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Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
Trampling On Other Nations?
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The situation in the central European country of Ukraine continues to be tense, volatile, unpredictable, and dangerous. What—as we go to press—is contention at the level of economic blackmail and lower-level military moves could erupt very quickly into something even much worse.
In the midst of all this, Barack Obama talks about respecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine, and the aspirations of the people of Ukraine.
But neither the aspirations of people in Ukraine (which are conflicting, contradictory, and overall quite confused), much less respecting the territorial integrity of Ukraine, is what is driving the U.S. and the European Union, or Russia, on an ominous trajectory.
As we wrote last week, this crisis is driven by the “jockeying for position and geopolitical advantage by rival imperialist powers—with the potential to escalate into direct great-power confrontation.” (See “Ukraine: Not a ‘Democratic Uprising’ but a Clash Between Predators.”)
In all this, people in the United States are being systematically lied to and taught to identify—unthinkingly and uncritically—with the interests of the U.S. ruling class that sits atop a world of vicious exploitation, ferocious oppression, and environmental devastation.
* * * * *
At a tense, contentious press conference, in an endless series of questions for White House spokesman Jay Carney about whether or not Obama authorizing restrictions against travel and financial transactions by Russians who are “threatening the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine,” are “tough enough” or will be “effective,” NOBODY asked what should have been the OBVIOUS question:
Who the fuck is the United States to lecture anybody about not respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries!?
And in the midst of saber-rattling, Secretary of State John Kerry declared, “You just don’t in the 21st century behave in 19th century fashion by invading another country on completely trumped up pretext.”
The United States has invaded or staged coups, and carried out massacres on a scale unmatched in human history. There were wars against the Native American peoples as part of the genocidal seizure of North America (including the massacre of 300 Lakota Indians at Wounded Knee in 1890).
There were U.S. invasions, coups and occupations: Argentina (1890); Chile (1891); Hawaii (1893); Nicaragua (1894); China (1894-95); Korea (1894); Panama (1895); Nicaragua (1896); China (1898-1900); the Philippines (1898-1910); Cuba (1898-1901); Puerto Rico (1898); Guam and Nicaragua (1898); Samoa (1899); Panama (1901-14); Honduras (1903); Dominican Republic (1903-04); Korea (1904-05); Cuba (1906-09); Nicaragua (1907); Honduras (1907); Panama 1908); Nicaragua (1910 and 1911).
There was military aggression against China (1911); Cuba (1912); Panama (1912); Honduras (1912); Nicaragua (1912-33); Mexico (1913); Dominican Republic (1914); Mexico (1914-18); Haiti (1914-34); Dominican Republic (1916-24); Cuba again (1917-33); Russia (1918-22); Panama (1918-20); Honduras (1919); Yugoslavia (1919); Guatemala (1920); Turkey (1922); China (1922-27); Panama (1925); China again (1927-34); El Salvador (1932); Iran (1946); Yugoslavia (1946); Greece (1947-49).
There was a counter-revolutionary invasion of the Philippines (1948-54) and invasion of Puerto Rico (1950). The U.S. sent troops into Korea (1950-53). They staged a coup in Iran (1953). The U.S. first went into Vietnam in 1954; and that same year deposed a nationalist-elected government in Guatemala that tried to nationalize unused land owned by U.S. agribusiness. The U.S. interfered militarily in sovereign countries in the Middle East: Lebanon (l958); Iraq (1958 and again in 1963).
Until driven out, the U.S. waged a genocidal war in Vietnam (l960-73). The U.S. expanded the war in Vietnam by invading Laos (1964-73). And the U.S. carpet bombed Cambodia (l969-73).
Under John F. Kennedy, the U.S. invaded Cuba (l961). The U.S. orchestrated a coup in Indonesia in l965 that resulted in the deaths of up to a million people, and invaded the Dominican Republic that same year.
In 1996-7, the U.S. engineered death squads and counter-revolutionary insurgents in Guatemala that resulted in the death of thousands. In 1973, the U.S. orchestrated a coup in Chile that installed a fascist regime that killed tens of thousands, tortured more, and drove many of the country’s intellectuals into exile.
The U.S. backed brutal death squads in Angola (l975-92) and in other countries in southern Africa at the same time. It carried out a military operation in Iran in 1980; attacked Libya in l981; funded reactionary armed forces in El Salvador (1981-92); financed and aided terrorist attacks against the elected government of Nicaragua (l981-90); invaded Lebanon (l982-84); invaded and overthrew the elected government of Grenada (l983-84). The U.S supported genocide of the Indonesian regime of Suharto agasint the people of East Timor in 1975.
The U.S. established military bases in the sovereign state of Honduras (l983-89); carried out more military operations in Iran (l984); against Libya (l986); against Bolivia (1986); and again against Iran (l987-88).
U.S. forces went into the Virgin Islands to suppress protests (1989 and 1991-2003)); the Philippines (1989); Panama (1984). The U.S. invaded Iraq (1990-91 based on lies about “weapons of mass destruction”; Somalia (1992-94); attacked Yugoslavia (1992-94 and 1999); invaded Haiti (1994); and invaded Afghanistan in 1998.
These invasions, coups, and wars via proxies overthrew elected governments. They attacked progressive nationalist and communist revolutions. And in these invasions, coups, and proxy wars, the rulers of the United States systematically trampled the territorial integrity of just about everywhere—including outright seizing of countries like Puerto Rico and Guam.
How many people in this country even know this history? It’s buried in footnotes in a few textbooks. It is ignored and covered up by the ruling class’s media. It is lied about and distorted by the rulers and spokespeople for this country. But it’s true.
Do some digging and critical investigation at revcom.us and other sites about this history. Encourage your classmates, your students, your cell mates, or your colleagues to do that as well. When you look into any of these crimes, the whole truth is much worse than we can detail here. The rivers were choked with the bodies of hundreds of thousands of communists and others as a result of massacres orchestrated out of the U.S. Embassy in Indonesia in 1965. The bloody invasion of the Philippines at the beginning of the 20th century in a U.S. war of colonization killed hundreds of thousands of resistance fighters and civilians. The United States bombed every building two stories or higher in northern Korea between 1950 and 1952—aggression against a country halfway around the world from the United States—in part to threaten socialist China. The U.S. dropped napalm—jellied gasoline—on children in Vietnam, burning them alive, and dropped terrible chemical weapons that poisoned farmland to starve civilians throughout Vietnam.
But that’s not all! Since the 19th and 20th centuries, when the U.S. was establishing its empire, in the 21st Century—when U.S. officials proclaim that you just don’t do this (anymore)—the U.S. has invaded or continued occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan, wars that have killed or dislocated millions. American drones blow up people the rulers of the U.S. see as a threat, or just people at random in Pakistan and Yemen—supposedly sovereign countries in which a constant state of terror is created for the peoples of those countries. More death, more oppression, more misery. And yes, as we exposed in our coverage last week, the U.S. is knee-deep in machinations to reconfigure the government in Ukraine and has been for some time.
And it is on the basis of all that and more that the U.S. empire (and other colonial and imperialist empires) have risen, and today the U.S. capitalist-imperialist ruling class is the top oppressive power in the world. The logic and “morality” of these global meta-thugs is: We killed millions and millions, and laid waste to much of the planet to dominate it. It’s ours, back off or else.
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That fact that Russia and other oppressive global powers are contending with the U.S. with their own drive to expand their piece of the action doesn’t diminish for a minute the fact that when it comes to respecting the integrity of other countries, nobody can touch the record of the U.S.A.
The stakes are high. Truth must be told, lies confronted, and the interests of HUMANITY brought to the fore everywhere right now.
Editors’ note: This article draws on the paper, “A Century of U.S. Military Interventions: From Wounded Knee to Iraq,” by Zoltán Grossman, faculty member in Geography and Native American Studies, The Evergreen State College
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The frigid winter that’s gripped much of the country is giving way to spring—a time of blossoming and new growth. In this editorial, Revolution presents a vision and plan to bring this spring spirit to the BA Everywhere campaign. "BA" is revolutionary leader Bob Avakian. And BA Everywhere is a multifaceted mass fundraising campaign to make BA a household word so that the vision, framework, and strategy for a radically new society concentrated in the new synthesis of communism that he has developed becomes known throughout the country, reverberating around the world.
In this editorial, we aim to outline a plan for making significant advances in the BA Everywhere campaign as part of a plan for the whole year. Key to achieving these goals and this vision is involving people from all walks of life in many different ways. This plan is envisioned to provide many ways into the campaign.
In the last issue of Revolution the BA Everywhere campaign announced that a key element of the plan for this year is that each month, there will be one weekend of nationally coordinated and focused fundraising and popularizing of BA. These punctuation points will be an important way for the campaign to develop momentum and to raise the kind of funds needed so that BA and the vision and framework for revolution that he has developed become a contending pole for a liberatory new society arrayed up against the killing program and oppressive reality that people live today.
These monthly focal points will have themes and financial goals that will enable the consistent and ongoing work of the fundraising campaign to make leap upon leap so that BA Everywhere advances in waves over the course of this year. The focus weekends will provide opportunities to forge real community and a substantial boost to fundraising.
BA Everywhere should involve all who see, or can be won to see, that it is very important that what is represented by BA and the new synthesis of communism he has brought forward become a major point of reference, and subject of discussion and debate, throughout society. An atmosphere and the means should be forged so all these people can participate and contribute to the campaign. BA Everywhere should be continually growing—including many people who are not (or not yet) won to full agreement with what is represented by BA and the new synthesis of communism, but are in agreement that this, and the big questions it raises, should be broadly known, and actively discussed and debated, throughout society. And in the course of working together with revolutionaries, they are finding out about and engaging how and why this campaign is the leading edge of an overall ensemble of revolutionary work, and they are learning about and being inspired by the Party at the core of the movement for revolution.
Everyone across the country will pull together for the weekend—involving new people together with those already active, with everyone feeling they are a part of something larger than just what is happening in their city or town. And people will be able to see this reflected on the BA Everywhere section of the revcom.us website: photographs, YouTubes, testimonials of people donating and why they are doing so, reports of how the campaign is stirring things up, along with the questions and controversy that engaging BA and the revolution are provoking.
Dinners or picnics may be held as a part of these weekends. These will be occasions where people exchange stories and get into the big questions—forging the unity and the camaraderie essential to struggling together for a better world...having fun and digging into and struggling over what is the PROBLEM we face with this brutally oppressive capitalist/imperialist system...and, even more fundamentally, getting deeply and scientifically into what is the SOLUTION in the new synthesis of communism that Bob Avakian has brought forward—which is at the heart of the BA Everywhere campaign.
Before getting into the specific themes and plans for March, April, and May, we want to underline that these focal weekends are not the whole of the campaign. To make the difference it must make, the BA Everywhere campaign needs to be, as we wrote in the last issue of Revolution, “out in the world organizing fundraising among all sections of the people on a continual basis. Mass fundraising among the most oppressed people and among middle class people and setting up house meetings, individual appointments, etc. should be ongoing... consistently tracked, summed up, and a sense of national progress toward goals projected. The numbers of people donating should increase, with cores of people working on the campaign growing in cities as well as outlying areas to make this possible. Among the wealthy as well as the upper sections of the middle class, including opinion makers, fundraising must also be ongoing with methodical attention paid to breaking into scenes, meeting many new people, developing relationships, and working with people who are able to contribute significant funds."
The weekend focuses will marshal all of this ongoing work for leaps in the campaign as a whole.
Throughout the spring and on into the rest of the year, BA Everywhere will be promoting the work of Bob Avakian, most especially the film of his seminal talk, BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live and the book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. These two works provide the foundational understanding of problem and solution—why the world is in the state it is, and what must be done to radically change the face of everything that is rotten.
And running through the BA Everywhere campaign this year, starting now, is an initiative to have youth—especially those for whom this system has no future as well as students and people of all ages and from other sections of society—take up wearing the T-shirt that says “BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!” This will contribute to the wide promotion of, engagement with, and fundraising for the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live! Wearing this shirt should over the course of the year become an act of collective defiance. And it is envisioned to be a source of a lot of fundraising—from individual “sponsorships” that youth solicit from friends and family to support wearing the shirt, to large donations to make it possible for many youth to get and get into the shirts.
Also, throughout the year and beginning this spring, BA Everywhere will be promoting The BA Institute—a nonprofit institute organized for educational purposes whose mission is to preserve, project, and promote the works and vision of Bob Avakian with the aim of reaching the broadest possible audience. The BA Institute can be a powerful impetus to raising funds, especially among the intelligentsia and people with financial resources, underscoring the overarching importance of the work that Bob Avakian has done.
On this foundation, here’s the plan for the spring focuses.
As announced in last week’s Revolution ("March 27-30: National Fundraising Weekend for BA Everywhere!"), beginning on Thursday afternoon, March 27, on campuses and at high schools and continuing societywide through Sunday, March 30, will be a weekend of national fundraising for BA Everywhere—with a concentration on utilizing and popularizing the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live.
Beginning with work on the campuses, this will be a weekend of screenings, house parties, and fundraising appointments for BA Everywhere, with Revolution—Nothing Less! at the heart of bringing to people the difference this campaign will make.
The focal point for April will be Earth Day 2014. Earth Day is Tuesday, April 22, so the focus will be over the weekend of April 19-20 leading into it.
The disastrous trajectory of the global environment and ecology underscores the utter inability of the capitalist-imperialist system to do anything that comes close to repairing the environment. Indeed, the competitive drive to make ever more profit is only worsening and accelerating the destruction of Earth. This acute environmental crisis can be arrayed up against how a radically new socialist economy and state power that is laid out in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), based on the new synthesis of communism brought forward by BA, would make a sustainable environment a bedrock principle and matter of law.
Saving the Earth is one of the most compelling reasons why revolution is necessary, and why BA’s new synthesis of communism needs to be known and debated throughout society as the viable road to a sustainable planet.
This provides a real opening to do lots of fundraising all month among middle class and wealthier sections of the people. The campaign should reach out to people it knows already who are concerned about the environment—involving them in sponsoring fundraising events and reaching out to and engaging lots of new people.
There are prominent people in the arts for whom ecology and the planet are their great concern and passion. There are people of wealth and influence in environmental organizations to reach out to. This is also an opportunity to do broad mass work on campuses—including going to the professors and graduate students in the science departments. There should be broad work among the diverse social forces taking up environmental issues in the weeks before Earth Day. And during the weekend before as well as on Earth Day itself, there should be broad work in the neighborhoods and barrios.
The heart of popularizing BA in the course of fundraising will pivot around the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, the special issue of Revolution on the environment, "State of EMERGENCY! The Plunder of Our Planet, The Environmental Catastrophe & The Real Revolutionary Solution," and the excerpt from BA's Revolution Talk titled “Not fit caretakers of the earth,” all framed around BAsics 1:29.
The focal point for May will be taking up a proposal that was made by people from one city called: “1,000 Years—1,000 Dollars." This is a fund raising project to unleash and lead ex-prisoners, the families of prisoners, and people in the neighborhoods to raise a dollar for the BA Everywhere campaign for each year they or their loved ones were or are still incarcerated. These funds will be utilized to get BAsics into the prisons and as "seed money" to spread the work of BA into the prisons on an ongoing basis. More, this project should inspire and provide impetus for matching grants from all sections of the people, both for this specific project and for BA Everywhere as a whole.
We want to launch the project in as many cities as possible. And as part of reaching out among all sections of the people on a continual basis, work can begin now to discuss this effort with those who are already involved in the BA Everywhere campaign as well as seeking out and uniting with new people who have been in prison or who have loved ones in prison, people who can and should be inspired to take up this whole campaign. We should not underestimate the societal impact this could have, nor the importance of some people beginning concentrated work now to make it a reality.
Memorial Day weekend will be the target date for the first $1,000 raised for the specific project in one or two cities, and perhaps reaching a portion of that goal in other places. At the same time, as a theme for the month, several times that amount should be raised for the campaign overall as described below. There should be a ceremony that celebrates reaching the goal in conjunction with a BA Everywhere dinner or picnic on Memorial Day weekend. The ceremony could include families and ex-prisoners, along with all who supported the effort, as well as Revolution Clubs and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, all coming together to mark the achievement of the goal.
The plan for mass fundraising will mean reaching out to people from all sections of society for “matching” grants for BAsics for prisoners and additional funds for the national BA Everywhere campaign. Such grants would seek to raise anywhere from $2 to $10 (or more) for every dollar raised by the ex-prisoners, families, and supporters in the neighborhoods. Students could give $1 to match the donation for BAsics to the prisoners, and $2 or more for BA Everywhere. People from better-off strata should be asked to donate $10 for every dollar raised in the neighborhoods. We should also be seeking donations from wealthier people of $500-$5,000 divided between this great project and the overall campaign—all inspired by bringing the light of revolution and BA and the new synthesis of communism to those this system has cast off.
We call on prisoners themselves to step up and write to Revolution and to those they communicate with on the outside to join in the BA Everywhere campaign and the 1,000 Years—1,000 Dollars initiative. Prisoners have a dynamic role to play in the struggle for people across society to engage BA and support BA Everywhere.
* * * * *
This is a plan to reach out to, inspire, and involve many people in contributing to the BA Everywhere—Imagine the Difference It Could Make campaign. Over the past month Revolution has called for people to write with ideas for how to make new breakthroughs in the campaign, and two of these ideas have been incorporated in the plans we have outlined here.
This plan is ambitious—yet it has a pace and a rhythm. Achieving the fundraising goals and spreading BA in the ways envisioned here will open up the possibility for thousands and ultimately millions to see that there is a revolutionary way out of the madness and horror of the world today—that there is a movement, with a party as its leading core, that is preparing to lead this great emancipatory struggle. As people find out about, engage, and financially support BA Everywhere getting out in the world, they will be contributing to making a very big difference now—opening up the biggest questions of “where can humanity go, where does humanity need to go, what is possible in terms of transforming the world, and how should we go about that,” as Bob Avakian has put it.
What a difference this will make, with society once again resonating with big dreams for fundamental change!
Read more about BA Everywhere here.
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revolution recently caught up with Carl Dix, from the Revolutionary Communist Party and an initiator of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, after what was a very intense month of February—a month in which there was the mistrial of the racist murderer Michael Dunn and the failure of the courts to convict him for the killing of Jordan Davis; demonstrations and other forms of resistance that took place on the anniversary of the murder of Trayvon Martin, which also took in Jordan Davis this year; and then Obama's speech on February 27, setting forth a program which he claimed would deal with the situation facing Black and Latino youth.
We'll be running large sections of this interview next week, but right now we want to excerpt a part that highlights an important initiative that the Stop Mass Incarceration Network has called for this October—a month of resistance against mass incarceration.
We asked Carl to compare this month of resistance to the program Obama had just put forward.
