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Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
On the Dialogue Between Cornel West and Bob Avakian:
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On September 1, we announced the Dialogue between Bob Avakian and Cornel West on “Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion,” taking place in New York City on November 15, at Riverside Church.
Nobody with any interest in human emancipation should miss it.
Bob Avakian has been fighting for the people for 50 years and leading the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA for nearly the last 40 of those. He’s taken the understanding of how to make revolution, and how to keep a revolutionary society on the path to full emancipation, to a new level. BA has come up against repression and suppression, and endured slander and sacrifice in doing so. And through all that time his deep commitment to the people has never wavered and, indeed, has grown stronger.
Cornel West, coming out of the religious prophetic tradition, has been fighting for the people for decades—“speaking truth to power” and defending those on the bottom of society, and lending support and often front-line involvement to key protests and resistance. He plays a unique and invaluable role in the political and moral life of this country. And Cornel West connects very deeply with those who most hunger for liberation—“the least of us.”
Each has done very important theoretical work on the topic of the Dialogue—a topic that sits deep in the heart of millions, including many of those who will be the bedrock of any revolution inside the U.S. This is a Dialogue that will surely break new ground.
That alone marks this as historic and not to be missed. Add to that the whole dimension of the rare chance to see and hear BA live and in person, to hear his message and get a real feel for the person behind the message—well, this truly is something unique.
This is far from an abstract debate—coming in the context of today, at a time when intense struggle has erupted and more is in the offing—it is actually a pressing issue. This Dialogue can powerfully affect what people see as possible, and necessary. It can raise their sights far beyond the limits of today to the possibilities of tomorrow. Not least, it can join their deepest questions about what kind of lives are worth living.
There are those who are already jumping at the chance to hear the Dialogue, and who are supporting it, and there will be many more. There are those who are already attacking it, and this too will intensify. So a Dialogue that speaks to and in many senses grew out of struggle will also involve struggle of different kinds. Through the course of this, the side that wants these two people to be heard, engaged, and defended must grow.
We will be covering this throughout the next 10 weeks. In this issue, we are going to share some of the initial responses from people at the Labor Day picnics where this was announced; we are publishing a piece on building a big audience for this Dialogue within the communities of the most oppressed; and we will run excerpts from the announcement made at the picnic. Watch this site as the week develops for more important news and comment.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian on Revolution and Religion can speak to—and must reach—everyone with a shred of concern for what is happening today. Those who get a sense of this—whether we are veterans of the struggle, newer, or even if we are just starting out—need to take responsibility to make this Dialogue reach that potential. That means building this all through society, in many different sections of people—from the campuses to people losing sleep over the environment to the cultural world, among students and youth, and all over.
At the same time, we've got to urgently and broadly build this among those who catch hell every day. And we've got to start RIGHT NOW!
How can this be done? We can start very simple.
We can get the word out far and wide with fliers and leaflets that can be posted in the neighborhoods of the oppressed—not just a handful of people doing this, but involving all kinds of community people in getting these out, posting them in stores and community centers, etc. Wear Revolution—Nothing Less! T-shirts as you do, and have some ready to sell to people. Everywhere you go, give out the QR cards that let people connect on the Internet to BA's New Year's Statement "A Call To Revolution"—or play it on the spot for those you meet and talk with. Take the time to show people, and to get them started reading, "Watching Fruitvale Station With Bob Avakian."
People have made, and will make more, statements on why they are coming to hear this Dialogue, which you can and will get on this site. We can begin posting copies of these statements in places where people pass through or congregate.
We can—and must—spread fundraising far and wide, with car washes, sweet potato pie sales, and house parties. We can encourage people to make "revolutionary change" jars, raising money from friends and families—and in the course of all this, the film REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! can be shown and discussed (See "Harlem Bake Sale Raises $700+ for BA Everywhere" for an example of how to do this.). The best part is that not everyone has to do everything, but everyone can do something!
We need to raise money to make this event reach as far and wide as possible. Raising money also enables people very broadly to not just participate in this but to get to know what BA stands for and to begin connecting in a powerful way with this revolutionary leader. It lets them know that they will be welcome at this, and that their deepest questions will be addressed.
In all this, we should strengthen and spread the 1,000 Years/$1,000 for BA Everywhere—letting people hear those in prison or who have been in prison challenge others to raise money to get the word out on how people can actually get emancipated—which is what this Dialogue is all about!
Many people reading this will also be building for the October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. That's not a problem, that's a plus! Do both things at once. If you're doing a fundraiser for the Dialogue, be sure to have materials for the Month of Resistance on hand; if you're out there blowing the whistle against the police carrying out abuse, wear your Revolution—Nothing Less! T-shirt. Let's keep it simple.
These are radically simple ways to begin right now—this week—to get this out there. As we create a mass movement on the bottom of society for this Dialogue, as we use this website to write about experiences and questions and learn from others, we can do more and better. But the main thing for now is: Let's get going! And tell us what you're learning as you do...
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Following are edited excerpts from a speech given in cities around the country about the Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian to be held November 15, 2014 at Riverside Church in New York City.
We have to make good on the potential of this Dialogue. Why? Because it is about the future.
Let's go out of here and build a social movement for this Dialogue. Go out in the world and tell everybody you know about it. Raise funds for it. Friends and family—yes—but also EVERYBODY you know needs to hear about this and contribute to making this happen.
If you are east of the Mississippi, then get together with others and organize buses. Get on the bus! West Coast, raise the money, so that some folks can get on a plane and get to New York for November 15. You don't want to hear afterwards, "You should have been there!"
Teachers, bring not only your classes, but other teachers and classes. History, Black Studies, Women's Studies, the Sciences, Morality and Philosophy, Religion... all who are concerned about the state of the planet and humanity, all those who are just questioning, who look around and see this system doing no good.
Let's go to all the youth groups and programs we know of, and those we don't know about yet—those that aim to keep youth out of trouble, athletic youth groups, artistic and cultural youth groups. Come as a group.
Youth hanging out on the basketball courts and at fast-food joints, get them involved now—spread this T-shirt signifying defiance—let youth represent with Revolution—Nothing Less!... creating an atmosphere that this Dialogue is of and for them. One of the crimes of this system is that youth are not welcome—and don't feel welcome—in a lot of places, those of the artistic, scientific, and intellectual life of society. This Dialogue IS radically different. Here, you ARE welcome. And, we have to make them feel: "This is for you."
If you are coming, tell people why you are coming! Send us a statement or a video that we can post to revcom.us. We want voices from all sections of society saying why they are coming, a growing social movement for this Dialogue.
Old-heads, tell the young folk about this.
Young folk, tell the old-heads.
Women, struggle with the men—why they need to be there.
Men, if you want a radically better world, talk to the women, why they need to be there... make it possible so that all the sisters are in the house.
Let's go to all the progressive priests, rabbis, and imams. Invite their congregations.
What about all the artists, the conscious hip-hop artists, spoken word, or those in theater? From Lincoln Center to the underground hip-hop scene, you need to be there.
We want to make this a big deal on the campuses. Get the word out and stir up the big questions—with professors and students alike. On Revolution and Religion... Is another world possible? What about the history of communism? What does communism have to say about questions of morality and purpose? We need to be creating an atmosphere of: "I have got to be there." We want your thoughts and participation.
On campuses and in society at large, we should—and we will—take this Dialogue EVERYWHERE people are standing up against injustice—whether protests against the war on Gaza, against police brutality, or global warming.
We need to raise tens of thousands of dollars—not only to put on the event, but for publicity. We want this in front of millions, aiming for ads in major media, Black and Spanish-language media, and on websites and social media.
We need funds to rent buses and for transportation so that people can get there, from the projects and the barrios, the streets of the big cities and the suburbs. Look at Ferguson—aren't there other suburbs like that from which youth should come? From Harlem to Ferguson, get on the bus! Raise funds so we can get these buses and bring people here.
Let's be on a mission—with purpose and inspiration. Be a part of making history—build for this, contribute and raise funds—starting today—so that everywhere people know that Cornel West and Bob Avakian are going to get into Revolution and Religion on November 15 at Riverside Church in NYC.
BA and Cornel West—each in his own way—embodies a largeness of mind and generosity of spirit. This stands in stark contrast to how too many today just think about "Am I interested in this? What will I get out of this? What about ME?"
Let's go to work on this, struggle around this "me, me, me." What about the billions—in the sweatshops, shantytowns, and brothels of the world? The millions—killed and cast out as refugees in wars of empire, shackled in lives of isolation in the prison cells of this country, leaving their families to cross the border only to face the guns and hate of this system?... We could go on and on and on.
This Dialogue is about changing all that. It's for the millions and billions.
So, what about you? Where are you going to be on November 15?
As this Dialogue shakes things loose, there will be those who will passionately welcome it, there will be those who will be honestly wrestling with what they think, and then there will be those who will snarkily slander the event or the two speakers, working to undermine or even attack it—people who are coming from a vested interest in keeping this brutal system on people's backs, not wanting to unsettle things, especially in any genuinely radical and revolutionary way.
This hate gets especially targeted against BA because he stands for a radically different alternative to this system—for Revolution—Nothing Less! And, against Cornel for speaking the truth. Unprincipled bullshit must not be tolerated because it seeks to destroy the hope and possibility for a new world. At the same time, we need to bring forward the "love"—for BA, and for CW. The "love" being giving voice to those who know and appreciate who BA is, who Cornel is, and who want and cannot wait for this Dialogue.
Where will you be on November 15?
Be at Riverside Church in New York to be a part of "Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion: A Dialogue Between Cornel West and Bob Avakian."
For the seven billion of humanity around the planet.
For a radically different and far better world.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
When you consider that religion influences the majority of humanity in one way or another, the Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian can be extremely important—particularly if it encourages religious leaders and their followers to develop a strategy that plays a major role in the struggle for emancipation. With this in mind, I strongly support the Dialogue.
Richard Brown—Former Black Panther; San Francisco 8 Defendant;
Host Committee for the Cornel West/Bob Avakian Dialogue
Because I believe in God. A dialogue between two people who have inspired me. Bob Avakian is a revolutionist and I'm always talking about a riot. Cornel is a man of faith, so I just want to see and listen.
Margarita Rosario (mother of Anthony Rosario and aunt of Hilton Vega,
murdered by the New York Police Department in 1995)
I would like to go to New York. First, because I have a lot of respect for Cornel West. I've heard one of his talks, at one of the big churches down on Wilshire; he was talking with Tavis Smiley. And I like what he had to say about poor people and about Obama's non-action. I know everybody thinks he's a messiah for Black people; and I did too when I voted for him.
Cornel opened my eyes... he brings it to reality. I'm not no great Christian, but he brings it down factual; the dirt, and the tricks, and the things this system does in America. And gives you a little humor with it.
Avakian I've never heard personally. I've gotten some of his videos. From his videos, and what I've read of him, he's a... I'm not communist—but I'm not anti-communist.... He's gotten my attention because he talks about the welfare of the people. All the people.
71-year-old Black man from South Central Los Angeles
This Dialogue will no doubt be one of the most challenging and inviting ideological journeys that anyone has been on! I think there will be a lot of laughter and tears, and it will put revolution back on the map in this country in a massive way.
Jesse; a member of the band Outernational
I am planning to go. Now is the time for me to take an active role in making the system work for future generations. Cornel West understands what is going on and is fearless. He's not afraid to tell the truth to the mainstream media. He understands what oppression is in America. I don't think a lot of people in America know what oppression is except the oppressed.
Angelina—mother victimized by the system
BA must be heard globally and we must get out the message that the system must be restructured. The only person I know that can do that is BA and the revolution. It goes to show this Dialogue is needed because we look at the world and the world is doing politics and religion and BA is looking at it scientifically.
It is important so many religions are out there and so many of them are confusing the people. It's like they are pacifying the people with politics and it's the same old talk with different people doing the same thing but doing nothing. It's going all around in a circle to confuse and oppress the people.
Grandmother whose grandson is in a Texas jail
I want to see how many young people show up. I'm trying to spark an interest in the children around the Bronx that don't think that this affects them. It's kind of hard to reach them. I'm always trying through music and poetry. We need to reach them.
Kevin from the Bronx, New York City
I want to be there. And yes, I'm going to fundraise to go, and there's no way I wouldn't go. Because I'm always open, and I always love hearing Bob Avakian talk; and since he's talking about religion, and especially that he's getting into it with someone who is religious, that's like something that sparks my curiosity to know what they're going to talk about. Especially because BA has said a number of times that we unite with people that are religious, if they have the same hatred for everything that's happening in the world, then we should unite with them.
But then, at the same time, it's harmful to have that religion in many ways. So I would love to hear what Cornel West thinks about that, and I would love to hear what BA has to say about that; because that's a question that comes up a lot. A lot of people don't get into the revolution because they know that we're communists, and they know that we're atheists. And so that is one thing that they hate about us, and some things that they love about us [laughs]. That's a question that's raised a lot: Can we unite even those who believe that there is a god and I don't?
Young woman in the LA Revolution Club
I feel like it is important for the future of Blacks and Latinos. It's important for us to fight and stand up against injustice. We need to get together and not fight each other but get together and fight the system. You see now Ferguson got the attention of Obama because they are fighting the system. I am hoping to get unity amongst us, to stand up against the government. We asked years ago and kept asking, we marched with the civil rights and Black Panthers. What are we supposed to do, keep asking?
Joshua, Young Latino, Washington Heights, New York City
I think there's a confluence of minds here; even though they come from quite different directions. They are both very concerned about the human condition; not just about this country, or that country; but the human condition, on a global scale. Cornel West is a leading public intellectual who has a high degree of visibility, and to have him debate, he has been debating Carl Dix, and now he will be debating Bob Avakian who, as I said earlier, I think he's a person who has considered this problem, the problems of the human system, but thinking about where we need to go from here; what kind of system is needed, to get to a better world, and a strategy to get from here to there....
An important point right now is to raise people's consciousness; to get them to be participants, and to engage in the dialogue... And that raises consciousness; you have to address issues, you have to assess them. I don't think I have the answer to everything, and that's why you hone your arguments, and improve your understanding, through reading, and through discussion. And a discussion like this is very valuable. I'm looking forward to this; I think it will be very valuable, with high visibility, so it should increase the visibility of the issue, and the consciousness of the population as a whole. That's a great opportunity.
