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Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On April 5, thousands of demonstrators in more than 50 cities held marches, rallies, press conferences, vigils, launched hunger strikes, and more, declaring "Two Million, Too Many;" and demanding "Not 1 More Deportation!"
This National Day of Action—called for by the National Day Laborer Organizing Network (NDLON), together with many other immigrant rights organizations, religious leaders, and others—was timed to coincide with the two millionth deportation carried out in Barack Obama's six years as president. This figure, amounting to 1,100 deportations every day, is not just a record; it is greater than all the people deported from the U.S. before 1997.
Behind the numbers lie the devastated lives of millions of immigrants, with parents torn from their children in record numbers, reminiscent of what was done to slaves during slavery. People driven to this country by the devastation of their homelands carried out by the U.S.-dominated global economy, whose back-breaking work under dangerous and unhealthy conditions has helped lay the foundation for the richest country in the world, are demonized as parasites, forced to live in the shadows, hunted and hounded with targets on their backs. Millions of people face the constant fear of being ripped off and shipped across a border for a traffic ticket or an open can of beer.
In Arizona, demonstrators walked 60 miles over three days from Phoenix to Elroy, where more than 100 people came together in front of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention center, which holds undocumented immigrants awaiting deportation. Many protesters had relatives inside the detention center, including a woman whose son has been held for nearly three years, and another woman who was arrested at her work and held for two months before being released.
In San Francisco on April 4, a protest and rally "snarl[ed] downtown SF" (according to the San Francisco Bay Guardian); 23 demonstrators were arrested after they sat down in the intersection of Sutter and Montgomery Streets. Those arrested included undocumented students as well as clergy from the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights.
At the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, protesters marched and rallied, scores of them children, wives, and mothers of loved ones inside who had carried out a weeks-long hunger strike against intolerable conditions. (For more on their hunger strike, see the call by Carl Dix at revcom.us: "Support Detainees Putting Their Lives on the Line.")
In Connecticut, families fighting deportation drove in a caravan passing through 11 cities, including New Haven, holding rallies demanding a stop to deportations.
An estimated 250 protesters in Washington, D.C. marched to a park that flanks the White House, carrying signs labeling Obama "Deporter in Chief," and announcing an ongoing, indefinite presence at the White House.
There were demonstrations as well in New York City; Newark, New Jersey; Chicago; Los Angeles; Orange County, California; San Diego; New Orleans; Atlanta; Nashville; Birmingham; and many, many more.
For months leading up to the April 5 National Day of Action, the #Not1More Deportation campaign had been escalating its resistance to deportations, carrying out acts of civil disobedience and taking bold and courageous new forms, such as:
These protesters, led especially by undocumented youth and students, have shown great courage by publicly announcing their undocumented status, thus risking their own deportation, in a battle to stop the deportations completely. And in doing so they are drawing attention to the human toll that this continued, massive level of deportations is taking on the estimated 11 million plus undocumented immigrants in this country. Their struggle demands the support and active participation of people everywhere sickened by this system's treatment of people whose only "crime" is to escape countries where the economies and societies are distorted and in many cases ruined by imperialist penetration, and to cross the border without official papers in search of work so they and their families can survive.
This outbreak of protest also comes at a time when immigrant detainees—including in Washington State, Arizona, Illinois, California, Virginia, and Texas—have waged hunger strikes protesting the barbaric conditions in which they are held, demanding that Obama sign an executive order halting deportations until the U.S. immigration system is overhauled. (See "Support Detainees Putting Their Lives on the Line.")
For a number of the youth taking part in the April 5 actions, this was the first protest in which they had ever participated. At the rally in Los Angeles, a group of three high school students told Revolution of their own experiences. One young man described what it was like, at age 14, to have first his mother and then his father deported within a span of three months, both for having traffic tickets. He told how his 17-year-old sister was forced to give up school and get a job to support the two of them plus a younger brother. Since then the three have been supporting themselves in a small studio apartment. He said, "I feel like I don't want nobody to go through the same thing, especially if they're young; really, separating families is something horrible." Another one of the high school students told how his grandfather, here in the U.S. since he was 16, was deported back to Peru at age 67, with no way of supporting himself there. And the third youth told of his aunt who was deported, and the effect it had on his cousins. (See "High School Students Speak Out About Mass Deportations: 'It's unfair, it's not right... it's wrong'" for more from these young voices.)
These kinds of stories have been pouring out as more and more people are sharing their experiences. The New York Times recently described a scene in Painesville, Ohio, where several dozen immigrant families come together regularly to talk about how to help loved ones facing deportation or who have been deported. "The stories spill out so fast, and they all seem to share the same general narrative arc—immigrant drives through red or yellow light, police officer asks for driver's license, immigrant lands in Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody, children reel from uncertainty."
But it's even worse; five people in Painesville had fathers who were deported, and two of the men died in the Arizona desert trying to get back to their families. And then there's the story of 11-year-old Arlette Rocha, who in April 2010 was found hanging from the stairway at her home in Ashtabula, Ohio; she had committed suicide. Eight months earlier her father had been deported to Mexico; her mother had to take a night job, leaving Arlette to take care of her three younger siblings.
As you listen, the cruelty and intolerableness of all of this is shocking. People are being systematically vilified, criminalized, and subjected to the blatant violation of basic legal rights, like due process. People are constantly living in fear of being deported, constantly vulnerable to the most vicious exploitation. At the same time, the rest of the population is encouraged to ignore what's taking place and go on about their business, or even to demand more and worse under the banner of "defending the American way of life" or "national security."
In BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, Bob Avakian describes the experience of immigrant families being ripped apart, the terror of children coming home from school to an empty house, only to learn that their parents have been deported to a country these children have never been to and know nothing about. And he says this calls to mind for him slavery days for Black people. The slave owners had absolutely no respect for the humanity of the slaves, including their families. They would repeatedly sell little children out from underneath their parents to another slave owner, somewhere else in the South, if it were more profitable to do so. The tears of the mothers and fathers meant nothing to them.
This human toll is what is fueling the #Not1More Deportation campaign, which is calling on Obama to stop all deportations; to end the Secure Communities deportation program; and to stop the enforcement of all immigration (ICE) holds. Secure Communities, started in 2008, makes state, county, and local police forces extensions of ICE's immigration enforcement, requiring them to immediately turn over to ICE the fingerprints of every person taken into custody. ICE can then order an immigration hold, meaning that whatever the reason for the initial stop, something as minor as a traffic violation or for no legitimate reason at all, an immigrant can be ordered held in custody until ICE takes him or her to a detention center to await deportation. Under Obama and (then) Department of Homeland Security Chief Janet Napolitano, Secure Communities has now integrated law enforcement around the country, at every level, into a systematic immigrant monitoring system.
Obama has defended himself against these charges by saying his deportation policies have been more "humane;" that his government is going after "criminals, gang bangers, people who are hurting the community, not after students, not after folks who are here just because they're trying to figure out how to feed their families."
Even if that were the case, in the situation in the U.S. today, with the widespread terror and vilification of immigrants, this is analogous to the Nazis saying "We're not rounding up all the Jews, just the bad ones." But it is not the case. In an April 6 article, the New York Times reported that an analysis it did of internal government records shows that "since President Obama took office, two-thirds of the nearly two million deportation cases involve people who had committed minor infractions, including traffic violations, or had no criminal record at all." In contrast, the records showed that only "Twenty percent—or about 394,000—of the cases involved people convicted of serious crimes, including drug-related offenses."
The Times analysis found that deportations involving undocumented immigrants whose most serious offense was a traffic violation quadrupled from 43,000 per year during George W. Bush's last five years to 193,000 per year during the first five years under Obama. And during that same period, people deported after being convicted for entering or re-entering the country without papers tripled under Obama, to more than 188,000.
At one time it was common for people picked up crossing the border without papers to be handled by informal removal; returning people to the other side of the border without charges. That practice has now been replaced by the prosecution in federal court of nearly every person caught entering or re-entering the country. A program called "Operation Streamline" was started by the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice in 2005 to establish "zero-tolerance" immigration enforcement zones along the U.S-Mexico border. This program has led to so many immigration prosecutions that it has made "illegal re-entry" the most-commonly filed federal charge.
Operation Streamline has created a system of fast-track prosecutions, with group hearings where as many as 80 undocumented immigrants can go from arrest to conviction and jail for up to six months—in less than a day. One federal judge hears up to 80 cases from beginning to end each day. Public defenders may represent dozens of clients at a time, meeting with each one for only a few minutes before their court appearance. What this will mean for them is that attempting to re-enter the country will land them in prison. A criminal defense lawyer and immigration activist in Tucson said, "I'm just appalled...This program is endangering our very justice system." (Washington Post, February 10, 2014)
The demand to stop deportations has taken hold in part because of a growing sense of frustration and betrayal by people who have been told since 2008 by Obama and the Democrats, and those who are invested in the illusion that working through those channels can bring about anything good, that "Comprehensive Immigration Reform" is possible; that it would enable people who have been living and working in the U.S. for some time to gain legal status and provide a pathway to citizenship, and that they just needed to "chill," to not do anything that would make it harder for Obama to negotiate—meaning to conciliate and compromise—with the most reactionary section of the Republican Party.
As the years have gone by, frustration has turned to anger and pressure has mounted, as relief from these intolerable conditions that Obama promised to fight for is nowhere in sight. In 2012, Obama issued an Executive Order to stay (put off) the deportation of some of the undocumented immigrants who were brought to this country by their parents when they were children. But these youth continue to live under constant fear of coming home to find that their parents or other relatives and friends have been apprehended and deported. Today they are fighting for significant, substantive relief for the undocumented as a whole. They believe their demands are reasonable and just, that all undocumented immigrants must have the threat of deportation lifted just as it has been for them, and that the promised "comprehensive immigration reform" must provide a path to citizenship.
The executive director of the Center for Community Change, quoted by the New York Times, said: "We assumed that a Democratic president who wanted to move immigration reform would not pursue a strategy of deporting the people who he was intent on legalizing. That was a totally wrong assumption. And there is a lot of anger about that."
What we're seeing is the intensification of contradictions around an extremely volatile issue, one that is fundamental to the continued cohesion of this country and for which the rulers of this country have no solution. Leading figures on both sides of the debate recognize the potential volatility and danger to the entire political and economic system of U.S. capitalism-imperialism if they don't revamp the federal laws and policies meant to manage immigrants and control the U.S.'s borders. And yet this system's driving need for this extremely exploitable population makes their continued presence essential.
As Revolution wrote last May, in describing proposed federal legislation put forward by a group of top Republicans and Democrats in Congress and endorsed by Obama, 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")
And the House Republicans' "Standards for Immigration Reform," released to coincide with Obama's State of the Union address at the end of January 2014, is qualitatively worse.
Meanwhile, the increasing terror facing more than 11 million people in this country, together with the growing atmosphere of bigotry and hatred toward immigrants being fanned by fascist movements like the Tea Party—backed by a significant section of the ruling class—is creating a polarization that could burst open in different, unpredictable ways.
It is inspiring to see immigrants stepping forward in such a courageous way. And it is our responsibility to stand with them. In this situation, what everyone does who cares about basic justice and humanity, and about what future will be brought into being, is extremely important. The movement that is growing in support of the demand to stop deportations deserves the support of everyone; this is a just demand and a just struggle, with very high stakes. To paraphrase the Neville Brothers: "That's our blood down there."
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A Revolution correspondent interviewed three high school students at the April 5 “Not1More Deportation” rally at LA City Hall. What follows are excerpts.
Alex: I’m from LA, near Hollywood. I’m out here for the first time. We were discussing civil disobedience in class, and we thought it would be a good experience to come down to a rally and experience it first hand.
Also down here is a friend of mine; his parents were deported three years ago so we’re here in support.
Juan: It was around 9th grade when my mom and my dad got deported, because of a violation, a ticket. They just took them away. My mom had a ticket, a traffic ticket. While she was in the car, when they saw her they took her away. She called me from jail telling me they were going to send her away. Then my dad called me three months later. He started driving the car. And for the same reason, they got him, and they took him away as well.
So my sister, who was 17 and I was 14, she didn’t have a job, so she had to quit college... she gave up all her studies just to go work. And since then she’s been working at the same job and helping support me and my little brother. We stay in a small little studio apartment, the three of us. I don’t know the city where my parents are, but they’re both in Mexico. They’re originally from Sinaloa. They told me they went somewhere else because right there, right now, it’s dangerous—the cartels, and all the drug trafficking and all.
I feel like I don’t want nobody to go through the same thing, especially if they’re young. Really, separating families is something horrible, because not only do you lose your parents, but you also lose your train of thought... It’s not a good experience to go through, and I’m here to stop it.
Revolution: How do you feel about the demand “Not 1 More Deportation”?
Juan: That’s good because I know we’re not the only ones trying to stop it, it’s all around the world; and sooner or later they’re going to have to hear from us, because that’s what the Constitution is, it’s for the people...
Revolution: Are they taking it up in school?
Juan: Yeah, in our English class, it’s our topic, they’re taking it up everywhere. Our teacher told every one of his students to come here, and to protest. So there’s some classmates here right now.
Alex: Yeah, I’m here also because I had my grandfather... about four years ago, he was a construction worker, so he was working, I guess. They were missing a certain piece of his paperwork. They looked into it and saw that he was undocumented, so my grandma calls me one day in the middle of the night telling me that my grandfather was taken from the house and that he was deported. Right now he’s living in Lima, Peru, where he’s originally from.
He came when he was maybe 16, and it took them this long to finally notice. But even then, the fact that he’d been here this long, I don’t know why it should matter. He’s 67. I obviously see it as unfair. Right now we’re going through lawyers, to see if we can get him back here; because where he is now, he gave up everything over there, for a chance here, he was doing fine. And now that he’s gone back he has nothing left to go to, so he’s barely able to keep himself together.
Third student: I’m showing support for the same reason as them... My cousins, they were here already, they got separated from my aunt when they were younger... She was deported to Honduras, she’s not really from Mexico. So the effect’s the same. And I’ve always been a big part of trying to stop the separation of families... Obama should change his tune—it doesn’t seem as though he really wants to.
Alex: Six years ago, my mother’s fiancé came to the U.S., looking for opportunities because he had family here. So coming here was, just whatever he had in his backpack, and the clothes on his back. He found a way to make a living. He found a spot with a welding company... He told this story, one day, that on his way here, he came with friends, but they were separated because people were being checked on top of buses and trains, of how they were arriving here. They were coming from Honduras. He was halfway through El Salvador when they were checking on top of trains, and they had to run. So they separated, his backpack gone, having nothing, somehow found his way here. He went into hiding for a while, and as soon as he saw the train going he got back on the train. He said that there were hundreds of people, mainly mothers with kids, traveling here, on the tops of the trains, finding any way they could to get here, to the U.S. And there were certain checkpoints where people were being stopped and asked if they even had papers in general. He said 70 percent or 80 percent did not make it. He was one of the lucky 20 percent or so who made it here to the U.S. He said he seen people being dragged away, taken away, in vans, taken back to certain detention, where they’re kept....
I was born here, so I really don’t know what it’s like to be separated from your family, at a very early age; having to run, just to have an opportunity here. It’s very, very sad, it’s devastating, to see what people go through just to have an opportunity here. And having to see that Obama has to deport all these people, and it’s unfair, it’s not right. Honestly, it’s wrong. It’s wrong... In today’s world, Obama has to be open-minded to the fact that immigrants come here for a reason—come here for jobs, opportunities, for a better life. There’s a reason they escape from where they’re coming from. And for him just to send them back, it’s just wrong....
