t go with me on that in this conversation, however.
One of the women spoke about how Denmark was a better kind of society. She had spent the summer there. “But,” she explained, “that is because their values are so well taken up by the population and everyone supports them and pulls together. But now there are all these Turkish immigrants coming in.” She spoke about this from two sides. On one side, she was disturbed by the prejudices against the immigrants among the people of Denmark and seeing this as hypocritical on their part. On the other side, she was saying she could sort of understand it because the Turkish immigrants did have different values and the kind of society that Denmark has can only be so good when everyone is in more or less conformity of thinking and it is on a small scale.
My friend asked if they get into any of these questions in their classes. They said, no, not really. They are more focused on the individual topics and don’t ask these bigger questions or talk about current events.
I posed the need for real communist revolution and a bit about what BA has done and how we are building a movement for this now. They hesitated, and then one said, “Do you want my honest reaction to that?” She then went on to talk about a relative who had lived somewhere in Eastern Europe, and how even if that is different than exactly what we are talking about, it is what happens and part of the same thing. They were clearly put off by communism and actually a bit freaked out by the fact that I had brought it up. But, it seemed to me that they were equally freaked out by the implications of some of the questions they were beginning to pursue when they actually voiced their concerns and talked them through about the limitations of social work.
I am not sure if it is coming through clearly enough, but they were getting uncomfortable more and more both because of how radical we were but also because their own questions were taking them out of their comfort zone. At a certain point, one of them told a story of a hate crime that had taken place at her undergrad campus. Someone had written “All niggers should die” on a dorm, and the whole faculty and students had pulled together to discuss it. Then some students had organized a “walk” against it (not even a march, just a “walk”). She said she went on the walk. They chanted, “I have the right to live,” and she really agreed with that.
But, she explained, the whole thing upset her. “You see...” she paused and looked me dead in the eye with real fear being re-lived, “I had never been part of a mob before. It was frightening, the raw passion of the crowd, being part of something that felt out of control. Even though I agreed with what we were saying, I was very upset at being part of it.” She went on to compare this to the energy that takes hold at sports events when everyone is chanting. That scares her too.
And this linked back up with the idea of revolution. She had negative connotations with communism, but also with the idea of doing anything en masse or on a big scale or that would unleash people’s passions. She said, “I think it is too much for me to think about right now, and it scares me. And what I need to do is figure out what I think and start where I can start, and then maybe later when I am in a position to affect policy I will think about those things.”
I made the point that it is not like the world is neutral just waiting for her or anyone else to figure this out. I spoke to how, right now, the clothes we are wearing have blood and tears in them of the people who made those things. I spoke about the nets they put up at the Foxconn factories in China where iPhones are produced so that workers could no longer jump to their deaths—emphasizing that the company invested in nets but not in improving the conditions so that people no longer wanted to kill themselves. I spoke of the U.S. threats against Syria and the bloodbaths the U.S. caused in Iraq and Afghanistan and Pakistan and more. I argued that all of us have to start from all of that, not from ourselves. And this is what BA has done and this revolution is acting on, and this is something they have an obligation to look at and be part of getting out of. That while you shrink your scope and refuse to engage these big questions, and the big answers being provided, terrible things are happening. It is not neutral or conscionable to turn away from the big questions they were beginning to open up.
They then said they had to get to class. We gave them cards for the upcoming showing of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and said they really should come with their concerns but with a serious and open mind to engage how we can actually deal with all this. They took the cards but said they didn’t want to stay in touch.
Earlier, my friend had asked them if it is possible to say if something is objectively true. They both said no. The one who was afraid at “being part of a mob” said that anytime you assert something to be true objectively, it's not like everyone will agree with it. (Clearly, she thought that what makes something true is whether people agree with it or not—this is “populist epistemology,” which is not at all scientific.) Further, she argued, “People aren’t always rational. Like, if given a choice between saving a spouse or saving a child, the rational thing would be to save the spouse since together you can make a new child. But most people will save the child. So you can’t try to go by what is objective because people are not objective.”
They were conflating determining objective reality and truth with the idea that everyone will act 100 percent rationally (as they defined rational). I got into two examples—one about how for the first time it is possible to provide for the material well-being of everyone on the planet and have a rich cultural and intellectual and social life together, but that is not happening because of the system of capitalism-imperialism and the states defending that system. I said proving this is a longer conversation than we have time for, but this is provable or disprovable by testing this assertion against reality.
I further argued that there is the basis to make a revolution to get beyond this, and I showed then the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. I posed, “This is either true or not true, and that is provable objectively through measuring this up against reality, not mainly what people are thinking but the dynamics that shape human life and social organization.” I went on to explain, “Then, after that, there is a partisan choice you make as to whether you want to fight for that and everything involved in that, whether that is right or wrong, etc. But the reality is what it is—it is possible for humanity to live one way or another and that is objective.”
I went on to explain that while humans are not coldly rational in the way she was describing, that too is part of objective reality. We can understand that and take that kind of diversity into account in how we conceive of changing the world and organizing a new society—again indicating some of what is in the Constitution. They counterposed that you have to see things not the way we were talking, but in terms of “lenses” and everyone has different lenses through which they see the world which are shaped by their identity and lived experience, and no one can be objective. They cited feminist theory and Foucault as major influences.
After flyering for a little while we went over to a second nearby campus briefly and ended up talking to one last student. She was a sophomore and a white American who grew up and lives in China. Her parents are businesspeople.
She said she is concerned about the environment and healthcare and also pro-choice and is very concerned about the conditions of women. She’d spent the last summer working with “sex workers” in another country. She said they talk about current events a lot in school and had recently talked about the Trayvon case in one of her classes. But it was not clear what they got into about it. She had a book about how race is perceived in America.
My friend asked about her concerns in the world and then academic and campus life and then she posed, “Do you think objective reality exists?”
The student said, “No. Like take pro-choice, I am very pro-choice. I took a lot of sex workers to get abortions last summer and there is so much judgment against them and I was there with them and supportive. I support this right and I really believe it. But then I know that there are people who disagree with abortion who feel as strongly as I do in the other direction.”
From here we diverted a bit into the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride which I had been part of for one month this past summer fighting for Abortion on Demand and Without Apology. She was very excited to hear about this and immediately said, “Oh, I would love to get involved with something like that.” This is when she said that usually people get tired of her talking so much about feminist issues. She went on to say, “You know, like today people find abortion very complicated and I figure it probably used to be that way with other things, like civil rights or slavery and eventually people got more clear. Maybe some day people will see abortion with that kind of clarity but that is not the way it is yet.” She said in the meantime she’ll try to help individual women as the way she will contribute.
I got into how on slavery and civil rights people had to fight to change people’s minds, they didn’t content themselves and say, “Who are we to say what is true?” or, “This is my truth and you are free to have your truth.” The fact is, reality does exist objectively and we can know it—even as we will never know everything about it and that is an important part of the scientific method as well. I got into how objectively slavery was an oppressive institution even if most white people denied that and even if many Black people couldn’t see ending it. That was objectively true. Then, there is the conscious decision as to what you want to do about it. But the idea, which many white people promoted, that this was a benevolent institution was WRONG (not just morally wrong, but also factually wrong!) regardless of what they believed. Further, we would not have the clarity looking back on it today that she describes if it weren’t for the fact that people fought to change people’s minds, and then a whole civil war to shatter the institution and still things didn’t go far enough because look at the hundred years of Jim Crow terror and now the New Jim Crow.
Similarly, today there is objective truth concentrated in “fetuses are not babies, abortion is not murder, women are not incubators” and “forced motherhood is female enslavement.” People are kept ignorant of these truths—that is not their fault, but that doesn’t mean these things aren’t true. And there is the cult of motherhood (which I got into), and that also affects people. But, we must go out and fight with people to change what they think, not accept or respect it just because they think it sincerely. If, in the course of this, some come out and say, “I think women should be enslaved,” we can’t make them choose something else. But, we can fight for people to confront reality and revoke the ability for so many to go along with great crimes without confronting the implications of it—and we can win over a great many people through fighting for what is actually true. We must root ourselves in what is objectively true, as in what corresponds to objective reality, including, if we think something and we find out it is not true, we have to be willing to confront that as well.
This was very intriguing to her and she stayed with it, but was clearly not totally won over. The discussion ranged a bunch more, including she had a bunch of questions about what we did on the Freedom Ride and what it was like. We spoke briefly about BA’s new synthesis of communism and the movement for revolution we are building. She wanted to know what kind of communism because of her experience in China. I explained the work that BA has done over the last several decades, really summing up the tremendous achievements as well as the shortcomings and errors of the first wave of genuine communism (in the Soviet Union and China before those revolutions were defeated) and bringing this together with what has been learned more broadly since then to forge a new synthesis of revolution and communism that is viable and desirable in the world today. She listened and didn’t have any discernible strong reaction, but was also needing to get back to her homework (though not in the same way the others had, where it was more of an excuse to disengage).
Before ending she made the point that she definitely wanted to know more about the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride and StopPatriarchy and maybe get involved. I told her she should definitely get involved in all this, and get into the BA work as well including the upcoming film, but that she should also know that StopPatriarchy is against porn and the sex industry. I wanted to raise this because she’d spent the summer organizing “sex workers” (a catchphrase for those who want to unionize and empower those in the sex industry rather than abolish it).
Here she said, “You see, this gets me back to why you can’t say things are objectively true,” and she told a very interesting story. “Two summers ago I worked in another country supporting a sex workers organization. It was led by sex workers and I was only doing support because I wasn’t a sex worker. I worked with sexual violence victims. But the people leading it were fighting for sex work to be legalized so it could be regulated and supported and they could have healthcare. This really influenced me and I ended up seeing things this way.