"Obama's speech [of February 27 on 'My Brother's Keeper'] is really training people what to think and how to think, how to look at this problem of mass incarceration and all of that. And to look at it as: 'Well, look, maybe there's some excesses, but what we're really dealing with here is people's behavior problems, that people are not taking responsibility for their lives, and especially Black men are not taking responsibility for their lives. And this is the problem that we're trying to deal with, and our solution is to encourage and give some assistance to these men to step up and play their role in society which needs to be the traditional male role of head of the family and keeping the women and children in line and in check, and that this is the solution and that if this step is taken it will strengthen America.' And I've already talked about how you need to look at America and that it is not something that the oppressed need to step up and help strengthen, but in fact they need to be part of a revolution aimed at getting rid of American imperialism. But this is what's being put forward as a solution.
"And the other thing about how people should think about this is that, look, some people have made it through—and he [Obama] had these guys from Chicago as an example of people who have made it through the minefield that the system puts out there in front of them and forces people to go through, and that if more Black men were doing it right, then a few more of them would make it through. And from that the way you're supposed to look at it is: 'Okay, let's see if I can get me and mine through, if a few more of us can make it, and in particular can I make it, can those that are close to me and that I care about, make it?' And see this is entirely the upside down wrong way to look at it. Because you have a system that is grinding people up, it's breaking bodies and crushing spirits, and it is no solution if you can maneuver a few bodies through that crushing and grinding that's being inflicted on people. In fact what's needed is people saying: no more of this, people standing up and resisting what's being brought down.
"And that is exactly what the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) is aiming to do through this call for a month of resistance in October. Because look, more people are recognizing mass incarceration as a problem, they're seeing it: this is not good. People who are having it done to them, who are caught up in the criminal injustice system, but also people who don't directly suffer that but who are seeing what's going on and saying: I don't want to stand aside, I need to be involved in trying to do something about it. That's a good development but it's got to go much farther. People have to be more clearly exposed to the horrible outrages that are being committed on this front, people need to begin to see that this amounts to a slow genocide that has 10s of millions of people enmeshed in its web and they need to be moved to the point of standing up and joining an effort to stop it. Millions of people need to be exposed to this reality and many, many of them, thousands of them, have to be moved to being part of standing up and stopping it. And that's what the Network has in mind for this call. And that's why Cornel West and I issued this call for the Network that there needs to be a month of resistance, a month that will include coordinated national demonstrations nationwide on October 22nd, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation, and something that has thousands of people out on that day. There needs to be a major concert that will have people sitting up and taking notice when they see who's performing together and that they're all performing around condemning, calling out and acting to stop mass incarceration. A statement issued by and signed by well-known and prominent people being published in major publications around the country, panels and symposiums on college campuses, expressions of opposition and resistance to mass incarceration in religious circles—all that and more. All of it is not worked out yet—we've got a basic vision and we're going to be getting people together and meeting and strategizing over fleshing out that vision and hammering out a plan to build up from now to October. But that's what it needs to bring forward—it needs to bring forward a sense of standing together and saying 'No More' to these horrors that are being brought down and having a view of not: how do me and mine navigate through all the obstacles that are put in the path of Black people trying to make it in this society, but a view of how do we break through these structures—what do we have to do to get rid of these structures that are holding people back. And look, what that comes down to is understanding that this stuff is built into the fabric and framework of this system and that it will take revolution—nothing less to end not only it but all of the horrors that this system is bringing down on people here and around the world."
We asked Carl to get a bit more into this point and in particular what was being envisioned in the planning meetings that he and Cornel West has called for, and which has been taken up by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN).
"Well, here's the deal. Stop Mass Incarceration Network has looked at the situation and seen a need for a major effort to take the level of resistance to mass incarceration to a new level, a new height, involving thousands of people, as a springboard to ultimately enlist millions in this movement, and that we're going to work to do that through this month of resistance in October. And we're taking the responsibility to initiate this and to lead it forward. Cornel West and I issued the call for this meeting, and we want to bring together people who seriously want to take this movement of resistance to a higher level and be a part of working to do that, fleshing out a vision for it and developing a plan. And there's really a lot of people who need to be involved in this process.
"One, there needs to be young people involved, college students need to be involved in this from the beginning, at the meeting, contributing their understanding, their experience, and then leaving the meeting on a mission to spread the call for October and to build resistance up to October as part of what's being done in this. High school students should be there with the same thing, bringing their experience into it, and then coming out of it, ready to spread that in all the ways that they would want to do that—armbands days, hoodie days, days when people do stuff on social media, spreading pictures of themselves wearing armbands and hoodies on Instagram and Twitter and Facebook and all like that. Generally people who are catching hell on this front need to be represented, and in addition to the young people there needs to be family members of people in prison, who played an important role during the California prison hunger strike—they need to be in this meeting. Family members of police murder victims, formerly incarcerated people—all of them need to be bringing their understanding, their experience into this meeting and being part of hammering out the vision for this and spreading it throughout society. We need to have religious leaders and lay people in this meeting bringing their own stance on this, their moral opposition to this, helping to hammer out the vision, and then figuring out the ways that this gets expressed powerfully in religious institutions.
"It's gotta be nationwide right from the beginning, people from different parts of the country who've come into New York for this so that we come out of the meeting with a framework that is in position to operate and spread this nationwide. People who are grappling with the problem of the immigration raids that tear families apart and disappear people—they need to be a part of this. Because this has everything to do with the incarceration that's going down in this society. They need to be there, they need to be in position to spread this and spread it nationwide. Legal people need to be involved in this meeting, people whose arena is the arts and culture need to be involved in this meeting. Everybody's bringing their experience, their understanding of this and then being in the position to pivot back and out and spread that throughout society and in the arenas that they function in.
"And in some of these different arenas that I've just talked about: prominent people, people whose voices have impact society-wide. Some of them need to be in the room for this meeting, people who can reach people throughout society when they speak up and stand up around a question, people who can play an important role in raising the kind of funds that's going to be needed. Because it's going to take a lot of money just to hold this meeting to get this process started which will then pale the size of the amount of money that will need to be raised to carry it through to the end. And we gotta have from the beginning people who have the connections and the experience in terms of doing that.
"And I guess the other thing I want to say about who needs to be in the room is that Cornel West and I were talking in the last couple of days about this, and we issued a letter. And that letter basically says, 'Look, if you're a young person, Black or Latino, who's tired of wearing a target on your back—you need to be involved in this effort and you need to think about coming to this meeting. If you're a parent who is tired of living in fear every time your children leave the house in the morning as to whether they'll make it back safely, if you're somebody who doesn't experience this but you're aware of it going down and you hate it and want to see something done about it, well, you're the kind of person who needs to be involved in this effort. You need to think about coming to this meeting. This is a meeting to get together people who are serious about it, want to do something to stop it, and see this vision of a month of resistance in October that takes the movement of resistance to a whole new level and that makes this something that millions of people in this society are seeing as a horrific problem and they're seeing determined resistance to it that involves thousands. If you want to bring that vision into being and make it real, you need to be at this meeting.'"
We asked Carl how he saw what's going on right now with Black college and university students, and what role he saw them playing in October.
"One thing that is happening...well, there's actually two things that are happening and they kind of come together. One thing that's happening is that throughout the country policies are being enacted on the state level to end programs that attempted to deal with the numerical disparity between Black students and others on college campuses. Affirmative action programs, recruitment programs—all of those things are being cut away. And students have responded very sharply at some colleges about that: The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Black students at UCLA—at both of those schools students have done videos about how the numbers of Black students are being drastically cut. And I think one of them talked about: we're an endangered species on this campus. And that's the part about official policies that while they're saying: you gotta work hard, you gotta go to school in order to make it in this society, official policies are being enacted that are undercutting the ability of Black students to actually do that. So that's something that's happening.
"And then at the same time, and as part of this, there's been an unleashing of just naked white supremacy on these campuses. You see things like the University of Mississippi which was actually integrated in my lifetime—James Meredith was the first Black student to go there and there's a statue in his honor on the campus. Well, a lynching noose and a Confederate flag were hung on that statue recently. There's been all kinds of instances of fraternities and sororities having parties that revel in—and these are white fraternities and white sororities—having parties and other social gatherings that revel in racist stereotypes of Black people or Latinos. Like a ghetto party where people are encouraged to bring watermelons and dress 'street' and do this kind of stuff. And then a 'Mexican party' where they base it on stereotypes of Mexicans and Chicanos. And all of this is really being unleashed. So it's both 'cleansing' the universities of Black students but also creating an atmosphere—an atmosphere is being unleashed and is flowering of a pretty hostile scene for people to be in. And at UCLA Law School a student who spoke to some of this began to get racist e-mails, and then a couple of students just posed for a picture and put it up online: 'Stop being a sensitive nigger,' was what one of the students had written on their T-shirt in a social media message that they sent to this Black woman student who had said that Black students on this campus are under attack. And some of the white students wanted to underscore that that was really what was going on.
"So this is what's happening, and we really have to look at this. Because I spoke to the thing of the system offering no future and I focused that on the fact that large sections of the oppressed cannot be profitably exploited by the system. But here you have people who are working to try to get through that, following the rules, doing what you're supposed to be doing. And what they're finding is that for them the future that's being offered is: you can take that route, but we're going to put obstacles in your path, we're going to make it hard for you to get into college, we're going to obliterate the programs that were trying to deal with the fact that it was hard for Black students to get into college earlier. And a hostile atmosphere is going to be what's awaiting you. And it really does come down to: 'you can try to work your way into this system, it's going to be hard, you're going to have go over a lot of obstacles, and if you make it through those obstacles you're going to get a lot of shit and you just have to take it.' And there is a growing mood among the students that they won't take this and that's important. It's gotta spread, it's gotta be taken up much more. And it's gotta be linked in with what faces the oppressed overall because Black students have historically played an important role in struggles in this country. You look back to the 1960s and a lot of the important developments—whether that was the movement in the South with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, students and Black students played an important role in that. Also when you come down to something like the Black Panther Party—well, Huey and Bobby got together at a college in Oakland and formed the Black Panther Party. So Black students have an important role to play and can help to bring to the movement of Black people more of an understanding of the history. But also because they've been introduced more to grappling with and dealing with ideas, they could be grappling with how do we get out of this and bringing to people some of that understanding and helping to inject that into the developing movement of resistance. And that's something that needs to be gone at and worked on and expanded because this question of no future is not just something that people who are dropping out of school are up against; but also people who are fighting their way into college, trying to get into college, trying to make it, are up against the same kind of thing of what future are they being offered. And it's one that is horrific and they need to reject and stand with people who are fighting for a different future, a future that really can only be brought into being through revolution....
"There's other very important things that have happened, both in terms of attacks but also responding to them—San Jose State comes to mind, where there was an incident where a Black student had a noose put around his neck, was referred to as 'three-fifths'—a really horrific racial incident. But then there was a broad outpouring on the campus condemning this, calling it out and one that has continued and is continuing right now as we're talking about it. Also I need to bring in that there were students at Brown University who when the university invited Ray Kelly, who was at the time police chief of the New York Police Department, up to speak—students mobilized and refused to let him speak and said that: no, we're not going to have this guy who presides over a police department that is intensely criminalizing Black and Latino people... 'no, we don't want him to come up here and spread his poison....'
"And this is real important and it is something... I pointed to the fact that on a number of campuses things were done around February 26 and that's an important development. And things like that, and these incidents and the response to them that I've been talking about, need to be built on and spread. Because one of the things that has to happen is that these campuses have to be an arena where there is condemnation of and resistance to the slow genocide of mass incarceration. And that's gotta reach... that's really gotta be widespread come October. It's gotta be built now, resistance has gotta be manifested beginning now, and by October it's gotta be very widespread and part of the leap in the level of resistance to the horror of mass incarceration. And that's something that the Stop Mass Incarceration Network is approaching and I'm approaching as well."
We asked if he envisioned a role for prisoners. He actually envisioned more than one.
"Yeah, that's actually another very important question because people in the prisons play an important role in the resistance on this front. There were the very powerful hunger strikes that have been launched by prisoners in California against the torture of long-term solitary confinement. The summer of last year they launched a hunger strike that involved 30,000 people in the California prisons. There are other hunger strikes that have gone on. There's one right now in Illinois—I believe it's in Menard Prison that's going on right now.
"So there have been important expressions from inside the prisons but there also have been people in prison who have added their voices to the exposure of both the conditions in prison and the conditions that lead people to end up in prison and going in and out of prison—and to where understanding where this comes from and what needs to be done about it. And there've been important writings from prisoners that have been in the pages of Revolution newspaper and that people could actually find some of these writings by going to the website revcom.us. Because that has been a source of inspiration in terms of looking at it—because here you have people who are locked away, people who have been condemned as the worst of the worst, some of them who are not only standing up and asserting their humanity and resisting what's being done to them, but who are also grappling with why this is happening, where it's coming from, and what needs to be done about it. And they're engaging the advanced understanding that Bob Avakian has brought forward about where this is coming from and what needs to be done about it, and even reinvigorating and resynthesizing the understanding of revolution and communism that contributes to the ability of people to go farther and do better the next time revolution is made and power is in the hands of the people, And you've got people in prison who are grappling with this, who are dealing with this, and it reminds me of the time that I spent in prison back in the 1960s when I refused to go to Vietnam. And one of the things that was going on there was it was a place where people were grappling with revolutionary theory, including people who learned to read through that grappling, people who were not literate when they went into prison, but actually became literate through grappling with revolutionary theory.
"And that gets me to the point I wanted to make about what role people could play—because people from inside prison can speak in a very direct way to what are broad sections of people in this society up against: the criminalization that people encounter, the conditions that get enforced. But also they could speak to their aspirations for a better world, and in that way they are... this is through the actions of the people in California, now in Illinois, took reasserted their humanity... they're also doing that and it becomes something that can impact society and begin to be a thing of bringing to people an understanding that that's who's in prison—human beings who were facing and are facing horrific conditions, but striving for a different kind of future. And in that way, I think, that can help people who don't have that direct experience get kind of an understanding of what things in this society are really like and to understand more the outrage of the mass incarceration and everything that leads into it and all of its consequences and be strengthened in their determination to join the fight around this. So I think that people in prison have a very important role to play. And again, I just want to go back to: you can get some of these writings and some of the developments in different prisons around the country by going to the website revcom.us. And if you do it, you'll be rewarded because I find it a continuing source of inspiration."
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
February 26: Day of Outrage and Remembrance for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The refusal of the system to convict Michael Dunn for the murder of 17-year-old Jordan Davis this February—on top of the exoneration of George Zimmerman last year for the vigilante murder of Trayvon Martin—was a declaration from Amerikkka, yet again, that Black people have no rights that whites are bound to respect. It was crucial that this outrage be met with a powerful response. And on February 26, on the two-year anniversary of Trayvon's murder, people did step out—in rallies and marches on the streets, public squares, and campuses, and in various other ways like candlelight vigils and artistic/cultural expressions.
In a recent interview with Revolution, Carl Dix, from the Revolutionary Communist Party and an initiator of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, spoke to why it was so important that people acted on February 26:
"[When the mistrial of Dunn came down] there was sentiment of: 'Can we do anything about this?' Not that people felt that it was anything less than a horrible outrage, but a sense of maybe we can't do anything. And it was very important that this sense was gone against, that this sense was engaged and struggled over. And we began to notice it very sharply right after the verdict came down.
"I remember being in Harlem and encountering some youth who listened to me speak—people had read my statement, and I got up and expounded on some things. And they listened intently, but then when we approached them and asked them for their thoughts one of them said, 'I have no thoughts.' And then the other said, 'I've got a lot of thoughts, but it wouldn't make any difference if I told you about them. It would just make me madder, and what could we do about it anyway?' And we realized we had to get into it with these two young people, and they ended up taking material to go into their school and to mobilize people, getting that it would make a difference if they remain silent in the sense of hammering in that assessment—'nothing we can do, we just gotta roll with this stuff.' But it makes a difference the other way if people like them—they and people like them—begin to act, begin to counter that sentiment, begin to say: no, we don't have to accept this. And begin to grapple with this question of revolution and what kind of world could be brought into being—is that possible, and what does that mean that people like them need to do? Which they were taking a beginning step by getting Revolution newspaper and taking some of the palm cards around the National Day of Outrage and Remembrance, that they were actually beginning to engage that and step into it....
"So the word began to be spread, people took this up, and it was very important that in the face of ... coming off of the anger people have, but also in the face of questioning if there was anything that expressing this anger could do, any role it could play, it was very important. Because when people look back at the Trayvon Martin murder and the exoneration of the killer, it made a very big difference that people took to the street, and took to the street in significant numbers—not large enough, but in significant numbers. I guess there were thousands of people who marched into Times Square in New York, people in LA who blocked traffic on an interstate—things like that happening all across the country. And it does make a difference if these are met with determined response. Because if they're not, there's a message involved in this: a message of the criminalization of these youth, permanent suspects, targets on their backs, no rights that white people are bound to respect—all of this being declared. And if that becomes something that people accept as just the way things are, it is not only going to continue to happen but it is going to escalate, it is going to get even worse. Because there is really a call for the white supremacists, fascist foot soldiers, to come forward and play a role in enforcing this putting of the oppressed back in their places."
The call from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) for February 26 was spread widely. Word got out through Facebook, Twitter, and other social media. On February 26, BET.com ran a video report (viewable at right) from the Day of Outrage rally at St. Nicholas Park in Harlem (there were also actions later that afternoon and evening at Union Square and Times Square)—with the BET correspondent ending the report with, "New York isn't the only place that this rally is taking place in. This is a national event, with many states such as Florida, Texas, and Connecticut participating." Carl Dix himself was in Jacksonville, Florida, that day, speaking at a rally in front of the courthouse where the trial of Jordan Davis's killer had taken place.
Carl Dix spoke to Revolution about what is known so far about the impact of the call for February 26: "Right now we know of 18 cities—including something came in last night, this morning, that it happened in Birmingham [Alabama] on the 26th—that people took up the Hoodies Up! call. It happened in the areas where the Stop Mass Incarceration Network already has some organization or beginning organization. And that was important. People in the Oakland area did a rally at Fruitvale Station, the scene of the murder of Oscar Grant by a cop on New Year's Day of 2009. People acted in Chicago, in New York.
"But also we began to find out that there were places where the Network had no contact with people who heard about this call for the Hoodie Day and did something. There were people in a sorority in Houston. People at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee organized an event which they posted at SMIN's website and that got covered in the media there. But there were also media things like Bethune Cookman, which is a historically Black college in Florida—some students there did a vigil. This began to be taken up more broadly, and what it does speak to and address is that there was a feeling that something needed to be done. There was anger about this, a feeling something had to be tapped into and mobilized and organized."