A retired professor in Los Angeles
This is incredible—that this is being posed to people right now. Is it going to be live webcast? People around the world will want to watch this.
A young lawyer
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
November 15, 2014 from 3-7pm
The Riverside Church, New York City
Updated September 6, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Tens of thousands of dollars are needed for the production of the event and for publicity that will reach millions of people: in major media, campus newspapers, Black newspapers, Spanish media, on radio and websites with youth audiences, hip-hop sites, Facebook, Twitter – everywhere. Travel subsidies will make it possible for young people and others from the northeast and across the country to attend. Funds are also needed to produce a high quality video of the event.
To donate go to:
You can earmark your gift if you prefer, by entering "Nov.2014 CW-BA Dialogue" where you are asked for the purpose or description for your donation (at The Bob Avakian Institute, this is when you confirm your payment).
For more information, including how you can volunteer for this event, go to revcom.us
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
Revolution #352 September 8, 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 #352 September 8, 2014
Carl Dix on the October Month of Resistance:
by Carl Dix | September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Carl Dix gave this talk at the BA Everywhere picnic celebration in Harlem, New York City, on September 1, 2014:
Now look, what happened in Ferguson was not just the fact the police killed a young Black man. Because that happens all the damn time, it happens too damn often and it needs to stop. But what drew us down there was when the people stood up, especially the young people, saying no more of this shit, we've had this too long, we're not taking it anymore. And when I saw that, I was like, we got to go down there, and I got on the phone with some people and they came. And then when we were down there we said more people need to come and we sent another letter out to bring more people down because this has gotta stop and it's up to us to stop it.
People have to be standing up and saying, "This stops today, we're on it and we're not going back until we stop this shit." And that's what those young people in Ferguson said, day after day in the face of tear gas, rubber bullets, sound cannons, "peacekeepers" who were telling them, "We're going to keep you under control for your own good—keep you peaceful and calm," which would then just mean this shit would just keep coming down the way it's been coming down for too damn long.
Now the people rising up in Ferguson changed everything—it's got people all across the country talking about police murder, talking about this shit. But then on the other hand, it ain't changed anything yet—because that killer cop is still walking the streets. Just like the cops that murdered Eric Garner in Staten Island. Just like the cops who murdered that young brother Ezell Ford in Los Angeles. Just like the cops who murdered that brother in Dayton in the toy lane in the Walmart store and all kinds of killer cops all across the country.
This has got to stop and we got to continue a fight for justice around all of these cases. But we also have to connect them to a larger struggle. Because this is a key part of a genocidal program that's being brought down that centers around criminalization of Black and Latino people—warehousing them in prison, unleashing their pigs to brutalize and even murder them. We gotta step to this and we gotta stop it.
And here's a big thing that we gotta do: this Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror and the Criminalization of a Generation. Because what we're saying with this is: This genocidal program is real, it's illegitimate, it's immoral, and it must be stopped. And we're calling on everybody—everybody who has an ounce of justice in their hearts—to become a part of stopping this. This month has got to be a month of tens of thousands of people all across the country stepping out in determined mass resistance, saying no more to mass incarceration, no more to police terror, no more to treating our young people like criminals, no more repressing people who want to stand up and do anything about it. You all got to be a part of that.
A key part of it is going to be October 22. Here in New York City we need tens of thousands people in the streets. It's going to be 1:00 pm in Union Square. Now I know folks got to go to school, folks got to go to work, in general. But not on that day. That's got to be a day of no work, no school, no business as usual. You gotta stop killing our kids, you gotta stop dragging people off to prison, you gotta stop all of this shit. That's a key part of the month.
And then there's other parts of the month. There's going to be sermons in churches, mosques and synagogues, events on campuses, cultural events. All of this bringing tens of thousands together to say no more to this shit. This is very important. You got to be a part of this. Talk to people here about it, and get involved.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
Updated February 3, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
by Carl Dix
November 24, 2014
November 27, 2014
November 25, 2014
Updated November 30, 2014
If you are unable to see the video, click here to watch the video.
If you want to know about, and work toward, a different world—and if you want to stand up and fight back against what's being done to people—this is where you go. You go to this Party, you take up this Party's newspaper [and revcom.us], you get into this Party's leader and what he's bringing forward.
A Statement and Call from Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Ferguson-St. Louis chapter
February 2, 2015
January 29, 2015
January 27, 2015
January 14, 2015
December 13, 2014
Saturday, December 13, tens of thousands converged on Washington, DC for the "Justice For All" march. Protests also marked the day in dozens of other cities around the country, including tens of thousands in New York City. Other cities with protests include Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco-Oakland, Houston, Boston, and more. There was also a large police presence at these protests, and reports of multiple arrests in Chicago, Boston, Houston, and Oakland.
December 10, 2014
December 11, 2014
December 11, 2014
December 11, 2014
December 10, 2014
December 10, 2014
December 10, 2014
December 6, 2014
December 5, 2014
December 1, 2014
November 30, 2014
November 29, 2014
Updated December 2, 2014
November 28, 2014
November 28, 2014
November 28, 2014
November 28, 2014
November 28, 2014
November 24, midnight
November 25, 2014
GET OUT IN THE STREETS—in the downtowns and barrios and ghettoes across the country—to make it known that people are standing with and acting in unity with the people who have stood up in Ferguson, Missouri to protest the police killing of Michael Brown.
Bring, distribute and blow whistles. Bring many copies of the Three Strikes posters and also posters of “We Refuse to Accept Slavery in Any Form” with revcom.us prominently displayed. Spread the posters among everyone to get out widely.
Get out REVOLUTION! Raise your arms and raise your fists. March. ACT, ACT, ACT!!!
by Bob Avakian
Editor’s note: Attorney General Eric Holder has been deployed to Ferguson, MO to try to dampen the courageous uprising against the police murder of Michael Brown. Both in relation to that, but because it reveals essential truth behind illusions about the Federal Government’s role in relation to the oppression of Black people, we are sharing the following excerpt from Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon by Bob Avakian.
Black figurehead dnt change the slave ship. NO to slow genocide. We need Revolution–Nothing Less! revcom.us #Ferguson #Michael Brown
Stop slandering the victim and send the killer to jail. #Ferguson #MichaelBrown revcom.us
Cosmetics don't mean shit. A pig is still a pig. #Ferguson #MichaelBrown revcom.us
Black, white or Latino: once you put on the blue, you gonna serve the system and come down on the people. #Ferguson revcom.us
The heart of the problem is not the color of the skin of the pig. #Ferguson revcom.us
Wolf or fox, just a different way to eat you. #Ferguson #MichaelBrown revcom.us
Calm Down? Hell No! The pig is still walking the streets... and the whole genocidal program is still in full effect #Ferguson #MichaelBrown revcom.us
August 11. Photo: AP
From an online comment thread in the Washington Post, August 13:
Heavily armed, white protesters force authorities into retreat at Cliven Bundy Ranch despite allegations of the theft of over $1 million in fees from use of federal land. The police and FBI do nothing.
Unarmed, black protesters are gassed, shot, and beaten by authorities in their own backyards as they peacefully rally to expose a crime committed by a police officer witnessed by many. The police bring armored cars, helicopters, attack dogs, and riot weapons to use against the citizens.
On August 19, St. Louis police shot and killed Kajieme Powell, a 25-year-old Black man, just a few miles from where Michael Brown was gunned down by Ferguson police. We will have more on this soon. Watch this video, which shows that this was yet another cold-blooded murder by the police.
Editor’s note: Tyisha Miller was a 19-year-old African-American woman shot dead by Riverside, California police in 1998. Miller had been passed out in her car, resulting from a seizure, when police claimed that she suddenly awoke and had a gun; they fired 23 times at her, hitting her at least 12 times, and murdering her. Bob Avakian addressed this.
If you can’t handle this situation differently than this, then get the fuck out of the way. Not only out of the way of this situation, but get off the earth. Get out of the way of the masses of people. Because, you know, we could have handled this situation any number of ways that would have resulted in a much better outcome. And frankly, if we had state power and we were faced with a similar situation, we would sooner have one of our own people’s police killed than go wantonly murder one of the masses. That’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re actually trying to be a servant of the people. You go there and you put your own life on the line, rather than just wantonly murder one of the people. Fuck all this “serve and protect” bullshit! If they were there to serve and protect, they would have found any way but the way they did it to handle this scene. They could have and would have found a solution that was much better than this. This is the way the proletariat, when it’s been in power has handled—and would again handle—this kind of thing, valuing the lives of the masses of people. As opposed to the bourgeoisie in power, where the role of their police is to terrorize the masses, including wantonly murdering them, murdering them without provocation, without necessity, because exactly the more arbitrary the terror is, the more broadly it affects the masses. And that’s one of the reasons why they like to engage in, and have as one of their main functions to engage in, wanton and arbitrary terror against the masses of people.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
We Must Step Up the Fight
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On September 12, the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hear arguments in a challenge brought by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott that could reinstate a law that would force the closure of all but six or seven abortion clinics in Texas.
Last year, Texas Governor Rick Perry forced through HB2, one of the most extreme anti-abortion laws ever passed. Parts of this law—its requirements that all abortion doctors have hospital admitting privileges, its ban on abortion after 20 weeks, and its onerous restrictions on the administration of medication abortion—have already gone into effect, making abortion much more difficult to access for Texas' more than 26 million people. Half the state's abortion clinics have been forced to close.
The final provision of HB2—the requirement that all abortion clinics comply with the physical standards of ambulatory surgery centers (essentially mini-emergency rooms)—was set to go into effect on September 1, but was overturned at the last minute by Federal Judge Lee Yeakel after a legal challenge brought by several abortion providers. Yeakel ruled that this requirement was not only medically unnecessary, but that it also put an "undue burden" on women's ability to access abortion (this is the constitutional standard established in the 1992 Supreme Court decision, Planned Parenthood vs. Casey). Yeakel also ruled that two clinics that had previously been forced to close—one in the impoverished Rio Grande region along the U.S./Mexico border, the other in El Paso in the far-western part of the state) should be able to re-open.
This was a very important, albeit partial, victory.
Throughout the summer, StopPatriarchy.org mobilized a powerful Abortion Rights Freedom Ride that brought dozens of volunteers down to Texas for over a month to fight against these clinic closures. The Freedom Ride organized People's Hearings as well as dramatic photogenic protests in Houston, Austin, San Antonio, and the Rio Grande Valley and raised the slogans "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" and "Forced Motherhood Is Female Enslavement" to not only wake people up to the immediate emergency in Texas, but also to mobilize them against the nationwide assault on women's right to abortion and full reproductive rights.
These mobilizations by the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride—including 16 arrests during two different protests, and a nationwide Week of Defiance that included actions in Mississippi, Seattle, New York City, western Illinois, Little Rock, Missouri, Los Angeles, Oakland, San Francisco, and elsewhere, were projected to millions through both the English and Spanish-language media and brought a new defiant element into this fight. Without this, there would have been no mass resistance to these clinic closures and millions would have been kept in the dark as to the full scope and stakes of this emergency. This not only contributed to the atmosphere in which these closures were blocked; this work has further carved out a new road in the movement for women's abortion rights and all-around liberation: a road of mass, independent political resistance that does not rely on the courts or the politicians.
Now, as this ruling is being appealed and could be overturned following the hearing in New Orleans on September 12, it is more urgent than ever that people throughout the country stand up and raise their voices against any more clinic closures. When abortion is not available on demand and without apology, women have their lives foreclosed by forced motherhood or they risk their lives and prison to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
We must not allow this. Check revcom.us for ongoing coverage and to get the biggest picture of how this fits into everything else going on and what to do about it, and check StopPatriarchy.org to learn about and join in plans to take to the streets, and express opposition to this online wherever you are.
Revolution #352 September 8, 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 #352 September 8, 2014
by Orpheus Reed | September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This past week, another sharp alarm was sounded on the accelerating destruction of the planet. A leaked draft report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), a panel of the world's leading climate scientists, is predicting that "continued emission of greenhouse gases will cause further warming and long-lasting changes in all components of the climate system, increasing the likelihood of severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts for people and ecosystems." The report says, "The risk of abrupt and irreversible change increases as the magnitude of the warming increases."
These warnings from the world's leading climate scientists underscore the urgent need for people to mobilize and step up the fight to save the planet. They also underscore the importance of the People's Climate March taking place on September 21 in New York City. The march, and other resistance and events, is timed to coincide with a gathering of world leaders for a UN climate summit on September 23.
The draft report contains two dire warnings. First, it points to the danger of irreversible changes to the climate system and ecosystems if things continue as they are. Second, the report says that we may well be near a tipping point where the melting of the Greenland ice sheet is guaranteed and unstoppable. The complete melting of the Greenland ice sheet would raise sea levels 23 feet.
The melting of the Greenland ice sheet, along with other melting, would submerge coastlines and island nations where hundreds of millions of people live. This could take centuries, but the pace of these changes continues to be faster than earlier scientific predictions. The pace of melting can also be influenced positively or negatively by whether or not human society continues to inject, or stops injecting, massive quantities of planet-warming greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. But no matter how long it would take, once this tipping point is reached, the melting would be unstoppable. Besides submerging vast swaths of coastal lands, including some of the world's major cities, the melting of these ice sheets will likely further alter the climate system—and this can cause even further qualitative climate changes.
Here is the reality of the situation highlighted in the IPCC draft report: "From 1970 to 2000, global emissions of greenhouse gases grew at 1.3 percent a year. But from 2000 to 2010, that rate jumped to 2.2 percent a year, the report found, and the pace seems to be accelerating further in this decade," according to an August 26 New York Times article. On current course, global warming could reach 8 degrees (Fahrenheit) by 2100. Such warming would result in "catastrophic changes." In the face of this, there have been no real efforts by the imperialist governments that dominate the world economy and politics to address the problem of global climate change.
Despite what science is predicting and the damage that global warming is already causing to the planet, "climate experts" quoted in the New York Times say that leaders speaking at the UN climate summit September 23 in New York City are not even expected to announce ambitious targets for cutting emissions. And every government involved knows that even if targets were set, there is no power or binding authority that could enforce them.