"But then, this past summer I was in a different country working with sex workers and they were trying to make it illegal. It is sort of legal there and so all these gangs in North Africa kidnap these women and bring them there and they get away with it because it’s legal to sell women there and a lot of them have no rights and healthcare and are forced into it and so the sex workers are trying to make it illegal. So this really confused me. But I want to help them both and help them do what they want to do and what will make things better for both of them in their circumstances.”
I told her this was a very good example and very helpful to me understanding how she is seeing things—and a very pressing problem in the world she has been trying to address. I told her if you pull back the lens, you can see something in common, a unity between both of those experiences, a deeper part of objective reality shaping them both.
I spoke about capitalism-imperialism and how patriarchy is woven into it—and with it the commodification of women’s bodies and sex as well as the subjugation of whole peoples and countries. I explained that the state—the military, courts, police forces, etc.—serve to back up this system and these overall relations, even if in different particular forms in different places or at different times. The unity between these two different examples is that in each of these different circumstances the state came down on the women, not on the pimps or traffickers or even the johns. She nodded. Because the underlying patriarchy and capitalist-imperialist relations are functioning in both those situations she described, the state is serving that even if in different ways (in one case criminalizing the women for doing illegal “sex work,” and in the other case allowing men to traffic and pimp women because it is legal to sell women into prostitution).
Communist revolution is dealing with the whole of the objective reality that undergirds both those situations. The only way to get beyond that is to make a real revolution. And I spoke some about what it will mean to have a society based on meeting people’s needs, protecting the environment, being a base area for world revolution, and overcoming all the scars and oppression among and between people from the past. It is only in this new context, in a revolutionary society with a new revolutionary state power and after this old system has been overthrown and dismantled, that you can go at fully uprooting and overcoming all the dynamics which played into both those situations—including the way that men are socialized to see women that creates a “market” for women’s bodies and humiliation as well as protections and support for women who have been used and abused in this way and so on.
To get into all this I had to speak for a little while but she stayed with it. The student responded by saying, “You are saying that rather than just dealing with the way all this appears on the surface or even what people think about it and can immediately do about it, you are talking about digging down to where they come from the same root and dealing with that.” She wasn’t “won over” but she had clearly taken in what I had posed and was considering it. She said she definitely wanted to stay in touch and gave a phone number and email and got the paper and had revcom.us up on her computer to look more when we left.
* * * * *
Through all this, we learned an incredible amount not only about what students are thinking about (and not thinking about) but also, and in some ways even more importantly, about how they are thinking. If we don’t understand this, there is no way we can go to work on transforming it. And, as it became more clear to us as we went, if we don’t work on—and actually do epistemological battle—over how people think, even when there are politically advanced sentiments or unity with some of what we are putting forward, it gets undermined by the pervasive and paralyzing relativism that is so widespread. All this is something we intend to do much more work on struggling to transform. I’ll write more as we work on this—and look forward to, and expect to be, reading the experience of others who are working on this same problem around the country.
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
Interviews from the March in Washington, D.C.
September 26, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On August 24, 2013, tens of thousands of people gathered in Washington, D.C., 50 years after the 1963 March on Washington where Martin Luther King gave his “I have a dream” speech. The murder of Trayvon Martin and the fact that this system let his killer walk free, left millions of Black people and many others with a profound sense of betrayal. But the overall message from the organizers and from the stage was aimed at channeling people’s anger and energy into the dead-end of working with and within the very system that has oppressed and exploited and betrayed Black people from day one of this country up until today. Into this scene it was a challenge, controversial, and for many, a breath of fresh, as a revolutionary crew got out 5,000 copies of the poster with the quote from Bob Avakian that talks about Dred Scott, Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin and says, “That’s It for the System—Three Strikes You’re Out!” and more than 1,700 copies of Revolution newspaper with the front page: “50 Years After the March on Washington & “I Have a Dream”—America Is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!” [see article in #314, and “On Obama's August 28 Speech--The Battle over the Truth About the African-American Experience and Present-Day Reality”]
The following interviews done by Revolution correspondent Li Onesto, reflect different views and responses to the Three Strikes poster and Revolution newspaper. We encourage readers to write their thoughts on these interviews and send to email@example.com.
My name is XXX and I work for Capital One which is a mortgage industry and I’m from Silver Springs, Maryland, so I’m from around the area. I’m here because it’s very important to me, because we see so many things going on in the world today, in America and we’re all about loving and helping and being together and uniting. The changes going on with civil rights, to different issues going on with women it’s very concerning because it seems like they’re trying to take things back instead of taking things forward. We need to think about the people, the young generation, and the generations to come and so it’s very important to me and I’m very passionate about it because things are changing and we need to make a change. And if we don’t then, they will think they can keep on doing what they want to do and—making a stand is by walking, by marching like they did back in 1963, when Martin Luther King was alive.
We Don't Need A New Civil Rights Movement—WE NEED REVOLUTION! Carl Dix speaking on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington.
What do you think about this headline: “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”— and this article that says we don’t need a new Civil Rights Movement, we need revolution. And there is this Three Strikes poster on the back of the newspaper about Dred Scott, Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin that says, That’s It for the System—Three Strikes You’re Out!
Absolutely, I agree 1,000% with you. I’m a true passionate individual and watching that court on Trayvon Martin and seeing the decision devastated me and let me know that something is wrong with our court system. Something is wrong with our taking care of our young people, something is wrong with justice. And so we do need to make a cause. An innocent life was taken, he’s dead and the man is walking free. I mean where’s the justice in that? Something’s wrong. And so we need to do something. We need to walk, we need to speak, we need to make a decision. So you’re one thousand percent correct. That’s why I’m glad Trayvon Martin’s family is here, why I believe that so many different people have come here to speak. So many people, all of us need to come here to make a difference here of liberation. Freedom comes from not only being able to walk on the street, but freedom is also justice in the system and justice in our lives, in jobs, justice in everything.
It says here, there will be no justice in the Department of Justice, that there’s nothing about this system that is good, that we have to make a revolution and get rid of this whole system. But here a lot of people are saying we have to reform this system.
The Department of Justice, look at how that’s revealing itself right there—Eric Holder, his hands are tied; trying to do things, and the Department of Justice is a mess. It starts with the head and if the head ain’t doing right, what about the tail. It’s a mess. So I agree with you. Do away with all these rituals, everything is about structure, we live in a structural system and it’s not working, and it’s a problem. And it starts with the Department of Justice.
I’m from Austin, Texas and I’m here because other people were here. I’m a therapist, I work with children and families. I’m here because other people were here before me. They lived their lives and sacrificed and died so that I could be here, so that’s why I’m here. So their lives were not in vain because I’m here today.
Let me ask you this, the front page of this paper says: “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”—which is different than saying we need a new Civil Rights Movement. That movement accomplished something important, but we need something different today to solve the problems the people face...
I think you have to define revolution. By the way you define revolution and some people’s perspective on what revolution, is not necessarily something that is going to be sustained.
This is saying a real revolution—not something that’s about reforming the system, but getting state power, putting a different system in place.
I think that that perspective puts the Civil Rights movement in a certain place too, that your perspective on the Civil Rights Movement is that it wasn’t a revolution, it starts from that place, when you talk about a new revolution you’re saying that the Civil Rights Movement wasn’t a revolution—and it was and it continues today.
This is saying that the Civil Rights Movement did accomplish certain reforms... but America is still a nightmare and that the actual need for the liberation for Black people and all people cannot be achieved under this system, that we need a whole different system.
That we need a system change... that’s what you’re saying. My thing is that the Civil Rights Movement is saying the same thing. That we need a system change from the people who are accessing the system. We need a system change from the system itself, that systems have been institutionalized to keep people in certain areas and arenas and to keep perpetuating institutionalized racism so that people who come in, who look like me continue to perpetuate the same things because of the system itself. So yes, we do need a change in the systems themselves. But I feel like this movement is a part of that change. I don’t feel like they’re separate.
What this is saying is that as long as you have this economic and political system intact you aren’t going to be able to have fundamental change.
I don’t think one is separate from the other, they go hand-in-hand.
Were you active in the wake of the Trayvon Martin murder?
I participated in some protests.
[Shows the Three Strikes poster]—Oh you already have the poster.
Whatever you want to say about where he [Trayvon Martin] was, he was walking and he couldn’t get away from who he was. He couldn’t get out of his skin, all he was doing was walking. That’s why he was killed. It boils down to he was killed for who he was, not because of what he was doing.
I’m from Springfield, Illinois and I’m a social worker. I came here today because of Dr. King, because we haven’t reached equality as far as women’s rights, rights for African-Americans and minorities across the world. We’re still fighting and struggling everyday.
What do you think about this headline: “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”?
We’ve been needing a revolution. The problem is that we can’t get together to start a revolution. It takes something dramatic for everyone to get riled up and to get into action. We don’t have to wait until someone drops dead to have a revolution, we don’t. Every day there’s injustice. We’re being pulled over by police, we’re being searched, we’re being shot down. We have to have a revolution every day in our communities.
This is the day that you actually learned that there is a movement for revolution—not to reform the system, but when the time is right, a revolution to take state power. There is a leadership, a strategy, and a Constitution for the new society after the revolution..
That’s a different kind of revolution. Yes it is. I didn’t know there was a strategy.
But the thing is, this is not going to happen without people like you.
Absolutely and we know we have to be part of it.
What is your response to hearing that there is movement for revolution?
I’m surprised to learn about it, cause I didn’t know anything about it. I think we’re ready, I think we need a revolution. I think it’s fantastic but being in a smaller community, getting that news to people that there’s going to be a revolution, that’s going to be the hardest thing to do, is to get everybody involved and let them know that there is a strategy.
OK, we’ll be in touch.
I’m a social worker, I advocate for mentally ill adults. I’m here from New Jersey. I’m here because of the history of the event and because of my concerns around voting rights. I think that voting rights should be something that we’re trying to expand to make voting more free and open rather than denying people the right to vote for reasons that aren’t even real. There’s no voting fraud. It’s a non issue but that’s the reason they claim that they need to make voting rights stricter. So that’s why I’m here today.