The actions on this day are just a start. There is a vision to make a leap in building a mass movement of millions to resist the criminalization of our youth, through a Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration this October. (See excerpts from the Carl Dix interview on this: "Stop Mass Incarceration Network Calls for Month of Resistance in October.")
As Carl Dix told Revolution, "This has to actually become a period where people look back and say: 'Boy, a lot of people started along the path to coming to understand that this system is just no damn good, it is illegitimate, and it's gotta be gotten rid of, and it's going to take revolution—nothing less—to do that.' And that's a message that needs to go out to people and is going out to people. It has to go out in a much broader way, in an escalated way, because this is what people need to be engaging... and it's what they need to be grappling with....
"We are talking about vicious oppression that's built into the fabric of this system, and people hate this—a lot of anger—and not only among the people who directly suffer it. Because after the Trayvon verdict there were large numbers of white people who came out to these demonstrations and who were saying: I don't want to live in a society where this happens, where whether somebody lives or dies is determined by the color of their skin.
"And it's important to tap into that anger and that sentiment and give it forms of expression because there's another side that comes out in relation to that. There's a way in which the powers-that-be can't help but recognize the sentiment that's developing among the people and they take steps to misdirect it, to try to channel it back into the system. Like it was at the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington last year, and there was a lot of talk about: 'We need a new civil rights movement, we need to get activated in trying to get more reforms of the way the system works and to try to hang onto some of the reforms that were being taken back that we thought had been won in the past."... And it's very important that the actual reality be brought out... This is not a system that is basically working and there are a few excesses that need to be reformed or tweaked. It is ... institutions that have been unleashed to target people, that's a key part of the program of suppression, targeting Black and Latino people... and that it needs to be fought, it needs to be stopped, and to get rid of it once and for all is going to take revolution—nothing less."
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
People took action in 18 cities across the country on the February 26 National Day of Outrage and Remembrance for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis (see "February 26: Day of Outrage and Remembrance for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis—Defiant Actions Around the Country Declare: No More!"). The following are accounts of what happened that day in some of these actions—based on reports from Revolution/revcom.us correspondents and readers, reports at the Stop Mass Incarceration Network website, and reports in other media sources.
50 people participated in "National Hoodie Day" despite day-long rain in Jacksonville. Organized by Jacksonville's New Jim Crow Movement, most of those who turned out were people who had directly felt the lash of this country's criminal "injustice" system: family members of people wrongfully incarcerated or of people who had been brutalized or murdered by police, and formerly incarcerated people.
The featured speaker was Carl Dix who challenged everybody there to make this the beginning, not the end of working to make real the slogan, NO MORE MURDER OF BLACK YOUTH! He invited the crowd to take up the effort to hammer out a vision for a month of resistance to mass incarceration and all its consequences in October and be part of developing a plan to build up to October and make it a period when we change the way millions of people view this horrific problem. He also spoke to how mass incarceration was a slow genocide targeting Black and Latino people that was built into the fabric of this society from the very beginning and brought out that it would take revolution nothing less to end it once and for all.
Juanita Young who traveled from New York as part of a delegation to Jacksonville also spoke. The mother of Malcolm Ferguson who was murdered by a New York cop in 2000, Juanita brought to life how the criminalization of Black youth was the soil out of which the murders of Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, her son and so many others had sprung.
Others who spoke included several formerly incarcerated people and 9 family members of wrongfully incarcerated people. A number of family members of Anthony Harris, a man who was beaten to death by Jacksonville police in front of his nieces and nephews, spoke. 2 area ministers and a member of the Association for the Study of African Life and History (ASALH) also spoke. Other members of ASALH performed a dance and did a poem.
At the height of the rally, several dozen people held up their targets and chanted, HOODIES UP! TARGETS UP! WE'RE STANDING UP! NO MORE MURDERS OF OUR YOUTH!
The Feb 26th Day of Outrage and Remembrance for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis ended with a spirited march thru downtown Jacksonville to the office of Angela Corey; the prosecutor whose office forgot how to prosecute when it put George Zimmerman and Michael Dunn on trial for murdering Trayvon and Jordan, but shows no such incompetence in sending outrageous numbers of Black and Latino people to prison or in getting Marissa Alexander sentenced to 20 years in prison for actually defending herself.
From a correspondent:
In New York, four powerful and inspiring convergences were held in different parts of Manhattan, as well as a march from Union Square to Times Square.
At least 400 people took part in one or more of these events, in spite of bone-chilling cold and in the face of the prevailing view that "there's nothing we can do." At each location groups of dozens or more posed for group photographs, holding up pictures of Jordan and Trayvon, or of the targets that these court rulings place on the back of every Black and Latino youth, sending a message of defiance to the authorities and a message to the youth who are under the gun that "we have your back."
In Times Square, a major tourist destination for people from around the world, the presence of 100-plus people lined up in front of a lit-up banner reading simply "No More" caused a huge stir and dozens of people were taking photographs to send to their friends.
The crowds were mainly young and predominantly Black and Latino, and many spoke bitterly of how they are criminalized and harassed, searched and humiliated by the police on a regular basis. Black youth as young as nine or ten years old grabbed the mic to proclaim that racist murders must stop, that they have a right to live, that they want their freedom.
There were also substantial numbers of more middle class and/or older people of all nationalities, who spoke about their profound sorrow at the repeated, unprovoked and unjust killing of Black and Latino children. Many, many people spoke of their fears for their own children, not wanting them to grow up in a world like this, or spoke of feeling that even if this did not affect them directly, it was impossible to just go on about their lives as such terrible things happened, without standing up and speaking out.
Different convergences were in different kinds of neighborhoods, and were sponsored by various groups, so each had its own character. But uniformly, people expressed a determination not to let this become "the new normal," but to step out themselves and struggle with others to do so as well. Overwhelmingly people recognized that it would take a great deal of work and struggle to change this situation—a number said it would take a revolution—and that they wanted to be part of making this happen.
Despite deeply frigid temperatures, the passion was heated as people of all ages, races and ethnic background rallied in Union Square in quiet, determined and dramatic protest on this Day of Outrage and Remembrance for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. As people slowly gathered, they either grabbed or were handed posters from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network that said on one side: "NO MORE" on top of the ominous gun sight target dominating the sign, and on the other side, signage and photos of Trayvon and Jordan Davis that said, "We Are All Trayvon Martin! The Whole Damn System Is Guilty!" and "We Are All Jordan Davis! The Whole Damn System Is Guilty!"
As people formed into a semi-circle clutching the Trayvon/Jordan/Target signs and directly facing 14th Street, others joined in with their own signs or signs from other organizations. Revolution newspaper was also held up by many who had just bought the newspaper. Alejandrina Murphy and Travis Morales from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network-NYC opened the rally and introduced the vision of the day's protest action—a silent dramatic protest with "Hoodies Up! Fists Up!" Sending the message that "We Are Standing Up!" and will not tolerate the continuing police and vigilante killing of Black and Latino youth—"No More Murders of Black and Latino Youth!" This silent vigil caught the attention of so many people walking by, or of people participating in the action itself, who either stopped or broke away to take pictures of the dramatic setting. For five minutes the 100 or so people held up their fists with the 'Target" signs facing forward; and then for another five minutes switched and flipped their posters over to have the posters of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis face forward toward 14th Street. Again fists were raised high, and a silent determination dominated the plaza. Again the photography scene was repeated. Media on the scene included ABC and NBC network news, and WBAI-FM.
Soon after, people formed up to march the 30 blocks north towards Times Square. The march was mainly a defiant rebellious march of young people that moved swiftly up the sidewalk to Times Square as people chanted, "Trayvon did not have to die, we all know the reason why, the whole damn system is guilty!", "Jordan did not have to die, we all know the reason why, the whole damn system is guilty!", and "Hoodies up, times up, no more killing of Black youth!" At Times Square at 47th and Broadway's TKTS Times Square pedestrian mall, people found the iconic red bleachers were blocked by the local business district's security. Nevertheless, a rally ensued as people from the earlier Harlem action at 135th and St. Nicholas Avenue and then from 125th and Adam Clayton Powell Blvd joined up. The Union Square scene was silently and dramatically repeated: Hoodies Up, Fists Up. Targets Up, and We Are Standing Up! No More Murders of Our Black and Latino Youth! The TKTS mall was dominated by determined young faces who were joined by curious onlookers and tourists from different parts of the country and from Europe. News cameras from REVOLT TV and DMX Magazine TV and other news outlets sought out people to interview and to find out why would people step out to protest in such desperate weather. Prominently both in Union Square and Times Square were the New York Light Brigade who held up large battery powered posters whose letters that spelled out "NO MORE" and could be seen from blocks away.
Based on an article in the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel:
More than 30 people rallied at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee campus student union in a "Justice for Trayvon Martin and the Fallen" rally, to demand justice for Trayvon and others killed by racists and police. Rick Banks, president of the Black Student Union, which organized the rally, told the Journal Sentinel, "I really want people to get involved and stay involved as we work on the problem of systemic racism." Solana Patterson-Ramos, a board member of the Black Student Union, said, "We want people to know what is going on and that it has been going on for so long."
According to the Journal Sentinel: "The face of Daniel Bell, who was fatally shot by a Milwaukee police officer in 1958, also was prominent Wednesday. The lawsuit that Bell's family filed after his death helped shape national civil rights law, and his name was frequently invoked during protests over the 2011 death of Derek Williams in Milwaukee police custody.
"'I was thinking about (the Bell case) and how it relates to other things like Derek Williams and stop and frisk,' Banks said. 'It's 50 years later and we're going through the same thing. I just want to make sure we emphasize that today. Fifty years from now we don't want to be in the same position.'"
The local CBS station news aired a live report from an evening rally at a park to mark the two-year anniversary of Trayvon Martin's murder. A clip of this video report is available at stopmassincarceration.net. A Black man at the rally said, "My reason is this 29-year-old brother that's standing beside me. It's about his value and his worth. And every time we come together, we have an opportunity to say to each other that you matter, you count." A white man said, "I've got a 14-year-old nephew, that could've been Trayvon Martin, look very much like him. We had discussion right after it happened. That could've been him, and he didn't feel the system was fair. He was asking me questions about why that happened." The rally ended with the lighting of two candles representing Trayvon and Jordan and a moment of silence.
From a correspondent:
This winter in Chicago has broken all records for unrelenting cold and snow. On February 26 it was 17 below zero with the wind chill. So it was particularly heartwarming that over 20 people gathered outside in the heart of downtown Chicago to mark the second anniversary of Trayvon's murder. As thousands flowed past in the evening rush hour, the diverse group raised their fists and held up targets while others passed out flyers and stickers to onlookers.
There were several small groupings and individual students of different nationalities who came from different campuses and spoken word scenes because they felt so strongly about not letting the murder of Trayvon be swept under the rug. The murder of Jordan Davis fueled their outrage. One of the community college students after experiencing the protest expressed regret that they had not stood up in the cafeteria at their school earlier that day—holding up the targets and raising their fists.
The speakers at the rally included a revolutionary communist former prisoner, a revolutionary Muslim, and a community college student from the spoken word scene on the south side. The statement from Carl Dix was read.
Students from one of the inner-city high schools that had participated in the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation also took up the Day of Outrage and Remembrance. Some of these youth were participating in a citywide poetry competition downtown on February 26. They were the last team to perform in the elimination rounds of the competition, arriving just before going on stage. When they finished their poems, this group of students made a big deal of giving the other high school teams on the stage with them stickers to put on (and to take back to their respective high schools). As a group, they also swept through the audience passing out stickers and leaflets before getting on the bus to go back to their high school.
The day of outrage and remembrance was taken to a noon press conference and rally for Justice for Howard Morgan. People organizing that rally, including Howard Morgan's wife, had been excited to learn that their event fell on the Day of Outrage and Remembrance for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. Benjamin Crump (the attorney for the family of Trayvon Martin) was speaking at the rally. At their press conference and protest, speakers addressed the second anniversary of the murder of Trayvon Martin and the ongoing injustices faced by Black people in this society and the so called "justice" system—points integral to the case of Howard Morgan. (Howard Morgan was shot 28 times by four white police officers—and lived. Howard himself had spent 13 years as a railroad cop—but he was Black, and caught with a gun—which was all that cops need to unleash a hail of bullets. Howard was charged with attempted murder, even though his gun was never fired. Acquitted in one trial he was brought back to court, convicted, and is now serving a 40-year sentence in prison. The Howard Morgan Facebook page shared photos of the Stop Mass Incarceration protest in Chicago on February 26 as well as its call for ways for people to act.)
On the previous Sunday, the final sermon for Black History Month celebrations at St. Sabina's Church was delivered to 400 to 500 people by Dr. Cornel West and the theme was "The Kingdom of God is Not a Brand." The thrust of the celebration was a call for people to act with morality and courage, and it was framed in remembrance of Trayvon Martin and the recent verdict and non-conviction of Michael Dunn for the murder of Jordan Davis. A part of the service was the reading of a letter to America from a young Black man who identified with the target that is on young Black men and a call to America to not allow the immorality of the continued murder and criminalization of young Black men to continue. After dramatically reading the letter, he then did a very defiant interpretive modern dance expressing the need to stand strong and liberate young Black people.
The ideological summoning, particularly by Cornel West, was very compelling. One way this was reflected was in the very positive response that revolutionaries received outside the church as people were leaving, including for speaking out and standing up on February 26.
In the run-up to February 26 the arctic temperatures forced organizers to get creative about how to reach out to people broadly. So that day, revolutionaries rode the el trains on different lines during the morning rush hour to get the word out—standing up and making announcements in each car—"we're standing up to say NO MORE" as leaflets and stickers and Revolution newspaper were gotten out. They called on people to make it a day of remembrance and outrage at work and at school—wherever you are that day—and to join the downtown rally. Many left the trains wearing the stickers and it is not hard to imagine the ripple effect that had throughout downtown that day.
On the el trains, there was a lot of positive response and some pointed ignore-ance among non-Black riders. There was at least one person who came to the central rally who had been met that day on the train. There was also some sharp opposition, for instance when one man yelled out that basically the youth need to get with God, not this. On another train, a white guy said very angrily and loudly, "I have a right to carry a gun and I will use it if I have to." In both cases, this had the effect of driving even more people to take up the leaflets and stickers.
From a correspondent:
Over 100 people gathered in Fruitvale Plaza in Oakland, next to the infamous BART station (where Oscar Grant was murdered by a transit cop) to rally and march for Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis on February 26.
The protest drew many new people, mainly Black and Latino youth, from local high schools, colleges, and community groups. The Merritt College Black Student Union spoke to how important the day was to them. Andy's Youth, a contingent of young friends of Andy Lopez, the 13-year-old gunned down by sheriffs, came all the way from Santa Rosa. The family of another man who died in police custody came from Sacramento. Youth Uprising from East Oakland represented with a powerful dance and rap. A local minister came "not to preach, but to say 'Hoodies Up! For Trayvon Martin.'" The people warmly welcomed a contingent from Mujeres Colectivas y Activas, who represented a theme that many spoke about—it doesn't matter what color you are or where you're from, we have to stand up together. Many statements were read from people who could not attend, including one from Cephus Johnson (Oscar Grant's Uncle Bobby), who was at another event at San Jose State University.
His message read, in part, "This tells us again that Amerikkka is declaring that Black people have no rights that this racist criminal justice system are bound to respect. This justice system that failed to convict Michael Dunn for murdering Jordan Davis. On top of the exoneration of George Zimmerman, the murderer of Trayvon Martin...Our children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren rightly deserve freedom, justice, equality, and a right to take BART, a right to walk to a 7-Eleven for Skittles and iced tea, and a right to play music without being executed. I say: Hoodies up. Time's Up, We're Standing Up! No More Murders of our youth!"
Before over 50 took the streets for a loud march, they heard the statement from Carl Dix about the importance of this day, and the plans for the future. And then a call and response of BAsics 1:13 ("No more generations...") was led by a Revolution Club member.
From a correspondent:
A spirited and defiant march and rally took place in the Crenshaw District of Los Angeles. A diverse group of about 100 people participated—young skaters as well as folks a little older from the surrounding Crenshaw area, students from USC, mothers with children in prison, and representatives from a number of political, religious, and legal organizations in Southern California, including the National Lawyers Guild, Cuauhtemoc Dancers, and the Interfaith Communities United For Justice and Peace.
From the moment we started until the two- hour event ended, the chants went up: "No More Murders of Black and Brown Youth! Time's Up! That's the Truth!" and "For Trayvon Martin—Hoodies Up! For Jordan Davis—Hoodies Up! This Killer System's Time Is Up! What Do We Do? We Are Standing Up!"
People had heard about the event on radio, through classroom handouts by professors, and though posters on the street, leafleting and other ways. One person who had learned about the national day in New York and had heard there was also an event in Los Angeles and other cities—flew into LA this morning and arrived at the event carrying his luggage from his trip. One woman who heard it on the radio told us that in fact she was dying "...but there are certain things I must do while I am alive," and this was one of the events she said she "had to make." Not only was there a big police presence, but Crenshaw High School, likely in close collaboration with the LAPD, had put their students on lockdown inside the school and didn't let them out until the march passed...but several of the students were able to catch the march and participate anyway, holding banners in the front of the march!
At three times during the event, scores of people stood powerfully and militantly together, in silence for one full minute, rocked their hoodies with their fists raised, and held up the Stop Mass Incarceration Network's new "target image"—used in cities across the U.S. on February 26. Students filming for a documentary film class (who were considering making a documentary on "white on black violence") told us about—and were very moved by—the big impact the event had on people in the Crenshaw District, some of whom they interviewed.
From a reader:
The normal atmosphere at the 5 Points MARTA Station in downtown Atlanta was pierced, and there was buzzing about the National Day of Outrage and Remembrance during rush hour at 4 p.m. on February 26. On a cold day when people were moving quickly in and out of the metro train station, many stopped in their tracks when they heard the chants and saw the posters and a large paper scroll laid out on the sidewalk. Dozens came up to sign the banner, while others listened to and joined the chants. When 15 to 20 people lined up for five minutes of silence with their hoodies up, fists up, and targets on their chests, others watching raised their fists too. Some joined in when the line-up was repeated about 20 minutes later. In between and afterward people were invited to the bullhorn for a speak-out. A young woman recited a poem: "If your eyes could see what I see, would you be as angry as me? Poverty all around, people beat down. No jobs on my block except for the cops—they've got my block locked. If your eyes could see what I see, would you be as angry as me?" Another woman indicted America for the way it treats Black and Latino youth and minorities in general: "America needs to understand that Black people are not dangerous. America needs to understand that minorities are not a problem. We should be able to go to the store to buy Skittles and iced tea and not be murdered." And she ended with, "We don't need food stamps. We don't need Medicaid. We need revolution."
This action was not your usual protest. It was powerful in both its content and its visual presence, and it was very interactive. The speak-out gave expression to heartfelt cries of "No More!" from youth, elders, activists, and passersby.
