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Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
From A World To Win News Service
October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
October 6, 2014. A World to Win News Service. The following article by Sima Tavakoli appeared in issue number 34 of Atash, a communist print monthly and weblog in Iran. The Israeli-French-German production premiered at the Cannes Film Festival last spring, and since then has been screened at other film festivals in Europe, North America, and Israel. It is currently in theatrical release in France, to be followed by Belgium, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands. The video will be available in December.
With dialogue in Hebrew, French, and Arabic, it is one of a trilogy of films by the Israeli filmmakers Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz said to be based on the character of their mother.
It's important to note that the name of this film is not just Divorce (Gett, in Hebrew), but Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem. It is about what is effectively, if not formally, the trial of a woman who has dared ask for a divorce and initiate a five-year painful legal process when her husband refused. In Israel, civil laws do not apply to marriage, divorce and other family matters. Instead they are governed by religious law and courts. [If one of the partners is not Jewish, or not considered Jewish by the Orthodox rabbis, they cannot marry in Israel.] Women cannot divorce. It is up to the husband to decide to divorce or not to divorce his wife, following a strict procedure that is highly demeaning to women. This repressive insult is powerfully exhibited in this film by Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz.
After 15 years of marriage, Viviane Amsalem (Ronit Elkabetz) formally files for divorce. She wants to be legally free. Before going to court she had already left the husband and was living with her brother's family. The religious court is chaired by three elderly rabbis with full beards, kippahs and traditional Orthodox black jackets and white shirts. They seem harsh and unbending. Viviane's lack of love for her husband Elisha Anslem (Simon Abkarian) and her demand to end their marriage is not sufficient for the religious judges. She must prove that her husband regularly beats her or he is sexually impotent. But these are not Viviane's problems, and this is why the court procedure turns into a trial of Viviane for daring to demand to be free of a repressive relationship that has no love in it.
The proceedings cannot start without the presence of the husband. Using various pretexts Elisha refuses to present himself in court. He uses his power to delay the court in order to wear out his wife and force her to withdraw her divorce request. [This is a not uncommon tactic Israeli men use to delay or prevent divorce, often as a conscious act of revenge, and/or to extort child custody and other favors.]
The next court session is delayed again and again – for two months, six months and so on...New subtitles inform the film audience of each new date, but the scenes are always the same: the white walls, the empty rooms of the court, the rabbis' frustration and their anger at the woman and her lawyer who present themselves in the absence of the man and waste the court's time.
When finally Elisha enters the courtroom, with a heavy silence and a meaningful stare at Viviane, one after another people close to him give evidence of his gentle behaviour. The rabbis grill women who seem to want to testify in support of Viviane, and one is thrown out of the courtroom.
Viviane's witnesses give evidence of her integrity and decency, but legally that is of no consequence. In any case, Elisha has the last word – he refuses to divorce her.
All the film's scenes take place in the courtroom, a claustrophobic room with white walls. The men wear black clothing, as do the women, with a few exceptions. There is no colour and no space. This repressive environment is magnified by repeated close-ups, reminding viewers that Viviane’s life is like a prison. Humorous incidents during testimony make the cruelty and harshness depicted in the film tolerable and at the same time more effective. The actors and actresses play their roles beautifully. Ronit Elkabetz is always convincing, whether silent or at the height of rage. Simon Abkarian says little except, "I will not divorce," but his body language is sufficiently telling. Viviane's lawyer Carmel (Menashe Noy) is clearly fascinated by her client's determination and tries to get around the religious court. All this was skillfully written and directed by Ronit and Shlomi Elkabetz.
Viviane does not wear her hair covered, but she often appears with it tightly tied up behind her head. Once, when under the pressure of hopelessness she starts fidgeting with her hair and it flows down, her judges accuse her of indecent behaviour. With the exception of her garb, the rest is not much different from Iran. The same laws dictated by a centuries-old religion, the same rigid ideas, the same hatred for women, the same feelings of desperation and powerlessness. In thinking of Viviane, I remembered the film Divorce Italian Style and the domination of religion on our life, what religion has done to us and how important and urgent it is to get rid of it.
(Under the pressure of the Catholic Church, divorce was not possible in Italy until 1970. Divorce Italian Style, a 1961 Italian comedy by Pietro Germi, shows that if the Church refused to annul the marriage, requiring much influence, money, and hypocrisy, the only way out in Italy at that time was to kill one's spouse.)
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The outbreak and spread of the deadly virus Ebola in West Africa is a mushrooming nightmare for thousands and potentially millions of people.
Those contracting Ebola get high fevers and heavy diarrhea, and then, within days, violent bleeding, including from the eyes, ears, and nose.
Ebola is a deadly disease. It is deadly because of the virulence of the Ebola virus. But mostly it's deadly because of the workings of the system of global capitalism, which appropriates and distributes resources and technology in unbearably grotesque ways, ways that condemn the vast majority of humanity to desperate conditions, including hundreds of millions without access to even basic necessities like toilets and safe drinking water, and billions without decent—and eminently providable—health care.
According to medical experts, Ebola is spread by direct contact with the blood or other bodily fluids of infected people and animals. Corpses of people who have died of Ebola still contain the virus and can cause it to proliferate.
As of the end of September, over 7,500 people had been infected and more than 3,500 people had died in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. Medical experts estimate that at least three times that many are now infected and warn it could spread to other African countries. Cases have now been reported in other countries including the U.S. and Spain. The non-profit organization Save the Children estimates that five people are infected every hour in Sierra Leone. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced computer models that show if the epidemic isn't stopped quickly, as many as 1.4 million people could die by January 2015!
Ebola is not a mysterious new disease. Though an outbreak on this scale and scope has never occurred before, scientists have known about the dangers of Ebola for nearly 40 years—since the virus was first identified in the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1976.
"This is a disease that's eminently stoppable with basic public health measures, the most basic infection control measures that we generally follow, should be following, in our own hospitals," surgeon and health care policy author Dr. Atul Gawande told Democracy Now! (October 7).
So why are so many being infected? Why are so many getting so sick and dying?
Ebola may arise from nature—but it's the system of imperialism that has made it so deadly to so many.
A top World Health Organization (WHO) official recently stated the epidemic hasn't become so large because of the nature of the virus, but because of the nature of "affected populations," their "health systems," and efforts to control its spread. So what's behind that?
When two American doctors were infected in July, they were airlifted to the U.S., placed in highly advanced health care facilities, extensively tested and monitored, and given the world's most advanced experimental medications—and they lived.
But in West Africa people are dying—untreated—by the thousands? Why?
Because distribution of medical facilities, personnel, resources, and research is grotesquely lopsided in a world dominated by capitalism-imperialism. People in West Africa live in abysmal poverty—Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia are among the poorest countries in the world, ranking 161st, 176th, and 181st, respectively. Many lack basic necessities like sanitation and clean water. In Liberia, 80 percent of people don't have toilets or running water! There is no electricity, there are food shortages, and most people live on less than $1.50 a day. Similar conditions exist in Guinea and Sierra Leone.
All this despite—or rather because of—the fact that imperialism has plundered the continent of Africa for over 500 years—extracting enormous wealth in coffee, diamonds, gold, oil, rare minerals like coltan (for cell phones), bauxite for aluminum, wood (from Africa's irreplaceable rain forests)—and in slaves!
As a result, health care systems are nearly non-existent. Health care spending in Sierra Leone amounts to $96 per person per year. In Liberia it's $65 per person. In the U.S., it's 136 times larger—$8,895 per person. These countries are ruled by despots and gangsters installed or backed by one imperialist power or the other. They cannot and will not mobilize the people to help combat this outbreak—including educating people in the nature of the disease and preventive measures—because their rule is based on controlling and suppressing the masses. Now, the countries' meager health care systems, already devastated by years of civil wars and coups between one rival gang of reactionaries or another, have collapsed.
Most health care workers have had no access to inexpensive medical supplies like masks and disposable gloves, so many have contracted the disease and died. Most hospitals are closed. People are dying from diseases that are treatable. Pregnant women bleed to death delivering babies. Infant mortality rates are rising. Dead bodies of Ebola victims lie in the streets and on treatment center floors—sometimes for days—before they are picked up by the authorities, infecting even more people.
People are told they must get treatment for the sick, but there are no hospital or treatment center beds. There are only a few ambulances in each country to take people to the hospitals and treatment centers that are still open. Private taxis cross the countries as patients try desperately to get help—and accidentally infect other people. Sick people are put in "holding centers" where patients with other diseases are mixed with people who have Ebola, spreading it even more. Others are forced to fend for themselves on the streets.
People are hungry and angry. Governments in the region, backed up by the U.S., France, and Britain, have responded with force. Quarantines and curfews have been imposed at the point of a gun. In late August, Liberian troops opened fire on a crowd protesting a quarantine in West Point township and hit a 15-year-old boy named Shakie Kamara. He bled in the street for half an hour until an ambulance came, and he died the next day. People are being isolated from others and left to die until the epidemic "burns itself out."
There are no stores of advanced testing equipment and there are extremely limited supplies of the experimental medicine (ZMapp) that may have helped save the lives of the two American doctors (and none in West Africa). Why is this the case? One reason: While billions are poured into developing medicines for those living in imperialist countries, next to nothing is invested in vaccines for Ebola and other "tropical" diseases because it wouldn't be profitable to sell in Africa. WHO reports that what it calls "neglected tropical diseases" such as dengue fever affect more than a billion people in the world and kill up to 500,000 a year. A study commissioned by WHO found that between 1974 and 2004, of the 1,500 new drugs that were made available worldwide, only 10 targeted these tropical illnesses.
The capitalist-imperialist system is no more "humane" and "caring" than it was at its capitalist birth 500 years ago—when Africans were being hunted down, captured, shackled, and sold into slavery!
What makes the indescribable suffering unfolding before our eyes in West Africa so intolerable is that it's unnecessary. The world does NOT have to be this way. The problem isn't human nature—it's the nature of the system. Capitalism is an economic system and a political order enforcing it that is driven by the competitive accumulation of profit. This dynamic leads to and takes place through an enormous chasm between a handful of developed imperialist countries and the bulk of humanity living in countries exploited and shackled by imperialism. That's why the enormous storehouse of medical knowledge and the mind-boggling development of medical technology are strangled within the confines of private property and profit-making.
Under a different economic and social system, things can—and have!—been radically different. Between 1949 and 1975, China was a revolutionary socialist state, led by Mao Zedong. It had been ravaged by centuries of feudalism and then over 100 years of imperialist subjugation and plunder. So when the revolutionaries took power, the vast majority of people had no access to medical care, and there was very little medical technology available. But the revolutionary state, led by Mao, was guided by the principle that people are the most precious thing. They made it a top priority to educate and mobilize people to develop and apply low-tech methods to attack terrible and debilitating diseases that had tormented people for centuries, like malaria and various water-borne diseases.