What do you think about the message we’re getting out here today: “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”?
I think that it is incredibly astounding to me that our politicians, that our government is basically being controlled by corporations, being controlled by money, Wall Street, the whole thing and that it’s less about what the people need, what the people want and more about what corporations want. And I think that that’s the change that we need. We need the people in control and not the corporations.
What do you think about this poster on the back of the paper: about Dred Scott, Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin that says, That’s It for the System—Three Strikes You’re Out!
I think it’s been a lot more than three strikes. I mean for every stop and frisk that happens we can count that as a strike too. But I think that a lot of people tend to think after a while, just like Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin, people accept and people move on. But I don’t think that’s going to last very much longer. People are getting tired, people are getting fed up. I mean in my family, we wouldn’t be considered the “revolutionary types.” But we’ve been to three Trayvon Martin rallies since the verdict and I think this is the time.
You think the Trayvon Martin changed things?
Absolutely, absolutely. Maybe, like when Emmett Till was murdered, there wasn’t social networking, there wasn’t media there for trials, things of that nature. And now that we see it and how blatantly wrong it was from many different perspectives how wrong it was, it’s hard to ignore. It’s very difficult to ignore.
What was the situation in your family? You said people generally didn’t go to protests, but in this case they went to protests?
Exactly. It affected us. We were having a birthday party for my aunt when the Trayvon Martin case was read and it was late at night. But we didn’t want to leave because the verdict was about to be read. And when the verdict was read, it was like this joyous occasion just immediately became very somber, very sad, very angry, very upset over the verdict. And I think that that changed us.
Were they shocked?
Shocked, incredibly shocked. There was no possible way we could conceive that he would be found not guilty. All the evidence was there. It happened, he wasn’t doing anything wrong, but yet it felt that Trayvon Martin was convicted, even though he was the victim of the crime. So that sort of sparked it for us.
When you were saying this thing about corporations, one of the things that this is saying is that while this march is saying we need a new Civil Rights Movement, this is saying that we don’t need this, we need a revolution and this has to do with the fact that this system works on the basis of profit and as long as you have that it will not meet the needs of the people and we need a revolution to get rid of this system. But what’s missing is you and this is the day that you’re finding out about this movement for revolution.
I think this is a very exciting time to be in America, because we’re on the precipice of change. Not say change in the sense of the change that Obama was supposed to bring about because I was disappointed in this administration, especially like the drone attacks or even the health care... but I think that we’re on the verge of a big social movement.
But here’s the point, that as long as that social movement is in the framework of trying to change things within this system, we won’t really get rid of the problems we face. We need revolution and people need to be a part of that.
What do you think about the point that this Three Strikes Poster makes that the time is up for this system and that we need a revolution?
I think that the epitome of this march being 50 years strong and the idea that we’ve come from Dred Scot all the way to Trayvon Martin and how things have changed so much and we lean towards technology and medical technology and so forth and yet we haven’t gotten as far as we still need to come as far as humanity, as far as life. What I was pointing out to my son is the sense of community that everybody came together today for the same reason, the ideas of jobs, not jails. You have the empowerment to bring about the humanity that unfortunately these innocent lives had to be taken to get people’s attention and to realize that while we are all so different, race, gender, classification, stratification, all these different things, nonetheless, we are all the same. Life and death for us are all the same. Jobs, the need to live and to protect one another and feel safe in our communities, all of that is still real to all of us no matter where we come from. So the energy here and the idea of three strikes and so forth. I want to think in a perfect world, I want to believe that Trayvon was the last one. But what we don’t realize is that there are so many Trayvon’s every single day that just don’t make the news, that don’t just get blown up so much, all over the world. For different reasons, it could be religious wars, as well as just the communities, different things going on. So it’s about us pulling together like this and it’s a beautiful thing and this is my son’s first time and I told him this is something I’m bringing him to and this is something him bringing his children to.
But here’s the thing, when you say, him bringing his children to. We don’t want him having to bring his children to something like this. And we don’t need another Civil Rights Movement, we need a revolution to get rid of the system that is causing all this so that your son won’t have to be bringing his children to a march to protest this kind of thing still going on.
I’m a woman within my faith so I’m wanting to believe, unfortunately the tragedy in this world, there is use for this, it gets people’s attention, it does bring people together and there is that sense of unity. I hear what you’re saying that one day this will not be needed. And in a perfect world, one day, fingers crossed, prayers up to god, that may be the case, but until then, this is needed, this is unity, it does bring people together.
I’m here because I think there’s a new Civil Rights Movement that’s happening. I knew there was going to be a commemoration here before the George Zimmerman verdict, the racist acquittal, but I think that’s really sparking a new civil rights movement. I know you’re a socialist group and you’ll report it, but I hope that the media will report on that fact that these are crowds where a lot of people are here, white people are here. I think the media in general likes to make it seem like when there is an atrocity that the only people who come out are African-American people, to make it look like that. And they worry more when there is more unity amongst different nationalities so they don’t report that so much.
Can you explain why you have that button, “We are all Trayvon”?
This is really the spirit of the day, it’s all about Trayvon. It’s the 50th commemoration of the MLK speech.
I’m happy to be here and taking a part in this history. My dad was at the original march in Washington 50 years ago and I’m glad to just be marching and doing my part for the cause.
What do you think about this headline: “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”?
I think we’ve had a lot of progress but we still have a long way to go, not just for African-Americans, but a dream like he talks about everybody coming together. We still have a long way to go. It is still a nightmare. We still live in a country where there’s young Black boys being executed for no reason, so we still need change.
What this is saying we don’t need to just try and fix the system, we don’t need a new Civil Rights Movement, we need a revolution to get rid of this whole system of capitalism.
I can’t say that I’m for anarchy.
This isn’t about anarchy.
Capitalism, I hate to say it, but I’m for capitalism. I hate to sound crazy, but like George Orwell said, absolute power corrupts absolutely. So at some point even if you put a new system in place there’s nothing to stop that from becoming corrupt either.
This poster is saying Three Strikes, Dred Scott, Emmett Till and 50 years later, Trayvon Martin—times up, that’s it for the system—Three Strikes You’re Out! That we need a revolution to get rid of this system that was founded on the oppression of Black people.
That’s a lot to think about....
I’m an educational advocate and what we’re doing here today is extraordinary. We need to be educated about the justice system. And what Revolution is doing out here today and is writing about is incredible. We’re making history because 50 years ago we were unable to be here. I’m 40 but my son is 7 so we will be writing history about where my son was and what he will do to make a difference right now.
What do you think about what this is saying, that we don’t need a new Civil Rights Movement, but that we need a real revolution to actually get rid of this system of capitalism? That we don’t want another 50 years, to come back and do this again.
Absolutely, what I think about this three strikes and you’re out—they created this justice system specifically for our African-American males. You’re talking about drug wars, mass incarceration. They know that they’ve created a system to incriminate our kids, our 14-year-olds, our 15-year-olds that are on the streets that are selling drugs because that is the only thing that they can do. It’s not that they want to do it, they’re trying to survive. Now, I’m not saying that that is right. However I am saying that’s what they know, we’re giving them no options to make a change in their life. But this system is totally wrong. Because, the same system, for the white males who sell drugs, at the same age, they will never go to prison, they get a slap on the hands and told to never do it again. Three strikes you’re out! Trayvon Martin, that’s a public lynching at its finest. Public lynching. What do we say about this, what do we do about this. Nothing. They’re talking. What we need is a revolution to make a huge statement that we are not taking this. Three Strikes, we’re not out, we’re just beginning.
You need to hook up with this movement for revolution.
Oh, absolutely. I got your card, I’m so interested in what’s happening. I have a 7-year-old son, it’s about him.
I’m originally from Texas, but I live in Washington, D.C. I have been a resident for 23 years. I’m a professor, a historian. My specialty is U.S. 19th and 20th century history and I also teach African-American studies. I’m here today to advocate for justice, to show my support for civil rights as well as women’s rights.
I’m with Revolution newspaper and the front page this week says: “50 Years After the March On Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!” What do you think of that?
I think that’s appropriate because America is in a mess. Especially when you go abroad and you see the value of our currency particularly in Canada and Europe. And the fact that there seems to be a lot of chaos worldwide and America seems to be at the center of it. But also what’s happening here at home, the loss of jobs, the fact that most jobs have gone abroad for cheap labor, exploitation, the decline of the middle class, the lack of employment and just the overall, I think the situation is bad. And the fact is, racism still exists too and not just against, racism against people of color, but against women and against the poor. So we have a much broader agenda. You would think that after 50 years after Dr. King’s I have a dream would have occurred, the fact that we have an African-American president doesn’t erase the fact that we have these major problems in America. So the dream continues. So we need to be proactive, we need to demand justice, we need to demand our government to insure equality. And the only way that might happen, is not necessarily—I make reference to a peaceful revolution. And the reason I say a peaceful revolution, is that this is what Dr. King would have wanted us to have. And this is the only way we’re gonna have any results that’s positive.
One of the things that this is saying is that as long as we have this system of capitalism the people cannot be free of oppression...
Capitalism breeds greed in my opinion. But unfortunately in this society, people don’t understand the impact of capitalism. You get consumed in it, in order to survive. And I’m not saying that it’s just. But it’s what Americans are accustomed to.
But you’re a historian and you know that there have been revolutions in history and they happen on the basis of people actually understanding that that system needs to go....
But we need to come up with a system that can take the place of capitalism.
You need to get a copy of this paper and check out this movement for revolution, that has a strategy as well as a constitution for the new society after the revolution, what the structure of the government is going to look like, the rights of the people, how it’s going to institute the rights of the people, the right of dissent, how it’s going to get rid of oppression, including the oppression of Black people...
Oh, I need to study this.