All of this is completely outrageous and criminal. In the face of an impending cataclysm threatening human life, civilization, and species and ecosystems globally, capitalism continues and is even accelerating its reliance on fossil fuels as the energy foundation of the world economies. At the same time, the various major capitalist powers make meaningless declarations about the threat of climate change and issue honeyed phrases about their intentions to get serious about cutting emissions—all to try to pull the wool over people's eyes. Meanwhile the planet burns, and the future of life on earth is being cast into a chasm.
Now, from leading U.S. imperialist spokespersons—and unfortunately even from some climate activists themselves—we hear that “the U.S. must lead on climate change." The truth is, under Obama, the U.S. has vastly expanded its drilling and production of oil and gas from new deposits in shale rock and the deep oceans, while stepping up its export of coal for other countries to burn. (See, for instance, a new article by Michael Klare, "Global Warming President Presides Over Drill-Baby-Drill America.") The only "leading" the U.S. and Obama can do on climate change is down the road of further perpetuation of the economics and politics that are destroying life on this planet.
This capitalist system—the governments and corporations—are driven by profitability and the strategic need to beat out competitors to continue to find and grab up every last bit of fossil fuel, while trying to position themselves to weather the coming catastrophe, and in certain cases even profit from it. This system is completely, entirely unable to do anything of any meaning to stop this crisis! Instead, it is locking our entire planet into a death grip.
The only possible means of wrenching a different future for humanity, species, and the whole planet is communist revolution. Only this revolution—the complete overturning and elimination of capitalism and the development of a socialist system moving toward communism—has any hope of addressing the immensity and urgency of this crisis. This radically new system would have as a foundational and governing principle the preservation and protection of the natural world. (See "Some Key Principles of Socialist Sustainable Development.")
There is a way out—a plan, a vision, and a strategy for this revolution—concentrated in the new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian. This revolution is fighting for a world where humanity is emancipated and natural ecosystems are preserved and allowed to recover.
And we are not waiting. We are actively working and organizing for this today. We are building a movement for revolution. We are standing up and fighting back now. The People's Climate March is a key moment to advance the fight to save the planet. In this swirl, people should learn about and get connected with the revolutionary solution to the horrors of this system and what it is doing to the Earth. Join the contingent we are building for the September 21 march: Capitalism Is Destroying the Planet... We Need Revolution, Nothing Less.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
If you are deeply concerned about the future of our planet and sense that a truly radical solution is required to deal with the planetary environmental crisis—get connected with this contingent. If you want to work and struggle for a world where humanity can thrive free from all exploitation and oppression and where human society can be a caretaker, not a destroyer, of the planet—become part of this contingent.
The problem is bigger than "big oil"... bigger than "the corporations." Capitalism-imperialism is the source of the ecological destruction of the planet—and we need to put an end to it through the most radical revolution in human history, communist revolution.
Bob Avakian has developed a liberating vision and strategy for this revolution—a new synthesis of communism that would emancipate humanity and safeguard the planet's environment. We are actively working for this now. We are standing up and fighting back. We are building a movement for revolution.
The contingent will be full of revolutionary verve, with huge banners and involvement of many sections of people. It will convey internationalism, that the whole world comes first—and standing with the people of the whole world. If you want to fight to save the planet, we invite you to join with us to build the contingent into a powerful force.
To join the contingent, go to: peoplesclimate.org/revolutionsolution.
Check out the revcom.us/Revolution special issue on the environmental emergency.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
Watching the Film Disruption and Engaging People Going to the Climate March
September 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Yesterday afternoon, I was in Revolution Books talking with some friends. A young man came in and started browsing. I asked him what brought him in and he said that he was with the Great March for Climate Action and they were coming through our city on the way to the big People’s Climate March in New York City on September 21. He said he had looked up the bookstore because he and some of his friends on the Great March for Climate Action were feeling that something radical is required to stop the destruction of the environment. And he was looking for answers. I explained that we agreed with him completely that something radically different is necessary and I introduced him to Bob Avakian (BA) and the movement for revolution we are building. We talked for a while. He was jazzed and bought the RCP’s Climate EMERGENCY pamphlet and a copy of Revolution newspaper. He said that the place where his group was staying locally was going to show a film that night, Disruption, produced by the environmental group 350.org to build support for the People’s Climate March. He invited those of us at Revolution Books to come.
After he left, we had a scheduled film showing of a clip from BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! When that ended, I asked if anyone in the store wanted to go to the showing of Disruption and follow up with these marchers for climate action. Everyone else said that they had things they needed to do. I decided that whatever I had to do, it was less important than bringing revolution to these front-line fighters in the battle against climate change. So I went to the film.
I think the same approach needs to be taken to the People’s Climate March itself. For at least some of us, nothing should be more important than bringing BA and revolution to those on the buses going to NYC. Information about buses can be found at 350.org – click on People’s Climate March and then Transportation.
The hunger for answers among many of the younger people struck me as soon as I arrived for the film. A number of them warmly welcomed me and said that they had already heard about the revolution from the young man who had come into Revolution Books. And they wanted to make sure I would have time to talk with them after the film showing.
There were about 40 people at the film showing with maybe a 50-50 split between young and older. Some were marchers, others were local people. The film makes a very powerful case for how far we have traveled down the road to climate disaster and how urgent it is to act now to stop it. And it argues that it will take millions in the street to do this. It repeatedly goes back to the giant anti-nuke rally of the early ’80s and the huge civil rights rallies of the ’60s as the yardstick for what will be necessary to change things today. And it calls on everyone to be in the streets in NYC on September 21 to deliver an equally powerful message to the UN.
After the film, there was a discussion in which a whole range of ideas came out about what it will take to stop this climate disaster. An older guy from moveon.org started out arguing that the key thing to do right now is to ensure that the Democrats keep control of the Senate. Others argued that more people needed to grow their own food. Fairly early on, I spoke and made a few points – starting with uniting with the urgency everyone felt – and which the movie so clearly conveyed: that the destruction of the environment has to stop right now. And exactly because the stakes are so high, we have to seriously dig into what is actually causing this crisis and what it will take to stop and reverse it. I explained that only a revolution that replaces capitalism-imperialism and its dog-eat-dog competition for profit with an economic system based on meeting the needs of the people and being fit caretakers of the earth can accomplish this. I agreed that massive outpourings of resistance are extremely important. But I argued that equally important is what these massive outpourings are trying to accomplish. And this is where the film Disruption goes off the tracks. The argument in the film – both implicitly and explicitly – is that if this NYC climate demo is just big enough it will scare those in power into changing their policies and saving the environment. But if you just think about what is presented in the film itself – this is clearly not true. Yes, there was a huge anti-nuke rally in the ’80s, but nothing fundamentally changed and today the U.S. is still nuked to the gills (which the film conveniently does NOT mention). Yes, there was a massive MLK-led march on Washington in 1964, but today schools in the U.S. are more segregated than they were back then and life continues to be hell for the large majority of Black people – as so powerfully demonstrated by recent events in Ferguson, Missouri. We can’t settle for “easy” answers that don’t take us out of our comfort zone or challenge our illusions about what this system is really all about. We have to be so determined to actually stop this pending disaster that, as we are standing together to fight against all these attacks on the environment, we are also willing to dig into and struggle over whether a revolution is necessary to solve this.
Putting the need for a revolution on the table changed the whole character of the discussion because people now felt they needed to respond to that. One woman attacked it – arguing that nobody will listen to “the far left” and what is needed is locally controlled communities in the cities. Another guy defended the idea that something radically different is required to solve this problem – and that is definitely not capitalism. Some people picked up on the need for everyone to unite in struggling against climate change. One guy argued that there was a spiritual basis for people to “come together as one.” Another woman went out of her way to say that she was all for the unity part, she did not like all the disagreement and struggle – and she felt that people should be accepted for who they are.
As the discussion wound down, I made one more point because I was worried by how the framework for many people’s remarks was what “we should do in America.” I pointed out that the U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population but consumes 25 percent of the world’s wealth and that no approach to solving the climate problem that leaves that grotesque lopsidedness intact will produce anything good for the vast majority of humanity: another reason why we need a total revolution aimed at liberating all of humanity.
As the meeting broke up, people came over to talk to me and get copies of the leaflet “People’s Climate March: A Call to ALL those Who Want to ’Change Everything’” and the issue of Revolution newspaper (#350-351) with the Cornel West/BA Dialogue on the cover.
People wanted to know more about this revolution. A local couple who are sociology professors are taking a group of students to NYC as part of a project to poll young people and learn what they are thinking about the climate crisis. And a lot of their questions have to do with whether people see this as a product of the capitalist system. We talked about this and I asked if they had questions that probed how people understand how capitalism works. I pointed out that a lot of the “Occupy” generation have a sense of there being a super-rich 1% that owns everything and amass great wealth from corporate profits. But do they understand that as rich as these folks might be, they must continually battle to get even richer or they will get swallowed up by some meaner, leaner capitalists? That’s why you can’t make the rich “play nice” or the capitalist system function on any other basis than “expand or die.” They thought this was an important question to add to their survey and they invited me to come and visit them on campus and perhaps speak in their classes.
At a certain point we had to leave the main room, so a number of the youth asked me to stay longer and talk in a smaller room nearby. Here we dug more deeply into who BA is and what the revolution is all about. The question of epistemology (how do we understand what is true) was a central part of our discussion. BA’s breakthroughs on epistemology – with his emphasis on leading the masses to be able to distinguish between what is and what is not true about the world – all this was very attractive to a number of these young people. Especially since they are feeling the need to really go out and struggle with people to put aside a lot of illusions and confront the truth about this climate crisis – to confront the fact that something radically different has to be brought into being and there is very little time left to act if we are going to avoid a complete disaster for humanity. They are having less patience with “well, most people don’t agree with you” and solutions that are the equivalent of fighting a raging forest fire with a bucket of water and a teaspoon. And there was some sharp struggle with one person who was making a lot of assertions about things that they really didn’t have much knowledge about.
At a certain point we had to end. But they inquired if I would be available to meet with them again before they left and have more of a panel-type discussion of the problem and solution. I told them, sure, and will be in touch with them to work out where and when.
People were eager to learn about both the crew of revolutionaries who have been down in Ferguson since the start of the uprising there, and the Abortion Rights Freedom Riders who have been on the front lines fighting for women’s rights in Texas. I also made sure that everyone I talked to got info about the really historic Cornel West/BA Dialogue coming up in NYC on November 15. Some asked how to get tickets and one person said right then and there that he was going to be in NYC at that time, so he was definitely coming.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
+ A 2001 U.S. Department of Justice report calculated that between 1976 and 1998, 3,696 Black people were killed by police. That is an average of 168 Black people per year killed by the police. And these numbers are likely very undercounted. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement documented 313 deaths of Black people by police, vigilantes, and security guards in 2012, which works out to one every 28 hours.*
+ In the 30 years between 1890 and 1920, 2,254 Black people were lynched in the USA.
Now consider this...
Throughout this history of police killings of Black people AND of the lynchings of Black people, with very, very few exceptions, those carrying out these horrible murders have almost NEVER been punished.
The KKK and affiliated Nazi-like white supremacists, with the collusion of "law enforcement" and the whole political power structure, during the time of Jim Crow... and then the police, with the collusion of the rest of the political power structure, in more recent times... these murderers of Black people are almost never even arrested, let alone tried and convicted for murder, but are instead allowed to walk free.**
The message being delivered loudly and clearly here is that the lives of Black people count for nothing to those with power in this system—and that those who fear and hate Black people and who themselves represent, and/or are backed by, the authority of government and the power of the state, can wantonly murder Black people and get away with it, time after time after time.
* "Operation Ghetto Storm: 2012 Annual Report on the Extrajudicial Killing of 313 Black People" by Malcolm X Grassroots Movement [back]
** Those who lynched Black people were rarely if ever indicted, and when they were, the judge, prosecutor, jurors, and witnesses were most likely all white and sympathized with the lynchers. One study of 100 lynchings by Arthur Raper estimated that at least half of the lynchings were carried out with police officers participating, and that in nine-tenths of the others the officers either condoned or "winked at" the mob action. Fewer than 1 percent of lynch mob participants were ever convicted. (See Rough Justice: Lynching and American Society, 1874-1947 by Michael J. Pfeifer, June 16, 2004) Likewise, the police who murder Black people are almost never arrested, let alone convicted and punished. The authorities do not publish national statistics on this, but you can look at many large cities where there have been numerous police killings of Black people and see that there have been few if any cops who have been punished. In Dallas, for example, the police have killed 68 unarmed men over the last 10 years and none of them have been punished. And then in cases like the murder of Oscar Grant, when a cop is found guilty, he is likely to get what amounts to a "slap on the wrist" for murder." [back]
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
If there is a situation where BA Everywhere—the campaign to raise big money to spread the word on the vision and leadership of Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA—is reaching out to millions with the word that there is a conception of and leadership for a whole new world... if tens of thousands are being inspired and organized to actively stand up against and resist the glaring outrages of the mass incarceration of Black and Latino peoples and thousands more are taking action against the enslavement and degradation of women and different terms are being set around these outrages... if revcom.us/Revolution is reaching hundreds of thousands, then millions... if the Revolutionary Communist Party is becoming known and seen as the leading force at the forefront of the struggle for a whole new world... and all these are mixing and meshing in people's minds—then this would greatly increase the potential to change how literally millions see this world and what is desirable and possible. Each of these initiatives is important in their own right. But they are even more important and can have greater impact in the ways in which they work together, interact, synergize.
(For more on the ensemble of revolutionary work, see “The Mass Initiatives and Their Relation to Our Strategic Objectives” by Bob Avakian at revcom.us)
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On September 4, revolutionaries who had come to Ferguson, Missouri, to support the rebellion and fight for justice for Michael Brown went to an arrestees meeting. The meeting was called by Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment (MORE), a group raising funds for legal support including bail, fines, and legal expenses; the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), and other progressive attorneys. About 30 people attended. This included mostly people arrested during the rebellion. It included MORE activists who were doing jail support, friends of people who were arrested, lawyers, and others who were assisting those who had been arrested.
