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Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
For immediate release August 23, 2014
August 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
For immediate release August 23, 2014
Contact: Travis Morales - 713 240 3192
Debra Sweet - 718 809 3803
Carl Dix released this today in Ferguson, Missouri:
“A narrative has developed in Ferguson that the defiance of some of the people here is the problem. According to this narrative, if everyone would just go along with the orders of the police, echoed by so-called “community leaders,” to behave, be quiet, bow down and let the system do its job, everything would be fine. This story is untrue, and it is aimed at shifting the terms from Justice for Michael Brown, which means indicting the cop, firing police chief Jackson, and an immediate open accounting of the murder. Instead the terms are shifted to maintaining order, an order that has brutal suppression of Black people built into it.
The defiance people in Ferguson have displayed in response to Michael’s murder is a good thing. I am all the way down with that defiance and it must be continued. The only reason people are talking about Michael Brown around the world and know that he was murdered is because the people of Ferguson, especially the youth, poured into the streets to demand “Justice for Michael Brown.” I challenge the youth and everyone else who felt punched in the gut when they heard of Michael’s murder and who hate the outrages of this system: Keep fighting what needs to be fought, and as you do that raise your heads further and think about the source of all these problems and what must be done to end them once and for all. And get with the movement for revolution that the Revolutionary Communist Party is building.
We have a strategy to win, we have an organization that's down for this, and we have a leader, Bob Avakian (BA), who is showing the way forward. Get with this movement for revolution and be part of preparing the ground and the people for the time when a revolution that could end these horrors once and for all could be made.”
* * * * *
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
Voices from Ferguson: “I wouldn’t give a fuck about your god damn justice system”; Running on Adrenaline
Li Onesto | August 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Every night people are still gathering down on West Florissant to protest the murder of Michael Brown. On Wednesday night, August 20, I talked to some of the people who were marching up and down the street and standing along the sidewalks as the police periodically threatened people with their orders to "move or be arrested." These are two of the people I talked to:
“I wouldn’t give a fuck about your god damn justice system”
Tell me how you feel about the killing of Michael Brown?
That’s the main reason why [I’m out here]—his mother. My daughter is on dialysis, she goes to dialysis three times a week She just had surgery last week. I don’t even want to think about losing her on that emergency room table, I wouldn’t think of it. For someone gun that boy down like that and kill him and murder him. Oh my god. To my baby? To my child? Are you serious? I would be ready to die. I would be ready to die. I wouldn’t give a fuck about your god damn justice system. I would be ready to fucking die. This march right here is the only thing that’s keeping motherfuckers calm, for real, because it’s the only thing we can do to burn off the energy that we have, the anger that we really have. If it was my mother fucking kid, I would be ready to kill everybody.
I have heard a lot of people out here saying, “I am Michael Brown.”
Because we represent any motherfucking body that is out here that can be shot down in broad daylight, or in the night, or behind the trashcan, or behind the alley, or in private, or in secret, however their initiations are going, anybody who is in that position. Because that boy was, two weeks ago, alive and well and now his blood is poured upon the street. My baby is the same age as him. I’m a mother of two children. I don’t want to see my babies grow up into a world where they got to be worried about the police. It has nothing to do with race, it has nothing to do with white or Black. It has something to do with the authority that’s over us. Who is governing this system? Who’s governing this system? Who’s governing it? Who making sure that we safe? You say you’re here to serve and protect, we trust that. We go about our normal day lives—buying tampons every month, food every day, taking a shit every night when we gotta to use the bathroom. We go through normal life. And then we go outside and we say, hey, the police is set up to protect and they killing us at the same time. Who do you go to? Where do you go? Where do you go? Where do you go?
If somebody killed your child like that and murdered your child, how would you feel. I got a baby that’s fighting for her life through dialysis, her kidneys could fail. I could not imagine losing her in that way. I could shed millions of tears right now if my baby would have took the same exit as Mike Brown did. If somebody shot my baby down like that I would be devastated. And I don’t care what race you are. Anybody who given birth to a child that they love, that they done birth, that they done fed and they got big and strong, and encouraged them to go to school, and encouraged them as to get an education; to encourage them to be the best Black person, Asian person, Hispanic person—whatever they can be, you want that for your baby. But somebody is to say, I got authority and I got the right. Well, I got this gun and I am a police and because of this I can take your life and nothing is gonna be done and then get paid a two weeks vacation, that’s crazy...
Running on Adrenaline
Is this the first night you’ve been out here?
Oh, no. We were actually out here the first Sunday night, the day after the shooting and when the police attacked the candlelight vigil march with their dogs and confronted us with their tear gas masks. They blocked the whole road and the had all the protesters were up there and the police had their tear gas masks threatening us for like a couple of hours and they had the road blocked up here and at the other end, way past the Quick Trip [convenience store]. I think there were like 15 jurisdictions of police were all occupied with the protesters, all the looters came in. They released the dogs on the vigil marchers.
This was a peaceful march?
Yeah, they were marching up off of Canfield and down West Florissant and dogs came out and everyone started rushing back and then the cops started congregating right there.
Why did you feel that you had to be out here?
Well, at first, Sunday it was more it was like a vigil to honor his life. I’ve never seen a vigil march attacked with dogs and tear gas masks before. I’ve been to a lot of protests in my life and I have only seen protesters confronted on public streets with cops in riot gear twice in my life. At the Trayvon Martin protests in St. Louis last summer. But whenever the protesters are white I have never seen militarized police, at least not in Missouri. I’m running on adrenaline this week. I’m usually lucky if I can get out of the house once a week. I’m like on some kind of adrenaline or something.
How have you been able to maneuver in your wheelchair out here in the protests?
Well, until I got a flat tire a few minutes ago I was doing OK. People have been pushing me and stuff. But now I have a flat tire and I gotta find a bike shop in the morning.
People have been helping you out?
Oh, yeah. They’ll come and push me or when I got tear gassed they were pouring water on my face.
People helped you get out of the tear gas?
Other protesters grabbed me and pushed me down the street. People take care of each other. They tear gassed us down there and then they advanced up the street and they got us again down there. They cleared 6 blocks and then they went into the residential neighborhoods and they were throwing flashbangs in residential neighborhoods and rubber bullets.
They started the attack two and a half hours before the start of midnight curfew.
They launched the tear gas at three minutes after nine because I have it on video. They tried to lie, the cops tried to lie about the timeline of events. They tried to say there was a crowd of people attacking the McDonalds and that’s why they did it. They came up with about three different reasons why they attacked us and all of them are bullshit. I have video of the children on the sidewalk in front of the McDonald’s 5 minutes before the tear gas was launched. The “large crowd of people attacking the McDonald’s” was after the tear gas when they broke in to get milk to treat tear gas victims. The tear gas came first.
I’m impressed that you’re out here. It’s inspiring.
One of the other protesters the other night, she comes up to me and she says, “You’re in a wheelchair.” And I’m like, “Yeah, I am.” And she says, “I don’t see those marshmallow Christians out here and you’re out here in a wheelchair! It was just another protester and I had never heard the term ‘Marshmallow Christians’ and I just loved the term. It was very funny.”
How would you say the reception has been to people coming in from outside Ferguson, including white people like yourself?
Unless they’re white people with guns like the ones they arrested the other night...I have never had any...I’m more scared of...those cops are the ones who tear gassed us. The protesters, I can’t go 20 feet without, “do you need water, do you need anything?” They’re very protective of me.
And still no justice for Michael Brown.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Saturday, August 16 was the first night of the "State of Emergency" and the midnight to 5am curfew. The police viciously attacked people, using teargas to clear the streets (see Dispatches from Ferguson Saturday, August 16, Saturday, Sunday, August 17 and Sunday, 11 P.M.). Earlier in the evening, up at the Quick Trip [the convenience store that was burned down after Michael Brown was killed] lots of people were standing underneath the gas station overhangs to get shelter from the pouring rain. I used this as a chance to go around and talk to people. These are two interviews I did that night:
I’m a teacher and I teach high school. I teach currents events and I teach an advanced placement world history class near Ferguson, Missouri.
Who are your students, mainly?
The students are—so this is a suburb of St. Louis and it’s a relatively affluent school district—it’s a little bit different makeup than Ferguson. It’s I would say, maybe 15 percent African American and about the same Asian, and then we have some Latino community there. It’s very mixed. I think there are about 13 different languages spoken at the high school.
But it is predominantly white?
Yes, it’s predominantly white. It’s sort of a plurality, I don’t know if it’s more than half.
So why are you out here tonight?
I am out here, I am both angry and sad at the same time with what happened. I have been involved in these kinds of situations before for a long, long time. I see this as a continuity for a lot of things that have happened in the United States. I suppose my big eye-opener for me was probably a good 30 years ago I was at a protest at Kent State and I got tear gassed and you know I thought how could this happen in America, it’s such a nice place and that sort of thing.
Are you talking about the demonstration at Kent State when the National Guard killed people?
It was a demonstration after that. I went to a place called Antioch College in Ohio. So a group of us went to Kent State – they were planning on putting some buildings up where the students were killed by the National Guard. And so there was a protest and I was just kind of riding along. That was probably about 1977, I’m guessing. And then it was a very peaceful protest and I thought, this is good, free speech this is what it’s all about and then out of nowhere, I want to say there were about 300 police or so, came at this crowd and just started shooting tear gas. I was running away and hacking and coughing, you’ve probably heard those stories of people getting stuff in their lungs and eyes. It was pretty horrible, there were people running away. To make a long story longer that’s how I got involved in this work. I just thought, this can’t possibly be happening.
So what do you see as the relationship between that experience and what’s happening here in Ferguson today?
Like I said, it’s a continuity because you have the police who are I think just over zealous in not understanding that the United States, in a democracy, it’s all about people. If people don’t have the power, then who does? And if it’s just people with guns and weapons then you’re in a military state. I mean that’s kind of a bottom line for me. There’s a lot more to it of course but that’s at least a beginning for me. This is not only just a journey for American history but there are personal journeys along the way. You know Michael Brown getting shot, you know, that’s a spark. You can hear it in the background here, you know, the anger and the frustration.
Were you out at the protests around Trayvon Martin?
There wasn’t much here—what I’m understanding is that there’s a connection between that and this because there have been many killings of young people and so that’s what I mean by continuity is that this isn’t an isolated incident—I know that sounds rhetorical. But it’s a part of something that’s ongoing, and not just here in Ferguson, Missouri, but around the United States. So I mean I think that’s what’s bringing people like myself out, that frustration, that anger, that this just has to stop. You can see here that people are taking the street, literally walking up and down the street. I think it’s a good protest here. People are trying to speak freely and it’s being squelched and I think that escalates the issue of people being able to say what they want to say.
Just say a little about yourself.
I’m 35 years old, I’m a virtual assistant so I work online as an assistant.
You live around here?
I live about 10 minutes away. However, I grew up here in Dellwood and my mom was also born and raised in Dellwood which is just the next municipality over.
What’s that community like?
Just like this. I would say the majority is Black people and then the minority is older white people.
So you grew up in a majority Black neighborhood?
Yeah, up until I was 15 and then went to a majority white neighborhood and that was an eye opening situation.
So tell me a little bit about that, what was that like?
I’m going to be completely honest here. I grew up, my extended family, my grandmother, my aunts and uncles are racist, they’re bigots, I guess I should say...I grew up like that.
They use the N word?
Yes they do, no matter who the person that’s the word they use. And then being in predominantly Black schools, since I was the minority, I was treated badly since I was the minority. And then I went to a predominantly white high school and I was the majority and I saw how the Black minority was treated and that’s when I realized that ignorance comes in all colors and I stopped the cycle there. I was no longer—I didn’t like the N word anymore, I got out of that cycle. I now judge people by their character.
So I am here today because I know there’s racism, institutionalized racism, and the cops and the people around here. And that may go on forever because it seems like we all divide ourselves, whether or not it’s left, right; Republican, Democrat; religion; race. It’s sad that we continue to fight each other instead of bonding together because we’re not going defeat this oppressive government unless we all bond together.
So is this the first night [Saturday] you’ve been out here?
No I was out here all day on Thursday. I got here at about 10 o’clock on Thursday and left about 10 o’clock at night.
What was that like?
It was unbelievable. I have never felt so much love and unity in my life. And I’ve never been to such a big protest either and I’ve been to quite a bit of protests. I’m a political activist before this. I’ve been a political activist since 2007. I started waking up to the militarization of the police and the oppression that’s going on; the corruption, no accountability, no transparency. I started waking up to it in 2007...what was the question?
You were talking about Thursday.
Oh Thursday, yeah, that’s right. I’ve never been to a protest that big and I’ve never felt so much love and unity that I actually felt it physically. I had chills, several times. I cried a few times.
And that’s because....
The unity, the love that was going on and the fact that people were standing up and they weren’t backing down. The fact that they lasted that long. I mean that’s brave to keep coming back out here night after night after night—after being met with riot shields, snarling dogs, big guns, lasers pointed at you. During the daytime even you had guns on you, tanks. I mean, I was watching it online and I was just sick. It was sick. And then it hit me even harder because this is where I grew up too. So after Wednesday night I said, I’m going down there, I can’t take it anymore.
Wednesday night was a night when they went after people with tear gas, right?
Yeah, some really horrific pictures came out of Wednesday night and I said, I can’t sit here and watch this go on anymore. I’ve got to go down there because if I don’t stand up for them who is going to stand up for me when it’s my turn.
Yeah, I came down here and it was just, the love, the unity—I was thanked more times than I can count. I’m seeing the divides online and I’m trying not to pay attention to it. I’m trying to stay positive and look at all the positive stuff that’s coming out of this. The little small things that are having rippling effects—I see a lot of positive stuff coming out of this.
What do you think about the fact that they’ve now declared a State of Emergency and a curfew AND the fact that they haven’t indicted and arrested the cop who killed Michael Brown?
I don’t even know what to say. It’s mind boggling. [Governor] Nixon who called the emergency hasn’t even been here. So how do you really know what’s going on down here if you’re not down here, if you’re going by what the media tells you...
He knows what’s going on down here...
Well, I guess, I don’t know. Yeah, I guess so. But he’s got to play that game because that’s the game he’s in.
And there being no arrest of the cop...
It’s totally unacceptable. But you know what, it happens every day. I see a police brutality video—and that’s another reason I’m down here—because I see a video every single day on police brutality and the fact that we’re standing up, now’s the time. Something’s got to change. Police brutality everyday. And it was almost like when I first heard about Mike Brown, it was almost like he was just another statistic because that happens every day, sad to say. It really does—there’s some kind of botched raid, someone’s getting killed, being hurt, like the baby that got the grenade thrown. There’s just innocent people being victimized by the police state everyday.
So what’s different this time?
Well, there’s still no accountability. The only difference this time is that the people that are peacefully assembling aren’t backing down. That’s the difference is that they’re not backing down. So I’m glad and I’m proud that it’s coming from St. Louis.
And still no justice for Michael Brown.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
It was not hard for me to make the connection between the tragedy in Ferguson, Missouri, and the catalyst for my work to stop the climate crisis. It’s all over the news: images of police in military gear pointing war zone weapons at unarmed black people with their hands in the air. These scenes made my heart race in an all-to-familiar way (read the article at 350.org)
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
by Joe Veale | August 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We communists are unequivocally standing with the people demanding REAL JUSTICE... NOW. Arrest and imprison the killer cop of Michael Brown... NOW.
We also stand unequivocally with those who are defiant in making this demand. The angry and rebellious ones who do not fear death in making this righteous and just demand. Who refuse to get off the streets. Those who this system—those who presently hold power—and their talking heads on TV, on the news—lie about and criminalize. Over and over. Again and again.
As we do this we bring to all the people who are protesting and rebelling against this maddening injustice a crucial part of our revolutionary strategy to get rid of this whole damn system and all its injustices: FIGHT THE POWER, AND TRANSFORM THE PEOPLE, FOR REVOLUTION.
What about you, Malik Shabazz, and your group of so-called "New Black Panthers"?? What are you about?
You front as a "Black militant." You go to the police, the governor, the authorities—and tell them that you can better control and repress those who are rebelling better than they can. You work to convince them that they need you. That your "militancy," your "discipline," is in service of the oppressors of Black people. In service of aiding and abetting the system in controlling the angry and unruly Black youth this system has no future for.
You beg, plead and seek to work out a deal with those who are carrying out a steam-rolling program of genocide, mass incarceration, police brutality and murder against Black and Latino youth.
We have seen your shit before. Back in the day when I was in the Black Panther Party when they were militant about revolution—about fighting the powers-that-be—they accurately pinpointed what people with your outlook are really about: pork chop nationalism.
Pork chop nationalists work(ed) to misdirect and channel people's anger against their oppression back into working in the very system that is responsible for this oppression by putting these narrow nationalists in "official" positions of authority and influence over the people. In this light, they were “militant.” Militant "unofficial" bootlickers for the system.
Like Ron Karenga’s group back then who attacked the BPP because the Panthers were about organizing people to fight against the system—to make revolution—and the Panthers understood and were about building coalitions with whites, Latinos and everybody else who was coming to that understanding.
Karenga and his Us Organization was about him or people like him "owning" the oppression of Black people, pimping off of it. Using it. Directing it back into the system. Again with people like him fronting as "Black militants”—a "militancy" that they sought to trade and bargain for an official or unofficial position of authority to keep the Black youth of that time in "their place"—where they would be less of a threat to the whole oppressive system of capitalism.
The other part of their pork chop nationalism led members of Karenga's organization in 1969 to shoot down and kill Panther leader Bunchy Carter on the UCLA college campus along with John Huggins, another militant revolutionary nationalist Panther member.
There were other Panther members who Us members went after in this way.
Pork chop nationalists are counter-revolutionaries. They front like they are for the people getting free from oppression—getting justice—getting liberation and emancipation. But in reality they are for maintaining this foul and rotten system of oppression.
DO NOT ALLOW YOURSELF TO BE PLAYED BY THESE FOOLS!
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A press conference in downtown Chicago denounced the police murder of Michael Brown and the vicious suppression of people's righteous protest. Gregory Koger, a revolutionary communist and former prisoner who spent many years in solitary confinement, and who had just returned from Ferguson, spoke and said he was honored to have been in the streets of Ferguson, standing with the defiant youth to demand justice in the face of the brutal police repression. Tio Hardiman, executive director of Violence Interrupters, Inc., also spoke and saluted the youth in Ferguson. The press conference was attended by most of the local TV stations in Chicago. After the press conference and a short rally, people marched through downtown at rush hour and received enthusiastic support from the crowds in the street.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Ferguson, MO—that needed to happen! For all the communities where police murder is going on. It's Mike Brown, and it's also Dante Jordan, Tyler Woods and so many others. When my son was killed people in Long Beach were sleeping. Ferguson, MO has shown real gall—defiance. This gets the attention of the President, Attorney General, everyone. We've lost any trust in law enforcement. They cover things up. Everybody I know don't trust the police. My son, Dante Jordan, was heading home—39-year-old man—and he was shot 12 times by Long Beach police. We need to raise awareness of his assassination. We need to end the cover up. Last week, August 12, Dante Parker, my nephew, he was riding a bicycle. He has a heart ailment. He got sick. He had to stop. He sat down. He was sweating profusely. Someone called the cops. The police arrived. He was tased! And then they tased him 11 more times—12 times total! They put him in the cop car and the cops went and got their lies together. He died! Ferguson, MO—I'm part of Stolen Lives families, I call us Angel Mom's. We need to go to Ferguson, MO. I'm ready to go to Ferguson, MO. I'm taking the first seat in the first row. Stolen Lives and Stop Mass Incarceration Network needs money and sponsors to send us. Help out—I am ready to go and I want to bring my nephews mom and nephews wife with me.
It was definitely an experience, being in Ferguson, MO this past week. People have finally taken a stand! Most of the time the police murder someone, there is protest, but not with enough power, and then the police murder the next person.... This time Ferguson, MO said enough is enough. I stand with them 100%. Maybe my son would still be alive if this was done earlier. The system usually pays no mind and then they murder the next person. Not now. People are saying NO MORE! The system says people are rioting and it has to stop. Who are they talking to? The cops in Ferguson—they are ridiculous! Everywhere we protested in Ferguson this last week, every march we joined, cops agitating against the people and provoking the people and physically bumping us and threatening to arrest us. But people have a right to do what they are doing. Michael Brown—the wrong that they have done—they are covering it up. I'm proud of St. Louis. Then the Governor calls out the National Guard! What's he doing? What does this tell you? When Carl Dix is talking and saying an innocent 18-year-old young man has been shot down by cops—Carl is arrested. Why isn't the cop who shot Michael Brown arrested? The cop needs to be indicted, arrested, and even that won't be the end of it because they could rig the jury, so this fight needs to continue. Let's have the Stolen Lives families from around the country in St. Louis and Ferguson ASAP—people should give money and Frequent Flyer miles to sponsor that.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
John Lennon once sang, “Everybody’s talking ‘bout revolution.” Today, while it's not yet the case that everybody is talking about the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) in Ferguson, Missouri, a lot of people are. KKK-type websites are foaming at the mouth about the communists “stirring up” sections of people that these racist thugs are preparing to wipe out in a “race war.” They are lying, slandering, and distorting what the communists are about, and are making threats. No big shock that white supremacist fascists who are planning and preparing for a genocidal “race war" don’t like the RCP. But their attacks are something anyone who stands on the side of justice should take seriously. Then you have so-called “friends” of the struggle who are picking up bullshit and lies from these same fascist sources and recycling them on camera or online—giving these attacks supposed “credibility.” Then mainstream ruling class media recycle these lies, slanders, and attacks and say, “See, even leftists don’t like the Revolutionary Communist Party.”
The armed enforcers of this system and those who channel its outlook have particularly gone after Carl Dix of the RCP, as well as longtime revolutionary communists Travis Morales and Joey Johnson.
On August 18, when the Missouri police arrested 75 people during a night of defiant protest in Ferguson, they singled out Carl Dix, Travis Morales, and Joey Johnson. Some so-called "community leaders" acting as the "peace police" worked with the official police to get the three communists arrested. One of these people, St. Louis politician Antonio French, physically attacked Joey Johnson and punched him in the face—and then bragged about having Carl Dix arrested. Carl Dix and Joey Johnson were singled out by Capt. Ron Johnson, front man for the violent repression of the protests, for additional, higher charges (so far those charges have not materialized).
So, who are Carl Dix, Travis Morales, and Joey Johnson? And who are the bootlickers who get microphones in front of their faces or a lot of circulation online to attack these comrades? Here’s the story...
Carl Dix became a revolutionary in the 1960s when he straight-up defied the U.S. military machine at the height of the Vietnam War. After being drafted in 1968, he refused to be deployed to Vietnam to take part in the unjust imperialist war—and spent two years in the Leavenworth penitentiary for his principled stand.
Carl says his first meeting in 1974 with Bob Avakian—at the time the leader of the Revolutionary Union, forerunner of the RCP—was a "turning point in my life." They wrangled passionately for hours over how Black people could really get liberated and other key questions. Greatly influenced by that struggle, Carl had the courage to follow his convictions, break with nationalism, and become a revolutionary communist, dedicating his life to the cause of liberating all of humanity. (See "Traveling with Chairman Avakian: A Determined Revolutionary Leader, and a Fired Man, for Decades," by Carl Dix.) Carl Dix was a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party in 1975.
From then up to right now, Carl Dix has time and again been in the forefront of the struggles against the brutal crimes of this system against the people and the efforts to bring forward the movement for revolution.
When the Philadelphia police, with the approval of the whole power structure, bombed a house of Black radicals in 1985 and burned a city block to the ground, killing 11 people including five children, Carl Dix stepped forward to sharply challenge EVERYONE to take a stand—initiating the "Draw the Line" statement that was published in newspapers around the country. In 1992, when the people of LA rose up after the outrageous acquittal of the four cops who were caught on videotape viciously beating Rodney King—Carl Dix went to LA to stand with the righteous rebellion, oppose the vicious retaliation by those in power against the people, and to spread revolution. And responding to the great need to resist the horrendous epidemic of police brutality and murder across the country, Carl Dix co-founded the October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation in 1996.
When Obama was elected, and many people got swept up in the illusion that there were going to be big changes, Carl Dix engaged in a series of dialogues around the country with Cornel West that unflinchingly told the truth: "In the Age of Obama... Police Terror, Incarceration, No Jobs, Mis-education: What Future for Our Youth?"
In a situation where the slow genocide—which could become a fast genocide—of Black people under this system is continuing and even intensifying in many ways—Carl Dix is playing a leading role in the urgent resistance against this. He was crucial in initiating the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. And in November 2011, he and Cornel West kicked off a campaign of civil disobedience determined to STOP the NYPD's racist, unjust, and illegal practice of stop-and-frisk—and they, along with others, put their bodies on the line by sitting down in front of a Harlem police precinct and getting arrested.
Earlier this year, Carl Dix and Cornel West made a call for people broadly to act this October in a powerful Month of Resistance Against Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and Criminalization of a Generation. (See "Carl Dix and Cornel West on the October Month of Resistance and the Need to Act Against Mass Incarceration")
Travis Morales was a leader of the 1978 Moody Park Rebellion in Texas after Houston police murdered Joe Campos Torres. Six Houston cops had viciously beaten Torres, handcuffed him, and threw him into the bayou to drown. Two cops were convicted only of manslaughter—and fined $1. When police attacked people celebrating Cinco de Mayo in Moody Park, several thousand Chicanos and Mexicanos rose up—overturning cop cars and driving the police out of the neighborhood for several hours. The people won a small taste of justice. Five days later, those in power struck back—Travis and two others (the Moody Park 3) were arrested, charged with "felony riot," and faced 140 years in prison. The Moody Park 3 did not back down. As Travis Morales recently recounted, "The three of us testified that we were revolutionary communists who were about making revolution to overthrow this system of oppression and misery." They were able to win the case and walk free. (See "37 years after cops murdered José Campos Torres: Still Fighting to Stop Police Terror")
In the years since then, Travis Morales has been active in and a leader in many different struggles, including in the fight against the repression of immigrants, police brutality, and mass incarceration.
Everyone who has ever studied U.S. constitutional law and free speech has heard of Joey Johnson. He was the central figure in a legal and political battle with national and international reverberations, around the right to burn the U.S. flag as a form of protest. Joey Johnson and other RCP supporters were part of protests against the 1984 Republican National Convention in Dallas, Texas, that re-nominated Ronald Reagan for a second presidential term. Joey recently said, "We went there to counter all this USA #1 shit and stand with the people of the world." The police arrested about a hundred protesters, and a few got heavier charges—including Joey Johnson, who was convicted on flag-burning charges and sentenced to a one-year prison term and $2,000 fine. (See "Interview with Joey Johnson: 25 Years After the Supreme Court Decision on Flag Burning—The American Flag Is Still 'Toxic'")
During a nearly five-year battle to overturn the conviction, many people from different walks of life signed statements of support for Joey Johnson—while major ruling class voices attacked him. The case reached the U.S. Supreme Court, where Joey Johnson was represented by the famed radical lawyer William Kunstler and the Center for Constitutional Rights. The fight was not only in the courtroom but out broadly in society—exposing the flag as a symbol of American imperialism, and making clear that if the government was allowed to criminalize the burning of the flag, it would be a dangerous attack on political speech and move toward enforced patriotism. Joey Johnson eventually won the historic Supreme Court case.
Since then, Joey has been active in various struggles, including most recently in the efforts around the October Month of Resistance.
And who are the bootlickers who jump in front of a camera to attack these heroic fighters for liberation? Or the phony “radicals” who post snotty bullshit about these comrades on blogs? Ask them! Where were they when Black GIs and others refused to go to Vietnam and went to jail? Where were they when people rose up in Houston, Texas, after the murder of Jose Campos Torres? Where were they when society was split over the right to burn the symbol of oppression around the world? And whose side are they on now when the lines are sharply drawn in Ferguson between those who are FIGHTING FOR JUSTICE and those who are STANDING WITH THE MURDERERS OF MICHAEL BROWN?
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 22, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
For those who don’t know, Fruitvale Station is a very powerful, moving, and excruciating film that depicts the last day in the life of Oscar Grant. Oscar was a 22-year-old, unarmed Black man murdered by Bay Area Rapid Transit police on New Year’s Day, 2009. He was returning home from celebrating on New Year’s Eve, when police stopped Oscar and the friends he was with, harassed and brutalized them, straddled Oscar as he lay face down on a subway platform, and fatally shot him in the back.
Not too long ago, I watched Fruitvale Station with Bob Avakian (BA), chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Towards the very end of the film, agonizing, heartbreaking and infuriating scenes are shown: The cop shooting Oscar in the back; Oscar’s girlfriend frantically rushing to the scene, trying to find out what happened; Oscar’s loved ones gathering together and waiting desperately to find out if he would make it, only to find out he was gone forever.
As these scenes unfolded, I looked over at BA. He was sobbing. Not just misty-eyed. Sobbing. And he continued to cry tears of heartbreak and rage for several minutes, as the closing credits rolled.
This made a very big impression on me. BA did not know Oscar Grant personally. But he felt the sting of his murder in an extremely raw and visceral way. And I think his reaction speaks volumes about who Bob Avakian is, what he represents, and what he is all about.
BA has literally been fighting against this system for 50 years. He has been a revolutionary communist for about 45 years. He has been shouldering the responsibility of leading the Revolutionary Communist Party for almost 40 years. And over the course of the last several decades, he has forged the theory and deepened the science for the revolution humanity needs to get free, while also providing practical leadership to the party and movement working for that revolution. And all of this has involved not only tremendous work, but also tremendous risk and sacrifice on BA’s part as anyone with a sense of U.S. history, and/or BA’s personal history—specifically, what this reveals about the way the U.S. government viciously goes after revolutionary leaders—should well understand. And over all these decades, and through everything described above, BA has never lost an ounce of his love and feeling for the masses of people, his sense of outrage and hatred for all the ways in which the masses suffer needlessly, and his fire for revolution to emancipate the masses all over the world. Not one bone in his body has become numb.