I grew up in Northern Ireland where there was a lot of discrimination against Catholics, one man, one vote didn’t exist for us. We adopted the civil rights movement. They came, they shot 13 of us dead by the army and they had an inquiry. And just like in Black history, they said screw the inquiry and the soldiers all walked free. Those soldiers killed 13 people and half those people were under 16-years-old and I see a lot of similarities going on here today in America. Today it’s more than just remembering Martin Luther King. The fight still continues for jobs, for equality and for profiling. Get rid of this stupid profiling of people. And I wish you every good result today. And just remember the world is with you on this one.
We’re out here saying,“50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”
We had an armed revolution and now we got a peace dividend. People need to wake up. I think this society is more polarized than it’s ever been. The rich are getting richer, the young are getting poorer and poorer, they’re not getting any equal opportunity. People need to come out of being lazy and just watching TV and having their little games, people need to wake up and be more conscientious of what’s going on. There’s a lot of ill treatment going on and the media and the police and the courts are just playing along with that.
I know in Ireland there’s a whole tradition of hunger strikes, are you aware of the hunger strike going on among prisoners against solitary confinement in California? They are now in their second month.
Why is that being kept very quiet, why has that not hit the media?... There are people who are saying this can’t continue. People, as you say, need to get angry, people need to get emotional, people need to revolutionize.
We’re not saying people need to change the system, we’re saying we need to get rid of the system.
You can only do that by speaking out and making more protests and making those news media, Murdock and his crowd to wake up, that we’re not going just take this passively, we need to speak out. And I never knew before today that people are on a hunger strike in California, and I’m really shocked.
I’m English, I’m from London, I’m a history teacher and I loved today, I think it’s amazing. I got a copy of the newspaper.
What do you think about this headline? It’s saying we don’t need a new Civil Rights Movement, that we need a revolution.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know enough about it to make a comment about a revolution. Today the idea of civil rights is just incredible. And the idea that so many different groups can come together and fight for so many different things as one is pretty awesome. So if that’s what you consider a revolution then yeah, I’d be for it.
Well, as this poster says: Dred Scott, Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin that says, That’s It for the System—Three Strikes You’re Out! I’m sure you know about Trayvon Martin, what do you think that says about America?
It’s horrifying. The idea that 50 years, things haven’t fully changed is still quite worrying. But having a Black president for America I think is a huge step. Having spoken to quite a few people here today, people even who were there on the day of the I Have a Dream speech, they all say that things have changed. But obviously it’s not changed fully and hopefully very soon it will change completely and there will be equality. Trayvon’s story is horrendous, it’s a horrifying story and I very much hope his killer is put to justice.
I’m retired, I’m a retired bus driver. I’m from Florida but I’ve been in D.C. for a long time. I just think the march is good but I’m just hopeful that the march is what we really need because we’ve been marching for a long time and there’s not much change. So I don’t really know what it’s going to take unless revolution is the solution to the problem, then I’m for that.
How did you feel after the Trayvon Martin verdict?
I was very disappointed because this has been happening for years and years and years and America really should be ashamed for what has gone on for so many years and there’s no change.
This poster says, we had Dred Scot, Emmett Till and then 50 years later the same thing with Trayvon Martin...
What does it take to make a change?
We’re saying it’s going to take revolution.
If that’s what it’s going take to make the change then I’m all for it.
We need a revolution but we need people like yourself to get with this movement for revolution to be a part of it.
Well I read a little portion of it [the newspaper] and I did see in the back, because I started reading in the back and I saw different places to call. I did see a telephone number and different places to call and I was seriously thinking about calling and getting more information about you know, the revolution because I’m for it. I’m 71-years-old but I’m for it all the way because I’ve seen a lot of stuff. I didn’t see Dred Scot but I was living with Emmett Till and I thought that was horrible. And I really think it needs something more shocking to America to really wake them up. I don’t think that marching is gonna really going to be the solution. Marching has been the solution for some things in the past but today we need more than marching. We need more than marching, um hum. I think it’s just shameful that we’re looking at the United States because the United States is supposed to be policing every other country but it’s not policing itself.
Well it is policing other countries—like oppressing other countries and dropping drones on people, going to war...
The people think that the United States is the leading country and it IS the leading country for all of the corrupt stuff, it is. I know I’ve been living here for 71 years, I know the United States. Everything that you hear about it that’s written about the United States that are negative, that’s true. I’m all for it. I know it’s true. I’ve read different papers like China Daily and different things like that, saying things about the United States that are absolutely true. I’ve read the British papers and they said things about the United States that are absolutely true. They’re not lying about the United States. They know what’s going on. And the United States itself doesn’t plan to change. It’s just too bad that I don’t have anywhere else to go but the United States—so for the revolution, the only place I can go is the United States.
Well, today is the day—mark this on your calendar—today is the day you found out that there is a movement for revolution IN the United States.
I will definitely make a phone call to join in this movement for revolution.
I’m from New York City and I’m here with my synagogue which is a gays and lesbian synagogue which is in New York City and I work in digital marketing. We have a strong commitment to social justice issues, both within NYC and nationally, so we’ve been involved in marriage equality, with homeless gay and lesbian youth, a lot of the mission of the synagogue grew out of the civil rights movement for lesbian, gays, transgender people and then expanded to other issues and related to health care access and things like that too. So, we wanted to come down and be part of this and further the mission of this march and this day of commemoration.
What do you think about this headline: “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”—and this article that says we don’t need a new Civil Rights Movement, we need revolution?
I think I tend to be more slower, working within the system guy. For example in the New York City mayoral race, I’m rooting for candidates that are for the poor, middle class. I’m not necessarily a revolution kind of guy.
What’s going to stop it from being 50 years from now and the same thing happening?
The system is kind of rigged against people of color and poor people and I don’t think either of the big parties serve their interests but I have no idea what to do about it. All I can do is when something like that happens is to stand up against it.... I think there are a lot of issues, the incarceration rates, fighting wars we shouldn’t be fighting, under-funding schools, I agree with you on all of those counts. When you guys say revolution are you talking about overthrowing the government?
As long as you have capitalism, you’re going to have the economic and political structures that are going to put profit before the needs of the people.
My issue is that the free market does tend to maximize opportunity while governments that have leaned towards communism have also leaned towards totalitarianism and against people’s rights and their ability to maximize their happiness and growth even more than the worst capitalist....
[response from reporter on this, referring person to Set the Record Straight]
I’m from Ghana, but I live in Atlanta. I work full time, I’m a married man with two kids, I’ve been here for 14 years. I drove here to be here on the anniversary.
What do you think about this headline?
It is true. We still need a lot, we need people who will stand up for it, we need people to go out and vote for it, people don’t even pay attention to it, we need to force our local legislators....
But this is saying something different, not working to change the system, but making revolution to get rid of this system and put in place a different economic and political system...
Maybe I have to look more into it but I believe that we can get rid of certain things that the government do.
This is saying that as long as we have this system you’re going to have all this, that we need something completely different and we are building a movement for revolution....
I will read more and check out your website and get more into it.
Yeah, because we don’t want to be coming back here a year from now, five years from now, 50 years from now and saying the same things.
It is true, that is true, it needs to end.
I’m 31-years-old, an attorney in Washington D.C. and I’m here to commemorate what took place 50 years ago, but also issues we’re facing today. I appreciate the things that my grandparents marched for like not having to drink from a separate water fountain but also fight for other issues like voting rights being lost, middle class jobs hard to find. We have to continue to fight for all this and most recently the Trayvon Martin case, the criminal justice system, we are watching... Blacks are treated differently, we have to fight for equality, as the country continues to progress.
What do you think about this headline: “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”?
Here’s the deal, I think we need a revolution, but I think we need a non-violent revolution just like King taught 50 years ago. But a revolution, just having people wake up, everyone counts, no one is a second class citizen, as a country wake up that these are real issues...
We’re saying, That’s It for the System—Three Strikes You’re Out! [showing the poster]
I think the system can and does work, for instance a couple of weeks ago, there was a young man who was killed by three teenagers and they’re behind bars... if you commit a crime you have to do the time.... Right now the attorney general is working on drug classification.... At the end of the day, people do crimes, they have to pay for them. I am a Black man and people make decisions.
I’m currently a student, grad school in D.C.
What do you think about this headline?
I think that we’re beyond the point, I think a revolution, it’s not a revolution about the external factors, I think we need to take a look into ourselves. Who said, be the change you wish to see in the world ?—Mahatma Gandhi. It think there are a lot of people nowadays are really good at telling other people this needs to change and that needs to change but if we all together can collectively take a look at ourselves internally we’ll see a lot more change that we’re looking for. I think the revolution is more of an internal reflection than an actual external movement.
But let me ask you this, how is that going to affect the fact that 50 years ago we had Emmett Till, and now we have Trayvon Martin—that we won’t have the same thing 50 years from now?
The system is flawed, the people within the system are flawed. Because they haven’t gotten the chance to really internalize and be part of the rest of society, they haven’t really gotten a chance to understand themselves through what I was saying and in order to move forward, systems are created through people who are flawed...
But people are created through the system...
We’re talking about multiple systems. The reasons these atrocities occur in history is because of exploits in the political, economic, legal system. Combining all these inequities is what leads to the need for a revolution. However, we need to step back from trying to fix inequities of the systems that have been established and really look to develop our own and improve our own inequities and that needs to be a collective conscious effort individually.
I’m from New Orleans and live here in Greenbelt, Maryland. I’m an administrator in a hospital. I have a 15-year-old son and a 6-year-old daughter. And I took a photo of my son with the Trayvon Martin statue and it brought tears to my eyes because unfortunately that’s the reality of young Black men in the United States, that they’re being shot and gunned down and their lives are not even important enough for us to fight for it or stand for it or fix the laws that are allowing our kids to be shot down. And so it just made me a little emotional.
I’m sure you remember how you felt when you heard the verdict.
Oh, I was devastated. While I knew he wouldn’t get the second degree charge, I figured at least manslaughter. And then when we heard he was walking free with no charges at all, it completely broke my heart because this is personal for me, I have a 15-year-old. Their father is on active duty in the state of Florida and they were going to Florida a couple of weeks later and so my anxiety was quite high until they returned about a week ago.