Later as socialist China developed, tremendous advances were made in medical treatment, because research and development were not constrained by maximizing profit in competition with other capitalists. (For more, see "You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future. ")
Today, nearly 40 years after socialism's defeat in China, technology, especially medical technology, has, in many respects, advanced tremendously. Yet here we are, witnessing preventable death and needless horrors that evoke the world of centuries ago—all because capitalism stands in the way of utilizing the knowledge and technology humanity has developed.
This and the accompanying article ("Isn't the U.S. Helping Now?") were drawn from contributions from Revolution readers, including "Letter from a reader, Ebola and the Moral Bankruptcy of Capitalism," August 24, 2014.)
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
From the Streets of Ferguson/St. Louis:
by Li Onesto | October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
It's not hype. There's a feeling out here. People are flexing their muscles. The situation and people are going through changes. And tonight the youth were the heart of things.
Today was the start of the Weekend of Resistance in St. Louis and Ferguson, Missouri. To kick it off, hundreds of people marched at the Buzz Westfall Justice Center in Clayton, Missouri—where prosecuting attorney Bob McCulloch's office is—to demand Justice for Mike Brown and to demand that McCulloch be removed from any investigation and legal proceedings around this murder. It has now been two months(!) since Michael Brown was killed, and the killer cop Darren Wilson is still walking around free working at a paid desk job. People want an indictment!
The steady downpour did not deter people's determination and spirits, and more than 200 people marched and then held a short rally by the courthouse. The crowd was a multinational mix of people from the St. Louis area as well as others who had come from many other U.S. cities. The crowd was mainly young—there seemed to be lots of students. But there were also many middle-aged and some retired people as well.
Significantly, Ann Wright was at the protest. She was standing with a big sign that said: "The Right to Stop Racial Profiling." She told revcom.us: "I'm a retired U.S. Army colonel and a former diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the war in Iraq, and I'm here in Ferguson in solidarity with the people of Ferguson who have been the subjects of great police brutality over decades. And we're here in solidarity to say no more oppression, no more police brutality, and respect and justice for the people of Ferguson and populations throughout the country that are targeted by our law enforcement for horrific treatment. So we're here in solidarity with the people of Ferguson and all over the country."
A group of artists from New York City brought and distributed 750 "Unarmed Civilian" T-shirts in memory of Mike Brown and in solidarity with the people of Ferguson.
Tory Russell is with Hands Up United—one of the initiating groups, along with the Organization for Black Struggle, behind the Weekend of Resistance. He tells me, "We're trying to show not only the city of St. Louis and Ferguson that we mean business but we're not going along with it. So we're going to be anywhere and everywhere to make everybody as uncomfortable as we are."
I ask what does all this mean to him and he says, "With all these people out here? It means love. I love it. I talked to people from Brazil, Hong Kong, a lady from Paris. I done talked to people probably from every continent. So I feel good. I feel powerful. I feel the solidarity. You have all groups out here. You got Indian people, Black, white, everybody. So I'm feeling good. This is just the beginning." What does he hope will come of the whole weekend? "Everybody will be empowered. When they go home, they can do the same thing. They can organize and go back at the system that is killing Black and brown people every 28 hours."
The crowd is very diverse. I talk to one older woman who says she is from St. Louis, now retired but "a peace and justice advocate since I was a teenager." She tells me she was just recently arrested at one of the demonstrations.
People have been coming from out of town and a lot are from Ferguson and St. Louis. One young Black man tells me he is originally from St. Louis but currently lives in Philadelphia and is in graduate school at Rutgers. He says his wife is studying to be a rabbi. He says they came here for the Weekend of Resistance "because it was important for us seeing this happening all at home and being able ... to identify the systems at play that are here and have been oppressing us, generations back—to come be a part of this and to show our support and our love for home, to be out here." Has he had any experience with the police? He says "of course," and then tells me a story of how he was stopped one time driving his father's car, harassed, taken in on a bogus charge and forced to pay a $300 fine for what ended up being a "clerical error."
There are lots of things going on this weekend. In addition to protests, there are panels, teach-ins, Clergy Faith Day of Action, cultural events. This afternoon there was a panel by Code Pink addressing the intersection of wars being waged by the U.S. in the world and police murder and brutality here in the U.S. There will be a Palestinian Solidarity contingent at the Saturday march.
In the evening there is a Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead)-inspired event at the site where Michael Brown was killed. People carry a coffin and hold a candlelight vigil.
Meanwhile at the police station, hundreds of people are gathering. By 10 pm, the crowd is around 400 people. Protesters are being kept across the street from the police station. There is a line of police in front of the building. People are not being allowed to go into the street.
The crowd is really raucous—people are chanting, "Justice for Mike Brown," "Hands Up, Don't Shoot," "Killer cops, KKK, how many kids did you kill today?" Young people especially are at the front of the crowd—just itching to go beyond the bounds of the "keep on the sidewalk" orders.
Then at one point there is the sound of someone on a loudspeaker—a DJ and music. It's like a party beginning in a night club—but it's right out here in the street and it's for Justice for Mike Brown. The crowd surges over to where this is coming from, spilling into the street. The energy of the crowd just goes into a whole different level and people feeling not only their anger and determination but there is a real sense in the crowd of: WE AREN'T GOING TO STOP... AND YOU AREN'T GOING TO STOP US!
At some point in the evening, people take over the street. Cops are forced to stop traffic. A march of hundreds of people takes off and several blocks away hooks up with the people coming from the candlelight vigil, then comes back around to the police station. "Staying on the sidewalk" ain't even a question at this point. But going up to the police station? The crowd just marches right up the hill to the line of the police and there's a face-off with people chanting madly at the cops. The whole front of the police station has now been occupied by the people. During this standoff with police, when it looks like the police are about to attack the crowd, some men in the protest start saying "Men to the front." In response, a group of women run to the front.
There is a real feeling among people out here—that we aren't going to stop until we get JUSTICE for Mike Brown. At one point I just go into the crowd and ask people, a whole lot of people, one by one, to say very quickly where they are from and why they came. I find out that lots of people are from the St. Louis area and say this with real pride. There are also lots of people from cities close and far. One Black man tells me that he just got off a plane from Los Angeles. There are lots of groups that organized to come together—from Chicago, Minnesota, New York, and many others. Several people say one word when I ask them why they came, "Justice."
There is a mood among people, a feeling kind of like, "this was the last straw... time's up" AND "this is our time—we're not going to stop until we really get justice and SOMETHING has to change." A number of people stressed to me that we need justice for Mike Brown and that this is something that happens all the time that has to STOP. There are lots in the crowd who have their own experiences with police brutality and say that this is a big part of why they came.
The crowd is diverse and multinational. It includes people of all ages and from many different walks of life. And all through the night, the energy of the crowd was really being driven by the youth, who were the ones showing the most determination and defiance.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
Israeli Prime Minister at the United Nations
October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's September 29 speech at the opening session of the United Nations General Assembly was full of lies and distortions of reality that went off the charts.
Unpacking and dissecting ALL the genocidal logic and lies of Netanyahu's speech is beyond the scope of this article. Right now, let's fact-check one central aspect of his speech: Netanyahu's defense of the Israeli slaughter of Palestinians during the onslaught against Gaza in July and August: "...Hamas cynically used Palestinian civilians as human shields. It used schools, not just schools—UN schools, private homes, mosques, even hospitals to store and fire rockets at Israel.... Israel was doing everything to minimize Palestinian civilian casualties. Hamas was doing everything to maximize Israeli civilian casualties and Palestinian civilian casualties.... Israel dropped flyers, made phone calls, sent text messages, broadcast warnings in Arabic on Palestinian television, always to enable Palestinian civilians to evacuate targeted areas.... As their families were being rocketed by Hamas, Israel's citizen army—the brave soldiers of the IDF, our young boys and girls—they upheld the highest moral values of any army in the world...."
Basically, Netanyahu declared that "Hamas made us kill all those innocent civilians including children."
Reality check: Israel fired missiles from U.S.-made jets and drones and shelled Gaza from tanks. According to the United Nations Human Rights Council report of September 22, "Some 1,479 of a total of 2,158 Palestinian fatalities were civilians, of them 506 were children. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and five civilians were killed. More than 100,000 Palestinians in Gaza were left without a habitable home to return to, and 497,000 people had been internally displaced."
And almost all of the Israelis killed were soldiers who invaded Gaza and were carrying out these war crimes.
Because this UN report exposed some of Israel's war crimes, Netanyahu denounced the UN human rights group as a "'terrorist rights council."
Netanyahu's charge that "Hamas used civilians as human shields" is a sick perversion. In densely populated Gaza, every neighborhood has some kind of government facility, from schools to health and welfare offices. Israel did deliberately target "schools, private homes, mosques, even hospitals." And the purpose was not so much to wipe out Hamas, but to terrorize the whole population.
Netanyahu's claim that Hamas stored weapons in United Nations schools is another big lie that has been endlessly repeated by the rulers and media in the U.S. In the three cases where weapons were discovered in a UN school, these facilities had been closed and were vacant for months. No Palestinian civilians were present there. But many Palestinians lived near these three schools, and inside other UN schools or Palestinian hospitals that were supposed to be safe shelters but were deliberately hit with Israeli missiles on the pretext of targeting Hamas leaders or fighters who were allegedly nearby. One horrific example was the Israeli attack on the UN-run school in Beit Hanoun in Gaza. It was packed with hundreds of Palestinian evacuees seeking shelter under UN protection. The UN had repeatedly certified the school was not being used by combatants or to store Palestinian weapons. On July 24, word spread among those huddled in the school that they were to be evacuated to a safer place. People gathered up their meager possessions and lined up in the courtyard. That was when the rockets hit. Sixteen people were killed on the spot, a hundred more wounded, including women, children and infants. (See "Massacre of Palestinians at a UN School: Stop Israel's Assault on Gaza Now!" July 28, 2014. It includes a link to a video of the massacre.)
As for the Israeli "warnings" of imminent attack, where could people go to be safe? People fled from one neighborhood to another, from one refugee camp to another, to UN schools and to hospitals, only to be hit by Israeli missiles and shells over and over again. Result? More than 68 percent of the over 2,000 Palestinian deaths in Gaza were civilians. And, typically, when Israel did issue "warnings" it was only one to 15 minutes before Israel's death machine struck from the sky.
It is important here to remind readers of some key facts about the desperate conditions of everyday life for the people in Gaza today that have been created and enforced by Israel:
All this is a continuation and escalation of the genocidal ethnic cleansing of Palestine by the state of Israel.