There is a great deal more that could be said about the experience of watching Fruitvale Station with BA. But I want to highlight two points.
First, I think that in BA’s reaction to this movie, there is a lot for revolutionary communists, and anyone with concern for humanity and hatred for oppression and injustice, to reflect on and learn from. Even with all the work BA has done and continues to do in the realm of theory, in order to forge a deeper understanding of why police murders like the execution of Oscar Grant and countless other outrages keep happening, the larger picture they are connected to, and how these outrages can be ended through revolution; even though BA has been at this for decades; and even with all of the horrors that pile up every single second that this system remains in place, there is absolutely no sense on BA’s part of world-weary detachment or defeatism when something like the murder of Oscar Grant goes down. His reaction is decidedly not: “Oh, well of course, this happens all the time, what do you expect?” Rather, he cries tears of rage and anguish, both because he feels acutely the pain of Oscar’s life being stolen and because he knows that outrages like this are completely unnecessary and that humanity does not have to live this way.
This brings me to the second point I want to make here—and it is one I want to give even greater emphasis to, even while the first point above is very important and very related. The point I want to close this letter with is: We had better fully recognize and appreciate what we have in BA, and act accordingly.
I’ll say it again: We had better fully recognize and appreciate what we have in BA, and act accordingly.
And when I say “we had better,” that “we” is addressed to many different people and audiences. Yes, I am most definitely speaking to revolutionaries and communists and to all those who are already deeply familiar with and supportive of BA. But in saying “we,” I am also speaking to those who are just now—or just recently—learning about and getting introduced to this revolutionary leader—including, to quote BA, “Those this system has cast off, those it has treated as less than human” who “can be the backbone and driving force of a fight not only to end their own oppression, but to finally end all oppression, and emancipate all of humanity.”
To all the masses of people, here and around the world, who suffer brutal oppression minute after minute, day after day... and to all those who may not directly suffer this oppression but ache for a world where this oppression is no more, I want to say this: If you do not know about Bob Avakian, or just recently learned about him, that is not your fault. But you, and millions of other people, need to understand how incredibly rare and precious it is for the people of the planet that we have this revolutionary leader and act in accordance with that reality.
BA is not only the leader of the revolution, he is also a best friend to the masses of people. He is a leader who has done decades of work in the realm of theory to bring forward the scientific method, strategy and vision needed to make revolution and bring into being a radically new world where all the horrors that humanity suffers unnecessarily would be no more. He is continuing to develop the advanced scientific method that he has forged, and apply that method to all of the big questions and obstacles confronting the revolution. He is able to break all of this down for people, without even slightly watering it down, in a way that everyone can understand, take up, and be inspired by. He has taken on the daily responsibility of leading a party and a movement to make revolution right here in the most powerful imperialist country in the world. He has dedicated his life to the emancipation of humanity. And, through all of this, he maintains a deep, visceral connection to and feeling for the masses of people who most desperately need this revolution.
A leader like this comes along very, very rarely. And when this does happen, the absolute worst thing we could do is fail to recognize this, fail to act in accordance with this, fail to take this seriously, or take this for granted. Instead, all of us—whether we have known about BA for decades, are just learning about him and what he represents, or anywhere in between, and whether you agree with BA about everything or not—must fully recognize and embrace what BA means for the people of the world. We must study, and learn all we can from his incredible body of work on the biggest questions of revolution and human emancipation, as well as the lessons of who he is and what he stands for as a revolutionary leader. We must realize that it is not just us who need to know about BA, his work and vision, and the leadership he is providing to this party and movement for revolution: millions of people must know about all of this, and this must impact all of society.
Furthermore, and very crucially, we must fully confront the reality of what it would mean for the people of the world to lose this leader, and take extremely seriously that there are people and forces—those officially part of the powers-that-be, as well as those willing to do the work of the powers-that-be—who hate what BA represents and would like nothing more than to tear him down, silence him, and take him from the masses of people. And we must be absolutely determined not to let that happen.
This means taking very seriously the need to do everything we can to protect and defend BA. This means denouncing and not giving a millimeter of space to those who slander and personally attack BA, because these attacks and slanders are part of creating the poisonous atmosphere and conditions that would make it easier for the powers-that-be, or those doing their bidding, to take BA from the people of the world. Protecting and defending BA, and building a wall around him, also means boldly and sharply challenging those who may not be part of the camp of the enemy, but who are wallowing in, or at least being influenced by, arrogance, cynicism and snark, and who seek to dismiss without seriously engaging what BA has brought forward; this arrogance, snark, cynicism, and dismissal, regardless of the intent of those who fall into it, stands in the way of BA and all that he has brought forward having the reach and societal influence that this urgently needs to have. And this, too, creates easier conditions for those who would try to silence and isolate BA and take him from the masses.
Few things in life are more tragic than a critical lesson learned too late. And it would truly be a tragedy if BA were taken from the people, and then people said: “Wow, I wish I had realized sooner what we had here.”
But the good news is: It is not too late. We, and the masses of the planet, have BA right now. We had better realize, and let everyone know, what that means.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
Interview with Sunsara Taylor 8/24/14:
August 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors’ note: Throughout August, the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride has been confronting the attempt to close all but six abortion clinics in the state of Texas. We spoke with Sunsara Taylor on the situation, the stakes, and the urgency of people to act now.
REVCOM.US: What is the situation in Texas now?
Sunsara Taylor: We are in a countdown to the most dramatic round of clinic closures to hit a single state since Roe v. Wade legalized abortions in the U.S. And the situation in Texas is a concentration of the national emergency facing women’s right to abortion.
A Texas law, HB2, is about to go fully into effect (parts have already been implemented) on September 1. We are waiting for a ruling in the court of a challenge to HB2, but if nothing changes, all but six clinics will close in Texas. It is absolutely essential that people across this country stand up at this moment and raise their voices and act against this – and that we do so in such a way that builds the kind of resistance necessary to reverse the whole trajectory and momentum of the war on women across this country and beyond.
REVCOM.US: Give us a sense of the situation on the ground now.
Sunsara Taylor: What we’ve seen on the ground, across the state, is huge sections of women living in conditions where essentially abortion care is outside their reach, or extremely difficult to access. Even at taco stands or places where we stop for directions, we find people telling us how supportive they are. First people are taken aback by how openly and unapologetically we are talking about abortion and women's liberation, and then their stories come out. Yesterday, a young woman told me that at 17 her mother stopped her from having an abortion and how even though she loves her five-year-old daughter she is still angry and wishes she'd had an abortion. She doesn't want other women to go through what she and her daughter are being forced to go through.
The night before, an older Black guy, a guy whose boss sent him over to stop us from flyering at an event, when he realized what we were about opened up to us. Turns out he had 16 brothers and sisters, his mother nearly died having all these babies, but she couldn't stop – this was before Roe. On top of all that, this guy was sent to prison at age 14 and did 40 years. 40 years. He was just a baby when he went in. Right there in this one story is almost everything you need to know about what is wrong with this country – in terms of the total disregard for the humanity of women as well as for Black people. I mean, how can you hear a story like that and really think about what that means, and deny the need for a revolution?. And like I told him, not only is revolution necessary and possible, but a big part of making that revolution – in addition to promoting and fighting for this revolution and its leadership, Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, to be widely known and supported – is standing up and fighting back against all these outrages and working to unite with everyone else who sees, or can be won to see, how outrageous they are.
REVCOM.US: What have you accomplished so far?
Sunsara Taylor: The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride – with dozens of volunteers who have been living on the road for almost a month and the whole wide range of folks who've been part of this around the country from many different perspectives – has had a huge impact. We've reached millions through the media. We have begun to set new terms – that the right to abortion is not about “killing babies” but whether or not women will be enslaved by forced motherhood. Hundreds of thousands of people have heard or seen our message: Abortion on Demand and Without Apology. We are clarifying to everyone what this battle is objectively about. And we are setting a standard for what it means to resist.
The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride has brought clarity to many people. We have been on the ground for a month, all over the state. We’ve been deep into the communities. We’ve reached out into the cultural scenes and to students. We’ve put ourselves on the line for that – we have been arrested, brutalized, gone to jail and come back stronger.
And this has drawn forth a deep response. People have shared stories of women who died before Roe v. Wade. In Brownsville – on the Mexican border – we heard stories of rape coming across the border. And about how hard it is to get birth control, with the repressive effect and shame that comes from the Catholic Church. And we’ve seen the terrible impact of no abortion clinic being within hundreds of miles.
REVCOM.US: Talk about the stakes of this coming week of defiance.
Sunsara Taylor: Now, with one week left before all these abortion clinics are set to close, we are organizing a Week of Defiance! We will be at Governor Rick Perry’s mansion in Austin every single day with pictures of women who have died from illegal abortions. We will bring bloody coat hangers (which were used by women to self-induce abortions before Roe v. Wade). We will wear shackles representing female enslavement.
We’re calling on everyone across the state, around the country, to join us on Ground Zero in the battle against the war on women – here in Texas. And to take action wherever they are – to take out faces of women in public, send in your plans and your pictures to StopPatriarchy.org.
We’ll see more courageous actions, more voices of prominence like those who signed the ad in the Austin Statesmen – many well-loved people who signed the statement. We will have participation of people from different walks of life, speaking out.
This is a watershed moment. What we do will have dramatic impact on how this battle unfolds. So, join with us. Step up. And act in ways commensurate with the stakes – enslavement of women or liberation of women.
REVCOM.US: Of course people will be able to follow this and get involved, and dig into what’s behind all this and what to do about it, at revcom.us. And there are additional organizing materials at stoppatriarchy.org. Right?
Sunsara Taylor: Yes!
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 18, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
As people raise their heads—jolted and inspired by the people rising up in rebellion in Ferguson, Missouri, against yet another police murder of a young unarmed Black man in America—they need to know that another world is possible. Everyone awakening to the great turmoil all over the world needs to know that there is a way out of the horror and madness of this system. They need to know about the vision and leadership of Bob Avakian (BA) for a radically new society that could be brought about through revolution.
From now through Labor Day weekend, the BA Everywhere campaign is calling on all who are learning about and inspired by Bob Avakian’s work—to go all-out—taking word of Bob Avakian and what he has brought forward and the BA Everywhere campaign wherever people are in struggle, reaching out to people from all walks of life who are agonizing over what kind of world this is and what can be done to change it.
Gather together crews to spread BA Everywhere and raise funds to get his work out on a whole other, major level across the country. Sit down with people to ask for donations; get in touch with everyone who has met the campaign to encourage them to take up the campaign and to follow revcom.us, where you find news of the BA Everywhere campaign and of the movement for revolution and of the people standing up. Go all-out to make the objectives of the BA Everywhere campaign—to make BA and his work known all over—real.
Now is the time for the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live to be seen by many people—a time for resisting together in the streets and getting into this powerful piece of work together that can “change how you see the world and what you do with the rest of your life.” (from one of the filmmakers)
Now is the time for the “REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!” T-shirts to take off, becoming known and seen all over as a badge of resistance and defiance to everything intolerable and oppressive that this system brings down on the people. Raise funds, get sponsorships for people from Ferguson to New York, from Chicago to the border with Mexico—to wear the T-shirt as they stand up to resist—and as they get together to chill, to play ball, to hang.
Now is the time to sit down with dozens of people who can make significant donations. Introduce them to the BA Everywhere campaign’s objective of raising major funds to make BA and his work known society wide, and challenge them to make a contribution to radically changing this world. People can and should donate to BA Everywhere in general, or to particular projects.
Labor Day picnics, barbecues, gatherings: an opportunity for all kinds of people who are lifting their heads, straightening their backs, starting to see with new eyes—to learn more about Bob Avakian and the BA Everywhere campaign and the difference it can make; an opportunity to get involved, to donate, to JOIN this campaign. A chance to get into the big questions of why things are as they are and how all this can change—the big questions that most people, most of the time, don’t allow themselves to think about—or to hope could be different. A chance to meet up with the Revolutionary Communist Party and the movement for revolution it is leading.
The Labor Day gatherings will be a culmination of the summer and launch to the fall. Simple programs will bring people together—and bring together outrage, defiance, questions, determination to find a different way—with the revolutionary strategy and vision that BA has brought forward—building community and breaking bread—and raising funds.
And the historic announcement being made on revcom.us on September 1 will be read by the RCP, USA at these events.
Resources and materials for BA Everywhere organizing and fundraising: revcom.us/movement-for-revolution/BAE/materials-en.html
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
Updated August 25, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
New York City
Click for Sampler Edition PDF
The BA Everywhere Campaign hosted "Break ALL the Chains" celebrations around the country to mark the publication of Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution. These celebrations of artistic performances, testimonies, and deep revolutionary substance and feeling were fueled by people's response to BAsics 3:22 (read BA's full quote in the book BAsics from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian). People came together, building community through being part of a dinner, or picnic, or BBQ in different cities. The celebrations raised funds and marked a midpoint in the summer 2014 BA Everywhere campaign to raise big money to make it possible for people across the country to come to know of BA and the new synthesis of communism that he has brought forward—which is a deeper, more scientific understanding of the methods, the goals, the strategy and plan for making revolution and creating a new society.
On this page are pictures from gatherings around the country and excerpts from statements and testimonials. Click on the description of the person who gave the testimonial for full text.
Video of New York City event.
From an Abortion Rights Freedom Rider and member of a Revolution Club: excerpts from a statement on the "Abortion Rights Freedom Ride: GROUND ZERO TEXAS" read at an August 9th "Break ALL the Chains!" celebration.
August 14, 2014
Poem written for the Break ALL the Chains! Celebrations by a young woman poet.
August 14, 2014
New York City: Signing banner of support to the "Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, Ground Zero Texas"
A brief look at the "Break ALL the Chains" Celebration in New York City.
August 14, 2014
Los Angeles: Break ALL the Chains! August 9th dinner celebration at Revolution Books. Jerry Quickley, poet, playwright and filmmaker, performs.
Closing remarks from the Co-MC at the "Break ALL the Chains!" Celebration in New York City
August 14, 2014
New York City
A statement read at the "Break ALL the Chains" Celebration in New York City.
New York City
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
July 25, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From 1965 to 1978 I began to be exposed to what was the truth about these United States. This info came from reading Black Muslim literature, Black Panther literature. In fact I knew Fred Hampton, Mark Clark and Bobby Rush personally. But I was deeply caught up in another lifestyle that led to a lengthy prison sentence. In 1978 I was tried and convicted, sentenced to 90 years in the XX prison system. I call this the beginning of my education in the school of hard knocks and there were plenty.
3/18/78 They shipped 120 men to the reception and diagnostic center in XXX to be processed. I noticed almost immediately that 70 of 120 men were Black men. Next came being unloaded like cattle pushed and prodded from the bus, lined up and unchained. A captain appeared and began giving his intimidation speech. The very first thing he said is, "you Black Boys from XXX don't run shit down here. If you try gang activity we'll find out." He also states this really applied to those of us who had long sentences. Then he ask how many of us had 50 years or more, signal by raising our hands. We did as asked; out of 120, 70 were Black men.
He then demanded the 70 step forward and then he walks up to each of us making eye contact to see who would flinch while he attempted tried to stare us down. Some did flinch. I didn't and was singled out. He demanded my name and length of my sentence. After giving him my name, etc. he says to me, "I'm Captain XXX and we'll break you down for 5 years or we'll send you back to XXX in a pine box." He turns to me, calling another officer and orders him to escort me to the barber shop and have my fro cut completely off. I flatly refuse and was taken to the hole, what is now called segregation. Next day he comes around and states very seriously that I'd be there until I cut my hair. 69 days later I was told to come out for a visit, but first to shower and change clothes. Somehow my Mom got a court order for a visit. That was my intro to that correctional facility. There's a lot more.
But let me get to how I got to the R.C.P. [Revolutionary Communist Party]. At a meeting one day, on a Sunday, I sat next to a person and I asked what did he think of this new Black president. The answer was "I'm political but revolutionary." I don't remember exactly how it happened. But I do remember purchasing a DVD by Bob Avakian, Why it's necessary, Why it's possible, What it's all about [REVOLUTION: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About – a film of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party].
After this amazing DVD came a host of other revolutionary literature starting with From Ike to Mao [From Ike to Mao and Beyond, My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist, a memoir by Bob Avakian], The Red Book [Quotations from Chairman Mao, popularly known as the "Red Book"], Mumia Abu-Jamal, Revolution–Nothing Less! [BA Speaks: REVOLUTION-NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live, a film of a talk given by BA in the fall of 2012], What Humanity Needs [WHAT HUMANITY NEEDS, Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism, An Interview with Bob Avakian, text of an interview with BA by a younger-generation revolutionary]. I could go on and on, suffice it to say I've been thoroughly enlighten with R.C.P., its goals and the vision of Bob Avakian. Of all the literature I've read while incarcerated, having BAsics [BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian] would have opened my mind to what's really going on with this capitalistic system. In fact, it's my personal reference Book. Part of my reason stems from what BAsics has imparted to me.
I'm donating one dollar for every year I was incarcerated to the 1,000 Years–$1000 for BA Everywhere project initiated by BA Everywhere. Part of my donation will go to toward the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund to send BAsics to prisoners – that they will become enlighten as I have.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
To all those who truly do want to see an end to the outrages and abuses coming down on people... and to the slanderers, the haters, the opportunists, and worse:
THERE ARE 2 THINGS ABOUT THE REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST PARTY, USA THAT SOME PEOPLE APPARENTLY HATE... THAT OTHER PEOPLE CHERISH...AND THAT EVERYBODY NEEDS TO KNOW ABOUT AND UNDERSTAND:
1) We are about fighting this whole wretched system of exploitation and oppression, and bringing in a radically different, liberated world. We take the responsibility to look at all the outrages and abuses and agonizing problems confronting humanity... we analyze where they come from and how they are linked... we fight hard against them and figure out how to get rid of them. And we do all this as part of bringing forward a new system.
2) When there is a particularly outrageous abuse, an abuse which absolutely requires and demands that people stand up against it, we take the responsibility to reach out as widely as we can to unite with every honest person, of whatever viewpoint, who wants to fight it, and together we fight as hard as we possibly can to defeat the outrage. We don’t view any particular kind of oppression as anyone’s property. We don’t think that it is negative when people from one section of society stand against abuses coming down on others, and stand with others to fight back. To the contrary: to do anything less, let alone to work against that, is to betray the hopes of the oppressed who really do yearn to see and know that others will stand up. And all our experience—right down to today, in taking on the outrageous police murder of Michael Brown in Missouri and in waging a battle against the life-and-death restrictions being put on abortion in Texas—shows that when such support is forthcoming, those who are under attack welcome this!
In other words, we are about fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. This has been a hallmark of our Party for 40 years. Not only that—this has been led and fought for and insisted upon, no matter what the conditions or circumstances, by Bob Avakian, the leader of our Party, going all the way back before our founding, to the 1960s.
The biggest problem today is NOT that too many people are daring to fight against abuses coming down on others. The biggest problem is that too many people who recognize those abuses for the outrages that they are stand aloof, and stay in their comfort zone, as horrendous crimes are being carried out against millions and billions. Compounding and reinforcing this, people are being given reasons and excuses for this complicity by purveyors of “identity politics”—and when those excuses wear thin, they are given warnings to “stay in their lane.”
A simple but bedrock point of morality: anyone who sees an injustice needs to fight against it.
Contrary to that basic point, some people in the movement act as if they were “franchise managers” of oppression, lashing out with full-blown campaigns of slander and vitriol both against those who are fighting to end ALL oppression as well as many who are fighting very hard on particular fronts against the serious attacks of this system, but doing so without the “permission” of these gatekeepers. Rather than airing and debating differences of principle and strategy, they try to cow people with slanders and half-truths, and consciously foster an unthinking crowd mentality. They have spent much more energy going after those who are actually putting something on the line to fight the current attack than the attack itself. These same forces come down with tremendous pressure against anyone who even wants to give a hearing to those waging this fight, let alone support them or unite with them.
This is not only utterly wrong in its own right, this is not only deadly to the critical and scientific spirit on which getting to the truth actually depends, it provides waters in which counter-revolutionaries and police can and do fish around—as the whole bitter experience of COINTELPRO shows.
This is particularly sharp right now in terms of the attacks on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, which the RCP supports and in which we work with people of many other viewpoints. People claiming to be “Texans for Reproductive Justice” have made and/or refused to disavow physical threats against at least one leader of this movement... they have mounted toxic social media campaigns against those who dare to stand with this Freedom Ride, complemented by vicious behind-the-scenes whispering campaigns... they toss around slanders of racism for daring to draw inspiration from historical battles against the oppression of Black people within the U.S. and for drawing analogies and links between the many different forms of oppression this system brings down... they make threats against people with media platforms for airing the views of spokespeople of this movement... and all the while they pump out crude anti-communist slanders and attacks.
They have also issued a statement that gathers all this together in a slicker form. Anyone who reads their statement should think first of all about the fact that nowhere in this whole screed do they even mention the actual emergency afoot in Texas, the actual real-life fact that on September 1, unless the situation is radically reversed, Texas will have only six clinics—down from 46 in 2011! Do they even stop to think what that will mean for women in Texas and what that means for the whole political direction of the U.S.?!? That alone should both disqualify this online attack from serious consideration and reveal the capitulationism at the heart of these people.
But two other, seemingly smaller, aspects of their statement actually speak volumes on the “principles,” the outlook, and the real concerns of those who have been doing this. First, their “statement of concern”—which in its very first points accuses the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride of “racism” for honoring the tradition of the Freedom Rides of 1961 and then later goes on to attack RCP Chairman Bob Avakian in similar terms for daring to compare the pornographic degradation of women to the practice of making and distributing postcards of the photos of lynchings of Black men and women—a slander which can be easily refuted by just going and reading or listening to what he actually says about this, leaving aside a whole history of battling around this question. Note, please, that all this self-righteous slander is headed by the flag of the “Texas Republic,” a flag which was carried into battle by those who defended slavery, not just against Mexico but in the Civil War itself. Second, there is their hungry-eyed obsession with the money that the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride has raised to actually struggle against this attack, while ignoring the egregious fact that Wendy Davis, the so-called “pro-women” candidate who rose to prominence on the back of seeming to fight against the suppression of abortion rights, raises tens of millions of dollars in a campaign which does not even mention the word abortion... other than her support for the ban on abortions after 20 weeks!
What does any of this have to do with principled debate over how to go forward?!?! And who, ultimately and not so ultimately, does this serve?!?
This is unconscionable. It is causing great harm, not only to this struggle but even more importantly, to questions of larger significance. We all face a question:
What standards, embodying what morality, will our movement have? Will this be a movement marked by principled debate over differences, and by a focus on the real enemy and the real attacks and abuses that urgently cry out to be opposed and ended? Or will this be something lesser, where people allow themselves to be divided into competing “interest groups,” clawing against one another for advantage within, yes, the privileged ground of an imperialist empire that rests on the exploitation of billions worldwide... a politics which, for all its rhetoric, is in reality nothing but the so-called “American way” of narrow “pluralism,” a politics that does nothing in the end but keep this horrific way of life going.
Principled people must draw a line against these attacks. These attacks MUST be ended... now! Further: to those who have been caught up in this, or stood on the sidelines because of confusion or fear, the time is now to come together and to actually fight against the horrific attack against women’s abortion rights coming down in Texas. Let that be a first step in changing the ethos and tone of the movements fighting injustice. Let us, from our various viewpoints, struggle for a spirit of generosity and largeness of mind, a spirit of airing and debating differences to get at what is actually true, in order to better fight for what is just. We need a movement in which people would want to and can work and struggle for a society in which they would want to live and in which they could flourish.
Which side are you on?
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The rulers of Israel are carrying out massive war crimes in Gaza. They say they are "fighting terrorism," but they are waging war on the entire Palestinian population in Gaza. Israel has killed over a thousand people in Gaza since July 8, most of them civilians, including women and children. And the U.S. is backing these crimes.
This must STOP NOW!
For eight years Israel has locked down nearly two million Palestinians in Gaza—an area 25 miles long and as densely populated as New York City. Israel cut off contact between Gaza and the outside world. You can't visit there. People can't leave. Israel starves people in Gaza and keeps them from growing food or fishing—as a result, more than one in ten children in Gaza suffer from acute malnutrition and one in five suffer from anemia. Unemployment is over 38 percent—far higher than in the U.S. during the Great Depression. Israel has destroyed people's access to drinkable water and reliable electricity.
The essence of what is going on here is not a "conflict between Jews and "Muslims." Israel is not—in any real way—a response to the historic oppression of Jewish people. It is a product of and sponsored by imperialism. Hamas and Islamic fundamentalism are not emancipatory at all but they are not the cause of this massacre. To break through and bring forward another way demands people here OPPOSE ISRAEL'S CRIMES NOW.
"Stop Israel's Massacre in Gaza NOW!"
"After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to Jewish people is the state of Israel"
(Bob Avakian/BAsics 5:12)
Send reports on your experience to email@example.com.
When Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Pedro Almodóvar and many other actors and theater people from Spain courageously spoke out publicly against Israel’s massacre in Gaza, you lashed back, saying they were “ignorant of the whole story of Israel’s birth.”
You were a cheerleader for the U.S. invasion of Iraq—that set the stage for the horrors that inflict that country today. You continued to promote the absurd and obscene LIE that Iraq had “weapons of mass destruction.”
You are ignorant of the facts of “Israel’s birth” based on the violent, terrorist ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
And now you cannot see that what Israel is doing to the Palestinian people in Gaza—massacring people including children, starving and terrorizing a whole population—is genocide.
How much more ignorant can anyone be?
So shut up Jon Voight, you fucking ignoramus.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
327 Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide have signed this letter written in response to Elie Wiesel’s manipulation of the Nazi Genocide to attempt to justify the attacks on Gaza. This letter and a selected list of signatories appeared as an ad in the August 23 edition of the New York Times. Revcom.us received permission from the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network to publish the letter and signatories list.
Click here to view the press release from signatories to the letter. For more information including more details about signatories and their histories, visit http://ijsn.net/gaza/survivors-and-descendants-letter/.
As Jewish survivors and descendants of survivors and victims of the Nazi genocide we unequivocally condemn the massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and the ongoing occupation and colonization of historic Palestine. We further condemn the United States for providing Israel with the funding to carry out the attack, and Western states more generally for using their diplomatic muscle to protect Israel from condemnation. Genocide begins with the silence of the world.
We are alarmed by the extreme, racist dehumanization of Palestinians in Israeli society, which has reached a fever-pitch. In Israel, politicians and pundits in The Times of Israel and The Jerusalem Post have called openly for genocide of Palestinians and right-wing Israelis are adopting Neo-Nazi insignia.
Furthermore, we are disgusted and outraged by Elie Wiesel's abuse of our history in these pages to justify the unjustifiable: Israel's wholesale effort to destroy Gaza and the murder of more than 2,000 Palestinians, including many hundreds of children. Nothing can justify bombing UN shelters, homes, hospitals and universities. Nothing can justify depriving people of electricity and water.
We must raise our collective voices and use our collective power to bring about an end to all forms of racism, including the ongoing genocide of Palestinian people. We call for an immediate end to the siege against and blockade of Gaza. We call for the full economic, cultural and academic boycott of Israel. “Never again” must mean NEVER AGAIN FOR ANYONE!
Children of survivors:
Grandchildren of survivors
Great-grandchildren of survivors
Other relatives of survivors
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
People’s Climate March: A Call to All Those Who Want to “Change Everything”
July 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following call should be reproduced and circulated in the environmental movement, especially to those mobilizing for the September 21 protest. Copies should be available at Revolution Books stores.
On September 21, tens of thousands of people will be converging in New York City for an unprecedented “People’s Climate March.” An enormous sense of urgency and responsibility for the future of the planet is motivating people to come to the march.
The Revolutionary Communist Party calls on people to join with this effort, to mobilize broadly, and to make this outpouring as powerful as possible.
The climate emergency is impacting the entire planet, and accelerating toward catastrophe. Millions in the poor countries already face an unsustainable environmental hell, and the future of human civilization is in question. Species and critical ecosystems face degradation and collapse.
This is a moment to seize, a moment to begin to wrench the planet off the path of destruction that it is on.
We DO need to “change everything,” to “bend the course of history,” as the call for the September 21 march declares. But what will it take to “change everything”? Can that happen under this system, with its economics, its politics, and its priorities? It cannot. Because this capitalist system is the barrier to where we need to go. To “change everything” we need revolution, nothing less!
We need the most scientific understanding of the physical processes of climate change, acidification, accelerating species extinctions, and the many intertwined manifestations of ecological destruction. But we ALSO need the most scientific understanding of why governments, countries, and those sitting in the world's seats of power are not addressing this insane trajectory in the ways that would be needed to actually stop and reverse it.
A global system of ruthless competition for profit among capitalists and among nation-states cannot and will not meet the needs of humanity. It cannot and will not stop waging wars and occupations that result in vast destruction and displacement. Nor can it safeguard the rich diversity of life on this planet.
The problem is bigger than “big oil”... bigger than “the corporations.” Capitalism-imperialism is a whole profit-based system that treats people as objects of exploitation and the natural world as something to be grabbed and poured into production for profit. Fossil fuels are foundational to the profitable functioning of this system. And to its strategic requirements: the U.S. military, a military of empire, depends on oil; and great-power control over oil and natural gas and energy provides leverage over the world economy.