From a reader:
The wind chill of minus 5 degrees did not discourage 16 people, including Black and Latina women from a college, several youth, Revolution sellers and other revolutionaries from coming out to say loud and clear "No More Murder of Black Youth." People in downtown Cleveland waiting for buses stopped to listen to the youth challenge everyone, especially the youth who say, "You can't do nothing, this is the way things are." The youth agitated with passion and outrage that we will not nor cannot accept the killings of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis and many others killed by the police. At one point a youth read BAsics 1:13 out loud. Youths joined the moment of silence, with fists in the air and carrying target signs. People took hundreds of flyers and posters. Some older people stopping by were encouraged to see the youth speaking out. Through the windy chill, the youth stepped out with determination to say loud and clear: "Hoodies Up, Time's Up, We're Standing Up! No More Murders of Our Youth!"
From a reader:
Coming up to February 26, people in Seattle were e-mailing and Facebooking about what was needed. One thing that emerged was about a dozen gathered in front of Westlake Park in downtown Seattle at 6 p.m. Friends of youth murdered by the police were there. They were compelled by connections between their own experiences and the nationally known cases of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. There was a childhood friend of Victor Duffy Junior, a young Black man who several years ago was pepper-sprayed, tasered, and crushed to death by police. A childhood friend of Latino youth Rocendo Arias was there. Rocendo was just recently shot in the head by a Yakima, Washington, cop while sitting in his car bothering no one. The friend had spent a lot of time making hand-lettered signboards attached to his front and back, telling the story of Rocendo's life and murder in words and photographs. He then attached to his back one of the targets people brought to wear. He told others, "Many Black people get killed by police, but in Yakima and around there (rural Washington state) brown people get killed by police. Yakima cops cut my friends' hair. They harass brown kids. It made me feel I didn't want to go to school anymore because cops come there and harass and arrest us, so people don't go."
Chanting "Time's up. we're standing up, no more murders of our youth!" the group marched a couple blocks up to a corner where youth and others gather and hang in groups in front of a McDonald's. Many knew who Trayvon was, but many, including Black youth, did not know about the murder of Jordan Davis. Some responded to the news of Jordan with a suppressed seething rage. There was a lot of at times intense interaction and discussion going on between the group and people on the corner.
From a reader:
In Houston, bright neon signs displaying the Revolution centerfold "We say no more" and the poster with BA's "Three Strikes" quote and chants greeted rush hour traffic at a busy intersection where university students and Black working people drive and walk by. People started putting their hoodies up. Many people reached their hands out of their cars for copies of Revolution newspaper. When a busload of kids stopped at the light, they began to read our signs and reached out their windows for the paper and grabbed a stack of REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! cards that they distributed to the rest of the kids. Two college students came up to us to ask if they could take our pictures with our signs to post on their Facebook page.
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
March 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
There is nothing more brutal and backward, nothing more outrageous, nothing which more concentrates the howling and unbearable gap between the world that is possible and the world that actually IS... than the way billions of women are treated every day. Rape, battery, exploitation and abuse of every kind... locked in the home or cast out on the streets, both devalued and commodified in the culture—regarded and treated like things to be bought and sold rather than full human beings... reduced to the roles of either mother and/or object of sexual plunder... exploited and abused in fields and factories and offices and then oppressed and abused once more in the home... denied the right to control their own bodies and make their own choices on reproduction... demeaned and degraded by the saturation of society with pornography... hounded, legislated against, and at times physically attacked and even murdered by religious fanatics of every type, on every continent, including the USA... and all this reaching a point of even greater, almost unimaginable, horror in the wars for resources and profit and geopolitical power that rage across the world. The very acuteness of this question means that when people rise up, this question often and increasingly and very sharply comes to the fore—as it did these past few years in Egypt and elsewhere, where different reactionary camps mobilized and waged battles over how best to maintain this oppression and even took out their conflicts on the very bodies of the women who dared to demand a voice in their futures.
The oppression of women pervades the planet; it is, today, inescapable. But this is not due to “human nature.” This is not eternal. It had a beginning—and it can have an end. This web of patriarchy—these systems of relations between people that take many forms but which all painfully bind and suffocate women everywhere they turn, in every sphere of society, and in every country in the world, including the “advanced” societies of the west—this arose at a certain time in human history. It continues today because the system we now live under—capitalism-imperialism—both requires patriarchy to maintain its “order” and feeds off it in its exploitation of the masses. While the continual blind and profit-driven development of capitalism in some ways undercuts traditional social relations, pulling women into work outside the home and disrupting family relations in certain ways, capitalism cannot do away with this oppression.
In fact, the capitalist-imperialist class is driven to reinforce and deepen this oppression, especially as the basis for traditional roles gets further undercut. First, because the maintenance of the traditional family and traditional gender roles is a pillar of social order, of keeping people “in their places.” Every and any serious effort to break these chains could potentially call into question the legitimacy of the entire social order. And so it is that in every corner of the globe we see reactionary forces slamming women even more firmly and violently back into oppressive, and often even more extremely repressive, social roles in the name of “tradition.” Second, because the driving logic at the heart of capitalism requires that everything must ultimately serve the accumulation of ever more profit for some capitalist. The logic of such a system turns everyone into a means for more profit, and requires that every demand and aspiration fit itself to the “bottom line.” Today, even as discrimination continues in both old and new, and more perverse, ways, women themselves have increasingly been “commodified,” turned into objects. As this view of women increasingly becomes the social norm, it stamps and suffocates people’s thoughts and emotions, their hopes and their dreams. Further, capitalism distributes society’s product through the family even though in most cases people have long since stopped producing as a family. The more irrational this becomes, the more the capitalist-imperialists feel compelled to buttress this institution as a means of social order and control—and, in particular, to strengthen the authority of the father and his “right” to lord it over everyone else. Was this not the essence of Obama’s recent proposed “solution” to the excruciating oppression, the life without a future beyond being ostracized and hunted and/or cast off, facing Black and Latino youth? Again, capitalism requires patriarchy—and it reinforces it, with all its power.
The oppression of women in all its forms can be ended, it could actually be put in the museum of outmoded human practices. But, two things:
One, this oppression can only be ended as part of a revolution, in which the instruments of violence and repression of the reactionary classes are defeated and dismantled with the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people numbering in the millions; and in which the new revolutionary power then leads the people to undertake the work of building a whole new society in every sphere, eliminating exploitation and taking on all the terrible disparities and oppressive abuses woven into the capitalist-imperialist system; and
Two, no revolution that does not make the ending of the oppression of women a central pivot of its mission can ever emancipate humanity. Humanity needs revolution—a communist revolution that does away with capitalism and all exploiting systems, and all the institutions and ideas—including patriarchy—that thrive in its soil and reinforce it.
This can be done. As Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, recently put it:
Revolution is not an impossible dream. It is not "unrealistic." Changing all of society, changing the whole world, is not a crazy or dangerous idea. What is crazy, and dangerous, is going along with the way things are, and where things are heading, under this system. Revolution—a radical change in how society works, how we relate as human beings, what our values are, how we understand the world and act to affect it—this is what we, what people all over the world, desperately need. And it is a lot more realistic than trying to "fix" this system.
In fact there have been times—all too briefly—when whole societies have been mobilized to uproot the oppression of women, as part of doing away with capitalism and all the institutions that reinforce it. This was true in the communist revolutions of the 20th century—first in the Soviet Union in 1917, and then in China in 1949. These revolutions were eventually reversed, but while they exercised power they mobilized masses to take the first huge steps in uprooting the oppression of women. They showed, in their relatively brief time, that what once seemed eternal could be overcome, what once seemed impossible could actually be done. And this can be true, in a far greater way, in the revolutions that must be made now, in the 21st century.
The path to this revolution can only be forged through struggle—and this struggle must be built now. The increasingly acute ways in which this oppression comes down, the sharp clashes brought forward by the very measures taken by the rulers of society to contain things, creates both the need—and a fertile soil—for fierce struggle. Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution crystallizes the path to that revolution—enabling people to change themselves as they take part in the struggle to change the world. And there is so much that cries out to be changed, and to be struggled against—right now! Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution! In fact, the very holiday of International Women’s Day grew out of struggle—a massive demonstration in 1909 of women garment workers in New York City, who poured out of the dangerous sweatshops into the streets, in inspiring defiance. This outpouring inspired the first International Women’s Day on March 8, 1910, organized by communists and socialists. And in 1917, in Russia, a massive demonstration on International Women’s Day played a significant role in fanning the early sparks of struggle that eventually led to the Russian Revolution and the establishment of the Soviet Union.
Today, with the new synthesis of communism brought forward by Bob Avakian, there is a deeper understanding of the pivotal importance of the liberation of women to all of human emancipation, and the centrality of the monumental struggle necessary to uproot this. This new synthesis critically sums up the experience of the communist revolution, and draws from many other spheres of human thinking and endeavor as well. There was a tendency in the first stage of the communist revolution to see this question as important, even critical, but in certain ways to tend to “subordinate it” to other questions, and to not fully enough grasp the depth and acuity of this oppression and how decisive—how integral—it is to the total transformation of society. The new synthesis of communism has brought forward a deeper comprehension not only of how embedded this is in society but of how the transformation of the situation of women can be—and must be—a motive force in the ongoing transformation of all society, in the struggle to destroy ALL tradition’s chains. This inspiring goal of the emancipation of humanity is one that can and must be taken up by women and men, now, and actively worked for and fought for.
This system, and the main trends that claim to oppose this system, have no real answers to this terrible oppression. The communist revolution, today based on the new synthesis, does. Today we are faced with this task: to make revolution against this system at the soonest possible time, and to politically support this revolution wherever it is made, with the aim of a new socialist state power as the first step to that world without social antagonisms of any kind—a communist world. “Tomorrow,” where and as this power is seized, our movement will be faced with another task: the building of a socialist society, on the road to communism. This society will be a transition in which people will be mobilized and unleashed to overcome all the scars of capitalism, all the ways in which one part of humanity antagonistically dominates another—the exploitation of the many by the few, and the domination of intellectual life by a small elite, in the service of capital... the division of humanity into antagonistic nations and the horror-filled subjugation of some nations and nationalities by others... the distorted and oppressive division between the cities and rural areas, and the antagonistic way in which the rich diversity of the natural world is turned into a source of plunder, and nature itself is poisoned... ALL of these and more will be taken on and transformed, along with—again, as a crucial and pivotal element—the oppression of women by men. And all that will be done as part of and while supporting revolution all over the world, until every human being is truly free.
What is urgently required by humanity is the initiation of a new stage of this revolution, one that grasps the emancipation of women as a motive force AND A GREAT POTENTIAL STRENGTH for that revolution. What is urgently required of us is that we take up the process of making this revolution... that we become the new initiators of a new stage of this revolution, in which all of tradition’s chains are shattered and humanity rises to its full potential height, both collectively and as individuals.
BREAK THE CHAINS! UNLEASH THE FURY OF WOMEN AS A MIGHTY FORCE FOR REVOLUTION!
A BETTER WORLD’S IN BIRTH! WE CAN AND MUST TRANSFORM EVERYTHING!
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
From A World to Win News Service:
March 6, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
March 3 2014. A World to Win News Service. Following is a statement issued on February 19 by the 8 March Women Organisation (Iran-Afghanistan) (email@example.com).
The 8th of March, International Women's Day, is coming, and we will continue our struggle to achieve the dream of emancipation. We are seeing the struggle of our sisters to join together with the countless hands of oppressed women all over the world to break the thousand-years-old chains of oppression that bind us.
Women carry out 2/3 of the world's labor, but obtain only 10 percent of its income and own less than 1 percent of its wealth. Seventy per cent of the world's poor are women. We are the main makers of the world and carry its load on our shoulders, but what is our lot?
Our lot is ever-increasing organized state violence, alongside the domestic and social violence which a third of the world's women experience on a daily basis. There is ever-increasing rape, murder, honor killings, prostitution, degradation, insults and threats and an unprecedented use of women's bodies as commodities. Women's "beauty" is presented as our only capital, and motherhood as the only source of our identity, with fighting over whether our bodies are to be controlled by being covered up or auctioned off by the state, religion, tradition and culture, by the demands of the market and even men's personal tendencies, just as there is fighting over the right to control or terminate our own pregnancies. This is the context in which our bodies have become commodities and assigned a price day after day.
Our bodies are commodities that are mass advertised by a pornography industry that gives training in their use. They are used in human trafficking and are priced in the sex markets where they are traded for money. In marriage contracts, financial considerations are accepted as completely legitimate and are reinforced by law and public opinion. Ultimately this commodity is sometimes appropriated free of charge as women are raped either individually or by gangs.
As part of the basic way this patriarchal system functions, imperialist powers confront each other over the division of the world, and in the name of "freedom" and "democracy" they wage war to invade the third world—and again, women are the first victims.
Although women are the cheapest, most obedient and most profitable work force for turning the wheels of capital, they name us "housewives" and hide our super-exploitation. They justify our low wages and rob us of any possibility of organizing ourselves. In the third world they force us to leave our small plots of land in our villages and move to urban shanty towns in our millions, an "unofficial" work force in the service industry, forced labor, all while taking care of their children who have been abandoned by society and the authorities.
And when we join in struggle to change the existing order, backward Islamic regimes again become our lot, as we are once again the first victims.
Unfortunately, the repetition of our experience as women in Iran has clearly demonstrated that the ideological foundation, the outlook and specific feature of an Islamic regime is the inferior position of women, our enslavement and deprivation of rights—this is how the religious fundamentalists with their international partners have harvested the fruit of the people's just struggle. Thirty-five years ago, when this backward and anti-woman regime posed as a possible replacement to the Shah as the people of Iran rose in revolutionary struggle, the religious fundamentalists tried to legitimize their rule and integrate Iran into the world capitalist system. Islamicizing the patriarchal system was their most important contribution to this effort. By utilising the full force of state power, the oppressive relations enchaining women were recast on the foundations of Sharia law. This was not some "eternal" culture of "Muslim women" being re-born, it was the culture and relations of Islamic patriarchy being given the full backing of state repression. The Islamic Republic thus codified the subjugation of women in law, and to enforce such laws established a set of courts and repressive forces.
The existence of these forces is directly related to the setbacks suffered by revolution in the world today. It is not a coincidence that one after another Islamic regime is being established either through the imperialist invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan or in the wake of the struggles of the people in the Middle East and North Africa. And at the center of these transformations women are the first social force to be controlled and oppressed. In Afghanistan and Iraq the legalization of Sharia law against women; in Libya the legalisation of polygamy; in Egypt the unprecedented increase in female genital mutilation; in Syria the re-establishment of punishing women by stoning; the rise in the hijab (head covering), whether enforced or arbitrary—all these are undeniably a concentrated expression of Sharia law.
All these represent the real bloody wars of these two outmoded forces—capitalist-imperialism and religious fundamentalism—to subjugate, oppress and control women. These two forces are equally oppressive and act as brothers in preserving their common interests, as they establish militarized regimes against women through hate and extreme violence.
We women are at the center of this war, which once again repeats the bitter tale of rape in the name of preserving and defending virginity. Once again the teeth and claws of patriarchy are shown so as to control and auction off women's bodies. Once again we see the tragedy of women courageously taking part in their masses in the process of social change, but winding up in the end pushed back down, without change. Once again women are pushed to choose between the "lesser evil" of who would violate them.
This is the so-called democratic choice facing women: do you prefer to be covered by a hijab and stay untouched and "supported" by Sharia law and Sharia-raped by your male lords, or do you prefer to be displayed in shop windows wearing the latest designer fashions and adored while you're priced and abused and molested? Do you prefer to be placed next to male rapists in Tahrir Square or under the boots of Western dependent armies claiming they support you?! Do you prefer to be an obedient wife and a "real" mother in your own country and single-handedly bear the heavy load of years of raising children without the presence of a father, or to be perched in the shopping windows of Europe or the private brothels (called harems) in the Gulf States?! Do you prefer to take part in the process of exploiting other people and oppressing other women for your own personal interests and advance and be protected by the laws of the world capitalist patriarchal system, or do you prefer to work and be exploited in some small or big factory or farm, or do you prefer to remain a "housewife" and expect god to protect you through his male representative in an effort to obtain and then safeguard your privileges in the "next world?" Do you want to take part in the population increase programme of the Islamic Republic on the basis of its Sharia law and thus bear more jihadists, or to be turned into a mere incubator by the churches and Christian fundamentalists?
All these options lie on the endless wheel of choice between these two poles that are outmoded and rotten. These two forces have no future for humanity. Indeed, the danger of collapse they both face push them not only to have a go at each other but also to support each other and hide their contradiction when they face the protesting masses.
The dynamics of this outmoded and backwards-turning wheel mean that struggle against one of them, in the absence of a clear stance against the other, invariably winds up pushing people into the other camp. Therefore, supporting one of these two poles, even if the intention is to fight and weaken the other, in practice actually strengthens the other pole. Everyone who is a victim of the existing order, all those who hate it and want to struggle to change it, ultimately have no other choice than to take a clear stance against and fight both of these poles. Women are at the heart of this contradictory situation and the struggle against these two poles. For both of these reactionary poles, women are an army of labor, foot soldiers of the system, a valuable commodity whose role is indispensable to the operation of this system of exploitation and oppression. And on the other hand, because of this strategic position, if women enter the arena of struggle with the aim of emancipating themselves and all humanity, they are capable of destroying all the rotten patriarchal barriers, which are facing historical collapse, and building a new world.
Because of all this, we as women can, through revolutionary internationalist struggle against these two outmoded and anti-women forces, succeed in lifting their blood-soaked, male and "holy" hands from the lives of millions of women who are being crushed in homes, factories, fields, streets and brothels violently, mercilessly and without precedent. Only through this kind of struggle can women chart the course of their emancipation and achieve a society without exploitation and oppression.
Without the fight and overthrow of these two outmoded forces, there is no other clear prospect for the emancipation of women and indeed of all humanity—which is impossible without the full participation of women.
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 #332 March 16, 2014
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This year, on the weekend of International Women's Day: On Saturday, March 8, people took action in different cities across the U.S. in a day of resistance to the horrific oppression of women. And on Sunday, March 9, there were celebrations of the bright future made possible through revolution. Reports and photos will be available online at revcom.us and in the next issue of Revolution.
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
by Li Onesto | March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
“We interviewed over 50 women during the course of our investigation and every single one of the women that we interviewed had been either sexually abused or witnessed another woman being sexually abused. And the sexual harassment was rampant. So things like calling women by their body parts, instead of by name, male officers viewing women while they defecate and urinate and shave and shower—that was a daily thing, that male officers would be present in the showers. They were present while the women changed their clothes, they were present when they used the bathroom.”