I always ask myself, to what extent do we have to go in order for Obama to get the message, that we’re here for a reason, we’re here to raise our voices to this cause?... They can’t ignore it for long. We’re not going anywhere. We’re gonna be here. You get rid of a thousand, there’s gonna be another thousand to replace them. It’s a movement that’s not going to stop. Our numbers are vast, we’re large....
I go to church every Sunday, with my mom. I pass skid row every Sunday. I don’t like to see that—hundreds, maybe more, of African-Americans line the streets, given the worst that could possibly be given anybody.... Honestly I don’t see how that’s fair to anyone. We pass by it like nothing is there. It’s wrong. My mom works for a company, one of the main contributors has a son who created a foundation where he helps give back to those people. That is a good example of what we should be doing—helping those who have nothing, or maybe even less than nothing. I’ve been living in this city since I was three. Never, ever, have I seen anybody, an official, anybody in LA, as far as the president, do anything about it. Personally I’m trying to start a foundation of charity where I could help raise money for them, for the people who are down there, barely able to survive. This city has very extreme weather, very extreme things. And for them to endure it with nothing to help them, no one to guide them, no way to defend themselves is very, very terrifying; it’s very sad.
I have a film class, where I go to now, so I decided to do a short five-minute film where I interviewed a family there. I was interviewing an older man, his wife, and his 21-year-old daughter, who is currently attending, if I am correct, USC. She’s working, living on the street, but she still goes to school. And she tells me how hard it is to see that her parents, who gave her everything, who have given up more than they had to put her through school. I was interviewing them, and they told me how hard it is. They’ve gone through almost two winters now, having to spend their time there. The shelters that are built around, they can’t fit everyone there. So not everyone gets... even so much as a blanket, proper clothes to keep them warm. I’ve seen people get sick over the terrible conditions that have put them on the street in the first place....
For the first two years of my life, my father was not around—I lived in a border town. I had nothing for the first two years of my life. I was living in a car with my mom. My aunt found us there, gave me a proper home, put clothes on my back. I thought I had it rough until I started coming to church and seen what they had. These people have been living there for years. And they’re still stuck in the very same place that they’ve been for the past three or four years or more. I don’t see how you could profit off of this and not feel guilty about it.
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
Atlanta, April 5:
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
As part of the April 5 national mobilization against deportations (see "April 5 Marches and Protests Across the U.S. Demand: Two Million, Too Many, "Not 1 More Deportation!"), a unity rally of 400 people, mostly Latinos, took place at the Georgia State Capital in Atlanta called, "Walk with Us to Stop Deportation, and Expand Deferred Action for All." Some came from rural areas in south Georgia encompassing the area around the Stewart Detention Center, one of the largest in the country for immigrants awaiting deportation. Others came from Dalton in north Georgia, which has been one of the largest centers for carpet manufacturers in the country, employing thousands of Latinos in years past. There were a number of speeches in Spanish. The urgency felt by people for immediate change was apparent on a number of banners, both professionally made and handmade signs, some reflecting the theme of the demonstrations planned in more than 50 cities: "Not 1 More Deportation, Deferred Action for All," "2 Million Too Many," and "Obama, Yes You Can." What we did not see was a sign reading "Deporter-in-Chief," popularized recently by the National Council of La Raza, one of the country's pre-eminent Latino organizations.
Soon after the rally, the people set out on a march to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) court and detention facility eight blocks away from the Capitol in downtown Atlanta. The demonstrators stretched out for 200 yards, surrounding half the building for about an hour. A very dramatic culmination to the day came when agitators on bullhorns urged well over 100 participants—who carried posters with the names of various friends and family incarcerated awaiting deportation—to pin them to the fence. This was done en masse and brought out a defiant cheer from the crowd.
Hundreds of palm cards promoting BAsics quote 1:14 were distributed: "Now I can just hear these reactionary fools saying, 'Well Bob, answer me this. If this country is so terrible, why do people come here from all over the world? Why are so many people trying to get in, not get out?'...Why? I'll tell you why. Because you have fucked up the rest of the world even worse than what you have done in this country. You have made it impossible for many people to live in their own countries as part of gaining your riches and power."
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
BA Everywhere: April 2014
April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This is a moment when, if you have your eyes open to the world, the stark reality of the wanton destruction of the planet—its air, water, climate, and all the forms of life that inhabit it—stands out as so big, so criminal, so outrageously dangerous, that you just want to scream. Such is the case with the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report issued during the last week of March (see "New UN Climate Panel Report: This Criminal System Is Destroying Our Planet!"). Wrap your mind around global warming—what it means right now and where it is leading: food and water crises, the drowning of entire island nations and of once fertile deltas that are home to hundreds of millions of people; millions and millions of people with no locally available drinkable water; massive food scarcity pitting regions of people against each other; major coastal cities in the developed world such as New York, Miami, Boston facing rising oceans that will make disasters like the flooded subways of NYC during Hurricane Sandy or the submerged Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina, the norm. All while the rich biodiversity of the planet may be irreversibly endangered with increasing numbers of species becoming extinct and the natural environment being destroyed at staggering rates.
Scientists have sounded the alarm. Students and concerned people have been speaking out and protesting. Hundreds have been committing civil disobedience—getting arrested trying to put a halt to fracking, to tar sands oil production and its associated pipelines, to name just a couple of the battles that people have been taking up to prevent the destruction of one or another part of our environment. With the UN report now public, the stakes are sharply defined. Climate change that is now causing great harm is moving in increasingly devastating ways toward great catastrophe. And there will be no break from this destructive course, unless there is a radically different approach—a fundamental change away from this profit-driven capitalist-imperialist system whose lifeline is fossil fuels—a radically different system and society that could unleash and unfetter the creativity and conscious activism of hundreds of millions of people to tackle this life-and-death problem for the Earth.
Right now, tens of thousands of people of all ages are being awakened, with many here in the U.S. and around the world acting in different ways to protect the environment. Millions more have their attention on this right now. April 22 is Earth Day—a day when for several decades people have gathered in different ways to take up issues of ecology and the environment. This year, the stakes and necessity of doing so are underlined throughout the world.
All those who recognize the urgency, who are now committing time and money to address saving the environment, need to be able to learn about, discuss, and debate the revolutionary solution to this and all the other forms of suffering that this system brings down on people—a way forward for humanity that is concentrated in the new synthesis of communism developed by the revolutionary leader, Bob Avakian—BA. It is this terrain—with these literally life-and-death questions for the future of the planet at stake—that the multifaceted mass fundraising campaign, BA Everywhere, needs to impact this month.
BA has developed a vision and framework for a radically new state power that will unleash the collective creativity of the people to overcome all forms of oppression and exploitation and will have, as a fundamental principle governing the development of the economy, "protecting, preserving, and enhancing the ecosystems and biodiversity of the planet for current and future generations."1 This requires revolution. And BA has developed a strategy for this revolution.
All of the people whose eyes are being opened, who are outraged at the lack of any serious comprehensive action by those who rule this profit-driven system that could really save the planet, need to be given an opportunity to donate financially and contribute in other ways to getting BA, and the revolutionary vision and strategy he has brought forward, known throughout society.
This is a moment, a month, to reach out to scientists, teachers, environmentalists, students, and many more with the full vision and understanding of the system that underlies all the problems humanity faces, with the liberating way forward, and to find the ways to involve them in the BA Everywhere campaign. BA begins his message on New Year's Day 2014 with this:
"We need a new world, a radically different world.
"Look at the world today. Destruction of the environment. Youth in the inner cities robbed of a future, 'presumed guilty' for being Black or Brown, hounded and shot down by police, incarcerated in huge numbers. Women raped, battered and murdered, denied their basic humanity and their full potential as human beings. People scorned, bullied, brutalized for being gay, or just being 'different.' Millions of children dying every year from starvation and disease. Immigrants driven from their homelands, forced into the shadows, exploited, deported, ripped away from their children. Slaughter and enslavement in the name of one god or another. Wars, torture, and massive government spying.
"Things are this way because of the system that rules over us and declares its 'special right' to rule the world. A system like this is a system that no one should put up with or go along with. It needs to be swept off the face of the earth. And it can be."
And BA has developed a vision and viable framework for this new society. Building on the overwhelmingly liberating experiences of the first socialist revolutions while learning deeply from their shortcomings, he has brought forward a new synthesis of communism that charts a path so that revolutions in the 21st century can do even better. The new socialist state would be working to overcome and dig up the roots of all the forms of exploitation and savage inequality that people suffer today; where no more would wars of plunder and subjugation of nations and cultures be aimed at the people of the world; and where a new constitution would require safeguarding the environment. This would be carried forward in a legal framework and societal atmosphere that gives great scope to intellectual work, ferment, and dissent so that people from every section of society, including those formerly locked out of the realms of intellectual (and scientific) life could consciously and collectively strive for a world where all humanity could flourish.
People concerned about the future of sustainable life on this planet need to know about this. With life hanging in the balance, doesn't this radical way out need to be discussed and debated everywhere? People can be won to see and to donate funds so that this can happen on a societal level.
And there is a lot to get into about why and how a total revolution is necessary for there to be a sustainable future. Capitalism cannot and will not reverse global warming or save the planet. The relentless drive to maximize profits—each capitalist up against competing capitalists, driven by the imperative to expand or die—is the underlying dynamic that prevents the capitalists and their governments from taking any meaningful action on climate change for fear of losing advantage and being wiped out.
In a new revolutionary socialist society, the economy will be governed by planned and rational production—and by the deployment of society's skills, resources, and capabilities—to serve what is useful and important for the betterment of world humanity including protecting the rich biodiversity and sustainability of the Earth.
This month BA Everywhere is calling for all who want to see this society-wide conversation about problem and solution to go out and meet all kinds of people who are concerned about the environment and to set up appointments, hold impromptu discussions (on campuses, in neighborhoods, or at lunch at work), and involve them in the campaign, donating and raising funds and raising consciousness. So that people are finding out about Bob Avakian, digging into what he has brought forward, learning about what the first socialist revolutions in the 20th century were about, and especially digging into the vision and strategy for fundamental change today that BA has developed. There should be lots of lively struggle over what is the root cause of all of this and why revolution is the solution.
The BA Everywhere campaign should be stepping to people with an appreciation of the work and concern people have for saving the planet and all its species, going into the deep roots of why this system does what it does and how revolution could change all that—comparing and contrasting, even struggling at times quite sharply, for why a revolutionary socialist society moving towards a communist world could really save the planet. Many taking up the campaign may not themselves know that much about the science of this yet, but still could watch the clip from BA's 2003 Revolution talk, "Not fit caretakers of the earth," and get into what he is saying there together with the people they are meeting with. And, we can also bring people the special issue of Revolution, State of EMERGENCY! The Plunder of Our Planet, The Environmental Catastrophe & The Real Revolutionary Solution, as well as the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), so that people can get into this themselves.
This should be a month where the campaign is sitting down with many, many people asking them to donate. There should be a sense of urgent mission to really reach out to the science departments at universities, to high school science teachers, to the board members and people active in local and national environmental organizations, nature conservancies, natural history museums, to bring them the full picture of the BA Everywhere campaign and to give them an opportunity to make a real difference by contributing so that this is known everywhere.
At the same time, these are not the only people and places that the campaign should reach this month. BA Everywhere is the leading edge of an entire movement for revolution—a whole strategic process through which people from a wide range of experiences and struggles are coming to understand the problem and solution and are being organized in different dimensions of the movement for revolution with the Party being built as its leading core. The environmental thematic focus of the campaign this month, the urgency of the UN report, and Earth Day on April 22 provide an important opportunity to deepen the understanding of the whole movement for revolution and the diverse breadth of people it impacts, of the necessity of revolution to quite literally save the planet—how the new society and state brought into being through revolution would deal with meeting the needs of humanity, overcoming all the inequalities, in a way that sustains and protects the environment and all the Earth's species. Making these connections will ideologically strengthen the movement for revolution and in turn change how people more broadly are thinking. At the same time, this should inspire people to become even more committed to raising the funds needed so that BA becomes a household word.
To sum up a few points for the campaign this month: The urgency of the rapidly developing environmental crisis, especially climate change, gives rise to great necessity as well as opens opportunities to reach out to and raise funds from a whole section of people who are on the front lines of and/or are deeply concerned about the environment, so that the vision and strategy for a whole new society is known and debated through people finding out about and digging into BA and his work. This involves the BA Everywhere campaign and the movement for revolution as a whole not just making plans for Earth Day on April 22, but getting out all month with the campaign—and not only among those who are active around environmental issues, but among all who are acting to resist the crimes of this system in various ways. BA Everywhere committees and everyone else who wants to take this up should send in their plans this week to email@example.com
At the same time, there should be exciting plans to make an impact at the diversity of events on Earth Day as well as on campuses and in neighborhoods on that day. Right now, while funds overwhelmingly should be raised for the BA Everywhere campaign overall, with funds going to one of the three entities listed on the donate page of the website, BAE committees should go to a few donors to raise specific funds for printing materials and other expenses that will be incurred on and around Earth Day.
This system is destroying the Earth and the rich diversity of life that inhabits it. This is a crime of towering proportions. There is another way: revolution to bring into being a new society and world that truly emancipates humanity and that can unleash the creativity of millions to work together to urgently save the planet. Raising funds for and bringing to people the work and vision of BA is a key part of bringing that world into being.
The action—and the inaction—of those who rule this system in pursuit of accumulating more and more profit is devastating the Earth. It is up to us to change the whole system through a liberating revolution. To open up this potential requires, as a leading and pivotal step, building the movement for revolution now, involving lots of people in raising funds to change the whole political atmosphere, so that broadly people are discussing and debating really fundamental questions of why the world is the way it is and how it can be fundamentally changed. Getting BA Everywhere opens this potential.
1. From the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), 2010, published by the RCP, USA. Page 79. [back]
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
To all who are taking up the BA Everywhere Campaign:
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
To BA Everywhere Committees and those of you who are new to raising funds for BA Everywhere: As we reach out in April to all the people who recognize the urgency of the environmental emergency and are committing their time and resources to address this, here are a few points.
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
"Abortion rights are in a state of emergency, and headed for disaster. Already, women in this country who cannot access safe abortions are attempting to self-abort by inserting sharp objects in their vaginas, taking pills, asking their boyfriends to beat them up, and more. Others are being forced to bear children they do not want. This is the future for women everywhere if this war on women is not massively resisted and defeated.
"WE MUST ACT TO STOP THIS NOW!
"Forcing women to have children against their will is a form of enslavement. Abortion On Demand and Without Apology."
On Friday, April 11, a gathering in New York City brought alive the voices of women around abortion, highlighted the struggles of those who risk their lives to provide abortions, and dug into what is behind the war on women. This event was webcast live, and the video is available at right.
The next day, people in different cities took up the call from StopPatriarchy.org to "Raise bloody coat-hangers and break the shackles of women's enslavement." There were protests at institutions behind this war on women: Crisis Pregnancy Centers (anti-abortion "fake" clinics), churches that mobilize anti-abortion protests, etc. (Wire coat-hangers were used by many women as an instrument to self-abort when abortion was illegal. More than 5,000 women a year were estimated to have died every year from unsafe, illegal abortions before Roe v. Wade legalized abortion.) The Pledge to Defend Abortion Rights and Defeat the War on Women was read by groups of people at these actions.
Here are scenes from some of these protests. More coverage will be coming.
For updated reports on April 11-12 and next steps, go to the End Pornography and Patriarchy: the Enslavement and Degradation of Women page at revcom.us and to StopPatriarchy.org.