To capital, the destruction of Earth’s atmosphere, the seas and rivers, the magnificent species populating the earth, are of no consequence in their drive to beat out rivals at the global level.
Capitalism is completely incapable of being a fit caretaker of the planet.
The capitalist-imperialist system has brought us to the brink of catastrophe. Only the most radical revolution in human history—that liberates human beings and ends the ravaging of the planet——can cope with the environmental crisis on the scale and with the urgency required.
Bob Avakian has developed a strategy for real revolution and a vision and framework for a radically new state power. Communist revolution is about emancipating all of humanity. It is about enabling humanity to become the caretakers of the planet. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), which is inspired by Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism, makes as one of the fundamental principles governing the new society, “protecting, preserving, and enhancing the ecosystems and biodiversity of the planet for current and future generations.”
We need a very different kind of society and economy: with the means and orientation to prioritize the flourishing of human potential and to devote the necessary resources, creativity, and expertise to address the planetary environmental emergency.
It won’t be easy. But this is our only chance of achieving a truly sustainable society—and beginning the process of restoring the ecosystems of the planet.
People often say the situation is too dire to “wait” for revolution, that we need something more “practical.” Yes, the situation is urgent, critical. But here is the question: Should we deal with this emergency by hoping for capitalism to “come to its senses”——or by putting an end to a system that in its blind and remorseless pursuit of profit has brought us to this precipice?
And we are not waiting! We are standing up and fighting back now. We are building a movement for this revolution.
To all those who care about the planet, and especially those coming out to September 21, we say: Be true to your convictions. Follow through on your principles to save the planet—whatever the obstacles, pressures, and difficulties. Don’t lower your sights when you come up against the magnitude of what we are facing, or when the people running this system display their enormous power and ruthlessness.
This Revolution special issue focuses on the environmental emergency that now faces humanity and earth's ecosystems. In this issue we show:
If you are an activist, don’t adapt to the so-called “realities of the system”—that you can’t go beyond certain bounds. If you are a scientist, don’t water down your findings and their implications because of pressures from industry, government, or academia.
This stand is a basic dividing line at a time when the future of the planet is at stake.
At the same time, the revolution will be there with you: in the midst of important battles, standing side by side, and bringing our full revolutionary perspective into the swirl.
We invite those of you searching for alternatives to this madness to learn about this revolution... and to become part of the movement for revolution:
We bring a passion to save the earth and emancipate world humanity into these protests and this movement.
Let’s start this dynamic of mutual struggle and engagement now, as we move toward September 21. Let’s get an exciting process going; opening up all kinds of discussion, dialogue, and debate; learning from each other; testing out different ideas and perspectives; mobilizing millions. And not stop until we have truly changed the course of everything.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
Letter from a reader
August 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I've been following news of the horrible outbreak of the Ebola virus in Africa, and wanted to share a few brief thoughts on the way this contagion is being confronted, and being reported in the West.
At least 1,500 people in Western Africa have died excruciating, agonizing deaths caused by the Ebola virus in the past couple of months. Health officials say the actual number is probably far greater. A recent statement from the World Health Organization said : "In parts of Liberia, a phenomenon is occurring that has never before been seen in an Ebola outbreak. As soon as a new treatment facility is opened, it is immediately filled with patients, many of whom were not previously identified. This phenomenon strongly suggests the existence of an invisible caseload of patients who are not being detected by the surveillance system."
People in areas afflicted by the virus have been hit with ferocious repression fueled by rampant misinformation about Ebola. The fact that Ebola is contagious is being used as a pretext to send armed troops storming into vast slums, shooting and beating people, and erecting barricades to keep them penned in. These methods are similar to those used in the Dark Ages of Europe, when religiously based ignorance was almost universal and there wasn't a scientific understanding of how to treat contagious illnesses.
The Ebola outbreak has been deadly and devastating, and is causing huge medical, social, and political crises in several countries now. It has the potential to become a global catastrophe of unprecedented scope. Far from being an “unpreventable medical disaster”, the Ebola out break has revealed crime upon crime committed upon the people by the system of capitalism-imperialism.
This virus is named after the Ebola River in Central Africa, where it was first discovered in 1976. There have been repeated outbreaks almost every year since then, killing hundreds of people. People afflicted with Ebola experience high fevers and heavy diarrhea, and, within days, violent bleeding from all body orifices, including the eyes, ears, and nose. Up to 90 percent of the people with Ebola die. Medical experts think Ebola is spread by direct contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of infected people and animals. Corpses of people who died of Ebola still contain the virus and can cause it to proliferate.
The previous Ebola outbreaks occurred in relatively isolated rural areas. Medical and political authorities were able to contain them somewhat. The current outbreak is the first in heavily populated areas along the West African coast. It is also the most widespread and complex outbreak to date.
Ebola has been found in people in Lagos, Nigeria – the largest city in Africa, an urban area with an estimated population of about 20 million people. Many people have died of Ebola in West Point, a slum area of Monrovia, Liberia's capital. Now the entire district has been put under military quarantine, and Liberian soldiers have viciously attacked people trying to get out. National Geographic reported that over one million people in rural areas of Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia have been completely cut off from access to food and supplies by military blockades. A doctor with Doctors Without Borders described the situation in Monrovia as “catastrophic” and being in “free fall.”
A relative handful of heroic and courageous doctors and medical workers have struggled to control the spread of Ebola and to treat people with the virus. Many of these people have themselves died. Sheik Umar Khan, the doctor who led the effort to contain Ebola in Sierra Leone, died in late August a week after he was known to have been infected with the virus. A doctor who worked with Dr. Khan said his death was "a big and irreparable loss to Sierra Leone as he was the only specialist the country had in viral hemorrhagic fevers.”
But the measures taken by Western imperialist governments to alleviate this horrific humanitarian crisis have been feeble and aimed at protecting themselves. The outbreak only began getting serious attention from the West when concerns that the virus could spread out of Africa arose. Two Americans associated with Christian ministries in Africa who had Ebola were administered doses of an experimental and expensive drug called ZMapp, which had been “secretly transported to their bedsides in Monrovia” - a move coordinated by their ministry, the pharmaceutical company that manufactured ZMapp, and the U.S. government. When the two had stabilized they were flown to the US. In the US their electrolyte levels and the clotting ability of their blood were monitored closely until they were declared cured of Ebola.
But there is no such monitoring, much less treatment, for people in Western Africa who go to treatment centers. These people receive only a single test – a screening for the Ebola virus – between admission and death or recovery.
The causes behind the rampant, rapid spread of this deadly virus in sprawling urban slums and vast rural areas, and the actions taken (and not taken) by the European and American imperialist countries that dominate West Africa and pharmaceutical corporations in these countries all point to a basic truth. The global system of capitalism-imperialism is responsible in a very direct way for this horrific crisis.
Distribution of medical facilities, personnel, resources, and research is grotesquely lopsided in a world dominated by capitalism-imperialism. The tremendous productive resources controlled by the imperialist countries, and most of the medical research undertaken in the world today, benefit and enrich a handful of people. Billions of dollars funding medical research is poured into developing treatments for ailments and conditions that primarily afflict relatively well off people in the imperialist countries; diseases and conditions that exist primarily in the vast and impoverished oppressed regions of Asia, Africa, and Latin America are left largely unchecked, under researched and under funded.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that what it calls “neglected tropical diseases” such as dengue fever affect more than a billion people in the world and kill up to 500,000 a year. A study commissioned by the WHO found that between 1974 and 2004, of the 1,500 new drugs that were made available worldwide, only 10 targeted these tropical illnesses.
One expression of this “crime of omission”: since the deadly Ebola virus was discovered in 1976, no drug has ever been approved to treat the disease, and little research has been done. John Ashton, president of the UK Faculty of Public Health in London, described this situation as indicating “the moral bankruptcy of capitalism acting in the absence of an ethical and social framework.”
An article in the New Yorker on the economics of Ebola research bluntly stated “diseases that mostly affect poor people in poor countries aren't a research priority, because it’s unlikely that those markets will ever provide a return”. The doses of ZMapp given to the two Americans in Liberia may have been the only existing doses in the world. Further, the argument is made that even if the medication existed, it would be too expensive to apply to such a vast population.
However, African people, and people in Asia and Latin America, are used in the experimentation to develop new drugs for use in the West. Harriet Washington, author of the important book “Medical Apartheid”, said in a recent interview that 40 percent of clinical trials for new drugs are conducted in the “developing world”. She said pharmaceutical companies “go to the developing world not because they want to make drugs available for the people there, but because testing is cheaper and quicker, and time is money in testing.”
Washington added, “I always say that although people portray Africans as poor people and speak about their inability to afford drugs, in reality we are the ones who owe them. They are making these drugs possible. They are making development of these drugs possible. They then don't have access to them. So we are actually in their debt. If we have to pay a large amount of money to make Ebola drugs available to these people, that is what we need to do, not only from an ethical standpoint, but from an economic standpoint. That would be economic justice.”
The Ebola virus spreads rapidly, uncontrollably, and in unpredictable ways in sprawling urban slums and vast but heavily populated rural areas. Sanitation, sewage, and water treatment facilities are poor or non-existent for tens of millions of people in these conditions. Adequate medical facilities are even more rare, and most of those are virtually unavailable to poor people; the ratio of doctors to the general population is 100 times greater in the U.S. than it is in West Africa.
African countries such as Liberia and Nigeria were pillaged by Western colonialists, and for over a century by capitalism-imperialism. Vast amounts of wealth have poured into European and US banks and financial institutions from the material riches and the labor of the masses of people in these countries, but the people remain without even the most basic of life's necessities, such as clean water. A hellish scenario has developed as brutally repressive military and police actions by the Western imperialist dominated governments of Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Nigeria have imposed quarantines and curfews on people trapped in disease ridden-slums.
Over the past several decades imperialist imposed austerity measures that have destroyed or undermined much of the traditional agricultural economies of countries in Africa and elsewhere have triggered the largest rural to urban migration in world history. Massive population shifts from the countryside to makeshift urban shantytowns lacking basic needs like clean housing and water in cities like Lagos and Monrovia have created conditions rife with the possibility of massive outbreaks of Ebola and other deadly diseases.
Accelerating climate change could also be a factor in this disastrous Ebola outbreak. The Washington Post reported that a 2002 study indicated that “sudden shifts from dry to wet conditions were associated with Ebola outbreaks from 1994 to 1996 in tropical Africa ... As the globe warms, precipitation extremes are projected to increase ... those areas which see precipitation variability increases – with abrupt shifts from extremely dry to extremely wet periods – would be most vulnerable to Ebola outbreaks.”
Disease and death are inevitable. And, even if revolution were to happen all over the world tomorrow, digging up the legacy of imperialist domination of the world and its grotesque, murderous inequalities would take a long time. But there would be a much more widespread distribution of medical facilities, and an understanding of essential hygiene. There would be knowledge of and materials to provide for creating sterile conditions for people with contagious diseases, and methods of protecting those not affected. In cases where medical isolation is necessary, it would be conscious and as much as possible, voluntary. It would not mean leaving people alone and uncared for while they waste away; it would be respectful and caring, not punitive and repressive.
And, while much is not fully known about Ebola – its origins, exactly how it is transmitted, how to treat it, this is different from saying it is unknowable. Medical research and mass education campaigns would raise people's understanding of the virus, and develop conscious approaches about preventing and treating it that were embraced and further developed by masses of people.
That points to another basic fact of this outbreak is that things don't have to be the way they are – where people are shot at, tear gassed, and penned within disease-filled shantytowns when an epidemic begins; where a handful of people receive treatment while thousands suffer gruesome deaths; where diseases like malaria and tuberculosis, which kill over two million people a year mainly in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, receive a fraction of the research put into things like developing medicine for use in the U.S. and Europe.
Masses of people could be mobilized, and their conscious activism to contain the disease and cure the afflicted could be joined with the medical expertise of professionals not motivated by profiteering, but by serving humanity. Millions of people could be engaged in the efforts to establish healthy, clean living and working environments rather than squalid slums. Many thousands and tens of thousands of people could learn basic medical skills – liked the famed “barefoot doctors” in revolutionary China, even as efforts were made to train more people with higher levels of medical skill. Research and medical and scientific efforts could be put into researching cures for the ailments tens of millions of people face.
One thing is standing in the way – the system of capitalism-imperialism. Revolution to get as much of humanity as possible to an entirely different place cannot happen soon enough.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
From a 12th grade Government Teacher:
August 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The start to this school year has not been like others. There is something in the air. On the first day of school, while we didn't have a chance to discuss the police shooting of Michael Brown in its own right, I put on the board an extra credit opportunity that pushed kids to find out more about what is happening in Ferguson, Missouri. I encouraged them to watch a few livestreams of the protests, follow Twitter feeds about it, and write a reflection. I specifically prompted them to think about the role being played by police, media, and protesters, and to reflect on how they think these events are impacting the protesters, society, and themselves.
A Latina woman wrote: "This impact is rising concerns and anger throughout the country making citizens wonder their own safety and the wellbeing of their children's futures. As for me this rises frustration! I wish I could be apart of this movement." A Latino male wrote: "The impact that these protesters have on me is to open my eyes and realize that not everything is as it seems."
The second day of class, I introduced kids to the metaphor of "pulling the telescope back" to see the "big picture" and to go deeper than a superficial understanding of historical and current events. We watched videos of mainstream coverage of Ferguson protesters, and tried to apply this metaphor. With their help, I diagrammed out a picture of the mainstream coverage on the board within a circle: Protesters vs. Police. "Good" vs. "Bad" protesters. Questions about "What did Michael Brown do?" and "How did the shooting actually occur?" We then "pulled the telescope back," added a larger circle around the drawing, and I wrote down some deeper issues and questions—some that they came up with, some that I posed—that were not being addressed in the "inner circle" of news coverage: Systemic Racism; History of Slavery; Jim Crow; New Jim Crow; Poverty in community; What is the ROLE of police—to protect people or to oppress people?
Off of this, I told students that a few of their peers had voiced interest to me in doing something around this, and that I'd be holding an informal meeting in my room at lunch to talk through this—and that anyone can/should come to learn more and brainstorm about what we could do.
About 10 students—mostly women, Black and Latino—came at lunch, and what was so inspiring, was how much energy and passion they were bringing to this. I added ideas and facilitated, but did not need to "run the show." This has struck a chord, and for different reasons—one talked about how police murder has impacted her own family, another about how scared she was for her little brother growing up in this society with the cops acting like they do—they really want to throw down around this. One young man raised concerns about people who "threw things and got violent" at the protests, while another young woman spoke about the slogan "It's Right to Rebel!" that I had showed them... "it IS our right to rebel!" when these injustices keep happening, she argued.
I suggested we make a banner that kids in the school can sign and we can send to Ferguson, and they then wrestled with what should be on the banner. What they decided on was: "We are ALL Michael Brown! No More Stolen Lives!" At one point in this discussion, when a young woman who had taken some real leadership made a suggestion and no one really responded, she sharply challenged the rest: "Look, if you're here to do this, you need to throw in, you need to contribute your thinking!" That got others back in the discussion and the level of seriousness really went to another level. It was beautiful to watch—and one of them even said, "Wow, I just got the chills, this is so important."
We now have a solid core of five students working to bring others into this, and that group, along with myself, got up on stage at a full school assembly to make an announcement about getting more involved in this. We started by each going to the microphone and saying "I AM Michael Brown!" (this was an idea one of the young women thought up and proposed to the group the day before), and then two young women briefly explained what we were going to be doing and how others can plug in. The students and teachers in the audience—the school demographic is mainly Latino and about 25 percent African-American, most qualifying for free/reduced lunch—were very supportive.
A young woman who is emerging as a real leader in this brought a quote to one of our lunch meetings that she had found and really liked, and wanted us to read. It was from Vladimir Lenin: "There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen.” Everyone really liked it, and we decided she should read this at the all-school assembly, and when she did, she added, "This IS a moment. What we do really does matter."
There are ideas for a public protest, joining with and taking this to other schools, and creating videos about the issue, and there is an energy with this bunch that I have not seen in recent years. They were also excited to know that there is a Stop Mass Incarceration Network with plans for a month of resistance in October against police brutality and criminalization of a generation. Something is in the air.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
by Michael Slate | August 20, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Ezell Ford liked to walk. Once he even walked from his South Central LA neighborhood to Long Beach, a distance of at least 20 miles. He liked to walk the streets of his neighborhood, the streets he grew up on, the streets where he played as a young child. His mom said he loved to play basketball when he was a kid. She said he was a “free spirit.” As he grew up, Ezell got sick, he was diagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. But still he walked through his neighborhood and everybody knew him and knew that he had “mental complications.” Everybody in the neighborhood knew about Ezell. He never hurt anybody; he’d just ask them for cigarettes. But Ezell Ford was a 25-year-old Black man and that was enough to get him a death sentence from the system. On August 11, sometime around 8 pm, Ezell’s body was laid out at the corner of 65th and Broadway, shot three times by two LAPD cops. They handcuffed him as he lay dying on the ground. Ezell’s mom saw him lying there, his blood staining the ground around him. She tried to reach him, to hold him. She tried to find out what happened. The LAPD threw her to the ground. Ezell was pronounced dead a short time later in the hospital.
The LAPD immediately started the whitewash. They said they stopped Ezell in an “investigative stop.” In other words, a young Black man walking down a street in his neighborhood is more than enough cause for a police investigation; in fact, it’s a crime. The police claim that Ezell started walking weird, hiding his hands in a suspicious manner. If you want to know what that means, just imagine being a young, mentally ill Black man, alone on a street with two goons from the LAPD Gang Squad coming at you. Of course you’re walking weird—maybe scared to death is a better description. And then they claim that he attacked one cop and tried to get that cop’s gun. Both cops opened fire, three LAPD bullets smashed into Ezell’s body.
Trouble is, people saw it all. Ezell’s neighbors yelled that he had “mental problems,” hoping that would rein in the cops. Eyewitnesses tell a whole different story than the cops. One childhood friend of Ezell’s saw two cops, both towering over Ezell, get out of the car and approach him. This friend said Ezell looked frightened and confused and within minutes the cops had wrestled him to the ground and shot him three times. A woman who was sitting across the street saw the cops jump out of their car and push him into a corner where they beat him. She said that she saw Ezell on the ground and then heard a shot. She saw one cop with his knee on Ezell and then heard another shot, and then a third. This woman also says that before the shooting happened she heard one cop say, “Shoot him.” Ezell’s mother says she was told that he was lying on the ground obeying the cops' orders when they shot him. The LAPD dismisses all of the eyewitness accounts with the comment, “There’s a lot of disinformation out there.”
The LAPD murdered Ezell Ford, an unarmed, scared and mentally ill young Black man, for walking down the street. And then they murdered him again as they dug up his “criminal record"—Ezell had been convicted of marijuana possession and illegal possession of a loaded firearm. He had also been put on probation for trespassing. None of this has anything at all to do with why two cops from the local gang division of the LAPD stopped Ezell Ford and then murdered him. The LAPD has also announced that it is putting an “investigative hold” on Ezell’s autopsy report. The cops say that they don’t want the information in the autopsy report to be public yet because they don’t want people to use that information to color their testimony about what happened. An LAPD Commander told one reporter that they didn’t want people to be able to use information from the autopsy to “give credibility to their story.” And once again, the LAPD refuses to release the names of the assassins, citing possible threats against the killers.
Ezell was murdered on August 11. A little more than a week earlier, in the same neighborhood, the cops beat a Latino man, Omar Abrego, to death outside of his home for supposedly driving erratically and being “on cocaine.” Two days before Ezell was killed, Michael Brown was assassinated in Ferguson, Missouri, sparking off an inspiring, righteous and defiant rebellion.
Ezell’s family has refused to drown their grief in tears alone. Ezell’s family, friends and others have organized people in the neighborhood and from all over LA and Southern California to bring their anger to the streets, marching and confronting the authorities wherever they can, demanding Justice. Thousands have taken to the streets in the week since Ezell was killed. And as they fight, one thing will always be clear: Ezell was murdered for one reason, being Black in America. And that one fact alone demands justice.
This has to end now! The brave defiance of the people in Ferguson, Missouri is inspiring people all across the country and these are the moments when people everywhere are learning a lot. People in LA have been taking to the streets, but this needs to grow by leaps and bounds, spreading the fight and the demands for justice.
Justice for Michael Brown!
Justice for Ezell Ford!
Release the Autopsy Report!
Name, Indict and Jail the Killer Cops!
From readers: South Central LA, August 18:
Here in LA, there have been almost daily protests in support of Ferguson and against the murder of Ezell Ford and Omar Abrego—both killed by Newton Division's notorious gang unit, called “the shootin' Newton” by people in the neighborhood. One person even told us this murdering pig unit have this on a banner up in their precinct.
We'll be writing more about this, but Ezell Ford was a 25-year-old Black man with a mental illness. Everyone in the neighborhood knew him, including the police. He was shot in the back three times as he was face down. This happened Monday night, August 11.
Omar Abrego was a father of three, savagely beaten to death a week earlier, on August 2, just four blocks from where Ezell Ford was murdered.
On Monday night, August 18, there was a march from where Ezell Ford was murdered to the site of Omar Abrego's murder. The march then continued around the neighborhood.
People are learning more about what's happening in Ferguson, and this added a whole other level of defiance to the march. Especially from among the Black and Latino youth—who are most cast off by this system, and most often feel the hard edge of brutality—there was a feeling of tremendous defiance and joy... even dancing in the streets. When they saw the pigs driving around in their cars, they would point them out, including pointing out undercovers who are well known in the neighborhood. They would chant at them with a feeling of right on their side—finally. And a feeling that they had some social backing. They were standing up and it felt right to stand up.
People who were driving by in their cars parked and joined. Cars that drove with the march had their radios blasting, “fuck the police.”
One woman from the neighborhood talked about how important the protests have been—to really fight for justice for these innocent lives taken. Also, that for the first time in a long time there is unity among the people who are finally pointing their political aim in the right direction—at the system causing all this mayhem and misery. The “normal situation” is the pigs “doing this to us all the time”—killing and dogging the youth and the “normal situation” is the way people far too often are set against each other. This is part of what has changed—and has to be maintained and carried forward while we fight to make real the demands from Ferguson to LA:
INDICT and JAIL the COP who killed Michael Brown!
FIRE THE POLICE CHIEF!
FULL ACCOUNTING OF WHAT HAPPENED: IMMEDIATELY!
Release the autopsy of Ezell Ford! Indict and Jail the Killer Cops!
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In speaking to the situation facing Black and Latino people in the U.S.—mass incarceration and the school-to-prison pipeline, the criminalization and demonization of a whole generation of youth, the overt or just-below-the-surface racism prevalent in society, etc.—Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party has said what is taking place is a slow genocide that could easily become a fast genocide. This regular feature highlights aspects of this slow genocide.
These last two weeks, the world has seen the massive military force deployed in Ferguson, Missouri, against people protesting the police murder of Michael Brown.
The militarization of local police and its use against Black people is not new. It goes back to 1965, when the first Special Weapons and Tactical (SWAT) team was used against the Watts rebellion by the LAPD. In the 1990s, Congress created a Pentagon program that transfers "surplus" military equipment to local police forces in the name of fighting the "War on Drugs." It is SWAT teams, by various names, who use this equipment. After 9/11, the program grew. It's not known exactly how many of the 17,000 local law enforcement agencies (city police departments, sheriff's departments, state police departments, even campus police departments) in the United States have war-fighting equipment, but we do know that there is such ordnance in every state. According to a June 2014 American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) report, SWAT teams all over the country use federal government-supplied military equipment to execute search warrants, especially warrants looking for drugs. ("War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing")
We should not forget that the War on Drugs is code for war on the people, especially on Black people: Black and Latino people are 61 percent of all people impacted by SWAT raids in drug cases. In Allentown, Pennsylvania, Black people are "24 times more likely to be impacted by a SWAT raid" as white people. In Huntington, West Virginia, Blacks are 37 times more likely. In Ogden, Utah, 40 times more likely.
The militarization of the police is part and parcel of what Carl Dix has called the "counter-insurgency before the insurgency." When you look at what has happened in Ferguson, it's not hard to see how slow genocide could become a fast one.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Meet the pigs assaulting people demanding justice in Ferguson, Missouri. These are long-time police officers with awards, who haven't kept their views secret from anyone.
One was captured on at least two videos pointing a semi-automatic weapon at peaceful protesters in Ferguson and screaming, "I will fucking kill you."
Another posted on social media that Ferguson protesters are "a burden on society," and should be "put down like rabid dogs." He had no compunction about signing these postings with his name and his police department.
Another—who threatened and shoved a CNN reporter in Ferguson on live TV—has had a video up where he is speaking to the fascist Oathkeepers organization—a video viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. In it he threatens, "I personally believe in Jesus Christ as my lord savior, but I'm also a killer. I've killed a lot. And if I need to, I'll kill a whole bunch more. If you don't want to get killed, don't show up in front of me, it's that simple. I have no problem with it."
These exposures are the tip of an iceberg. They reveal a culture and a mentality of an occupying army, deployed by a ruling class that has a genocidal agenda for Black and Latino people and lashes out ferociously when oppressed people—and others who stand with them—rise up for justice.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
Percolation from a Reader:
August 24, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This Abortion Rights Freedom Ride aims to accomplish a great deal. I'd like to comment on a few aspects, thinking of it from the point of view of accumulating forces for revolution and how it contributes to getting closer to the time when it would be appropriate and possible to go all-out to seize power. In other words, to look at it from the largest strategic objectives of communist revolution.
This BA quote has come to my mind a lot (originally from 1985, currently in the new sampler edition of Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution):
"The whole question of the position and role of women in society is more and more acutely posing itself in today's extreme circumstances... It is not conceivable that all this will find any resolution other than in the most radical terms.... The question yet to be determined is: will it be a radical reactionary or a radical revolutionary resolution, will it mean the reinforcing of the chains of enslavement or the shattering of the most decisive links in those chains and the opening up of the possibility of realizing the complete elimination of all forms of such enslavement?"
This is in one sense a precursor to all BA goes into in "Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution" on the oppression and liberation of women. In the speech "Where We Are in the Revolution," it is pointed out how we have to use our X-ray machine to see the cracks in the steel wall of the system surrounding us. BA has for decades been examining how the developments in the system of capitalism-imperialism have impacted the oppression of women and in horrendous ways has greatly intensified it in the recent period of intensified globalization.
And how this very contradiction, while on the surface is not favorable for revolution as with many others, actually has deepened the material basis for how it can play a key role in revolution. This is a very significant theoretical contribution of his. Of course, this will not happen without, one, seeing the real developments for what they are, and, two, going to work on the contradiction from the point of view of Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. This includes seeing how it fits into the functioning of the imperialist system and its fundamental contradiction–I'm thinking of the piece in that sampler edition, "Can This System Do Away With, or Do Without, The Oppression of Women?–A Fundamental Question, a Scientific Approach to the Answer" and its posing the question that must be asked: "Through which mode of production will any social problem be addressed?"
The oppression of women has greatly intensified in many ways—the worldwide phenomenon of gang-rape, sex-trafficking on a massive scale, pornography becoming ever more violent as it becomes ever more mainstream. The goal of making abortion unavailable and aiming to make completely illegal abortion and birth control is a particular concentration of this oppression.
As we talk to people around the country building for this ride, one of the questions many are agonizing over is: "Why is this happening? Why are these religious fanatics so uncompromising and fanatical? Why are all aspects of government from the state to national level either overtly backing this drive to make abortion unavailable or 'seeking common ground' with it?" We can't understand that or assist others in getting to the answer without digging into BA's pyramid analysis AND, very importantly, the analysis of the coming civil war. The work on revcom.us, The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era, has two pieces that are particularly relevant. One is "The Pyramid of Power and the Struggle to Turn This Whole Thing Upside Down," and the title piece, "The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era." These are also two themes that were revisited and elaborated on in the speech "Where We Are in the Revolution."
Briefly, the pyramid: Look at society like a pyramid. At the top are the people that rule this society, roughly on the right side those represented by the Republican Party and on the left side those represented by the Democratic Party, and there is struggle between them about how society should be ruled. Then going down the right side of the pyramid is the social base of the Republicans of religious maniacs and fundamentalist fools. Down the left side is the social base of the Democrats composed of progressive people and all the oppressed people. The Republicans are not afraid of, and are, unleashing their social base in all kinds of ways, and this includes those fighting to eliminate abortion and birth control. The Democrats are deathly afraid of unleashing their social base because they do not actually represent their interests—the Democrats' role is to keep all those people confined within the electoral system—and they are afraid that if unleashed, those forces may go for a lot more than elections, including rebellion and revolution.
The Republicans are not afraid of unleashing their social base because they are willing to go all the way to a fascistic society if they feel that's where they need to go. The Democrats have sharp contradictions with a view of how to run society—they don't prefer fascism—but if it came down to fascism or revolution, they would go for fascism.
Briefly, the coming civil war: BA talks of how Newt Gingrich (Republican former Speaker of the House) observed that what is happening in U.S. society is analogous to what was going on in the U.S. in the 1840s-1850s and that can be decided only when one side or the other wins out. This represents very real conflicts within the ruling class, conflicts that correspond to what is described in the "Pyramid of Power" piece. From the Coming Civil War piece, "You really do have two fundamentally opposed forces in society, in potential; ... there are two camps in antagonistic conflict with each other. Out of this can arise different kinds of resolutions, representing different interests, and ultimately different classes, going to wholly different places in terms of the future of society and the world... really are irreconcilable world views and fundamentally irreconcilable views on what society ought to be based on and what it ought to be like."