One last point. Netanyahu stated: "It's not just our values that are under attack. It's your interests and your values."
There is some truth to Netanyahu's claim about the "values" shared among Israel and the representatives of the oppressors and exploiters—big and small—at the UN, especially the United States.
These "values" are a manifesto of commitment to keeping the world as it is today, starting with maintaining U.S. imperialism's stranglehold on the Middle East, including the subjugation of the Palestinian people. For the U.S. and Israeli rulers, this is a key to maintaining U.S. global dominance—and its accompanying wars, degradation and enslavement of women, grinding poverty for billions of people, destruction of the environment, and the reduction of every human and every thing into a commodity valued only by the amount of profit that can be squeezed out. Every U.S. president and every Israeli leader invokes these "shared values."
It seems that part of what framed Netanyahu's speech is contention between Israel and the U.S., including over moves by the rulers of the U.S. to explore bringing the reactionary Islamic Republic of Iran more into their orbit. But an even more defining reality is that the state of Israel has historically played and continues to play a unique and crucial role in maintaining the status of the U.S. as the world's sole superpower that sits atop and violently enforces a world of exploitation and oppression. And so whatever spats there are between the U.S. and Israel, the U.S. backed Israel's war crimes against the people of Gaza all the way, even sending over munitions to restock the Israel military while they massacred hundreds of children in Gaza. (For an in-depth look at the nature and role of the state of Israel, see the Revolution/revcom.us special issue "The Case of Israel: Bastion of Enlightenment or Enforcer for Imperialism.")
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following are materials for making packets for potential donors to the Dialogue:
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 12, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
When I heard about the Dialogue it was a total surprise and very exciting to me. Just the thought of BA coming out and speaking, it speaks to the times we're in and how crucial this is. And it just was amazing to me. And when I heard that the venue was Riverside Church, and the discussion would be with Cornel West, it even added to the excitement. It is just such a crucial topic and it's such a crucial question in society—religion and revolution. It just to me, screamed for people to notice this! In fact, on my way home from hearing the announcement, I contacted people. It was a one hour trip home—and before I was home I had ten tickets sold. "Get me four tickets; I need to be at this; get me two tickets; get me three tickets."
I live in the suburbs. I've been hitting a pretty major university. We've been there five Mondays, consecutively now. And we're getting known in the area. “Here are the guys with the tickets.” We've made connections to the African-American studies department and we've made other inroads in the student union, in the student alumni center, in the library. We noticed yesterday people saying, "Ah, you guys are back again." Yeah, we're gonna be back until November fourteenth and a half. [laughter] We're gonna be back here. And, you know, we're not here as an exercise. We're here cause it's important that as many people as possible hear this information. It's a learning experience that that needs to go on from November fifteenth. It's like a springboard into the future, that's the way I'm thinking of it. That's why it's so important that these students come, and other students, you know, from all over.
I've noticed how open-minded young people are, and how they'll really sit down or stop walking and really talk about these issues. And it's just such a provocative title, “The fight for emancipation, and the role of religion”... “Huh?!" You know it's like, "What the hell are you talking about?" You know there is a role, and these two people are gonna be talking about it. Cornel West, who considers himself a revolutionary Christian, and Bob Avakian, who's a revolutionary communist. And it couldn't have come at a better time, and it couldn't be more provocative.
We're working with clubs at the university and also trying to go to events that that are a little in synch with what we're talking about—you know, mass incarceration, things like that. Things we're talking about as far as needing revolution, needing people to rise up, and emancipate themselves. We've made inroads getting to talk to one of the people at the radio station at this university. Hopefully he'll play the interview that Cornel West did with BA in 2012, or have a speaker on there. You know, just something to make more and more people aware—not only at the university, but in the surrounding area.
Students are telling us, "I see you guys all the time. I already have the card. I'm thinking about coming." The distance is an issue. We were waiting to get enough people to get a small bus, but now we are thinking maybe we've been going about this the wrong way and we should get the bus and say, we have a bus, can you join us?
There are people hungering for this and we're trying to reach them. We're going out to a progressive movie theater, peace groups, Unitarian Church members, people that want change and don't quite know how to go about it. I sold three or four of those tickets to people that were in peace networks. They're putting it on their Facebook. They're talking at their meetings about it. Taking fliers, taking cards, taking posters, calling me for advice, how they should approach this or that person. So, it's like a community. Trying to build a bigger community, you know. Which is what we need. You know it's a very upbeat uplifting situation. I'm very excited about the progress we've made.
We need people to hear this. We need to have BA out there. And this is a tremendous chance to get people to hear Bob Avakian. And I urge everyone to come out.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
"Where We Are In The Revolution—RIGHT Now, Part 2"
October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following is an edited version of a talk given at some Revolution Books stores this week.
People are transforming the world, right now in a very rapid way. We ourselves are part of that—changing things and learning things, as we ourselves go through changes. And in a period like this we need to come together and sum up how the world IS changing, what we ARE learning, how we ARE changing, and what we need to do to FIGHT and LEARN better.
I'm going to frame this with a slogan that crystallizes our Party's strategy to actually make revolution. "Prepare the ground, prepare the people, and prepare the vanguard—get ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win." How are we doing on these?
Let's start with the first one, preparing the ground. That means changing the way that people think and act in a direction more favorable to, a direction that propels things toward, revolution. And things ARE changing in this regard.
I want to play a clip that has been circulating for a few days. Just to give you the back story, if you haven't seen this, a Black woman driver, her male friend passenger, and her two children are stopped for a seat belt violation. She explains that she is on the way to the hospital—that the doctor just called her to say that her mother was dying and she needed to get there. Instead of sending her on her way, instead of even just writing her a ticket and sending her on her way, they go over and ask her passenger for ID. He shows them some ID which they decide is not adequate and ask him to get out of the car. Then this is what follows.
What is this clip telling you?
First, what did the family say? That they were scared. What did they do? They called 911, but they did not get out of the car either—they were not going to go out like lambs. They stayed in their car and they very wisely began videoing the whole thing. And what did these pigs do? For a possible seat belt violation, which should be a ticket for the driver at most, they ran wild and, as Sunny Hostin says, they traumatized the family.
"The inherent racism of the police," says Sunny Hostin. Built into every single traffic stop, every single encounter. Bill Bratton, the police commissioner in New York, vowed this week that he would go after the "bad apples," so that the so-called "good cops," he said, can do their jobs. But your "good cops" went and cheered for the killer of Ramarley Graham, a young unarmed Black teenager gunned down by police in his own bathroom for nothing in the Bronx. Your "good cops" are like the pig in Chicago whom we exposed in our paper, a totally out-of-control sadist who not only received commendations from his "chief" but was promoted into commander of a district. And your "good cops" did this in Hammond for a simple fucking seat belt violation. So don't fucking say a word about "bad apples"—they're all bad apples. That's how this system has been set up to work.
And let's listen to Sunny Hostin. Sunny Hostin's furious response tells us that literally millions and perhaps tens of millions of people right now have deep and acutely felt questions about at least aspects of the legitimacy of a government that cannot stop doing this, that has no answers for this, and that threatens Black and Latino people every day. That traumatizes children every day. Don't tell me, she says—"'I live in America.'" "'I live in America... and I am who I am."' Or look at the statement online by the Black Ivy Coalition up on the Stop Mass Incarceration site. Look at the temper of the 375 people the other night at the symposium at Columbia—a symposium at which Carl Dix and Cornel West, and Iris Baez and Juanita Young, whose sons were murdered by New York police, along with someone from a Latino neighborhood in Brooklyn where police have been running wild, spoke to students and people from the community, where all this was being sharply, sharply questioned and opposed.
Things are changing. And if we don't rise to our vanguard responsibilities right now, when people are aching to stand up, then shame on us. Or let me put it more positively: Every single person here in this room should walk out determined to provide a way to struggle for the millions of people who feel like the brothers and sisters on the block the last few nights in St. Louis, who rose up against a police murder, or who feel like Sunny Hostin or angrier, or who are willing to go into the symphonies and disrupt the comfort of Mr. and Mrs. America, as was also done in St. Louis... every single person here should walk out determined to provide a pole of understanding for people to see that it doesn't HAVE to be this way—IF there is a revolution. We should walk out of here burning to build and provide a movement in which people can learn about that revolution and contribute to it, as they fight and work through their thinking.
Again—we really are at a moment where it could happen that, as the RCP's statement on strategy puts it, "conditions and people are moved to change, because of developments in the world and because of the work of revolutionaries...as people come to see that things do not have to be this way...as they come to understand why things are the way they are and how things could be radically different...and as they are inspired and organized to join the revolutionary movement and build up its forces." What we are fighting and working for right now—most especially the Month of Resistance and then the Dialogue on November 15 between Bob Avakian and Cornel West, along with our website and our Party and everything it stands for and does, and the other elements of our ensemble of revolutionary work—all this can and must be very powerfully acting on this very volatile situation.
Now right now we face, very directly, the weekend in Ferguson and October 22. As for Ferguson this weekend, where people are gathering from all over the country for a weekend of resistance, which has been strongly supported by the Month of Resistance, we can't just sit passively. We don't know what might happen or where those protests might go—how powerful they might become or what the authorities might do—and if it might require very serious efforts either to defend what goes on there or to spread it. People may well feel the need to act in solidarity with what may go on there, and we should all tomorrow morning make "go bags" so that if we hear of something that does or even may develop into the kind of thing where masses of people all over just won't take it anymore, we need to be able to stand with those masses and provide the leadership that they require in that situation... especially should something develop calling for the kind of leadership that people required, but did not get, in Katrina.
Then there is October 22. How we build this is something we need to get into in a few minutes. But first we do have to have, and project, a vision of what this must be in order to really act on the overall situation in the way that is possible and necessary. We need thousands of people—and this should include parents powerfully indicting the system that has murdered or brutalized or imprisoned their children, this should include hundreds and hundreds of high school students walking out of class, as well as hundreds of college students, having been mobilized through networks, marching. This should include as well many, many progressive people who have been inspired by Ferguson, who are fed up... people like the ones who stood up at the St. Louis Symphony and who can be won to see that NOW is the time that they have to take a stand.
It would be a big mistake to see the ferment in Ferguson as somehow separate from October 22. Just the opposite. We should conceive of everything going on this month as part of changing the whole polarization in society around this question, the whole equation of what people see as just and unjust, what people see as tolerable, and what people are willing to do. In this way, October 22 works to take Ferguson to another level, and all this works together; but to do that, October 22 must in fact BE a militant outpouring, determined to STOP the kind of barbaric, outrageous, RACIST shit that we saw in the YouTube a few minutes ago and that acts as the spear point of this whole genocidal program.