You got a copy of the paper.
Yes, and I made a donation.
This poster on the back talks about Dred Scott, Emmett Till and Trayvon Martin and then says, That’s It for the System—Three Strikes You’re Out!
It really, I mean, all we can do is march and protest and let our voice be heard, enough is enough. This country is built on the foundation that justice and liberty for all and that’s not what we’re seeing through the media, through the political system, through the judicial system and we need to change it.
You said, all we can do is protest, but this is saying that we can do more than that, and we have to do more than that, we need a revolution...
I would agree with that...
It’s saying we DON’T need a new Civil Rights Movement, that as long as we have this economic and political system of capitalism, that not just Black people, but all people can’t be free and we need a revolution to get rid of this system and we ARE building a movement for revolution and what’s missing is people like you to be a part of this.
Well, I’m willing to do whatever it is I can, again I been making my donations and coming out and lending my support to the best of my ability, making sure that my children understand and how they can impact, what goes forward in the next few years, the next years to come they are the next generation, it’s going to effect them more and more. These type of issues that are coming up, so I think people have to get involved, I think we have to stop playing the race card because it’s about everybody. Ms. Fulton said it best, that Trayvon is not just her son, he’s all of our sons and we have to stand up for our children regardless of what color they are. We have to stand up for our kids and so I think that it’s important that people take ownership of the situation and do something to change it whatever that means.
After the verdict a lot of people were jolted and woke up, they felt betrayed by the system. And this march today, in a big sense is trying to get people back into the system, to put their efforts back into the system.
I agree. Some people can’t just get involved, it has to become a personal issue for them. And I hope that it wouldn’t take for your child to be shot down or whatever the case may be to get involved to make the system better.
But the system feels safe as long as people are working within the system and this march is telling people that you may be angry but let’s work within the system as opposed to a more radical solution.
Well, we definitely need a more radical solution, I think that people are afraid, people are afraid because of the police situation and the different things, people don’t necessarily want to go against the grain. But the more people that you can get to go against the grain, the better chance we have of changing what’s wrong with the system. It’s not going to take one person, it’s going to take a whole group of one persons getting together to do this. I mean, I’m happy to be seeing so many people out and it’s been peaceful and hopefully people will do their part, whatever they can do to change this system that we currently have because it sucks. I’m a U.S. Navy veteran and I went to fight for my country and it had nothing to do with the color of my skin or the color of anyone else’s skin, this is my country and I wanted to do something for it and I think we all have to look at it that way and we have to do what’s best for our kids because they are our future.
I’m from Peoria, Illinois where I’m a social worker. I flew here and I came because I couldn’t come 50 years ago and I won’t be able to come 50 years from now. And I believe in the struggles of all the people represented here, especially women’s rights and civil rights. That’s why I came here, I wanted to be part of all this.
This is happening in the wake of the Trayvon Martin verdict, how do you feel about that?
I felt that the Trayvon Martin verdict was wrong and I feel it is symbolic of the injustices in society and it outraged me.
Were you at any of the demonstrations around it?
Yes, in Peoria we had a group that protested against the verdict and I’m part of that.
I was talking to some other people here today and they were saying that some people in their families, that they had gone out to demonstrations for the first time....
Oh, I’m the demonstrating type, I’ve been here for several marches, mostly for women’s rights... There’s a backlash against a lot of groups and their rights, including for African-American people, the Voting Rights act. So there are a lot of rights for people, including women’s rights, that are threatened right now, so it was really important to have this march and the one that’s scheduled for Wednesday as well.
What do you think about this headline? This is saying we don’t need a new Civil Rights Movement, 50 years later we have Trayvon Martin and we need revolution to get rid of this system...
I think people need to stop being complacent and we need to come together. But people need to take to the streets and people need to say “enough.” Too many people are being complacent and that’s why these kinds of realities are happening and I hope people will wake up soon.
Do you think there’s a certain mood now?
No I think people are too complacent, people will become upset about Trayvon Martin like for two days and then they’ll forget about it.
I’m the renegade attorney, originally from Houston, Texas and right now I live in Brooklyn, NY. I’m kind of outside the box with my beliefs and my philosophy and my ideologies, not so much mainstream. I’m here because it’s a piece of history that I get to be a part of. Dr. Martin Luther King did so many things to free our people, bringing Black and white together, holding hands. And he made that speech 50 years ago today. And 50 years in light of Trayvon Martin, we’re still marching.
That brings me to my next questions. The front of our newspaper says, “50 Years After the March on Washington & ‘I Have a Dream’ America is STILL a Goddamn Nightmare: WE NEED A REVOLUTION!”—and it’s talking about a real revolution to get rid of this system of capitalism, because as long as we have this system we’re going to keep having this nightmare
I’m all for the revolution. You know the problem with that is how and when and where and what, you know what I mean? And what does that actually means? I guess sometimes it has to get really, really bad before people really revolt. And I don’t know, I can’t explain it, even as we come out here together and we’re all united, standing for justice and everybody is pumping their fists, and blah, blah, blah. You’re right I think the system has to be revolted against completely from the ground up. Because it’s almost like they let us have our little show, you know, no one can infringe on our free speech. We can come out here and you know, we can have our picket signs and I can put on my flower headband and stand for Trayvon Martin. But the truth is Monday morning I’m going back to the machine. So, it really does has to be a whole revolution. It’s sad because we have these beliefs and we want to see these things change, but how?
We can go on record right here that today is the day that you met the Revolution that you found out about the movement for revolution here in the United States.
Oh, yeah, yeah.
This is the day that you found out that we ARE building a movement for revolution and that there is the leadership and the strategy and there is even a constitution for what’s going to be put in place the day after the revolution is successful, what would be put in place for day one of the new society. We ARE building a movement for revolution but what’s missing is YOU.
But how do you join?
You need to hook up with it, there’s all kinds of ways that you can be part of it, big and small, as you’re finding out more about it. Get this newspaper, leave your name....
I’ll give you my card. Renegade to revolutionary....
Yeah, I am so down....
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
by Alan Goodman | September 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A city is simmering from years of living under a mayor who disdains to even try to conceal his fixation with building up the central business/arts/tourist district, who exudes contempt for the plight of everyone else, and whose relationship with the Black community is more or less modeled on the “relationship” between a prison warden and the inmates.
In this atmosphere, an election for a new mayor drones along until a dynamic candidate emerges from the pack. That candidate has ties to minority communities. The candidate is attacked for a past that includes “leftist” and “socialist” associations–attacks that serve to bolster the candidate’s credibility with a deeply disenchanted electorate.
Readers following the meteoric rise of New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio might recognize the scenario. Campaign ads featuring de Blasio’s African-American teenage son denouncing NYC’s racist stop-and-frisk policies captured the imagination of voters. The attraction was noted by the city fathers. And overnight, de Blasio was catapulted to the head of a crowded pack of otherwise dull reformists to win the primary election for the Democratic Party candidate for mayor of New York City.
But that’s not the election I was describing in the opening paragraphs. Instead, I was replaying an election three years ago in Oakland, California. For eight years, Jerry Brown (who had previously served as governor of California, and went on to become governor of California again) had reigned as mayor of Oakland. Brown was fixated on developing Oakland’s coastal high-tech and tourist areas, built up an element of an arts community to facilitate that, and “branded” and marketed Oakland as “closer to San Francisco than San Francisco.” All the while, vast stretches of the city rotted, and social services declined. Police brutality raged unchecked, cheered on by Brown.
After eight long years, with whatever non-establishment veneer he once exuded long worn off, Brown was succeeded by Ron Dellums. Dellums’ term was marked in large part by his absence from public life, and he accomplished little to chill out anger at the state of things—anger which burst out in protests after the outrageous transit police murder of Oscar Grant.
Early on New Year’s Day, 2009, while Oscar Grant was being detained on a transit platform, transit cop Johannes Mehserle shot him in the back, killing him. The murder was captured by bystanders on cell phones, and the videos went viral, sparking outrage around the country and beyond. In the face of sustained and determined protests in Oakland, Mehserle was charged with murder. Mehserle’s trial was moved out of Oakland to Los Angeles, and on July 8, 2010, Mehserle was found not guilty of second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter, and convicted only of involuntary manslaughter. The unjust verdict was met with more protests, more police brutality and repression, and dozens of people were arrested. Sections of the city seethed with anger, even more broadly, there was a profound sense of disgust at how the city was being run.
In November 2010, at the end of Dellums’ term, a contentious and complicated election took place where ten candidates—many if not most of them posturing as radicals or reformers—competed. Jean Quan emerged the winner. She had run on her credentials as a former UC Berkeley student activist, and it didn’t hurt her appeal that she was detained by Oakland police during a protest against the verdict of the transit cop who murdered Oscar Grant. Quan and another mayoral candidate had linked arms and placed themselves between protesters and police to form a buffer space and diffuse confrontation, but the Oakland Police Department detained her anyway.
Quan’s campaign featured walks through the oppressed neighborhoods with her son and husband. Sympathetic news coverage portrayed a “grass-roots” campaign that was listening to people’s complaints. And Quan portrayed herself as the progressive alternative to a conservative establishment candidate who was leading in the polls for most of the campaign and had more funding and support from some of Oakland’s traditional power-brokers.
One activist wrote of the election, “I and so many others were overjoyed not only that she had become Oakland’s first Asian American and first female mayor, but that Jean Quan the progressive activist had become mayor.” (see: http://www.hyphenmagazine.com/blog/archive/2011/11/jean-quan-and-death-asian-america#sthash.WH8geyb2.dpuf)
So how did that play out?
None of the fundamental problems that people hoped Quan would change actually changed. Police brutality continued unabated. Overcrowded, underfunded schools for the Black, Latino, and Asian communities were not built up but shuttered.