In this battle around abortion, we really can see in microcosm the developing civil war and revolutionary situation. Then the question is how do we make advances, what method and approach do we use to be able to see the reality that is developing (in all its changingness and wow, are things changing rapidly in this battle, even before the ride begins), to be able to see how to recognize the necessity we face and wrench freedom from it, to see the pathways to be able to do that. This is essential because on the surface the current polarization is so unfavorable and the thinking as well as the power that backs them seem so powerful.
Thinking of all this, I found very illuminating my study of two papers by BA recently posted on revcom.us: "Freedom and Necessity, and Proceeding from a Strategic Standpoint: Some Thoughts on Methods and Leadership" and "The Mass Initiatives and their Relation to Our Strategic Objectives." In addition, the two audio talks recently posted on revcom.us.
Again, the polarization around abortion is very unfavorable now. The trajectory is now much more toward the radical reactionary resolution in the opening quote above. A massive intervention is needed. As the mass initiatives paper puts it, we can't eliminate women's oppression within the present system but we can change the political and ideological terms around the outrages, the masses can be transformed in their understanding and the ruling class can be knocked back on its heels on this question. The battle around abortion and the overall oppression of women must be built very large—soon hundreds acting, going to thousands and eventually millions, because that is what is needed to change society on this.
BA's paper on the mass initiatives gives leadership for how to handle the aspects of building the movement to take on women's oppression and the battle around abortion in a truly mass way while also putting forward the whole picture and the need for revolution. There is much in that to study and apply. In the addendum 2014 to that paper, he talks of the need to build this movement very big in its own right, with the aim of drawing in thousands and ultimately millions. Then he says, "At the same time, WE, as revolutionary communists (and those who are in basic agreement with us on this), should be putting forward, in relation to these mass initiatives, as well as in an overall way, that these and other outrages which in fact constitute concentrations of major social contradictions, are rooted in the basic nature and dynamics of this system, and they can only be finally and fully ended, and a radically different and much better society and world brought into being, through communist revolution, proceeding on the basis of the new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward through the work done by BA over many decades."
Thinking of the "coming civil war" analysis and how doing away with abortion and pushing women back to breeders is part of the fascist social relations they are fighting for, we can see that the stakes are very high for both sides in this abortion battle. How can we wrench freedom from the necessity we face, which includes this very unfavorable polarization? "Where does freedom come from? It comes from a correct analysis of objective reality and its contradictory character. And that has a material basis. We don't have spontaneity going for us, but we do have reality, in the most fundamental terms, going for us. Therein lies a lot of our freedom–grasping that."The reality is that the horrendous attacks on abortion are a crucial part of the material basis for women (and men) to come forward to both fight for abortion and birth control. It also contributes one aspect, along with many other forms of oppression, which enable people to come to see the need for revolution, the seizure of power. As it says in "On the Strategy for Revolution" in BAsics, "The potential for a revolutionary crisis lies within the very nature of this capitalist system itself...."
We put out the Freedom Ride with its three goals of building a national movement to defeat this assault on abortion, change the terms of the debate to women's enslavement or women's liberation, and build mass independent political resistance. Many were excited, coming from many different perspectives. But some in the "leftist" "pro-choice" movement were very threatened and angry. They unleashed a Twitter shit storm of unprincipled, vitriolic attacks, saying the ride was not welcome, we are doing just fine here in Texas [continuing the same old losing strategy of hoping some savior will come from the Democratic Party] and "us Texans don't need any 'outsiders' coming from New York to yell and scream" and confront antis and the system behind them.
This surprised some supporters of the ride, kinda threw them for a loop to some extent. "Here we are, the ARFR, coming to build struggle to defend abortion. Why are these 'pro-choice' folks so against us." In "The Strategic Approach to Revolution and Its Relation to Basic Questions of Epistemology and Method," Part 1, in a section about the relation between what we do now and going for it, BA talks about, to paraphrase, how we can see now in microcosm a revolutionary situation. We are in direct confrontation with not only the bourgeoisie but MANY OTHER CLASS FORCES.
Can't we see in microcosm this and the coming civil war in what is concentratedly going on now in this abortion battle? Look at the pro-choice folks in light of "other class forces who are in direct confrontation with us." They unleashed a shit storm of hatred against outsiders, New Yorkers, carpetbaggers (yeah, they used that term! If you're not familiar with it, go to Wikipedia and check it out. It refers to thousands of people who came to the South after the defeat of the Confederacy in the Civil War to join Black people in rebuilding a society with a place for Black people, like teach Black children in schools they could attend for the first time. It's like these pro-choice forces yelled, "Those Damn Yankees are coming to interfere with our lives," as did the defeated supporters of the Confederacy.), the ARFR, Sunsara Taylor, the Revolutionary Communist Party, and Bob Avakian, telling us not to come and threatening violence against riders and Sunsara Taylor in particular. They are class forces representing the petty bourgeoisie (hesitate to give them credit for being "political and literary representatives of the petty bourgeoisie," but that is what they are, even if crude). And they are STRIVING to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie. They see the forces arrayed against abortion as too powerful to defeat, so you have to seek allies somewhere in the ruling class who will make some minor changes around the edges of this horror while the whole thing keeps hurtling to the right. And the ARFR is challenging and upsetting their program, they are threatened and are desperate to stop it.
This applies also to the two anti groups that are mobilizing to protest the ride. They have identified the ride as a more serious and determined force than other pro-abortion groups. On a radio show by Mike Harrington, the head of one of those groups, he said, "We are not ambulance chasers, we don't follow pro-abortion groups but when something special comes along [the ARFR] we must counter it."
As a revolutionary situation draws closer, as a civil war approaches, all class forces will be fighting with everything they have for their programs, for the society they want to defend or bring into being. This is what is going on in this battle in Texas and in the opposition to the ARFR/Stop Patriarchy/Sunsara Taylor/Bob Avakian/Revolutionary Communist Party.
If we don't look at it that way, we will lose our bearings and not know what to do. That is, we will not be in position to wrench freedom from necessity (and the accurate word is "wrench," once again the point of spontaneity will not bring a favorable situation to us. It will take intense political and ideological struggle.). One of our challenges will be to help all on the ride (and many more) to understand these larger dynamics while still all are welcome to join the ride and build this movement who see the emergency around abortion and want to fight it. But as I said, many want to know the larger picture about why this is happening.
These attacks by petty bourgeois forces are much more intense than on the Freedom Ride in 2013. In addition, while the antis did not directly physically confront us in 2013, we already know that two anti groups have already put out calls for many to join them to specifically counter the ride in Austin and San Antonio. The increased intensity is due to the overall situation encapsulated in the Coming Civil War analysis and the pyramid analysis. As it was put in the speech "Where We Are in the Revolution," the forces at the top of the pyramid on the right (generally associated with the Republican Party) are unleashing their social base at the bottom of the pyramid–they are unleashing their attack Dobermans, while on the left side of the pyramid the Democrats are sending their dogs to obedience school–passive, conciliating, compromising, seeking common ground, just let the Democratic Party handle it, it'll all work out OK if we just don't stir things up too much.
The antis are Dobermans being unleashed. The leadership of those forces works very closely with and some are in their own right operatives in the Republican Party and ruling class circles.
BA in the Freedom/Necessity paper on other class forces said, "Not recognizing that reality is constantly changing AND that there are other class forces out there in the world which are working on people in various ways, directly and indirectly, will cause you to go off track and lose your bearings. People who have united and worked with us will often then come under attack as a result of having taken the step to work with us. Or they get a sense that taking another forward step in uniting with us could jeopardize their career, or make it more difficult for them to achieve certain short-term objectives they may have. To fail to take this into account amounts to ignoring the fact that there is a larger and continually changing reality out there that is also acting on and influencing other people."
A reminder of something very important. I think it was from one of the two audio talks, the point it makes is that all the other class forces won't forget to fight for their class interests, it is only the forces that represent the proletariat and the emancipation of all humanity that will "forget" to fight for their class interests. This is another way of putting that we have to consciously fight for the class interests of the proletariat and we have to constantly put this battle in the context of larger strategic interests.
So even before the ride is launched in Texas, there has been a tit-for-tat battle between all the class forces in the field, fighting for their interests. The Texas legislature is continuing to push in courts and in the court of public opinion that women should have no access to abortion, period. Antis are calling for mobilizations to "counter-protest" the ride in Austin and San Antonio. I mentioned the Twitter attacks against the ride from pro-choice forces.
Attacks in various forms will undoubtedly multiply and intensify. We are initiating this ARFR, we are being and will be attacked and we will have to counter those attacks, recognizing and wrenching freedom from necessity, then continuing that process all the way through, continuing to see the aspects of reality that are constantly changing, as all class forces act on the larger reality and attempt to shape it to their class interests.
Already through this process, through this battle, riders and supporters have been strengthened and tempered and have been won to see the opposing programs and thus been inspired to reach even more broadly to the ride's goal audience of all those who see the emergency abortion is in and the need act now to fight it and all those who can be won to see this. All from many different perspectives.
This process will be telescoped and intensify almost daily in the midst of these intense political battles. This provides the basis for many to be strengthened and tempered quickly.
So we faced necessity. We acted and created freedom out of that necessity. We achieved some things. But then you get new necessity. Both from the advances you have made with people and in the overall battle and, guess what, all the other class forces don't then sit still and say, "Oh gosh, guess they got us now." No, they counter-attack. We see that now with this battle around the pro-choice forces. But we will see it much more intensely as the antis come more on the stage and the state in the form of police will play a role and it sure won't be on our side.
We have built a broad grouping of people to go on this ride. We have drawn correct dividing lines about opposing the attacks on abortion. We have achieved some unity. And we have deepened the unity with supporters and the core preparing the ride. And all through this process, we have learned a great deal from everyone. As we achieve more unity, there will be the tendency to not want to "break the unity" with people. There will be a tendency to not want to "emphasize" the larger questions of revolution and communism. To not bring to people the largest picture of the context these attacks are happening in. To not bring to people the largest view of reality we understand now.
BA again, "The constant pull is a pull to determinism–to being afraid of losing advances that have been made. Do you play to win or play not to lose?... People start protecting what they have and get afraid to risk that to make further advances, and therefore they begin throwing away what they've achieved." Read the letter from Lenny Wolff on revcom.us, "Mississippi Freedom Summer–Deep and Important Lessons." To make advances at a certain point required taking big risks, to bring 800-1,000 volunteers to Mississippi. They made the decision that they had to play to win. That would create new necessity and it would be in the midst of great risk and danger. In the face of the murder of the three Freedom Summer volunteers, should they have "played not to lose"? The irony is that if they had, they would have lost. No way they could have catapulted to a national level the oppression of Black people and forced millions to see it and many of them become activated to fight it without making that bold move to bring hundreds of volunteers to Mississippi.
"In going forward to build off what has been achieved, you have to recognize that the achievements themselves bring new necessity; you have to be anticipating that and working to lay the basis to transform new necessity into new freedom (which will itself involve new necessity)."
We ARE building a movement to fight the attacks on abortion, as part of fighting for the liberation of women and all humanity! We ARE preparing the ground, preparing the people, and preparing the vanguard–and getting ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution. We ARE fighting to win!
BA goes on to make one of the most important points that he continually returns to, in the Freedom/Necessity paper and overall. "Another important factor contributing to the tendency to bow down to necessity is losing sight of the larger objective that this is all part of. There is not going to be a seizure of power on the basis of what was achieved through the 411 program. [This refers to the April 11, 2011 program on the occasion of the publication of BAsics that he is drawing on to make some points].... Things have to go a lot further than any particular event, or any particular movement or struggle, so how do we get things to go further? Proceeding on that basis, you are better able to handle the solid core/elasticity dialectic. This involves a combination of the freedom/necessity dialectic with whether we are really continually going back to the largest strategic perspective and looking at things in regard to that, and figuring out how to struggle through to transform necessity into freedom and make things go further to advance toward the goal it all has to contribute to."
With respect to many who are not on our side now and even oppose us and the ride, we have to have the orientation of both, on the one hand, the BA Invitation (welcoming all to unite and fight against oppression from their perspectives and not turn away if this leads them to see the need for revolution and communism), including getting out very broadly to many strata of people. And, on the other hand, the Contended Question around BA (because of what BA stands for—revolution, communism to liberate all humanity and the Boxing Gloves (a reference to another paper by BA, "Putting on our Boxing Gloves–and Other Key Methods, Principles and Objectives"). The reference to boxing gloves refers to the need for polemics and other forms of intense political struggle with contending programs, ideologies. and world views.).
How much freedom we will be able to wrench out of the necessity we face, both what necessity exists now and what new necessity will be posed as things change from the actions of the state, the antis and other class forces' actions and our actions, will be determined to a large extent by how well we, the communists, grasp and apply this scientific method BA is fighting for (and crucially keeping in mind the overall strategic objectives of revolution and communism), lead others with it and enable them to take it up as their own. Leadership is crucial. Pathways through a jungle, or in this case, through some disgusting swamp (to mix metaphors and landscapes), do not appear obvious. They have to be hacked out with a scientific method. That is how we will be able to identify, in the midst of the swirl of constantly changing reality, pathways to achieve the objectives of the ARFR and the larger strategic objectives of revolution and communism.
Lenny Wolff wrote a "Postscript to 'Mississippi Freedom Summer–Deep and Important Lessons." In it, he told of the important ways the Freedom Summer experience changed the lives of the volunteers, that many of them said in various ways that this was the most important thing they had done in their lives. Lenny Wolff captured this, referring to what one volunteer said, "...in the process of subordinating himself, subordinating his own interests to something larger, a whole world opened up. In the course of doing that, something powerful and important happened to the people who did it." (A footnote. One of those Freedom Summer volunteers shown at the end of the film is Susan Brownmiller, who signed the statement published in a major Texas newspaper on August 4, "Emergency in Texas. Stop Forced Motherhood. Abortion on Demand and Without Apology.")
I recommend people read "Mississippi Freedom Summer—Deep and Important Lessons" and the "Postscript to 'Mississippi Freedom Summer–Deep and Important Lessons,'" and the BA quote that is included BAsics 5:23.
I'm saying this to say that we should not underestimate the very powerful impact that this ARFR will have on the current riders, the riders we will recruit to join as we go and the many thousands we will reach through our actions, media, etc. We should anticipate and plan for bringing this process being described by Lenny Wolff as far along as possible to the point of changing what people plan to do with their lives and that includes making leaps in the process of becoming revolutionaries and communists. In BAsics 5:23, BA says, "And there is nothing greater your life can be about than contributing whatever you can to the revolutionary transformation of society and the world, to put an end to all systems and relations of oppression and exploitation and all the unnecessary suffering and destruction that goes along with them."
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
From A World to Win News Service:
August 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
August 18, 2014. A World to Win News Service. The British columnist Robert Fisk recently wrote that if people wanted to "address 'the underlying issues' of the Israel/Palestinian war," as U.S. President Barack Obama's Secretary of State John Kerry advised, they should ask themselves why the Palestinians are in Gaza. The answer is not what Kerry had in mind.
Two-thirds of Gaza's people are refugees. Israeli forces deported people to Gaza because it was outside the land they wanted in 1948, when the Zionist army violently drove out 90 percent of the Arab population to make way for what became Israel that year. Their homes were destroyed and Jewish settlers were brought from abroad to fill the new towns built on the ruins. Then Israel seized Gaza in 1967, first trying to fill it with more Jewish settlers and then turning it into a prison. Now Israel is starving and shooting the prisoners—in the name of protecting southern Israeli towns like Ashkelon and Sderot where so many Gazans came from.
The even bigger "underlying question" is why the U.S. and other Western governments arm, finance and politically support Israel, and even send more colonists. Why do they declare that their military might will always stand behind Israel's "right to defend itself," despite occasional friction? It is because what they are defending is the U.S.'s principal reliable military outpost in the Middle East, a pillar of imperialist domination of the region and its peoples. The so-called "Jewish lobby" is not what motivates U.S. support for Israel; it just helps create public opinion to justify that. Israel's indispensable role for the U.S. is the fundamental reason for the Zionists' unending aggression, proud brutality and limitless arrogance.
The basic "underlying issue" is oppression. This is the point of view from which we should look at Hamas. It cannot be supported because it does not represent liberation from oppression. Its political, social and ideological program is reactionary, and contrary to the interests of the vast majority of Palestinians and world's peoples. Hamas stands for an obscurantist outlook, religious rule and the subjugation of women.
Instead of wringing hands or being paralyzed by this complexity, a correct understanding of the underlying issues should make it possible and irresistible to take political action, especially to oppose Israeli aggression, which can never, under any circumstances, be justified as "self-defense." With the understanding that Zionism is not only racism but an essential imperialist tool, we can expose and denounce the U.S. and European hands that hold up the Israeli state founded on ethnic cleansing and that allow these murderers to massacre unarmed Palestinians again and again, whether they be children and youth shot dead at demonstrations in the West Bank or whole families killed in Gaza.
And further, with this understanding, we should support the demand to lift the blockade of Gaza—a common demand of the Palestinian people—as an elementary question of justice and solidarity with Gazans and all Palestinians.
The "underlying issue" in Iraq, to continue with the same method, is also imperialism. How can Obama talk about delivering "humanitarian aid" to Yazidis, Kurds or anyone else when the U.S. made possible the humanitarian disaster in Gaza (not to mention Afghanistan, Libya, Haiti and everywhere the U.S. has intervened)? The American blockade, bombings, invasion and occupation created the mess that is Iraq, and now Obama and his cohorts in the UK and France want to bomb and maraud some more. This has to be opposed.
As for the religious and ethnic divisions in Iraq that the West claims requires their intervention, ever since the Sykes-Picot agreement during WW 1 when France and Great Britain divided up the region between them, the imperialists have done their best to set up colonial and neo-colonial regimes based on ethnic and religious divisions in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq, allying with reactionary elites in power to this day.
The rise of Islamic fundamentalism is the result of a confluence of factors, including economic and social changes produced by the globalization of the imperialist economy, a disgust with the hypocrisy and moral bankruptcy behind the values promoted by the Western imperialists and their local flunkies and crooks, the inability of the past Arab nationalist movements to conceive a thorough break with the imperialist world market, the slander that is all most people know of the Russian and Chinese socialist revolutions, and the years the U.S. and other powers spent supporting Islamist groups for their own immediate interests (such as the passive and sometimes active aid the Israeli secret services gave Hamas to counter the secular national liberation movement in Palestine). While Islamist currents have gotten out of control and their actions have become a real problem for these powers today, Islamism's widespread influence among the oppressed is also a problem from the point of view of the liberation of the peoples of the Middle East and the world.
What is now called the Islamic State (formerly called ISIS or Da'ash) is an affliction on the peoples of Iraq and Syria, and anyone who argues anything else would have to explain how cutting off heads to impose religious terror, ethnic cleansing and patriarchal rule could unite the peoples of the Middle East to fight their real enemies. At the same time, the imperialists with their hi-tech weapons have ended many times more lives than anyone with swords, despite the "democratic" and "civilized" discourse they use to justify their murder. This situation is an extreme example of a basic truth: Islamic fundamentalism and Western imperialism are locked in a real battle, but if you support either of them you end up supporting both.
We have to expose the imperialist powers and the system that is the source of the problem, build resistance to more of their bloody interventions that did so much to bring the Middle East to where it is today, and also expose and oppose Islamism (and religious rule in general), which would not have the power it now enjoys in the world without the workings and crimes of the imperialist system.
It is especially important for people to grapple with the facts to understand the situation as it really is, and for those who have some understanding to act in a way that can begin to reach out and move people very broadly and become a rallying point for resistance and a source of hope in an otherwise dark situation. Further, it is very needed for people to raise banners of revolution in opposition to both imperialism and the religious forces that seek only to modify the world's oppressive order to their advantage and outlook and not change it in any liberating way. The emergence of real, living, growing movements determined to overthrow the old order and build a new state power, and a vision for radically new, totally liberating societies where people everywhere would want to live, could make it possible to begin to seize the initiative from the people's enemies.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In May 2014 an important talk from the Revolutionary Communist Party was delivered in several cities across the U.S. The following is an edited transcript.
I’m going to focus today on our strategy to actually make revolution, at the soonest possible time, and where we are in implementing this strategy. As a way to get into this, and to lay out how to approach and how not to approach this and any other question of importance, I want to tell you about an argument I had not too long ago. I went round and round with the person about the subject at hand, about what was true or not, and then, to sort of close the argument, she said “Well, everyone just tells themselves a story that makes sense of their world and lets them go on another day.” And I said, no, that’s just the problem—because there are all sorts of stories that seem to fit with how you see, or want to see, the world and that let you go on, but that are not true. That is, they do NOT correspond to the actual reality and its essential course of development. And what we need is the truth.
You see this all over. There’s religion—people will say that yes, there is needless suffering, but “it is all part of God’s plan.” And if you press them for their proof, some will say, well, I can’t prove it but I know it in my heart AND I need to believe it to make it through another day.
Or people talk about “narratives”—which is just a fancy word for stories. You can see this on a large scale with something like Israel, and its dispossession, domination and ongoing brutally violent suffocation of the Palestinian people. How is this covered in the media? When it isn’t outright lying and distortion on behalf of the Israelis, some of them will say, “well, there’s the Israeli narrative vs. the Palestinian narrative,” as if it’s just a matter of each side telling a different story and nobody can tell which is true. One side says that the Zionists came to Palestine, took the land, and either got rid of or subjugated the indigenous people through deception and often massacre—over 30 massacres, in fact, in their 1948 war to dispossess the Palestinians and establish the state of Israel. The other side says that “this was a land without a people for a people without a land,” as the Oscar-winning movie Exodus laid it out. But one—and ONLY one—of those “narratives” corresponds to what is true—to the actual objective reality and the essential characteristics of that reality. We know which it is, and that’s why supporters of Israel scream bloody murder when anyone compares them to South Africa during apartheid.
But in today’s world, instead of truth versus lies, everything is reduced to “competing narratives.” Or if there is truth, it’s true because “it works for you”—and NOT because it can be verified by studying and testing objective reality.
I’m starting here both because this so totally pervades the culture right now and acts as a real barrier to people acting... a point I’ll get into later... and because there’s a history of the revolutionary movement, the communist movement falling into this kind of thinking as well. Making revolution and then going on to wipe out all exploitation and oppression has proven to be very very hard—to extremely understate it. And there’s been tendencies in the face of that to fall into this kind of narrative thinking, or even a sort of religious approach—to tell ourselves that such a change is inevitable... to idealize or romanticize the oppressed... to focus almost solely on the “favorable” facts or the positive experience and not stare too long at the difficulties, the setbacks or the mistakes... or to fall into a mode of waiting for some almost supernatural force to intervene and do away with the very real obstacles to all this that we, collectively as a movement, have learned about these past 150 years.
I’m going to talk later about Bob Avakian, the Chairman of our Party, and his seminal contributions to communism—the new synthesis of communism that he’s brought forward. But at the very foundation of all BA’s contributions is a more scientific approach of going for the truth—of approaching the material world, including the very material world of human society, using the scientific method. I’m only going to touch on that today, but there is a really great new talk on this up on our website, revcom.us, from BA that goes into this and that people should get into: The Material Basis and the Method for Making Revolution.
Now what do I mean by the scientific method? In the very good TV series, Cosmos, Neil deGrasse Tyson talks about this in the third segment. He begins with the ability of human beings to recognize patterns. That’s the foundation of science—people confront the material world, they figure out the patterns or possible patterns in their experience, they come up with ideas to account for those patterns, and they test out their thinking to see if it corresponds to reality... then they sum up whether their idea is true or to what degree it’s true, and this in turn enables them to spot even more patterns, and come up with deeper, truer explanations. You don’t just settle for the surface phenomena—you have to dig deeper.
Now Tyson also talks about “false pattern recognition”—early people ascribing comets, for instance, to the anger of the gods. So you have to be very rigorous in this, very unsparing. You have to not just notice patterns, you have to get to the essence, or the heart, of these patterns. What’s behind this pattern I’m noticing? Why is it happening? What’s the cause? What happens when I try to affect it? And what can I learn from that?
So when we talk about a strategy to make revolution today, we’re going to have to ask ourselves: is this true? Meaning: does this strategy correspond to the actual reality we face? Does it locate and deal with the real, material possibilities for change that exist within that reality? If we undertook this strategy, would there be a real chance to win?
Now our Party does have a strategy, and it’s laid out very succinctly and accessibly in our statement on strategy, available in BAsics, a book of talks and quotations by Bob Avakian. That statement on strategy begins by confronting the unvarnished reality. “Many people,” it says, “insist, ‘there could never be a revolution in this country: the powers-that-be are too powerful, the people are too messed up and too caught up in going along with the way things are, the revolutionary forces are too small.’”
People who say that are pointing to real things; but they are drawing the wrong conclusion. This is false pattern recognition. This talk will get into why revolution actually IS possible, taking fully into account—and correctly understanding—the reality reflected in those objections. And we’ll do it based on fully and deeply confronting the reality and going for the truth.
* * *
Let’s look at this first objection—that the powers-that-be are too powerful. A lot of people look at the great wealth these exploiters have sucked out of people all over the world and the immense strength of the organs of violence and repression they have built up on that basis and they conclude very quickly that there is no way you can defeat them.
But people still see the need for change, so they look for something short of revolution. You get someone like Chris Hedges, the journalist, who sees this system’s capacity for violence very clearly—he began as a war correspondent—and he comes up with ideas of a “nonviolent revolution.” When things go well he lets himself get carried away with this. During Occupy he said that Occupy was “too big to fail.”
But what happened to Occupy? Today the media acts like Occupy just “fell apart.” In fact, Occupy was massively, systematically and very violently crushed by the police. And, according to the mayor of Oakland, this violent and massive police repression was coordinated in a national conference call of the mayors of these cities—almost all of them Democrats. Now I’ll come back later to why the Democrats felt compelled to crush Occupy but today feel compelled to let Cliven Bundy, that racist rancher in Nevada, get away with threatening federal agents with guns and why the ruling class as a whole made him a celebrity and gave him a platform for his hateful racist rantings.
But for now, my point is that Occupy, as well as hundreds of other examples, show that with even a relatively mild challenge—and again, Occupy’s great “crime” was to peacefully occupy public spaces while pointing out the huge disparities in wealth in this country—is met with force. After the ruling powers have run out of arguments, they always come up with their main argument: might makes right. “Our ‘narrative’ has an army, and yours doesn’t.” I could talk from now ‘til next year with examples of this, and still not be done—this is one very basic pattern of social life ever since humanity became divided into classes—that is, exploiters and exploited, rulers and ruled—thousands of years ago. When those classes which benefit from a social order come to feel that their position is threatened by those they rule over, or even called into serious question, then they call out the army and police to contain or crush that threat or, if it’s an international threat, they go to war.
And this government bows to none in its willingness to deploy such force. Today people in the ruling class are on a serious campaign to “rehabilitate the legacy” of Lyndon Johnson, who was president in the '60s. They’ve even given him a play on Broadway, with the star of Breaking Bad, to get us to empathize with and “appreciate” this person... this criminal who presided over things so foul and monstrous that they beggar the imagination. They don’t want to talk about Johnson’s role in the murder of three million—three million!—Vietnamese through launching an unprovoked war to crush a revolution that no posed direct threat to the U.S. whatsoever but might set a “bad example,” in their view, to other oppressed people. And that war was carried out with a policy—and here I’m quoting the title of an excellent book by Nick Turse, who discovered secret archives of the Pentagon detailing the pervasiveness of war crimes that rival the Nazis—a policy of “Kill Anything That Moves.” A policy of massacre on top of massacre, whether on the land or from the air, a policy of a very sick society.
People justly revile Hitler for murdering six million Jews—well, what about the three million Vietnamese, and millions more Indochinese in Cambodia and Laos whose murder was set in motion or at least carried forward by Johnson? What about the half million to million killings in Indonesia that the CIA engineered and orchestrated in 1965, on Johnson’s orders? You could run a similar role call on almost every president. And no president has ever or would ever denounce any of his predecessors for any of these crimes against humanity. In fact, all the living ex-presidents along with Obama just recently honored Johnson in a ceremony at his library and nobody said a mumbling word about the atrocities that he knowingly presided over and, moreover, lied about to launch and then justify.
So, these are real monsters with real teeth, and they will use those teeth on the slightest provocation and sometimes without any provocation. You’re not going to make any fundamental change without dealing with that. To quote BAsics:
Revolution is not some kind of change in style, or a change in attitude, nor is it merely a change in certain relations within a society which remains fundamentally the same. Revolution means nothing less than the defeat and dismantling of the existing, oppressive state, serving the capitalist-imperialist system—and in particular its institutions of organized violence and repression, including its armed forces, police, courts, prisons, bureaucracies and administrative power—and the replacement of those reactionary institutions, those concentrations of reactionary coercion and violence, with revolutionary organs of political power, and other revolutionary institutions and governmental structures, whose basis has been laid through the whole process of building the movement for revolution, and then carrying out the seizure of power, when the conditions for that have been brought into being... (BAsics 3:3)
So you have to confront that: “the defeat and dismantling of the existing, oppressive state, serving the capitalist-imperialist system—and in particular its institutions of organized violence and repression.” BA has pointed out that it can feel as if we’re locked in a huge prison yard surrounded by a huge steel wall that reaches up past our field of vision and seems incredibly thick. All we’ve got against that is each other and—what else?—the scientific method. But that’s a lot. This scientific method is like having a microscope and x-ray machine. We can use that microscope and x-ray machine, and we can begin to see and trace the cracks inside that wall... we can see structural weaknesses within the wall that have caused the steel to rust here and there... we can see where the beams and joints weren’t put together so well and might buckle under strain... we can see that the weather will be working on this wall in different ways, and wearing it down.