First thing, people went around the room introducing themselves and telling their stories of their arrests. People spoke about being shot, tear-gassed, arrested with their hands up, beaten, and thrown in paddy wagons by police and National Guard. One brother spoke to how this last month had changed his life, another said, "If you are not willing to die, get out of the way." One man thought he would be playing a role of peacekeeper but then ended up getting arrested. One brother saw his sister getting arrested after a police car had damaged her car; others were walking home or away from the protest with their hands up but were also arrested, a truckload of people leaving got swept up in the mass arrests. One spoke about how this gave him a sense of a "community." Many people said the police covered up their badges or removed them.
The room was made up of a good mix of people: Black and white, mostly young, men and women. People from Ferguson, from other St. Louis areas, and from other states had come to stand with the people of Ferguson.
Two revolutionaries attended the meeting. As people spoke of their arrests, the revolutionaries spoke about how three revolutionaries, Joey Johnson, Carl Dix, and Travis Morales, had been arrested; how Joey Johnson was punched in the face by St. Louis alderman Antonio French while calling for the indictment and jailing of the cop who killed Michael Brown. Some people had seen the alderman punch Joey Johnson and saw Johnson handed over to the police. Some people were shocked to hear this, others insisted this was true and that French is not a good guy.
The next point spoken to was what people wanted to do as they went forward and what needed to be figured out at the meeting. There were a lot of people justifiably angry about having no recourse with the cops: they rob the people, arrest them, and disrespect them. And because they are cops, people are supposed to accept what they do. People asked, weren't the police supposed to "protect and serve" them? Some called for firing the whole Ferguson police department, getting rid of the police chief, voting them out, better evaluation, better training, sensitivity training, and getting a petition going.
One revolutionary shared his experience with the fight against stop-and-frisk in New York, and the arrests that came out of that. While taking on those cases, the reason for the arrests in the first place was that people were demanding an end to stop-and-frisk. And here we are: Mike Brown was murdered and then people boldly stood up demanding justice and police responded with tanks and tear gas, rubber bullets, and these arrests. And the motherfucker who killed Mike Brown is still free! This fight around the arrests is not just about getting these charges off some people who were wrongfully arrested; it's about this whole fight, and there is nothing right about attacking and prosecuting people demanding justice while the motherfucker is still free. The demand must be: arrest Darren Wilson and drop all charges on protesters.
And then the revolutionary spoke to the fact that voting does NOT change things. In New York, we have Black and Latino cops. We have Black and Latino faces in high places. And people fought like hell to take down stop-and-frisk, and then people voted for a new "progressive" mayor, Bill de Blasio, and so while the number of random street stops has been reduced, we now get people getting choked to death by police ON CAMERA, and gang raids that sweep up all the youth in certain oppressed areas as gang members, even putting pictures in the New York Daily News of seven-year-olds playing basketball and calling them the future gang members and thugs who will be the problem next. Just like the fight around Trayvon Martin, if they are allowed to get away once again with letting a killer cop go and sweeping this under the rug, the only change we're going to get is more of this shit, more of a green light on killing our youth. That's why, once again, people were in the street in the first place, this demand to arrest this killer cop must be won, and is key in fighting these arrests.
Next we talked about what it would take to get the charges dropped. One attorney spoke to direct action; others said calling or going to the office of Stephanie Carr, the prosecutor in Ferguson; or Judge Ronald Brockmeyer's court; or going to the city council meeting with the demands to drop the charges. An artist suggested that videos be done and statements made to put up on Facebook and Twitter. Others suggested that we work as a group and make a media "shit storm." People talked about other protests that were going on and meeting every week until the charges were dropped.
A revolutionary spoke to the fact that the struggle for justice here in Ferguson, arresting the killer cop and dropping these charges, is in the context of and the key front of fighting this whole mass incarceration, police terror, and criminalizing, and needs to be part of the October Month of Resistance called for by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, including packing the courts in October, when most of the dates for court appearances are so far, and also when the Grand Jury has said they would announce the decision of whether to indict Darren Wilson, the motherfucking killer pig. This was part of developing the two aspects that needed to be worked on in taking on these charges, which was political strategy and legal strategy. This point was also addressed by one of the attorneys working on the cases.
One of the local attorneys spoke to the fact that $90,000 had been raised for legal defense. He spoke to the criminalization of Black people and institutional racism in the area. Ferguson has 21,000 people in the county, yet there are 40,000 active warrants! He characterized these warrants as a crime against the poor because they had nothing to do with violation of the law, but just unpaid tickets. Another attorney who joined the discussion spoke to working against torture, a world issue, and the use of tear gas in Ferguson, and the need to document all the accounts of police brutality. He made the points "know your rights" and "don't talk to the police, everything said can and will be held against you."
There was discussion of a civil case, the need to document injuries that people had sustained. The NLG attorney asked people about red laser dots on their chests. Many people responded that they did see this, some knew what this was and some didn't. What this meant was that there was a police sniper taking aim at you.
As the meeting ended, 30 Revolution newspapers with the front-page cover of Cornel West and Bob Avakian's November 15 Dialogue got into people's hands, along with small bundles about the October Month of Resistance from the national Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Small groups of people got together after the meeting. One of the things we learned was that a gang truce had been called, that this truce still held, because in the middle of being in the streets facing the police, people looked around and saw that those who under normal times are supposed to be your enemy are right there next to you on the same side, fighting for the same reason. We were hooking people up to the need to be a part of the Month of Resistance and drawing people together to be part of the Revolution Club.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On September 5, a $41 million settlement was reached in the case of the Central Park 5, five teenagers unjustly convicted on the basis of forced confessions and then imprisoned for many years for the 1989 beating and rape of a female jogger in New York City.
The FACT that this system committed a CRIME—that it terrorized, railroaded, and then stole many years of life from Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Yusef Salaam, Raymond Santana Jr., and Kharey Wise is indisputable. But the city's settlement states: "The City of New York has denied and continues to deny that it and the individually named defendants have committed any violations of law or engaged in any wrongful acts concerning or related to any allegations that were or could have been alleged." And Cyrus R. Vance, Jr., the current district attorney, said, "After more than a decade in which numerous parties have investigated and litigated the case, there has been no finding of wrongdoing or unprofessional behavior by any of the prosecutors involved."
Here's what "professional behavior means" for the City of New York and the NYPD:
The police rounded up five teenagers, 14-16 years old. They were not allowed legal advice, couldn't talk to their families, were interrogated for hours until they broke down and "confessed." Four of them spent about seven years in prison and one of them served 13 years. Only later were these men given their freedom—when it came out that all of them were completely innocent.
The authorities constantly preach to the youth about "personal responsibility." BUT because the NYPD and the prosecutor's office are enforcers for a system of exploitation and oppression, "professional conduct" means never having to "take responsibility" or be held accountable for the crimes they commit against the people.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
September 1, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received the following from a reader:
On Saturday August 23, in Chicago close to 1,000 people came out to Slutwalk 2014. Slutwalk has become an international movement (with marches in India, Brazil and other countries) that was sparked by events in Toronto in 2011, when a Toronto cop told a group of college women demanding answers to campus rapes that women could end rape by not "dressing like sluts." The march was a powerful rebuttal to that male supremacist mind-set with repeated, powerful chants denouncing violence against women and upholding a women's right to control their own bodies. It was mainly young women, but they were joined by women of all ages as well as men.
After a rally at the Daley Center in the heart of Chicago's Loop, the crowd immediately took to the streets in an angry and defiant march. The police tried to force the marchers back onto the sidewalks, but the marchers were having none of that. As the march approached Michigan Avenue—Chicago's premier shopping and tourist area—police tried to use their Segways and bicycles to barricade the street and force the marchers back on the sidewalk. The marchers responded with raised hands (in a gesture learned from those protesting Michael Brown's murder in Ferguson) and started chanting "Hands up. Don't Shoot!" As throngs of passing shoppers and tourists were drawn to the march, the cops turned on the sirens in their police cars to try to drown the protesters out. While the marchers were eventually forced back onto the sidewalks, they remained undaunted despite some of them now displaying bruises from being "nudged" by Segways and cop cars.
We had a crew of four who went out to unite with the marchers and help people draw the connections between fighting the war being waged on women and making the revolution that is needed to end it. One person focused on getting out Stop Patriarchy stickers and calls to come to Texas for the Week of Resistance to attacks on abortion. Two others focused on getting out Revolution newspaper. And the final person took a big poster for people to sign. "We Stand With the heroic resisters in Ferguson and the Abortion Rights Freedom Riders in Texas. It is right to rebel against oppression! Revcom.us."
There was widespread openness to what we brought to Slutwalk. The Stop Patriarchy stickers—mainly "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology" and "Create a World without Rape"—ended up all over people's bodies. Just looking at the crowd, you could see them everywhere. On the spot, other protesters were enlisted in getting these stickers out.
And the banner really connected with people. Ferguson was on people's minds and "It's right to rebel against oppression" was in the air. About 275 people signed the banner. At first some would just read the first line about Ferguson and sign. So the person holding it would tell people to read the whole thing first to make sure they agreed with it before they signed it. And almost everyone who read it signed it. And many people with a lot of enthusiasm. Everyone was told to go to revcom.us right there on their phones to learn more about the revolution. As the number of people signing grew and the banner was covered with signatures, some people started taking pictures of it. They were encouraged to tweet it to their friends right away and many said that they would. A picture of this banner was tweeted to Sunsara Taylor, Carl Dix and revcom.us as soon as the march ended. And within an hour ST had re-tweeted it to her followers. The banner is being sent to Texas.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
Interview with a Former Prisoner, Part 2:
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
EDITORS' NOTE: This is Part 2 of an interview with a former prisoner, who, through contact with Revolution newspaper, the writings of Bob Avakian and literature of the Revolutionary Communist Party, decided that being an emancipator of humanity was what his life is going to be about. It has been edited for publication. We are posting the interview in three segments. Part 1 (Breaking with the Gang Life, Getting with the REAL Revolution) was published on September 1, 2014 and Part 3 (Don't Risk Your Life Over Stupid Shit—Be Down for Revolution) on September 15.
Revolution: You've told me about other ruptures, both political and ideological, that you had to make, as well. You mentioned all the questions you had. But there were also things like nationalism, how you viewed the oppression of women... there were different ruptures along the way and questions you had. Can you talk more about that?
X: I kept changing my thinking and making those ruptures the more that I saw the things that I hated flowing from a common source. I had the nationalism thing about "my people" are getting fucked over, "my people" went through this. But then I also said, damn, what did Black people go through? And what's being done to Black people? And Native people, what they're going through and what's being done to them? And women. I saw a lot in myself that I had to rupture with in regards to the way I treated women and the way I viewed women. When you start thinking about oppression and discrimination, you have to confront, are you against oppression or are you OK with oppression in some cases? Is it OK for my people not to get fucked with, but it's OK for other people to get fucked with by that same system? And if so, what do I want? Do I want to be part of that system? Is all I want to do is just be at the top of that system and fuck everybody else?
I was like, "No, that's not what I want. I want to end oppression." But how? The more I thought about that, I had to look at it more broadly. It can't just be so narrow as to think about my people and what I go through. I started to really hate oppression. Before I was full of hate for people that I shouldn't hate. But then I found my humanity, I regained my humanity as I raised my sights.
Before I even got into revolution, I started going through that process. But when I started getting into revolution, I took a leap. Not that big a leap, because there's still a lot of things that I hadn't ruptured with. And even now there are things that I need to rupture with, but I'm more conscious of it now. And it's still a struggle. It's still a process. But there was a real leap when I got into some of the things that came through in BAsics, "You can't break all the chains except one." What I went through and the questions I had to pose to myself about whether I was gonna be OK with all this shit.
In prison, for example, there's a lot of homophobia. It's an insult or a joke if you call somebody gay. I thought about that and came to realize that's some really fucked up shit. And you struggle with prisoners over there and it's like, "Whoa, what the hell is this dude doing speaking up for gay people? [laughs] What's up with you?" I would answer, "I don't like oppression, I don't like discrimination, I don't like fucking with people just because they're different."
The marriage thing used to come up, "Aw, yeah, let them do their thing, but getting married?" And I was like, "Are they trying to marry you? You don't have to marry nobody if you don't want to." [laughs] So sometimes when I would say that. Other prisoners would laugh and they would be like, "I see your point." I would say to people, "What are they doing to you? Why do you feel so offended by what somebody else does? Why does it hurt you so much? It shouldn't affect you so much."
Revolution: You said you had to fight to regain your humanity and when you got into revolution that took a leap. What do you mean by that?
X: I started caring about people. It's these connections that you start to make. And you start thinking about the reality behind it, not just words. I remember even as a kid, seeing things like those commercials on TV, "donate money to feed these children." I would look at that and I was like, man, that's some fucked up shit. So I would start thinking about that, cuz I grew up having that questioning taken out of me. When I was a child, I was like, "There's so many rich people and so many poor people, why don't they just take the wealth from the rich people and feed these poor people?" I was a kid. I was in elementary school when I thought that. But the system takes all that questioning out of you. You start thinking there's a permanent necessity—that the way things are is just the way it is. But when I started getting more into revolution and people would talk about all the suffering that's going on around the world, I would think back to those images: children starving, children with their bellies blown up because of malnutrition, not because they ate a lot of food, kids dying of diarrhea and all this horrible shit that happens to people.
It's what made me think more and I started regaining my humanity. I started having love for people. It was love for the people and hate for the system, because I started recognizing where all that suffering came from. Just because some rich motherfucker can't make money, this kid has to starve, he has to go without medicine, he has to go without a sanitation system. And it was all because somebody couldn't make money off of it, nobody could profit off of it, and it's not gonna get done. It was just thinking about it, the reality of it. I tried to think about it as much as I could—what people were actually suffering. I remember reading once about children sniffing paint to get rid of hunger. I remember sniffing paint myself, glue or paint, not because I was hungry, but just to get high.
The more conscious I became that it's a system, the more I hated the system and the more love I had for people. I was changing because I thought I was heartless, but I wasn't really. I wanted to make myself heartless so I wouldn't feel all this shit... I don't know how to describe it. I guess I was trying to escape from something by trying to be that way, by trying to be heartless, trying to be this tough guy, like "I don't give a fuck." So I would pretend I didn't care or I would try not to care.