But Quan’s mayorship has left one lasting historic legacy.
Early in the morning of October 25, 2011, hundreds of police attacked Oakland’s Occupy encampment with “shock and awe” tactics. Police trashed 150 tents including Occupy Oakland’s collective kitchen, medical resources, library, and day care space. In protest, Occupiers and their supporters rallied at Oakland’s Main Library (which librarians, in solidarity, refused to close, in spite of police orders), and marched back to the encampment site to reclaim it. Police met them with a shocking display of tear gas, clubs, and “non-lethal” projectiles fired at people. The wanton brutality included nearly killing Iraq War veteran Scott Olsen, who was shot in the head by police with a “non-lethal object” fired from about 15 feet away. (See “Occupy Oakland: Courageous, Determined Resistance in the Face of Brutal Police Assault” at revcom.us).
The attack was met with widespread outrage, in the U.S. and around the world. And it left Quan’s supporters in a state of shock and dismay. One group of Asian American Oakland residents who had supported Quan circulated an open letter after the assault that said in part: “It is a sad day. We once believed you to be an ally to low-income, communities of color; to progressive politics; to real democracy. What happened?”
What happened was that the rulers of the United States, at a central level, agreed that the Occupy Wall Street movement, limited as its demands were, posed an intolerable threat to the functioning of U.S. capitalism-imperialism, and that it had to be shut down. And they made the most compelling “argument” they could for that—they sent their police forces in city after city to not only dismantle the Occupy sites and disperse and arrest the activists, but to administer shocking brutality to essentially institute a reign of terror against anyone who resisted or thought about resisting. And if that meant having the Oakland police fire a “non-lethal projectile” at the head of a protester, well... message delivered.
In the aftermath of the attack on Occupy in Oakland, movement activists, including some whose raison d’etre is working through the electoral system to bring about supposed change, engaged in a flurry of angst-filled debates, with some claiming that this whole attack was orchestrated behind Quan’s back in direct communication between federal law enforcement officials and the Oakland Police Department.
The whole story behind the attack on Oakland Occupy has not been revealed, but what is known points to Quan functioning as an active cog in the machine that brought down so much violence against Occupy. Shortly before the attack, Quan was part of a conference call with 18 U.S. mayors to discuss what to do about the Occupy protests. Some news coverage asserted that unidentified “top police brass” also participated in the call. And shortly after the call, there were police attacks on Occupy encampments around the country including in Salt Lake City, Denver, Portland, Oakland, and New York City. (see “Mayors and Cops Traded Strategies for Dealing With Occupy Protesters,” Mother Jones, 11/16/2001).*
And right after the attack on Occupy Oakland, Quan made the outrageous statement that “We want to thank the police, fire, public works and other employees who worked over the last week to peacefully close the encampment.”
Whether the police attack on Oakland Occupy took place with Quan’s full approval in advance, or not, the whole experience serves as an indictment of the worthlessness of, and harm in putting faith in electing “reformer” mayors to bring about meaningful change. The essence of the nature of this society is a monopoly of the use of repressive violence by the ruling class. And that is a problem that can only be solved with a real revolution.
Right now, there are critical political battles that need to be waged around real outrages and abuses including the struggle to stop mass incarceration and police brutality and the political battle to stop the onslaught of laws that force women to bear children against their will by banning abortion. There is a very pressing need to change the whole way people view these and other outrages, and to go right up in the face of the ways the system gets people to go along with these attacks on people.
It is understandable why those who are deeply invested in upholding and shoring up this system of global exploitation, oppression and violent repression would seek to divert discontent into electing “reformer” candidates like Quan. Or de Blasio.
But from the perspective of those who should NOT be starting from how to help this system continue to grind up spirits and lives, throwing energy and hopes into electing people like Quan works against building the kind of consciousness and resistance so needed today.
The rise of the candidacy of Bill de Blasio for Mayor of NYC comes at a moment of widespread discontent and anger over a whole range of abuses. It comes at a time when many people are questioning, or can be challenged to question the legitimacy of this system. Sharpening extreme income and social inequality is blatantly on display in NYC—where glittery luxury stores and corporate skyscrapers tower over record numbers of homeless people. A recent report revealed that a family made up of people making minimum wage would have to work three and half full time jobs to afford an apartment in New York City. Very central to the anger and discontent is stop-and-frisk. Actions like protests organized by Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party and Cornel West and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) have exposed and called that out, and SMIN is leading determined political resistance. A recent federal court ruling that challenged some elements of stop-and-frisk (without ending it) further posed issues of legitimacy for the ruling powers.
This discontent was revealed, in a sense, by the response to de Blasio’s ad claiming “Bill de Blasio, the only candidate to end a stop and frisk era that targets minorities.”
But de Blasio is being deployed not as a way to end all these abuses—he couldn’t even if he wanted to. His candidacy is being promoted, by those who have the power to define whether or not a candidate is “credible” as a safety valve to delude and pacify people, to draw them away from fighting the power and to divert them away from raising big questions about this system and back into the killing embrace of the system that is responsible for all these outrages and that has no future for billions of people, here and around the world.
This is a deadly game. People should take a lesson from Oakland and refuse to play it, and instead put their efforts and resources to where it will make a positive difference—the movement for revolution.
* Possibly shedding more light on how the real levers of power functioned in the attacks on Occupy, a story at Examiner.com, based on an interview with a federal law enforcement official said that while police in each city devised their own specific plans, each of those actions was coordinated with help from Homeland Security, the FBI and other federal police agencies. The article reported that “According to this official, in several recent conference calls and briefings, local police agencies were advised to seek a legal reason to evict residents of tent cities, focusing on zoning laws and existing curfew rules. Agencies were also advised to demonstrate a massive show of police force, including large numbers in riot gear. In particular, the FBI reportedly advised on press relations, with one presentation suggesting that any moves to evict protesters be coordinated for a time when the press was the least likely to be present.” (See “Update: 'Occupy' Crackdowns Coordinated With Federal Law Enforcement Officials,” Examiner.com 11/15/2011) [back]
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
by Carl Dix | September 28, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
September 14, Charlotte, North Carolina—24-year-old Jonathan Ferrell wrecked his car in a one-vehicle accident. As he knocked on doors seeking help, police were called. When they came onto the scene Jonathan ran toward them, and they shot him 10 times, killing him!
September14—35-year-old Glenn Broadnax darted into traffic in Times Square in New York City. Onlookers said it looked like he was trying to get hit by a car. Cops arrived, and Broadnax pointed his hand at the cops, pretending it was a gun he was shooting at them. The cops fired three rounds at him, missing him and hitting two bystanders instead.
August 6, Miami Beach—18-year-old Israel Hernandez-Llach was chased by cops who saw him putting his tag on a building. When he refused their commands to stop, one of them tased him to death. Standing over Hernandez-Llach’s motionless body, the cops high-fived each other!
July 30—In Santa Ana, California, a cop ordered Hans Kevin Arellano, a 22-year-old homeless man, to get on the ground after reports were made of “criminal activity.” Arellano refused, saying, “What are you gonna do, bitch?” The cop shot him to death.
WHAT CAN YOU SAY ABOUT A SYSTEM WHOSE ENFORCERS GUN DOWN UNARMED PEOPLE ON THE STREETS AND ARE ALMOST NEVER PUNISHED FOR THESE CRIMES?
THAT IT'S NO DAMN GOOD AND NEEDS TO BE GOTTEN RID OF THRU REVOLUTION AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!
Get with the movement for revolution! Spread revolution and BA's voice and works everywhere, and Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.
As part of doing that, take to the streets on October 22, 2013, the 18th Annual National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation!
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
October 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Hundreds of people streamed into Dag Hammarskjold Plaza across from the UN on September 24, the day Hassan Rouhani, recently elected president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and U.S. President Barack Obama spoke at the General Assembly. Among the many different signs from various groups, two nine-foot-long banners with big block letters could not be ignored. Each read: "Down with the Islamic Republic of Iran! Down with U.S. Imperialism! WE NEED REVOLUTION!" There were banners in Farsi (main language in Iran) with the same message. Signed by the Communist Party of Iran (MLM), they were the only banners there with such a message: that neither the Islamic Republic of Iran nor U.S. imperialism has anything good to offer the people—and that what was needed was revolution. The night before the protest, a special program at Revolution Bookstore, New York City, featured Anahita Rahmani, a supporter of the Communist Party of Iran (MLM), speaking on "Iran, Syria and America's Situation in the Middle East."
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
From A World to Win News Service:
October 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
September 30, 2013. A World to Win News Service. A tropical rainforest is a hot, thick jungle characterized by high rainfall, between 250 and 450 centimeters annually. Although they cover only approximately six percent of the earth's surface, tropical rainforests contain more than half of all the different types of plants and animals on earth. As many as 30 million species of plants and animals live in tropical rainforests.
Most of these rainforests are located around the middle of the earth, near the equator. They help clean the air that we breathe. They are often called the "lungs of the planet'' because of their role in absorbing carbon dioxide—a greenhouse gas—and producing oxygen. They stabilize climate and produce rainfall all around the world. They maintain the recycling of water between the ground and the sky and protect against flood, drought and soil erosion.
Tropical rainforests are found in Africa, Asia, Australia, and Central and South America. The world's largest is the Amazon rainforest in Brazil and eight neighboring countries, stretching across the continent from the Andes Mountains to the Atlantic Ocean. More than 1,000 herbal medicine plants are situated in these forests. They are called "the world's largest pharmacy." They are also a huge source of food and an amazing and beautiful section of our planet. They are the earth's oldest living ecosystems.
Every year an area of more than 22,000 square kilometres of tropical rainforest are cut down and destroyed. The plants and animals either die or must find a new forest in which to live. Human activities—determined by the logic of the movement of capital and its insatiable hunger for profit—are the main cause of rainforest destruction.