To speak plainly, we can investigate and study the reality and search out the patterns, and the underlying dynamics and driving forces. So let’s ask some questions about the patterns and see what we can learn about this. Has a force that starts out small, inexperienced and lightly armed ever beaten a force that starts out with experience, size and heavy arms? It turns out that it has. Has such a force ever matched up to the one we’d be facing, if and as things develop in that way? It turns out that it has. What’s happened? Turns out that while, yes, there’s been many more victories by the more powerful against those smaller and lightly armed forces—no surprise there!—there have also been some stalemates and at least one major defeat—that very same Vietnam war I just talked about.
Let’s look at Vietnam for a minute. Not only did the Vietnamese finally defeat the U.S., but by the end of the war, after repeated defeats in battle and the growth of a determined and very defiant antiwar movement within the U.S., there had set in a certain wearing down of the U.S. army itself. Soldiers were dissenting and even resisting in different and sometimes very frontal ways. The question of whether the U.S. would be able to even reliably field this army began to come into play and figure into their calculations as to how and whether they could fight this war.
Here’s another very important lesson to learn both about that war and other things that were going on in the U.S. at that time. In most times, people might not like the way in which the state brings its hammer down, but they don’t question the right of the state to do that. Most of the time, people tend to concede to the state a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence. You hear it all the time—“I’m not against all cops, just the bad ones.” Not seeing that the “bad ones” and the good ones work together to play an overall role of keeping people penned in.
That’s what is meant by legitimacy: the state can use violence to enforce the order it is defending. Well, during the period of Vietnam, people began to broadly lose belief in the legitimacy of state-directed violence. This was because of the growing political movement that questioned the justice of the order that that force was defending and the direct challenges to the monopoly of force that occurred within society at that time. Such a loss of faith would be an important component of any revolutionary situation—an important “crack in the wall.” People coming to see the illegitimacy of the power structure’s use of force—and correspondingly, coming to see the legitimacy of the revolutionary forces—will be an essential dynamic when the all-out struggle for power does come on the agenda and all the way through that struggle. And that’s a crack in the wall we have to start working on now, even before that all-out struggle is under way or on the immediate agenda.
Again, this is a science. We can’t directly experiment but we can study historical experience. We can study things going on around the world today, positive and negative. We can read the writings of revolutionaries, and we can study the writers on their side who have examined potential weaknesses and pointed to these weaknesses in these structures of violent repression, and we can learn from and recast their insights. And like all scientists we have to use, but not be ruled by, our imaginations.
Now asking these kinds of questions is just the beginning of figuring out whether meeting and defeating such overwhelming forces of violent repression in a revolution is possible. The experience in other countries, while very important also differs in some important aspects—including that when the Vietnamese drove the U.S. Army out of Vietnam, they did NOT have to thoroughly defeat, disintegrate and dismantle the repressive force of the old order. And this would almost certainly have to be done in a revolution within an imperialist country. There are still other problems and questions peculiar to an imperialist country that must be addressed. How would you avoid having the main base for this revolution just surrounded in the cities and pulverized? How would you carry out leadership of such a struggle up against their surveillance and repression? How would you, in such a situation, deal with the reactionary forces they’d be mobilizing among the people... and how by the same token should you look at the possibility of breaking off some of their forces, including their armed forces, when such a struggle comes on the agenda and then develops? And how does the political and ideological work that you do today, when the all-out struggle is not yet on the agenda and should NOT be launched, relate to when things do change?
Our Party has done that: we have confronted and posed the key contradictions and questions, we have laid the foundations and basic framework of a strategy that could win in a different situation than today, a revolutionary situation. We have done this in the works, “On the Possibility of Revolution,” in BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, and in BA’s talk Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon. In those works, some of the basic principles of what revolutionary communists call “people’s war” are laid out, applied and further developed.
Let’s stop here. What do I mean by people’s war? “People’s war” was developed by Mao Zedong in China, in the process of leading the party to lead the people through 22 years of war to seize power in 1949. Mao led the Party to take a relative handful of people and build an army from the bottom up. The purpose of this army was to serve the masses in getting to communism, by defeating the oppressor and by modeling a whole different world. Because this was its purpose and reason for being—and NOT plunder or the defense of plunder—it had, and could carry out, a different form of strategy and tactics. What came to be called the People’s Liberation Army could draw on its support from the people to wage war that allowed it to wear down and gradually disintegrate a much stronger enemy. They were able to deny that enemy the kind of fight the enemy wanted, where they could bring their overwhelming advantage in force down to pulverize the People’s Army. Instead the revolutionaries forced the reactionaries to fight on terms that were more favorable to the revolution. The People’s Liberation Army had different forms of relations among its soldiers, and between its soldiers and the people than the reactionary army they fought—you can read in the Red Book of Mao’s quotations the points of attention and discipline they developed to ensure and reinforce that. Not only was this essential to the goal of the struggle and the way they were waging it, it also built up the legitimacy of the revolutionary forces and undercut the claim to legitimacy by the ruling regime. And over time, using the scientific strategy developed by Mao, this army fought battles and gained strength and played a major role in defeating the Japanese who invaded them in the '30s and '40s, and then totally defeating and disintegrating the regular Chinese army which was armed, advised and backed up by the U.S., and then finally, in fighting the U.S. Army to a standstill in Korea, not even a year after they had seized nationwide power in China.
Now we know that this is not then, okay? Much of that experience does not and would not apply in a country like this, today. But there are principles that do apply—which is why people like Petraeus, their war criminal general, study Mao and why we should too. And the works that I mentioned earlier DO directly grapple with what revolutionary forces in a country like this would face, and there is further thinking and “excavation” on a host of thorny questions. I’m not going to try to address the specifics of that any further today but I AM going to ask you to get into these works and others, and to wrangle with this, in the right ways, with each other and be part of the very important work—in the realm of theory, let me emphasize—to go further into this.
The important point here is this: based on confronting this for real, with a scientific method and approach, the fact IS that it IS possible to defeat this force... in conditions, to return to that quote, of “a deep-going crisis in society, and the emergence of a revolutionary people in the millions and millions, who have the leadership of a revolutionary communist vanguard and are conscious of the need for revolutionary change and are determined to fight for it.” Not guaranteed, by any means, and certainly not without tremendous sacrifice—but possible. So this is one part, the first part, of the answer to where we are in the revolution—we have developed this framework, which is extremely valuable and a real breakthrough.
Now in addition to our metaphorical, or imaginary microscope and x-ray machine—those images we’re using to talk about the scientific method—we also have a telescope. We can not only see into the wall, but over and past that wall. Let’s go back to that quote I just cited, and read a little further:
...the seizure of power and radical change in the dominant institutions of society, when the conditions for this have been brought into being, makes possible further radical change throughout society—in the economy and economic relations, the social relations, and the politics, ideology and culture prevailing in society. The final aim of this revolution is communism, which means and requires the abolition of all relations of exploitation and oppression and all destructive antagonistic conflicts among human beings, throughout the world. Understood in this light, the seizure of power, in a particular country, is crucial and decisive, and opens the door to further radical change, and to strengthening and further advancing the revolutionary struggle throughout the world; but, at the same time, as crucial and decisive as that is, it is only the first step—or first great leap— in an overall struggle which must continue toward the final goal of this revolution: a radically new, communist world.
What does it mean for the masses that the high iron wall finally comes down? A friend of mine was cleaning out her parents’ attic and she came across a LIFE magazine from 1950—right after the revolutionary victory in China—which was a special issue on Asia. LIFE magazine was a very popular picture magazine in the '50s and '60s. Anyway, LIFE very disapprovingly showed a picture of the peasants in newly liberated China—peasants who before the communists came to power had been bitterly exploited, denied land, chained down with debt, often starving in periodic famines and at times even forced to sell their daughters to the landlords, all of which was backed up by the laws of the land and the army—they very disapprovingly showed these peasants joyously celebrating as they burned the landlords’ title deeds and debt records.
Then LIFE magazine very very disapprovingly displayed another picture, showing some of these peasants with guns and saying that these people’s militias prevent the landlords from doing anything about this. And if you know anything about the lives of misery these peasants lived before the revolution, the horrifying injustices they suffered, you’re going, “Right ON, People’s Militia!” Because you also know that without armed power backing them up, these peasants would have remained disunited. The landlords would have played on and used the fears of the peasantry, they would have manipulated the mentality of servility and submission that thousands of years of exploitation had drummed into the peasants, they would have deployed their goons, and even with all the laws in the world nothing really would change.
But things DID change: the grip of the landlords in the countryside was shattered and land was divided; then different kinds of co-operatives were forged, step by step going to greater and greater collectivization. By the mid-1960s China had, for the first time in history, basically solved its food problem—basically had developed the capability to provide for the food needs of the entire population and to have reserves besides—along with bringing literacy and education and healthcare to the countryside for the first time. Not without tremendous struggle, not without mistakes and sacrifices. They had to go up against both the U.S. and the Soviet Union—but they did it. And this is not anybody’s “narrative”—this is true, and we have the facts to back that up.
All this led me to think again about Reconstruction in this country, 150 years ago, right after the Civil War was over. To really get freedom at that point, to secure even the most basic rights, those ex-slaves would have needed to seize the land that their blood had built up over generations. They would have needed to forge armed organs of power to ensure that the former planters would be prevented from “rising again.” They would have needed to use that power to then remold all of society, beginning with the education system. But this was NOT done. Instead, power remained with the Union Army, which was an instrument of the capitalists who controlled it... and when it no longer suited these capitalists to enable the former slaves to have even the bare minimum of rights gained through the Civil War, they withdrew their army and left those ex-slaves to the mercy of the lynching rope and the Klan, and what became generations of brutal exploitation. Without a people’s army—a whole new army—as the bulwark of a whole new state power determined to back up the masses in wiping out every vestige of slavery, there was no chance. That held true for then, and it holds doubly true for the socialist society we need to bring into being in these times.
Yes, there’s a lot of complicated things involved in exercising this new power and doing it in the right way. How to do that is one major part of the new synthesis of communism brought forward by BA. This path-breaking new synthesis, building on the achievements but also scientifically confronting and analyzing the shortcomings of previous revolutions, can be found in many works by BA and is concentrated in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). And this New Constitution definitely deals with the complexity of it all, as well as being very concrete and understandable.
But there are some very simple things you could start to work on the day after power is seized. At that point, the old army and police will have been dismantled and dispersed. New organs of power—both in terms of new political structures and new armed forces to be deployed by those structures—would now exist, based on the forces that would have been tempered and tested in the struggle to defeat that old order. Remember that one of the key ways that you could even conceive of these revolutionary forces winning is by the way that they fight and conduct themselves—that they must embody the values of the society that they are bringing into being and NOT the values of the society that they are fighting to overcome and transcend, and in doing so form a sharp contrast to the other side.
So, from day one, as these new organs assert authority: no more police shooting down Black and Latino youth in the streets, just for starters! We have parents in our movement who have suffered that—we know many people who have sometimes even called the police for assistance with a mentally ill family member or a family fight getting out of control, only to have the police come and murder that family member—in one horrific case, murder the woman’s husband and son at the very same time. Well, no more of that! No more desperate hungry immigrants dying in the desert, as over 6,000 have died in the past 15 years due to the fiendish policies of the U.S. government and their Border Patrol which violently enforces those policies, with the “deporter-in-chief” Obama presiding over it today—no more of that; and no more of the plunder and domination of the homelands of these immigrants that sends them into that unforgiving desert in the first place. No more youth, slaughtering one another because they don’t know where to aim their anger—that will have been rooted out by the all-out revolutionary struggle for power itself, which alone can direct that anger—and the initiative and creativity and daring of these youth—where it needs to go, into consciously emancipating all of humanity!
From day one: no more millions of homeless in the cities of America, living in the shelters at best, in the midst of towers of splendor and right among people who are hungering for jobs and could build housing if given a chance. No more bullying homicidal fanatics in the face of women who want to exercise their basic rights to decide whether and when to have a child. No more children forced to live on Kool-Aid and sugar sandwiches at the end of the month because the larger society chooses not to feed them when their parents’ money runs out. No more of that! No more standing paralyzed in the face of our planet being frog-marched to its doom by capitalism—no, instead we have a state power that immediately sets well-trained scientists to work on these problems and involves masses of people in both understanding and helping to solve them as well, figuring out how humanity can carve out a sustainable future in the midst of this environmental disaster—without the straitjacket of capitalism preventing them from even fully articulating the dimensions of the problem. All this could be done—and could only be done—by seizing power, bringing into being a NEW power.
Now having said what the seizure of power IS and what it’s good for, we have to talk a little bit about what the seizure of power is NOT. There’s a lot of confusion about this. The seizure of power is NOT a military coup carried out by a section of the army that professes sympathy for the people, nor is it the election of a populist who has the support of a significant section of the army and the oppressed masses. This has been tried numerous times, most recently in Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez first tried a coup and then came to power through elections, backed by a section of the army. In most cases, the leaders of these military coups or even popular movements represent the strivings of frustrated bourgeois nationalists in the oppressed nations. When I say “bourgeois nationalist” I’m not hurling an insult, I’m using a scientific term. It refers in this case to representatives of a class of people in the oppressed nations which aspires to, or to some extent does, play the role of the bourgeoisie, or ruling capitalist class, but is thwarted because of the domination of the nation’s economy and political life by imperialism. They dream of autonomy from the big imperialists and sometimes come into conflict, even violent conflict with them. They can be united with to an extent but if they’re left to their own devices and if they lead, they cannot chart a path independent of the imperialist world order. Eventually they will seek some sort of accommodation with it, even if on “better terms” than what went before. To do this, they will sometimes mobilize a section of masses around a program of reforms and call it socialism. The army itself in these countries, even when such forces have the upper hand, remains an instrument molded by the neocolonial structure to serve neocolonial ends.
Part of the problem here is that socialism is not an end in itself. Socialism is NOT just a few reforms and more equal distribution of wealth. Socialism is a transitional state, the purpose of which is to lead masses to actually uproot all exploitation, all the oppressive social institutions that arise on top of that, and all the backward ideas that are generated by and reinforce that system. It’s a transition to communism, where humanity has overcome all antagonistic divisions and no longer even needs a state power. But these nationalists are not aiming to liberate the whole world, but to get better terms for their part of it—and experience shows that if that’s all you’re about, you won’t even break the chains of imperialism. Hugo Chavez instituted reforms and doled out material concessions to the poor and even let people set up “alternate institutions”—but he did not actually mobilize the conscious activism of the masses to put the economy on a new foundation, or to revolutionize the institutions of society, nor did he unleash them to challenge the backward ideas and ignorance pervading society and chaining them down—indeed, in many cases he reinforced and fed on those backward ideas, promoting religion, for example.
Another thing that “seizure of power” does NOT mean is that somehow you will build up alternative communities within this rotting system which will become the incubators of new social relations and new economic relations, including relations with the environment, and slowly gain power. First, you are still embedded in the whole international workings of imperialism, you are part of that, and you are in this country at best playing around with some of the spoils of its imperialist economy. You may think you’re opting out, but meanwhile the meat grinder moves relentlessly on. They can let you do that and even encourage you, if they decide it suits them. But the moment they decide it doesn’t, they can call out the police.
Similarly, you can’t do this by electing a majority for socialism and passing a constitutional amendment socializing private property, a fantasy which used to be promoted by the revisionist—that is NOT-revolutionary but COUNTER-revolutionary—Communist Party, USA. First, in a country like the USA the rules that are set up and the very workings of doing things through elections—in which people act as atomized, passive individuals—ensures that you will never get a majority. But if somehow you did, you would again be crushed by the army—as was done, for instance, in Indonesia in 1965 and Chile in 1973, with the guidance of the CIA.
Why? Because, as the earlier example of China showed, armies do not just fall from the sky. They are created by people who ultimately represent one class or another to enforce the interests of that class. As such, they are concentrations of the social relations and values of the class they are created to serve. WHY does the U.S. Army, to take just one of its many putrid social relations and practices, have such a high incidence of rape not only of non-combatants but even within its ranks, to the point where female soldiers will literally not go to the bathroom at night for fear of assault? Because it reflects the dog-eat-dog, me-first social relations and morals of the society which gave birth to it and which it defends and, in particular, the misogyny—the contempt for and hatred of women—that forms such a major part of its cohering “social glue.”
On the other hand, why was the People’s Army in China able to institute totally different relations and values? Again, because it was created on the basis of the social relations characteristic of a different class, the proletariat, the class which has nothing to lose but it chains but which can only end its exploitation by ending ALL exploitation and oppression.
So there is no short-cut, cut-rate road to power—at least power that would be about actually setting out to eliminate all exploitation and oppression, and all potentially antagonistic relations between people. And in thinking about this, you come right up to the sacrifice that this would entail. Those who defend this order will bring down destruction on those who want a new one—tremendous destruction. This is no small question.
But think about what we face right now: think about the millions who have been shuttled into the hellish prison cages of this country since the 1970s, and the ways in which these youth have been degraded, generation after generation, put in a position in which they have no real future and no real hope, to where they take that out on each other, and end up either in an early grave or the living tombs that this country by far leads the world in... think about the immigrants, driven here by conditions so bad that they risk their lives in the desert just to find work, with hundreds dying terrible deaths each year and millions more living in the shadows... think about the one in five women who will be raped and sexually assaulted on the campuses of this country during their time in college and the pervasive, perverted and pornified culture that further fuels this and saturates and degrades everyone, and the ways in which the rights to abortion and yes birth control are being stripped from whole areas of the country... think about the literally millions and millions of children each year around this world who needlessly die from preventable disease or starvation, think about the lives of grinding exploitation and desperation that faces those who do survive, and think about the wars that these great powers pursue, whether directly or by proxy or by long-distance drone killing, to back all that up... in just the past 20 years the six million who’ve died in Congo, the ongoing slaughter in Iraq and Syria, and on and on... and think about the environment, where the very future of humanity is now being held hostage by capitalism. Hell, think about a culture where so many people have to make themselves numb just to face their days. That’s the actual choice humanity faces. Our orientation has to be this: everything these monsters do against the people, all the destruction that they wreak in defending capitalism, has to become one more reason to hasten the end of their system and this whole way of life... and way of death. And we have to start training people in that outlook today.
Finally on this overall point, let me say this, just so there’s no honest misunderstanding, nor any dishonest attempts to distort what I’m saying. Trying to “get it on” right now... trying to make revolution when you don’t have the conditions I laid out earlier... would lose and would be very damaging. For one, it would crush the hopes of millions who today don’t even dare to hope. And two, it would call down tremendous repression. So we have to, as we take this out to people, explain exactly what we mean... and exactly what we DON’T mean. This is not about acting big, or “selling woof tickets” this is deadly serious, with the lives and dreams and futures of literally billions of people at stake. This doesn’t mean that oppressed people don’t have the right to defend themselves against injustice; anyone who believes in justice should support that. But it does mean that any attempt to go all-out now would be very wrong.
So now we come to our second problem, because you can’t just do this with a few people. You would need millions of people on the side of revolution, ready to put everything on the line to have any chance at winning. You would need crisis among the rulers themselves, stretching into the government, in which everything they did to get out of their crisis just made it worse. You would need a situation in which the proponents of reform were paralyzed by indecision, and people were losing faith in them. You would need a vanguard force that was tempered enough, wise enough, well-organized and deeply rooted enough, to lead all that to revolution. And we don’t have any of that today.
But in fact we are working toward just such a situation where there IS a deep crisis and where millions ARE not only ready to put things on the line, but are oriented and organized and conscious enough to be able to win. And that’s what I want to turn to now. How do we get into a position where people could actually have a real chance to meet and defeat the forces of violent repression?
* * *
A few weeks back I heard a former Black Panther, Jamal Joseph, speak at Revolution Books in New York. He talked about those days in the Panthers—about how differently people saw things then. He also made the point that none of the demands of the Panthers’ 10-point program—which included decent housing, education, an end to police violence, racism in the courts and robbery of the community by the capitalists, and so on—had been met, even decades later. Afterward I went up to someone who turned out to be a young filmmaker and he raised to me: “Isn’t it worse in some ways today? Yet people aren’t really doing much. And why are so many people hurting and degrading each other and themselves instead of fighting back, or else just ‘trying to make it’?” This filmmaker had made a movie about some of the ways in which oppressed people take out their anger on one another, and he wants to make a film about the '60s—and he was clearly in anguish over this. And he’s not the only person.
Well, let’s try to face this too, full-on, scientifically, and answer it. First, what accounts for how people think?
Karl Marx, the founder of scientific communism along with Frederick Engels, made the point that the ruling ideas of any age are those of the ruling class. Think about it: the schools we go to teach us to compete with each other for grades, rather than cooperate for knowledge. The popular TV shows like Survivor send the same message: your team against theirs and then, on your team, you fight for advantage and stab in the back. And the news media? Dan Rather, the former news anchor for CBS, once said that if he didn’t toe the government line on important issues, his likely fate would be comparable to necklacing—that is, the burning tires put around the necks of informers in South Africa. And yes, he used that metaphor.
But while one big question is certainly why are people thinking in such isolated, fragmented and “me-out” ways today, another question, just as big and important, would have to be this: how is it that people came to be in such a revolutionary mood by the end of the 1960s in the first place? Maybe if we look into how it changed from one to the other, we could figure out how to understand the mood today and what might be—what needs to be—done to change it again.
Let’s turn to our wall metaphor, or comparison, again. Yes, the structure is designed to hammer certain ideas into people and reinforce those ideas. But there are weaknesses within it, ways in which other ideas come up and contend.
We can’t lose our grip on Marx’s point. But we also have to understand that there are other classes and social groups as well, and people come forward to formulate and represent ideas that represent those classes, and struggle for them. Look at Marx himself. He wasn’t from the proletariat, but he was greatly influenced by their early struggles and as a result of this, along with the broader course of his studies, came to develop the first great set of ideas that represented the interests, viewpoint and historic role of that class.
So, this is contended. The thinking of millions of people is mainly shaped by the institutions of society, but sometimes these other ideas can gain great influence—especially when there is upheaval and dislocation, for whatever reason, and things don’t seem so solid and unchanging, or the old answers don’t quite fit anymore. They are forced to look at things differently and they often change their thinking as a result.
So let’s look again at the '60s. On one level, you would have to go back at least to World War 1, 100 years ago, to get into even most of what led to the huge upheavals in action and thought of that decade. For one thing, there had been huge changes in the social and economic structures that profoundly influenced how people experienced and viewed the world. To focus for a minute on the experience of African-American people, who played such a pivotal social role at that point, there are real differences between the period when people principally lived in the rural South as sharecroppers and the period of the 1940s and '50s, when they mainly began to relocate in the cities, working for wages.
During this same period, beginning with World War 1, the U.S. went from just another great power to, over the course of the two world wars, the top dog of the imperialists. At the same time, there was a revolutionary tide gathering elsewhere in the world—in large part growing up in the wake of the massive dislocation and change caused by World War II in the 1940s. We talked about China earlier. Movements inspired by and drawing from that example flared up worldwide during the '50s and '60s, and often came into direct conflict with the U.S. itself who now—as top dog—had to enforce the imperialist world order.
Within the U.S. itself, the '50s were called the era of the Silent Generation—the conformist decade. But even within that Black people, especially in the South at first, but then spreading, responding to new horizons from moving to the cities and in part emboldened and inspired by what was happening around the world, demanded basic civil rights and would not be stopped. At that time, the legitimacy—there’s that word again—the legitimacy of the U.S. rested on its image as the “great democracy” which had won the war. But here were people being lynched, people being murdered for registering to vote, people being beaten for trying to go to school or ride a bus—right in the so-called greatest democracy in the world.
Meanwhile, the liberation movements overseas reacted back on and reverberated within the U.S.—and especially with the African-American people. Robert Williams, a Black army veteran from Korea, organized other Black veterans in his North Carolina town to stand up to the Klan with rifles and drive them out when they tried to burn a cross in the Black neighborhood. As a result, Williams got run out of the U.S. and went into exile, first in Cuba and then in China. Important leaders like Malcolm X, Stokely Carmichael and then the Black Panther Party drew very direct inspiration from these worldwide struggles and this upheaval, including very specifically China, and identified with it. Malcolm X would put the contradiction very sharply to his audiences—you have lots of courage when it comes to going 5,000 miles to kill a Vietnamese man for Uncle Sam, but where’s your courage when little Black girls in Birmingham were murdered and nothing was done about it? Again, the legitimacy to their monopoly on force... right to rule... moral authority—all being called into question.
At the same time, in part responding to the changes in their social role, and in part to these same political and ideological currents, the women’s liberation movement arose to frontally challenge what society had deemed to be “human nature” for thousands of years. And at the same time, you also had massive unprecedented disaffection and revolt against a genocidal war of empire carried out by the U.S. in Indochina—by the youth of the “home country.” Disaffection and revolt which spread, as I said earlier, into the army.
Everything came into question at that point—if you were growing up at that time, you did not trust the powers-that-be—in fact, as a saying of the time went, you didn’t trust anyone over 30!—and you were determined that one way or another you were going to be part of bringing in something new and liberating. We didn’t know exactly what, and we didn’t know exactly how, but we—hundreds of thousands and sometimes millions—were bound and determined to bring in a new world and get rid of a manifestly unjust, genocidal, life-draining one and we were willing to put a fuck of a lot on the line to make that happen.
You had a situation in 1968 where, first with a major military offensive launched by the Vietnamese and then, with the assassination of Martin Luther King, there really was a crisis over legitimacy. Black people rose up in over 125 cities. Jamal Joseph said the other night—and I’ve heard similar things from many, many people—that when they killed King, even though he was only 15, he went to sign up with the Black Panther Party, because he wanted to do the most radical thing he could and he was ready for anything. Youth began to revolt on the campuses. Johnson, the president, was roundly called out as a war criminal and was forced to withdraw his candidacy for reelection. For a whole period of time, the revolution and the people had the initiative—that is, those who were saying that this system was unjust, immoral and illegitimate were setting the terms in society and we were challenging and changing the thinking of whole huge blocs of people.
Within all this, the idea of revolution—of communist revolution—was also beginning to influence people. The anticommunist brainwashing of the '50s began to backfire—the U.S. ruling class had lost so much credibility that people just naturally wanted to check out anything they said was bad. The consciousness-raising groups in the women’s movement grew out of similar forms in China during the revolutionary war. The Red Bookof quotationfrom Mao was spread and used by the Black Panther Party, taken up by the Revolutionary Union, our Party’s forerunner, and other youth groups, and beyond that became a mass social phenomenon. The Maoist ethos of “Serve the People” became a watchword in the movement.
And this was not just a few people. This was very broad. Just recently I came across an article from 1971, written by the head of the American Friends Service Committee—a Quaker pacifist who had worked in China before the revolution during the '40s and then visited the same area he had worked again in 1971. In this article he writes about the amazing changes in material well-being, in the health and vigor and confidence of the small children, in the development of both the cities and countryside in terms of productive capacity, education, health care, and especially in the serve-the-people ethos in the society and creativity of the masses. And yes, he has criticisms as well. But he ends by saying “The visitor to China today need not agree with, nor approve of, Chinese ideology and rhetoric to feel the radical moral challenge that China is offering to our own country.” Note that well: the radical moral challenge.
So people who had thought one way in the '50s now thought a different way. Why? Because they had been compelled to confront things about reality by the radical shocks to the system—the war, the radical changes in the mode of living of African-Americans, the ways in which women were leaving the home and entering the workforce; by the actions people took in response to those shocks; and by the ideas that were being promoted to explain all this, and point the way forward.
So what happened? The enemy adapted, regrouped and came back at the movement of the 1960s. They came down with tremendous repression—directly and baldly assassinating important and precious leaders like Fred Hampton and George Jackson, and fomenting other assassinations through informants and agents sent within groups, even as they pumped heroin and other demoralizing addictive forms of dope into the ghettoes.
At the same time, they made some concessions. They pulled back and cut their losses in Vietnam. They gave some opportunities to a slice of Black people to build up a buffer stratum, even as these opportunities were very precarious and contested and now are being once again snatched back away. They promoted working within the system for reforms. And they began to build up a reactionary fascist movement, drawing from the deep wells of racism, mindless American chauvinism, and the reactionary beliefs indoctrinated in men that they deserve to dominate women.
Now just to be clear, it’s not that movements are fated to go down when repression hits, as it inevitably does. On the contrary, if you can withstand the repression and mobilize people to come back stronger, you can re-seize the initiative. This in fact did happen in China, after 90 percent of the revolutionary forces were wiped in the mid-1930s, and Mao was forced to lead a “Long March” to the northeast of China, to fight from a more advantageous position; and this will be a pattern in any revolution—learning how to come back stronger against the repression and counter-revolution. Actually, more than a few people in our Party dedicated their lives to revolution in response to the attacks on the Black Panther Party. But you need a very strong line—that is, a strong scientific approach and theoretical understanding—and you need solid organization to do that. In this case the theoretical tools that we had, speaking here broadly of the revolutionary movement as a whole, were not sufficient to the challenges posed and our organizations were not very well-structured. Now let’s be clear: some people didn’t give up on revolution and worked to forge those tools and that organization—that’s where BA and our Party come in; but most could not sustain the commitment, and the ideas grounding that commitment, in the face of setback and confusion.