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This pledge was read aloud as part of the April 11-12 emergency actions to defend abortion rights:
We affirm that women are full human beings with the moral, ethical and legal right to decide when to be mothers.
We reject the view that a woman's highest purpose is to bear children, even those she does not want or cannot care for.
We stand united against the escalating violence and degradation of women all over the world and demand unfettered access to birth control and abortion services for women and girls.
We refuse to be silent as these rights are diminished and obliterated through terror, stigma, fear and shame.
We are here today in the memory of all those who died and were butchered in the attempt to exercise reproductive freedom.
We are here to testify and sound the alarm to the millions that need the courage to step forth with strength, purpose and power.
We are here to support the courageous providers of abortion who will be alone if we do not defend and replenish them...
And we are here in support of women everywhere who will be enslaved to forced motherhood if we ourselves do not take the responsibility to turn this tide.
Not sometime in the future, but now.
We pledge resistance—to defy fear, to shatter silence, and to break down the isolation. We refuse to wait for politicians or courts to make our will known. We pledge to raise our voices and to fill the streets, to make art and wage protest, to defend doctors and assist women, to change hearts and enlighten minds. We pledge to call forth thousands and soon millions to join us until we have STOPPED these attacks and DEFEATED this war.
NO MORE women denied the right to dream, the right to live, the right to love, the right to decide for themselves. WE WILL RESIST.
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
This call appeared on the Stop Mass Incarceration Network website:
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
For 2 generations, Black and Latina/Latino youth in the U.S. have been shipped off to prison in numbers never before seen anywhere in the world at any time. More than 2 million people, of all nationalities languish in prison—ten times the number 50 years ago. The U.S. has 5% of the world’s population but 25% of the world’s prison population! More than 60% of those in U.S. prisons are Black or Latina/o. 32% of Black men between the ages of 20 and 29 are in prison or on parole or probation on any given day. More than 80,000 people in prison are held in solitary confinement under conditions that fit the international definition of torture.
The incarceration of women has increased by 800% over the last 30 years. They, along with those whose sexual orientation is not “mainstream” or who are gender non-conforming—lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex prisoners—face extremely harsh and abusive treatment in prison, including widespread rape. Alongside this has risen a massive program of criminally prosecuting undocumented immigrants, essentially hidden from public view. As a result of the devastation of their homelands, these immigrants have been driven to this country to work without papers, and today they are being criminalized. The U.S. chastises other countries for human rights violations, yet it enmeshes the lives of tens of millions of people in its criminal “injustice” system. The courts, cops, prisons and La Migra all play a part in enforcing mass incarceration. There are genocidal aspects and a genocidal logic to this program, and it has been gathering momentum. All this is intolerable, and, if it isn’t stopped, it will get much worse!
Mass incarceration has grown beside the criminalization of whole peoples; a situation in which every African-American or Latina/o is a permanent suspect—treated as guilty until proven innocent by police and racist vigilantes, if they can survive to prove their innocence. This is especially concentrated among the youth, starting with cops in schools, arresting children for things that used to mean a visit to the principal’s office at worse, putting youth on a trajectory from school to prison. Black and Latina/o youth have a target on their backs in this society. Literally tens of millions of lives have been scarred and worse—both the direct victims and their families and communities. People who heroically resisted these and other injustices have been imprisoned, some of them for decades. These political prisoners must be freed.
The malignancy of mass incarceration did not arise from a sudden epidemic of crime. Nor did it result from people making poor personal choices. Instead it arose from cold political calculations made in response to the massive and heroic struggle for the rights of Black and other minority peoples that took place in the 1960’s and 70’s, and in response to the enormous economic and social changes brought about by globalized production. This cancer of mass incarceration has been, from the beginning, nothing but a new Jim Crow in place of the old one. Like the old Jim Crow, it drew on, fed off and reinforced the deep-seated roots of the racism that grew up with slavery. Like the old Jim Crow, it has been, from the beginning, unjustifiable, utterly immoral and thoroughly illegitimate.
This must stop—NOW! Not the next generation, not in ten years, not any time off in some promised future that never seems to come. NOW!
But it will not stop unless and until millions of people, of all nationalities, stand up and say NO MORE, in unmistakable terms. The history of this and every other country shows that without struggle, there can be no positive change; but with struggle this kind of change becomes possible.
It is not enough to oppose this in the privacy of your own conscience or the company of like-minded people. It is not enough to curse this out, but then tell yourself nothing can be done. If you live your life under this threat, you MUST act. If you understand how wrong this is and how much it devastates the lives of so many millions, you MUST act.
NOW is the time to act. People are beginning to awaken and stir. Resistance has begun: Heroic hunger strikes by people in prisons and detention centers and outpourings in response to murders by police and racist vigilantes. Prisoners in solitary confinement in California declared a cessation of racial hostilities as Black, Latino and white prisoners came together to resist the torture of solitary confinement. All this must be taken to a much higher level. We call for a massive Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration in October of this year; a Month that can impact all of society; one that can open the eyes of millions of people to the need to end this new Jim Crow.
In October, 2014, our resistance to mass incarceration must reverberate across the country and around the world. There must be powerful demonstrations nationwide on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Throughout October there must be panels and symposiums on campuses and in neighborhoods; major concerts and other cultural expressions; ferment in the faith communities, and more—all aimed at taking the movement to STOP mass incarceration to a much higher level. October, 2014, must be a month that makes clear that thousands and thousands are willing to stand up and speak out today and to awaken and rally forth millions. It must be the beginning of the end of the mass incarceration in the U.S. To that end:
Initial Signatories include:
Stop Mass Incarceration Network
Cornel West, author, educator, voice of conscience
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party
Noam Chomsky, Professor (ret.), MIT*
Marjorie Cohn, Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law
Robin D.G. Kelley, Distinguished Professor of History, UCLA*
Carl Hart, Professor, Author of "High Price"
Colin Dayan, Professor, Vanderbilt University
Henry A. Giroux, McMaster University Chair for Scholarship in the Public Interest
Efia Nwangaza, Malcolm X Center/Radio Station WMXP*
Ulis C. Williams, Olympic Gold Medalist, 4 x 400m Relay, 1964 Summer Games in Tokyo
Aleta Alston-Toure, New Jim Crow Movement/Free Marissa Now*
Pam Africa, International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu Jamal
Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson - uncle of Oscar Grant, killed by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART)
Police New Years Day, 2009
Stephen Rohde, Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP)*
Debra Sweet, Director, World Can't Wait
Medea Benjamin, Co-founder, CODEPINK*
John L. Burris, lawyer
Marilyn S. McMahon, California Prison Focus*
Juanita Young, mother of Malcolm Ferguson - killed in 2000 by NYPD
Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez - killed in 1994 by NYPD
Dionne Smith Downs and Carey Downs, parents of James Earl Rivera Jr. - killed in 2010
by Stockton Police
Collette Flanagan, Founder of Mothers Against Police Brutality, mother of Clinton Allen - killed
by Dallas Police in 2013
Gloria Leiva, mother of Dante Pomar - killed in 2004 by NYPD
Gilda Baker, Mother of Diallo Neal, Killed by California Highway Patrol in 2005
Kenneth Chamberlain, Jr., son of Kenneth Chamberlain, Sr. - killed by White Plains (NY)
Miles Solay, OuterNational
Denis O'Hearn, Professor of Sociology, Binghamton University and author of Nothing but
an Unfinished Song: Bobby Sands, the Irish Hunger Striker Who Ignited a Generation
Blase Bonpane, Ph.D. Director, Office of the Americas*
Marie Martin, retired nurse and teacher, relative in solitary confinement in CA prison
Margarita McAuliffe, Founder, Texas Moms United For Domestic Peace*
F. Luis Barrios, professor, John Jay College, IFCO - Pastors for Peace
Jim Vrettos, professor, John Jay College of Criminal Justice*
Marvin X, poet, playwright, essayist, Black Bird Press News*
Rev. Jerome McCorry, The Adam Project*
Rev. Stephen A. Phelps, former Interim Senior Minister, The Riverside Church* New York
Rev. Frank Wulf, United University Church*
Ray Hill, 30 years Producer and Host of "The Prison Show", KPFT, Houston, TX
Obidike Kamau, 15 years Host and Producer, "Self-Determination", KPFT 90.1 FM, Houston, TX
Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor *Tikkun: a quarterly Jewish and Interfaith Critique of Politics,
Culture and Society*
Dahlia Wasfi M.D.
Rev. Richard Meri Ka Ra Byrd, KRST Unity Center*
Rev. Darrel Meyers, Minister (ret.) Presbyterian Church (USA)*
Dorsey O. Blake, Presiding Minister of the Church of All Peoples*
Mary Ratcliff, Editor, San Francisco Bay View National Black Newspaper*
Grace Dyrness, ICUJP*
Jim Lafferty, Executive Director, Los Angeles Chapter, National Lawyers Guild
Rafael C. Angulo, USC School of Social Work*
Rael Nidess M.D.
Dread Scott, Artist
Manuel Olivera, Actor
Alaudin Ullah, Actor
Elizabeth Forsythe Haily, novelist and playwright, ICUJP*
Lynne Stewart & Ralph Poynter
Mike Holman, Executive Director, Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund*
Andres Thomas Conteris, Nonviolence International*
Dr. James Cockroft, Ph.D
Rev. Jerald Stinson, Interfaith Communities United For Justice and Peace*
King Downing, Human Rights-Racial Justice Center*
Iskander Kourkjian-Mowad, #Justice4Cecily*
Afua Ampoma, Recovering and Rebuilding, Inc.
"Cye" Harold Sheppard Jr., Advancing the Ancester Coalition (ATAC)*
Vernellia R. Randall, Emeritus Professor of Law, University of Dayton
Paul Von Blum, Senior Lecturer, African-American and Communication Studies, UCLA*
David B. Rankin, Esq., Rankin and Taylor*
Tarak Kauff, Veterans For Peace* National Board Member
Bonnie Kerness, American Friends Service Committee,* Newark NJ
Mary Phillips, Lehman College*, Bronx NY
Erin Adair, Oberlin Abolition Network*, Oberlin
Amanda Morales, Welfare Warriors*
Milwaukee; People's Organization for Progress, New York Chapter
Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice
Justice For Families, Portland, OR
Global Kindness Revolution and Sagewriters
Racial Justice Now!
*for identification purposes only
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On April 3-4, people came from around the country to a meeting in New York City to strategize for the October 2014 Month of Resistance against mass incarceration. Carl Dix and Cornel West, who had called for this meeting, gave the opening talks to the meeting. The following are their remarks, which have been slightly edited for publication.
Why did I join with Cornel to propose a Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration in October 2014?
There are the horrific numbers of people suffering under mass incarceration—2.2 million in prison; not counting more than 30,000 immigrants held in detention centers every day; 80,000 people held under the torture of solitary confinement; 5 million formerly incarcerated people who are treated like less than full human beings even after serving their sentences. All this horror casts a shadow on the lives of tens of millions more people.
Some of these people are migrant workers driven to this country by the way the U.S. dominates their homelands, people who have built new lives in this country over years and even decades who are being held in conditions in detention centers so severe that many have put their lives on the line, going on hunger strikes to demand better conditions and an end to the deportations. Others of them are women, which is the fastest growing section of the prison population in this country, like the women in the Tutwiler prison in Alabama. Women who are held in conditions so foul that these sisters have to submit to sexual assault by the guards in order to get basic necessitates like toilet paper and tampons. Others of them are men who are imprisoned, held under miserable conditions. These conditions are so bad that there are a number of prisons around the country right now where people are on hunger strike, like Menard in Illinois; another prison in Georgia where people are on hunger strike dealing with horrible food and brutality. And in the prison in Georgia, these brothers in jail, they’re also being hit with sexual assault.
And that’s not all. There is a long and growing list of people who have been murdered by police in this country. And I could go on and on cause I see some people here who have lived that reality. Nicholas Heyward Sr., his son, Nicholas Heyward Jr., 13-years-old, gunned down by a cop when he was playing with a toy gun. Malcolm Ferguson, his mother Juanita Young is up here in the front row. Malcolm was shot down by an NYPD officer. Cephus Johnson, Uncle Bobby, his nephew Oscar Grant, gunned down on a transit platform in Oakland, California. Other people like Sean Bell. It’s happening all over the country. There is too long a list to run it all down.
In just this past year, because this is something that really struck me—in fact, maybe in less than a year—there have been three cases where young men were handcuffed in the back of police cars after having been searched by the police with their arms handcuffed behind them, the police found no weapon on them. These men ended up shot through the head dead. And in each case the police reported these brothers shot themselves. Think about this. The cop checked them, frisked them, searched them and handcuffed them behind themselves. Then they shot themselves in the head. And in explaining this and justifying it, the cops in the second case said, “Well, we know this is possible because it happened in that city.” And the cops in the third case said, “Well, of course this is possible, it happened there and there.” So in other words, they tell a lie and then they recycled that lie back to justify the murders they have carried out.
And it’s even more than that. You can talk about Andy Lopez, a 13-year-old in California. Again a 13-year-old with a toy gun, gunned down by police.
And earlier this month—I just saw the video of this yesterday. I heard about it but I was like, I’ve seen too many killings by the police, I don’t really need to see another one. James Boyd in Albuquerque, New Mexico—a homeless man camping just out in the open. Cops come on him, there’s a stand-off, they want to take him away. They say like he’s having mental problems and all like this. But I watched this video and at some point he’s like, OK, I’m coming with you, let me get my things. And he turns his back and bends down to pick up his stuff and that’s when they started shooting. He’s laying down there motionless, they’re saying, “Drop that knife, drop that knife.” And he’s saying, “Don’t hurt me anymore,” and, “I can’t move.” And then the cops keep saying, “Drop the knife,” and then they start shooting again. Then they let loose the dog to tear at his flesh. Then they come up and handcuff him. This man dies. This is what they’re doing to us.
See and then we have to talk about Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, Renisha McBride. We gotta talk about this because it underscores an ugly reality here in this country. A reality that Black and Latino people are treated like permanent suspects – guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence. And unfortunately, all too often they are not allowed to survive to prove their innocence.
This is what we’re talking about. This is what we’re dealing with. This is what many of you have come from all over the country to deal with.... And there’s me—I did some time too—it was a while ago, about 40 years or so. And it was time that I am glad I did because they told me to go to Vietnam and kill some Vietnamese for them. And I had to figure out, am I gonna go kill people for this country? And I am very glad that I did not [applause] because I did not want to become a mindless killer for this system. So that’s why I say that time was time well spent.
But we know what it’s like. Some of us spent some time in solitary confinement. We got an idea of what it’s like, what kind of treatment they put down on us. And we know the importance of building a fight to stop it.
So why is all this happening? That’s a part of why we need a Month of Resistance. But there’s more. Why is all this happening? And the backdrop for mass incarceration and all its consequences is the way that whole generations of youth are growing up in inner cities that have no access to work; no legitimate ways to survive and raise families; inner cities where the educational system has been geared to fail our youth.
The horrors of mass incarceration have been brought on by the very way this capitalist system operates. Beginning in the 1960's, globalized production shifted production to other parts of the world, leaving people in the inner cities without access to work. People are taught to think they own the jobs in this country. Looking at it like that keeps you thinking you're at odds with workers in other lands, workers who are being subjected to vicious exploitation. At the same time, the rulers of this country adopted policies and enacted laws to control the people left living in those miserable conditions by this disappearance of work.