These rainforests are also threatened by climate change, which is contributing to droughts in parts of the Amazon and South Asia. Drought causes massive die-offs of trees, and dried-out leaf litter increases the risk of forest fires. Forest fires are also often set by land developers, ranchers, and plantation owners to clear the land.
In 2005 and 2010, the Amazon experienced the worst droughts ever recorded. Rivers dried up, isolating communities, and millions of acres burned. The smoke caused widespread health problems and blocked the formation of rain clouds, while the burning emitted a huge amount of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, worsening the effects of climate change.
Meanwhile, Indonesia has experienced several severe droughts in recent decades. The worst occurred in 1982-1983 and 1997-1998, when millions of acres of forest burned. These precious rainforests are plundered by logging for timber and cleared for palm oil plantations. Almost three-quarters of Indonesia's original forest is already gone. According to the United Nations Environmental Project, at current rates of destruction, almost all of Indonesia's forests will be gone by 2022.
The destruction and fragmentation of forests—as well as rainforests and other natural habitats inland and in seas—could bring about the extinction of many species of plants and animals. Large-scale pollution and the degradation of the water, air and soil, combined with the real advance of climate change, is already creating a serious environmental disaster. Humanity is well on the way to making this planet literally uninhabitable, meaning the environment and human destiny is on the brink of disaster. As climate scientist James Hansen has warned, "Our home planet is now dangerously near a tipping point."
In the nine years from 1991 to 2000, the total area of the Amazon rainforest cut and burned down rose from 415,000 to 587,000 square kilometers. Most of this land is used for large-scale cattle farming. Deforestation was accelerated following the opening of highways deep into the forest, such as the Trans-Amazonian highway built by the Brazilian government in 1972.
Cattle farming, valuable hardwood logging, the growing of soya beans (soybeans), often for biofuel production, and the expansion of cities and mining are the main reasons for cutting away the Amazonian rainforest. Brazil is the second largest producer of soya beans after the U.S. In the Amazon, cleared land is valued between 5-10 times more than forested land, which of course constitutes an irresistible motivation to cut down trees on a mass scale. By Brazilian law, clearing land for crops or fields is considered an ‘'effective use,'' which is relevant for asserting land ownership. This change in land use may alter the region's climate, according to scientists using NASA satellite data. From 1992 to 1996, Amazonian deforestation increased by 34 percent. By 2005, a 17.1 percent total loss of rainforest was recorded. The same trend is essentially still continuing.
It has been calculated that in 2006, McDonald's and its suppliers alone were responsible for the deforestation of 70,000 square kilometres of the Amazon rainforest over the preceding three years. The need for soya to feed to their chickens, for example, was a major factor. In addition to the massive deforestation, these suppliers have also been linked to illegal land grabbing and the use of slave labor on these farms. Tens of thousands of Brazilians from all over the country have been lured into the jungle by the promise of jobs and then held at gunpoint and forced to work as slaves. Even when the slaves eventually escape or end up abandoned, the plantation owners are almost never punished. The landlords and their gangs of thugs enjoy impunity from the law.
If deforestation at the rate of 2007 continues, within two decades the Amazon rainforest will be reduced by 40 percent. Lately there has been a slight reduction but the shrinking of the forest is still continuing.
In the age of imperialism and rivalry over world domination, where the imperialist countries ruled by monopoly capitalists carry out bloody invasions and wars, and commit and sponsor genocides, one cannot expect these global powers to respect, care for and sustain our planet. For them, nature is something to be seized and plundered, exploited and poured into profit-driven commodity production. Capitalists or blocs of capital confront one another as competitors; their relative peace is a preparation period for wars. They must be prepared and ready to seize on any advantage to undercut their competition, otherwise they will go under. That's why major powers up to now have failed to agree on a meaningful action at various international conferences regarding climate change. That's why capitalism as a system cannot deal with environment in a proper way, even if an individual capitalist or group of capitalists sincerely want to.
The motive force behind any capitalist production is profit. Their logic is this: everything produced is a commodity that must be sold at a profit. Regardless of the will of the capitalists themselves, they must expand or die, and they only take into account their own profits and losses and not the damages and cost to the environment, the general population, and so on. In this process of expansion, capitalism proceeds through imperialist domination of oppressed nations and strategic rivalry between imperialist powers and their allies. This is carried out through world wars, regional wars, wars to maintain their rule against revolutions, brutal violence against native peoples, and so on, as we can see in the cases of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Syria... In fact, the U.S. army is not only the main enforcer of the system that is plundering the earth's environment and its people, but a major source of carbon dioxide emission. The carbon emissions generated by the U.S.-led war in Iraq every year was equal to the emissions created by the addition of 25 million more cars on the roads in the U.S. annually. If the war was ranked as a country in terms of emissions, it would emit more carbon dioxide each year than 139 of the world's nations do annually, according to a report by Oil Change International.
Often people in the "third world" suffer qualitatively more from the consequences of global warming than those living in imperialist countries ruled by the monopoly capitalists. But capitalists will never put the interests of the preservation of the ecosystems of the entire planet above their development plans in order to ensure the health of the planet and the people for the future generations.
What else can we expect from a system that has used atomic weapons against people in Japan (by the U.S.) and introduced the use of chemical weapons (both sides used them in World War 1, and the British used them to put down a revolt against their domination of Iraq in 1920. Italy used poison gas in its attempt to take over Ethiopia in the 1930s). This is without mentioning the massive destruction of people and the environment in wars to control "third world" countries ever since—or the massive nuclear arsenals that the major powers and Israel have built up to maintain and advance their interests. Those who have no respect for human life will definitely have no respect for our planet. In fact, it is this system that has got us into this situation in the first place, and the situation will definitely become even worse.
Our survival depends on the natural world, from green plants that produce oxygen to other living species that provide food and medicine; we cannot live without fresh water, nutrient-rich soils, and clean air. At the same time, we are linked with the natural world through complex evolutionary chains and through networks of ecosystems that provide the flow of energy for life to maintain itself.
If we do not move to stem climate change, to protect and preserve fast vanishing natural ecosystems around the world, this planet could very well become uninhabitable for billions of people and possibly all of humanity. The inner workings of capitalism-imperialism, and the imperialists' history and practice on a global scale, proves beyond doubt that this system and those who run it are not and cannot be fit to be caretakers of our planet.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
September 23, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A crew of revolutionaries went to the Draw the Line Against Keystone XL Pipeline protest in Seattle on September 21. This was part of actions across the U.S. in over 175 different places called by 350.org, the environmental group founded by Bill McKibben.
We had studied and discussed the Revolution article “Four Points for Bill McKibben” and thought the September 21 action was a great opportunity to impact on and seek to transform people’s thinking by engaging in the points of debate Raymond Lotta brings out in that polemic. We wanted to do this while also joining in with and learning more from the active movement of resistance around Keystone XL, the tar sands and overall environmental crisis. When we heard that McKibben himself would be at the Seattle action, we felt it was even more important to be there with this piece and word about the movement for revolution.
We printed 1000 copies of the “Four Points” as a flyer, with the revcom.us article “Keystone XL Pipeline—Powerful Interests, Big Stakes” on the other. We also brought the special Revolution issue on the global environmental emergency. About 800 people came to the event, and we got the flyer to about half of them. We would introduce the flyer saying that these actions around Keystone were very important, but there is a real need for debate around what Lotta is raising in his polemics with McKibben—and then get into the points with people.
Many people we talked to wanted to have this debate and thought there was a need for it. Others didn’t. When we ran down how oil wasn’t a rogue industry but foundational to a whole system of capitalism, some said, “I totally agree, the corporations are greedy,” and that what was needed was to develop community and new ways of bringing forward grassroots efforts for renewable energy. So we’d get into this—what is the difference between that view, and what Lotta is arguing for in "Four Points"? One person said, when we ran down the "Four Points" with them, “That’s the raw truth, but people don’t want to hear it.” Several people wanted to pursue this debate in various ways or possibly help bring a panel discussion on this to their campus.
A big question people raised was, “How can we change where people are at?" Often people tended to see no difference between the ruling class and the masses of people—lumping them together and seeing everyone as individuals that simply lacked the “political will” to make the hard decisions to stop environmental destruction. But the "Four Points" flyer and special issue of Revolution on the environmental emergency were tools to open up the debate and popularize the movement for revolution and the new synthesis of communism brought forward by BA.
One woman from Idaho exclaimed with wonder off of hearing about "Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development," which is in the special issue, “Imagine that—caretakers of the planet.” (One of the key principles is "Valuing the Planet, Becoming Caretakers of the Planet.") But then she wondered how this was really possible—things had really gone so far in destroying the planet, she was surrounded by backward people, what could she do... So we got into how there is an actual way out through revolution, and that she could be hooked up with the movement for revolution through the revcom.us website.
There were a number of workshops held—on nonviolent civil disobedience, building opposition to fossil fuel exports in the Northwest, ocean acidification, developments around other environmental threats in this region, etc. There was some important information coming out, but there was a noted lack in these discussions of really grappling with the larger picture of the scope and urgency of the problem and how it could be fundamentally addressed. In one workshop, the view presented was that there was real success in stopping coal burning plants and that people need to just keep on with efforts focused in this region. We raised how the U.S. has actually massively increased its exports of coal and that the direction of things on the part of this capitalist-imperialist system is not a new age of renewable energy sources, but a new age of burning of unconventional fossil fuels. We also got into how fossil fuels were not a rogue industry but foundational to the operation and interests of capitalism-imperialism itself. What's needed is revolution—and we are building a movement for this revolution. There was some back and forth over how could one could argue “we’re winning this fight” when atmospheric level of carbon dioxide—the main gas contributing to global warming—hit 400 parts per million recently and is continuing to rise more rapidly. Things divided out—some people didn’t want these big questions to be the focus of discussion, and instead wanted to talk about smaller “my backyard” topics, while others told us they agreed or came up to the get the flyer.