All this was interacting on, going back and forth with, big changes in the world as a whole. Because just as the struggle within the U.S. in the 1960s took place in the context of and was profoundly conditioned by, and influenced by, what was going on worldwide... so too developments in the world shaped things after the '60s and early '70s. The liberation struggles in Vietnam, in other parts of Asia, in Africa and Latin America, ran into limitations and in many cases were defeated. Most important of all, the revolution in China was reversed—on the death of Mao in 1976, counter-revolutionaries were able to carry out a coup d’état; that is, they used the army to arrest those revolutionaries allied with Mao and consolidated around people who would restore capitalism in fact in China, even as they maintained the name communist and some of the outer trappings of the revolution.
This defeat in China had and continues to have a devastating effect. Today we’ve almost become used to the endless flood of anticommunist half-truths, distortions, outright inventions and just plain vitriol that has been poured out since the death of Mao and the counter-revolution. We forget that millions once knew better.
The counter-revolution in 1976, and the slanders that have been heaped on the revolution since then, have deeply lowered people’s sights as to what is possible. Within the imperialist countries, the ruling class pushed a feeling—a conviction—that there is no real alternative to what we have now. The rulers brought forward Reagan, and the whole thing of entrepreneurialism, the Christian “Right”—or Christian fascists, more accurately—and all that. In the oppressed nations in particular, though not just there, religious fundamentalism of one kind or another stepped into the void and metastasized, grew like a cancer, promising a way out, even if that “way out” is fraudulent and fraught with ignorance, oppression and murder. For others a paralysis and, to be honest, an inward-looking callousness set in.
So people’s minds changed, radically, in the 1960s... and then, yes, the fact that ultimately the ruling ideas of the age ARE those of the ruling class reasserted itself. You see, people with revolutionary ideas can change a lot of thinking short of revolution; that’s the big lesson of the 1960s and '70s. This can be a source of hope; but it can also be a source of illusion—you begin to think things will never change back. Yet eventually the fact that people continue to live under capitalism and come under tremendous pressures of all different kinds to fit themselves into that plays out and, if no revolution IS made, then their thinking begins to change back... sometimes with a vengeance.
At the same time, there have been major changes since that period in the world and in the U.S. in the way people live, also working on people’s thinking. Around the world the traditional ways of life in the rural areas have been radically transformed, driving hundreds of millions of people into the cities, and many into the imperialist countries, desperately looking for work. Women have increasingly come out of the home and into the labor force. But because this has happened without a revolution and without a struggle to transform people’s thinking in an emancipatory direction, this has ironically been coupled with a very radically reactionary revenge movement on the part of men—taking the form of everything from fundamentalist fanaticism to epidemics of rape, from attempts to outlaw abortion and birth control in this country to the pornification of the whole culture.
And of tremendous significance in this period has been what Michelle Alexander has documented and analyzed as the emergence of a new form of Jim Crow, or white supremacy, brought down on African-Americans and Latinos. I’m speaking of the incredible criminalization and massive incarceration of minority youth, with the U.S. prison population quadrupling since 1970 and nearly half of those Black and many Latino. To give a sense of the scope of this, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that a Black boy born in 2001 has a 32.2 percent chance of going to prison. Think about that! A one-in-three chance of ending up doing time!! One in three men or boys scarred by prison, and every African-American living under the shadow of that! What kind of post-racial America is THIS?! What kind of “realizing the promises of the 1960s,” what kind of “more perfect union,” what kind of “proof of the greatness of our democracy” is THIS?!? This is horrific for the victims, this is shameful for those who do not fight this, and this is DANGEROUS. And it speaks volumes on the legitimacy—or more accurately, the illegitimacy—of any social order that has no better future for one-third of any nationality than time in prison.
But it’s worse than that. In the documentary film The House I Live In, the point is made that genocides typically proceed in stages—demonization, containment, extermination. I defy you to tell me that we are not in stage two of this—and tell me that we do not need to urgently act to reverse this, and as we do to urgently raise the question of what KIND of system has THIS as its answer to the “dream deferred.”
This new Jim Crow was hammered down in response to two things: first, to deal with economic changes going on even then and the fact that U.S. capitalism no longer had a profitable way to exploit millions of Black and, increasingly, Latino, youth; and second, as a pre-emptive “counter-insurgency-before-the-insurgency strategy”—a way to demoralize masses of people and to put them under the control of the criminal justice system to prevent the outbreak of rebellion similar to or greater than what happened in the 1960s. As part of this, they have flooded the communities of the oppressed with drugs now for decades. First heroin and then crack cocaine. By the way, that’s nothing new for these monsters. The British did this in China with opium and even fought a war when China tried to ban opium. The U.S. did this with the American Indians, coming with the firewater—and yes, the Bible—to back up the gun. On top of this, while gangs have always spontaneously arisen among dispossessed urban youth, the gangs assumed increased importance as the revolutionary movement of the '60s was defeated and they were to a degree built up as the alternative, even as the system worked to control them in different ways—the movie, Bastards of the Party goes into this.
So all this—along with other transformations in other spheres—has worked to put people in check and prevent them from even entertaining the idea that you could go up against these monsters for real, and to even in large part give up any kind of collective struggle. It is really no mystery as to why people are “too messed up and too caught-up in the ways of the system”—in brief, the wrong side, at least temporarily, emerged victorious from the whole first stage of communist revolution and the particular challenge posed by the worldwide revolutionary upsurge of the 1960s and early '70s. They used this defeat and they used their power to mess people up and to catch people up.
So, that’s another part of the answer to where we are in the revolution—that, no, people right now are mainly not in a combative mood, even as we can see some glimmers of change, but we understand why that is and how it changes.
Remember, earlier I talked about what would actually be needed to launch an all-out struggle for power. This included a major crisis in society and government and revolutionary people in their millions, along with a vanguard capable of leading those people to victory. Those factors are not, however, three separate things—they are interwoven, and they have to be understood that way.
Where would a crisis come from? Let’s go back to that high wall, and let’s remember how there are fault lines within it—hidden cracks along which the whole thing could split apart. Now let’s return to our Party’s strategy statement:
The potential for a revolutionary crisis lies within the very nature of this capitalist system itself—with its repeated economic convulsions, its unemployment and poverty, its profound inequalities, its discrimination and degradation, its brutality, torture and wars, its wanton destruction. All this causes great suffering. And at times it leads to crisis on one level or another—sudden jolts and breakdowns in the “normal functioning” of society, which compel many people to question and to resist what they usually accept. No one can say in advance exactly what will happen in these situations—how deep the crisis may go, in what ways and to what extent it might pose challenges to the system as a whole, and to what degree and in what ways it might call forth unrest and rebellion among people who are normally caught up in, or feel powerless to stand up against, what this system does.
1) Such “jolts” in the “normal functioning” of things, even if they do not develop all the way to a fundamental crisis for the system as a whole, do create situations in which many more people are searching for answers and open to considering radical change. The work of building the movement for revolution must be consistently carried out at all times, but in these situations of sharp breaks with the “normal routine” there is greater possibility, and greater potential, to make advances. This must be fully recognized and built on to the greatest degree possible, so that through such situations, leaps are made in building up the movement and the organized forces for revolution, creating in this way a stronger basis from which to work for further advances.
2) In certain situations, major events or big changes can happen in society and the world and can come together in such a way that the system is shaken to its foundations...deep cracks appear and magnify within the ruling structures and institutions...the raw relations of oppression are more sharply exposed...conflicts among the powers-that-be deepen, and cannot be easily resolved, and it becomes much more difficult for them to hold things together under their control and keep people down. In this kind of situation, for great numbers of people, the “legitimacy” of the current system, and the right and ability of the ruling powers to keep on ruling, can be called seriously and directly into question, with millions hungering for a radical change that only a revolution can bring about.
Let’s take an example: Hurricane Katrina, which tore through New Orleans nine years ago, flooding the city and killing over 1,000 people. Here was a situation in which masses of people, mainly poor and mostly Black, were trapped inside a disaster-stricken New Orleans. The government simultaneously isolated those masses with absolutely no aid and then unleashed repression against them for trying to survive, including shooting people down on a bridge leaving the city. At the same time, masses of people powerfully put the lie to the slanders that had been heaped on them, including in the early days of the hurricane. The important documentary movie Trouble the Water with footage of the time of the hurricane taken by masses of people themselves, includes two young men who risked their own lives to rescue many people trapped in the floodwaters. And the striking thing is that these two young men were actually rivals in the drug trade—young people whose ingenuity and initiative and daring under this system could find no other outlet than that, and who would likely as not have killed each other in their everyday “normal” circumstance. Yet in crisis, a whole different potential became possible.
Lenin, who led the path-breaking monumental revolution in Russia, once said that a true test of a Party’s seriousness is NOT whether it never makes mistakes; every party and every person makes mistakes. The true test is whether and how it confronts and learns from its errors. Well, in “Making Revolution, Emancipating Humanity” BA talks very frankly about our Party’s shortcomings at the time of Katrina, where too often we bowed down to the real difficulties and did not LEAD to break through, and he called on us to draw the lessons fully, “in order to be able to do better in the future, including on the many occasions in the future when major events will suddenly erupt, often seemingly ‘out of nowhere.’”
So what should have been done? What could have been done? Those two young men were not isolated examples—there were many other people who heroically stepped forward, and more who would have if they had had the chance and the leadership. With the right orientation, you mobilize whoever you can to go down there and figure out ways to get into that city—to get through the National Guard lines—and to unite with people and give leadership to them, orienting and organizing them to stand up against those repressive powers and take them on, to concretely defend themselves against the murderers trying to pen them into the city and stand with them in doing that, to break through, while you are bringing out the real problem here and the real solution to it. Such actions would speak louder than many words—or to put it better, those actions would amplify and give life to very important words that expose the illegitimacy of this system’s use of violence against the people, and the legitimacy of people justly defending themselves against that. In that way, at key times when everyone’s attention is riveted, when “people are searching for answers and open to radical change” you give those answers in deed and word both, and you transform the thinking of millions in the process.
Giving leadership to that—stepping to the fore and bringing forward revolution—would not be without risk, sacrifice and loss. But that is a necessary part of the process, an absolutely necessary part of “working on the wall,” all along the way—and that is what we WILL do.
You can see even now, using our telescope and microscope, other possible fault lines within that wall. Let’s take another very revealing example: the shutdown of the government last October. This highlighted another development since the 1960s and, especially, over the past 30 years or so—the emergence of a serious split within the rulers of this country. BA has described this as a pyramid—where at the top of the pyramid are two sides roughly corresponding to the Democrats and Republicans. The Republicans have been harboring and nurturing an aggressive fascist movement while the Democrats have been conciliating with that, and giving it legitimacy—“let’s reach across the aisle,” they say. Meanwhile, the Democrats have been holding back the people who look to them for leadership—people who are more or less progressive. Now the conflicts between these two camps at the top is not just “politics”—this actually reflects very deep divisions. Not over whether the U.S. should ride roughshod over the world or whether this system should be preserved, but HOW. And these divisions are very sharp over the question of what should be the ideological and political “glue” holding society together—or to return to our concept of legitimacy, on what principles and ideals should the government rest its claim to its monopoly on legitimate force and violence? This took very sharp expression just last October with the government shutdown, where these contradictions rippled out internationally and came very close to causing a global economic crisis of extreme dimensions.
On a whole range of issues—the rights of immigrants; the role and position of Black people in society; the rights and position of women; science vs. Biblical literalism; and yes, gay rights—these religious fanatics are NOT reconciled to gay marriage for a minute, far from it, and I think we’re going to see some very explosive backlash, which we need to be preparing to counter—these reactionaries over here on this side of the pyramid are angry, and their anger is being stoked and given legitimacy by the Republicans. It’s sort of like the Republicans treat their base as Dobermans snarling and straining on a leash, every so often tossing them raw meat but not in some ways having full control of them, while the Democrats send their side to obedience school.
This is why these Christian fascists can murder abortion doctors like George Tiller in Kansas a few years back, and the Republicans can just wink at it... while the supposedly “pro-choice” Democrats don’t even send a single representative to the funeral! This is why that vicious racist Cliven Bundy is not only not touched when he mobilizes armed vigilantes against agents from the Bureau of Land Management, but is then given a platform to spout his racist rantings and to go on spouting them, for days and not just on FOX, which is bad enough, but CNN as well. People like him and that other fascist from Duck Dynasty are literally talking about going back to slavery! And they’re arming themselves and preparing for a civil war, sometimes quite openly, and increasingly, as with the murders of Trayvon Martin and then Jordan Davis, they are “taking matters into their own hands.” So it’s very possible that a whole thing could develop in this society where the government refuses to defend people against some kind of concentrated onslaught by these kinds of people—just as they are refusing today to actually effectively prosecute these racists who murdered Trayvon and Jordan—and masses of people who are under attack turn to those who “are willing and determined to lead them... and take it somewhere.” Or you could have something similar on abortion rights, or gay rights—it could be an uprising in Mexico that reverberates back into this country—or it could be a “flash point” that we can’t even anticipate right now.
This not only shows the danger we face, it also shows that this conflict could spin out of their control—no, the people who rule us are NOT all-powerful, they are not the “Illuminati” or some other mythical and supposedly all-powerful secret conspiracy, and yes, their system has DEEP cracks which could turn into fissures, or very wide splits. And all that gets again to legitimacy, and who has it—because the question of legitimacy bears not only on what they drum into people to get them to go along, it also has to do with the basic principles and rules that the ruling class itself is supposed to follow to iron out its differences. When these break down, as they began to do last October, then people’s superstitious awe can also begin to break down. The last time that happened in this country on a scale comparable to what you see now was the period right before the Civil War. Think about it!
We can’t predict today what combination of things—what shakings of fault lines—could set off such a crisis. We can see some possible outlines, and we can study and prepare. But nobody can say exactly when and from where the fissure could come. In Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, BA points out that as such crises develop they become extremely wild, with a big variety of different forces acting on things—not just the different sections of the imperialists and us, but all kinds of other political trends come into the fray. And he makes the point that “nobody can say exactly” what the active revolutionary forces may be able to accomplish in that crazy mix—that you can’t predict that just from looking at the relative strength of the different forces at the beginning, but you have to act on it to change it, and learn more as you go.
So this is some of what we’re talking about in that statement on jolts and some of the backdrop for it—some of the fault lines in that wall, including around their legitimacy. And what we DO in the face of these can change the first kind of jolt into the kind of situation where, to return to the statement on strategy, “for great numbers of people, the ‘legitimacy’ of the current system, and the right and ability of the ruling powers to keep on ruling, can be called seriously and directly into question, with millions hungering for a radical change that only a revolution can bring about.”
But—BUT—we cannot sit around waiting for that to happen. We gotta be working right now! Again, from the statement on strategy:
...[T]he possibility of revolution will never really ripen unless those who recognize the need for revolution are preparing the ground for this politically and ideologically even now: working to influence the thinking of people in a revolutionary direction, organizing them into the struggle against this system, and winning growing numbers to become actively involved in building the movement for revolution. This is what our Party is all about, and what we mean when say we are “hastening while awaiting” the changes that make revolution possible. This is the key to breaking through the situation where there are not yet the necessary conditions and forces to make revolution, but those conditions and forces will never be brought into being by just waiting for them to appear.
So how do we do this? One big part is captured in our slogan: Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution. From the strategy statement:
Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution is a key part of our strategic approach, which provides a way for the Party to unite with and give leadership to people to change themselves as they take part in the struggle to change the world...to lift their heads and broaden their vision, to recognize what kind of world is possible, what their real interests are, and who their real friends and real enemies are, as they rise up against this system...to take up a revolutionary viewpoint and revolutionary values and morals as they join with others to resist this system’s crimes and build up the basis for the ultimate all-out revolutionary struggle to sweep this system away and bring in a whole new way of organizing society, a whole new way of being...to become emancipators of humanity.
That does not mean “first we fight the power, and then we add in the other ingredients.” All these things have to work together...from the very beginning. People do need to stand up—but in many cases they cannot stand up without first struggling over their thinking in the course of challenging them to stand up... in other words, transforming the people. If people think that they hate what the powers-that-be have done to them, but they also hate the things that they themselves have done that have been monstrous or degrading AND they think that deep down, that is who they are and they can never change... we need to struggle with them. Not tail behind them and tell them it’s all right... but struggle with them both to break with all that AND to see the whole larger context all this takes place within and who is ultimately at fault. People blame themselves for making “bad choices”—but who set it up for THOSE to be the choices?
But if we just try to transform people’s thinking in an each-one-teach-one sort of way, forget it... you’ll never get to revolution and you’ll never even transform very much thinking. Standing up and fighting against the oppressive ways of this system... wrangling over the source of the problems and the solution as you do so... and coming to understand that there is a whole other way we could be living and the real possibility of bringing that into being through revolution... these work together.
It’s interesting to look on our website revcom.us at the interview with the Rutgers student who was part of the victorious struggle to prevent the war criminal Condoleezza Rice doing the commencement speech at Rutgers. Some faculty had taken a stand against this, and got some students interested. But Rice was still set to speak and most people were letting it go by. Then some students—a relative handful—took a defiant—and yes, risky and definitely “outside the proper channels”—action of sitting in. They polarized the campus and galvanized debate, and suddenly people were learning, even as the people who were doing it were also going through changes; and the more people debated this out, the better the polarization became, and finally they won the concession they were aiming for. This kind of thing needs to spread, and we need to be part of and learning from and supporting that process and at the same time bringing in our understanding of the problem and the solution, and making it part of bringing in a new day on these campuses, along with actions taken by Black students in many places around Trayvon Martin, and affirmative action, by students around the environment, Palestine and the Brown University students who shut down former New York police chief Ray Kelly. If we don’t want to just bemoan young people’s lack of fire but to change it, students need to be a big part of it, and we need to be making that happen.
This—Fight the Power, and Transform the People, FOR Revolution—captures a whole process. Right now, we have what we call an ensemble of revolutionary work which deals with some key focuses, even as we are tense to other things developing in unexpected ways.
I’m going to get into this now, briefly—but I do want to refer people to a new talk on this by BA, just posted at revcom.us, “The Strategic Approach to Revolution and Its Relation to Basic Questions of Epistemology and Method.”
So, what are these focuses?
To begin with, our Party has joined with others to launch two mass initiatives: one against the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration, police terror and the criminalizing of whole peoples; and one directed against the war on women, in short—the campaign to stop pornography and patriarchy, to end the degradation and enslavement of women. These both have to really impact the political terrain in a very powerful way. Each of these have developed very ambitious plans, focusing on different elements, with real concrete ways to get involved right now. If you care at all about either of these questions, you really have a responsibility to talk to the people here and find out what they have planned. They have a way for you to participate in this, or to support this, large or small—a way that you can be part of changing the whole terms of how big blocs of people think in this country around these questions, even as you are learning more.
Around mass incarceration and criminalization, there is beginning to be a different, more combative mood. This has been building for a while, and our Party along with others has been part of building that. And now, suddenly, the Democrats—after at least 25 years of outdoing the Republicans in carrying out the imprisonment of masses of Black and Latino youth and the stripping away of legal rights to appeal, of outdoing the Republicans in lecturing these youth on “no excuses,” of indulging in those infamous racist code-words “tough on crime,”—have come to pose as “very concerned about mass incarceration.” They will promise you everything in order to damp down your resistance and lead you on a road to nowhere. Don’t be fooled; and don’t let others be part of fooling you on this. This is a critical juncture.
As one example of how NOT to understand what these rulers are doing and the real dangers involved in that, I want to talk about Angela Davis, who was recently on Amy Goodman speaking about mass incarceration. She said, speaking of Obama’s sudden “interest” in mass incarceration, that:
It’s pretty unfortunate that he’s waited until now to speak out, but it’s good that he is speaking out... I think after this world-historic election took place, we went home and decided this one man in Washington would carry the ball for us, not recognizing that, actually he was the president of the imperialist, militarist USA. And I think we might have had more victories during the era of Obama’s administration had we mobilized, had we continually put pressure on him, and also created the possibility for him to take more progressive stances.” (Democracy Now! March 6, 2014)
This is exactly the kind of thinking that has eased the way into the horror of the past 40 years. This is a false path—it is dangerous, but it doesn’t necessarily appear that way, so let’s break it down.
First of all, the only reason Obama is “speaking out” is both because other countries are increasingly using the outrage of mass incarceration to neutralize the U.S. claims to being a great champion of human rights AND because there is an increasing frustration among not only Black people but many other people who had invested hopes in Obama. If he didn’t “speak out” he risked losing control of “the Democratic base”—that is, the oppressed masses they are in charge of misleading and controlling. Second, what is this “speaking out”? Is he calling on people to move heaven and earth to end this outrage, or to at least protest? No. This “speaking out” has taken the form, in his White House speech of February 27, of, when you drill down to the essence, blaming Black people for supposedly not being good parents—and here I have to say it takes some gall to lock millions of men and thousands of women away on drug possession charges for years and years, hundreds of miles away from their impoverished kids, who don’t have the money to get to you or even call you... or to put poor Black women in situations where they are forced to work without money for childcare, thanks to Clinton’s ending of “welfare as we know it,” often battling eviction if not outright homeless at the same time... and then to turn around and blame them for supposedly not being good parents. So, no, it’s not “good” that he’s “speaking out.”
Third, the main “world-historic meaning” of Obama’s election was the way in which all too many progressive people willfully deluded themselves and others into a “feel-good narrative” about what that election was going to mean and why those who choose the nominees (and no, it’s not you and me) settled on Obama—precisely as a “trump card” to bring back the millions who had begun to lose their “faith in America” through the Bush years.
And, oh yeah, not everyone “didn’t recognize” that Obama was imperialist and militarist—we for our part not only recognized it but insisted on spoiling everyone else’s fantasy—everyone else’s “narrative”—by refusing to stop telling that “inconvenient” truth. If you’re finally going to admit that now, then at least tell it like it really is, which is that he is a war criminal. Words like “imperialist” and “militarist” are not meaningless buzzwords designed to show that you’re with it, they have a specific meaning—it means that someone is the head of a system which is characterized by the attempt to dominate as much of the world as possible and to do so by means of military violence or the threat of such violence. Imperialism and militarism are not a set of policies or attitudes which can be switched on or off or somehow mitigated depending on who is at the controls: they describe a SYSTEM. If someone is the head of that system then it means that every calculation he makes is based on advancing the interests of that system. What he decides to do or not do about mass incarceration is based on that, including whether by doing a few half-measures or even just talking some stuff he can prevent people from rising up or, if they do begin to stir, derail that into channels that are harmless to the system and which do not, in fact, even begin to touch mass incarceration and because of that end up discouraging and demobilizing people. We didn’t “forget” that and neither did some other people, and we didn’t “go home”—we joined together to FIGHT these outrages, taking arrests around stop-and-frisk, supporting the heroic hunger strikers in the California and other prisons, we worked with the people’s neighborhood patrols to stop illegitimate and illegal abuse under color of authority, and so on.
If we end up aiming our struggle at “creating the possibility for Obama to do better,” we are no better than calves clamoring to get into the veal pen because we’ll get more food, and hoping that the farmer won’t take us to the slaughter house. This October—when the Stop Mass Incarceration Network has called for a Month of Resistance—and in the time leading up to it, even as it has ways for many, many people to join in from many different points of view, has to also burst the bonds of respectability, it has to find the ways to take people in America out of their comfort zone and confront them with the reality of what they are letting happen and make clear that there are people increasingly determined NOT to put up with it any longer! And you can’t really do that if you’re thinking about “creating space for Obama.” Guess what—he doesn’t want that space. And he’ll tell you, like he called the immigrants’ rights activists to the White House this spring and demanded that they back off their protests. If you really understand that Obama represents a system—a system that admits that it is on track to imprison 1/3 of the Black male babies born in any given year... a system that really does have NO right to rule, no legitimacy whatsoever just based on that alone... then act on that belief, and bring it out to others. Be part of weakening that wall, don’t follow people who try to path up the cracks in the wall and paint over the rust.
In terms of the initiative around the oppression of women, this is a very sweeping movement with many facets, including a crucial fight to really change the ways in which pornography has just saturated the culture, with devastating and demoralizing effect. I just want to touch for a minute, though, on the emergency around abortion. Right now the right to abortion is not only hanging by a thread, in many parts of America it is de facto non-existent or heading toward non-existence. That’s not a narrative, it’s just the honest truth. And yet those who are willing to fight this face an incredible wall of denial. I heard a debate between Sunsara Taylor, who helps give leadership to this initiative, and the national head of NOW—National Organization of Women. And Sunsara was sounding the alarm, and this woman from NOW was in fantasy-land, talking about how “don’t worry, the Republicans were going to be defeated, the Supreme Court was going to protect this right, blah blah blah.” Please can’t we all just wake the fuck up and look at what has been going on. These lunatics around the Republicans are not going to be happy until they strip away abortion rights AND birth control in as many states as they possibly can and if you think a Supreme Court that has been re-installing States’ Rights doctrine and viciously stripping away rights from African-Americans is going to protect women, you are really refusing to face reality. And if you’re putting your trust in the Democrats to protect you—when they have totally ceded the high moral ground on this issue and in fact themselves continually compromise away basic elements of this right—well, please, again, stop going against the evidence of what 40 years of this sort of “defense” has gotten.
On the other hand, you have some people who say that they won’t take a stand because abortion is just a “white women’s issue.” How is it a “white women’s issue” when the very places this right is being taken away are focused in Texas, on the border, in Mississippi and so on—as well as in poor rural areas that are in fact mainly white? Yes, we should have full-out reproductive rights for ALL women and yes, the mainstream women’s movement, in league with the Democratic Party, seriously, seriously erred when it allowed the Hyde Amendment, which forbade federal financing through Medicaid for abortion and was extremely racist in its impact, to go through without raising holy hell about it. But to step aside now, when a battle that is all too one-sided is raging, compounds the first error and makes it even worse. Do you know that eight out of ten women and girls who cross the border from Mexico, desperately searching for work or just to be reunited with their families, are sexually abused during that passage? That teenagers setting out from Honduras try to find birth control pills because they know they may get pregnant from being raped—and all too often they can’t get those pills and their only hope was the clinic in the Brownsville, TX area which is now shut down? That women of every nationality, no matter what their circumstance, need the very basic right to decide when and whether to have a child? To force a woman to have a child is slavery. Why should a system that is on track to make that once again the law of the land in most of the country be seen as legitimate? And why should anyone refuse to get into this fight on such flimsy and frankly reactionary grounds?
Particularly in relation to this question, but really overall, we also have to wage a sharp struggle over how people are approaching the world, and in particular the really reactionary identity politics that is smothering the youth. You see young people go on campus ready to learn about and take on the world, and then some been-there-done-that professor or older student accuses them of “wanting to appropriate someone else’s struggle” and then in all too many cases the next thing you know they’re on the defensive and the day after that they’re intently gazing at their own belly button. So let’s put it sharply to these world-weary know-it-all purveyors of identity politics:
Do you want to “own” your own oppression, jealously guarding over it and criticizing those who might somehow “appropriate” it by fighting against outrageous expressions of that oppression? Or do you want to END all oppression?
Do you want to carve out “safe space” for a few within this very dangerous society? Or do you want to fight to change an inhuman society and in the course of that create communities where we live the new relations we’re fighting to bring into being?
I have raised these criticisms sharply because the stakes are high over which path people take. This is not a “squabble”—this is extremely serious today, and struggles like this will be literally life-and-death for millions in a revolutionary situation, when everything is on the line, and whether people can distinguish truth from deception and self-deception will make all the difference.
There are other battles as well that must be built and supported beyond these two—around the environment, or around immigration. Right now, we will do everything we can to support these struggles and stretch a line to them, through our website, revcom.us—to show their common source in this system and their common solution in revolution. But the leading edge of all this, the one that puts all these other battles in a revolutionary context and framework, is the major, multi-faceted campaign to raise big, big funds to get BA Everywhere.
I talked earlier about the blows of the counter-revolution in China in the '70s, coming on top of the ruling class counter-attacks within the U.S. against the movements of the '60s. It really felt as if you were on the dock of a raging river, getting your boat ready to go to the other side, knowing that the rapids would be very rocky but you were eager to go—and then your boat was bombed to smithereens in the harbor, and you were seriously disoriented about why this had happened and what to do next. Most people gave up on getting to the other side. But one person stepped forward to not only defend the accomplishments of the revolution and the need for revolution... but to go beyond that and to critically analyze the whole experience that began with Marx and Engels, that led through the Paris Commune and then the Soviet Revolution in Russia, and finally reached its pinnacle in China and the Cultural Revolution. The new synthesis of communism that BA developed can be found in many, many works. It’s expressed in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North American (Draft Proposal)... it can be found in our strategy, both the statement itself and the great volume of scientific work that went into getting there... in the struggles over ideology we wage internationally, so that this method and approach and basic framework can be taken up by people in other countries, to hasten the development of the world revolution. The new synthesis brought forward by BA builds on and takes further the great foundational contributions to our understanding by the previous communist leaders while also, in some important respects, rupturing and breaking new ground. As such, it represents hope on a solid scientific foundation, and it needs to be spread. And that’s the mission of the campaign, BA Everywhere.
Without doing this, as the leading edge, the movement for revolution will not actually BE for revolution... it will degenerate into just one more feeble attempt to reform this hellish system. Why? Because there is an almost gravitational pull to “settle,” to fit what you are doing into their “proper channels”—to “come under the wing of the bourgeoisie,” or the ruling class, as it has been put—if for no other reason than simply because you have no guide to get anywhere other than that.
We’ve got to take this campaign everywhere—clearly putting out what BA stands for and the whole message of revolution, and at the same time opening the door to others who may not agree with parts or even much of it to still participate because they can at least see that having THIS alternative out there, having THIS being a point of reference in society, broadly debated—a “radical moral challenge,” if you will—is badly, badly needed. And this campaign has GOT to raise big funds—funds which can really get his thinking and leadership before millions.