“One of the things that I see with the women at Tutwiler is that this thing went on for so long and women were asking, either people don’t believe us, or worse yet, they believe us but think that we deserve it.”
Charlotte Morrison, Senior Attorney at Equal Justice Initiative, Revolution interview, March 7, 2014
“The way to think about Tutwiler is that it is an amalgam and very intense concentration of the problems that exist in women’s correctional institutions.”
Brenda V. Smith, professor at the Washington College of Law at American University, interviewed by Revolution, March 7, 2014
“It’s inhumane for inmates to be here, period.”
Monica Washington, prisoner at Tutwiler who was raped by a prison guard, New York Times, March 1, 2014
“It’s a constant walk of fear.”
Former inmate Stephanie Hibbett recalling her time at Tutwiler, Washington Post, March 2, 2014
* * * * *
In May 2012, Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department, calling for a quick and thorough federal investigation into widespread sexual abuse of women prisoners by male guards at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama. An investigation by EJI, a non-profit organization based in Montgomery, had found shocking crimes being carried out against women at Tutwiler, including rape, sexual harassment, the trading of sex for basic commodities, and systematic repression against any prisoner who complained about this abuse.
In January 2014, after its own investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a 36-page letter to Alabama’s governor, stating that conditions at Tutwiler violate the constitutional rights of prisoners by “violating their right to bodily safety and privacy and continuing to expose them to actual harm and the serious risk of harm from sexual abuse and harassment by correctional staff and other prisoners.”
The DOJ letter stated:
“Tutwiler has a history of unabated staff-on-prisoner sexual abuse and harassment. The women at Tutwiler universally fear for their safety. They live in a sexualized environment with repeated and open sexual behavior, including: abusive sexual contact between staff and prisoners; sexualized activity, including a strip show condoned by staff; profane and unprofessional sexualized language and harassment; and deliberate cross-gender viewing of prisoners showering, urinating, and defecating.
“For nearly two decades, Tutwiler staff have harmed women in their care with impunity by sexually abusing and sexually harassing them. Staff have raped, sodomized, fondled, and exposed themselves to prisoners. They have coerced prisoners to engage in oral sex. Staff engage in voyeurism, forcing women to disrobe and watching them while they use the shower and use the toilet.
Prison officials have failed to curb the sexual abuse and sexual harassment despite possessing actual knowledge of the harm, including a federal statistical analysis identifying sexual misconduct at Tutwiler as occurring at one of the highest rates in the country.”
The Department of Justice finding letter “Investigation of the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women and Notice of Expanded Investigation”
These findings were based on interviews with dozens of prisons and letters from 233 women at Tutwiler, as well as the prison’s own internal reports.
Charlotte Morrison, a Senior Attorney at EJI told Revolution: “Women were raped. We have DNA confirmation that the officers were the fathers in those cases. We have women who officers propositioned, you know ‘pay to play.’ They propositioned women—that they could get needed items if they agreed to perform some kind of sexual service. And this is in a prison where there is not enough toilet paper to get through the month... They get a minimum supply which any woman in the prison will tell you is not enough to get through the month. And so they have to humiliate themselves to get enough tampons, to get enough toilet paper. It’s just the fear level of deprivation in the prison, and you add a layer of abuse on to that. It’s just really a dangerous and torturous environment for women.” (See “Rampant Sexual Abuse of Women at Tutwiler Prison for Women in Alabama.”)
All this horror, these crimes, was not only happening and known by prison officials to be happening—but as a policy, women who complained about this abuse or tried to make legal claims were routinely and severely punished.
Morrison described how women who reported they had been sexually abused or sexually propositioned by an officer were placed in punitive segregation: “You’re put in an isolation cell and you cannot call your family, you cannot get items from the store and again we’re not talking about luxury items, we’re talking about basic items. You can’t access the store, you can’t call your family. And you’re on lockdown and you don’t know when you’re getting out. So this was the strategy that the Department of Corrections had with every woman who reported, for decades.”
EJI’s investigation found that from 2009 to 2011, six officers had been convicted at Tutwiler for criminal sexual conduct. All cases brought against these prison officers were settled with plea bargains and only one of these officers got sentenced to more than five days in jail.
The Department of Justice investigation showed that “At least thirty-six of the ninety-nine total employees were identified as having had sex with prisoners—approximately 36% of current staff.” If you add staff identified for other forms of sexual abuse and sexual harassment, the number of employees at Tutwiler involved in “sexually inappropriate behavior nearly doubles.”
Again, all this was known by the Department of Corrections, as well as federal judges who had these cases brought before them. Yet the reign of sexual abuse against women continued and prison officials protected this practice and took severe retaliation against any of the women who complained.
The women in Tutwiler are as young as 14 and as old as in their 70s and 80s. Just over half of the prisoners in Alabama are locked up for drug and property crimes and this rate for nonviolent offenses, among the highest in the nation, is reflected at Tutwiler. Many women have ended up in prison, doing long sentences for nonviolent drug offenses or minor things like writing a bad check (which is a felony in Alabama). The war on drugs has taken a special toll on women in Alabama, which is a leader when it comes to putting pregnant women in jail for drug use. This includes a new court ruling that pregnant women can be designated as “meth labs” endangering their fetus. (Robin Marty, care2.com, March 5, 2014)
Tutwiler is extremely overcrowded—there are now almost 1,000 prisoners in this facility built for 400 inmates. The conditions here can only be described as inhumane and brutal, for example there is the policy of shackling pregnant women during childbirth, which is also a standard procedure in dozens of other states.
Professor Brenda V. Smith at the Washington College of Law at American University told Revolution: “Sexual abuse is part of it. But it’s the lack of basic respect and regard for the humanity of the people who are in these institutions.”
The Justice Department’s investigation into sexual abuse at Tutwiler found evidence of other constitutional violations, including inadequate conditions, lack of medical and mental healthcare and discriminatory treatment based on race or sexual orientation or gender identity. For example, there were reports of officers compelling Latina prisoners to solely speak English and threatening to discipline them if they spoke Spanish.
Morrison said that one of the cruelest policies was implemented, she believes, in retaliation for EJI’s litigation against sexual abuse in the prison. The warden put in place a policy that inmates working in the infirmary were not allowed to touch another inmate. Morrison gave an example of just how cruel this was:
“One of the big problems of the medical management at Tutwiler is their management of diabetes and so there’s a large number of women who lose limbs. And when they are lying on their bed, they can’t turn over and they rely on the other inmates to turn them over so they don’t get bed sores. They rely on the other inmates to clean them when they defecate. You have women in hospice there. There’s a large aging population, a large number of women who will die at Tutwiler, so they rely on the other inmates to provide them care and comfort as they’re dying through the hospice program. And so these women are now not allowed to touch them. You have very few nurses, you could go an hour—one woman told me that she sat there for an hour waiting for a nurse to come and help her charge, the woman in hospice who had defecated on herself and was very uncomfortable and the warden had said if you touch her, you will get disciplinary.”
In the past five years, more than 20 employees at Tutwiler have been transferred or fired for having illegal sexual contact with prisoners. At least one of these officers ended up at Elmore, a men’s prison, and was one of the guards there involved in taking inmates into isolated areas of the prison where they are handcuffed and stripped naked, and then severely beaten.
Grand juries have dismissed indictments regarding sexual abuse at Tutwiler because no investigation has been done, so there is no evidence to present; and in the minds of the juries there are just “the claims of a criminal” against the word of an officer/staff person—so they believe the officer/staff person every time and dismiss the case. Morrison told Revolution about a case where a woman had been sodomized by a male staff member. But when EJI went to the district attorney and said that they had found strong evidence that a crime had occurred, as soon as they said that the victim was a woman in prison they were told that the DA’s office could not conduct an investigation—that they never investigate crimes against women who are incarcerated, as a matter of policy.
Brenda V. Smith told Revolution: “Alabama has a very long history of oppression and racism. And you have that grafted on to so many of its institutions—its prisons, its jails, its juvenile detention facilities.” Smith referred to the legacy of slavery and how “You have to remember that while the 13th Amendment abolished slavery and involuntary servitude, it creates an exception for conviction of a crime. The behavior that has been described at Tutwiler approximates the conditions of slavery—the inability for women to control viewing or touching of their bodies by individuals of the opposite gender, the violence and the lack of respect for their basic dignity.”
But Professor Smith also points out that Tutwiler is not in a class by itself. She described the case of the sexual abuse of girls at a juvenile detention facility in Chalkville, Alabama; with 49 plaintiffs, the state ended up settling for $12.5 million in 2007. A case in Michigan where there was a settlement of $100 million for 500 women who had been sexually abused in prison. A case in Washington, DC, where Smith represented a class action suit with about 700 women with claims of sexual victimization in a DC prison.
Clearly, rape and other forms of sexual abuse in women’s prisons in the U.S. is widespread and rampant. Prison officials defend it and severely punish those women who try to fight it.
* * * * *
We really have to ask: What kind of a system is this? Where, as Charlotte Morrison said, mass incarceration is a “defining characteristic of our society.” Where more than 2.2 million people are locked up, the majority Black and Latino—many for nonviolent drug-related crimes. A system where women are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. prison population? Where these women end up subjected to the most dehumanizing conditions and are raped and sexually assaulted; where they end up having to sell their bodies just to get daily necessities like toilet paper and tampons?
Mass incarceration IS a defining character of U.S. society. This system criminalizes millions who it has oppressed, and this is happening in a very concentrated way to women in prison—where women are taken from their loved ones, robbed of their children, their very lives stolen, their dignity constantly assaulted. This is a sick, depraved system that has no right to rule.
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
Revolution Interview with Attorney Charlotte Morrison
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.
In May of 2012 the non-profit organization, Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), filed a complaint with the U.S. Justice Department, calling for a quick and thorough federal investigation into widespread sexual abuse of women prisoners by male guards at Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women in Wetumpka, Alabama. An investigation by EJI, which is based in Montgomery, had found shocking crimes being carried out against women at Tutwiler, including rape, sexual harassment, the trading of sex for basic commodities and systematic repression against any prisoners who complained about this abuse. In January 2014, after its own investigation, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a letter to Alabama’s governor, stating that conditions at Tutwiler violate the constitutional rights of prisoners. The DOJ found a whole history of sexual abuse and harassment of prisoners at Tutwiler and that the women fear for their safety, living in a “sexualized environment with repeated and open sexual behavior, including: abusive sexual contact between staff and prisoners; sexualized activity, including a strip show condoned by staff; profane and unprofessional sexualized language and harassment; and deliberate cross-gender viewing of prisoners showering, urinating, and defecating.”
Charlotte Morrison, a Senior Attorney with Equal Justice Initiative, worked on the investigation at Tutwiler and some of the legal cases of prisoners who had been sexually abused. She continues to visit the women at Tutwiler to talk to them about the conditions at the prison and advocate on their behalf. In the wake of a major article in the New York Times, exposing the situation at Tutwiler (March 2, 2014), Revolution correspondent, Li Onesto, talked to Ms. Morrison about EJI’s investigation at the prison and the ongoing situation of the women prisoners. The following are excerpts from this interview:
Li Onesto: Maybe you can start by talking about the kind of abuses that Equal Justice Initiative found in its investigation at Tutwiler Prison for Women.
Charlotte Morrison: We interviewed over 50 women during the course of our investigation and every single one of the women that we interviewed had been either sexually abused or witnessed another woman being sexually abused. And the sexual harassment was rampant. So things like calling women by their body parts, instead of by name, male officers viewing women while they defecate and urinate and shave and shower—this was a daily thing. Male officers would be present in the showers. They were present while the women changed their clothes. They were present when the women used the bathroom.
Women, in order to participate in any of kind of rehabilitative programming, to go down to the trade school, were required every single day to go through a very invasive strip search in front of male officers. They were lined up in order to do the strip search before they went to the trade school and on their way back from the trade school. For any woman, this is a terrible experience—but especially for women who have come in with histories of trauma and abuse this was unthinkable and so they weren’t able to participate. They would have to decide whether to be subjected to this kind of abuse and humiliation or not participate in the trade programming.
Women were raped. We have DNA confirmation that the officers were the fathers in those cases. We have women who officers propositioned, you know “pay to play.” The officers propositioned women—that they could get needed items if they agreed to perform some kind of sexual service. And this is in a prison where there is not enough toilet paper to get through the month, so for indigent women, women who don’t have any money, getting things like tampons...
Li Onesto: You mean women have to pay for things like toilet paper and tampons?
Charlotte Morrison: They get a minimum supply, which any woman in the prison will tell you is not enough to get through the month. And so they have to humiliate themselves to get enough tampons, to get enough toilet paper. It’s just the fear level of deprivation in the prison, and you add a layer of abuse on to that. It’s just really a dangerous and torturous environment for women. And it’s a constitutional violation, the Department of Justice found that it’s cruel and unusual and it violates the 8th Amendment, the kind of conditions that exist in this prison.
Li Onesto: You talk about the fear factor—I read about this practice of putting women in solitary for reporting abuses.
Charlotte Morrison: This is something that has gone on for decades. That if women report that an officer had sexually abused or sexually propositioned them they were placed in punitive segregation.
Li Onesto: Can you describe what that’s like?
Charlotte Morrison: You’re put in an isolation cell and you cannot call your family, you cannot get items from the store and again we’re not talking about luxury items, we’re talking about basic items. You can’t access the store, you can’t call your family. And you’re on lockdown and you don’t know when you’re getting out. So this was the strategy that the Department of Corrections had with every woman who reported, for decades. We understand that the commissioner changed that but he did not change that until the Department of Justice (DOJ) was called upon. My office met with him multiple times trying to get him to change these policies.
We were very frustrated that in the face of such dramatic evidence of abuse, there wasn’t proper action, that in fact there was protection for this kind of environment. It wasn’t just us—you could dismiss what we say as an advocacy organization. But what we were taking to the commissioner was criminal convictions from 2009 to 2011. Any basic research of criminal conviction history shows that six of the officers had been convicted at Tutwiler for criminal sexual conduct. That’s a large number. And then what the Department of Justice was able to obtain from their investigation—they were able to obtain additional records that showed that 30 percent of the correctional staff had been subject to criminal investigation, that there had actually been over 30 officers who had been heard for criminal prosecution during that time period. So to say that the Department of Corrections (DOC) didn’t know anything was going on! The Department of Justice is saying this from their own records and the DOC’s own records are documenting all these complaints. They had one officer where there were 230 complaints made against this single officer. They know who the problem officers are and that is evidence that they understood that there is a pattern and practice of rampant sexual abuse in the prison and instead of doing something about it they protected that practice.
Li Onesto: I read one report where Equal Justice Initiative had filed a complaint in relation to a men’s prison where there was sexual abuse and brutality and it turned out that at least one of these guards had been transferred from Tutwiler where he had been accused of sexual abuse.
Charlotte Morrison: Yes there were multiple officers who had been transferred from Tutwiler to Elmore [one of the men’s prisons where there were cases of sexual abuse and brutality]. And we do believe this is a system-wide problem in Alabama, and it points to the leadership. We have a leadership who creates atmospheres in these prisons that are extraordinarily punitive and abusive and that is tolerated. In fact officers who comply with that kind of mentality and who facilitate that in the prison are often the ones who are given promotion.
Li Onesto: There is a whole view being promoted that because people are in prison, that justifies all kinds of human rights abuses.
Charlotte Morrison: One of the things that I see with the women at Tutwiler is that, you know this thing went on for so long and women were asking—either people don’t believe us, or worse yet, they believe us but think that we deserve it. So when the Department of Justice report comes out saying this is a crime because it is cruel and unusual punishment, it is a constitutional violation, there was a real sense of affirmation that they had never felt before. They had been told—and they were punished for reporting it, which sends a signal that you don’t get to complain about this—that you deserve it. So this was the first time that an authority had said to them you don’t deserve this, we don’t believe you deserve this.
The Department of Corrections never said that to them. All these women who had got locked up and put in segregation, they were never told what happened in those investigations. They were punished and then told nothing. They don’t know what happened in their individual investigations. The women who reported that they had been raped, that they had been propositioned—they don’t know what happened to those officers. Some of the officers still work there. They don’t know what happened to their claim. They make a claim that a crime happened and then nothing happened. So the Department of Justice report was the first time that anyone in authority said you don’t deserve this.
Li Onesto: During it’s investigation, the Justice Department also found evidence of other Constitutional violations, inadequate conditions, medical and mental health, or discriminatory treatment based on race or sexual orientation or gender identity. Could you talk about that as well?
Charlotte Morrison: Yes, even in our own investigation we uncovered a lot of discrimination, especially with regard to sexual orientation and additional layers of discrimination that women face. The problems of mental health, really that they don’t provide any mental health treatment. Then with regard to medical it is a very alarming situation at Tutwiler. Women that we interviewed who had breast cancer with orders to go to chemotherapy twice a week were not being brought and they would miss three to six weeks of chemotherapy. This was sometimes due to just the incompetence of staff not managing this, taking them to the wrong chemotherapy place but then not compensating them for that, getting them the chemo they needed. And women have to pay like $4 to see a nurse. So that’s another reason women need money, to even just make a complaint to a doctor.
One of the cruelest policies that we saw implemented was actually in response to our litigation that there was sexual abuse in the prison. This was, we believe a retaliatory policy where the warden at that time ordered that none of the women who were working in the infirmary could touch another inmate.
Li Onesto: And this was because?
Charlotte Morrison: Well, he was saying this was a way of addressing accusations of sexual abuse—that you cannot touch another inmate. And just to remind you—for example, one of the big problems of the medical management at Tutwiler is their management of diabetes and so there’s a large number of women who lose limbs. And when they are lying on their bed, they can’t turn over and they rely on the other inmates to turn them over so they don’t get bedsores. They rely on the other inmates to clean them when they defecate. You have women in hospice there. There’s a large aging population, a large number of women who will die at Tutwiler so they rely on the other inmates to provide them care and comfort as they’re dying through the hospice program. And so these women are now not allowed to touch them. You have very few nurses. One woman told me that she sat there for an hour waiting for a nurse to come and help her charge—the woman in hospice who had defecated on herself and was very uncomfortable and the warden had said if you touch her, you will get disciplinary.
Li Onesto: Were these hidden stories before EJI did this investigation?
Charlotte Morrison: No, they were brought to the attention of the Department of Corrections, they were brought to the attention of federal judges. There were claims that were made. But no one believes inmates and because inmates don’t get lawyers they can only make the accusations themselves and they are immediately dismissed because they are seen as un-credible. And the federal courts were notified about these problems multiple times, in handwritten pro se petitions [legal documents filed by prisoners themselves] and they would be dismissed because the DOC would get their lawyers on the other side to get the petition dismissed. So without an advocate having your claim it’s very difficult to get attention paid to this.