But then I learned to care. I started relearning to care for people and started to hate oppression. And that's when I started making connections. of wherever I could identify oppression, I had to break with it. What the fuck? What am I thinking? I shouldn't hate gay people for being gay. I shouldn't hate women just for being female. I started recognizing women as human beings, I was thinking, man, that's a human being.
The more radicalized I became, the more I hated the system and tried to identify oppression and discrimination wherever I saw it. I started hating it. And then the more I had to question myself and the way I thought and the more I started seeing the need to rupture with the way I thought. It's a hard thing to look at yourself and see all these things that you have to change about yourself. Because a lot of people have the tendency to think the way they are now is fine—"I don't want to question, I'm gonna defend whatever view I have now without really understanding it and try to find justification for the ways we are." It's a difficult thing to recognize that you've been wrong about something. Not just wrong, but horribly wrong, and then having to change, but recognizing the need to change.
Revolution: That's what I was gonna ask, what was the need? You weren't changing because you were gonna better yourself for its own sake. So what was the need?
X: The need was revolution. I saw the need for revolution. What kind of change was I gonna uphold if I was still holding on to all this other shit? So there was a need for me to change myself if I really wanted to change the world. I couldn't be like, "We'll change this, but keep fuckin' these people over." Morally, it wasn't right to think that way. It wasn't just that this won't work for revolution, but there was that context to it—if you want a revolution you can't be this way, you can't hold on to this way of thinking or these old habits, you have to change them.
And the more serious I got about revolution, the more willing I was to make sacrifices and change myself, because it had to be more than just feeling good about myself. Breaking the law made me feel real good about myself. I felt good fuckin' up, I'm not gonna lie. It was exhilarating to just fuckin' break the law and do all the stupid shit I was doing. But I had to let go of that because that's not gonna help revolution. It will be playing into the hands of my enemy. So I started to recognize all this and I had to start being less selfish, recognizing and seeing everything I had to change about myself, and ask the question: how does that contribute to revolution? That might make me feel good, but it doesn't help revolution, it enforces a lot of old ways of thinking.
Revolution: At the same time, as you talked about earlier, that "feeling good" went hand in hand with "feeling not good" when you looked at the content of it, right?
X: Yeah, like what was I doing? What role was I playing in reinforcing all that shit and perpetuating it? So it was something that I had to give up. And that's hard. Because like I said, all my life, all the purpose I had was in gangbanging. That was all I cared about. That's what I loved to do. The only thing that made me feel good about myself was doing all this crazy shit and I had to give that up. I couldn't be about that anymore. It was my whole being. It was something I was willing to fight and die for. And then you have all your friends who did die for it. Before it was, "hell no, they didn't die for nothing, they died for the 'hood and I'm not gonna let them down."
But the fucked up thing is that they did die for nothing. When you look at the larger world, they died for something very, very, very petty. People don't see them as petty because there's people dying, but when you step back and look at, it was something very petty... it was something very petty that they died for. When you raise your sights to what this whole world could be about, how it could really change, and you see that, and it's like "fuck, they died for nothing."
The more I saw why people act this way and what they are emulating or copying when they act this way—these are things that are shaped by the system. You start seeing that this is the system making people act in these ways. That's why I started making the connections more and I blamed the system for all this. I blamed the system for all my friends who died. And I would think about it like, "It's this fuckin' system that's doing it."
When I was in prison, my nephew was killed. I already had a sense of where it came from, but I still felt like I wanted my get-back. But I was also struggling with this being the system that was the cause of this. That's one of the things I had to wrangle with—who's really responsible?
I would identify the system and my fight against the system became something more personal, because it affected all these people that I loved, all my friends. I remember the hurt caused to their families behind these petty wars. And it made me hate the system even more, the more I thought about it, the more I thought about everything it caused. And the more I hated the system, the more I wanted to fight. Like when I gangbanged, I was willing to fight and die. I was willing to make sacrifices. Now I see the system and I want to make sacrifices to get rid of it that are actually significant sacrifices that mean something. I started seeing the need to sacrifice my own desires to what will contribute to revolution.
Revolution: You talked about the seriousness coming through when you read Revolution newspaper and BA—you could tell that what they're working on is to make a revolution. But there were other things that you wrote about while you were inside about BA's work. You were wrangling with big questions of revolutionary theory, of the new synthesis of communism. Can you talk more about what you were wrangling with?
X: That's one of the things about learning to be scientific and recognizing science. And it had to come through struggle by reading all this other shit. Like I said, comparing and contrasting and digging into what was true. I didn't want to take something up without questioning it. There was a lot I didn't understand, so I would question it—why is this true or not true?
For example, BA made a criticism of a philosophical concept put forward by Marx called "the negation of the negation." When I read that criticism, I was like, why is the negation of the negation no longer true? Marx was kind of hard to read. but very exciting to read because he was talking about a whole different way the world could be and identifying where the source for change was and identifying communism as a science, a way to understand society scientifically. So I liked Marx. And I was like, "Who the hell is gonna question Marx? Here's BA saying the negation of the negation isn't true, well why the hell not?" [laughs]
But then I started seeing how it wasn't always so. The Soviet Union and China demonstrated how that's not so linear. Socialism doesn't negate capitalism because there's still too much contradiction going on. There's still too much motion going on. It's not that easy.
Or when BA talks about objective reality and truth, what is truth? It doesn't matter who's speaking it. And if we're gonna be scientific and we're willing to go for revolution, we have to recognize that. That truth is not just gonna come from one sector of people, or people who have like-minded views. Like, I'm gonna agree with you because you're for communism, and I'm a disagree with him because he's for capitalism, even though he might hit on something that's true and something that we need to wrangle with. That was one of the things.
And then when BA talked about the world arena being decisive, and how all this shit going on in the world has an effect. It's not so isolated in one country and what you can do in this one country without taking the world as a whole into account and what you're gonna be facing. So when I thought about revolution, these are things you seriously take into account. You have to take up and incorporate them into your approach and into the theory that you're wielding.
I would read other things that weren't doing it. They weren't really being scientific, or they were ignoring a lot of this stuff. How the hell are we gonna make revolution that way?
I wasn't getting that from anywhere else but from BA and Revolution newspaper. so I would dig into that. I would try to understand it. I would try to see why is this true? Why is it not true? And the more I did, I'd be like, "OK, this is an undeniable fact." To the point where I couldn't argue with it anymore. And then I'd be like, "Damn let me find out what else I can argue with." [laughs]
But then I would have to recognize, "OK, why was I thinking this way? What was wrong with my approach? What was I proceeding from?"
I had read some anarchist literature and I was wary of leaders. I used to think like, "Man, who's this white guy?" I'd be like, "Why the hell is he so special?" Because Revolution would talk about BA and I was making judgments before I knew the content. The more I got into it, I'd be like, "Oh man, this is a really great white guy." [laughs]
So then I was questioning myself, "Why was I thinking this way? What was I proceeding from?" And I would recognize that narrowness, that nationalism, just errors in thinking of how we would actually make a revolution.
I did recognize the need for leaders. That's why anarchist literature didn't really appeal to me that much. I used to like some anarchists. Like I would read Emma Goldman and think, "Aw shit, she's cool." But I was like, "Fuck, we do need leaders because of all the unevenness in understanding of how we go forward, and somebody has to take responsibility for leading." So anarchist literature didn't really appeal to me. It was too unrealistic. Like BA said in that talk "The Material Basis and the Method for Making Revolution," "Have the humility to allow yourself to be led, without a hint of slavishness." That's a challenge.
Revolution: What do you mean?
X: There's work that you have to do. You have to take responsibility yourself, and if you're not correct, you have to recognize it. There's no place for arrogance in this, or selfishness, or egos. What the fuck are you fighting for then? You gotta throw that shit out the window. If you're proceeding from wanting to make revolution, then you have to ask yourself, "For whom and for what?"
Then it's not that big of a sacrifice to let that go or to recognize that's a rupture I need to make. So I'm glad somebody pointed that out. But there's still more that you have to do. You have to really get into why not? Like, why am I wrong? Dig into it. There's work to be done and you can't be just slavish about it. "OK, what's the line? OK, what's the line on this? Alright, I'll follow it." No. Why? Why is it correct? Why is it not correct?
Revolution: You were talking earlier about being driven to Marx, Lenin and Mao, and then there was a seriousness with which you wrestled with BA's work. What drove you to say, "If we're really gonna be about fundamental change, we gotta go to this theory?"
X: A few of us tried to have a study group once, but people got moved before it could really get going. But when we were talking about forming it, we talked about how we have to understand things more thoroughly in order to take it up, in order to really wield it and be able to explain to other people. I forget who says it, but there's a famous quote "If you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything." And I would look at history and be like, "Look at all these people who wanted to rise up against something, but there were these leaders leading them in the wrong way. And these people weren't grappling with line. They're not understanding where this will actually take them." They'd be like, "OK, these guys are the oppressors, let's go, let's rise up against them and that's good enough."
But it's not good enough. Because if the line is not correct, it could lead right back to the same situation and then people get demoralized. You look at a little bit of history and you see it happens over and over and over. And then people start to think "We can't change shit, that's just the way it is." And it's back to demoralization and things keep continuing the way it is. But that's wrong because it can change. It's just that you fucked up. You tried something that wasn't gonna work, something that was gonna leave the system intact. You didn't go for a fundamental change. You weren't trying to understand everything scientifically and why the world is the way it is. You thought it was just a few bad rulers, but you had a fucked up system. And then when you got the bad rulers out of power, you kept the system, and you realized shit kept being fucked up. You decided "Oh, you can't change anything anyway." So there has to be more wrestling with theory. You have to really understand it.
And then I started seeing the importance even more, when I started getting into Revolution and started learning more about how China got overturned. There were these capitalist roaders who were trying to take things back and there were different lines contending. Some of the lines these capitalists put forward sounded real logical to a lot of people who don't wrangle with this. "Ok, these are the more profitable industries, so let's focus on that." And it creates greater inequality, but it sounds good to a lot of people.
Or when people talk about the Middle East and they would recognize that the U.S. wants their oil. Some people would say, "Let those people get their oil and sell that oil and do whatever they want with it." But that just keeps the system intact and you're not gonna change shit. If they were to do that, you'd still see the misery there, with nothing having changed, And then you're like, "Aw, there's nothing we can do."
So you have to recognize that you have to break out of these relations. And the more you see that, the more you see the importance of theory if you're really gonna make revolution.
Sometimes it's hard, like "Mman, I don't want to wrestle with all that, that's too much." But you want to change the world and you're like, "Fuck, I have to. I have to do it. I have to get into this." I tried to wrestle with theory as much as I could. I remember being inspired by Mao. I started reading the footnotes on Volume 1 of Selected Works. And you see how much he's struggling to keep this on a revolutionary path and making sure it goes all the way to revolution, not settling for anything less than that. It's a constant struggle to keep a revolutionary line leading the whole thing. It could go away from that very easily.
So we need people wrangling with theory to keep things going on a revolutionary road, not lowering your sights to anything less than that, because it could be very easy to do. Cuz we're always facing difficulties and obstacles and people can get overwhelmed by that. But if you recognize that it could be a whole lot better, then like, "Fuck that, let's do everything we can to make sure we win and we take it all the way to communism.
This interview is posted in three segments. See also Part 1 (Breaking with the Gang Life Getting with the REAL Revolution) and Part 3 (Don't Risk Your Life Over Stupid Shit—Be Down for Revolution).
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
Pack the New York Courtroom on September 15
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Cecily McMillan was arrested at an Occupy Wall Street protest in March 2012. She was assaulted by the police, but she was charged with felony assault on a police officer. In May 2014, Cecily was found guilty and given 90 days in jail and five years probation. She served 58 days at the Rikers Island jail in New York City. Cecily has since spoken out, exposing the horrific prison conditions there. Because of her outspokenness and continued activism around social justice issues, the powers-that-be continue to target Cecily McMillan for harassment and harsh punishment. (See Revolution Interview: Cecily McMillan on Rikers Island: 'Truly Horrific and Inhumane'.")
Cecily is now facing another trial, set to begin on September 15. A call has gone out for people to pack the courtroom to support Cecily McMillan—to prevent the powers from putting her back behind bars. Here are the basic facts of the case:
On December 7, 2013, Cecily McMillan was on her way home. It was around one o'clock in the morning and she got on the Union Square L subway train in Manhattan. Sometime after sitting down on the train, she noticed two men hassling a young Latino man and a young Latina woman. She didn't understand what was going on, why the two men were being so abusive to these two people. So she spoke up, saying something like, "What's going on?" "Why are you doing this?" Turns out the two men were plainclothes cops.
The two cops arrested the two Latino people and started taking them to the police precinct in the Union Square subway station. Cecily followed along behind, wanting to watch and make sure that the cops didn't further abuse the two people and deny them their rights. Outside the precinct doors, she pulled out her cell phone and started to video to document what was going on.
All this was perfectly legal—Cecily was basically "blowing the whistle" on the cops who were harassing and abusing the two people,and then watching and documenting what was going on in the event that there was further police abuse.
But this was too much for the cops. They arrested Cecily, confiscated her phone (and by at least one report, when she got it back the video had been erased). They charged her with obstructing governmental administration—the prosecution claims in their complaint that Cecily interfered with the cops' ability to do their work concerning giving a ticket to the two people in the subway.
The cops treated Cecily roughly—they clearly did not like the fact that she was observing and questioning the abusive way they were treating the two people on the train. But when they took her in to be booked and found out she was the Occupy Wall Street protester who had been charged with assaulting a police officer in March 2012 (and at the time was scheduled to go to trial for this in the spring), they got even more nasty and they came down on her like a ton of bricks, both in their physically and verbally abusive treatment—and in their determination to give her outrageous charges that could put her back behind bars.
They said things like, "Oh, you must be having anxiety" and then took her glasses off so she couldn't see, which did cause her anxiety. They said, things like, “Oh, you must be having a lot of anxiety, can we take you to Bellevue?” (Bellevue is a public hospital with a famous psychiatric facility.)