Here is a basic point—and we can discuss this further, but I think this is a basic point. We cannot rely on the powers-that-be to deal with this problem. If we sit back and let them deal with it, if we limit ourselves to asking them to deal with it, we ain’t going to get nothing done.
Look, I know Obama has been talking about mass incarceration. I know he let a few people out of jail in January. I know that this is going on. But I also understand why it’s going on. That’s happening because they know that people are beginning to question what’s happening with the criminal injustice system in this country. Questioning the unfairness of it. And also then questioning the legitimacy of a set-up that does those things to people. And because the United States values being able to call itself the “leader of the free world,” they can’t allow their legitimacy to get pulled away from them. So they’re trying to feed illusions, trying to give people the mistaken sense that they’re working on the problem and that all we have to do is get behind them
Now in saying this, I’m not saying our Month of Resistance should take a position on Obama, either for or against him. Our Month of Resistance is about mass incarceration and that it needs to stop. But I had to say that.
Now what is it going to take to end mass incarceration? And I have an answer to that question on two levels. One level is mass determined resistance and the Month of Resistance has gotta be that in spades and I’ll come back to that.
But I gotta answer on another level too. And that is that it’s gonna take revolution, nothing less—to end mass incarceration once and for all and end all the other horrors that this system inflicts on people—whether that’s attacks on the rights of women, whether that’s government spying, drone missile strikes, the destruction of the environment and more—it’s gonna take revolution, nothing less to do that, to end all of that because these horrors are built into the fabric of this system. So we gotta see that and understand that.
Now, when I talk about revolution, I don’t mean running out there now doing some crazy stuff. I mean mobilizing people numbering in their millions to resist the attacks of the system and spreading the understanding that the system is the problem and revolution is the solution. And I mean unleashing that revolutionary people when the time is right to meet and defeat the system’s attempts at violent suppression of that resistance, and then going on to build a new society with totally different economic and social relations—a society that is in transition to a world where the horrors of today are no more. No more power and wealth concentrated in the hands of a few. No more whites lording it over Black people and other people of color. No more men dominating women. And no more one country running the whole world.
Now, I know revolution can seem like climbing a steep mountain, with no path that seems to be there to get up the mountain—something that looks like it can’t happen. But that’s not true. Revolution has been made before and we also have something important in the case of going up the mountain today. And that is someone who has done the work to chart a path up this mountain. That somebody is Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party. A man who has studied previous revolutionary societies, identifying what they did right but also where they made errors and fell short. And through that he’s figured out a path to go through. Now revolution is not going to be an easy walk up a wide path. We still got work to do to hack out a path up this mountain. But we got guidance for hacking out that path. And what I will say to people is that if you don’t know Bob Avakian, talk to me about this. That’s not what we’re going to be dealing with mainly today. We’re going to be talking about mass incarceration and how we’re going to stop it. But talk to me and I can introduce you to him. Like I have a CD here of an interview with Bob Avakian done by Cornel West—you might want to check it out and listen to it.
Now, I know for a lot of people revolution might be a lot to swallow. But we can talk about that. Some people want to cling to the hope that the system can be transformed into something that works for the people. We can discuss that. But we have to discuss it while we are fighting together to end mass incarceration cause that’s what we really need to do, sisters and brothers.
And in approaching this, we gotta go at it like everybody who sees mass incarceration as a problem, everybody who understands the horrors being inflicted on people needs to be a part of this fight. And we need to take the responsibility to mobilize people to do this. And this Month of Resistance in October to mass incarceration, police terror, repression and the criminalization of a generation is the way to do that.
When the brother got killed in Albuquerque, the homeless man, who got murdered by the police—hundreds of people came out in anger around the police. And that was inspiring. But think of the impact of demonstrations in cities around the country—some even more powerful and bigger than the one in Albuquerque on October 22, 2014, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Students doing a teach-in or a panel on their campus around mass incarceration, that’s a good thing. But think of hundreds of such teach-ins and panels happening in October. I want to draw on the vision of the Month of Resistance that’s in the draft call that I hope everyone here has gotten a copy of all. It says: “October, 2014, must be a month of powerful demonstrations nationwide on October 22; major concerts and other cultural expressions in October; panels and symposiums on campuses and in neighborhoods; ferment in faith communities and more – all aimed at taking the movement to STOP mass incarceration to a much higher level. October, 2014, must be a month that makes clear that thousands and thousands are willing to stand up and speak out today and to awaken and rally forth millions. It must be the beginning of the end of mass incarceration in the U.S.” That’s from the draft call that I’ve circulated that we’ll talk about later.
Imagine the impact all this will have on the thinking of millions of people, letting those who suffer mass incarceration know that there are people who will join them if they stand up and resist it and opening the eyes of those who don’t suffer it to all what’s being inflicted on tens of millions of people in this society and challenging them to join us in resisting it.
This can be done, and it must be done. Those outrages that I talked about at the beginning of my talk, they have been going on and continuing to happen again and again and again. And again, drawing on from our draft call, is this something we want to gradually work on over the next 50 years? So that our grandchildren are telling their children about somebody else that got murdered like Trayvon did. Like I was trying to explain to my grandchild about Emmett Till, 50 years ago, something that happened way before she was born. We got to stop that. That’s a responsibility that we have to take on ourselves.
And let me just speak a little bit about the responsibility we have to see ourselves taking. I just read a book about the 1960s. And one thing that it talked about was some of the sessions of the activists of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Stokley Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, Ella Baker, some other people—some of the sessions that they had. See and they had to assess what’s happening with this Jim Crow segregation and lynch mob terror—why is it happening and what do we need to do about it. And then when they came up with something, it wasn’t like they were just talking shop and they weren’t going to do anything. It wasn’t like they were coming up with something for somebody else to do. They were coming up with planning that they were then going to take up and themselves lead in carrying out.
And that’s what we have to do here today. We have to look at this problem. We have to assess it and we have to develop a vision and a plan for taking it on and changing that fight. And then once we do that here today and then tomorrow, we gotta go to people and we have to say to them—if you are horrified by the notion that the color of a person’s skin could determine whether they live and how they live. If you are sickened by the fact that the families of migrant workers have to live in fear that one of their members being snatched away, not knowing where they’ve been taken to, not knowing whether they will find out that they have been deported halfway around the world, put under conditions that are inhumane. If this and all these other horrors that I’ve talked about earlier bother you, then you need to be a part of this Month of Resistance. If your eyes are open to this problem and you got an ounce of justice in your heart, you need to be part of mobilizing people to stand up, beginning now and building up to October when we manifest a kind of resistance that can take this whole movement to a whole new level. That’s the responsibility that we’re shouldering today, sisters and brothers. And look, I am confident that we can shoulder this.
Cornel and I was just talking about the strategy session that we did before we started the civil disobedience campaign around stop-and-frisk. And it was like 7 or 8 of us. And some of the folks wasn’t really sure, but we came up with something and then we said let’s go out and do it. And we said, even if it’s just me and him, we’re gonna go out and do it.
In developing that, we are on to a burning problem in society and we were proposing a plan of action to take that on. And by spreading that, we were able to bring many more people into in. And I mean, we got a lot more than seven or eight people here today. We come from all across the country and we are on to a burning problem in society. So let’s take up discussion of this problem and forging of a solution, and then let’s spread this throughout society and let’s bring forward resistance that could change everything around mass incarceration. Thank you brothers and sisters.
I want to just salute each and every one for being here. You are in the right place at the right time. We’re here why? We’re here because we love the brothers and sisters, especially the young brothers and sisters. The police may shoot them down, the criminal justice system may criminalize them. We want them to know we care, that we love them, we target them, and we zero in on them. I want to be very upfront about that. When Brother Carl and I focused in on stop-and-frisk, when the police dragged us in put us in jail, our last words were, we want the young folk to know that somebody cares.
And when you really love folks, you can’t stand the fact that they’re being treated unjustly. You loathe the fact that they’re being treated unfairly and if you don’t do something to rock the boat or cry out. And that’s the fire that we need because we’re living in an Ice Age still with too much indifference and callousness toward our brothers and sisters, of whatever color, but especially the chocolate ones, especially the Black and brown and red ones in our nation so deeply shaped by the legacy of white supremacy.
Now anytime I get a chance to work with brother Carl Dix, I get fired up. I get fired up...
W.E.B. DuBois raised four questions in 1957—he was 89-years-old...he'd been fighting for freedom for most of his life. The first question: how does integrity face oppression? You can’t talk about struggle for justice unless you’re dealing with folks with integrity, I didn’t say purity but integrity, but I didn't say cupidity. I didn’t say love of money. I didn’t say banality. I didn’t say selling your soul for a mess of pottage. We live in an age of the sell-out when it comes to too many of our leaders—don't want to tell the truth...don't want to take a risk, all they want to do is go on television like a peacock. No, this is for folks on the ground. This is for folks in the love business. This is for folks willing to go to jail if they have to, or put a smile on your face.
Now I’m a revolutionary Christian, he’s a revolutionary communist. We overlap. We don't agree on everything. But one thing we're willing to do is hit the street, go to jail, tell the truth, in the name of something bigger. You may be a Christian, you may be a Buddhist, you may be an atheist, you may be an agnostic. The question is what kind of integrity do you have?
The second question: What does honesty do in the face of deception? Because we live in an age of monstrous mendacity. Lies everywhere. Hyper-hypocrisy. Folks doing one thing and moving in another direction. What does honesty do in the face of deception?
And then: What does decency do in the face of insult? I come from a Black people who have been terrorized and traumatized and stigmatized for 400 years and yet we still emerge, our backs straight, willing to be honest and decent and preserve integrity and something that’s deep, not just political, it's moral, and for me it’s spiritual. What kind of person would I be with my brothers and sisters shot down like a dog? I won’t be like the dog but the dog is not going to get away with it. They're going to be accountable, they're going to be responsible, they're going to be culpable or the rocks are going to cry out.
And that last question: What does virtue do in the face of brute force? These are DuBois's four questions.
As we move in the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and generate more fire, we’re going to keep the focus on integrity, honesty, decency, and virtue in the face of brute force, of terror, of horror.
Why? Because we take the higher moral ground, even as we hit the ground in our attempt to keep the police accountable, politicians accountable, and tell the truth about the crime against humanity which is the New Jim Crow. And the criminal justice system in America is itself criminal.
“Oh, Brother West, you sound like you’re anti-American.” No. I’m anti-injustice in America. And I’m not ashamed of it. And I’m mindful of Brother Martin when they put him in that paddy wagon in the dark with a German shepherd. Drove around for four-and-a-half hours and took him down to Reidsville Prison in Tattnall County in gut bucket Jim Crow Georgia, 26 and a half years old. Brother Andy Young tells me that when he got out of the paddy wagon, six hours, just him and the German shepherd in the dark, look like he had a nervous breakdown, but he had one sentence in his lips, and he said what? “This is the cross we must bear for the freedom of our people.”
That’s what love is. That’s the caravan of love that the Isley Brothers sang about. That’s the love train that the O’Jays sang about. That’s the love train that Curtis Mayfield had in mind when he sang “People get ready, don’t need no ticket, just get on board.” When you get on board, you better be willing to pay a cost. You better be willing to cut against the grain. You better be willing to have some non-conformity and shatter the cowardice and the complacency and the complicity that we see too often in our society.
How do we keep the love train alive? More than justice is what love looks like in public, just like tenderness is what love feels like in private. We believe in being tender with one another and gentle with one another and sweet with one another as we are militant in telling the truth about the lies and crimes of the police, of the State Department, the Pentagon, the U.S. government, the Wall Street crimes. We know there are folk on Wall Street right now who ought to be in the prison system. Crimes were committed, insider trade and market manipulation. But they sipping tea in the White House. They sipping tea in City Hall. We can mention names. That’s not our focus today. Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase. What’s the name of his bank?
I was at Howard University on Sunday. They asked me to preach. I preached on the Kingdom of God is not a brand. That the cause of the beloved community is not a commercial. That the freedom struggle is not an advertisement, it’s a way of life. And Howard University had just given him [Jamie Dimon] an honorary degree just a few days day before... They let me show up a few days later. And I said, he’s a criminal, "Oh, Brother West you got hate in your soul." No I hate the deed, don’t get it twisted. I hate the action. I hate the choices that they make. I’m not in the hate business. I love Jamal and Latisha. I love Juanita. I love Juan. I love the least of these, the prisoners... That’s the tradition I come out of. I just want to be honest about it because all of us should be honest with one another as we coalesce, even given whatever disagreement we may have when it comes to religion and other things. That’s all right. We got a long tradition that goes all the way back even before the slave ship, of coalescing, in the name of something bigger than them. And that’s the reason why I’m here.
I want to apologize, I have to pick up my precious daughter, she’s getting out of school... But I wouldn’t want to be any other place than right here, right now. Cause I want you to know that Brother Carl and I, we’re in it, just like the stop-and-frisk, all the way through. And I’ve already had a chance to talk to some of you...
I want to give salute to each and every one of you. And I want to make the connections here. We have to keep in mind that we’re living under a neo-liberal, capitalist and imperialist regime. What I mean by that is the three major tendencies on the globe is to financialize, privatize and militarize. That’s why 42 percent of the profits in America go to the banks... That’s why one percent of the population got 95 percent of the income over the last four years. Under Obama—because he's been a Wall Street president. He bailed out Wall Street, didn't bail out Main Street—$790 billion dollars just for a few banks. Homeowners got zero. Detroit's dangling, just need 18 billion. They wrote a check for billions for the Ukraine in the last few days. Lets you know what their priorities are.
Oh yes. He's a Wall Street drone, national surveillance... I called George Bush a war criminal with 45 drones. And you know I call Obama a war criminal with 421 drones. I gotta be morally consistent. Gotta tell the truth across the board. Not a question of your pigmentation, even though black is beautiful. I gotta be honest about that. But I want to know about your integrity, your honesty, your decency. That’s what I’m talking about... That’s the folk that I’m going to throw down with. Why? Because like this brother, Carl Dix. He raise up in the morning, thinking about, reflecting on, strategizing how can poor and working people be free and the people needing dignity, being treated the way they are. I know that and I know that’s true for each and every one of you.
So now I do sit down briefly and then make my way to catch my daughter so she’s not sitting there all by herself wondering, "Daddy are you at one of those meetings again? You’ve only been at it for 40 years, how come your cause is not won? Is it a lost cause or what?” Oh honey, I want you to know you come from a great people tied to a noble cause and it might not be winning at the moment, just keep track of it but as long as we’re committed we’re on the way, we're on the way.
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received this report from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network:
2.2 million people in prison, more than 80,000 of them held in the torture of solitary confinement, more than 5 million formerly incarcerated people are denied basic rights even after they’ve served their sentences. All of this disproportionately targets Blacks and Latinas/os. When you add the families and communities of all these people, it amounts to tens of millions of people living their lives caught up in the criminal “injustice” system of this country.
This is unjust and illegitimate. It must be stopped, and the movement to stop it will be taking a huge leap forward in October 2014. A strategizing session held in New York City brought together people from many different backgrounds from all across the country last week, and a Call for a Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation was issued at this session.
The strategy session was hosted by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. 90 people participated in the session, including family members of police murder victims, formerly incarcerated people, family members of people currently incarcerated, people involved in struggle against inhumane conditions in immigrant detention centers, students, attorneys, media people, ministers, immigrants from several different continents. There were Asians, Blacks, Latina/os and whites assembled to flesh out a vision of the Month of Resistance and develop a plan for making it as powerful as possible. People came from California, Texas, Illinois, Ohio, North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut and of course, New York to participate in this session.