Li Onesto: I know that a lot of women end up in prison for non-violent, drug crimes, doing long, unjust sentences due to mandatory sentencing laws. Maybe you could give a human picture of who these women are. You go into the prison and talk to these women and it’s really courageous that they’re coming forward with these stories.
Charlotte Morrison: The women in Tutwiler are as young as 14-years-old and then there are those who are in their 70s and 80s. Alabama has one of the highest populations of people serving life without parole. You have a large aging population at Tutwiler. Alabama also treats children, as young as 14-years-old, as adults, they’re not put somewhere else. If they’re charged and convicted as adults they go to Tutwiler, the women do. There are women there who are there for—you know writing a bad check in Alabama is a felony, so there are women there for writing a bad check, some are there for drugs. And it’s a very overcrowded system, they have almost 1,000 women at Tutwiler and it was built for 400 women. So it’s very overcrowded.
Li Onesto: Could you maybe give one story of a woman at Tutwiler, that would give a sense of both the horrendous conditions but also the courage of these women.
Charlotte Morrison: Yeah, there’s the woman, Monica Washington, who was raped by an officer. She was impregnated and she was placed in isolation.
Li Onesto: She was placed in isolation for reporting this?
Charlotte Morrison: No, it was reported anonymously, then she was placed in isolation and after she had her baby, it was taken away from her. There is another case where we were appointed by a federal court to represent it in 2010, which was when we conducted our investigation. A woman had been sodomized by a male staff member and she complained. She complained to the warden, she complained to the lieutenant, she complained to the sergeant. She was not told what happened to the male staff member and nothing in fact happened, she heard nothing. And so she filed a complaint with the federal court and the federal court appointed us to represent her and that’s when we conducted an investigation. When we did our investigation we uncovered what we believed was strong evidence that a crime had occurred and called the district attorney in that county that’s responsible for prosecuting crimes in that jurisdiction. We said we have evidence that a crime has occurred in your jurisdiction that I’d think you’d be interested in that, we just want to give you that evidence. And as soon as I told him that the victim was an incarcerated woman they said they could not conduct the investigation. They never conduct investigations into crimes against women who are incarcerated, as a matter of policy.
Li Onesto: So that was it?
Charlotte Morrison: That was it. The Department of Corrections referred the case for prosecution to the district attorney’s office, who has the only authority to prosecute this for the crime. He got the case but did no investigation. He did not talk to her, the victim, and did not collect any evidence in the case. That’s the kind of justice these women are getting. No investigation, no independent investigation of these cases. So even when you say some six officers have been convicted, they all served virtually no prison time. And that’s what happens when you don’t investigate the case, you can’t build your case, you cannot win your case, you cannot figure out what the crime was, what happened if you don’t investigate. And so you’re just relying on these minimal pleas to misdemeanors.
Li Onesto: So that’s what happens? They get convicted of some misdemeanor and get like a slap on the hand?
Charlotte Morrison: Yes. Either that or they would present no evidence to the Grand Jury and the Grand Jury dismisses the indictment because there is no case to present. They have done no investigation. All they have is the assertion of “a criminal.” In their minds, the Jury’s mind, this is an assertion by “a criminal” but the officer says it didn’t happen and they dismiss the indictment. Which is what happened in the case where we were appointed to represent. This woman, the charges were brought against the staff person, but they were dismissed because they would not investigate the case. So you have her, a prisoner’s statement vs. the staff person’s statement—so the jury believes the staff person every time.
Li Onesto: Do you feel that there is a role for people on the outside in relationship to this. I’m thinking that people hearing about this, seeing this outrage, might wonder what they can do. Like with stop-and-frisk in NYC, people in the street protesting this definitely had an impact, as well as the legal suits filed around stop-and-frisk.
Charlotte Morrison: I think that the awareness of the general public about the problems of mass incarceration [is important] and how it really defines us as a nation. The defining characteristic of our society is mass incarceration and I think that because it’s behind bars, where the public is not allowed to go, it’s so often out of view and people don’t think about it because it is closed to them. So it is really critical to have the media covering the problems of mass incarceration and creating that awareness and the public asking for more transparency about their prison system, listening, requesting more information is really a critical part to changing this reality. You know we really accept so much of it as the norm now, but it is really an abnormal reality—to be using the prisons to solve all our social problems.
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a Reader:
I was reading the Sunday Review section in the February 9, 2014 New York Times and came upon a column written by Nicholas Kristof, “Inside a Mental Hospital Called Jail.” First let me say the author is exposing something real, and clearly not advocating for it, but besides the appalling situation he is rightfully exposing, he offers little in the way of solutions. The article opens:
“The largest mental health center in America is a huge compound here in Chicago, with thousands of people suffering from manias, psychoses and other disorders, all surrounded by high fences and barbed wire.
“Just one thing: It’s a jail. The only way to get treatment is to be arrested.
“Psychiatric disorders are the only kind of sickness that we as a society regularly respond to not with sympathy but with handcuffs and incarceration. And as more humane and cost-effective ways of treating mental illness have been cut back, we increasingly resort to the law-enforcement tool-box: jails and prisons.”
As I read the rest of the article a shiver of rage went through my body. I knew this was a huge exposure of how the system of capitalism-imperialism works and that the readers of Revolution/revcom.us needed to know about this! I have been studying the recent special issue of Revolution: “You Don’t Know What You Think You ‘Know’ About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future,” and I thought this was another opportunity to reveal how different things could be and how different they had, in fact, been in China when it was still on the road of revolution and which stands in stark contrast to the modern reality in that exists in America today as revealed in Kristof’s article.
First let me review some of the statistics cited in this article: he says that nationwide, more than three times as many mentally ill people are housed in prisons and jails as in hospitals (from a 2010 study by the National Sheriffs’ Association and the Treatment Advocacy Center), and 40 percent of people with serious mental illnesses have been arrested at some point in their lives. Some of the inmates that Kristof interviews cannot afford the medications they need and once released from prison go off the medications and relapse; many while on the “outside” cannot get access to the treatment they need and resort to drugs or alcohol to self-medicate. He points out that in the 1800s, there was a campaign led by Dorothea Dix against the incarceration of the mentally ill, and he ends the article by posing this question:
“Do we really want to go back two centuries? Doesn’t that seem not only inhumane but also deluded—on our part?”
To which I have to answer that now, when we have a much greater body of scientific knowledge, and many successful means and methods for the treatment of mental illness, this is not only deluded and inhumane, it is a criminal and horrific waste of human potential, and it doesn’t have to be this way!
So after studying Kristof’s Times column, I went back to a book that I’d read and studied a number of years ago. In Chapter 7 of China: Science Walks on Two Legs, the author describes a visit to Shanghai Psychiatric Hospital in 1973:
“Inside the hallways were bright and everything was spotless and simple. Sunlight streamed through the windows onto walls painted turquoise and white. There were none of the ominous or depressing intimations one feels on entering a state hospital at home, nor the antiseptic, all business atmosphere of glass, aluminum and linoleum of the fancy private hospital. It seemed like a friendly place.
“The treatment combines traditional Chinese and Western methods. Acupuncture and traditional herbal medicines are given, as well as synthetic chemical tranquilizers like chlorpromazine. During treatment patients are also given ‘education in ideology,’ in which they are taught to have a ‘correct attitude’ toward their illness. (The use of political study in mental health treatment is, we were to discover, one of the distinguishing features of the Chinese system.)
“‘The environment here is not like a jail,’ one of the doctors told us. ‘Patients engage in physical labor, cultural events and physical culture; and the medical staff works in urban and rural areas doing preventive work as well as attending inpatients.’ ‘The staff attempts to treat mental illness in rural areas and factories by teaching the masses about mental illness.’ ‘They also train factory doctors and barefoot doctors to treat people with mental disorders.’”
The situation described in Kristof’s Times column indicates how difficult it is for the severely mentally ill to even have access to mental health treatment in the form of needed medications, therapy, or inpatient care, let alone this type of community outreach and broad community support the Chinese built to help get the mentally ill stable enough to return to their families and to find help maintaining their health with the help of family members and comrades and the medical community in even the remote rural areas. Instead of criminalizing the mentally ill they helped train the society to recognize, assist in and support the full recovery of people with mental illness.
Another interesting and very salient point is that even people who committed crimes while suffering from mental illness would more often than not be transferred to the mental facilities and be released as the symptoms of their illness were brought under control. It was not seen as a crime to be mentally ill, and sentences would be commuted in such cases. Even the jailers were trained to recognize these symptoms and to quickly move people to situations where they could receive needed care rather than punishment! How does this stack up against the New Jim Crow, and Stop and Frisk, in which whole sections of people who have done nothing wrong, or at worst have drug-related, nonviolent offenses, get pipelined into prison because of the color of their skin?
So I then returned to the recent interview with Raymond Lotta, “You Don’t Know What You Think You ‘Know’ About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future." In the section titled “Mobilizing the Masses to Transform All of Society,” he speaks to many of the ways that the Chinese people under the leadership of Mao Zedong and the Communist Party were mobilized in mass campaigns to tackle serious health problems: things like cholera and even opium addiction were conquered. One has to ask what is it that makes all this possible? The most essential answer to this lies in a new state power, and as Lotta says:
“The scourge of opium addiction was wiped out through mass treatment and education. People who had been addicted were now able to work productively...because a whole new economy based on meeting social need was established, including the ability to cultivate agricultural crops for the good of society. The most important thing, the most precious thing, was people and their ability to be healthy, to learn, to contribute.”
What are people, and human potential, to the system of capitalism-imperialism? Nothing more than commodities, and consumers of commodities, whose primary use is producing profit for the capitalist class. And as jobs are sent overseas, where labor is cheaper, more and more people, especially Black and Latino youth, are seen as useless, and their future foreclosed. Looking at the bleakness of all this must certainly exacerbate and even cause some forms of mental illness like serious clinical depression. For this system people who are “useless” can be dangerous. As Carl Dix has said, “They use Mass Incarceration as a form of counter insurgency before an insurgency has begun.” Under such a system, it should be no surprise at all that the mentally ill are criminalized, and that many who don’t fit in and don’t “go along to get along” are labeled “mentally ill.”
Even during the time, in the U.S., when the mentally ill were treated in health facilities, not jails, the facilities were more like jails, and the emphasis was placed on “normalcy,” not health. The goal was people who acted in ways that conformed to the social constraints of the times. People who were rebellious, women who had multiple sexual partners or children out of wedlock, youth who disobeyed their parents—all could be involuntarily committed and waste years of their lives locked away and drugged. Things like lobotomies were used to “tame” people, not cure them.
Looking back at the Chinese experience shows what has been and can be accomplished when the people have state power. Much of the work BA has done on the importance of the role of dissent, which is an important element of the new synthesis of communism that he has developed, gives us an even greater basis to quickly transform all of this. We can, on this basis, utilize science and the scientific method to develop treatments for mental illness that unlock human potential and build a world in which all of humanity can flourish.
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Jason Collins became the first openly gay player in the NBA when he signed a ten-day contract with the Brooklyn Nets. And he is taking advantage of the moment to speak out against persecution of gay people. He chose 98 as his jersey number, and in an essay in Sports Illustrated he explained why: "One of the most notorious antigay hate crimes occurred in 1998. Matthew Shepard, a University of Wyoming student, was kidnapped, tortured and lashed to a prairie fence. He died five days after he was finally found."
After his first game, Collins posted a photo of himself presenting a Brooklyn #98 jersey to Shepard's parents, Judy and Dennis, and his brother, Logan. Collins tweeted, "I'm so fortunate to have met Matthew Shepard's parents and brother tonight after [the Nets'] win tonight in Denver."
When Collins signed with the Nets, his No. 98 became the best-selling jersey on the NBA's online store that week.
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
March 2, Washington, D.C.—Over 1,000 young people protested in the streets and at the White House against the Keystone XL pipeline. Students reportedly came to D.C. from at least 80 campuses nationwide and from 42 different states.
Keystone XL would increase, by 830,000 barrels per day, the flow of tar sands oil from Alberta, Canada and oil from the Bakken shale formation in the western U.S to the U.S. Gulf Coast for processing. The pipeline would lead to a further expansion of the extraction, burning, and transport of more dangerous and carbon-polluting fossil fuels at a time when the planet already faces an impending climate/environmental emergency. President Obama will likely announce the decision on whether to give a green light to the whole pipeline in the next few months. (For more on the Keystone XL pipeline and the recent U.S. State Department report on it, see "Criminal Whitewash, Unacceptable Logic.”)
The protest was organized online by XL Dissent. The XL Dissent protest was impelled forward by reaction to the U.S. State Department environmental impact report, which was released on January 31 and whitewashed the environmental danger of Keystone XL. XL Dissent aimed to begin mobilizing a new student environmental protest movement and in the process, “Set the record for the largest single-day act of civil disobedience at the White House in American history.” The call for the action, signed by students at campuses around the country, says in part, “Emboldened by our passion and our frustration, we will partake in an unprecedented action to denounce the Keystone XL pipeline and the ‘all-of-the-above’ energy approach that makes such fossil fuel projects possible. We are young, awaiting a future fraught with uncertainty. This will not deter us from participating in an act of civil disobedience. Indeed it has compelled us to organize one.”
The protest started at Georgetown University and then marched to the White House where 398 people zip-tied themselves to the fence and were arrested. Dozens of others spread out a huge black tarp representing an oil spill, and did a die-in in front of the White House gates. According to the Daily Spectator, the Columbia University student newspaper, few of the students had ever been arrested before and some had never been to a protest before this, though many were active in campus environmental groups.
One protester told Democracy Now!, “When you get arrested, you first think that, well, you know, this is not going to do anything. But as you go forth and you see people come to you and they tell you the precedent you set, it has a huge impact. And the most important thing it does is it’s putting your body against the gears of the machine and saying, ‘this madness must stop’.” Nine other students were arrested at the “XL Dissent West” sit-in at the U.S. State Department office in San Francisco.
These protests are very timely and needed, as the struggle against the Keystone XL pipeline is coming to a head. And they show the potential for much greater opposition and resistance, among students and more broadly in society, to the pipeline and environmental destruction overall.
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Scientists recently announced another great environmental crime in progress resulting from climate change.
Reporting for the Earth Hour global climate change campaign, coral reef scientists said that time is running out for the Great Barrier Reef due to climate change. The Great Barrier Reef is the world's most extensive coral reef system, stretching over 1,900 miles off the west coast of Australia and supporting a wide diversity of life. But according to scientists, by 2030 the reef will suffer irreversible damage and disappear within decades unless there is immediate action to stop the damage caused by acidification of the oceans due to global warming. Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a reef researcher from the University of Queensland in Australia, said, "This is not a hunch or alarmist rhetoric by green activists. It is the conclusion of the world's most qualified coral reef experts."
The Earth Hour report says:
"The impacts of climate change are already visible, in every corner of the planet. We've already changed the acidity of the oceans and composition of the atmosphere. But the story of how climate change is affecting our Great Barrier Reef is one of the most tangible and heartbreaking. The story of climate change can be seen and felt on the reef—in acidifying oceans, bleaching coral, increasing sand and ocean temperatures, more extreme storm damage to the reef and rising sea levels. Our reef is running out of time, but those of us alive today can be the ones to help save it. And just because a situation is urgent does not mean it is too late."
The Great Barrier Reef's coral system is the world's biggest single structure made by living organisms. It actually encompasses 2,500 individual reefs and over 900 islands—from small, sandy islands to large, rugged continental islands. According to UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization), there are over 1,500 species of fish, 400 species of coral, 4,000 species of mollusks, and 240 species of birds, as well as many other organisms living on or interacting with the Great Barrier Reef ecosystems. In fact, the Great Barrier Reef has one of the richest diversities of species on the entire planet. It has been declared a world heritage site and is one of the most amazing natural wonders of the world.
Coral reef ecosystems are foundational to the life and health of ocean ecosystems. Kent Carpenter, a professor at Old Dominion University who directed a worldwide census of marine species, said that if global warming continues unchecked, all corals could be extinct within 100 years. He said, "You could argue that a complete collapse of the marine ecosystem would be one of the consequences of losing corals. You're going to have a tremendous cascade effect for all life in the oceans." Such a collapse of marine ecosystems—horrible in its own right, could also threaten the existence of whole nations who depend on fish for their food and livelihood.
The destruction of the Great Barrier Reef and coral reef systems in general is a heart-wrenching crime that must be prevented.
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Every Monday through Friday, at 1:30 p.m., a Federal Court House in Tucson, Arizona is filled with groups of men and women chained around their ankles and wrists. They are paraded, in groups of seven, before a federal magistrate. They are all from Mexico or Central America. Every one of them is charged with one of two federal crimes—illegal entry into the U.S., a misdemeanor with a sentence that ranges from 30 days to 6 months in a federal prison, county jail, or private prison; or illegal re-entry, which carries a potential sentence of 2 years in prison, or up to 20 years if the person has a prior conviction for an aggravated felony.
By the end of the afternoon about 70 people will have faced the judge, been convicted, and sentenced. Each of them will have had about 25 seconds to hear the charges read against them, enter a plea, and receive a sentence. One of the judges who oversees this assembly line process of imperialist "justice" boasted to a reporter, "my record is 30 minutes." The judge continued, "What we do is constitutional, it satisfies due process. It may not look good, but it does everything the law requires."
In half an hour or so, the lives, hopes, and dreams of 70 desperate, impoverished people seeking work are crushed by the constitutional procedures of a capitalist-imperialist system built on brutal exploitation of people worldwide.
Similar scenes play out daily in El Paso, Del Rio, Laredo, McAllen, and Brownsville, Texas, Las Cruces, New Mexico, and in Yuma, Arizona. This is "Operation Streamline"—a program begun in the administration of George W. Bush and greatly expanded in the Obama years. People caught by the Border Patrol as they struggle to cross deserts, prairies, mountains, and canyons in searing heat and freezing cold are shackled, packed in buses, and brought to holding cells immediately. Many have been travelling for weeks from Mexico's interior before they are hunted down as they try to make the final leg of their trip over la frontera to El Norte. They never are allowed to shower, or change into clean clothes. Often they aren't fed. The next day they are brought before a judge to have their day—actually half a minute—in court.
In 2011 alone, about 62,000 immigrants were convicted as criminals under Operation Streamline. The mass criminalization of immigrants is a key component in the immigration policy of a criminal system.
Fabiana Ramos told a reporter how she and others were told to behave and respond in the Tucson courthouse. All she had to do was acknowledge her name, answer yes to any question she was asked, and simply utter "culpable"—guilty—when the charge was read. She said the lawyers who advised her and others "are just going to tell you what you have to say, what's in your best interest to say. It was in my interest to say I was guilty, and that I accepted the time they gave me. And that's it. That's all they tell me. It was about 10 minutes, more or less." According to U.S. government statistics, 97 percent of those arrested plead guilty.