The police arrested Cecily and kept her in jail. The two people on the train were ticketed and charged with entering through an exit gate and not paying the fare.
Cecily McMillan is now facing a possible sentence of one year in jail. Obstructing Governmental Administration is a Class A misdemeanor under the New York penal law, which is the maximum exposure in the case, making it eligible for a jury trial. This is extremely harsh and punitive for someone exercising their legal right to observe and attempting to document the police carrying out abusive treatment.
Some of the press coverage of this incident has been full of sensational misinformation, saying that Cecily made "threats to the police" and their families—a blatant and vicious lie. What Cecily was saying to the police—what they found "threatening"—was that she was questioning their abusive treatment of the two people on the train. What they found intolerable was that she was saying things like, "What's going on?" and "Why are you doing this?" and maybe telling the people that they had the right to remain silent—all things that are perfectly legal but that are a threat to the police's freedom to brutalize and abuse the people.
The people cannot allow the system to target, go after, and punish people like this—people who are standing up, exposing the abuses of the system, and trying to document and prevent police harassment and brutality. A call has gone out on Facebook, #PackTheCourts for Cecily McMillan, to pack the courtroom for Cecily McMillan on September 15, 9:30 am, 100 Centre Street, Manhattan, New York.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
September 4, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
Friday evening a Peace Festival was held at a park in the Chicago Westside neighborhood where Roshad McIntosh had been killed by police on August 24 and where a series of protests for Justice for Roshad had been held throughout the week. (See "Chicago West Side: Hundreds March for Justice for Roshad McIntosh and Against ALL Police Abuses") The festival was both a call for Justice and an encouragement to the youth in the area to come together to end the violence among the people.
There was a brief press conference where Roshad’s mother spoke, demanding the cop who killed her son be named and arrested and charged. After the press left the area people were kicking back, eating hotdogs and playing baseball and basketball. The baseball field had been padlocked all summer but now, following the angry protests for Justice in the community—and with the example of Ferguson, Missouri in the air, the park department decided that the field could be opened for the youth.
At the festival lawyers from First Defense, a legal aid group that provides free interim lawyers for anybody right after an arrest, had a table set up letting people know about their services. Others who had been part of the Occupy movement and had been in the protest earlier in the week were there as well. Revolution newspaper, palm cards for the October Month of Resistance, the Chicago Revolution Club Proclamation and whistles were passed out to people at the festival.
One revolutionary was hanging out with people in the park just chatting when someone noticed that a couple police cars had pulled into the park and cops were messing with youth on the basketball court.
The revolutionary began to head over to where the police were and someone said, “Look, he’s on business—I’m going too.” A crowd began to head over with the revolutionary while another crowd of people was coming from the other side of the park with some blowing whistles that had been passed out earlier.
In a very short time the police, their cars, and a young man they pulled off the basketball court and put in handcuffs were engulfed in a sea of people—a few blowing whistles while others were right up in the faces of the police demanding to know why they were messing with this young man—and demanding that they let him go. Lawyers from First Defense were in the crowd videoing and shouting out people’s rights.
The cops’ story, shouted out over the outrage of the crowd, was that they were “responding to a call that someone in a red and white shirt (which described a number of people at the event) had a gun.” The people, many of whom had been at protests against police brutality throughout the week, weren’t having it.
The pigs kept coming—more cars with blue lights flashing. And the people kept coming, too. One of the cops, with a young woman up in his face, unsnapped his holster. Someone yelled, “What you think you gonna do with that? Shoot her?” A few people put their hands in the air chanting, “Hands up—don’t shoot.”
The people did not back down. They didn’t just go about their business. They stood together. In the face of the determined crowd (and, no doubt, with Ferguson on their minds) the police uncuffed the young man and pulled back. And people also pulled back with the young man safely in their midst.
As the police backed their cars out of the park and people talked about how this is what they needed to do every time cops came after the youth, including the need for more whistles, someone called for the basketball and the game started back up.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
September 2, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On September 11, 2011, Tayshana Murphy, a promising nationally ranked point guard, was gunned down outside her door—in the hallway of the Grant Houses project in Harlem. People mourned for the high school senior who might have been able to escape the projects on a basketball scholarship, and hung their heads in despair for the youth caught up in a senseless crime like this. A lot of people thought that in this case, the police had a legitimate job to do. A lot of people—including many people actively opposing police harassment in the projects—said something had to be done about this.
What happened next is a lesson oppressed people need to learn. Shortly after Tayshana’s murder, two young men from the Harlem projects were arrested and then convicted for her murder. The mother of Tayshana and the mother of one of the men convicted had joined together in common cause to do something about violence among the youths from rival projects.
Then in June of this year, the NYPD descended on Grant Houses and Manhattanville Houses, with helicopters flying overhead in a full-out military assault, kicking down people’s doors, dragging whole families from their beds, and forcing them to the floor with guns to their heads. Young children were threatened and the pigs made jokes as they tore people’s houses apart. The images of waging war on a people looked no different than in Gaza or Iraq.
The justification cited by the NYPD for this escalation of police tactics, touted as “one of the biggest takedowns in NYPD history,” was an investigation into Tayshana’s murder. As Tayshana’s younger brother was hauled out of his mother’s home during the raid, the cynicism of this justification has about as much credibility as the lies the U.S. government tells to wage every unjust war it has begun.
This isn’t just excessive policies that no longer match the crime statistics—nor is it just rogue cops. The lesson oppressed people need to learn from this is that the police are there to protect a system of exploitation that rules over the people. The police, the courts, the prisons, the parole system, the welfare system people report to, are part of a state apparatus that enforces exploitation and the misery, inequality, and oppression that this stems from. “The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and order that enforces this oppression and madness.” (from BAsics 1:24)
New York mayor Bill de Blasio defended the military assault on Harlem, saying that the two housing projects “are a lot safer today because of this action, and you’re going to see a lot more of these kinds of actions whenever we are in a position to put together the evidence to do that kind of whole sweep.” “Troop movements have already begun,” he said. “You’re going to see a lot more next month, when our [police] recruits graduate.”
And this militarization of the police isn’t just in New York City. In June of this year, the American Civil Liberties Union released “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing,” a report that includes tracking of equipment donated through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Justice to funnel money and military materiel (firearms, explosives, vehicles, battle uniforms, and armored vehicles) to hundreds of local police departments.
Bill de Blasio was elected mayor with a campaign promising an end to stop-and-frisk. What he actually did was bring in as police commissioner William Bratton—the architect under the Giuliani regime of “zero tolerance” policing, also called the “broken windows” theory—that police could prevent crime by going after petty offenses and minor crimes like drinking in public, jumping turnstiles, sleeping on the streets, littering, etc. This is a method of policing that has been adopted nationwide and has been responsible for drastically driving up the number of arrests and incarcerating a hugely disproportionate number of Black and Latino people. It is a genocidal doctrine that has jacketed people with criminal records at very young ages. In Los Angeles, where Bratton was sent after the LA rebellion in 1992, mass stops of young Black men and boys resulted in a database containing the names, addresses, and biographical information of the overwhelming majority of young Black men in the entire city. The database was justified as a tool for tracking “gang-related activity.”
William Bratton is a strategic operative for the U.S. ruling class—from the early ’90s he has pioneered police strategy like the “broken windows” policy—aimed at making large cities like New York centers that are safe for imperialism to operate from. Bratton, as police commissioner, and Mayor Giuliani declared war on the homeless and the city’s poorest neighborhoods. They laid siege to artistic expression and the right of Black and Latino youths to hang out or congregate in public. After his stint in NYC, Bratton started a string of lucrative private security companies, including one that served as the LAPD’s so-called “independent review” agency. He then left the private sector to serve as police commissioner of Los Angeles after the LA rebellion—to rebuild the crumbled credibility and morale of the LAPD.
Bratton has specialized as a consultant for cities that have experienced civil unrest: London, where David Cameron tried to hire him as police chief after the London Riots of 2009; Oakland, in the wake of a sustained upsurge of resistance after the police murder of Oscar Grant; and a crackdown on the Occupy movement that aroused tens of thousands to march in support of Occupy and against the police repression. He’s been a visiting consultant for the governments of Mexico City, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Johannesburg, South Africa.
De Blasio has stood by William Bratton’s decision to continue arrests for marijuana possession that have disproportionately impacted hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino youths who have been charged for possession of minor amounts of marijuana since 2002. De Blasio, in the tradition of Giuliani, has also remained committed to Bratton’s racist doctrine of zero tolerance, rolling this out with a campaign to arrest teenagers in hip-hop dance crews for performing on subway cars!
Now that stop-and-frisk has become the subject of exposure and public outcry, those who run the city have simply shifted gears to drive the same systematic oppression forward, using the zero tolerance doctrine to continue the harassment and terror being perpetrated in Black and Latino neighborhoods. Within days of the July 11 police execution of Eric Garner for selling untaxed cigarettes, bystanders filmed the same illegal chokehold being used for the “crime” of jumping a turnstile.
William Bratton’s stated goal has been to make cities like New York “safe.” Safe not for the people living under police terror but safe to be the financial center for an empire of worldwide exploitation—and Bratton, like others at the top of this system, sees a potential threat to that “safety” in the many millions of oppressed people who also live in the mega cities of the world. Police doctrine like stop-and-frisk or zero tolerance is based on carrying out counter-insurgency against millions of oppressed people and several generations of youth who the system has no future for. Bratton’s so-called “broken windows” theory, with its objective to prevent crime before it occurs, really is the selling of a doctrine of domestic counter-insurgency with the objective of preventing possible insurgency before it occurs.
The criminalization of whole peoples—the militarization of the police departments that enforce a daily hell for those who have to scratch out a way of survival in this capitalist system—this has to end. And there’s another lesson to take away from this as well: They may seem all powerful, but all their doctrine tells you that they don’t think they are. They are more convinced of the possibility of insurgency—of the possibility of revolution that the oppressed themselves cannot see. It takes science and a party to wield science to be able to see how that could all crack apart—and for a real revolution to get rid of this system and replace it with something radically and entirely different. To learn more about why revolution is possible and how it could be fought and won... check out the RCP’s “On the Strategy for Revolution,” printed as a supplement in Bob Avakian’s book, BAsics.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
August 30, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We are reprinting this article with permission.
August 28, 2014. The headline, “In Texas, Activist Group ‘Stop Patriarchy” Draws Criticism’ and the first two paragraphs might first appear like an objective report; however, your blog, reprinted in Bitch is not a report, but a trash job. Come clean, Katie Klabusich, Texans for Reproductive Justice is you and your buddies in an ad hoc group formed for the sole purpose of opposing Stop Patriarchy and their mission to come to Texas, protest the TRAP laws that are closing down Texas clinics and their goal of linking this to the nationwide emergency facing abortion rights.
I’m on the advisory board of Stop Patriarchy and I went on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride for one week.
So, you have not given me or anyone else one good reason not to support Stop Patriarchy. Your criticisms are baseless; if anything, they are reasons to support Stop Patriarchy.
It is great that we attract media attention because we go to where the Patriarchy is crushing women down; our demonstrations are photogenic; we have good slogans, “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology”; we have attention-arresting enlargements of photos of women who have died from illegal abortion and great props dramatizing that enforced pregnancy is unconstitutional “involuntary servitude.” We have great fliers and dramatize women’s abortion stories. We get national and local media response, in addition to getting out broadly into the communities across Texas and talking to real people – not just people in the existing “movement” – the majority of whom know nothing about the clinic closures and have never heard anyone speak positively about abortion. I saw this have a real positive impact on people’s thinking. What is not to like about that?
You ask where the money we raised went? $30,000.00 is not much these days, especially when dozens of you fly or drive to the destination and you have to use cars and stay in motels, but if you sleep on the floor and cook your own food, you can make it stretch. What money do you think is not accounted for?
You all call Stop Patriarchy racist because we say that forced motherhood is female enslavement? A woman accepts the pains and dangers of wanted pregnancy and labor, but when we are forced to endure them, what would you call it? A walk in the park? You call us Islamaphobic because we condemn the patriarchy that forces women to wear the burka? We condemn Western patriarchy that pressures women to be sex objects and wear body-restricting clothing like thongs. Is that Islamaphobic? And, who says Stop Patriarchy is against sex workers because we are against pornography? Is being against sweatshops also being against underpaid laborers who work in unhealthy conditions?
None of these are good reasons for opposing and seeking to sabotage Stop Patriarchy.
Let’s get to the meat of what is burning your buns. We did not get permission from you all to come protest at the Federal Courthouse in Austin at the hearings to decide whether to let the restrictions on clinics go into effect this September 1st, did we? Katie, did you notice that we demonstrated at the FEDERAL courthouse? That’s because the question before the court was whether the law violated the U.S. constitution, and that affects all of us, doesn’t it? Just because it happens on Texas soil is irrelevant. We don’t have to ask permission. Get over it.
Also, you are upset we did not use our money to pay for women’s abortions now that Texas women are being forced to travel and incur extra costs. Well, that is a political decision. Most people who call themselves reproductive rights groups consider themselves “political.” Political means engaging in the political process. Protesting is a time-honored way of being political, and while we are all consternated at the injustice against Texas women that is being perpetrated, social change will only come about through political organizing, which costs money.
What really makes me question your ad hoc group’s opposition to Stop Patriarchy, Katie, is that you want to keep SP from protesting in Texas, because they are “disreputable” and many of them support the Revolutionary Communist Party. Why do you think this disqualifies us from being part of the reproductive rights movement?
I have been a reproductive rights activist and an abortion provider for over 40 years, and I am on the advisory board of Stop Patriarchy. I am aware that Stop Patriarchy is an effort that Sunsara Taylor and other supporters of the RCP initiated which also includes others who believe in the goals of Stop Patriarchy, such as I. I believe that we need a revolution in this country, but think it has to be a feminist-led revolution that transforms our society, therefore I am not a communist, but I have known these folks since before 1979. I esteem them as fellow progressives that share my opposition to U.S. imperialist wars, and mass incarceration of poor, black and brown people, and I condemn your red-baiting.