This session envisioned October as a month of powerful manifestations of determined resistance to mass incarceration, including: nationwide demonstrations on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation; a major concert and other cultural expressions, panels and symposiums on campuses and neighborhoods, sermons in churches, mosques and synagogues and more. It will be a month that involves thousands and thousands of people in standing together and saying NO MORE to the horrors being enforced on millions of people by the monstrous system of mass incarceration in this country.
If you are someone who is forced to live your life under the threat of mass incarceration and all its consequences, you must join us in acting in October. If you are someone who understands how wrong all this is, how much it devastates the lives of so many people, you must join us in acting in October. Join us in making October a month of powerful resistance that can awaken millions to these horrors and challenge them to join in acting to make it NO MORE.
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
April 7, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Dr. Michael Mann, Distinguished Professor of Meteorology at Penn State University and director of the Penn State Earth System Science Center was interviewed on April 4 on The Michael Slate Show on KPFK Pacifica radio station about the recently released report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The following is a transcript of that interview.
Michael Slate: The last report from the IPCC came out seven years ago. Now there’s a new one. What’s changed since then and where are things at now?
Michael Mann: Well it’s really striking when you read this latest impacts report. There are three different parts of the IPCC report: the basic scientific evidence that came out just this last fall; this latest report is on the impacts of climate change, adaption, vulnerability; and next month they will be reporting on the final installment, and that’s on mitigation solutions, what we can do to mitigate the problem of climate change. This latest impacts report was striking, and really just how stark, the stark nature of the terms in which it is laid out. This is a very conservative report by its nature, because this is a consensus of literally hundreds of leading scientists around the world. And so the report reflects almost a lowest common denominator of what all of the scientists can agree upon. In that sense, it’s remarkable that the report states the threat in as stark terms as it does. Basically, what this latest report makes clear, if there were any question, is that climate change is not just some abstract, far off, existential threat. It’s not just something that is going to impact polar bears in the Arctic decades from now. It’s something that’s impacting us here and now negatively. And in a sense, we are the polar bear. We are seeing the negative impacts of climate change, whether you are talking about issues of food and fresh water availability, whether you’re talking about availability of land, whether you’re talking about human health, whether you’re talking about the health of our economy, whether you’re talking about issues of conflict and national security, which after all, are a consequence of competition for available resources. And what the report makes very clear is that if we continue on the road that we’re on right now with ongoing fossil fuel burning, we will see diminished food, water and land and greater competition for diminishing resources among a growing global population. And that’s a perfect prescription for issues of conflict, for basically a national security calamity.
So the IPCC makes quite clear in this latest report that climate change is a big problem. It’s not just that we know that we’re warming the planet, that it’s caused by human activity, the fossil fuel burning and other activities raising greenhouse gas concentration—there is now an established consensus among the world’s scientists that this is a threat to us now, here and now.
Michael Slate: Yeah, that actually came across very clear, and I think it’s something that... one, is that consistently over the years, it’s been consistent like, well yeah, they’re warning us now, but really, what’s the rush, we actually can do something about this. I wanted to ask you about this, it’s bugging the hell out of me, the idea that, talking about climate change, about the temperature rising, change from 2 to 8 degrees Celsius, this span—is that happening now? Is that what’s happening? And what does it mean if it does?
Michael Mann: Yeah, so we’ve already warmed up, we’ve warmed up the planet just under one degree Celsius, about a degree and a half Fahrenheit so far. It turns out; we are already committed to at least another half degree Celsius, almost another degree Fahrenheit. That’s just because of the greenhouse gases we’ve already emitted into the atmosphere. They will continue to warm the planet for decades, even if we were to stop fossil fuel burning cold turkey right now. We would still see the planet warm for decades into the future, just because of the inertia of the climate system. The oceans continue to absorb some of the heat that we’ve already put into the atmosphere from increased greenhouse gases. So we’re already committed to probably the better part of 2 degree Celsius, a degree and a half Celsius minimum. And what the science tells us is that if we continue business as usual fossil fuel burning for another decade or so, we will almost certainly commit to more than 2 degrees Celsius warming, more than 3 and a half degrees Fahrenheit warming. And that’s an important number because that’s actually the threshold that many organizations and scientists who look at the impacts of climate change will tell you, that 2 degrees Celsius threshold, is where we really start to see some of the most damaging and potentially irreversible impacts of climate change. Again, whether we’re talking about food, water, land, health—across the board, the health of ecosystems, every aspect of our lives, we will see increasingly negative impacts. And so there’s an urgency to this problem unlike anything we’ve seen before. If we don’t act now we likely commit to at least 2 degrees Celsius. If we continue with business as usual, if we just continue to burn fossil fuels without any effort to regulate carbon emissions, to lower our carbon footprints, then what the report tells us is that we could see as much as 4 or 5 degrees Celsius, 7, 8, 9 degrees Fahrenheit warming of the globe by the end of the century. And as my colleague James Hansen, the former director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies once put it, if we warm the planet that much, it’ll be a different planet. It won’t be the planet that we grew up on. We will be leaving a fundamentally degraded planet behind for our children and grandchildren.
Michael Slate: One of the things you keep pointing to is the idea, or the fact, well there’s two things. The fact that this is actually on the map now. It’s actually concretely happening now in terms of climate change. And I wanted to talk about that, and in relation to, that both what’s happening with food, for instance in the vast majority of the world, which is a constant question. You could see the famines that exist in all parts of Africa and other places. If you’ve traveled through the Third World at all you have some understanding of how desperate some people are for the barest minimum diet. And you guys have been saying this is going to have terrible an impact on crop yield and food. Let’s explain that.
Michael Mann: That’s one of the tragedies here, that in fact the worst impacts, and the impacts that are going to come the soonest, are going to be felt in the developing world, precisely those areas in the tropics where you have nations who are currently struggling to meet their needs when it comes to fresh water and food. That’s actually where climate change initially is going to hit hardest. And some of that is based on really fundamental science. If you warm temperatures even a little bit in the tropics, we know that you see very large decreases, very substantial decreases in the productivity of basic cereal crops. And that’s simply because those crops are already growing at the limit of temperatures, the warmest temperatures they can grow at. And if you warm even a little bit you see sharp drop offs in agricultural yields. And so ironically and tragically, those nations that are least able right now to meet their food needs, we will see the largest decreases. Now we used to think, as recent as the last IPCC report, if you read the chapter on agriculture in the impacts part of the last IPCC report, there was language that suggested that we could actually see increases in agricultural yields in some extra-tropical regions, like the United States, North America, Europe, other areas at higher latitudes. The idea being that you get longer growing seasons in a warmer planet. Winter is shorter, the growing season is longer, and all else being equal, that would seem to imply increased agricultural yields. But something we’ve seen over the past few summers in particular is that any theoretical increase in yields that might result from longer growing seasons appears to be getting completely wiped out by increasingly extreme weather events—more widespread and pronounced drought, over large parts of the U.S., like we’ve seen in recent summers in Texas and Oklahoma. In summer 2011, Texas, their agriculture was devastated. They lost 25 percent of their livestock because of the record 2011 drought. Two summers ago we saw record drought and heat over a large part of our breadbasket and agricultural yields were decimated. And so we now think that even extra-tropical regions where we thought maybe we could see an increase in agricultural yields, even here we will see decreases. And that’s why this latest report comes to a much starker conclusion when it comes to food, our ability to meet our food needs. And again what we’re talking about is a growing global population. And in the face of diminishing food and freshwater, that’s a calamity in the making.
Michael Slate: There’s a point here that gets repeated in the report. I think it’s important for people to understand what’s meant by this. It keeps talking about adaptation and adapting in relation to this. Can you explain what’s going on there? And then I have a follow-up question.
Michael Mann: Sure thing. So our presidential science advisor, John Holdren, who’s a leading scientist, he’s been a very effective spokesperson for this issue in the current administration, I think he once framed the problem best when he said that how we’re going to deal with climate change is going to be a combination of three things. It’ll be some combination of adaptation, of mitigation, and of suffering. And it’s up to us to decide what is an acceptable combination. Now we are already seeing the suffering. There’s a certain amount of climate change that’s already locked in. It’s already happened and there’s more that’s in the pipeline. And what that means is that there’s already some suffering and there’ll be more suffering in the future. It means that we already have to begin adapting, whether we’re talking about building up our coastal defenses against sea level rise and increasingly devastating hurricanes, whether we’re talking about adapting agricultural practices in the face of warming temperatures, worse drought, on down the list. There are a whole bunch of things that we need to start doing to build the adaptive capacity, to deal with some of what’s already in the pipeline and is coming. But, the fact is that if you look at sort of those business as usual projections, if we continue on the course that we’re on, by the end of the century we are talking about changes in climate that are so unprecedented that there’s no amount of adaptation that will basically maintain any degree of resilience in the face of the impacts on food, and water and health and our economy. So the bottom line is, if you look at the projected impacts of this latest report, one comes to the conclusion that adaptation is not going to be adequate. We need to do a certain amount of adaptation no matter what. Because there’s a certain amount of climate change that’s already locked in. But the fact is that there’s a whole lot of other climate change that we can still prevent. And we need to engage in those actions necessary to prevent that. And that means reducing our carbon emissions. That means putting a price on the emission of carbons so that the marketplace will internalize the very real damages that climate change is already doing across the board.
Michael Slate: I was going to ask you, is there a point, is there a tipping point where adapting is clearly impossible, and you spoke to that. It seems to me there’s a dynamic that gets set in motion as well, which would both limit effective responses like, saying effective response would be adapting. But also adds a whole new dimension. I was reading somewhere about the melting Arctic that uncovers organic material that was there, frozen over before civilization began, that is suddenly laid bare and begins to rot and release all kinds of greenhouse gases and just compounds things a tremendous amount. That seems to be something people don’t often talk about, what gets unleashed in the sense of a dynamic that actually gets unleashed to take over.
Michael Mann: Yeah, absolutely. We sometimes call these positive feedbacks although that can be a misleading term to a lay audience that isn’t familiar with the sort of the lexicon of the science. It almost sounds good, “positive feedback,” you know, you get positive feedback from your boss for doing a good job. It’s not a good thing. What it means is that it’s a vicious cycle. It means it’s an aggravating response. And one of the feedbacks we worry about are these so-called carbon cycle feedbacks. And what that means in this case is, as you allude to, if you warm the soils, if you melt the permafrost in the Arctic, well it turns out there’s a whole lot of methane that’s currently locked up in that permafrost. There’s also a lot of methane that is locked up in sort of a crystalline form, solid form, in the continental shelves. And as we warm the planet, as we warm the oceans, and as we warm the permafrost, there’s the potential to destabilize all of that methane that’s currently locked up. Now methane, it turns out is an even more potent greenhouse gas than CO2 [Carbon Dioxide]. So if that kicks in, if we start to see those methane feedbacks kick in, then it means we suddenly get even more warming. And that’s not currently really taken into account because it’s too uncertain. We don’t know how to include it in the models because we don’t know exactly how much of that methane is unstable and could be released with even a modest amount of additional warming. So the great example of uncertainty despite what you might hear from critics—and you hear people say, well there’s uncertainty in the science, so why should we take these precautions that could damage the economy? Well, actually inaction is likely to damage the economy a whole lot more. But the fact is that uncertainty doesn’t weigh in our favor. In many respects the uncertainties are such that the problem could end up being a whole lot worse than we currently project. And here’s one good example of that—Arctic sea ice. Right now we are seeing a precipitous decline in the amount of ice that’s left in the Arctic at the end of the summer to the point where if we follow the current trend, within a couple of decades we will have ice-free conditions in the Arctic by the end of the summer. The models say we shouldn’t be there for decades, for fifty years or so. So we are already several decades ahead of schedule in terms of how fast that sea ice is diminishing, and with that decreased sea ice means a fundamental change in the Arctic ecosystems, it means a threat to the animals that rely on that environment, which of course includes the polar bear, walruses... what it means is that we are losing an entire ecosystem. We are losing a unique ecosystem, the Arctic ecosystem, that will not be replaced. What’s the value of the Arctic ecosystem? What’s the value of the Gulf of Mexico? These are the questions we should be asking as we continue to engage in very dangerous drilling of fossil fuel sources and the continued worsening of the climate change problem that’s resulting from that.
Michael Slate: All right Dr. Michael Mann, unfortunately we’ve run out of time but thank you very much for joining us today.
Michael Mann: Thank you, it was a pleasure.
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
The following are some key principles of socialist sustainable development, which appeared as part of the special issue of Revolution newspaper on the environment (Issue #199, 4/18/10, revcom.us/environment). These principles, though not exhaustive, concentrate an orientation that enables socialist society to begin to tackle the environmental emergency with a global and internationalist perspective. In putting these principles before people today, we hope to open up debate and discussion that can contribute towards raising understanding of what we are confronting—and raise sights about the viability and desirability of communist revolution.
The socialist state must use its strengths and resources to promote revolution. The new socialist state must be a "base area" for the world revolution. The emancipation of humanity demands this. The preservation of the planet demands this: for humanity to deal with the environmental crisis on the requisite scale and with the requisite urgency requires a totally different economic and social system and set of values. That requires socialist revolution and the spread of that revolution.
The new socialist society will put the interests of the preservation of the ecosystems of the entire planet above its own national development. It will encourage and give scientific, technical, and organizational backing for bold international initiatives to prevent widespread ecosystem collapse of coral reefs, rainforests, critical savanna regions, etc.
The new society will share scientific knowledge and technology with the rest of the world. It will contribute research to aid other parts of the world in dealing with various aspects of the environmental emergency—for instance, helping populations in low-lying poor countries deal with rising sea levels and flooding resulting from climate change.
Such initiatives will require unprecedented planet-wide cooperation of scientists and others, engagement of diverse populations and systems of governance, and the involvement of local communities. And the socialist state will seek to learn from the experiences, insights, and struggles of people around the world.
But for such initiatives to be truly effective and take hold over the long term, more of the world will have to break out of the capitalist stranglehold. Capitalist growth and development lead to massive environmental degradation. In the face of economic dislocation and societal breakdown, impoverished and desperate populations in vast parts of the world resort to environmentally destructive activities in order to survive. Civil wars fanned by the imperialists ravage land and water resources.
All of this emphasizes, again, why the new society must spread socialist revolution as far and wide as possible—and as fast as possible.
In its international relations, the new socialist society cannot be based on exploitation and plunder.
A revolution in the former United States will put an end to the pollution-intensive, cheap-labor, global manufacturing grids of production. The structure of production and the resource base of a new socialist economy will no longer rely on labor and materials from other countries—like cheap parts from hellish factories in Mexico and inflows of oil from abroad. The new society will provide technical and financial assistance for helping to clean up environmental damage in other parts of the world caused by the energy and mining operations, agribusiness and forestry, and industrial activities, as well as the export and dumping of toxic waste, of the former U.S. empire.
The new socialist state will immediately dismantle all military bases and occupations. It will vastly downsize the military industry and begin to convert huge components for productive, social use.
In place of the blind and environmentally reckless expansion of capitalism, a socialist sustainable economy will seek planned, regulated growth informed by:
This overall orientation will not only influence the specific mix of what is produced and how it is produced in the new socialist society. This orientation will influence levels of output, including decisions to consciously restrict or cut growth in particular sectors contributing to climate change and straining the planet's ecosystems, and curbing the use of certain resources that are dwindling.
The new socialist society will set out to transform the environmentally destructive structure and functioning of today's imperialist economy:
Given their privileged position in the global division of labor, the imperialist countries have evolved in a certain way. Their economies, and where people work and live, depend on high levels of mobility, the automobile complex, and long-distance, energy-intensive supply chains.