Michael J. Fisher, chief of the U.S. Border Patrol, reported to Congress in October 2011 that Operation Streamline and other measures are part of the Obama administration's "whole-of-government approach" to the U.S.'s repressive assault upon its southwestern border with Mexico. In the context of what Fisher described as the "historic levels of personnel, technology, and resources" the Department of Homeland Security has deployed to the border, he described the crafting of a "consequence delivery system" intended to impose swift and harsh punishments on immigrants arrested trying to cross the border.
Operation Streamline is a key component of this project; it is a specific application of "zero tolerance" that targets people arrested crossing the border. It requires criminal prosecution of most immigrants caught in the districts where it is underway. This contrasts with previous and long-standing U.S. policy of putting most people ensnared by the Border Patrol into civil proceedings, and allowing many to leave the U.S. voluntarily. As the New York Times wrote, Operation Streamline is "the core of a federal program that operates in three border states, using prosecution and imprisonment as a front-line deterrent to people who try to cross the border illegally. It is part of a broader strategy of increasing the consequences for people who break immigration laws." In other words, first Bush and now Obama have criminalized immigration, to an unprecedented extent.
Streamline is one of nine interlocking federal measures initiated or strengthened by the Obama administration intended to "establish clear priorities... that enhance border security," according to Fisher. They include such measures as the "Alien Transfer Exit Program" which deports people through a border crossing far removed from where they were arrested, and the "Mexican Interior Repatriation Program," which sends Mexican people to cities deep into the Mexican interior rather than across the border, regardless of where they are originally from.
Federal felony convictions for "immigration-related crimes" have skyrocketed in recent years. A government report in 2011 reported that while the number of people arrested by federal authorities on immigration charges actually declined in the previous decade, the number of people prosecuted more than tripled. By September 2013, prosecution of immigration-related charges represented over 60 percent of all federal convictions that year. By fiscal year 2013, prosecutions of immigrants in federal court were at an all-time high of almost 100,000 people—a rise of 367 percent in 10 years.
Intense and acrimonious debate over forging a new immigration law has been coursing through Washington for the past year. As Revolution wrote then, this proposed law has “nothing at all to do with reforming an oppressive situation to benefit the people. It has everything to do with even further ramping up the brutal militarization of the U.S./Mexico border and instituting highly repressive attacks on and registration of millions of immigrants in this country, in order to better control and exploit a segment of the population that the ruling class of this capitalist-imperialist system both needs and fears—all under the guise of extending a ‘path to citizenship.’” (“Proposed New Immigration Law: An Ominous Leap in Repression and the Need for Resistance”)
Democrats and Republicans both agree on the need for greatly intensified and expanded ability to control and repress immigrants. They continue to have disagreements, often sharp and intense disagreements, over how to accomplish this. At this point it is not clear what resolution, if any, will be reached among them this year, and Revolution will have fuller analysis of that process in a coming issue.
But some things are important to note now. One is that an overall immigration bill passed in the U.S. Senate last year contained, among many other highly repressive measures, a tripling in the funding for Operation Streamline. And this bill was attacked by Republicans who accused Obama and the Democrats as being "too soft," and in particular not providing sufficient means to turn an already militarized border into even more of a death zone.
Another is that the both the compulsion to reforge immigration/border policy, and the difficulty the rulers are having in reaching some form of agreement and achieving that goal, are expressions of the depth and volatility of the contradictions around immigration, and the U.S.'s relation with Mexico, that confront this system of exploitation and oppression. Immigrants within the U.S. are a highly exploited section of the people whose continued exploitation is essential to the functioning of a system built on profit wrenched from the labor of millions. U.S. domination of Mexico and the Central American countries is a linchpin of its global empire. Containing potential upheaval in those countries, which would have immediate, direct, and unpredictable reverberations within the U.S., is a great strategic concern for the imperialists.
Finally, and most importantly for those building the movement for revolution, the millions of immigrants, with and without proper papers, are a tremendous potential source of revolutionary strength in this country. Resistance to Operation Streamline that has begun to percolate in Arizona and other locations, and resistance to all the attacks on immigrants, needs to increasingly be built as part of building the movement for revolution, with the orientation of "fight the power, and transform the people, for revolution."
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received this correspondence from Travis Morales.
Recently, some of us in the movement for revolution had some informal discussion of what is up with the immigration question. This was sparked by both the renewed rancorous debate among the ranks of the ruling class over “comprehensive immigration reform,” a euphemism for how to greatly intensify the repression and oppression of immigrants, and a certain upsurge concentrated in the Southwest but reaching to other parts of the country of people blockading deportation buses and Migra courts. The following is some initial observations and thinking I have on the questions of immigration and the border, how these have developed over the last period, and their relationship to building a movement for revolution and being able to do the dog in Babylon when the time comes. This is by no means a comprehensive and exhaustive analysis but rather an attempt to begin to address these questions.
There is much to review from what we have written before, but I think a good place to start is these quotes from BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian:
There is nothing sacred to us about the USA, as it is presently constituted, or about the borders of the U.S. as they are presently constituted. Quite the opposite.(BAsics 3:20)
It is hardly conceivable that there could be a revolution in the U.S. which didn’t at some point and in various ways significantly interpenetrate with and have mutual interaction and mutual influence with revolutionary struggles being waged by the people in neighboring countries—especially in Central America. (BAsics 3:21)
Since these quotes first came out some 30 years ago, what BA was pointing to has become even more true with the huge influx of people from Mexico and Central America that has profoundly changed the demographic landscape of the U.S. Along with this has been the deeper penetration of U.S. imperialism into these countries and the intertwining of their economies with the U.S. while the heart of these economies still continues to beat in the U.S. Over the last 30 years, the lives of the masses in Mexico and Central America have become even more of a living nightmare, forcing millions to go to El Norte. All of this can turn into its opposite and be a big strength and force for revolution on both sides of the southern border.
Think of this. At the time of the passage of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)—the so-called “amnesty” law that was supposed to solve the problem of “illegal immigration” and bring this section of people out into the open where they could be controlled—an estimated 3.6 million undocumented immigrants lived in the U.S. Now the estimate is 11 to 12 million, with some saying up to 20 million. IRCA was a highly repressive law that required employers to confirm that their employees were U.S. citizens or if they were immigrants that they were authorized to work; made it illegal to hire undocumented immigrants; legalized undocumented immigrants who entered the United States before January 1, 1982 and had resided there continuously with the penalty of a fine, back taxes due, and admission of guilt; candidates were required to prove that they were not guilty of crimes, that they were in the country before January 1, 1982, and that they possessed minimal knowledge about U.S. history, government, and the English language.
The two largest states in population, California and Texas, together having 19% of the total U.S. population (38 million and 26.5 million people respectively), are both majority non-white and majority oppressed nationalities. California is 39.7% white, 38.1% Latino, 6.6% Black, 13.6% Asian. Texas is 45.3% white, 37.6% Latino, 11.8% Black and 3.8% Asian. In 1970 California was 77% white compared to 39.7% now, a 50% drop! An estimated 7.3% of the California population and 6% of the Texas population are undocumented. I don’t have the figures but it is safe to say that a very large percentage of the Latino populations in these two states is composed of Mexican immigrants and the children of immigrants. One indication of where the demographics are going is that 50% of the children born in Texas are Chicanos (people of Mexican descent born in the U.S.). I cite these figures to give a taste of the huge demographic changes and problems confronting the ruling class. But this is not just in the Southwest or just Latinos.
Florida, Illinois and New York have big populations of immigrants and their descendants. For example, New York City, the largest city in the country with 8.3 million people, has Latinos making up 28% of this figure, while Asian Americans are 12% of the population. New York and California have large Asian immigrant populations that are growing very fast.
Looking to the future, California is the 10th largest economy in the world. Both Texas and California are leading food producers. And Texas is the center of the petrochemical industry. This along with the large concentration of immigrants and others from the oppressed has big implications in a very different situation of crisis and revolutionary possibilities.
Back in the late 1980s or early '90s, I heard José Ángel Gutiérrez, a prominent activist from the '60s/early '70s and one of the founders of, first, the Mexican-American Youth Organization (MAYO) and then later, el Partido de la Raza Unida (an electoral party), give a speech. He basically articulated that in Texas, Chicanos would out-reproduce the “gringos” and then be able to assume political power. While I definitely do not agree with this, there is something to this in the sense of the big contradiction these changing demographics pose for the ruling class as they forcefully re-assert white supremacy in the midst of the extreme necessity they face of defending and expanding their empire and keeping it together. Or as fascist former GOP presidential candidate Pat Buchanan lamented in a book he wrote a few years ago, “White America is an endangered species” and "Mexico is moving north.” In particular, the different reactionary responses to one part of these changes are being fought out at the top of the pyramid between different sections of the ruling class over how best to repress immigrants.
All of this is linked to the fact that the U.S. shares a 2,000-mile border with a Third World oppressed country of 120 million people. As Revolution has said in the past, this is a unique situation in the world: an advanced imperialist country sharing a border with an oppressed Third World country, one that they have brutally oppressed for the last 150 years. The U.S. domination, exploitation, and oppression of Mexico continues to make life unbearable for tens of millions, forcing millions from the countryside into the cities and millions to try and go to El Norte to survive. Millions have come here, not because they love America but because America has made it impossible for them to live in their home countries. This continues to be a dangerous contradiction for the ruling class. Over the last few decades so much of the more dynamic sectors of the U.S. economy have relied on super-exploitable immigrant labor while they see this section of people as volatile and politically dangerous. As former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg put it, “Although [illegal immigrants] broke the law by illegally crossing our borders or over-staying their visas and our businesses broke the law by employing them, our city’s economy would be a shell of itself had they not, and it would collapse if they were deported.” Mexico has been economically ravaged over the last two decades with an ongoing political crisis, repression, and disappearances, and tens of thousands killed in the drug wars, with many opponents of the government killed by death squads under the cover of the drug wars. Any evaluation from the U.S. point of view is that Mexico could explode in political upheaval at any time.
As we saw at the time of the Zapatista uprising in the 1990s, when a major political event happens in Mexico, it has immediate repercussions in the U.S. In that case, demonstrations and a movement of support developed quickly. A while back, someone in the movement for revolution with some familiarity with the Chicano student movement and the struggles in México and I were noting a phenomenon that developed in MEChA, Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlan. This is the Chicano student group that came of the '60s and still exists on many campuses throughout the Southwest and beyond, including in the Northeast. We were both in California at the time of the battle around Prop 187 in 1984, in which MEChA pretty much took a hands-off attitude. (Prop 187 was a ballot initiative that passed before being overturned in the courts that would have prohibited undocumented immigrants from using health care, public education, and other social services in California.) The dominant trend among the Chicano students in it did not identify with Mexico. That was not their framework. Within a short time afterwards, the outlook dramatically changed. Increasingly, the members were the children of immigrants who definitely identified with Mexico and their parents, and many of the students, were the targets of Prop 187 and other anti-immigrant attacks.
At the time of the Mexican revolution an estimated one million Mexicans out of a population of 15 million fled to the U.S. If a major crisis and upheaval broke out in Mexico, the U.S. rulers could confront both refugees fleeing north as well as political upheaval in this country, especially if the U.S. tried to intervene. And would they have a choice not to intervene? I raise all of this because this still is a big part of how the U.S. is looking at the border and immigrants.
As one scholar wrote in the late 1980s, the history of the border is a history of military occupation. For the last 20 years, the U.S. has been on a drive to heavily militarize the border, to both control the flow of immigrants and be in a position to seal the border in a time of crisis. This has continued despite a dramatic drop in apprehensions. Obama has deported more immigrants than any other president. While technically true, this needs some clarification. What is being counted as deportations are cases in which immigrants are run through the legal deportation process and ordered deported. That number has increased dramatically. Historically, the overwhelming majority of people detained have signed voluntary departure waivers and returned. These do not count as deportations. This has less legal implications if they are caught again. The height of apprehensions and people returned was in 2000 under Clinton, when the number reached 1.86 million. Technically, a very small number of those were deported. This technicality made no difference to the vast majority of the 1.86 million because if they had not signed voluntary departure waivers, they would have been run through the formal deportation process and deported. Also, take note of the fact that the overwhelming majority of the 1.86 million people apprehended and returned to their home countries were caught at or near the border as they tried to cross or shortly after crossing, not within the interior of the U.S. In 2011 (the last year complete numbers are available) the number of people apprehended and returned had dropped to 715,495, a 62% drop since 2000. But as I said earlier, the number of people run through the deportation process and ordered deported has risen dramatically. In fiscal year 2013, 368,644 immigrants were deported. Of these, 133,551 were people arrested within the interior of the country and ordered deported. Arrests of people living within the U.S. have skyrocketed. These are the people that have been living here for many years, with families, some having grown up in the U.S. A Revolution article ("Obama's Deportation Record—A Nightmare for Immigrants"), referring to a report by Tanya Golash-Boza, an associate professor of sociology at the University of California, Merced, stated, “As Golash-Boza reports, Obama has not only deported more people than any other president, he has also separated more families. Between July 1, 2010, and September 30, 2012, nearly a quarter of all deportations involved parents whose children are U.S. citizens and can remain in the U.S. while one or both of their parents are forced to leave.”
I cited all the above statistics to show that although far fewer people are crossing, the militarization is full steam ahead. Note the Senate bill that was passed in the summer. It was made even worse than what Revolution wrote about it ("Proposed New Immigration Law: An Ominous Leap in Repression and the Need for Resistance"). It calls for a “surge” of 18,000 more Border Patrol agents, along with a host of other outrageous measures. My point is that there is more to the militarization than just stopping people that are crossing now. This merits some investigation.
Back in the 1980s the Rex '84 maneuvers and other contingency plans were exposed that showed plans for mass round-ups and detention of immigrants and dissidents as well as, in one case, the military occupation of northern Mexico. Something is going on here. While apprehensions have dropped dramatically, both as a result of the militarization of the border and the economic crisis that erupted in 2008 and the drying up of jobs in the U.S., the U.S. has been ratcheting up the repression of immigrants and how they handle those apprehended. I do not have all the facts and figures but this is some of what they are doing. The government has been doing two things of note. As mentioned earlier, more and more people are not being given voluntary departure but are run through the system and formally ordered to be deported. This gives them a record and if they are caught again, they can be prosecuted for a felony. In fiscal year 2013, immigrant prosecutions reached an all-time high of 97,384, up 367% over the past 10 years. In many sectors of the southern border, the U.S. has instituted Operation Streamline. In some sectors, everyone detained is prosecuted, sent to jail for up to six months for first-time illegal entries, and then deported. Subsequent arrests can lead to felony convictions and possible time in jail for ten years or more. In the Southwest, federal courts are being swamped with cases where people are being prosecuted for illegal entry and other immigration-related charges. Over 50% of all federal felony convictions are now for immigration violations. Latinos are now over 50% of the federal prison population. This is part of the criminalization and mass incarceration of immigrants. In addition, on any given day, 33,000 are in immigration detention.
All of this has engendered beginning resistance. In October, 12 people chained themselves to the wheels of two deportation buses in Tucson that were headed to Operation Streamline at a federal court where six people chained themselves to the doors. These actions shut down the court for the day, a first. This was part of the #Not1MoreDeportation campaign, organized by the National Day Labor Organizing Network. They demand that the president stop deportations, end the Secure Communities Deportation Program, and stop the enforcement of all Immigration (ICE) Holds. In mid-December, nine people were arrested in Virginia as they lay down in a roadway, linked with PVC pipe to block buses from leaving a deportation center.
On December 10, eight people were arrested for blocking the buses at the Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, NJ. They had chained themselves together with locks across the roadway. On November 19, about 50 people temporarily blocked the deportation buses at the Broadview Detention Center in Illinois while some were arrested. In mid-September, seven undocumented immigrants chained themselves to the gates of the White House to demand an end to deportations. The second week of December, activists in Philly chained themselves to the doors of the federal court.
On October 11, according to a report from Derechos Humanos, in South Tucson, 40 Border Patrol and Tucson police attacked community members with pepper spray and rubber bullets when they came out to support three immigrants arrested at a traffic stop. According to the report, “People in the nearby neighborhood and community members from Southside Workers Center and Southside Presbyterian Church went to advocate for these men and bear witness to this abuse. After officers on the scene called Border Patrol and detained the men at their vehicle, people from the crowd of bystanders circled the Border Patrol vehicle by holding hands in an act of courage to protect these men from being potentially deported. When the community of support took brave action to stand together and prevent Border Patrol from leaving with the driver and his passenger, more BP agents arrived and proceeded to attack the group.”
The above give a sense of the outrage among some. Despite the hope that there would be “change you can believe in,” the hope has turned into even more of a nightmare. People are feeling betrayed as more people are rounded up within the U.S. and deported. Of note is the increasing number of undocumented, especially the youth, that are directly challenging all this, risking arrest, and in some cases being arrested. As seen in the young Korean-American man challenging Obama during his speech, people want the deportations to stop. I included the South Tucson example because it shows how sharp and volatile the situation is.
A number of immigrant rights groups have condemned the Senate bill and the increasing militarization of the border. Many people in southern Arizona are outraged by living in a war zone and rights free zone. A number of articles point to a “Constitution Free Zone” within 100 miles of the border where the Border Patrol can stop and carry out searches of people without warrants or probable cause. Some have pointed out that 197 million people in the U.S. live within 100 miles of a border since the east and west coasts are considered borders. Despite apprehensions being way down at the border, people are still dying at the border. 183 people died at the Mexico-Arizona border from October 2012 to 2013, down from 253 in the same one year period in 2009-2010. All of this is pushing people to resist. While the resistance is still within the framework of trying to pressure Obama, this is a very good development. Something is brewing among the masses and activists in Arizona that we need to investigate further.
While the immigrant rights movement has died down quite a bit since the upsurge in 2006, the intense contradictions around immigration and the border have not gone away. The potential upheaval in Mexico and the repercussions in the U.S. are lurking not too far in the background. The U.S. is carrying out the militarization of the border and creating a war zone with hi tech equipment, drones and militarized police state, all of this targeted at the masses on both sides of the border. What they are driven to do to both defend and extend their empire is fueling these contradictions.
Something I want to add, which again merits further investigation, is how mass incarceration and the horrors that flow from it are increasingly targeting Latino youth. While the U.S. economy is heavily dependent on super-exploitable immigrant labor, their children born here are a different story. They are much like the Black youth: cannot be profitably exploited, have no future under this system, are seen as a threat. This is, also, part of the picture.