The rally had some important and heartfelt exposure and calls for urgently increasing resistance to not just Keystone XL but all other forms of fossil fuel projects—from stopping plans for building coal train export terminals, to opposing fracking, tar sands, etc. It was really important that issues and struggles were being connected from the stage from a number of speakers—not just opposing things piecemeal or one at a time. Indigenous activists spoke passionately about the destruction of their lands and cultures by the tar sands oil extraction in Alberta, Canada, and how there are tribes on both the Canadian and U.S. sides of the border are mobilizing together and making plans for coordinated resistance to Keystone XL and other ways the environment is being ruined.
A speaker for the local 350.org group called out to people: if you know they were going ahead with plans to build the huge terminal for coal exports in Bellingham, Washington, how many of you would show up and put your body on the line to stop it? Hundreds raised their hands. A young woman speaker posed to people what they would tell their grandchildren when they asked, "What did you do about the climate crisis? Did you do nothing, or did you sit on the train tracks?” Another speaker said, “We should stop calling this climate change and change it to climate emergency.”
There was a large feeling of the urgency of acting right now to stop the climate emergency, and that we didn’t have much time. A speaker from Friends of the Earth said what was needed is resistance like that to the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle in 1999. Others drew an analogy to the civil rights movement, saying there was a need for such a society-wide movement.
We were struck in many ways by the desires and aspirations among people to defend and protect the environment. At the same time, the problem was seen by most people as either “greedy corporations that have undue political influence” or as a lack of “political will”—that people themselves haven’t been wakened to put pressure on Obama and others to make them “do the right thing.” McKibben put out that if the Keystone XL battle could be won, this could give Obama a “bargaining chip” to open up international climate negotiations. But as Raymond Lotta put it, "In reality, the force on Earth destroying the planet is capitalism-imperialism... Oil is not a rogue industry. It is part of a larger system that operates according to certain capitalist rules and imperatives."
Into this situation, we raised the need for a real revolution and a new system. We carried a large bright banner saying “No Tar Sands, No Fracking, No Coal—We Need Revolution to Save the Planet! www.revcom.us” and started chants like “Climate emergency, Revolution—Nothing less!” What we did was just a beginning but also was an indication of the real potential, as well as tremendous urgency, to enter into the growing tumult around the environmental crisis and repolarize for revolution.
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
Letter from a Prisoner:
October 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Hello my friends, how y'all be? No new problems on my end of things, I'm still breathing so there is always the possibility that things will get better.
Maybe ten years ago I read a book named Soledad Brother: The Prison Letters of George Jackson by George Jackson, which is basically a compilation of letters that George wrote while serving an indeterminate sentence of one (1) year to life inside of the California Penal System. In one of George's letters he wrote about a nightmare that he had. While sleeping one night he had a vision in his pillow of him being dead and buried, but from his grave he heard a voice screaming, "DERELICT". Soon George realized that it was the voice of a young man cursing his name, as he sat inside of the exact same prison cell that George was once confined to, for not seeing the Revolution all the way through completing the abolishment of "the imperialist state, with its massive machinery of death and destruction as well as its well honed repressive apparatus of police, prisons and courts". Last night I had the same fucking nightmare George had.
Comrade George was gunned downed and murdered by prison guards of San Quentin Correctional facility before I was even born, but sometimes I wonder if he can hear me as I fuss over many injustices this system inflicts upon the vast majority of us, Globally, while sit here in this cage, Solitarily Confined.... Make no mistakes about it, I do realize George is dead and he can't hear shit in the state that he is in, but you can dig what im saying, right?.... Since George was on the scene the repressive apparatus of police, prisons and courts has developed in such a way, that out of necessity the "Stop Mass Incarceration Network" has been formed, and is now being developed as a means to raise the conscious level of the masses and beat back its forces. The Leadership of Bob Avakian and the New Synthesis of Communism, with his scientific approach and method of combatting those repressive forces, is constantly being developed in correspondence to all of this as well, while people like myself learn to deeply probe, investigate and experiment with reality, and begin to appreciate and understand the significance of Bob Avakian's Leadership in relation to combatting and actually defeating the repressive forces of this superstructure.
George Jackson's nightmare should be shared and envisioned by everyone living inside these dismal crypts, and we all need to develop "Revolutionary Tenseness", fearing the day that some young brother will disturb us as we lie in our final resting place, cursing our name accusing us of abandoning our duties to realize the "4-All's" and the Abolition of the imperialist state Period.
As I have said before, this New Synthesis of Communism is the program that we need to be getting down with, other wise we are screwed. We Need Revolution and Nothing less than that, other wise 35 yrs. from now another young Brother will be sitting in this exact same cage that I am sitting in right now dealing with this madness. In fact, the level of madness will have developed to a higher stage by then if no radical change takes place, because things are only getting worse. I say we get on board and help develop this New Stage of Communism, how many of us will have to experience George's nightmare before we get it right.
Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
Academic Advancement Program invites you to a free screening of an excerpt from
October 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
October 17 — 5:30–8:30 pm
UCLA, DeNeve Auditorium
5:30 to 6 pm refreshments;
6 to 7 pm film;
7 to 8 pm Q and A;
8 to 8:30 pm wrap-up
In the fall of 2012, Bob Avakian (BA) gave a series of talks in different cities. This is a film of one of those talks. Call Revolution Books today to reserve seats: 323-463-3500
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Revolution #319 October 13, 2013
October 9, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors' Note: The following is a letter from prison by Gregory Koger. At the time he wrote the letter, the hunger strike by prisoners in California to demand an end to solitary confinement and torture was still underway. The strike has since been suspended (see "California Prisoners Hunger Strike Suspended—Struggle to End Torture Continues").
I recently received a letter from a brother who recounted to me a story of a fish rights activist who compared the conditions of a fish being raised in a fish farm to the conditions of prisoners. He asked if I could write something regarding the conditions that prisoners are subjected to here in the United States’ world-leading system of mass incarceration in response.
As a prefatory matter, I should explain that I am currently a political prisoner being held in the Cook County Jail in Chicago. My “crime”? Recording a political statement opposing censorship on an iPhone at a public meeting of the “Ethical” Humanist Society of Chicago four years ago. Further details of my case are available at my defense committee’s website: www.dropthecharges.net.
I want to begin by uniting with the sentiments of people—like the fish activist—who find the commodification of animals and nature by this capitalist-imperialist system a travesty. Factory farming undeniably causes undue suffering and wanton cruelty to animals and our planet teeters on the precipice of ecological disaster from the despoliation and defiling of the globe due to the driving demands of capitalist production. I would point people to the special issue of Revolution newspaper on the environmental emergency, especially the section on principles for a socialist sustainable economy [“State of EMERGENCY! The Plunder of Our Planet, The Environmental Catastrophe & The Real Revolutionary Solution,” #199, April 19, 2010), as well as the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Both provide a very concrete yet broadly sweeping vision of how we could collectively begin to address and reverse the scars to the global environment inflicted by capitalism through the course of the struggle to bring into being a radically different world.
I know personally the living nightmare of spending many years—including over six years straight in solitary confinement—locked down in the hellholes of America’s historically unprecedented system of mass incarceration. The U.S. has a rate of incarceration for Black males that is five times higher than apartheid South Africa. More women are imprisoned in the US than anywhere else in the world—and women are one of the fastest growing segments of the prison population. Entire families of immigrants are held in immigration prisons. Children in juvenile prisons face mind-numbing conditions of solitary confinement and high rates of sexual assault and abuse at the hands of prison guards.
The United States leads the world in torturing its own people under long-term solitary confinement—a policy of torture afflicting at least 80,000 men, women and children and categorically condemned by the United Nations and international law.
On July 8, 2013, 30,000 prisoners in California began a hunger strike and work stoppage to demand an end to the conditions of long-term solitary confinement. I spent my first two weeks as a political prisoner here in Cook County Jail on hunger strike in solidarity with the courageous and heroic prisoners in California. Many of those brothers remain on hunger strike approaching 60 days and are entering a critical period where they are facing long-term health damage and imminent death. All people of conscience must step forward now to stand with the prisoners and demand that officials end the systematic practices of torture and refuse to allow long-term harm or deaths to occur. The Five Core Demands of the brothers in California must be met immediately.
The human suffering inflicted by the rulers of this system upon millions and millions of its own people here in prisons is reason alone to sweep this illegitimate, oppressive system from the pages of history. Yet this is but one example of the crimes of this system! Women are treated as less than full human beings, with access to abortion and reproductive health care under assault; massive programs of surveillance and spying on the entire population of the world go forward; activists and whistleblowers who expose the crimes of this system are imprisoned while the rulers of the system that perpetuated the crimes they expose continue to rain terror down on the people of the world; and the entire planet faces ecological disaster.
Not only does the world not have to be this way, we can end these crimes and bring into being a radically different world. This is going to take revolution—nothing less, based on a serious, scientific understanding and strategy. The RCP has such a strategy for revolution, based on the path-breaking new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian—who has dedicated his life to analyzing the historical experience of previous socialist revolutions and societies and is leading the Party to build a movement for revolution. And let me say from personal experience: BA deeply respects those this system counts as nothing and believes in our potential to transform the world.
Both the despoliation of nature and the untold suffering and oppression inflicted upon humanity can and must be ended. Those this system treats as worthless have the tremendous potential to step forward—along with people from more privileged backgrounds who refuse to live in comfortable complicity—to fight the crimes of this system, to transform themselves and the world through building a movement to end these crimes once and for all. This will not be easy—people will face repression from the rulers of this system. But those with nothing to lose but our chains must realize that potential and struggle together for the emancipation of all humanity from thousands of years of class divisions, exploitation and oppression.
A world where everyone contributes what they can and gets back what they need to lead lives worthy of human beings, where truth is struggled for by everyone, where everyone has the ability to participate in intellectual, artistic and cultural pursuits and the people are unleashed in ways undreamed of is possible—a communist world. Get with the movement for revolution to be part of bringing this world into reality.
Love and struggle