The system of production in a sustainable socialist economy cannot be focused on this kind of supply and delivery system. It must aim towards a system of interchanges within local and regional economies functioning as part of a unified socialist economy.
Cities must become more sustainable—more capable of producing more to meet basic needs and requirements, including efforts to develop local urban food production. The huge and wasteful consumption of energy associated with the parasitic commercialization of the contemporary city—office structures serving global financial invest-ments, advertising, insurance, etc.—will be transformed. The kind of intensive and speculative commercial and residential development encroaching on "green spaces" in the areas outside of cities, in suburbs and "exurbs," will be put a stop to.
Economic-social planning will strive to connect work that is meaningful and creative with people's sense of community—and forge new relations between work and where people live. Planning will seek to create a new kind of "social space" in the cities, where people can interact, organize politically, create and enjoy culture, and relax. At the same time, planning must seek to break down the distinctions between the cities and the outlying suburban and rural areas—and find new ways to integrate the economic and social activities of these adjoining regions.
A sustainable socialist economy in the former United States will strive to produce a rational variety of consumer goods. But this will not be the same "consumer society" (it would take the resources of almost five earths if the rest of the world had the same ecological footprint of the average person in the United States).
The "convenience" of having Indonesian workers cater to the athletic clothing needs, or peasants and plantation workers in Kenya and Jamaica catering to the upscale coffee sensibilities of people in this society—that will be no more. The "convenience" of the "Wal-Mart price," based on super-exploitation and environmental damage abroad, will be no more (and Wal-Mart will be no more).
Consumer goods must be functional and durable (not the "used once and thrown away" of today). Society will pay attention to changing demand, taste, and aesthetic. But there will not be the same obsession with private consumption, with the need to define yourself on the basis of what and how much individuals own and consume. This will be a matter of education and ideological struggle in society.
With the transformation of social life—with the creation of more "social space" allowing for richer and more meaningful connectedness among people—new values can take hold. With people gaining greater awareness of humanity's connectedness to nature, and of the ecological cost that imperialist "consumerism" has exacted, attitudes can change.
There is an ecological imperative for us to care about and value the planet. We depend for our survival on the natural world, from green plants that produce oxygen to other living species that provide food and medicine; we cannot live without fresh water, nutrient-rich soils, and clean air. At the same time, we are linked with the natural world: through complex evolutionary chains and through networks of ecosystems that provide flows of energy for life to maintain itself.
There is a moral imperative to care about and value the planet. We must strive to become the stewards of the planet: protectors and enhancers of the natural world of which we are part, and with which we are always interacting and transforming. Knowing more about our connections with the natural world and our responsibilities to it also enriches us as human beings.
There is an urgent time line to act: if we do not protect and preserve fast-vanishing natural ecosystems around the world, if we do not move to stem climate change, this planet could very well become uninhabitable for billions of people, and possibly all of humanity.
This is our orientation. Revolution makes it possible to live lives worthy of human beings and to protect the environment. It is why socialist revolution, and the creation of a new socialist state in one or several countries, would have an incredible effect on the world. The establishment of even one new socialist state—especially in a significant country, in terms of geography and population—would dramatically change political alignments in the world. It would give hope and inspiration to people throughout the world. This heightens our determination to make that revolution and to call on others to join and contribute to this most vital undertaking.
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The situation in Ukraine continues to be tense, dangerous, and unpredictable. In the aftermath of a regime change that put pro-U.S. forces in the Ukrainian ruling class in power, Russia orchestrated an independence referendum in the region of Crimea (home to a major Russian naval base), and after an overwhelming majority in Crimea voted to secede from Ukraine, Russia has declared that Crimea is now annexed into the Russian Federation. The pro-U.S. Ukrainian regime is moving to assert control of the eastern part of the country, including by forcibly disbanding pro-Russian protests that have seized government buildings in a number of cities. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Russian troops remain massed on Ukraine's border, and Russia is threatening to cut off or curtail essential gas deliveries to Ukraine.
Neither side in this conflict—essentially between the predatory imperialist powers of Russia on the one hand and the U.S. and its allies on the other—appears to prefer the outbreak of full-fledged war. But the situation in Ukraine involves a complex and combustible mix of clashing outside powers and internal reactionary forces that could set off a war, regardless of the intentions of the U.S. or Russia. And there are global conflicts among reactionary powers that are framing and driving the situation in Ukraine, and in turn those global conflicts are impacted by how things turn out in Ukraine.
Nobody can say where all this will lead. But one thing can be said: Whether or not this particular conflict erupts into open warfare, nothing good will come from any of these clashing reactionary forces. And that is true regardless of how many people are misguided into rallying under the banners of these forces at any particular time.
People are being systematically lied to about the driving forces behind the conflict in Ukraine.
The rulers of the U.S. say Russia's actions in eastern Ukraine are trampling on the integrity of other peoples. True. But who's talking!? From the initial theft through genocide of the lands of the Native peoples in North America to the latest drone attack in Yemen or Pakistan, the U.S. has an unchallengeable claim to be the world's number one, all-time violator of the integrity of other peoples. (See "Trampling On Other Nations? The U.S. Empire Was Built on That.")
When pro-Russian protesters seize government buildings in the eastern part of Ukraine, the U.S. declares they are "being used" by outside powers. Again true, but again, who is talking? The rulers of the U.S. were knee deep in manipulating a regime change in Ukraine that set off the current conflict. A leaked audio of a phone call between a top U.S. State Department official and the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine revealed these officials discussing which representative of the Ukrainian ruling class should replace the elected president, and how to effect that change in a way that would have the UN appear to be the force orchestrating the change.
And the rulers of the U.S. and their media use highly selective news clips of people in the streets to justify self-righteous proclamations that any political force that serves the interests of the U.S. in global contention with other powers is "the voice of the people."
As the U.S. rulers amp up their mass media to condition people in this country to see any outbreak of more intense conflict between pro-Russian and pro-U.S. forces in Ukraine as "Russian aggression," it is critical to understand, and fight for serious scientific understanding, of what this is all about.
Ukraine is a country of 45 million people, geo-strategically located in relation to Russia, Europe, the Middle East, and the Black Sea. Ukraine is rich agriculturally, industrially developed, and strategically located between Russia, Europe, and the Middle East. Today pipelines carrying Russian natural gas crisscross the country. The country straddles the Black Sea (which connects to the Mediterranean Sea), and Russia's Black Sea fleet is based in Crimea. Russia considers Ukraine key to its military position.
After the Soviet Union collapsed in the early 1990s, Ukraine became the focal point of a new wave of contention between the U.S., Europe, and Russia.1
As we wrote in Revolution:
"That contention is the main driving force in the upheaval now gripping the country. Broadly speaking, since 1991, the rulers of the U.S. have assessed that it is essential to maintaining their empire to lock in global supremacy, including by hemming Russia in and preventing it from re-emerging as a global challenger. A key element of this strategy has been working with its European imperialist allies to absorb former Soviet bloc countries into the European Economic Union and the U.S.-led NATO military alliance....
"Meanwhile, Russia's capitalist rulers are driven to rebuild Russian power and influence. In part, this involves attempting to reassert their influence over bordering countries once part of the Soviet bloc, including by using their enormous energy resources as economic and geopolitical leverage.
"From 1991 on, these predatory imperialists—the U.S. and the European Union on one side (though the U.S. and Western Europe each have their own strategic agendas) and Russia on the other—have generally been in direct contradiction, even as there are times when these rival powers cooperate for their own reactionary interests." ("Ukraine: Not a 'Democratic Uprising' but a Clash Between Predators")
In short: Underlying all the claims and counter-claims, the essence of the situation continues to be jockeying for position and geopolitical advantage by rival imperialist powers—with the potential to escalate into direct great-power confrontation.
The interests of the vast majority of humanity lie entirely outside the terms of this clash of global predators.
The unexpected eruption of conflict and danger of war in Ukraine shines a light on the reality that the existing world order is not stable, much less unchangeable. Events are not all under the control and will of contending oppressors. But left to their own "logic," breakdowns in the status quo only lead to the restructuring of a world of global oppression—often in horrific ways. Syria is a case in point, with at least a million people driven from their homes by conflict between reactionary forces, and no force posing a positive way out for people.
Breaking out of the framework of the global world order means breaking out of the outlook and rule of capitalism—whether in the form of "U.S. democracy" (the essence of which is maintaining the world's largest empire and the world's largest prison population) or Putin's package of traditional (oppressive) values mixed with claims to being an alternative to U.S. global domination.
An essential element right now is for people in the U.S. to refuse to be played into aligning with the rulers of this country, and to expose and oppose the lies and moves of "their own" ruling class in Ukraine.
1. What was called the Soviet Union was actually two profoundly different societies: From 1917 to 1956, it was socialist and aimed at getting to a world without exploitation and oppression. After new capitalist forces seized state power and overthrew socialism, the Soviet Union developed into a capitalist-imperialist power contending with the U.S. for global domination. See "You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future" at revcom.us. [back]
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
Check It Out:
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
I watched the first episode of a new three-part science series called Your Inner Fish, which premiered on the PBS TV network on April 9, and highly recommend it to Revolution/revcom.us readers. Based on the best-selling book Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin, the show delves in a very engaging way into important ideas about the evolution of life on Earth, with scenes of scientists at work in the field in far-flung corners of the world and in the lab, and great animation that brings alive creatures that lived hundreds of millions of years ago.
Shubin is one of the world's leading paleontologists—scientists who study fossils to learn about how life evolved on our planet—and he specializes in the study of fish. He's also a professor at the University of Chicago, and he recounts how, when he headed up the anatomy department at the school, he would interact with first-year medical students doing dissections of the human body. The students would invariably ask what kind of doctor he was: Are you a surgeon? A cardiologist? When he told those future doctors that he was a fish paleontologist, the students would "give me this look." But, as he explains, the study of ancient fish and other animals provides very good roadmaps to human anatomy. That's because if you look back through our "family tree," not just a few generations but hundreds of millions and even billions of years back, you can trace how humans evolved from the earliest animals that ever walked on land, and even further back to the earliest forms of single-cell living things.
The focus in the first episode in this series is on Tiktaalik, a fish that lived 375 million years ago. What is so special about this creature is that it was an intermediate between fish and land-living animals. It was Shubin and his team that discovered the Tiktaalik fossil in the Canadian Arctic in 2004—which made world headlines when it was announced two years later. The show re-creates the tremendous excitement of this moment of scientific discovery.
As Shubin said in an interview with Revolution when his book Your Inner Fish was published in 2008, "Tiktaalik, along with other fossils of lobe-finned fish and amphibians, reveals a critical time in evolution. What we see is how the descendants of fish with fins evolved to inhabit land. This is a big event in the history of the earth and also is a big event in our own history. Many of the features that originally evolved in fish like Tiktaalik are parts of our own bodies and our own history. The neck that is first seen in Tiktaalik is something that became our own neck. The functional wrist in Tiktaalik is something that became our own wrist. This is the general theme of Your Inner Fish. Each of us carries over 3.5 billion years of history inside of us....".
Don't worry if you missed the first episode of Your Inner Fish, the TV series. There are two more episodes to come—you can find air dates/times and watch the episodes online once they air at pbs.org/your-inner-fish.
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
From a reader:
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editor's Note: Cesar Chavez: History Is Made One Step at a Time depicts a very important episode in U.S. history—the struggle of farmworkers that went up against brutal, back-breaking exploitation in the fields and the violent repression. This is something rarely if ever mentioned in history books and popular culture. In that light, we are printing the following correspondence from a reader.
I went to see the new film on Cesar Chavez (Cesar Chavez: History Is Made One Step at a Time) shortly after it opened. I have long been close to that story and familiar with the history. Despite the importance of farmworkers to society and the history of farmworkers' struggle in California, this was the first movie about them in memory. I had to see it.
The theater was showing two versions of the Chavez movie, one a Spanish dub. This I was happy to see. I've long thought it outrageous, the near total lack of Spanish language movies in the theaters of a state like California with such a huge and important Spanish-speaking population!
We settled in to an afternoon showing, normally not a time of big crowds, and the theater was less than a third full; it seemed like a majority were Latino.
As the movie ended, several youths who'd been in the audience planted themselves near the exit and greeted those leaving with "wasn't that a great movie!?" Later I saw them join their friends in the lobby talking excitedly about the film. I heard one youth say he'd seen it three times. Their enthusiasm was understandable. In a society which criminalizes its immigrants as "illegals" and their children as "gang members," any movie that depicts Latinos, immigrants and farmworkers in a positive light—and even more, standing up in struggle against exploiters, is, to say the least, rare.
Indeed there were many obstacles the film's director, Diego Luna, had to overcome to even get the movie made. Funding was a big problem. Sources in the U.S. turned him down and one said straight up the story was not "sexy" enough. In the end, financing had to be found in Mexico, and to facilitate the production, in part due to budget restraints, the film was shot in Sonora, Mexico.
As to the movie itself, its production values, the acting and cinematography are artfully done. The scenes of the era, for example the farmworker rallies, have a genuine feel to them. There are compelling moments that give a glimpse of the power of a time when farmworkers successfully challenged the mighty grape growers, and the forces of the state that back them. We see scenes of the grape growers, isolated and outmaneuvered by a boycott that rallied the public to support farmworkers in a way that had never occurred before. Historical movies are not meant to perfectly recapture events but encapsulate truths. And on this score the movie did that.
Notwithstanding all that, there are big problems with this film.
For those who may not be aware, the movie recounts the beginning of the farmworker movement of the 1960s and 1970s with the Delano, California, grape strike and boycott from 1965 to 1970. Many reviewers have commented that despite the important history it deals with, the film is flat and lacks subtlety and drama. Some say it's the way Cesar Chavez, who leads the farmworker struggle beginning in 1965, is portrayed, a kind of saintly everyman without much depth. And I think there's some truth in that. But even more problematic, and related to this problem of over-simplification, is the way the movie divorces the struggle it depicts from the larger landscape from which the strike and the subsequent farmworker movement emerged. The film not only gives us little historical context, it seems to purposely exclude it. In the movie even the conditions that led farmworkers to rebel are vague at best.
For example, the film refers to the Filipino farmworkers' strike against grape growers in 1965 that was the spark for the movement to come. But we are given no hint that the strike came shortly after the end of the Bracero program. This is no mere historical footnote. From 1942 to 1964, hundreds of thousands of workers were contracted from Mexico to work in the fields of California, Arizona, Texas and elsewhere under conditions that can only be described as semi-slavery. It was a brutal system of labor enforced by the oppressive hand of the state, in particular the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS)—La Migra. Throughout that time workers were prohibited from challenging low wages and onerous conditions under threat of deportation. For various reasons the Bracero program was ended in 1964. When the Bracero program ended, low wages, rotten housing, discrimination and the lack of rights continued. Growers scrambled to cobble together another labor system to fulfill their need for abundant and vulnerable cheap labor. It was during this transition that the Filipino farmworkers struck and lit the match. The timing here was crucial. This was 1965 and the world was entering a period of social upheaval.
Filipino farmworkers won their initial strike in Coachella but faced a much more powerful and prepared group of growers around Delano. In one of the more dramatic scenes in the movie, growers' goons move to evict the strikers from their camp. The Filipinos seek allies among the Mexican grape workers. This is when Chavez and his National Farm Workers Association (NFWA) enter the struggle. Chavez is reluctant to have his organization join the strike, understanding that field strikes are difficult to win. Yet, knowing that staying out of the strike would have hurt the NFWA's credibility, he agrees to call a meeting to decide the issue.