The red-baiting brings up an interesting question, Katie, are you guys against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the blatant use of our law enforcement machinery to imprison so many young men of color and the murder of Trayvon Martin and now Michael Brown? Or, are you all the kind of reproductive rights activists that believes that the women’s movement is just about raising women’s status in our society, and not about broader social justice. That might explain your group’s slurs.
I have to wonder if you folks have lined up with the Democratic Party who continues to support Hyde Amendment restrictions and the mealy-mouthed “choice” people whose only goal is to reduce female fertility, and you do not want us “disreputable” protestors to raise hell about these TRAP laws.
I would like to say why I came to Texas at this time to protest these laws. First, I have watched our defeat in Texas with dismay, and I wanted to come join in with the protests of Texans and to voice my own outrage. Second, I see more and more attacks coming around the country, and I see very little visible protest occurring. Mostly everything is left up to Planned Parenthood and the Democrats, and I am sick of it. I think it’s time for outspoken protests saying “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology.” I respect that Texans have been working hard on this issue, but it has not been enough. We need to do more. In L.A., in NYC, everywhere. I invite Texans who are working for Reproductive Freedom and Justice to come to California. We need some help too.
Carol Downer is a co-founder of Feminist Women’s Health Center Los Angeles which began doing abortions in 1971
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Speech by revcom.us correspondent Alan Goodman at the August 14, 2014 New York City teach-in, "Stop Israel's Ongoing War Crimes Against the People of Gaza."
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
Marches in Chicago and New York City:
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
August 20, New York City: Demonstrators marched over the Brooklyn Bridge in support of the people of Gaza. Late in the evening, the march merged with protesters on the Lower East Side marching for justice for Michael Brown.
August 21, Chicago: Activists, including Jewish Voice for Peace, protest a “Chicago Stands With Israel” fundraiser sponsored by the Jewish United Fund at the Chicago Hilton hotel. During a speech by the Israeli Ambassador to the United States, they chanted “Shame.”
In both Chicago and New York, signs and chants raised “Occupation is a crime, Ferguson to Palestine.”
Growing links between these struggles are an inspiring development. These outrages flow from a common source of oppression in the global system of capitalism-imperialism, and these links are an important development in forging a common struggle of the people of the world against that system.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Get the print edition of Revolution #350/351 out far and wide. Hand it out on the street, leave it in laundromats, waiting rooms, barber shops and beauty parlors... send it to friends, old and new... post it on big boards in key places in the community... but GET IT OUT!
This issue contains a beautiful poster-size announcement of the Dialogue... a very powerful article on watching the movie Fruitvale Station with Bob Avakian... and coverage of critical and controversial events all over the world as well.
So again—get this out, and let IT do its work!
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
September 8, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Beginning on September 15, the print edition of Revolution newspaper will appear bi-weekly (every other week). This is an important step in two ways: first, for revcom.us to more fully meet the needs of our audience—now tens of thousands of people each month, but needing to grow to hundreds of thousands in the coming period. And second, for the print edition to play a new and changed role in society, including as a key way of introducing people to, and driving them to, revcom.us.
Revcom.us will increasingly respond in real-time to major events, and new online editions of Revolution will appear every week.
Revcom.us is the home of Revolution—the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Each week, revcom.us promotes and popularizes the work of Bob Avakian (BA) and introduces thousands to this revolutionary leader. It features reports and letters on all the developments in building the movement for revolution. And it speaks to how to scientifically understand and act to radically change the world. It is pivotal to carrying out the RCP’s strategy for making revolution, including being a key way to organize and accumulate forces for revolution.
In the last few weeks, our readers have had a taste of the role this website can play in speaking to tens of thousands as it covered and continues to cover the fierce struggle for Justice for Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, and beyond. It was at revcom.us that people not only heard the voices of the people of Ferguson, but in a concentrated way were able to see the interests of different class forces at work. Revcom.us carried coverage of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride. And at the same time, people read about the brutal assault by Israel against Gaza, and were able to see the real connections between these different events in the world. And with new emphasis on graphics, audio, video, sharable posters, and other accessible content, revcom.us should be increasingly accessible to people of all walks of life, including those normally locked out of online content.
With this change in our print publication schedule, the bi-weekly print edition will be transformed. In a concentrated way and with many more graphics, it will actively promote and popularize the leadership and work of BA and the Revolutionary Communist Party and feature key articles, editorials, interviews, and letters that speak to the events of the day, report on the movement for revolution, and address key questions of the revolution.
The print edition can and should find its way into the neighborhoods and onto the campuses. In the coming weeks, it will be one major way to reach out to thousands and spread the word of the November 15 Dialogue Between Cornel West and Bob Avakian at Riverside Church in New York City. And at key junctures, like the upcoming People’s Climate March, it can reach tens of thousands.
For our readers who do not have access to the Internet and rely on the print edition as their connection to BA, the Party, and the movement for revolution, especially prisoners, ways will be found to circulate longer pieces and especially new works by BA that may not be printed in our paper.
Increased emphasis on revcom.us and transformations in the style and content of the print Revolution require a whole range of volunteers—designers, photographers, video editors, web designers, translators, and much more, as well as posing the need for substantial new fundraising. Get involved!
Revolution #352 September 8, 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 #352 September 8, 2014
September 11, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Especially in light of the announcement of the truly historic Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian on November 15 in New York City, a team of revolutionaries who traveled to Martha’s Vineyard this summer want to share some of our experience in taking out BA Everywhere, along with the October Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration and the whole ensemble of revolutionary work, to the residents and vacationers on the island —focusing on the significant numbers of African-American intellectuals, artists, and more propertied Black families from around the country who spend time on Martha’s Vineyard over the summer.
Among other things, our experience—especially in the midst of the defiant stand of the people of Ferguson, Missouri, after the murder of Michael Brown, revealed both the necessity and basis to make this Dialogue a major societal event and a political and ideological turning point broadly throughout society—part of which involves reaching out to a diverse spectrum of people to take it up in many different ways; contributing financially towards its success; holding meetings and discussions of the speakers’ works in preparation for it; spreading word of it around the country; and attending or developing ways to watch it with others, just to name a few.
Our experience absolutely demonstrates the importance of reaching out to this section of people, many of whom may have never considered revolution and communism as a viable, let alone desirable, pathway towards ending the inequities they are deeply aware of. At the same time, this is challenging many of us—revolutionaries and supporters of the movement for revolution—to dig more deeply into our own understanding of what it is going to take for this revolution to have a shot at winning—both in terms of the forces that need to be involved in this movement and the content of the struggle necessary to engage in.
The first question is: “Why even go to Martha’s Vineyard ?”—an island off the coast of Massachusetts best known as a vacation destination for more privileged sections of society, including presidents and celebrities? We really had to struggle over this. Our starting point was BAsics 3:19: "There will never be a revolutionary movement in this country that doesn’t fully unleash and give expression to the sometimes openly expressed, sometimes expressed in partial ways, sometimes expressed in wrong ways, but deeply, deeply felt desire to be rid of these long centuries of oppression [of Black people]. There’s never gonna be a revolution in this country, and there never should be, that doesn’t make that one key foundation of what it’s all about.”
While there are definite class divisions within the African-American community, the BA quote doesn’t distinguish between poor and better-off Black people. It is making the point that the oppression of Black people is foundational to U.S. imperialism, and its elimination is equally foundational to the movement to end it. Members of our team had to struggle over this point as we prepared to go to the Vineyard—especially because there have been individual experiences with people from this stratum who have seemed to want to distance themselves from the conditions of the basic masses or who have seemed intent on promoting programs for incremental change with no hope of bringing about lasting transformation.
We also talked about the disproportionate influence this community of Black intellectuals and artists have—both within the African-American community as a whole but also more broadly in society, as well as the particular concentration and mix on Martha’s Vineyard. We talked about how so many of these people had put their hopes and dreams in the election of Barack Obama, only to have those hopes left empty and unfulfilled—and where they are often defending the Obama presidency publicly while privately struggling with their own anger and frustrations. Or even those who are relatively satisfied with the Obama presidency and who see the “system” as something that prevented him from acting in the way they thought he wanted to. And while we didn’t entirely resolve our contradictions, we did put ourselves on a much firmer footing to engage people.
This was all very important because taking out BA Everywhere is a form of class struggle in the ideological and political arena, and that class struggle is not one-sided. The rulers of this country have a very clear understanding that one of the key elements to their ability to rule is the allegiance of this section of the middle strata, including among African-Americans. President Obama, who has frequently vacationed on the Vineyard, was there during the same time as our team, doing major fundraising among this very section of people, and it did not go unnoticed that Hillary Clinton was also there at a well-attended book-signing party just prior to our visit.
So, even before events in Ferguson, the team was grappling with the strategic importance of taking BA Everywhere and the movement for revolution to Martha’s Vineyard.
Over the course of several days on the island, we met hundreds of people, attending concerts, film showings, significant book signings, and other cultural events. Our team spent several hours talking with people at Inkwell Beach, the historic gathering place for vacationing Black families in the town of Oak Bluffs and where people like Spike Lee, Henry Louis Gates, and Stanley Nelson (director of Freedom Summer) currently spend their summers. We distributed several hundred copies of the statement from Revolution newspaper, “We Stand With the Defiant Ones” as well as several dozens of the fundraising brochure, “The World Needs to Be Radically Changed—Here’s Step One,” and many copies of Revolution newspaper.
We found ourselves in conversations with Black families from New Haven; Washington, DC; Boston; Los Angeles; Detroit; New York; San Francisco and all points in between—some who were familiar with or had been to the Revolution Books in their city. We also talked with many year-round residents of the Vineyard, both Black and white, who often revealed a deep disquiet over the state of the planet and interest in the possibilities of fundamental change.
Some people attempted to dismiss us as trapped in a “conventional wisdom” of radical change. Others thought we were entirely out of our minds to think there could be a revolution in a country as wealthy (and as militarized) as the United States. Still others took us to task for not appreciating the significance of a Black president sending a Black attorney general to Ferguson to investigate the police shooting of a Black youth with the refrain, “This represents a real change!” Sometimes we were able to follow up and get into how little change there really was, but other times people simply threw this at us as they walked away, unwilling to confront the disturbing reality.
But much more often (and sometimes in the same conversation), there were very important and often uncomfortable connections being made. In a conversation after a screening of Freedom Summer that drew several hundred people, one woman commented as to how the images from the movie made her think about the images coming out of Ferguson. And when a team member said they also reminded him of the images of the Israel invasion of Gaza, they ended up talking about the infamous “hippos”—tanks used by the apartheid South African government against black people in that country and what linked all these together was a system of capitalism and imperialism. Many people were profoundly disturbed by the images from Ferguson, and we were repeatedly asked about how it could be, 50 years after passage of the Civil Rights Act, that there were tanks in the streets and snipers on the buildings taking aim at Black people again. Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin were both fresh in people’s minds.
A woman from the West Coast told us one of the main reasons she continues to come back to the Vineyard is that it’s the one place where she can see her teenage son go off at night with his friends and her not staying up all night worrying about what might happen to him. “Even so, I still give him a talking to about how to carry himself and how to make sure to act in a certain way in any situations with the police.”
At the entrance of the predominantly Black Inkwell Beach in Oak Bluffs, team members took out the posters of BA's “Three Strikes...” quote and with “We Reject Slavery in Any Form,” and one that read, “The People on Inkwell Beach, Martha’s Vineyard Stand With the People of Ferguson.” The posters were a magnet of attraction, and people lined up to get their pictures taken holding the sign declaring solidarity with Ferguson.
While families were busy hurrying to and from the beach, many stopped and were often amazed at finding themselves in deep discussions with revolutionary communists. One man, with a family from Los Angeles, declared that the revolution was already going on and he was proof, a Black family from California wealthy enough to vacation on Martha’s Vineyard, and that it was time for Black people to “money up”—put more money into the Black communities. At the same time, his 10-year-old son interjected that it just wasn’t right that the government had called out the National Guard to put down people protesting against the police killing of a Black man, and his wife commented that she just didn’t see how a revolution could succeed in this country.
Towards the end of this conversation that often was very intense, the team member involved ended by reflecting that despite everything the man had said, he had to agree that there was just something not right where we live in a society where his 10-year-old son understands and can comment intelligently on the fact that the National Guard is being used to suppress people striving to get justice for another young Black man murdered by the police. It was both serious and lighthearted in the same instant, and as they parted, the man came over to make a contribution to and thank the comrade for her time.
At one point, another team member commented on the fact that it seemed relatively easy to unite on one level with people around events in Ferguson, so the team walked through what it meant for events in Ferguson to concentrate the whole horrific experience of the oppression of Black people and the importance of giving people an opportunity to stand with the defiant ones of Ferguson, while more deeply engaging with who are “the people” and the necessity of revolution and of engaging with BA. We talked about the role of the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jackson Jr. s, and especially U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder in promoting calm while the iron fist of the state was confronting demonstrators.
This became more of a dividing line with many people we met who, for the most part, said they stood with the people of Ferguson. As our discussions deepened, some saw this as standing with the “peace police” calling for calm (as they vilified the defiant youth and revolutionaries who stood with them), while others more firmly united with the actions of the demonstrators who refused to back down. These people generally had a more clear understanding that, without the actions of the “defiant ones,” few people would even had heard of Michael Brown’s death, and often expressed pride in the youth. Again, many we met drew comparisons to the freedom riders of the civil rights era whose sharp, defiant, and necessary stand was often controversial even among progressive forces.
Wherever we went, we found people who wanted to talk. On one bus ride, a middle-aged white woman who lives on the Vineyard asked who the person on one team member’s shirt was. When we replied it was Bob Avakian, leader of the movement for revolution, she replied, “Good, we need some kind of revolution.” When we went on to tell her that he is the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, who has been developing a new synthesis of communism, she continued on unabashed—referring to different outrages and horrors around the world that demanded radical change and expressing her happiness at seeing revolutionaries on the island, as she exited the bus.
At another bus stop, we met a Black family from outside Detroit attending part of the Martha’s Vineyard African American Film Festival. When we showed them Revolution newspaper, two or three discussions jumped off at once, including one about the immorality of what has happened to the people of Detroit. One older woman almost demanded, “Do you realize that people in Detroit do not have the right to clean water? That thousands of people are being cut off from clean water? And it’s not because there isn’t any water—there’s lots of water. The water companies are selling it to all the towns around Detroit. It’s because there is no profit to getting it to the people. It’s all about the bottom line. If you can’t make a profit, it doesn’t matter what the people need. What do you think the president is doing about that? Nothing! Yes we do need some kind of revolution!” Again, this was a conversation cut short, but the woman left with a copy of Revolution and a BA Everywhere fundraising brochure.