If we have people acting in the city centers and out on the mean streets... acting with defiance and saying, in unmistakable terms, in word and deed, NO MORE... then October 23 will be a different day.
And reflecting this at the same time is what is developing around the November 15 Dialogue. Cornel West said the other night that when people ask him why he's ending up working with communists so much, he tells them it's because he finds his positions overlapping with theirs. There are more people who find themselves like this and who also think—like Cornel—that getting into where those positions overlap and where they differ... and using that to kindle the sparks of further and deeper insight... is just what is needed in this situation.
So you have something developing where prominent people are releasing statements setting forth their views and telling why such a Dialogue can contribute to what they want to see develop... and you have someone like the former prisoner who just wrote our paper with a very powerful piece putting out his views on why the people on the bottom need to be come to this Dialogue and get deeply into the revolution. The situation is developing where very prominent people in different fields, especially concentrated right now in the field of theology and religion, are contending over whether this Dialogue is what is needed right now in this situation where people desperately need a way out... or whether it is not needed and should not happen. This concentrates a larger struggle in society over whether BA's views need to be out there, or not... and this is a struggle that also reflects on this highly intense, highly volatile objective situation... on what, to paraphrase BA paraphrasing Marx, people are being compelled to confront... and this is a struggle that, again, as a vanguard we have to relish and we definitely have to rise to... now. And this should actually give us a deeper sense of what CAN be brought forward to publicly stand with this Dialogue and everything it represents.
Let me pause just a minute here on the significance of this Dialogue, and its potential to change the terrain. Many people know Cornel West—there are very few people you can think of with his integrity and willingness to stand against the power and his intellectual sweep at the same time. But too many people are only beginning to know about Bob Avakian.
There has in fact never been a leader like BA in this country; and there is no one else like him anywhere right now. There have been great leaders, but he is unique. Let me give you an example. The other day I was talking with someone pretty new to the movement; it was a session where people could bring their questions to the movement for revolution and hash them out. And she said, "Well, I'm worried my questions are stupid questions." So I asked what they were, and she said, "Well, how do we get millions of people to change their thinking so they're for revolution? How, if you do that, could you actually defeat all the repressive force the system has? And if you could make a revolution, how could you deal afterward with all the people who opposed it or still oppose it?" I told her that those were far from stupid questions; those were the questions that the movement for revolution had to answer and did have answers for, and we got into those for a few hours.
But here's the thing: The reason we do have those answers is because of BA and the work that he's done over 40 years! Nobody had those answers before for this country and, yes, in terms of the world and the entire experience of the revolutionary communist movement, he's taken the answers further than anyone who went before him. Do you get how incredibly important that is? And this is who is going to be dialoguing with Cornel!
And there's a whole other dimension as well. A recent article on the revcom.us site compared the opportunity to hear BA live and in person to the chance to see Jimi Hendrix live. It put it like this:
BA will be bringing all of that to the Dialogue with Cornel West at Riverside Church on November 15. But that isn't all. He will also be bringing the experience of BA speaking, live and in person.
Like Jimi Hendrix, BA connects with and profoundly inspires his audience in a way that people do not simply hear but viscerally feel. It's in the way he continuously lays reality bare, fearlessly exposing this system and society—and everything that keeps them going—unearthing and boldly putting forward the truths that are hidden and that people are not allowed to think and say. It's in the way he rips the mask of legitimacy and permanence off the existing order, dismantling any notion that things have to stay as they are, lifting hearts and sights to a whole different way the world could be. It's in the way BA does all this with rage and joy, humor and defiance, passion and poetic spirit, utter contempt for the system and those who rule it and deep compassion for all those who can and must be part of the fight to sweep that system away, especially those on the very bottom of society who are most viciously oppressed. It's in the way he breaks concepts down so that a professor with a Ph.D. or someone without any formal education can understand and take up these concepts. It's in the method with which he approaches reality, always going for the truth, always looking at things scientifically. It's in the way he illuminates the link between where we are today and where we can and must go tomorrow, and speaks to the biggest obstacles and contradictions standing in the way. It's in the way he ranges very broadly, through different spheres of society and different historical eras, without ever losing the core of revolution and communism. It's in the way he weaves so many different threads together. It's in the way he can break down the strategy for revolution or talk about the historical experience of communism in one moment, and then reference lyrics from The Clash or routines from Richard Pryor the next.
I want to underline that—and again, this is with Cornel West, and on a question that goes to the very core of millions of people. And this is all going to be happening during and—especially if we do our work right—deeply impacting on this highly charged, highly volatile situation.
And while these two main things are going on, you also have the increasingly intense attacks on abortion—the horrendous decision by the Appeals Court restoring the severe curtailment of abortion rights in Texas and the likelihood, given how the elections are shaping up, of even more intense attacks as the year turns... up against the plans of the Stop Patriarchy organization, which fought those cuts, to massively demonstrate in January. You have the heavy-stakes international moves by the U.S. You have the ongoing crisis and struggle around immigration. So things are roiling and this IS the kind of situation where no one can say exactly, to paraphrase BA's Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity, what the effect of the actions of the vanguard may call forth and lead to.
So that is in very broad strokes the first prepare—the big terrain in society, the thinking of millions and tens of millions, and the changes it's going through and how we are affecting that and how we need to affect that. Are we looking all the time at the societal effect we can have and that we are having? And then on that basis how to maximize that effect, how to take real LEAPS in it?
Then there's the second prepare—preparing the people. One aspect of this is actually involving people in their thousands right now, but moving toward more than the thousands, to become part of this movement, to actively take this up on all kinds of levels. To begin going through the whole process of standing up, fighting back, learning more... or if they are already in that process, fighting better and getting into a relationship with revolution, and with the vanguard. In short: the process of "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution."
I was talking with someone a few days ago about the changes that people are going through, and the tremendous fluidity in people's thinking right now—including a case of someone at one point joining in on some of the attacks on the Party and then, after struggle, turning around and using his platform to recognize the importance of the Party and the work it's doing. And this comrade I was talking with said that, well, he thought the people at the bedrock were telling us "we're ready to die but we don't know what to do" and asking for leadership, but that he didn't understand why people in the middle strata would be going through these kinds of back-and-forth changes.
Now on one level this is a case of someone who's actually studied and applied both of the recent talks by BA—where this is gone into in some depth—and has made real contributions on that basis but who kind of had a temporary bout of some empiricism; some looking at surface phenomena, and then fitting that into what BA criticizes in those talks as a "reified" framework of understanding class. By reification, I mean the thinking that the proletariat, those who have nothing and are bitterly exploited and oppressed, will always be open to revolution... and the middle strata will either never be or else, when they ARE in a more progressive mood, well, that's the best we can or should expect from them, that's just great and let's just ride that. The fact is that, even as conditions are in some ways more favorable right now, in both these sections of society there is going to have to be very sharply fought struggle with how people think. Not just WHAT people think, but HOW they think.
With the bedrock base for revolution, those who catch hell every day, yes we are going to have to give them ways to fight back, and these ways cannot be conventional and actually have to FEEL revolutionary, especially at a time like now, AND we are going to have to struggle over what is your life going to be about after all.
I want to read from a report I got that brings this out.
Two stories. First, [two young comrades] were out at a school and one was agitating on the bullhorn while the other was getting out whistles and one other person had the bucket for donations. Youth were rushing to get whistles all in front of a police car who was stopped in front of the school. As kids streamed by to get whistles, they were blowing their whistles right at the car. The fact they were basically in front of this police car agitating and the youth were inspired to blow the whistles at the police right there contributed to a whole air of defiance. (Unfortunately, they don't have any pictures of this which we summed up collectively. Also, one of the people was going to write a snapshot of this for the paper but hasn't yet.) Another story: All these kids are rushing to get whistles from one comrade while the other is on the bullhorn, but this time another, more veteran, comrade was there. He was trying to get everyone's contact info who was taking up the whistles but couldn't find pen or paper and was getting ignored by the students rushing to get whistles. He hollered out, "OK stop, no one is getting a whistle until I get a pen." Out of nowhere, a handful of kids pulled out pens, pencils, markers... everything. OK, a kid with a pen got a whistle. "Now, no one else gets a whistle until I get paper." The comrade said out of nowhere, paper of every color appeared. And then all these kids were enthusiastically signing up and taking the whistles. This was just kind of funny (and showed some determination on the comrade's part), but also gave you a sense of the eagerness which the students were taking these up.
But it's not all smooth sailing. There is the pull of the street organizations in this, and sometimes they are neutral and sometimes they are supportive and sometimes they are ... neither. This report goes on to make the point that even when things are favorable—when, because the revolutionaries have been struggling, both against the system and with the ways people think—those organizations are neutral, we still need to get out there saying to people drawn to that life that people like you will make the revolution, but not the way you are... you need to get with this... to fight back now... to learn about and spread the word on our leader and our vanguard and the strategy we have... The comrade writing the report talks about some struggle over this, then says:
Importantly, through this discussion, [the veteran] could see the difference and could see how there's been eclectics in our approach; the person writes that "even though there's been some struggle, it's still like: 'that's you, this is me.' We have to join the struggle more sharply. And it's not a straight line, [one comrade] walked away from the BPP many times... but he had been given a framework through struggle to where he could contrast what they were doing and what he could be doing to what he was doing which wasn't any good. These youth have to see the role they can play in something heroic and with a lot of meaning. And that has to become much more of a question: get out of that, into this. Be this. Have courage for this and not BS that doesn't mean anything."
So bringing forward those on the bottom is full of struggle, including as a big part of this IDEOLOGICAL struggle. But NOW is the time to have it! Now is the time to wield the "Call to Revolution" from BA (the New Year's message) and all the other material. Now is the time to apply the whole approach in BA's REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! I mean, it's always been the time, but NOW is the time to take this up if you haven't taken it up and to step it up if you have. And again, especially with this potential backbone for the revolution, now is the time to take this Dialogue—including taking that piece I referenced earlier from a former prisoner about "This Is for You."
Both of these elements, the actual ways to fight back and the ideological struggle, working together, have to bring into reality what we called for some years back:
It is up to us: to wake up...to shake off the ways they put on us, the ways they have us thinking so they can keep us down and trapped in the same old rat-race...to rise up, as conscious Emancipators of Humanity. The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be.
And in the middle strata, there is going to have to be the combination of the Invitation and the boxing gloves. Let's go back over that Invitation from BA:
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 slanders. 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 encompasses people going through a whole process. That process cannot be rushed, but it cannot just be allowed to stagnate either. And again, this Dialogue will play a critical role in that—just imagine what it will mean for people to see many of their deepest questions, many of the sharpest contradictions in their outlook, wrangled with and thrashed out by two such ardent exponents as BA and Cornel West.