Now the idea of this campaign is NOT that this will be uncontroversial! No. This is class struggle, in the ideological realm. This is wrangling with people over whether we need revolution, or something less; and what kind of revolution we need. This is going, or should go, right up against the understandings that people have of what is the problem we face and what is the solution to it. How could that be uncontroversial? No, this is contended—and that’s only natural—some people are going to love this, some people are going to hate it, and most people are going to agree with some elements and disagree with others. We should relish this, and we should learn from what must be a wide-ranging forward-moving process.
In thinking about this, I went back to the Cosmos episode that I opened up the talk with. Neil deGrasse Tyson goes on to talk about Edmund Halley—the scientist who discovered Halley’s comet. Halley at one point sought out this very unknown scholar Isaac Newton for help on a problem; and when he talked with Newton, and saw the work he was doing, Halley said “oh, this is something different; this is on another level; and if I don’t make it my mission to enable Newton to do his work and to get this work very broadly out into the scientific world, humanity’s going to lose something extremely important and precious.” And Newton, of course, basically founded modern physics. Those who get what BA has done should feel like Halley, with the responsibility and the JOY to spread this far and wide.
One thing that I know is being talked about in the BA Everywhere committees is promoting the wearing of the REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS tee-shirt, and raising money with a vision of youth very broadly wearing these shirts. That’s the shirt I’m wearing right now—and it’s important. This film lets people meet BA and makes these scientific advances very accessible. Along with BAsics, it lets people get into this and then go deeper, in the process of making revolution.
But let me add a suggestion—and as I do let me put on my BA image tee-shirt. A tee-shirt is often easily worth a thousand words. You see someone wearing a Scarface tee-shirt, they’re telling you that “I’ve been treated like an animal and if you mess with me, I’ll treat you like a lower one.” People wear a Che Guevara tee-shirt—the Latin American revolutionary with the beret and beard who was killed by the U.S. in Bolivia—and it’s like they’re saying that they cherish the dream of revolution, but they fear that revolutions can’t ultimately win and revolutionaries must become martyrs. If you see someone with a Bob Marley shirt, you get the sense that he or she burns with anger at the oppression of the African people and descendants of Africa the world over, but the only way out they see is a tied to the spirit world—a world which is, after all, imaginary. Or you saw people with these Guy Fawkes masks, or emblems, protesting in Albuquerque against police murder—you feel that they’re against a lot of the outrages and they want to disrupt things, and that’s good, but they have no real program for getting out of this madness.
Well, I want it that when we go down the street wearing BA shirts, people know who THIS person is: a revolutionary leader—not just an image— and that he’s about winning, in both the immediate, and the fullest, senses of that word: winning by defeating these monsters; and winning by not becoming monsters in the process of defeating them.
We’ve also talked about how whole generations now have been locked into prison; and we’ve talked about the relentless anticommunist offensive. But even that anticommunist offensive can at a certain point be turned into its opposite when you go out boldly with this, confidently telling people that they’ve been lied to, and giving the substance to back that up. There’s also a way in which the whole thing of locking people away for years has forced some of them to turn to reading not just to pass the time, but to find out WHY they are in prison—and in doing so, there’s a whole section of prisoners who have connected in a deep way with BA and what he’s brought forward. Can’t these prisoners who have truly “rehabilitated” themselves through getting into BA begin to play a role similar to the former prisoners of the 1960s—Malcolm X, Eldridge Cleaver, George Jackson—who came from behind bars to awaken an entire generation? I know that BA Everywhere has plans to do this, to bring this connection to bear and strengthen it, and you can read about these as revcom.us or talk to them today.
All of these initiatives have to take big leaps in these next months; and this includes our website, revcom.us. This is a great site—it gives you a picture of the world and it acts as the scaffolding for the whole movement of revolution. People come to it from all over the world –and that has to multiply many times over. At the same time, revcom.us has to much more fully be the website of a group set on leading the masses to seize power as soon as possible, a website which bristles with life and debate, a website in which masses of people can see themselves at their best, hear their questions and sentiments, and wrangle with how to assess our experience and how to go forward. This site has to have sharp analysis of the biggest questions of the day... it has to struggle with not just what people think but HOW they think... and it needs to take everyone who goes there out of their comfort zone. And in doing that, it should give people as full as possible a picture of the world we live in, how every significant social force—including our movement—is working to transform it, and what we need to be doing now.
But let me make four very big points in talking about this ensemble:
First, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. That is, the effect of all these working together, cross-fertilizing and synergizing, is much greater than any individual thing looked at or built as “their own thing.” Let’s not create divisions where we don’t need them. Last November on the very same weekend there was a major negative court decision on stop-and-frisk in New York, and there was also a need to demonstrate nationally to defend the lone abortion clinic in Jackson, Mississippi. Someone in Harlem came up with the idea to call an action taking up both, under the banner of “We Refuse to Accept Slavery in Any Form,” and to make sure that people were getting Revolution newspaper and materials about BA Everywhere at the same time. And it was great! More generally, we have to envision and create a situation where the whole swirl of things is working together on people’s minds... where people involved in one battle are crossing paths with and mixing it up with people who are into something different and all of this is in a situation where revolution is being debated with other solutions and trends... where there’s a vital ferment and vibrancy... where people from the mean streets are going to the campuses to reach students, and vice versa.
Second, let’s keep going back to what this is all about—preparing people to seize power. There are ways that each of these things and all these things taken together should be done with at least one-and-a-half eyes on the qualitative change we are trying to hasten—the revolutionary situation. How are we looking at everything? Let me give one example—if you have not built up a base of political sympathy and support in the suburbs and rural areas, then it would be quite easy for the enemy to just pulverize and crush the revolution in the ghettos and barrios if a revolution were to be begun, even with millions initially on its side. So from that point of view, how significant is it when you get something like Orange Is the New Black, the TV show which actually portrays prisoners as human beings, and not sub-human demons? Is it just a cool thing, “yay, good for our side, something we can actually watch on TV”—or is it something with potentially strategic significance? What about the alliances forged between Blacks, Latinos and alienated whites in the prison hunger strikes, on a principled basis? When we look at things through this prism of “taking down that wall,” when we look at things from the vantage point of tomorrow, then everything today takes on different significance.
Or look at what happens when the youth and others in the community take up whistles and blow them whenever a cop comes to make someone “assume the position,” as was done in some cities a while back. Obviously, blowing whistles does not have a direct or linear relation to seizing power! But blowing whistles on the police today demystifies and delegitimizes their monopoly on the use of force. You’re widening the “cracks in the wall.” And does it matter for “tomorrow” if today whole sections of the community learn how to work together, how to organize themselves, and how to resist in a united way when the police come and threaten the parents of these youth who take up the whistles? Might those build up important “muscles” that could come into play in a different way in a different kind of situation, when the all-out struggle against their full force of repression for power is under way?
Overall, in everything I’ve talked about—BA Everywhere, the struggle against mass incarceration, the struggle against the enslavement and degradation of women—we’ve got to constantly forge the links to tomorrow: going up against the system’s legitimacy; developing and organizing revolutionary ties everywhere; raising understanding of the duplicitous tactics that the ruling class uses today and will on an even greater scale use when more is on the line. All these have everything to do with whether the situation develops where power can be seized; and, if that situation develops, the masses will be led to seize it.
Three, people need to learn that there is a Party leading all this... that this Party is about seizing power and has a plan to do that... that it has a plan for what to do WITH that power... and that there is a place for them in relation to this Party. It is a great, great thing that this Party has come through this whole past period with all the difficulties and is determined to lead. So, to again quote—yes!—the strategy statement:
The more our Party’s revolutionary viewpoint and strategy is spread and gains influence throughout society...the more that people come to understand and agree with what the Party is all about, and join its ranks on that basis...the more the Party’s “reach” extends to every corner of the country...the greater its organizational strength and its ability to withstand and to lead people forward in the face of government repression aimed at crushing resistance and killing off revolution—the more the basis for revolution will be prepared and the more favorable the chance of winning.
Four, this work has to be done among all sections of society, with the movement building its strongest base among and making its greatest efforts, to quote the strategy statement, “among the millions and millions who catch hell in the hardest ways every day under this system,” while also mobilizing “many others who may not, on a daily basis, feel the hardest edge of this system’s oppression but are demeaned and degraded, are alienated and often outraged, by what this system does, the relations among people it promotes and enforces, the brutality this embodies.”
We also have to build community, and model a new morality as we do so—becoming an attractive force based on living now the communist values that we look to for the future, and opening wide to others who from their own viewpoints refuse to bow down to the madness, the money-worship, the misogyny and racism and anti-gay bigotry and chauvinism, the utter disrespect for the rest of nature, but who instead want to fight for and live in a whole different world. As part of this, we have to work urgently with artists and others to bring forward a culture of revolt against this revolting culture.
Finally, as we do all this, we have to be aware of and alive to crises and jolts coming through channels on which we are not working or to which we can pay only limited attention. This can be everything from things in the cultural realm that suddenly become lightning rods of controversy to major international events. And here, if anyone thinks that the U.S. is unchallenged master of the world, or that events cannot spiral out of their control, I would ask you to look at Ukraine—and in particular to look at our website, revcom.us on this—and to ponder that World War 1, whose 100th anniversary we mark this year, began through miscalculations of different powers who were sitting on a tinderbox. We have to be tense to these kinds of developments and ready to shift focus in an instant. Should there be a war we have to be oriented to exposing the real imperialist interests behind the reasons that will be given, and the pretexts even now being built up, and do everything we can to make sure that something that begins one way can end a different way.
And all this has a very definite aim, a very definite perspective to measure ourselves against. We have to ask ourselves: are we all the time not just waging struggles and influencing public opinion, important as that is, but are we accumulating forces FOR revolution? Not just making more ties, but accumulating... forces... for... REVOLUTION. Our yardstick should be what I am about to quote from the statement on strategy:
All this [the revolutionary work described above] can enable the revolutionary movement, with the Party at the core, to confront and overcome the very real obstacles in its path...to advance and grow, through ongoing work, and through a series of critical leaps in times of sudden breaks and ruptures with the “normal routine”...to prepare the ground, and accumulate forces, for revolution—and have a real chance at winning. It is how thousands can be brought forward and oriented, organized and trained in a revolutionary way, while beginning to reach and influence millions more, even before there is a revolutionary situation...and then, when there is a revolutionary situation, those thousands can be a backbone and pivotal force in winning millions to revolution and organizing them in the struggle to carry the revolution through.
So, above all, in everything we do: are we bringing forward now the thousands who can lead millions at the point when everything will turn on that?
* * *
So... where ARE we in the revolution? We’ve talked about the scientific method we need to approach reality, and how BA has further developed and applied that. We’ve talked about the existence of a strategic framework and the foundation of a doctrine to meet and defeat the violent repressive powers of the state, at a time when there is sharp crisis and millions have emerged as a revolutionary people. We’ve talked about the strategy to work right now to lay the basis for that to happen—to bring forward thousands to influence millions today in that direction, and then to lead them when conditions go through radical change—and we’ve gone into some of what we need to be about when we leave here, right now, to work on that. But what kind of movement, what kind of organization do you need to do this? And where do YOU fit in?
Let’s start with the invitation issued by BA a few years back:
Let’s go on a crucial journey together—full of unity against oppression and lively struggle about the source of the problem and the solution. Pursue your own convictions—that the outrages that move you are intolerable—to their logical conclusion, and be determined not to stop until those outrages have been eliminated. And if this, as well as learning about other outrages, and ideas about how this all fits together and flows from a common source—and how it could all be ended, and something much better brought into being—leads in the direction of seeing not only the need for bold and determined resistance, but also the need for revolution and ultimately communism, then don’t turn away from that because it moves you beyond your comfort zone, challenges what had been your cherished beliefs, or because of prejudices and slander. Instead, actively seek to learn more about this revolution and its goal of communism and to determine whether it is in fact the necessary, and possible, solution. And then act accordingly.
Let’s break this down a little. “Let’s go on a crucial journey together—full of unity against oppression and lively struggle about the source of the problem and the solution.” Isn’t that the kind of movement we want—aware that what we are doing really DOES matter and on that basis cherishing unity while also in a principled way getting into our differences, trying to find the truth? “Pursue your own convictions”—NOT throw away your convictions, they’re all wrong, but “pursue your own convictions” about the intolerability of these outrages “to their logical conclusion, and be determined not to stop until those outrages have been eliminated”—not somewhat lessened, but eliminated. And if you find yourself coming to the need for revolution and communism, “don’t turn away from that because it moves you beyond your comfort zone”—”instead, actively seek to learn more about this revolution and its goal of communism and to determine whether it is in fact the necessary, and possible, solution. And then act accordingly.”
This is the spirit that has to animate and radiate from our movement. There have to be ways for everyone who wants to—everyone here today, and many people far beyond here—to get into this, to be part of this kind of process. There are the initiatives against the New Jim Crow and the degradation and enslavement of women, in which everyone who opposes those outrages or can be won to oppose them should participate. There is BA Everywhere in which, again, everyone who wants BA and what he represents way out there as a point of reference in society, or who can be won to that, should participate. There are the Revolution Books bookstores, which in every city where they exist badly need volunteers and a real base of financial supporters and patrons who want these stores to survive and thrive. There is the revcom.us website which needs stringers, photographers and videographers, website whizzes, translators, proofreaders, fundraisers, and anybody who wants to learn how to do any or all of those things. There is the very, very important act of donating funds and, as you do, contributing your thinking, and there is the act of raising funds from others.
There is a real need to strengthen the role of the Revolution Clubs. These clubs can be rooted in the neighborhood or city-wide or on a campus, attracting all kinds of people, especially the youth, who want to see a revolution. The clubs themselves need to sum up what they’ve accomplished and learned, and how to make big advances in this next period. A few things for them to think about in doing this:
These clubs have great potential and it’s the responsibility of every revolutionary to help them realize that potential. But where I want to end is with this Party itself. Again, let’s go back to those problems posed at the beginning: that the rulers are too strong... the people are too messed up... and the revolutionary forces are too weak. We’ve talked about where we’re at with the first two of those questions, and how things can change. But without a party—without THIS Party—the people really have no chance.
So once more, let’s look squarely at reality. This Party has a great line, and it has a great leader in BA and its members are very dedicated. This Party is something truly great to have, truly precious—the fact that the advances, the lessons, of a whole stage of communist revolution, including the great struggles worldwide of the 1960s have not only not been lost but have been advanced in the new synthesis AND that there is an organization determined to apply that new synthesis, that line to reality, to carry it out and make revolution, is extremely important.
But not only are we not anywhere near as large as we need to be and actually could be, even in today’s conditions, we face other problems. Over the past decade we’ve been going through a Cultural Revolution within our own Party—one going right up against the ways in which all the trends I talked about coming off the defeat of the 1960s and then, even more significantly, the reversal of socialism in China had not only worked on the world as a whole but on our Party as well—which after all, could not and should not be hermetically sealed off from the world—causing some people to turn away from revolution, to think it was not possible and not even desirable. This Cultural Revolution, led by BA, has overwhelmingly been a positive and rejuvenating thing—in a very real sense it saved our Party as a party of revolution—even as that struggle continues, in new forms. But it has also cost us—people have deserted, and some have gone on-line and made it their mission to justify that desertion by attacking us—and BA in particular—in ways that objectively serve the enemy.
At the same time, while we do have younger people at all levels of leadership, a large part of our leading core are veterans of the 1960s—and we are not getting younger; age is taking its toll.
To put it very bluntly—to tell it just like it is—we are at a stage where we are either going to reascend the peaks of revolution, getting on a trajectory where this line and Party is increasingly influencing society and growing in strength, even as it is battling against repression, attacks and difficulties of different kinds... or we are going to break our bones and go out of existence; and should that latter happen, this will have incalculably negative and painful consequences for the world.
And yet there is a world to conquer! Think about Egypt, where three years ago seemingly out of nowhere—but NOT out of nothing—people in their millions rose up against the ruling regime. What would it have meant if, say, in 2006 or even 2008 someone in Egypt had given a speech similar to what I did today—a speech that laid out the possible ways in which that society—which at the time, remember, seemed VERY stable if you just looked at the surface—could possibly split apart, where the sources of stability could turn overnight into sources of challenge and change. Then think of the challenges that did present themselves in 2011 and over the past few years to the people in Egypt who had for decades wanted real change. Think of the important difference that the presence of a vanguard like this, with a base of support and an active orientation, a vanguard which could give leadership in that situation... think of the difference that would have made.
No, you would not have started out with a majority, or even close to that; and yes, you would have to struggle against all kinds of illusions about “leaderless movements” and “Facebook revolutions” and “the army and the people are one hand,” and you would have had to go right up against the violent religious fundamentalism and the violent misogyny and all that. At minimum, it would have been very hard going. But that’s been true of every revolution—no genuine communist revolution ever had an easy go of it, genuine communist revolutions go against convention and against the spontaneous channels into which people’s thinking and activity tends to flow, revolutions win by surmounting and transforming those obstacles, not by finessing them.
But what would it have meant if some people had said, five or six or even two years before things erupted, “let’s do this—let’s put our efforts into forging leadership that could actually lead a revolution, and use the time we have now to prepare the ground and accumulate forces FOR that revolution?” But in part because of everything I’ve described, including the international weakness of communism, nobody did, and now let’s look at the horror show that’s resulted—almost made even worse by people’s hopes having been raised, only to have them dashed. This is what happens—either repression or chaos—when you DON’T have a vanguard that can lead people to take things all the way. It’s not a choice between upheaval and no upheaval. It’s not a choice between suffering and no suffering. It’s a choice about what might come out of the upheaval and suffering.
And it’s not a question of whether empires will fall; every single empire in history has fallen. The question is what replaces that empire. If it’s just some new form of oppression, slightly cleaned up, with different faces...to echo BA on this, no, we’re not interested. We need this method and framework spread around the world, and we need in this country to strengthen the only instrument that can do that—the RCP, USA.
So this is very critical—this is why we have added to our slogan that We ARE Building A Movement for Revolution, a phrase encompassing this point, so that now our slogan is:
We ARE Building a Movement For Revolution, and Building the Party as Its Leading Core...
This is something for everyone to think about—if you’re just meeting our Party today for the first time, learn about it; if you support it, deepen that support; if you work with it, let’s strengthen that bond; if you’re in it, strive to take greater responsibility and initiative and to contribute all you can; and if you are drawing closer to it, as some of you are, then actively grapple with joining it.
There are people today doing that. Such people, as they begin to join and contribute on that level to the process of revolution and strengthen it, can play a role out of proportion to their numbers. They are, in a real sense, part of the new initiators of a new stage of communism, on an international scale.
Now, we should be very clear: nobody should join this if they aren’t convinced about the basic principles of communism. Everybody has questions, and everybody has to go through ruptures in their thinking to be in a position to seriously consider making the lifetime commitment that joining the Party is. I know I did. On the other hand, what drove me to clarify my thinking and make those ruptures was a growing understanding, conviction and sense of urgency that nothing less than revolution would deal with what I found to be, and was, outrageous, about the society and that some kind of organized force was going to be necessary.
To you who are grappling now with this, we know this is absolutely not a decision to be made lightly. But two things: one, work through those questions, don’t let 'em just sit there; and two, don’t come at this from “me out”—come at it from what humanity faces right now, and what it truly needs, and then look at your life in that context.
Where we are in the revolution is that there IS a Party that has the line, the leadership and the determination to actually defeat these oppressors... a strategy that can prepare minds and organize forces FOR revolution, to bring forward the thousands today who will lead millions tomorrow... that is willing to shoulder the responsibility to do what needs to be done... but where there is an objective need for those who want to see a new stage of communist revolution to step forward to take the most responsibility they can for it and to strengthen that Party.
This is not necessarily an easy life—you don’t get a lot of social approbation, or “approval”—there is the constant prospect of repression and often the reality of it, and this will only intensify... but you don’t have to cringe and turn your head away from the hard truths, either, and “tell yourself a story that lets you make it through the day”... you don’t have to numb yourself until all your passion is gone... But even more— you get the joy and exhilaration that comes at those times when masses of people DO break through the chains and mire this system puts on them and show their potential and at those times when progress, real progress, is made toward solving the problems of revolution, in theory and practice both. You get the overall joy, as BA concluded in the New Year’s statement, of “striving for a world where the suffering and madness that is now daily life for the masses of humanity will be gone, and whole new dimensions of freedom and of human potential will open up for people everywhere, no longer divided into rich and poor, masters and slaves, rulers and ruled. No longer fighting and slaughtering each other, but working together for the common good. No longer destroying, but acting as fit caretakers for the earth. This is communism, the goal of our revolution, a future—for the youth, for all of humanity—that is truly worth dedicating our lives to... The challenge is there. The leadership is there. What’s needed...is you.”
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
Learning from Ferguson
Updated August 26, 2014 9 pm CST| Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
August 26, 2014 9 pm CST
On Sunday evening, August 24 around 7 pm, 19-year-old Roshad McIntosh was gunned down by Chicago police in front of witnesses. According to witnesses, police rolled up on a vacant lot on the West Side where old men play cards and forced a number of young men face down on the ground. At some point, Roshad ran and the police chased him into a gangway and shot him multiple times.
The neighborhood residents, friends and family made it clear that they do not believe the pigs' account that Roshad had a gun at all.
One witness said Roshad was on his knees pleading for his life when police shot him multiple times. People on the block immediately responded angrily and called on others to come out. Over 30 more police were brought in with paddy wagons and they pushed people away from the site of the shooting. A lot of people were video recording the police and the scene on their cell phones.
The next day, Roshad’s mother, Cynthia Lane sobbed, “I want my baby, they killed my baby.” Roshad’s girlfriend and the mother of their child emotionally recounted how, “he surrendered for his life and they still shot him. They are so racist.”
Revolutionaries and protesters were on the road on their way back from Ferguson, Missouri, where they had been standing with people who had risen up over the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on August 9, when they heard about another police murder of a young Black man. Someone got a text that a young man was shot multiple times by police. People felt that they needed to go out to this scene, including some who had also personally experienced police murder of their loved ones and the lying cover up and the character assassination of the victim by the police which starts immediately at the scene.
The police almost always say the victim pointed a gun or in some other way threatened them when they shoot someone down in cold blood. In the atmosphere of Mike Brown’s murder and the people of Ferguson standing up, those returning from Ferguson to Chicago that night felt that the authorities would be scared and working overtime to suppress the truth and even the word that witnesses and people on the scene were seething. The people coming back from Ferguson wanted to strengthen the resistance in Chicago and get out the truth to the world no matter how late at night.
When the first carload of people arrived, about 50 people were still out at the scene, most in a central group, and another 15 on a porch, and some other people supportive from a distance. No media was there, but people were videoing with their phones. One of the women who was returning from Ferguson agitated to the crowd about the fact that her 15-year-old nephew was murdered by the Chicago police and how people needed to stand up against this outrage like the people in Ferguson. They began to lead the people in chanting “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” and “Indict, Convict, Send the Killer Cop to Jail, the Whole Damn System Is Guilty as Hell” and they started marching up the block and people were speaking out.
The cops then pushed people away from the site of the murder and announced the people had a right to protest, but that it was 10 pm on a Sunday night and the sound system was violating noise ordinance and issued a ticket to a well-known revolutionary! Then the police started to trap people between the line of cops and the paddy wagon and said people had to be on the grass, not on the PUBLIC sidewalk!
At that point a preacher arrived and tried to get people to disperse by telling them that the people in Ferguson were successful because leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson had come to town and calmed things down!!!! One of the women who had come directly from the Ferguson protests got right in his face and said people should not calm down, the reason why people everywhere knew about Mike Brown was because people rose up and that people had to stand up and keep fighting, not calm down. She said the preachers in Ferguson were trying to stop the people from continuing to stand up.
People continued to chant and a guy came out who was totally outraged at this shooting. He was shouting right in the face of the police. The police pushed people into the grassy area. The revolutionary started leading the crowd in chanting, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot,” and six pigs jumped him, threw him into an SUV and took him to jail charged with mob action and resisting arrest. At least three other people were arrested that night. One man said he was proud he stood up, he said “we need to learn from Ferguson and stand up.”
After the revolutionary’s arrest two other activists who had gone to Ferguson arrived into the scene of people protesting the murder of Roshad. At a certain point the police decided to try to defuse the situation by pulling out. They were heard saying, “these are professional protestors." They said to one of the revolutionaries, “you’re on your own.” People stayed until 2:30 in the morning, others til 6 am.
Monday the protests and vigils went on all day, joined by the revolutionary who went straight there when he got out of jail on Monday afternoon. More protests are planned including a march Wednesday at 6 pm in the area of the police murder, called so far by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network in Chicago and Tio Hardiman. Protests and word of this police murder are being linked on social media with the on-going protests around Ferguson.
Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution EVERYWHERE.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
By Joe Veale | August 23, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Dorian Johnson was walking in the street with Michael Brown when this pig in Ferguson pumped six bullets into Brown—leaving his body in the streets for four hours like he was an animal.
Johnson is a key eyewitness. And with great courage, he stepped forward to testify to what he saw go down.
Not surprisingly the bourgeois news media, working hand in hand with the local (and national?) police prosecutors—and all the way up to the top—are trying to slander and criminalize Dorian Johnson, while the murdering cop walks around free.
Suddenly it is being reported that Dorian Johnson has a “record” and a warrant out for his arrest.
This “information” is being released and pumped out by the authorities, the powers that be, and the media, in such a way as to make this key eyewitness—this very courageous young man—“suspect.”
Let's stop and think and ask a few questions: Why does the U.S. have the largest prison population in the world—over 2.3 million? Why are the majority of them Black and Latino? Why is it that another five to six million are on the hooks of the criminal INJUSTICE system? Why is it that one out of three young Black men without work was in prison or jail in 2000? Why is it that by the mid 2000s, one of nine young Black men was in prison?
Just from asking these kinds of questions it is not surprising that someone could very easily have a “record.” Just look at how this system works. What happen to whole generations of people since the early 1970's. My generation was not able to make revolution. And the masses of people here and around the world are suffering because of this. Catching mo’ hell than a li’l bit. To borrow a phrase.
The system kept humming on. The system of world capitalism driven by the dog eat dog, cut-throat—competitive drive to expand or die—in search of cheaper means of production—greater profits on its investments. The jobs left the inner cities. Moving first to the suburbs. To the South. To Mexico. To Vietnam. To capitalist China after the revolution and socialism was overthrown there in 1976. To Bangladesh. Globalization, which means a leaner and meaner U.S. Imperialism, better able to compete with its global rivals.
This also gave birth to a situation where Black people—“with that defiant attitude”—especially those in the inner city, were increasingly expelled from the workforce as the industrial base for the U.S. empire became more globalized.
Increasingly Blacks, especially the youth, have become a “surplus” population. People this system is carrying out a steamrolling genocidal program against. Part of a larger section of people this system has cast out.
Millions and millions slammed into conditions of extreme poverty, living through the underground economy—some of it off the books—including drug dealing, it is all this that has given rise to mass incarceration and mass criminalization of Black youth.
It started when Nixon was president in the early 1970's and it has continued with every president since—today Obama.
In 1980 there were about half-million people in prison in the U.S. Today that has mushroomed to over 2.3 million.
All this has fueled the labelling and stigmatizing of Black youth as “ex-con”, “ex-offender”, as the “criminal element,” or as “someone with a record.” As they are now saying about Dorian Johnson.
This is bullshit! It is part of the authorities and the bourgeois media trying to muddy the waters. Trying to confuse the situation. Because they have been caught in the act of murdering and slandering people they brutalize, dehumanize, and murder on a regular basis every single day.
Caught in the act because people went into the streets and rebelled. And when the authorities pulled off their mask of democracy (you have the right to protest), it showed that their power really stands on violence and force. The defiant ones did not back off. They continued to rebel and fight back.
This is why the world knows what happen to Michael Brown.
Stop and think. Stand in Dorian Johnson's shoes for a moment. Imagine the anguish, the turmoil, the emotions he is going through after seeing his friend murdered by pigs who have an unchallenged monopoly on the “legitimate” use on violence and force against the people.
Now they want to slander and discredit Dorian Johnson?! Talking about he has a “record” and that there is a warrant out for his arrest. Fuck That! If Dorian Johnson has a record your goddamn system gave it to him and millions, and millions of others.
Secondly, and even more importantly it does not discredit him or what he was eyewitness to. Whether Dorian Johnson has a record or not has Nothing to do with the police murdering Michael Brown in broad daylight as he was walking, then running when the pig pulled out his gun and attempted to shoot him. Nothing to do with this pig getting out of his car and pumping six bullets into Michael Brown’s body—and leaving his body lying in the streets for over four hours.
People should remember what happen to Trayvon Martin’s friend—Rachel Jeantel—when she testified against that wannabe pig George Zimmerman who got off after stalking, racial profiling, and then murdering Trayvon Martin. The prosecutors, the lawyers, the judge, the bourgeois media treated Rachel like a “criminal.” A “suspect.”
That is how they treated her. The way she talked. The way she wrote. The way she spoke. The way she dressed. This had nothing to do with the fact she was speaking on the phone with Trayvon and could hear him saying: “get off me! Get off me!”
Yet this was all used to discredit, to criminalize really—her—when it had nothing to do with what she heard on the phone. Which confirmed that Trayvon was being followed, stalked, and racially profiled by this vigilante.
Dorian Johnson possibly having a “record” has nothing to do with what he saw. Has nothing to do with the creditability of what he witnessed. This system and those who enforce it can not be able to get away with this. They can not be able to muddy up people's thinking when things are so cut and dried. They must politically pay for this crime.