At the actual meeting at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in Delano, Mexican workers, estimated to be 800 to 1,200 people, overwhelmingly vote to join the Filipinos on strike. The meeting took place on Mexican Independence Day, September 16, and was filled with references and imagery recalling the wars of independence and the Mexican revolution. This is not a tangential point—one of the important characteristics of the farmworker movement, indeed one of its most powerful aspects, is the historic struggle of Mexicans against a long history of oppression going back to the theft of Mexican lands in 1848. The Mexican immigrants have been and continue to be an oppressed people—a racial caste—kept down by a whole system of laws and racist institutions. Yet in the movie, this scene at the church is scrubbed clean of these historical references, as is, indeed, the movie itself.
By the spring of 1966, the second year of the strike, the mood among the strikers was at a low point. The growers had survived the previous harvest-season strike. They had replaced strikers with strikebreakers recruited from places in California, Texas, Mexico and elsewhere. Many of the original strikers had moved on, forced by the necessity to feed themselves and their families. To keep up morale and to "revive" the strike, Chavez and the leading core of the union decided to lead a 300-mile pilgrimage from Delano to Sacramento. While this was tactically a good move, there was no guarantee it would be successful. In the film we get a sense of a long, grueling march; donations of shoes arriving along the way, symbolizing the support it is generating, and news reaches the marchers that a winery—in reality Schenley but in the movie given another name—agrees to negotiate out of fear of damaging its image and market share—a significant breakthrough. Finally we see the march ending in Sacramento and some 10,000 people rallying to meet it! In other words, we get a glimmer of something new emerging—a strike that is becoming a movement and rallying broad support. But that is about as far as the movie takes us.
The farmworker struggle emerged as part of a society and world in great struggle. Internationally liberation movements were raging in areas of the world that had been subject to colonial oppression. A cultural revolution in China brought a vision of a radically different world from capitalism into the consciousness of millions, especially youth. On the home front the civil rights movement was giving rise to a Black liberation struggle that was radicalizing youths in the inner cities and on the campuses. Women were challenging traditional roles and demanding reproductive rights. Students were defying a putrefying, conservative campus environment. The anti-Vietnam war movement was challenging the U.S. ruling class as never before. Politically awakened youths were going out into the communities to confront racist police and the status quo. A Chicano movement, deeply influenced by the farmworkers' struggle, was awakening a whole generation born of immigrant parents. The strike in Delano was bringing middle class youths off the campuses into conflict with an exploitive system they had barely known existed. Many people were concluding that only a revolution could uproot all the corruption and oppression around them.
Youthful activists were a significant part of the farmworker movement; as volunteers they carried out important work for the union. At one point the union had something like 600 volunteers. But in Chavez, the movie, we barely see them. In many respects the farmworker movement is the story of the encounter between farmworkers, long exploited and oppressed and isolated, now politically awakening and energized by new possibilities, encountering allies in the cities where they went to boycott or on the picket lines in strikes across the state. In the real world a contentious struggle and debate raged within the union and that movement over questions about the nature of society, racism, the war in Vietnam and others, reflecting the bigger questions that were being debated in those years in society.
By tearing history out of that context, the film leaves us with an impoverished and distorted saga of one man's heroic actions and self-sacrifice as the motor of this great social movement. This has long been an official mythology of the farmworker movement. The Chavez movie did not invent it. It merely repeats it.
Bobby Kennedy, who by the time we see him is a senator from New York, plays a big part in this movie. We first see him in 1966 in a Central Valley hearing on violence in the grape strike where he berates the Delano sheriff for violating the constitutional rights of the strikers. He appears again later at the end of Chavez's famous 25-day fast. As the story goes, and the movie depicts, Chavez, enraged at farmworker violence on the picket line—against grower goons who try to run down the workers with a car—begins a 25-day fast to promote nonviolence. Here we are given to believe that the disciplining of these unruly strikers by the highly moral leader holds the key to the movement's success. The fast culminates in a service where Chavez takes communion, comforted by Bobby Kennedy at his side.
Once again it would have been helpful to have some broader context, to understand what was really going on here. This was 1968. The U.S. was facing the prospect of defeat in Vietnam and rebellion at home. Youthful rebellion was breaking out across the planet. This was a time in which the stability of the whole U.S. capitalist system was at stake. The various apparatus of the government were working overtime to divide, undermine or destroy that which threatened the system. What Kennedy in this context represented was one front in that effort. (Other fronts included assassinations, framing and railroading political activists, FBI dirty tricks, distortions in the media, and so on.) What Kennedy had to offer was political support from a powerful wing of the ruling class. In return they would expect a union where more radical elements were suppressed and where the legitimacy of the system would not be challenged. In Chavez they got someone who was willing to make that kind of a deal.
Kennedy was no more a genuine friend of farmworkers than Obama (the Deporter-in-Chief) is a friend of immigrants. It comes down to this: You can't be the friend of the oppressed when you are the active leader and defender of the system that oppresses them!
The film ends in 1970. The five-year Delano strike and boycott has come to an end, having overcome obstacles, to build a broad boycott effort that reaches across the country and across the ocean to Europe. The growers, despite direct help from the Nixon regime, unable to recoup the shrinking market for their grapes, can't hold out. They sign contracts giving the United Farm Workers union (UFW) the right to represent tens of thousands of grape workers. The movie ends at what turned out to be the beginning of a more powerful and contentious period ahead.
As the movie draws to an end, a message is flashed on the screen about the passage of the 1975 Agricultural Labor Relations Act in California. The Act provided for a process of union elections. The implication is that farmworkers' rights have been established and that this is the legacy of Cesar Chavez and the UFW.
The movie offers us no hint of what are the conditions in the fields of California today. In fact, if anything, they are immeasurably worse than in the days before the union movement began. The union itself barely exists as more than an appendage of the exploitive system. Wages have stagnated for decades and working conditions have likewise deteriorated. Women suffer widespread sexual abuse in a system where labor contractors are far more prevalent than in the 1970s. Workers living in Mexican border towns who cross into the U.S. to work in the winter months are subject to punishing waits. A militarized border takes its toll on those who desperately need work to help their families or who return to Mexico to visit families and return for work. Deportations on an unprecedented scale affect farmworkers as they do all immigrants deprived of documents. Tens of thousands of immigrants are in detention, separated from families, and the list goes on. Police brutality and mass incarceration takes its toll on the children of farmworkers and Latino immigrants generally. Meanwhile, this "democratic" capitalist-imperialist society is ever more dependent on a racial caste system which condemns farmworkers and others to extremes of exploitation and repression.
The film's director, Diego Luna, said he made the movie when he realized that young people in Mexico and the U.S. knew nothing of Cesar Chavez and the movement he led. The movie held the promise of delivering to this new generation a glimpse of a time when millions stood up to demand change—something that could raise their sights and deepen their understanding of society and the roots of oppression all around them. In the end it did not live up to that potential.
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
From The Michael Slate Show
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Lisa Bloom is a civil rights attorney, author, and legal analyst on national TV. Her latest book is Suspicion Nation: The Inside Story of the Trayvon Martin Injustice and Why We Continue to Repeat It. Through in-depth investigation, including interviews with key trial participants, Bloom exposes the lies from George Zimmerman’s defense team and the failures of the prosecution. And she addresses what it is about this society that allows so many Trayvon Martins to happen again and again. The following is the transcript of a March 28 interview with Bloom on The Michael Slate Show on KPFK Pacifica radio station.
Michael Slate: Going into the case, you thought Zimmerman and his team had all the chips on their side. But after digging into it, you determined that the prosecution actually had a good shot at winning. What changed your mind?
Lisa Bloom: Right. So I’ve been covering trials for so many years, and it’s so interesting that you’re talking about mass incarceration later on in the hour, because that’s a big passion of mine as well. So I know that too many people in America are incarcerated for long prison terms for crimes they didn’t commit. And our criminal justice system has many flaws, but requiring proof beyond a reasonable doubt is not one of them. So while it certainly seemed to me that Trayvon Martin, an unarmed teenager walking home, shot and killed, seemed like a terrible injustice, I wanted to see the evidence in the courtroom before I was going to reach any conclusion about George Zimmerman’s guilt.
So I was assigned to cover the case for MSNBC and NBC. I watched every minute of it. And before the trial—I tell this story in the book—I reviewed the evidence. I reviewed the time line, the map of where it happened, the physical evidence, George Zimmerman’s statements. And I thought to myself, well, you know, this is interesting. He tells a plausible self-defense story. He told the story right from the beginning. It’s internally consistent. And he’s really the only witness to talk about what happened. There were a lot of other witnesses, but they saw only bits and pieces, and some of their stories were inconsistent.
So the first week of the trial, I was covering it on air for MSNBC, I noticed a lot of witnesses for the prosecution were not particularly strong, and I thought, you know, this looks like it’s going to be a self-defense case.
But about halfway through, I had my ah-ha moment, and I talk about that in the book. And that’s when I started reviewing the evidence myself, and I noticed there was an absolutely crucial piece of evidence that the prosecution was not arguing. And that is, that George Zimmerman, on videotape, made the day after the shooting, shows that his gun was holstered inside his pants and behind him, over his backside. It was also covered by a shirt and a jacket. Now, that’s extremely important, because his story is, he was down on his back with Trayvon Martin on top of him, knees to elbows. And he says that Trayvon saw the gun, reached for the gun and threatened to kill him. And so at that moment, Zimmerman says, he pulled the gun and shot in self-defense.
Well, unless Trayvon Martin had x-ray vision, there is no way he could have seen the gun in that position. It shocked me to see that on the videotape, and it disturbed me even more that the prosecution wasn’t arguing this. And I started to think to myself, if they’re not arguing this, what else are they not arguing? And so I reviewed the evidence anew, and I discovered a great deal of evidence that they weren’t arguing. I started to talk about this a lot on the air on MSNBC and on the Today Show the last week of trial. I knew this case was going to result in an acquittal, unfortunately, and I said that on the air before the verdict. Because both sides were arguing reasonable doubt. So an acquittal was the only possible outcome. I don’t blame the jury. I blame the professionals in the courtroom.
So after the case was over, like you, I was disgusted. And like millions of people who took to the streets, I was very unhappy. And I was especially unhappy because so many people said, well, you know, the system played out, the jury has spoken, move on. And I wanted to examine what happened. I wanted to interview the witnesses. I wanted to interview the jurors. I wanted to find out what went on, because I think this case was important. I think it was iconic. I think that fifty years from now, people are going to look at this case as the Emmett Till case of the early 21st century. And I wanted to create a record of what went wrong in this case, and what a terrible injustice it was. The investigation I did only made it ten times worse in terms of what I discovered, and that’s all in my book, Suspicion Nation.
Michael Slate: In your book you say that after the trial you were in New York and somebody yelled to you, “Lisa, what happened?” And it struck you that the prosecution blew it. It feels really odd for me to be arguing, “The prosecution should have been harder!” But in something like this—so much was at stake here, on both sides. So much was at stake in terms of; on the one hand, the people had a lot at stake, in terms of really getting to the truth of what happened. And on the other hand, I think some of the various tendencies in the justice system had a stake too, because there was all this stuff that was up: the “stand your ground” rule, the mass incarceration, and what is the position of Black youth in this society? So all that was at stake. But you said that the prosecutors blew it. And you also coupled that with, look; these are not people who just rolled off the turnip truck or whatever. They’re not people who just woke up one morning and said, I’m going to court and prosecuting. These are people who are topnotch prosecutors supposedly.
Lisa Bloom: Yeah. I think a lot of what I do is television commentary where I generally get three minutes to say something. And when the demonstrator yelled out at me, “Hey, Lisa Bloom, what happened?” as this march was going by, I realized that this is not something I can explain in one minute, or in three minutes, or in ten minutes. This is something that requires an exhaustive investigation and a 300-page book. And that’s why I basically stopped everything in my life in the last six months to investigate this and write this book. Because I wanted to explain to everybody who had that gut feeling that something went wrong in this case that you’re right, that we should not just move on. We should expose this injustice. I thought at a minimum that’s something I can do. I’ve been a trial lawyer myself since 1986. I’ve covered every high-profile trial in America for the last 20 years. And this case was different. It was different because the prosecutors bungled the case from start to finish. The police also made terrible mistakes in the case. Trayvon Martin in a very real sense was put on trial, as you say, and Trayvon Martin did not get a fair trial. Not even close.
Michael Slate: You made a point which I found very heavy: there wasn’t even the sort of contestation that needed to be going on, that in fact, on all of the key points, the prosecution ended up conceding and finding unity with the defense.
Lisa Bloom: Right. For example, I go through the big six mistakes that they made, in the book. For example, race. They were afraid to talk about race in the courtroom. And this is a mistake, by the way, that they’ve repeated in the Jordan Davis case, which is why they got a hung jury on the charge of Michael Dunn killing Jordan Davis. Race was very much a factor in the courtroom. The defense very comfortably, if illogically, talked about race in the courtroom. They said that Trayvon Martin was a “match,” that’s their word, “match,” to two African-American criminals, burglars, who’d been in the neighborhood six months prior.
Well the only match was skin color. Trayvon Martin was not a burglar. He was not a criminal. He had no criminal history, no record of violence whatsoever. The prosecution should have been on their feet objecting to this characterization of a dead teenager who was not there to speak for himself. Instead, the jury got the impression that this neighborhood was overrun with Black criminality, when in fact there was not evidence of that whatsoever. There was no evidence that even the criminality in that neighborhood was greater in the 20 percent that was the Black community. So that was just a false impression. That was a racist impression. To attribute the wrongs of two African-Americans, the burglars, to all African-Americans is the very definition of racism. But the prosecution never said so in the courtroom.
Michael Slate: When you talk about race, what you said was true. Race was in the courtroom. It was the big elephant just sitting there. It was sitting there and everyone knew that. There were manifestations of it as you were saying, in terms of the broad, sweeping generalizations, and the characterizations of all Black people as criminals. But even in Zimmerman’s thinking, it’s well-documented that the cat really had a jones about Black people. And there’s all this other stuff that’s going on, and there was also the Rachel Jeantel testimony, which I thought concentrated so much of how much race is at the heart of this.
Lisa Bloom: Probably my favorite chapter, if I can have a favorite chapter in my own book, is where I tell Rachel Jeantel’s story. People will remember she was the 19-year-old, young woman, heavyset woman who testified and was really a figure on social media. People were saying very demeaning, offensive, racist things about her. Others were defending her at the time. But from the point of view of the trial, what was so important was that she had the most important story to tell in the courtroom—because she was on the phone with Trayvon Martin at the time—that he saw Zimmerman; he was afraid of Zimmerman; he was trying to get away from him. When Zimmerman did disappear briefly, Trayvon then went back to joking around with Rachel Jeantel, teasing her about doing her hair. This was very lighthearted conversation he was having with her. This was not a homicidal killer waiting to kill George Zimmerman the way that he described it.
Most importantly, Rachel Jeantel says that she overheard the very beginning of the altercation, where Trayvon Martin said, “Why are you following me?” which was a perfectly reasonable question. And George Zimmerman said, “What are you doing around here?” which is an obnoxious thing to say. Then she heard a thump on Trayvon Martin’s chest, where his phone cord was attached, which certainly sounds like Zimmerman assaulting him. And then she heard the sound of wet grass, so Trayvon Martin going down. And then she heard him say, “Get off! Get off!” which is a defensive thing to say. Get off of me. But all of that was lost. Why? Because the prosecution failed to properly prepare her. I talk about how she was sitting alone in a room, waiting to be prepared, how she had a minor speech impediment, an under bite, that has nothing to do with credibility, but that caused her to mumble a little bit and be difficult to hear. That’s the kind of thing that the prosecutor should have brought to the jury’s attention, and should have given them some extra time to prepare her. We trial attorneys have to put people on the stand all the time who are not necessarily the greatest communicators. So what? You prepare them. You go over the testimony. You give them the practice questions. You give them some practice cross-examination. It’s absolutely outrageous that they didn’t do that with Rachel Jeantel. And that’s probably one of the biggest reasons why they lost the case.