And then there is boxing. People talk shit about the revolution, about the Party, about the masses who stand up, well, they need to be set straight—like our articles on the Party and the struggle against police murder on our website this time—and this has to be done in clear, crisp, very certain terms. And when you do this right, it changes the terms. You did have this situation I referred to earlier, where someone went from opposing, at least to a degree, what the Party was doing in Ferguson to, through struggle and coming to see how things unfolded, giving Carl Dix recognition for his role and knowledge from the stage of an event recently. Things are fluid, and if we fight strongly for what is right and set the right standards for everyone, we can change things in a positive direction. And we must, if we are to win.
So yes, it is fluid. My god, this is class society and this is class society in a universe that is based on contradiction—which means that every process and person is a constant battle of opposites and full of the potential for fluidity and change! People come forward based on certain aspirations and then there is pressure put on them and other things come to the fore. In the base, always it is the pigs and sometimes it is their homies, or the street organizations... sometimes it is their own self-doubt and everything they've been taught about how they are no good that exerts a pull on them.
In the middle class, people have jobs or positions and they step out and they catch a lot of shit from their colleagues spouting anticommunism, or people who wield some bit of power given to them by the ruling class saying "hey, nice little platform you got here... hate to see you lose your credibility..." or it is the fear of being blacklisted. This can be intense... and sometimes people don't want to talk about this with us or they don't know how to. And we don't enough take the time to get into things with people, once they have come forward (even as we can't stop everything and do have to continue to change the world, we should be drawing people out and struggling with them in the context of doing that).
So again, both things at once—changing the world and changing the people we work with, and ourselves, at the same time. The lessons that are gone into in BA's piece on freedom and necessity are very relevant—you forge unity with people around an objective, but then new questions emerge and this is class society and the ruling class acts on people.
And let's ask ourselves again, as we did two weeks ago—why are there these attacks, on our Party, on BA in particular, on people who step forward? I went last time into the potential for this Party to connect and the threat that poses to the system, and how that is the fundamental reason behind this. But let me add this—right now, while we are in no way satisfied with how well we are doing in realizing that potential, while this is not anywhere near enough for us... it is already way too much for the bourgeoisie. So we had better be prepared for more attacks and more serious ones, including the kinds of attacks that I talked about last time in regard to the example of the assassination of Malcolm X, and how they very consciously prepared the ground for that, focused up around the very high-stakes and high-risk Dialogue on November 15. We had better be bringing home to people the need to defend precious leaders like BA, and to defend truth-tellers like Cornel as well, and build a wall going into this Dialogue.
I want to turn again here to the Columbia program the other night. One thing you had there—and this had to be worked for and fought for—was people coming who were not used to being at a place like Columbia University. You had women whose sons had been murdered by the police... you had women whose sons had been snatched up in the raids in Harlem... you had other people from that bedrock section of society that is locked out of the ivied halls and the work with ideas. And because of what had been brought forward, by revolutionaries working with students, you had a situation where people like this were able to put forward the reality of what life is like for masses of exploited and oppressed, and students were ready to hear this.
THIS is the kind of thing we need and that we have to work and fight for, driving forward October 22 and crescendoing at the Dialogue. This is a living embodiment of what we call the "two maximizings"—maximizing the revolutionary struggle coming from the bedrock... maximizing the ferment and radical vibrancy and revolutionary-minded thinking and action in the middle strata... and maximizing the dynamic synergy between these two factors, when people get a sense that, yes, we could break down the walls and divisions that the present society spends so much time erecting and reinforcing. This is what the new society we will bring into being will be all about and this is something we are doing to the maximum right now—breaking down those walls, so that people can join together in the search for the truth, learning from and struggling and uniting with one another.
So this is a process. And critical in this process is what we call the OHIO, referring to the Ohio State University marching band, where people come in at one place and then march through from the first O to the other letters and then on to the last O. The point is, however, you want to think about it, is that people need ways into this movement and we have to provide them with those ways. People need to be given ways to act.
They need to be able to get organized, to be part of things on whatever level they can. And we have to get much better at this.
Now they can't do this if they don't meet us! Here I want to have someone come up and tell you what she told me this week [person from audience comes up and says the following]:
As anybody knows who's been around me in the last few weeks, I'm chomping at the bit, totally enthusiastic and burning with desire, both for the resistance of this Month but also for the Dialogue coming up on November 15 with Bob Avakian and Cornel West. There is so much happening in this city, and so many people who need to hear about this. There are people who are right now searching for things. There are so many programs, so many events, so many dialogues, so many conferences that are not attended by 12 or 16 people but hundreds of people coming together right now, almost every day. There's three events tonight I wish I could've been at, but this one was more important. And they're happening all over the city where people are searching for answers—around mass incarceration, around deep questions of colonialism, around the international situation, around the conditions of women, and religion and Islam, and all this shit, and just cultural events. And places where people are looking for answers and other places where people are just going about their lives, and they don't even know—maybe they're looking for answers, but that's not what they're doing at the moment, they're going to the theater, or they're going to hear music.
I have hundreds of these cards for the Dialogue in my bag, all the time. All of us should. I've been to half a dozen events in the last 10 days, with hundreds of people at each of them. Some of them are smaller. But you just get these out, and you're talking to people. We should be all over the place with this, out in the feel and flow of the city, not stuck, cooped behind the computer screen, cooped up in a meeting-meeting-meeting culture, not too busy to go out in the feel and flow of the city and let everyone know: There's a major historic thing happening. People are standing up and fighting back. And the leader of the revolution, someone who has re-envisioned revolution and communism and rescued the project of human emancipation, is going to be live and in person on November 15, dialoguing with one of the most courageous and integrity-filled, compassionate human beings of the religious tradition. And they're going to be dialoguing on the biggest questions of our epoch: "Revolution and Religion, the Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion." And everyone needs to know about it.
So all you've got to do is go out, every single person here. We could have an enormous impact and infect others with this spirit. One of the most important things you can do is to take stacks of these cards out everywhere. And you just say, "November 15, don't miss it. Bob Avakian and Cornel West. Revolution and religion. You've got to be there. Riverside Church." And you tell everybody about it. And you hand these out. And you have enough so that you can give other people stacks of them, because a lot of people will take little stacks back to their dorm, back to their co-workers, back to the laundromat. And then you take it to the laundromat, and you take it to the café where you get your coffee, and you take it to the stores that sell things, wherever the main drag is that you walk past. Or you get off the train half an hour early, go to the train half an hour early one day for rush hour and you hand it out at your train stop. We need to be getting this everywhere! There are times, and there are other teams that are going out to key things and you should sign up and be on the schedule for that. But literally all of us should have this on the train, handing it out, talking to people. And then you see somebody famous on the street, you chase them down. You're not without it. You tell them they gotta be there. This is really something that everybody needs to know about—people who are searching for this; people who don't know that they're searching for this.
You do this, and you're learning what people are thinking. You're learning what's on people's minds, what's stirring them, and what people are getting into at some of these events and some of these cultural arenas, and the religious communities and the sermons that are happening. And you're talking to them about... I mean, I'm re-reading Away with All Gods, from BA, which I really recommend that people do, or if you haven't read it yet, that you read it. And you're talking to people about what you're getting into about it, and you're opening people up to that, and you're learning about this whole thing, and you're feeding that into a whole process.
And, in all this, you have to really SELL SOME TICKETS—you have to be telling people to get your tickets now, to get with this, to make sure you're going to be there! And then sell them the tickets, on the spot.
What she said is extremely important. And it goes for the whole ensemble of revolutionary initiatives. We have to be getting out the word as she said, AND we have to give people materials that they can get out. Materials for O22 and materials for the Dialogue, and sell them our newspaper.
In terms of O22 in particular, coming up on us right now and actually crucial to further advances, we have to involve masses of people in getting out stickers, getting up this issue's centerspread on walls, in organizing their schools—and some of you who at one point organized walkouts, why don't you write that up and throw it up on our site, or send it to the SMIN site; yes, you did this before there was Twitter, but there are principles involved here—including you do need a core. But "natural cores" exist all over, especially within the middle schools and high schools—we need to find them. The student sit-in movement in the 1960s got kicked off by four guys who sat up all night talking in their dorm rooms, night after night, about what do we do—and finally came up with this and just did it, and then it set off a chain reaction. But they were a core. Just the other night, I was standing in line to get my book signed by Cornel and there's five high school kids behind me talking about their friend, who was up front talking with Cornel, and they're talking about "Oh yeah, that's Tony, he's always talking..." in an affectionate kind of way, and then Tony comes back, exhilarated, and he shouts to them "Let's go change the world!" and he's right—let's!—and let's find people like this and work with them in cores to do this.
As part of this: we have to get those whistles out in a mass way and lead people in using them, and video and write reports on it... These whistles so far have been like a scientific pilot project—experience has shown that they can be highly effective tools for masses of people to resist the police with. But these have to be "scaled up" and spread.
And just to re-emphasize what the person just said, and very important, right now in everything we're doing—sell tickets to the Dialogue; as you are building O22 but also with important efforts devoted to this as the main thing in its own right... and then accelerating after O22. We need whole departments at colleges having bought their tickets... whole classes having bought their tickets... groups of people in neighborhoods having done so and working together to get others while they are nailing down plans to come themselves... blocs coming from the suburbs... with their tickets now, and then all this building as we get closer. But this does have to start happening NOW and this itself develops partisanship and drives people to get more into this.
Finally, give people ways to donate money, which gives them ways in... and fills real and right now urgent needs of the movement... this is a case of the people supporting their vanguard and the broader movement, and this is something that has to be re-instilled in the culture of the people, which has been, as CW pointed out just the other night, poisoned by an ethos of "me, me, me." Be bold in this. And here I want to call people's attention to, again, a good article summing up experience with this bold approach on our website, "Fundraising for the Dialogue: Reaching Out Broadly—With a Sharp Focus."
One last lesson I want to draw from the Columbia experience is that tasks create people and what that means and doesn't mean. It does not mean that we here think of tasks and then give them to people. It does not mean that we here encourage people in whatever idea they come up with and then do not assist them in carrying this forward.
It means that we may propose an idea, or we may listen to an idea and encourage it, but that's often the beginning of a whole back-and-forth process of leading and learning, where people take up these tasks as their own. We have to do better at this, quickly. I did hear, by the way, that the proposal that was talked about two weeks ago—to have fundraising parties showing Fruitvale Station—happened and drew 11 people, but that people were so overcome by the film they literally could not talk at the end; which is not at all surprising. This is the kind of living portrayal of the stakes that they keep from people and when it is presented in this way, the impact can be extremely powerful; as evidenced in the article itself, which remains very important: "Watching Fruitvale Station with Bob Avakian." So we should learn from this, continuing to work with the people who came and spreading this form, but conceiving of it as the beginning of a discussion and involvement, the beginning of a process.