What they are trying to do to Dorian Johnson is illegitimate! And it is bullshit!
People should call this shit out. Arrest and indict that cop for murder NOW. Fire the police chief NOW. Release ALL the information You are hiding about this murder NOW.
Now, let's pull the lens back a little and get a fuller, more comprehensive picture of how the slander of Dorian Johnson is related to the murder of Michael Brown. How both are part of a bigger pattern of oppression and criminalization directed at especially Black people, but Latino people as well.
This is best captured by BA, Bob Avakian, chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party:
BA gets right to the heart of the problem:
“Three Strikes... The book by Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, has shined a bright and much needed light on the reality of profound injustice at the very core of this country.
“And this brings me back to a very basic point:
“This system in this country, in the whole history of its treatment of Black people, what has it been?
“First, Slavery...Then, Jim Crow—segregation and Ku Klux Klan terror...And now, The New Jim Crow—police brutality and murder, wholesale criminalization and mass incarceration, and legalized discrimination yet again.
“That's it for this this system: Three strikes and you're out!”
It is gonna take revolution—nothing less—to eliminate this injustice and all the injustices that are done to all different groups of people (to Latinos and to women to name just two) in this country and all around the world by the U.S. Empire.
The more you understand the truth that BA reveals about the New Jim Crow—the genocidal thrust of this—the more tightly you can grab hold on the historical, the immediate urgency, the immediate importance of not allowing them to get away with slandering Dorian Johnson—slandering other witnesses—slandering Michael Brown after they murdered him.
Slandering, lying about, and criminalizing those all those who protested—rebelled—against the murder of Michael Brown.
All those—especially the defiant ones—with their “outlaw spirit”—who defied their institutions, their agencies of law and order—really agencies of dehumanization, brutality, and murder.
Institutions and agencies utilized to suppress, repress, those this system of capitalism/imperialism dehumanize, lie about, and criminalize every fucking minute of every fucking day.
As the OCTOBER MONTH OF RESISTANCE TO MASS INCARCERATION PUTS STRAIGHT-UP: THIS ENDS NOW!
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 25, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This weekend, revolutionaries went through sections of a Black neighborhood and other parts of the city with the message "It's Right to Rebel, stand with the people of Ferguson, fight the power and transform the people for revolution."
We also were building anticipation for the historic announcement to be made on September 1st.
We got out over a hundred copies of Revolution, with several people buying bundles of the paper to get out to their family and neighbors.
Many people spoke to how closely they have been following what's going on in Ferguson on the news and are glad that people are not backing down on demanding justice. One man said, "people have been persistent and consistent, that's why the system have had to listen". People were outraged at the police attacking the protestors. One woman said that she's afraid to have her kids go outside, not because she's afraid of what other people will do, but because she's afraid of what the police will do. One woman outside the county jail said, "so people can't speak out now, they're trying to silence us, even as they kill one more Black man." One young man said that the media has been lying and causing confusion about all this. There was a lot of back and forth among people about a lot of this confusion. At times, we read out loud the points of orientation in the paper, and it helped clarify things for people.
There was a lot of debate over how can revolution end all this police murder, and all forms of oppression. This was tied in with questions on is it right to rebel, or is it worth it to rebel. Some young men argued that they are fighting the system every day, just to survive, and in Ferguson, the system have sent in their National Guard, tear gas and rubber bullets, how can they be defeated? As some of them argued that it is impossible, one young man bought a bundle of papers and said that he's going to get it out to others who will listen. Many times over in these two days, we got into the strategy for revolution with people and introduced them to BA.
At one of the projects, an Egyptian man spoke about how important leadership is. He said that millions of people in Egypt rose up and they prided that they had no leadership, but that is in fact a bitter lesson. They didn't have the necessary leadership and the revolution failed there. He was very interested in finding out about BA. Throughout the weekend we were inviting people to come to the Labor Day BA Everywhere fundraising gathering.
A little bit later, as we were eating lunch, a young man came up to us and said that people are talking about change, but what kind of change are we talking about. We talked about BA and Revolution Nothing Less and he bought two shirts and said that he is going to wear it and put it up on Instagram.
On Saturday night, we went out to a hip-hop dance competition. As we agitated and chanted, groups of youth grabbed up the QR cards of BA's New Year's message and some of them immediately went to the revcom website on their phones. Many of them were attracted by the "3 Strikes" poster and said that they are sick and tired of seeing youth gunned down by the police, so how can this all end? One group who came from Oklahoma took a bunch of papers and materials for the October Month of Resistance and said that they have been looking for something they can do to stop all the madness. A couple of them said that they would listen to BA's New Year's message on the bus ride home because they want to find out about this revolution and get involved.
On Sunday, as we were outside of a county jail agitating and distributing Revolution to families of the prisoners inside, a good number of people stopped to talk. Many of them started talking about their own experiences with the police and how they are relating to the anger of the people in Ferguson. At a certain point, we started chanting, 'hands up, don't shoot. Michael did not have to die we all know the reason why, the whole system is guilty" As masses became more involved in the chanting and getting the paper, the Harris County sheriffs came down and arrested two of the revolutionaries. As we and the masses kept on chanting, people started taking videos with their phones, and grabbing up the paper. Three people came up and said that they want to be witnesses to the arrests, because as one woman said, "it's not right to arrest people for speaking up."
We went back into the Black neighborhood with news of the arrests and to call on people to get the paper out more broadly and to donate and raise money for bail. While we did not collect a lot of money that evening, several people said to come back after the first of the month because they want to give something. We also called on other people from the middle strata to get involved and to donate to get the revolutionaries out of jail. In a few hours, people donated over $1000. A young man who has been supportive of the movement for revolution, found out that people were arrested and kept the police from towing their car by feeding the parking meter all day until they were released.
The revolutionaries who were arrested took the message of REVOLUTION: NOTHING LESS! and BA's leadership into the jails; lots of discussion around women's oppression, Ferguson, the children at the border, and Palestine. Some controversy, when an older, jaded Black man who has been in and out of prison, told the revolutionary to shut up, he didn't want to hear that shit... a Black youth, said some of us are interested, want to hear about this, others in the discussion were some Chicano youth, and others.
After the revolutionaries got out, they engaged with others. A cab driver who started out just hustling a fare, got into it with the revolutionaries. He said, "if there was a revolution they'd just send out the National Guard. The rev pointed out, yes, they are that vicious, but we have a strategy to deal with that... the guy said he would check out revcom.us to find out more about this including the Statement on Strategy, and "On the Possibility..." It was also pointed out that we're not talking about launching revolution now, but preparing for when millions will rise... and what is happening in Ferguson, the way people are standing up exactly to the National Guard and curfews, has deep lessons about the ability to go up against that and is part of preparing the ground, the people, and the vanguard for that kind of future situation.
Several people in the jail said they would check out the revcom.us site, including one man who said he didn't know how to use a computer, but it turns out has a smartphone so he can learn how to use the Internet on it.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 27, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Sunsara Taylor and four other members of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride - Ground Zero Texas 2014, were arrested on Wednesday, August 27, in Austin, Texas. Sunsara and other Freedom Riders courageously marched into the middle of Guadalupe St., bordering the campus of the University of Texas where 50,000 or so students just started class this week.
They carried banners saying “Forced Motherhood is Female Enslavement.” They wore chains, and held up bloody coathangers – an implement used for, and a symbol of dangerous self-induced abortions. They carried pictures of women who died from illegal abortions. They led chants including “Without this basic right, women can't be free! Abortion on demand and without apology!”
They challenged students and other passersby to join them, and several students did. As of this writing, Wednesday night, Sunsara and the others are in an Austin jail, charged with obstructing a freeway or passageway.
On September 1, a law that could close down all but 6 abortion clinics in Texas could go into effect. The law, HB 2, is being considered now by a federal judge in Austin following a trial early this month. As Sunsara said in a recent interview with revcom.us, this is leading to “a countdown to the most dramatic round of clinic closures to hit a single state since Roe v. Wade legalized abortions in the U.S. And the situation in Texas is a concentration of the national emergency facing women’s right to abortion.”
The action on Guadalupe St. is part of a Week of Defiance organized by Stop Patriarchy. Again, as Sunsara said, “We’re calling on everyone across the state, around the country, to join us on Ground Zero in the battle against the war on women – here in Texas. And to take action wherever they are ... This is a watershed moment. What we do will have dramatic impact on how this battle unfolds. So, join with us. Step up. And act in ways commensurate with the stakes – enslavement of women or liberation of women.”
When the Freedom Riders boldly went across Guadalupe St., a chaotic, swirling scene quickly disrupted the normalcy of business as usual as far as the eye could see. Thousands of students passed through the area, hundreds gathering, listening and watching. Some were upset that their routines had been disturbed. Freedom Riders and others sharply brought out to them that they needed to get out of their complacency – the very lives of hundreds of thousands of women are at stake. Others welcomed the Freedom Riders, many expressing their support. Hostile drivers honked and inched closer and closer to the line of Freedom Riders. Some of the most belligerent got out of their cars and threatened them. But the Freedom Riders persevered for 45 minutes until a contingent of Austin police arrested them.
The daring and bravery of the Freedom Riders inspired many people in Austin, and word of this action has already begun to get out broadly, through social media and the Stop Patriarchy blog. It is the leading article on the web site of the Austin American Statesman.
The arrest of these courageous women is outrageous! They must be defended, and their actions must be emulated as part of building a broad fierce movement throughout the country that will not allow women to be pushed back to enslavement, and that is determined to rely on its own efforts to turn back the attacks on abortion rights.
Call Travis County Sherrif's Office, 512-854-9178, to demand their immediate release...
and JOIN this Week of Defiance today.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
August 27—Hundreds of people marched on Chicago's West Side for justice for Roshad McIntosh and against ALL police abuses. Roshad, 19-years-old, was gunned down by police on August 24 in front of witnesses, and there was immediate outpouring of anger from people in the neighborhood. (See "Learning from Ferguson: People Stand Up to Chicago Police Murder of 19-Year-Old Roshad McIntosh")
The majority of the crowd was young—the men and women (and girls and boys) that the police mess with every day. But everyone from the community was out there—and older people marched proudly with their youth chanting "Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail—the WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM is guilty as HELL!" And "We are not suspects! We are human beings!"
Cynthia Lane, Roshad McIntosh's mother, spoke both at the starting point—the site where the young man was murdered—and at the police station when the march arrived there. Her words, and her determined cry for justice, moved many in the crowd to tears as she stood next to the mother of Roshad's child.
The call for the march came from the block the day after Roshad was murdered and protestors were attacked while demanding justice. The call was taken up, supported and spread by Tio Hardiman of Violence Interrupters, Inc. together with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network Chicago, and the Revolution Club Chicago. It was also spread through networks on the streets.
Marching from the block to the hated Harrison District police station, the people were energetic and determined—starting out on the sidewalk but then taking up the whole street. Youth came off their porches and the street corners to join in. Passing police cars posted along the route, protestors chanted "Hands up! Don't Shoot!" and "Hey cops, quit killing our kids!" Different views on the problem and solution were broadcast over the sound system—from calls to force the mayor to "get the police under control or be voted out" to building a movement for revolution to sweep away the system that is at the root of the long years and daily outrages of the oppression of Black people.
A couple of hundred Revolution newspapers went out, with many in the crowd holding them up as protest signs. Hundreds of the Revolution Club proclamation were distributed, and people in the crowd took them up and passed them out. Many spoke to each other about how this unity and standing up—which was inspired by the actions of the people in Ferguson—have to be built on, grow, and spread.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Mary Engelbreit is a well-known St. Louis graphic artist and children's book illustrator whose work, as artnet.com put it, "typically epitomizes 'non-controversial' art: She makes comforting cartoon illustrations of apple-cheeked children, often accompanied by cheerful slogans about friendship and family." When she heard about the police killing of Michael Brown, she was "just appalled and heartbroken." She says it was "devastating" to see how the police treated Michael Brown's mother: "She was trying to get to him while he was lying on the street and of course they couldn't let her near him. I started crying. And I started drawing."
The result was a work titled "In the USA." Engelbreit writes on her Facebook page that she often does personal drawings that other people never see. "But," she says, "these events unfolding now in my hometown and across the country , shining a light on the ugly racism that still runs rampant in our country, made me think that maybe this drawing could help in some small way." So she posted the work online, and offered prints of the illustration for sale, with the proceeds going to the Michael Brown Jr. Memorial fund—"because I was so heartbroken that he was left lying in the middle of the street for 4 hours, which I think showed an astounding lack of human decency on the part of Ferguson authorities. I want our donation to show Michael's family that we and so many other people think he deserved much better than being treated like that, no matter what the facts turn out to be surrounding this case."
She received a lot of support from all over the U.S. on her Facebook page, like one person who wrote, "I've been a fan of your art for years, and my respect for you have increased 1000%!" But she also received a flood of negative reactions, including ugly pro-police and blatantly racist comments. In response, she wrote on her Facebook page about why she had done the drawing, and added: "I also thought about disabling the comments today and just let those that wanted to buy the print do so. But then I thought, Well, I posted it—I should see this through to the bitter end. However, today, if anyone uses words like 'thug' or 'animal' or any other derogatory words to describe their fellow human beings, their comment will be deleted. That's not free speech, that's hate speech, and you can go pedal your hatred and bigotry on someone else's Facebook page." Facebook removed the post, supposedly because of complaints that the post was "offensive." Engelbreit didn't back down—she reposted it, and says that she has heard from Facebook representatives who apologized and reinstated her post.
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
August 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
Today at our university in Southern California, a few dozen people gathered for a rally in conjunction with the outrage that is asserting itself in Ferguson and around the country. The title of our action was "Hands Up Don't Shoot: Justice For Michael Brown."
A couple of us who are working with the October Month of Resistance decided to call this event. We know we need to organize more people to get with this so that we can hit the ground running once classes start (first week of October). But we can't wait until we have a big formal group to start taking action. The guidance on the Stop Mass Incarceration Network website was very much what we did: "EVERYONE, EVERYWHERE, ACT, FROM THE PUBLIC SQUARE TO THE 'HOOD, GET OUT THERE—MAKE A SIGN—FIND SOME PARTNERS OR START ALONE AND THEN GET WITH PEOPLE—BUT BE IN THE STREETS."
One of the lessons from this is that nobody should wait until they feel they have a large enough group to just take action wherever they're at. I knew we would meet PLENTY more people along the way that are eager to get involved, and this is what happened. In fact some of my own hopes were surpassed because I didn't expect the event to reach so broadly.
Some of the first people to show up were from another campus half an hour away! We had put the call for this campus on Facebook, and more people got a hold of it, so pretty soon hundreds of people (mostly students) had gotten the invite. Also, a group of three community college students came from an outlying community in the desert, about an hour away! A young woman who came with this group said as soon as she got the information, she made 200 copies at her school and passed them all out. All of them got materials to take back to where they're from.
Some people had brought some homemade signs, and a few people from the local student government were pretty supportive too, bringing us a table, markers, and some other materials. A writer for a website about goings-on in the city we contacted even came by to cover what we were doing. He said he would also come back once we got more people at the start of school. As soon as enough people had shown up, I said, "Hands Up..." and the crowd started chanting "Don't Shoot," "No Justice No Peace," "We want Justice for Michael Brown," etc.
The content of the speak-out tied together the struggle for Mike Brown in Ferguson (to jail the killer cop, and to stand with the people of Ferguson) with the recent police murders of Omar Abrego and Ezell Ford in LA (we named many other victims of the cops). We chanted and yelled about the New Jim Crow, mass incarceration, raids and deportations, and how it's time to put a stop to ALL this shit. Students were very enthusiastic to see this happening, and there were quickly calls to repeat and amplify this action during the first week of classes. Lots of people gave their info, and we got out Calls and flyers for October.
The young woman who came from the desert town is working with a survivor of police brutality out in her area. She said this person had a panic attack in a liquor store, but the police took her to jail instead of helping her. She also has a friend from Farmington, Missouri, which is apparently not far from Ferguson. This friend of hers says Confederate flags are still all over Missouri, the police work with the Klan, and poverty and abandoned houses are everywhere. So just by doing today's action, we got into contact with people who are from not even far from Ferguson!
Several women from some of the local labor unions connected to our campus brought a lot of support and thanked us for putting it together. One student said she already got the October flyer and started wearing the sticker at FYF fest this past weekend, a big concert in LA that some of us were handing out materials at.
We marched through the campus with a banner and chants, handing flyers to students who looked like they were at a job fair, or visiting. We turned a lot of heads and got a lot of thumbs up. But there's a need to get much bigger by the time classes get back in session, and the rumbling beneath the surface tells me that we certainly WILL get bigger and stronger, starting now and throughout October.
Another woman from a nearby proletarian town, who has recently started working with Revolution Books in LA, got in touch with us and came as soon as she got off work. She named a lot of the community colleges around here that we could bring this to, and we had some discussion about the statement "We Stand With the Defiant Ones." We talked about how we could help her get these materials out to her neighborhood, and how to get the word out in Black churches.
One of the last people to come through was eager to know what else we had planned. She's studying to be a math teacher, and she said this injustice is very linked with the genocide happening in Palestine. We exchanged info, and got her the latest issue of Revolution so she could get a sense of the whole movement for revolution.
A formerly incarcerated brother, now a barber shop owner who gets Revolution newspaper and has posted the October call in his shop, says now he notices things changing....meaning, before Ferguson, people might have taken the flyers, but now they're asking him about who's taking action against this injustice. (I recorded a long conversation on my voice recorder I had with him and one of his friends, including about the role of BA's leadership and the possibility of revolution, and I will work to sum that up and share it!) I visited this same barber right after that action and showed him footage of the rally, and he was stoked! He feels that if we march from campus towards his shop and down that main boulevard, he knows a lot of people who would be enthusiastic to join us, including come to the campus to speak, because people's experiences with the police in this town are pretty horrendous.
Today was a very brief action, but it didn't take much to get it off the ground. Throughout the course of it we met way more people, including from outlying areas. After the event, a few of us kept talking in a local cafe. We made some plans for October 22 and talked about the political climate in each of our cities.
As I write this, my roommate, a Black PhD student, is texting me about being followed by the cops his whole way to the gym, and how he might need people to come out with cell phones to walk him home when he gets out. It's time to Blow the Whistle on this shit!
Today was a great beginning, but the struggle ain't over! If you're on a campus, build these networks, get people to tell their stories about being victimized by the system, fight to make the October Month of Resistance and especially October 22nd massive, raise money for people who traveled to Ferguson (I got one of my family members to donate!), and introduce people to BA and the movement for all-the-way revolution! Don't underestimate the moment we're in!
Revolution #350 posted August 24, 2014
Reporters Notebook from Ferguson:
August 28, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In the afternoon of Saturday, August 23, the revolutionaries who had come to stand with the people in Ferguson held a program at a library in North St. Louis: "The Murder of Michael Brown—These Horrors Must Stop!" Word got out through fliers distributed in Ferguson and from calling the list of hundreds of people who the revolutionaries had met in the previous two weeks being out in the community, especially out on W. Florissant St. About 30 people gathered to hear Carl Dix speak and participate in discussion of police murder, the October Month of Resistance, and revolution.
After the event, dozens of people from different places, including Atlanta, Detroit, Houston and Chicago gathered in a St. Louis park before going out to various places and events in Ferguson to spread the word about the Month of Resistance and/or to distribute Revolution newspaper.
Later that night there was a speak-out and a march along Florissant Street in Ferguson. A reporter for Revolution/revcom.us interviewed people throughout the day and into the night. The following are from these interviews:
Tell me why you came to Ferguson:
I came from Kentucky with some friends. I came because, well, there was a generation that had civil rights movement and we had leaders. And I feel that there's a lack of leadership amongst our generation. And I wanted to figure out how I could be a part of the solution versus sitting at home blogging about it or talking about it amongst friends: actually coming and forming an alliance with people from all over the world who are here and seeing what we can do about the situation not only here but like on a grander scale because it happens everywhere. And a lot of times this stuff goes on and we don't even hear about it. These things go on a lot more frequently than we know. And that is pretty much why I came. Taking a stance on something....
Did you come with a group?
I came with two people who are childhood friends who are a lot more active and radical than me. I just reached a point where I said "I'm done." That was pretty much it for me. The other friend who came with us ran for state legislature in Texas. So we have a mixture.
I've had some conversations with people here at the memorial site, and one woman my age said that this is our civil rights movement. And it's my understanding that the history here that there was some strife at one point but never really a stance that was taken during the civil rights movement—I don't know if that's really true. But she feels that this is their movement.
I thought it was good to bring attention to the situation. It's time to change. It has to change within the culture, within legislation, institutions; there are so many different things that need to be done. And I feel that we all have our roles.
Another reason I came is I think I am desensitized a bit, you become desensitized. And then in the back of my mind is "you know the police officer is going to get off." And I'm thinking why are we even going through this because he's going to get off. They're going to make up some excuse, or they're going to dig through (Mike Brown's) history and find out every bad thing he's ever done in life—as if no teen has ever been defiant or done something he shouldn't do, or that we haven't done something we shouldn't do— and vilify him. And that's how they get away with it. I was so frustrated, and when I got there it just kind of hit me in the gut, I was at the memorial site, and I said oh my god, this is a real thing. It's different than being on TV and seeing it on TV—it's different being here. And then also seeing the unity in the community. And people cooking and handing out free bottles of water or whatever. And I met people from all over.
How did you hear about Carl Dix speaking and about the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and the movement for revolution?
So my friend got your flier at the memorial site and said, "Do you want to go?" And I said, "Yes, I came here to be active and get involved" and you can't do that by sitting on a couch and watching TV.
What is Kentucky like as far as racism and things like police murder?
It depends on what area you are in. I live in Lexington and work in Louisville, and they're pretty nice cities. If you go out to the sticks, there's places I wouldn't feel comfortable going. There's places where there's active KKK. There's certain parts of Kentucky where if we go across the bridge and drive to Indiana—there's certain parts of Indiana where people have had crosses burned in their front yards. I have a friend who is from California and she moved to Indiana and she went out there and told one of our clients, "You need to get fertilizer for your ground" and all this and the woman realized she didn't know what happened and she was like, "Honey, they burned a cross in my yard."
In Lexington today it's the 20 year anniversary of a young man, Tony Sullivan, who was killed the same way Michael Brown was. It was a big deal.
We've had a lot of random shootings, whether it's the police, or whether it's black on black crime, or whatever you want to call it. There's too many young men dying.
My family told me not to come, "Don't go down there and start no trouble. Don't go down there and throw rocks at the police." (laughs) As if that was something I would do. They said, "Don't go down there. What are you going to accomplish by going down there?"
And what did you tell them?
What am I accomplishing by NOT going down there? What have you accomplished? What have you done? You know what I'm saying? Or, I love the counter-argument of, "Well we should stop killing ourselves." Well, you're right, but THAT has nothing to do with this situation. And let's say hypothetically that we do stop killing each other, the stereotype has always been that we have been less than. So it's not going to necessarily alleviate that stereotype. Because historically minorities have always been valued less, in the United States. It's not just in the United States but it's very pronounced here because it's a "black-white issue."
Why have you come here?
I came to support Ferguson on this well-done job, these protests. My son was murdered by the Chicago Police in [several years ago] in a routine traffic stop and I'm very inspired because I feel like what happened here should have happened there in Chicago, you know what I'm saying? We had a little protest but it was a small protest and it went away. These guys stood strong and are still standing strong so I came to support that. And I brought my boys as well. My 14-year-old and my 12-year-old representing Chicago. If we can get this officer arrested down here maybe we can get some officers arrested in Chicago. And all over. In other cities I don't know if they're doing it as bad as they're doing here but in Chicago they're shooting our kids down as well. So yeah, yeah.
And them babies! The babies came out and said we ain't taking this shit no more—and so if the babies came out, I had to come out.
What do you think of the so called peacekeepers here in Ferguson who are trying to get people to calm down?
Well, they police advocates anyway: so I don't mess with them just like I don't mess with the police.
Why did you come here to Ferguson?
I'm originally from Harlem but now I am in Atlanta, Georgia and I came down with the crew. There are some people with Revolution Books and some people with other organizations and we just carpooled and came down here. I'm really, really interested in seeing change. I see there has been some changes made—there are people that are standing up and they are not taking some of the things that they used to let go by and they're not as passive as they were before. I think they're really getting serious about this mass incarceration and killing of our youth. Minority youth in particular. And the more that we stick together, this is how I feel, the more it'll work. If we can just, you know get together, combine and form unity and strength and let the system know that we're serious about this I think we can make tremendous progress and that's why I'm here.
What has most impressed you about what people have done here?
I was watching an interview and a correspondent was going around in the town of Ferguson and talking to people and asking them: How do they feel about Ferguson? What is the atmosphere like? What's your interaction with the police? And some of the people were like, you know I understand they have a job to do but it's the way that you talk to people, the way that you approach people. If you see me walking in the street you can say to me, can you do me a favor young man? Please walk on the sidewalk, I want you to be safe. But if you say to me, "Get your fucking ass outta the street," it's different. He say, the way you approach me is the way I approach you. If you treat me that way I'm not going for it.
So what I get is that people are like, "You don't intimidate me. I know who I am and I know what this movement is about and I know what I have to do and I'm not going to let you take your problems out on me." I see strength right there.
Are you involved with the October Month of Resistance?
Well the last two years I've been involved in protesting police brutality on different days in October, but I am really interested in this whole Month of Resistance.
Two middle-aged white people, the guy in a denim vest covered with biker badges, standing by their motorcycles observing everything.
What do you think about Michael Brown and what has happened?
Man: I thought it was terrible. He shouldn't have been shot. They have tasers... at least he would have had a chance.
Woman: This I our second or third time out here. I think he shouldn't have been shot. I also think he did do something wrong but it didn't call for that. I have once shoplifted myself. But he shouldn't have been shot. It's terrible. It's not going to stop. It's gonna have to be a whole injustice system changed. Because the whole mess of cops around the world have to change what they do.
The revolutionaries here are saying we need a whole new system...
Woman: We need a whole new system for a whole lot of reasons. We should also teach our youth. That is not always an easy challenge. We as parents want the best for our children. I don't know how to help them. Thank god mine are grown. But they still are a mess.
What about what the police have done?
Woman: It's terrible. They have done enough. They should back off, let people do what they got to do. There aren't many right here but (pointing up the street) they're up there. Tons. But we're not scared.
Young Black artist who came with some people who drove to Ferguson from another city.
How did you happen to come here?
Revolution posted that they wanted people to go to Ferguson for the weekend. And some revolutionary communists in my city asked me "You want to go?" "Hell yeah." And I'm not a communist myself but I do appreciate them and the values of communism...it's just people, when you say you're a communist, people misconstrue it and say "Oh no. No!" (laughs) But they good people. Probably the best people I've ever met but people get it misconstrued. So we're out here because we don't like the way they're representing the whole Ferguson situation in the media as a negative thing when it's really something positive. It's a positive and uplifting thing. If you look around you see things about Mike Brown on everything. It's obviously making a big move and it's a big deal and we decided to come out here so it doesn't lose momentum, to keep it going, because maybe the people of Ferguson are getting a little tired.
You have a shirt that has "Rosewood" printed on it—did you wear it to say something?
I'm thinking of Rosewood. There they (white racists) burned the whole place down. They got rid of it. And then they tried to erase the history. Hopefully what happened there won't happen here.
Black woman in her 30's
I been out here every night. I just don't understand them (staring at the cops lined up across the street looking real mad). The Black cops. What they think they doing? The Black police that are over there. They need to be over here because they on the wrong side and those (indicating the cops) don't give a damn about them. They're using them as a pawn. You rarely don't ever see the Black police when nothing like this is going on. They hardly work 'em. But now they want to set 'em right in the front line when this is happening.
Like Ron Johnson?
For a pawn. He's a pawn. And he doesn't even know it. But he loves the camera so he'll do it for that.
He's serving the system...
Oh, but Black cops, when they go home at night they're still a "n__." The ones that are helping them. They're using them.
Why do you think such fierce and sustained protest has erupted since many people have been killed by police in the area?
It was the straw that broke the camel's back. This has been happening for years. They harass us and if we complain they tell us to file a report. If we file a report they laugh at us, or throw it back. We have no rights. There's no justice. And we know this. That's why this keeps going on...
White man and woman in their 20's.
Why did you come to Ferguson?
We're from Iowa. We drove four hours this morning. We have a magazine called Iconic. We don't usually write about this sort of thing but we decided we should. It's an art and culture magazine...but we decided this was more important.
Black man in his 30's
When did you come?
I drove here this morning from Chicago with my wife and children. They are back at the hotel room. I see this as a broader problem—it's not really about Michael Brown. I think it involves the whole diaspora community—the Black and brown persons in this country.
I detect an academic vocabulary....
Yes! (laughs) I'm a professor at DePaul in Chicago. This situation is an unfortunate reality. I start school Monday. I am probably a week behind in preparation for syllabi...so tomorrow will be an extensive work day. But for me the semester cannot begin as usual. For me the value of a liberal arts education is that it gives people a certain capacity to enter into a broader range of discussion. So for me whether you're in a philosophy class or a history class or whatever, it's always right to inject current events that have an impact on the way we live, it's socially critical. So for me this event and these past few weeks are at the cutting edge of both of those discussions so I look forward to having a good group of happy freshman to get their minds percolating.
Ferguson is not much different than Watts, it's not much different than Inglewood—it's just a perfect storm of race, class, economics and poverty. It's almost like the Third Ward in New Orleans. It's a perfect storm. And when a perfect storm comes and ignites the community to feel totally disenfranchised—it's Paolo Freire—when people come to consciousness and realize that our human dignity is at stake.