Michael Slate: The Rachel Jeantel case—I also was really moved by that chapter. Because this young woman went through so much hell. Just to begin with, her very close friend is murdered. And then she’s accused of lying, and covering her tracks. As if she did something wrong. But it’s all couched in this thing—even the assault on her for “We can’t understand what she’s saying,” because she’s speaking Black English! Just a massive amount of an assault against her. And I was really moved by that. But I also thought your point about the preparation, I have to tell you, Lisa, there were a number of times in your book that I had to sit back and say, “Damn! Next time I’m arrested, I want Lisa as my lawyer.”
Lisa Bloom: [Laughing] Well, thank you. I’ll be there for you, Michael.
Michael Slate: The thing is, I’m reading this, and all the points you make about the preparation, and then you say, here’s how you should have done it. Why do you think that this preparation—again, these are not bumpkins. Why do you think they didn’t do that preparation?
Lisa Bloom: Well, thank you for the compliment, and I do like to think I’m a good lawyer. I do practice law. But honestly, the things that I’m pointing out in the book are “Lawyering 101.” Like preparing a witness, please, this does not take twenty years of practicing law to put together, that you have to prepare your witnesses. And you’re right, Bernie de la Rionda, who was the lead prosecutor, bragged that he had won 80 out of 81 cases before this trial. So he certainly knew how to win a case.
I think what you’re asking ultimately is what I call the “Blow it, or throw it” question. Did they blow the case? Or did they intentionally throw the case? And I’ve had a number of readers of my book actually argue with me based on what they read in my book, and they feel adamantly that the prosecution intentionally threw the case. I myself am not going to come to that conclusion unless I have some hard evidence. I think it’s hard to have a conspiracy with a lot of different people, and nobody reveals it, so I’m not going there. I will say there are a few facts that indicate that they threw it. Those facts are that Angela Corey right after the verdict, right in front of the cameras, had a big smile, and she said, “The system worked. I think the police are vindicated by the acquittal.”—the police these prosecutors have to work with every day. I have the medical examiner in the book who said that behind the scenes, none of them, none of the prosecutors or the police thought that Trayvon Martin was truly a victim.
But overall, in a sense it’s almost worse than that. And that is that they just didn’t put the effort in this case to win it. This was a case that was foisted upon them by the public. Remember, for 45 days, they didn’t even arrest George Zimmerman. It took protests all across the country for that arrest to happen. I think they just didn’t care. They just didn’t believe in their case. And ultimately, when it was assigned to them, they just did a perfunctory job. They just put the evidence on, but without connecting the dots, without really connecting the facts and the law, doing a strong closing argument. The closing argument was a disaster. I think their heart was just not in the case.
Michael Slate: I want to get into the closing argument in a little bit, but I did want to ask you one question, because one of the things, and I know I’m not going to dig into all the mind-numbing and actually astounding exposure that you do around what was actually possible to present, and didn’t get presented. But there was one thing that really struck me, and that was the forensic evidence, and the complete disregard for any of that, taking any of that on, and in particular, the idea related to the infamous call, the Lauer call, the call where they actually had somebody screaming on there, and it was finally determined that, well, we can’t really determine who it was, but it was really closely linked to—you had a thousand people saying, “Oh, no, that was George Zimmerman screaming,” and three people saying that it was Trayvon screaming. And there was no attempt to even dissect that. And you bring out that it was actually more than possible to get really close to thinking that it was Trayvon, if not proving that it was Trayvon screaming
Lisa Bloom: Well, a couple of things. First of all, Rachel Jeantel said that Trayvon Martin had a high-pitched voice, “a baby voice,” she said at one point in relation to something else. But the man screaming on that 9-1-1 call just before the gunfire rings out has a high-pitched voice. The prosecution never connected that for the jury. We know that George Zimmerman did not have a high-pitched voice, because we heard him on several audio recordings in the courtroom, even though he didn’t testify.
And what you’re talking about is a scientific theory called pneumothorax that one of the expert witnesses wanted to present for the prosecution, that would have shown that the moment that the bullet went into Trayvon’s body, there were two fragments that punctured his lung and caused this condition called pneumothorax that would have prevented him from breathing and speaking, and making any sound immediately. Well, that’s a perfect match to the fact that on the 911 call, as soon as the gunfire rings out, the screaming stops. So it would tend to make more likely the fact that it was Trayvon Martin screaming for help.
I put together my own theory in the book based on all the evidence, what I think happened. I think Zimmerman pulled the gun out early in the altercation because he was afraid of Trayvon Martin, and he wanted to control him. And I think Trayvon Martin was screaming horribly, poignantly for about 40 seconds because there was a madman pointing a gun at him, and he was scared for his life. He turned out to be right.
Michael Slate: Absolutely. I really agree with you. Let’s talk about the closing argument, because once again, Lisa, I don’t ever cheer for prosecutors, okay? But when you developed your own closing argument, what could have been and what should have been, I was like, “Yes! Yes! Nail him!” But the thing is that you really did show this, that these guys again, they were conceding everything. And at the end of it, they didn’t argue anything. And you said that they abrogated their responsibility to give the jurors a road map to conviction. And I thought that was really important. They never explained the charges. All of these things. Can you talk to people about the closing argument? It really did concentrate what went on during the trial.
Lisa Bloom: One of the things I felt that I could offer by writing this book is the way these cases usually go—because a lot of people watched this case, but they’re not necessarily familiar with criminal trials, or with murder trials. The prosecution in this case never offered its own theory of the case. They never offered their own story as to what they thought happened just before Trayvon Martin was shot. And the defense always had their story. George Zimmerman said he shot in self-defense. He said that there was an altercation, that he was down, that Trayvon Martin was on top of him and he shot in self-defense.
Well, the prosecution needed to counter that. And I was shocked that they never did. They essentially went with the defense’s version of the case and they just argued details around the edges. And it was always clear to me that if this jury believes that Zimmerman is down on his back, Trayvon Martin is on top of him, he’s threatening to kill him, he’s hitting his head on the concrete as Zimmerman said, he’s threatening to shoot him, well of course, the jury is going to acquit him, because that’s a very scary story, and frankly, we all have the right to kill in self-defense if our lives are being threatened.
I have never seen a murder trial, and I have seen hundreds and hundreds of them—for eight years, I hosted a show on Court TV, and almost all we did was watch murder trials [Laughing]—I have never seen a case where the prosecution did not offer its own theory of the case. The jury will simply not do that job for the prosecution. And they didn’t do it here. What they did do in closing argument was ask a lot of questions. That was very odd. You know: why did you think this happened? Why did you think that happened? You can put this together. You don’t ask the jury to go into the jury room and put it together themselves. You give them a road map to conviction. You put up the law. You emphasize the parts of the law that are helpful to you, that are important, and you plug in the evidence to the law to show how your side is going to win the case, to show them why they should convict.
And the prosecution just did not do that. They just asked a series of questions. It was a rambling, disjointed presentation. I have some of the choice quotes in the book. I mean, I was really astounded. They had some passion. They had some quips. And people who watched the trial with me who aren’t trial lawyers said, “Oh, I thought that was very moving.”
You know, it’s not enough in closing argument to just have some rhetoric and some passion. You have to put it together for the jury. I have the story inside the jury of how they took it, which was, yeah, there was a lot of passion, but we were told to decide the case based on the evidence, so we had to put that aside. One of them said, “All they gave me was passion, and they said don’t decide the case based on that, well that jacked me up.” I think that did jack them up.
I also think the prosecution should have known better. They had to have known better.
Michael Slate: I’m going to read something from the book. It’s very short, but I think it’s really important in terms of entering into this new section of the book. And it starts with, “Please use my story, please use my tragedy, please use my broken heart to say to yourself, we cannot let this happen to anybody else’s child.” And that’s from Sabrina Fulton, Trayvon Martin’s mother. Now you go on and you say, “Trayvon Martin’s death was not a tragic accident, unforeseeable, unstoppable as though an asteroid had smashed into the earth without warning, taking a life. Human-made stereotypes and laws created all the conditions that led to the death of Sabrina Fulton’s son, and that made George Zimmerman’s acquittal by far the most likely outcome.”
Let’s talk about that, because I think it’s really important the way you actually, after presenting this very, very powerful analysis of the case and what was going on, you also then say, but we have to step back because as much as we don’t want there to be, there’s going to be more Trayvon Martins. And we’ve seen it. We have a lot of examples, whether it’s this young woman, Renisha McBride, who was shot when she was seeking help after a car accident near Detroit, Jordan Davis, what just happened there. There’s all of this stuff that’s going on, and you point out that this is rooted in the fabric of society, the way the culture, the fabric, the things that are being done that lead to this kind of situation, the mass incarceration, the slow genocide that’s being unleashed against particularly Black people.
Lisa Bloom: Yes. So the second half of my book is a deep dive into these conditions, because I’m tired of everyone being shocked and appalled each time one of these cases happens. Of course, they are shocking, and they are appalling. But until we dig down into the root causes and get some change, they’re going to continue to happen.
So the three biggest factors that were at play here, and that have been at play in a number of cases are rampant racial profiling in America, our lax gun laws, and “stand your ground.” Those are the three factors. The first, racial profiling, we can make some legal changes, but that’s really a cultural change we have to make. And so I talk a lot about implicit racial bias, which I think is a really important concept that frankly, I learned about while I was covering the case and trying to figure out, how is it in America, nobody admits to being racist, and yet there are so many racially disparate outcomes. If you ask a group of people, hey, who in this room is a racist? No one’s going to raise their hand. Everybody considers it a vile insult, which it is.
And yet in our criminal justice system, for example, a Black man is four times as likely to be arrested and incarcerated for marijuana possession as a white man. Black youth are more likely to be sentenced to longer terms than white youth who are being sentenced for the same crime. Especially in our criminal justice system, from beginning to end, from arrest through conviction, through sentencing, through parole—there’s no question that everything is worse for African-Americans. There’s no question that there’s a huge advantage to showing up with white skin. And yet this is a system in which most of the participants, I think, are good people. They’re people who would say, well I’m certainly not racist. And many of them are African-American or Latino themselves. So how do we have this problem? And I think the answer is implicit racial bias.
For those who aren’t familiar with implicit racial bias, there’s a test you can take online for free. I have the citation in my book. I took the test myself. It turns out that 80 percent of white Americans test for moderate or severe implicit racial bias against Blacks. And 50 percent of Blacks do as well, which is very disturbing. This is a test that you take, you can’t cheat, you can’t trick, and it tests for whether you have these biases subliminally. And it’s really an eye-opener that we see African-Americans differently. There’s so many studies, for example, a Black face and a white face that are in a sort of identical facial expressions, and people overwhelmingly say the Black face is more hostile. They take a young Black man and they have him shove a white man on a video, and something like two thirds of the subjects say that’s an aggressive act. But when it’s flipped, a white man shoving a Black man, only 17 percent say that’s an aggressive act. Most people say, oh, they were just horsing around.
So there’s no question that in the way that we perceive African-Americans, we see them as more hostile, we see them as more aggressive. This plays out in our educational system because African-American boys in particular are more likely to be suspended or expelled, just at skyrocketing numbers. And it plays out in our criminal justice system. And until we address this root problem we’re never going to advance,
Michael Slate: Can we talk a little about the “stand your ground” rule. Because it wasn’t invoked in the Zimmerman case, does not mean that it’s somehow disappearing, or that it’s not as intense and oppressive as it actually is. Let’s talk about that.
Lisa Bloom: “Stand your ground” was very confusing in the Zimmerman case. First of all, it was part of the reason why he wasn’t arrested for those 45 days, because of “stand your ground,” because the police thought he had the right to “stand your ground.” Then he was arrested. He had the right to a pre-trial “stand your ground” hearing that would have exonerated him, potentially. He chose not to have that hearing. He went to trial in front of the jury. Nobody argued “stand your ground” in the trial, except in closing argument it was mentioned briefly.
But then “stand your ground” came in as part of the standard self-defense jury instruction. The judge read to the jury that George Zimmerman had the right to stand his ground. And the jurors said afterward as part of their decision-making process that they thought that George Zimmerman had the right to stand his ground. So anybody who says that “stand your ground” was not part of the Zimmerman case is not familiar with these details, which are not really not details, because these were pivotal parts of the jury’s decision making.
Michael Slate: Okay—Lisa—thank you very much.
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
About 9 in the morning on Saturday, March 29, police chased down and shot 20-year-old Raason Shaw on the south side of Chicago. Raason was shot between six and eight times in the back and killed.
Immediately, people started coming out to hear about and protest the outrageous shooting—Raason's neighbors, his friends, and (as his aunt describes it) “his boys from other blocks.” People who saw the incident immediately let people know about the injustice of it and people in the neighborhood confronted the police. TV news footage showed angry people in the streets.
The revolutionaries had planned on going out in a different part of town with a sound truck playing BA's New Year's message as part of the March BA Everywhere focus weekend, but when we learned about this murder we went down to the neighborhood where this shooting took place.
Youth had built a memorial on the fence of Raason's aunt's house near where he was shot. We played the New Year's statement there and people were very appreciative that we had come by. We had two big posters of BAsics 1:13—“No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over...” People encouraged us to add it to the memorial and neighbor women asked to hang the second poster on the fence in front of their house.
One young man saw the picture of BAsics on the bottom of the poster and asked, “Is that your book?” We told him it was BAsics, from BA, the leader of the revolution. He said he had read it when he was locked up in prison “downstate.”
Raason's aunt told us how Raason and she used to play—he would ride by on his bike shouting friendly insults and she would chase him down the street, catching him and pounding him in fun. Raason's cousins told us that this was Raason's way—he teased everyone—that was the way he showed he cared about people.
Raason's aunt was very clear—“He was a bad kid and he was a good kid—he was a human being.” She made a point that she wasn't going to sugarcoat anything. He was a human being and he didn't deserve to be murdered.
Raason's aunt also told us she wanted this in anything we wrote—that while she is out here for Raason it is not JUST for Raason but really for everybody. That includes Black and white and Latin and people suffering around the world.
On Monday, March 31, there was a protest for justice for Raason Shaw in the neighborhood. The youth really turned out for this protest. It was hard to get a full count of people because people were coming in and out but it was from one to two hundred people. They marched up and down the main street of the neighborhood, at one point taking up the whole street.
Cars with youth came through honking. A bus followed behind the protest respectfully, not pushing to get through. Along with people's righteous anger there was a certain joyousness to be standing up.
Revolution #336 April 20, 2014
April 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In early April, Raymond Lotta spoke in the Los Angeles area in connection with his new eBook, You Don't Know What You Think You "Know" About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future. There were programs at UCLA, UC-Riverside, California State-Pomona, Revolution Books; in all, some 200 people came out to hear Lotta speak. The tour reached out to a new generation of students, introducing them to this incredible history and its lessons, and to Bob Avakian's new synthesis—putting the question of revolution in today's world front and center. There was considerable interest and lively back-and-forth with students, faculty, and others.
Check back soon at Revolution/revcom.us for further coverage of the tour. And get the new eBook.