To sum up, if you look at this second prepare, you have to say that we have a long way to go here. You have to say that we have to learn a lot of new ways to do things in a short time, even as we need to do much better at spreading the lessons where we ARE making progress—which is part of the point of this talk! But you also have to say that this Party is in fact beginning to be more of a salient factor on the terrain and we have to find the ways in for people, the ways into our Party and into the larger movement of which it is the core.
Now this leads me to the third prepare—preparing the vanguard. I'm going to focus here on a piece written by someone who joined in the past year or two and wrote in to our paper, "Taking Responsibility for the Line of the Party—At the Highest Level."
This person emphasizes first, and very importantly, that the principal responsibility of every comrade is to fight for the line of the Party and to struggle to keep the Party on the revolutionary road, "taking responsibility for really straining against the limits of the objective situation and hastening to the greatest degree possible the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people in their millions." And they talk about the importance of people stepping forward to take THIS responsibility on this level.
So when you're taking responsibility for the line of the Party as a whole it means you are taking responsibility for whether this Party stays on the revolutionary road, it means you're taking responsibility for whether this Party is really straining against the limits of the objective situation and hastening to the greatest degree possible the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people in their millions. This is the highest, and most important, level of responsibility for anyone in the Party.
As a part of that, one of the things that has struck me the most about being in the Party is what it means to take responsibility for the line of the Party at this whole different level. In the Party, you are a part of the chain of knowledge (a team of scientists)—constantly contributing to it, wrangling with it, and collectively wielding it to transform the world... and drawing theory out of that process (along with other developments and changes in the world), which goes on in a larger process of what we call the '"theory/practice/theory'" dynamic.
Then this person goes to the importance of science and they talk about the need to really strengthen the Party's system of reports.
Listen to this:
This is wrangled with, above all, collectively but is also done through a system of reports. This is described as well in the Party's Constitution. And actually writing reports is part of the process of being more scientific: you step back, look at the work we've done, systematize what we've done, and within that you're looking for trends and patterns that are significant. You have to ask questions: how reflective was this practice of the overall strategy for revolution? Did we max out as much as possible? What were the advances—both qualitative and quantitative? If there were shortcomings, you have to identify those and wrestle with why. What did we run up against? What didn't we understand, or what did we understand wrong? Was it objective or were there subjective elements that pulled on not being able to really max out and wield the line to the maximum degree possible?
You also have to work at thinking of ways—and this is part of taking responsibility—to further seize on openings or opportunities as part of leading the overall movement for revolution, even as you are working on a particularity that is feeding into the broader work the Party as a whole is doing.
In addition to summing up our practice, you are summing up trends on the terrain—obstacles in people's thinking that we're reaching out to, ideological and methodological questions that need to be spoken to or ruptured among different sections of people. You are summing up the larger motion and dynamics in objective reality—which holds the material basis for revolution in the first place.
I want to stress this to everyone in the Party and to everyone here for the first time and everyone in between—what this newer comrade says is critically important, it is a necessary component if we are going to actually make the breakthroughs we need.
First I want to stress that this does give you a living sense of why joining the vanguard, once you have decided you are ready for that commitment and worked through essential things about what your life is going to be dedicated to, is so important and critical.
But I also tonight want to stress something else. That while doing this on the level of within the vanguard is crucial and ultimately decisive, including as this person stresses the point as to the whole character of the Party itself, this method can also be applied by others. Everyone can contribute to this process... everyone can be and should be part of pitching in, even before you join the vanguard and set about strengthening that vanguard and preparing it for the awesome responsibility of actually LEADING what we say we intend to lead, once the time is right... to "get ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win." We need a whole movement of people summing up their experiences, applying science, discussing this collectively, and popularizing what is true and advanced.
Finally, just a word on leadership and its essence, from What Humanity Needs—just putting this in here because I find it insightful and helpful and something for everyone to aspire to:
...the heart of [communist leadership] is actually implementing "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution"—is actually bringing forward all of the things we've talked about in terms of enabling people to get a real understanding, scientifically grounded, of the larger picture that any particular thing fits into. What is the overall foundation and framework in which all these things are occurring? What is, to put it simply again, the problem and solution: what do all these outrages stem from; what are they all rooted and grounded in; what do we need to do to uproot and eliminate all this, and how do we actually build the movement to do that? All that is the essence of communist leadership, whatever level of a party, or whatever part you play in the division of labor of a party, as part of a revolutionary communist vanguard.
Finally, on this note. People I believe probably have read on our website that last week we lost a very important revolutionary communist leader—a leader of our Party, a member of the Central Committee, Clyde Young. I'm not going to read here the statement that was released by the Party Central Committee upon Clyde's death, which is very powerful and comprehensive and which should be read. I am going to say that his death, and the life that he led, and the powerful example that he set with his life, does concentrate something about the juncture that we face right now. And people can think about that.
And I also think that we need to take into account, even as we are going forward and drawing inspiration from his example, that mourning itself is a process and a struggle. It's a struggle to come to terms with the terrible wound in our Party and in our lives. And this is especially the case for those who personally knew Clyde, but for others as well. We are going to have a memorial here, in the first weekend in November. And there is a memorial set for Chicago, which his family will be going to, on October 18.
But people are hurting, now, over this loss. Take the time to remember Clyde. Take the time to talk to each other about Clyde. Hold him in your heart. If you are someone who writes, write about him. If you only just heard about him, then meet him. On our website, meet him in the statement from Bob Avakian, who talks movingly about losing a dear friend—not just a comrade but a dear friend. And read about him in the wonderful interview that Clyde did some 20 years ago. Clyde is somebody who first went to prison at the age of 12, and spent his teen years and his early 20s in the dungeons. And he came out a revolutionary and he never wavered after the decision he made in prison to take up that life. And he waged a great deal of heroic battles against the enemy, and he waged a very heroic battle against disease and disability that was also very difficult and required heroism and science of a different sort.
Mourning someone like this is also part of something we're all about. We are human beings with feelings, we have hearts. This is part of the new world we are struggling to bring into being. And for all of us, as we leave here tonight, we should take his example and the life he led as a call to ourselves, to each and every one of us, to step up further, and to actually cross this crucial bridge we now face, with all its great risks and all its stakes, and all its potential to make a huge advance for the emancipation of humanity.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We received the following from StopPatriarchy.org and are sharing it with our readers:
Contact StopPatriarchy@gmail.com to get involved in finalizing this and making it real.
Across the country, abortion rights are in a state of emergency.
In recent years: Dozens of abortion clinics have been forced to close from Texas to Virginia to Arizona and Ohio and beyond. Hundreds of anti-abortion restrictions have been passed. Anti-abortion terror has continued with harassment, threats, stalking, and the destruction of clinics. Women are once again risking their lives to self-abort. Women who miscarry or individuals who assist women in self-aborting are being sent to prison. And the Supreme Court has drastically expanded the scope of religious bigots in blocking women's right even to birth control.
There is no reason to believe that this will let up. The anti-abortion movement has made clear that they will not stop until all abortions have been criminalized for all women in all circumstances.
There is no reason to believe that the courts or the politicians will reverse this direction. For decades we have watched as yesterday's outrage has become today's "compromise position" and tomorrow's limit of what can be imagined.
It is on us. We must take responsibility to turn the tide. Forcing women to have children against their will is a form of enslavement. We must wage mass independent political resistance that speaks this truth and relies on ourselves. The millions who do not want to see women forced back to the role of breeders of children and property of men must raise our voices and put our bodies on the line. Not some time in the future, but now.
Each year the anniversary of Roe v. Wade (January 22) is marked by marches of tens of thousands against women's right to abortion in San Francisco and Washington, DC. They must not go unopposed.
This year, there must be thousands standing up for: Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!
This must mark a major leap in changing the way millions think about abortion and reproductive rights and a major leap in mobilizing truly massive numbers to stand up and fight until we defeat this entire war on women.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors' note: Creative projects in the arts—literature, poetry, music, art, dance, and more—are a vital component of an emerging mood and spirit of resistance. To name a few examples: An article in The New Yorker by Jennifer Gonnerman, "Before the Law," documents the story of a sixteen-year-old Black youth who had three years of his life stolen, locked up for being accused of taking a backpack. Alice Goffman's book, On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, brings readers into the pervasive climate of terror enforced on a Black community by law enforcement. (See interview.) The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism, by Edward E. Baptist, tells how on the basis of slavery, the United States grew into a modern, industrial, and capitalist economy. A video produced by Spike Lee's 40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks, Radio Raheem and The Gentle Giant.
A team of volunteers, including new to the movement for revolution, explored a range of cultural responses to the murder of Michael Brown, the uprising in Ferguson, and related expressions of resistance. Their report follows. And we encourage readers to send in links to your own work, or other works that readers should be aware of. (Send to firstname.lastname@example.org.)
August 9th, American racial tensions were sparked alive, when police officer Darren Wilson shot and killed unarmed Mike Brown. Artists saw this as an urgent time to use their voices. Facts are facts. Police brutality and nationwide militarization have been in high gear. Aggressive dinosaurs on steroids discriminating against Black and brown people in Ferguson, proved nothing has changed. There is a growing wave of artistic expression in response. Artists allow for the political message to be stretched. Through poetry, song, dance and art people can stop, people can think and listen.
Mainstream media does not participate in communicating an unbiased truth about all this. What the news tells is skewed, towards corporate interests; thereby, backing the interests of those with power. Truth is one of the most important words in our language. Youth, drawn to all kinds of art, are ultimately looking to connect with a message and asking big questions. Racism, discrimination, class, poverty, mass incarceration and excess militarism all are core issues involved in the outrageous numbers of shootings by police. Since youth are influenced by art, teachings and answers to questions can be given by artists, and artists seen as healers.
BROADWAY STARS SEND A MESSAGE ABOUT POLICE VIOLENCE AND THE KILLING OF ERIC GARNER
Mural in Brooklyn, NYC. (Photo: Special to revcom.us)
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride was a six-week project this past summer that brought dozens of volunteers from around the country to Texas, the front line of the nationwide battle over abortion rights. Riders' ages spanned from 17 to 71. They held People's Hearings, conducted protests, braved arrest, reached out to thousands on the ground and millions through the media with the basic truth: Forced Motherhood Is Female Enslavement. Women need: Abortion On Demand and Without Apology! They fought to prevent the closure of more than a dozen abortion clinics scheduled for September 1, and at the eleventh hour a federal judge halted those closures. However, on October 2, a higher court overturned that decision and immediately closed all but eight abortion clinics in Texas (down from 46 in 2011).