There are too many anecdotes to share in this letter, including an exclusive fundraising reception where, after being told he was talking to a revolutionary communist and follower of BA, a middle-aged Black man launched into a conversation about having studied Marx, and how he considered himself a democratic-socialist, and began talking about how there would have to be a revolution to end the madness all around us but cautioned that the one problem with the communist movement historically was “white chauvinism,” while giving contact information at the end of the conversation to “pursue the discussion.”
Towards the beginning of going to the Vineyard, some team members had expressed a certain frustration that they weren’t going to Ferguson, to stand with the youths in the street in the face of the attacks from the state. As we were summing up our experience, someone suggested we step back for a moment and survey the bigger picture. At the very moment that Carl Dix and activists for the movement for revolution and BA were out in the tear-gas-filled streets and neighborhoods of Ferguson, bringing both their support but also their vision of a whole different world to the defiant youth and others taking on the outrage of Michael Brown’s murder, our team had gone to what is seen as an enclave of privilege and wealth to challenge people to stand with the oppressed but also to start seriously engaging with this movement for revolution and Bob Avakian whose work and leadership is so essential to understanding how to end these outrages. To project this out over the country, we began to get a sense of a pretty important synergy that has great potential going forward.
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
Reporter's Notebook from Ferguson
September 11, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On August 29, revolutionaries went out to talk to people in Ferguson, in the neighborhood where Michael Brown was killed. This was a day of many rich conversations where revolutionaries learned a lot. It was a day when many people who had met the revolutionaries out protesting in the streets got to know more about the movement for revolution, the revolutionary leader Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party he leads. This was a day of people starting to get with this movement for revolution. A reporter from Revolution/revcom.us was there and filed this report:
A handful of revolutionaries accompanied by a youth from Ferguson went to Canfield Green, a complex of wood and brick apartments set on a wide street surrounded by green lawns and trees full of thousands of chirping crickets. They brought posters “We Stand with the Defiant Ones,” and a poster with the demands: “Indict and jail the killer cop, fire the police chief, and a complete accounting of all that happened.” Everyone they met got at least one poster and a copy of Revolution newspaper.
One youth, XX, who came out with the revolutionaries, had been out at the protests in the first days. He really liked and respected the role revolutionaries played in the protests and had marched with them several times – he liked the chants. Later he had listened to the New Year’s message from Bob Avakian and had been challenged to get involved with the revolution. When asked if he knew anyone who could grill, for the picnic the revolutionaries were planning to have on Labor Day he said, “I'm the grill man! You're talking to him.” Out in the neighborhood he helped talk to people and made recommendations for where to go.
The memorial in the middle of the street where Michael Brown's blood had flowed, has become a destination for those who are outraged by the murder and inspired by the resistance, with people coming from hundreds of miles away to see the place where Michael Brown’s young life was so brutally ended.
We met a woman who works in real estate and had been witness to the aftermath of Michael's murder. She talked to us about the recent history of brutality and murder involving law enforcement in the area.
We met a couple who had come from Illinois. The man had on a T-shirt depicting Olympic champions Tommie Smith and John Carlos raising their fists at the 1968 Olympics. When he learned that some people had come from Oakland to stand with the people of Ferguson, he said he had always wanted to go there, because it was the birth place of the Black Panther Party. He said, “The Black Panther Party was originally organized to patrol the neighborhood against police who were not there to serve and protect but to pick up and harass. Same thing happening here. We need to change, we don't want to go backwards. I'm concerned because this happens all over. They've indicted Michael Brown, smeared his memory, but not the officer who killed him. There is a culture of killing young Black men that needs to stop.”
Two young men, 20 and 26, came walking up the sidewalk asked what the revolutionaries were handing, out and when they saw the posters they took some to put up and to give to others. One said he had joined the protests after he saw that it was a demand for justice and that the authorities weren't giving justice. The other youth said “I ain't never seen a lot of commotion like in one time. That's what brought me out. I had to check it out and see what was going on. When I saw it, wow. At first I didn't believe it was true. You always see these type of events in movies. I was kind of like shocked, for real.” They got serious when asked about how Police Captain Ron Johnson is giving nightly press conferences saying that the protests should stop and about how it's good to see “Ferguson back” to normal. “No. They done shot him. They want us to stop? They did enough. Now it's time for us to do our thing. It's crazy. The cop needs to be in jail.”
At one door the revolutionaries knocked on, two young women were in a hurry, getting ready to go to work in the evening. The revolutionaries explained they had the posters for people to put up to make the point the demands are still unmet, and to stand with those who had risen up. Did the women want the posters? They answered: “Do you have tape?” One gave a donation and the posters went up.
When the revolutionaries were about to leave several older women in their 30's and 40's yelled at them from up the street, “where's my poster?” So they doubled back and more posters got out and up in windows. One woman said “don't put it on the outside, put it on the inside, I don't want nobody stealing my poster.” Another women described being there that day, hearing the gunshots. She talked about other police murders and brutality, how she hated it. A member of the Revolution Club said he was from New York, and the woman asked about Eric Garner (a 43-year-old Black man choked to death by police in New York 23 days before Michael Brown was murdered) and what was happening around that, and talked about how sickening it was to see the video of the killer cop smiling and waving at the camera after choking Garner to death.
Up the street, a group of people sat under a canopy and handed out water. A man in his 30’s explained that they had organized themselves to help fellow residents after Michael Brown's murder, when many people were afraid to go out, felt locked into their homes by the police cruising and posting up all over the area. People feared for their safety, especially for their kids' safety. So they set up tents, got food and water for the complex and generally helped people through all of this.
The young brother who worked the tents from the very beginning said: “If they don’t indict the cop things are going to go up,” and “Yes we need to build resistance.” He said, “We have given the rest of the world a license to stand up.” He got a copy of BAsics and took a number of posters to put up in his apartment complex.
After that the revolutionaries went a short distance to West Florissant Street. They met some men sitting in an area with tents. Some of them have organized into a group called the Lost Voices. They were in the parking lot designated as a place where people could be stationary, where they did not have to keep moving, so one man slept there overnight on his book bag, saying “I'm not leaving.” More people started staying. People started bring food, water, clothes which they distributed to help the struggle. “We're a group of individuals who are likeminded, doing this to fight for justice for everyone, white, Black, Mexicans, Hispanic, whatever race you are. We're doing it for everyone who has been treated unfairly, and who also has suffered brutality from police officers. Unlawful imprisonment, unjust arrests.” They showed us their library: Slavery by Another Name, The Warmth of Other Suns, At the Dark End of the Street,” and other books. They took a copy of BAsics for the library. One man talked about how he had been locked up twice during the protests. He said that many people who had been arrested during the protests were still in jail because of warrants they had, mainly for non-payment of traffic fines, “a tactic they are using to stop the protests – “that's why many who were strong supporters out here aren't here no more.” He spoke about authorities and others bringing in “a big broom and a big dustpan,” talking about healing and calm and trying to quell the protests. And he said he was down for the long haul, “I'm 42 years old, I've spent 17 years in prison. If I die out here, that's ok.”
People we met were intrigued to hear about a movement for revolution being built. Some listened to the New Year's message from Bob Avakian, commenting: “He's breaking it down. Telling it like it is.”
After a brief thunderstorm, revolutionaries returned to the street after dark. At the first pass the streets were almost empty. About to leave the area, the revolutionaries heard chants in the distance, and saw about 20+ young people marching quickly, chanting “Hands Up, Don't Shoot.” The revolutionaries joined the group o f mainly young men, some young women; mostly Black but some white youth as well.
The march flowed into the street, people were excited, jumping. A county police K-9 SUV came toward the march, lights flashing, and the march crossed the street to march in the opposite lane. Two more K-9 units stopped by the small march, youth faced off, and after a minute or two the police moved away. People were chanting, “We young, we strong, we're marching all night long.”
Afterward many people remained nearby, a couple others were shooting hoops in the near blackness in the parking lot, others were sitting around in groups of threes and fours, discussing and struggling over many questions and enjoying the warm night. The young guy, XX, who has been running with the revolutionaries off and on during the last two weeks was eager to engage more deeply. What was this revolution about? Why did they always hire police who had a history of brutality? Were there good and bad police? When revolutionaries brought up that this systematic repression was because we are ruled by a capitalist system and we need a communist revolution, one man asked if we couldn't just combine the best aspects of capitalism and communism, ‘cause some people like one and some the other. This was discussed – about how this system is totally unreformable and that we need revolution, nothing less.
Two women were also sitting close, really seemed to be looking for a way to fight this. One looked at the centerfold from the newspaper that shows Ferguson, Gaza and children being detained for crossing the U.S. border. She focused on the pictures of the children, “they put them in JAIL? That ain't right. They should get them in homes, take care of them.” A revolutionary got out his phone, and four heads bent to watch the video, “BA Through the Years.” During the video one woman said, “This really means we got to do this now, he's been talking about this for a long time.” The spirit was that “we are the ones who are going to change the whole fucking world.” When BA was talking about people thinking this is the only world possible, trying to be big dogs in a dog-eat-dog world, one woman said “oh, that's a quote,” cracking up during the part about someone who settled for being the “baddest broke-leg motherfucker”...instead of getting down and stopping people's legs from getting broken. One said “that's what we need to do.” They really liked the very end when BA talks about how we are capable of much greater things than this. “That's right.” One woman said “Thank you, I needed to hear this!”
Revolution #352 September 8, 2014
Reporter's Notebook from Ferguson
September 11, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A reporter for Revolution/revcom.us was with the crew of revolutionaries who went out to talk to people in Ferguson on August 29. The following is from an interview with a woman who lives in the neighborhood where Michael Brown was killed:
[On the day Michael Brown was shot] a couple of us pulled over because the stepfather was standing there with a sign, “police just executed my son.” So I walked down with the Channel 4 guy; he said “I'm scared, can I walk with you?” I said “Sure.” He said there might be a riot–the word “riot” came up and it wasn't even 80 people out here. And so when they brought in the dogs and everything, we were just standing there. There were St. Louis cops standing there with an M16, they had submachine guns – there wasn't even a hundred people. Then they started coming down with dogs. And I was standing next to Mike Brown's cousin, and whatever people who weren't afraid to come down.
That's the second time –I saw another boy gunned down in the street. He was from over here. He got shot behind Sam's Meat Market right here. He laid there and they charged him with assault on an officer and he lived. But they put a sheet over him–it's been less than a year. He was shot by Ferguson police officers – they put a sheet over him like he was dead. He was not dead. We were standing there and they were covering it up. Just like they tried to cover this up.
They tried to put his body in their car. Now, how many other times have they done that? But too many people started coming. And everybody started putting it on Facebook and more and more people came. And they literally called the dogs on us while everybody was just standing there. That boy laid there. His mother was on her knees crying. Not one paramedic touched him. There was an RN there. They told her to get back. How do we know he was dead?
Just like that other boy, they wanted him to die too, but he didn't die, him, he ran to the end of the building. They shot him a couple times and they charged him with all kind of felonies and assault against an officer. And they wouldn't let anybody back there and that's what happened. And that's been less than a year ago. He's in jail now.
It's ongoing, there was a 13-year-old that got choked out. So it's been a history. Ferguson does have a couple of cops that live in the neighborhood, people know them, they don't harass them. But (the police) they do harass the youth. This is not the first person killed and this is not the first person shot by them. And that's why they blatantly did it in the daytime, because they been doing it and they figured “we can get away with it again.”
But it's been going on a long time. If they pulled the records of how many minorities have been shot within the past year or two years by Ferguson police I bet they would see something, but nobody has talked about that. And I have literally seen with my own two eyes, two shootings.
What do people face here on a daily basis from law enforcement?
On a daily basis, truthfully speaking there has been continuous harassment of the youth here. I personally know of two teenagers under the age of 16 – one got arrested and taken to the Ferguson police station, ok and these are minority children I'm speaking of – just for laughing. Because the cop pulled up on ‘em really quick. Same way that witnesses have said this officer did. Pulls up on the kids not just to harass, but to instill fear in them, very early on. So that fear is instilled in them so that they know “oh, here they come.” So the kids are being arrested, they're being harassed, if you're a racial minority, and it happens mostly to the younger people in the community.
I read a report that police here have a program of harassment where they ticket people and then arrest them and then jail them for warrants for unpaid fines.
And it could have to do with code enforcement, for housing, like a house that needs work and get fines, and they have a warrant. Warrants for traffic tickets, for code enforcement, they charge ‘em five or six thousand dollars. How are they every going to pay that, and if they don't they lock you up. I would say 95 % is Black. This is not just in Ferguson, it is in St. Anne and in Hazelwood, where they beat a guy to death about two years ago and they said “oh he was on drugs,” and they swept it under the rug. And Hazelwood has one or two Black officers. And then there was another young man downtown that was also killed by the police week before last. And there was the mentally disabled man last week.
Nothing much has changed – in regards to police murder, incarceration, having felonies placed upon them. Can't vote if you have felonies. Can't get a job. So they arrest them, give ‘em felonies, some that are first time offenders, some that are innocent. And you have to have a lot of money to try to fight the system, which most of the time people don't have. I have a son who is incarcerated and another son who is fighting a case in California.
People stood up. And said they're tired, and we're not going to take it anymore. You're not going to just kill our kids. And they're so many witnesses –some of the witnesses are scared. So many recordings. When I was standing there a lady told me that when the cop shot him, he reached out the car and grabbed him by his neck. He shot him in the chest, and then he got out of his car, stood over him after he had been shot a few times, and shot two more times. These are the things the media won't tell. Everybody is saying the same and I really believe that. She had tears in her eyes. And I saw how he just laid there like an animal in the street, and his mother was on her knees and his whole family was crying. And they kept pushing ‘em back. They didn't wanted anybody to see. They didn't want anybody to know what really happened. That's why they didn't let anybody near.