Getting back to the two quotations from BAsics at the beginning, all of this has big implications for the future. Again, this piece is not intended to be comprehensive and exhaustive. We do need to do investigation, including social investigation, into many of these questions. There is certainly the potential for greatly increased political ferment and upheaval among immigrants and their allies. Who knows where the fight over immigration among the ruling class will go, but all indications are that it will intensify and it will go nowhere good. And that could unleash great upheaval among the immigrant masses. The huge and unprecedented outpourings by millions of immigrants in 2006, while very much coming from the belief that the system could be pressured into letting people in (and this is in stark opposition to how the imperialists are looking at all this strategically), was not a fluke. I do think we need to conceptualize scenarios around these questions in relationship to the quotations from BAsics. As I said at the beginning, these big changes could be a big strength and force for revolution. How do we influence and tap into this? We do need to address some of these questions in Revolution and on revcom.us. This is it for now and I look forward to discussing this further.
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Following is an excerpt from The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters by Ardea Skybreak, published in 2006.
There are actually many different "categories of evidence" which combine to confirm the basic picture of how life has evolved on this planet. This includes evidence from the fossil record (which shows a series of successive changes in plant or animal lines spread out over millions of years) and evidence from molecular biology (which backs up the fossil record and which reveals the degree to which different evolutionary lines are more closely or distantly related according to the degrees of similarity or difference of their DNA). Such mutually reinforcing categories of evidence are reinforced further still by evidence stemming from developmental biology and embryology, and even from the patterns of distribution of species around the globe. All these different kinds of evidence, taken together, leave absolutely zero doubt that all living species on this planet are related to each other and are the products of descent with modification from a series of common ancestors.
The Creationists often like to complain that "nobody was around" to "see" evolution taking place over hundreds of millions of years, so it's just an unproven story. But the fact that we weren't around to witness past events doesn't mean they didn't take place, and it doesn't mean we don't have ways of figuring out what happened. Think about it: evolutionists figure out how life-forms repeatedly changed and diversified over time; astronomers and cosmologists figure out how galaxies and solar systems came into being billions of years ago and how they too change over time; historians and anthropologists figure out how humans organized their societies thousands or tens of thousands of years ago; molecular scientists and particle physicists figure out the characteristics of chemical bonds and the interactions of sub-atomic particles they cannot directly "see"; linguists figure out how current human languages evolved through a series of step-wise cultural modifications of much older languages which were spoken by people who have long ceased to exist. We weren't there to directly "see" any of these changes happening, but we do have techniques which we can use to figure out a lot of what happened in the past.
In all these so-called "historical sciences," there are scientific methods which make it possible for us to uncover the left-over marks of the past— those things which "carry over" through time and which are still present in modern-day systems and entities. Things such as the anatomical similarities of body structures which link a modern species to an ancient fossil ancestor, or things such as the similarities in grammar and vocabulary of the French, Spanish and Italian languages which mark them as closely related to each other and all derived from their ancient Latin ancestor language. All the historical sciences contribute to building up human knowledge through investigations of such historical ties and through the process of historical inference, deducing from the actual concrete evidence comprehensive theories which have the power to consistently explain a number of different related processes and phenomena. Historical scientists come to achieve great confidence in their theories (and widespread consensus, as is the case with the theory of evolution) whenever they detect clear patterns of consilience of evidence (which simply means that lots of different streams of evidence, coming from many different directions, all point to the same conclusions and reinforce our understanding of something, such as when the molecular evidence and the evidence from the fossil record both agree on when two evolutionary lines diverged in the past).
Furthermore, in the historical sciences (including the science of evolution) scientific methods are used to make predictions which can then be tested: predictions both about what we should be able to find, and also predictions about what we should not be able to find, if a particular theory about the past is true. And scientists do actually go out and test these predictions in the real world. As just one example, we can predict that if the theory of evolution is true, we should be able to find step-wise progressions of certain anatomical modifications in series of fossils arranged by age (and we do find this); and we can also predict that if the theory of evolution is true we should not be able to find something like a human fossil embedded in a rock layer containing dinosaurs, since everything we understand about how evolution works tells us that humans evolved long after the dinosaurs had become extinct (and in fact fossils of dinosaurs and of human ancestors are never found in the same rock layers). So, unlike "religious beliefs," scientific predictions (including predictions made about the processes involved in evolution) are actually testable and verifiable. This, probably more than anything else, is why there is such a strong consensus among scientists the world over concerning the basic facts and principles of evolution.
Like any good scientific theory, the theory of evolution is "falsifiable"—which simply means that it is possible to conceive of any number of different ways it could be proven to be false (and therefore rejected and discarded) if certain kinds of evidence (evidence fundamentally incompatible with the theory) were ever found. Any scientist will tell you that it is easy to make a list of things which, if they were ever found—whether in the fossil record, in the DNA of organisms, in the anatomy and patterns of development of living plants and animals, or even in the patterns of distribution of species on earth—would leave scientists no choice but to reject the theory of evolution as false. But in the more than 140 years since Darwin first proposed the basic theory of evolution, there have been innumerable scientific studies and experiments which have supported the theory of evolution, but there has never been a single shred of concrete evidence, in any field, which, from a scientific standpoint, raises any doubts about or calls into question the basic facts and fundamental principles of evolution. Not one. No wonder so many scientists consider that evolution is one of the "very best supported theories in all of science"!
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Following is an excerpt from The Science of Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters by Ardea Skybreak, published in 2006.
While human beings are one particular result of billions of years of step-wise biological evolution (and clearly not the special and independent Creation of a supernatural force or god), it is not the case that evolution was inevitably "bound" to "lead up to" the emergence of the human species. Populations of living organisms evolve through a complex combination and interplay of both "chance" and "necessity": first of all, random ("chance") factors such as mutations, recombinations and genetic drift, lead to a continual reshuffling of the deck of cards which makes up the total genetic variation in a population and which serves as the raw material of evolutionary change; but, then, on the basis of that randomly produced variation, natural selection proceeds to very much non-randomly sort out some of the resulting features of organisms in relation to the demands and challenges of a given external environment. This process can proceed for a time in a certain specific "direction," as when populations of organisms are becoming increasingly "adapted" to a certain set of environmental conditions. But it is important to realize that not all evolutionary modifications represent adaptations, that there are no permanent and "set" directions in the evolution of life, and that evolutionary trends and directions can change course (or even completely reverse themselves) as conditions change.
The Creationists like to say that evolutionists believe that all the different life-forms, including human beings, came about "purely by accident." But all this shows is that they don't understand that evolution comes about through a combination of both random and non-random factors: In the evolution of human beings or any other species, natural selection non-randomly "favored" certain step-by-step modifications (which happened to have emerged on the basis of random variation) whenever such a modification conferred a distinct reproductive advantage on individuals which had that new feature. This is the part of the evolutionary process which is not "accidental" (though it still doesn't involve any supernatural guidance or selection of any sort). But then again there were never any guarantees that any particular forms of genetic variation would arise in the first place; that they would not be extinguished almost as soon as they had emerged; or even that a given species as a whole would avoid extinction in a given external environment. In short, the evolution of human beings or any other life-form is not just the result of a series of "accidents" (though accidents do play an important role in evolution), but neither did it require, or involve, the intervention of any outside super-natural forces.
And, while human beings are definitely the product of natural biological evolution, evolution could just as easily not have led to the emergence of human beings at all!
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a Reader:
In response to a great letter in Revolution newspaper ["Call for Darwin Day Celebrations, February 12, 2014—A Letter from a Reader"] proposing Darwin Day celebrations in oppressed neighborhoods, the Revolution Club decided to celebrate with a presentation on evolution at a monthly fundraising picnic for BA Everywhere. Everyone in the club was excited about this, from someone who had read Ardea Skybreak’s book, The Science of Evolution and The Myth of Creationism: Knowing What’s Real and Why It Matters, to someone who had studied the pictures in the centerfold of that book and eagerly shared what she was learning with her friends, to a woman who didn’t know anything about evolution but was curious to learn, to a woman who had a firm educational grounding in the science of evolution and was horrified to discover that today this is contended in the schools instead of taught as fact.
A couple of people got together to write a flier to distribute widely to people in the neighborhood. It said in part, “Science answers the question: where did we come from? And when you understand, it opens up a whole new world for you. A whole different way of understanding things. And it’s a gateway to understanding a whole lot more. Basic things about the way the world works are kept hidden from us. With science we can understand the world and how it changes, including how we can be part of changing it. Science is not something just for a special group of people. It is not something we should be intimidated by. We’re all capable of understanding basic scientific facts and taking up a scientific method...Revolutionaries who are serious about changing the world, uphold and promote the scientific method and approach in everything that we do. We are building a movement for revolution based on the science of communism that has been further developed by Bob Avakian (BA) into a new synthesis of communism, including a strategy for revolution. This work and leadership shows how the world could be radically changed and how we can work and fight to change it. This is why we are raising big funds all across the country to popularize BA and his work.”
A two-person team from the Revolution Club went to a Black church with a progressive congregation. We talked with one younger member who had read Bob Avakian’s Away With All Gods! Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World some years ago and really liked it. We had a friendly but intense exchange with someone a little older who argued that science doesn’t encompass that people are spiritual. We read together with him quote 4:30 from BAsics, (that says in part, “Communism will not put an end to—nor somehow involve the suppression of—awe and wonder, the imagination, and ‘the need to be amazed.’”). After a discussion that involved a lot of struggle about the need for revolution to change the world in the interests of humanity (vs. people just changing things in their minds and resolving their suffering when they die and supposedly their spirits get freed), he came back to get a way to stay in touch and said he really liked that quote and wanted to find out more what this organization is about. We also talked to a newer member of the church who had been in prison for a long time. He started off incredulously, “You guys believe in evolution?!” But when we opened up The Science of Evolution book and read through the centerfold image showing myths and facts, he was very intrigued and said he was open-minded and would like to learn more about this.
On Darwin Day, a few days before the picnic, Revolution Books hosted a brief presentation and slideshow by a retired biologist. The audience was diverse, people of different backgrounds, some new to the bookstore, some in the Revolution Club, kids, older people, scientists, other revolutionaries. The biologist was great in his presentation and explanations, but the presentation was a little “in the middle of the story” for people who had never had any explanation of evolution before in their lives. We talked together after the presentation to help break things down for each other and passed around The Science of Evolution book so people could study the center pictures. There was also debate about religion, and what our orientation is towards people who are religious, understanding that all people are capable of a scientific method and struggling against what Bob Avakian has dubbed “the smug arrogance of the enlightened” (both in the form of looking down on people who are religious and in the form of avoiding ideological struggle over god and religion, faith-based vs. evidence-based approaches to understanding the world).
When the program was over, some of the Revolution Club members stuck around to meet with a physicist who had volunteered to be part of doing a presentation on evolution at the picnic. We pulled in one of the Revolution Books staffers who knows a lot about evolution and is eager to break it down to others and had already begun developing his own slideshow. We talked about the need to do a presentation that would be a basic introduction to the science of evolution and that breaks things down for people who have had no scientific training or education, and we used The Science of Evolution book and our collective knowledge of the questions we encounter when talking to people about evolution, to figure out what are the key things to get into and how.
To build for the picnic, a Revolution Club team went out to one of the high schools in the neighborhood and passed out fliers and talked with students after school. We got people to stop and engage by asking them if they think the world is OK the way it is or needs to be really different. For those who said they wanted to see a different world, we talked with them about how it is possible to change the world, but we need science to understand how and we need to raise money to get BA and his work known everywhere. Two Black students who stopped and talked for a couple minutes posed their questions in the course of the conversation: one said there are not enough people who want to change the world to be able to do anything about it, and the other wanted to know whether the movement for revolution is having an effect. We talked about these questions together and also about the science of evolution. The young woman said she had learned about evolution in school and learned that we have a common ancestry. The young guy had heard the term evolution in class, but didn’t remember learning anything about what it actually is. We also talked to a teacher’s aide who was glad to see us talking with the students about these kinds of questions and took extra fliers to give to a biology teacher he works with.
While the team was at the high school, one of the Revolution Club members who live in the neighborhood walked through the area passing out fliers on her own. When we all hooked up with each other, we went to a fast-food spot where students sometimes hang out after school and walked through talking to groups of students and others. One young guy said he didn’t believe in evolution, he believes in god and creation and at first he said he didn’t want to talk about it, because he would get too deeply into it. We told him it is good to get deep into things and debate and discuss these questions with others, it is part of how we all learn about reality, which we need to do so we can learn the basis for changing things and see the ways we can work to change things. He had some agreement that the world needs to be radically changed, so he was open a bit to going further with this conversation. We talked with him a little about evolution and showed him the center pictures in The Science of Evolution book. He didn’t say much, but was clearly surprised by what he saw there.
The next day, revolutionaries went out to a busy street corner where we regularly have a presence. We put up three beautiful color displays of enlargements of the pictures in The Science of Evolution book, as well as displays from the special issue of Revolution newspaper, “You Don’t Know What You Think You ‘Know About... The Communist Revolution...” and we had materials for the upcoming Day of Outrage and Remembrance on February 26. Everything we were doing there was controversial, with some people who consciously oppose the movement for revolution agitating to others not to engage us. Some religious people who love their belief in god more than they have a sense of fighting for justice, yelled out in opposition to what we were doing, and one guy was particularly incensed. A woman who was deeply moved that we were also speaking to the need to stand up and stop the murders of Black youth confronted him and agitated that people should be supporting and joining with this, not opposing it.
Young students, middle-school age, were upset to hear us say the world wasn’t created in seven days by god and shouted incredulously when the person talking to them said she didn’t believe in god. Meanwhile, a young Latino guy who was standing around waiting for the bus came over to see what all the fuss was about and looked at the evolution displays. He said, “This isn’t anything new here, right? I know about evolution, I don’t think god created everything.” We pointed to the controversy there to show the need to bring this understanding out to others who have been locked out of and prevented from learning about this. Many people came up to look at the displays, including a woman who took a picture of the display showing the similarities in embryos of different species and then pointed to an embryo of a bat and said, “That’s what I looked like before I was born.” An eight- or nine-year-old boy was curiously looking at the display with the human arm, wing of a bat, whale flipper, etc... homologous features showing common descent, when his father pulled him away and told him, “as long as you live under my roof, you are not getting into that!” and would not let his son take the flier. Others commented they believe the earth is billions of years old, and not what the bible says is thousands—but they acknowledged that many people aren’t very scientific about where we humans came from.
People who came to the picnic were members of the Revolution Club and the BA Everywhere Committee, together with a couple of newer people and some who were in the park and joined in. Some had never before heard an explanation of evolution. The presentation started with a sweeping view of 4.5 billion years of earth and the beginnings and then evolution of all life on earth. It was a very good presentation that drew the audience in and people jumped in comfortably with examples or comments or clarifications. It covered the descent from common ancestors, explained natural selection, and showed and discussed the evidence of evolution. It briefly touched on the evolution of human beings.
People commented afterwards that it was very interesting and they learned a lot. One person sincerely asked one of the presenters, “if we came from monkeys, why are there still monkeys?” Another person said she felt like she was on a tour in a natural history museum but this was explained much more clearly. Some people mingled in small groups to continue the discussion on evolution, and others formed a contingent and marched to a nearby busy intersection to demand justice for Jordan Davis in the aftermath of the mistrial and to build for February 26.
In reflecting on the experience, a revolutionary commented: “Darwin Day was out of the ‘politics as usual,’ I liked it. Communists think about everything, why shouldn’t the masses be able to? Thinking about things like this is part of making you whole—a human being. People have a thirst for understanding, but the system says, ‘This is not for you.’ We should have more things like Darwin Day. It was different, challenging people, full of curiosity and wonder, and an expression of striving for a different world and lifting people’s sights.”
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
A Shameful Move:
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
By a vote of 52 to 47, the U.S. Senate refused to confirm Debo Adegbile, President Obama’s pick to be head of the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division. Adegbile is currently a senior counsel on the staff of the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Before that, Adegbile was director of litigation at the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund (NAACP LDF). By traditional standards, he was eminently qualified for the post. On top of this, the Democratic majority in the Senate had recently changed the rules so as to require only a simple majority to confirm presidential appointments.
So what happened? Fascists, like the Fraternal Order of Police, launched virulent attacks on Adegbile’s nomination because, while litigation director of the NAACP LDF, he signed off on an appeal brief for the well-known African-American political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
But not only did fascists like the Fraternal Order of Police, and Texas senator Ted Cruz rail against Adegbile, his nomination was torpedoed by a number of Democrats who voted against him. Some prefaced their “no” votes with lame and hypocritical invocations of the right to a lawyer, but then pissed on that very principle. Democratic Senator Chris Coons of Delaware, for example, said “As a lawyer, I understand the importance of having legal advocates willing to fight for even the most despicable clients, and I embrace the proposition that an attorney is not responsible for the actions of their client.” But he said he had to oppose Adegbile because of the impact of what was actually a worldwide movement of millions to defend Mumia Abu-Jamal (which he called a movement “to elevate a heinous, cold-blooded killer to the status of a political prisoner and folk hero”) which Coons said had “shown great disrespect for law enforcement officers and families throughout our region.”
The NAACP LDF brief may have outraged “law enforcement officers,” but it argued that Abu-Jamal’s conviction and sentencing were unconstitutional because Black people were systematically excluded from the jury, and that the judge’s jury instructions, that led the jury to sentence Abu-Jamal to death, were improper and unconstitutional. That argument was upheld in significant part by an appeals court, which overturned Abu-Jamal’s death sentence.
When this kind of thing happens to a prominent attorney nominated for a Justice Department position, it sends a chilling message and has ominous implications for society as a whole. When it happens with the active, virulent participation of a significant number of Democratic senators, it sends a message about the harm that comes from relying on the Democrats to stand up for even the rights supposedly protected by the U.S. Constitution. And when something like this happens, it should impel people who want a world where dissent, and the legal rights of the accused are protected to look WAY beyond the “alternatives” of the Democrats and Republicans and the system they both serve and enforce.
Revolution #332 March 16, 2014
March 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On March 3, McConaughey won the Oscar at the 2014 Academy Awards for best leading actor in the film Dallas Buyers Club.
Jared Leto also won an Oscar for his role in the movie—a stirring true story of people going up against the medical establishment and society to fight for the right of AIDS patients to access medical treatment. Leto dedicated his award in part to "36 million people who have lost their life to AIDS."
But McConaughey said:
"Now, first off, I want to thank God. 'Cause that's who I look up to. He has graced my life with opportunities that I know are not of my hand or any other human hand."
First, why is your life, Matthew McConaughey, more important than the billions of people around the world who suffer unnecessarily from poverty, war, rape and brutalization of women, and the persecution of LGBT people and millions of AIDS victims?
And, if in fact there was a god, a supposedly all-powerful being who can orchestrate an Oscar award for Matthew McConaughey while allowing millions to die of AIDS, what kind of god would that be? He would be a sadistic force for bigotry, unnecessary suffering and persecution with a bizarre obsession with the career of one actor.
It's a damn good thing God doesn't exist, and that all this bigotry and ignorance about AIDS is a product of a system—a system that can be overthrown.