It is more critical than ever that the lessons and the accomplishments of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride be built upon and that truly mass independent political resistance be built to STOP this war on women. In this light, Stop Patriarchy is sharing excerpts from the questionnaires that the Riders filled out reflecting on their experiences.
Going forward, Stop Patriarchy is mobilizing mass protests on both coasts for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade, January 22, under the slogan: Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!
1. Please share a few stories or experiences of going out to the broad public to talk about abortion. Pick whichever you want, but here are some ideas to spur you. What were the most common responses you got and how did you react to them? What was the most challenging response(s) you got? What responses taught you something or made you think about this struggle in a new way? What most surprised you?
My experience talking to two young women at San Antonio College really stood out in particular. (Key: SP=Stop Patriarchy, CS=college student, CSF=college student's friend).
CS: Hold up; are you for abortion or against abortion?
SP: We are for abortion.
They both looked taken aback and CSF shook her head, and proceeded to walk away. But CS, who was two months pregnant, stayed to battle it out.
CS: Abortion is just wrong, getting an abortion is murdering a baby, and a woman who gets one is a murderer but I wouldn't judge a woman who gets one.
SP: A fetus is not a baby. When abortion was illegal in the U.S. an average of 5,000 women died per year.
CS: Well if you lay with a man you should realize that you might have to carry a baby to term.
SP: Sex is not a punishment, just because someone has sex doesn't mean they are ready to carry to term a baby.
CS: What about adoption?
SP: Carrying a baby to term impacts a woman's body, plus the psychological impact of it—being forced to be an incubator for nine months and give birth simply because this fetus is being placed above her life and well-being.
CS: If a woman is raped she should be able to get one, I guess.
SP: So it is OK if a woman, according to your logic, is a so-called murderer for a good reason. Who is to decide which woman deserves an abortion and which woman does not? Nobody but her. Look, all of your arguments are arguments I've heard, not only once before, but repeatedly. Your ideas are not original, they have not come out of thin air, or some innate morality you think the pro-life people have. You have been denied facts, you have been systematically mis-educated. You have never even heard this side because the pro-life side has been so loud with their pictures of fetuses, and the pro-choice side has been so quiet... compromising women's lives. Look, 47,000 women die around the world per year from unsafe and illegal abortions; you didn't know that, did you?
She finally stopped throwing questions at me and looked like she was thinking deeply.
CSF: You are still here!?
Another Rider stated to engage with her friend, who had just recently given birth.
SP: Women are full human beings and forced motherhood is female enslavement.
CSF: Where are you all from?
SP: All over the country.
CS: Wait, you don't go to this school.
CSF: I can't believe you all are doing this and not getting paid.
SP: We are doing this for women's lives.
CS and CSF: We are going to watch the People's Hearings.
SP: That's awesome! It's important that these women's stories are heard. Women have been shamed for far too long.
CSF: Nobody cares about this; people are just into their own business here.
SP: No, actually, a lot of people care about women's lives and don't want to see women slammed back. This isn't about babies; this is about control over women. After all, the pro-life agenda consists of not just getting rid of abortion but also getting rid of birth control, and contraceptives. Women are oppressed here and all over the world. We live in a world where one in three women will be raped or sexually assaulted in her lifetime.
CS: Wow. I didn't know that. Women have to avoid walking around at night.
SP: That's not right.
CS and CSF: No it shouldn't be that way. OK, we will watch the People's Hearings. We admire you guys for doing this. We lost our group. We have to go.
I gave them the compendium sampler, Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution.
SP: We need to get rid of this system to get rid of the oppression of women. It's important you all read it.
I found this argument challenging, because the woman I predominately spoke with was so set on the idea that abortion is murder and women who get abortions are murderers. I had to reset the terms of the argument and expose that fetuses are not babies and that her calling abortion murder was contributing to the shame and stigma that the one in three women who get abortions are put through. Calling out her argument, and explaining that her ideas were not original but she had in fact been systematically mis-educated, changed the terms of the argument. It was surprising to witness someone who is super pro-life stop making the argument that abortion is murder and actually wanting to hear these women's stories. There was a lot of struggle with these two young women, and I realized the importance of calling out their method and approach was what got them to stop and think of women instead of the babies they thought were being murdered.
*I have left some particularities out of the dialogue, focusing instead on the "meat" of our conversation.
2. What, if anything, has changed in your understanding of the fight over abortion?
You CANNOT tail the issue at hand, especially if women's lives, futures, and dreams are at stake. I used to see through the lens of the pro-choice side. What I mean by that is, I understood why they wouldn't use the words "abortion," "patriarchy," or go so far as to say abortion should be "ON DEMAND AND WITHOUT APOLOGY." I was thinking within the confines of the system and believed that if you are too radical you would turn people off to the extent that you wouldn't get any rights whether it be abortion rights, gay rights, or any rights for that matter. Now I see that this view is not just wrong, but poisonous. The pro-choice camp being so obedient and not proceeding from the reality that when abortion is illegal women die, has actually granted the moral high ground to the pro-life camp. I realized that although it may sound counter-intuitive, the pro-choice side is contributing to the oppression of women. I now realize the complexity of the fight for women's right to abortion.
3. How do you sum up our progress on the three goals of the Ride: to forge a national counter-offensive to the war on women, to change the terms of this fight (making clear it is a fight over women's liberation or women's enslavement), and to bring forward mass independent political resistance (rather than reliance on the courts and politicians)?
Goal 1: Our protests and media coverage really brought to light that this was a war on women and not merely a local issue. I think getting the compendium [Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution] out helped me expose that women are oppressed nationally and internationally and how we can only get rid of patriarchy by having a revolution. I spent a lot of time talking to people about the "Postcards of the Hanging"1 and why was it that you can get away with doing to women that you can't get away with doing to any other class of people without a huge outcry. The compendium helped forge that national counter-offensive but only a small number of us were really taking it up, so I think if more of us took it up and there was media coverage on the compendium maybe that would also help forge the national counter-offensive.
Goal 2: We accomplished this goal more successfully than goal number one. We brought the woman back into the picture literally with our signs and ideologically, by proceeding from the reality that when abortion is illegal women die. We emphasized that it is not an exaggeration to say that women are enslaved if their bodies are property of the state.
Goal 3: We gave an alternative to the looking up to political figures for them to solve this war on women. History has proven that looking out and resisting on a massive scale changed the terms of things, not compromising Democratic leaders. Stop Patriarchy (SP) modeled the way in which women's liberation and the liberation of all people should be modeled.
4. Any reflections on the People's Hearings?
The People's Hearings were so important because they showed that women's lives and futures have been compromised for far too long. They also sounded the alarm on how oppressed women are. Not only have these women been shamed and silenced for their entire lives, many of them were brutalized and raped by people who supposedly loved them. They were oppressed simply because they were born female in this world.
This contributed to resetting the terms of Abortion Rights and gave women a platform to speak.
5. How do you evaluate the media coverage, the involvement of influential people, the impact we may have had on the broader public opinion?
The media coverage was substantial. Without SP's presence I don't know who would have stood up for women and made society realize that this is about the liberation or the enslavement of women. The influential people, Eve Ensler and Gloria Steinem, gave us more credibility and made it harder for people to dismiss us for being so in people's face and refusing to compromise women's lives. The public saw us, saw the women who died from illegal abortions, forcing people from all walks of life to confront the reality and not just see abortion as "killing babies."
6. How do you evaluate the protests, including the two protests where people were arrested?
Extremely impactful, they made people realize that the battle over whether women are going to be enslaved or liberated is worth people putting their lives and bodies on the line for.
7. What do you sum up about the challenges of involving new people—both on the ground and through social media, around the country, and in going forward?
It was a challenge to get more people to stand with us. We are helping to create a situation where people cannot ignore the oppression of women but the fury of women has yet to be fully unleashed.
8. What do you make of the haters [people who spread slander and attacked the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride and the Revolutionary Communist Party, Sunsara Taylor, and Bob Avakian rather than joining the fight to stop the closure of abortion clinics]? How did they affect you? How do you think they impacted others? How do you understand what motivated them? How do you think we did in responding to them? Do you have any ideas about further responses going forward?
Sunsara Taylor's claim that we were hated by some and loved by others for the same reason—our refusal to compromise women's lives—concentrates our principled method and approach during the Ride. The fact that proponents of abortion despised us caught me by surprise. The slander, which consisted of unprincipled attacks on BA, accusations of racism—even sexism, ad hominem attacks on Sunsara, and even calling us "little bitches" for not asking the "women of Texas" before we came to fight for the lives of women, encapsulates that the phrase "War on Women" is no hyperbole. These attacks really brought to light the great NEED to link everything up, to go after patriarchy as an institution and fight not just for abortion to be readily available, but to break the chains that enslave women, and to break with the culture that perpetuates the oppression and degradation of women. They think they can by getting a good Democrat in office and that our bold, brutally honest tactics are detrimental to their "on the ground work."
9. On the Ride, we strove to live and embody the kind of morality and relations between people that reflect the world we are fighting for—how do you think we did, what did this mean to you, how can we spread this further?
We did this by bringing the woman back into the picture: Women forced into motherhood, chained to a child they didn't want and a man they so desired to leave, women forced to self induce, risking their lives to achieve the autonomy that every full human being is entitled to, women forced, thousands of women forced, to prematurely die, bloody coat hanger in hand. Not to mention all of these horrors thrust upon women would be packaged so tightly by shame and stigma; who would hear these women's voices, see these women's blood, smell this grotesque immorality, and feel these women's agony.
We did this by making people realize the objective necessity of Abortion Rights: I urge people everywhere to put their bodies—their lives, on the line, as it is OBJECTIVELY necessary, even if it means tarnishing the dreams others had for you and the dreams you originally had for yourself. After all, my body, my life, your body, your life, is subordinate to the millions of women who are losing their rights as I write this report.
We did this by calling on people to join up: If you know what will happen to women in Texas and how this will impact the nation if HB2 [the Texas anti-abortion law] is passed you have a responsibility to take action because the anti's [anti-abortion movement] have been loud for too long while the pro-choice side has been obedient for far too long, granting the undeserved moral high ground to the pro-lifers. To remind you if you don't make your voice heard just think of the signs of those fetuses they hold as if they are autonomous individuals, and ask yourself, "Where is the woman?" She is not present in these photographs which is why we must literally not just bring her back into the picture, but remind humanity that she is a full human being, and her life and dreams are worth more than blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses.
We did this by changing the conversation society is having: The Ride modeled what breaking away from patriarchy looks like. There were discussions of the essential importance of unleashing the fury of women and what it will take to end this degradation, which manifests itself throughout the entire globe. These conversations are the conversations we should be having in society. This is what our culture should consist of—people getting together, wrangling with theory, and discussing BA.
10. The courts are still weighing whether the Texas clinics will stay open and across the country the assault on abortion is escalating. The Advisory Board is proposing major mobilizations for Abortion On Demand and Without Apology for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade (January 22). What do you think of this? What ideas do you have to make this powerful as well as other ideas you have for going forward?
I think mobilizing Abortion On Demand and Without Apology is a great idea for the anniversary of Roe v. Wade! I think students who participated in the Ride need to send their experience in Texas to all their campus newspapers and share their experience in the classroom, calling on people to join up and be part of fundraising.
11. How did we do at fundraising? Anything to learn from who gave and why people gave? Ideas for further fundraising going forward?
I contacted like everyone in the gender studies department at my school. I have no idea how much was donated by them. One of my friends donated $30. I wasn't a huge contributor to getting the Ride fundraised. I think having our reasons for going on the Ride read by masses of people got much of the Ride funded.
12. I never got a chance to tell this story at the People's Hearings, so here it is:
At the age of 14, my mother was forced to give birth. It wasn't until last month that she told me about the living nightmare of being impregnated, sent away, and shamed by her community upon her return. My mom confided that while she was in labor, the nurses gave her a bell and told her to ring it if she needed assistance. When the pain grew excruciating, she rang it, but instead of alleviating the pain, a nurse came in and took the bell away. Left alone in agony, it was as if my mom's pregnant belly masked her face, taking away her humanity as she lay on the hospital bed. Even after she gave birth to a ten-pound baby girl who was praised and adored by the hospital's staff, my mother was treated like "a whore" for not having a husband. Now a strong proponent of abortion, my mom says that no woman should have to go through what she went through, that instead, every woman should be given the choice she never had. The reason I want to go on the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride is because this is not an anecdote to be read as an individual narrative but a reality that helps encapsulate that forced motherhood is female enslavement and that abortion must be "on demand and without apology." The fact that the right to abortion is being ripped away from women proves that the phrase "War on Women" is no hyperbole. If more laws to take away a woman's right to control her own body are passed, female genocide will ensue. If I do not go on the Freedom Ride I will be legitimizing the oppression of women by failing to fight back against injustice. By going, on the other hand, I will expose the patriarchal threads so tightly woven into the capitalist-imperialist system—threads removed only once the entire system is uprooted, liberating not just half of humanity, but ALL of humanity.
1. "It is a striking fact—which is starkly evident in the U.S. now—that, in comparison to what is done to women, there is no other group in society that is so systematically reviled and defiled in a way that has become acceptable (or widely accepted in any case) as a significant part of 'mainstream' life and culture, as happens in a concentrated way through pornography and the extremely demeaning and degrading images and messages about women it massively and pervasively purveys (with the Internet a major focus and vehicle for this), including pornography's extensive portrayal of sadistic and violent sexual domination of women...
"I began the 'Revolution' talk with 'They're Selling Postcards of the Hanging,' reviewing the ugly history of the lynching of Black people in America and the way in which celebration of this became a cultural phenomenon in the U.S., with the selling of picture postcards of these lynchings a major expression of this—often including smiling and leering crowds of white people surrounding the murdered and mutilated body of a Black man. In a recent exchange, a comrade emphasized this profoundly important and compelling point: Today, the way in which pornography depicts women—the displaying of women in a degraded state for the titillation of viewers—including the grotesque brutality and violence against women which is involved in much of this, is the equivalent of those 'Postcards of the Hanging.' It is a means through which all women are demeaned and degraded."
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
from Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa started in late December 2013 and was first identified in March 2014. People from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and other organizations have been in Liberia since March. Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) was one of the few organizations treating people diagnosed with Ebola, and they repeatedly notified the U.S., the United Nations (UN), and others that they needed help to contain it.
"Starting at March 31st, Doctors Without Borders said the hospitals in Guinea and in Liberia are overwhelmed," said Dr. Atul Gawande,"and they were crying for help. As late as September 2nd, they were telling the UN and others that the help being provided is a shambles, that this is a disease that is doubling in the number of cases every three weeks. And our response was pathetic. We simply mounted no substantial response." (Democracy Now! October 7)
By mid-September, the U.S. had sent some 100 health officials and committed a pitiful $175 million in aid. (The global total aid to Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone, the three West African countries hardest hit by Ebola, as of the end of September was around $1 billion.)1
Obama and the U.S. ruling class are only concerned now—and crying crocodile tears—because they fear the Ebola epidemic could hurt their imperialist interests and empire: first, by destabilizing areas in Africa that are economically, politically, and militarily important to their empire; and second, because they fear it might spread to the U.S.
But even so, what has the U.S. actually done?
Did Obama announce an emergency mobilization of thousands of doctors, nurses, and medical crews to go to the area to treat and care for the sick?
The immediate transport of hundreds of portable hospitals and labs to test for Ebola, or helicopters, trucks, and ambulances to transport infected people to treatment centers?
Medication to treat the sick and increase their chances of survival?
No. Some parts of the U.S. plan may eventually provide some help—after tens of thousands more people have been infected and die!
But what has been done is the U.S. sending 3,000 to 4,000 troops—who may be doing some health care-related activities, but are mainly there to defend U.S. imperial interests!2 (Revolution/revcom.us will be digging into this in future coverage.)
Meanwhile, a climate of ugly chauvinism and "only American lives matter" is being fostered in the U.S. With the spread of the disease, now the big furor is "keep it out of my backyard!!" It's like—"these poor countries are threatening us—it's intolerable."
No, what's intolerable is how the system of imperialism has devastated, enslaved, and plundered Africa (and other regions)—and left them to suffer horrendously—until it happens to suit their interests to lift a finger.
1. Sources: National Priorities Project: Cost of National Security; "U.S. Ramping Up Major Renewal in Nuclear Arms," New York Times, September 21, 2014 [back]
2. For details of the "community care centers," see "New effort to fight Ebola in Liberia would move infected patients out of their homes," Washington Post, September 22, 2014. [back]
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
From the Streets of Ferguson/St. Louis:
by Li Onesto | October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
October 11, 2014.
Over the last 24 hours hundreds and hundreds of people have come into St. Louis –by car, bus, and plane. From the East Coast, the West Coast and cities and towns all in between. They have come to stand with thousands more in Ferguson and the whole St. Louis area who have been OUTRAGED at the total INJUSTICE of the murder of Michael Brown and the fact that now, after two months, the killer cop, Darren Wilson is still walking free.
On Saturday this all came together as at least 2,000 people rallied and took to the streets to demand JUSTICE for Michael Brown and an END to police murder, brutality and racial profiling. This was part of the Weekend of Resistance, called by Hands Up United, Organization for Black Struggle, and a coalition of local and national organizations.
The crowd was very multi-national and multi-generational with the youth taking the initiative and providing the whole thing with a sharp and defiant edge. There were banners representing many groups who had organized to come and march in contingents. To list just a few: the Union Theological Seminary from New York City; the Ethical Society of St. Louis, students from a number of historically Black Colleges including Fisk University, Philander Smith College and Harris Stowe State University; the Metro Trans Umbrella Group (who talked about how transgender people also face police brutality); the National Nurses Organizing Committee; and Amnesty International. At least 75 people marched under the banner: “From Palestine to Ferguson– End Racism Now.” Unions were also represented including the Chicago Teachers’ Union and the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU). The Stop Mass Incarceration Network had a contingent and its STOP SIGN poster saying, “Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation Must be STOPPED” was taken up by many in the crowd.
Within this mix people got connected with the movement for revolution through Revolution newspaper and cards for the November 15 Dialogue between Bob Avakian and Cornel West on Revolution and Religion. Folks from the Union Theological Seminary contingent told revolutionaries that notices about the Dialogue were up all over their school, and they were planning to go.
The march took off through the streets of downtown St. Louis for over an hour. One chant/demand that revolutionaries had in the very beginning of this struggle introduced—“Indict, Convict! Send the Killer Cop to Jail! The Whole Damn System is Guilty as Hell!” has now become one of the chants that is frequently taken up by the whole crowd—at all the protests—and was heard in the streets today.
Then people gathered for a rally MC’d by poet Tef Po and Ashley, AKA Brown Blaze.
Tef Po kicked things off by talking about how it had now been 64 days since the murder of Mike Brown and not one person has been held accountable for his murder and how another brother had just been lost at the hands of the police in South St. Louis—Vonderitt Myers, shot 17 times. He said, “What’s going on the ground here is we’re still knee-deep in the situation and we’re still fighting... the foot soldiers, the young people, we have not packed up our bags and gone home. This is not a fly by night moment, this is not a made for TV revolution, this is real people standing up to a real problem and saying we ain’t taking it no more.”
First to be brought up on the stage were the youth who’ve been out in the streets everyday since the murder of Michael Brown. One young woman, from the group Lost Voices, talked about the importance of women getting involved in this struggle and announced a women’s caucus in Ferguson for the next morning to talk about the role of women in this movement—and she ended by saying, “We’re not just fighting for Ferguson but for the whole world.” Another young woman talked about how the young people have been on the frontlines getting arrested, maced and hit with rubber bullets and yet “I’ve been arrested three times, I have spent more time in jail than Darren Wilson and it’s ridiculous. We are sick of it, we are sick of it, we are tired. And we want St. Louis to know in front of this arch that we aren’t going anywhere until you stop killing us. And we mean that.”
The mother of Vonderritt Myers came on stage and sat with a photo of her with her son. Vonderritt Myers was shot down on October 8 by police in a barrage of 16-17 bullets. (See, St. Louis Police Murder Another Black Youth in a Barrage of Bullets: This MUST STOP NOW!) Speakers included a representative from the CBTU, a representative from the Palestinian delegation, and the Organization for Black Struggle. People heard about the struggle in Ohio against the murder of John Crawford in a Walmart store, and how recently people occupied and shut down the police station there. A representative of Michael Brown’s family also spoke. The rally ending on a powerful and significant note—Tef Po told the crowd, we got a lot of work to do now and went on to announce that October 22 is a National Day of Action Against Police Brutality. He said, “It’s a day of ACTION on a national level against police brutality. So and what that means is that you need to take this energy back home, think about it, marinate in it, feel inspired, feel motivated, go home and turn your city out.”
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On August 9, in Ferguson, Missouri, police shot down Michael Brown in cold blood. They left his dead body in the sun for four-and-a-half hours. Righteous anger exploded. People in Ferguson rose up and rebelled. They demanded JUSTICE. The system lashed back with bullets, tear gas, and armored personnel carriers. The whole world saw what happened. And people from all walks of life stood with them.
In their determined struggle, the people of Ferguson have inspired people throughout society, and around the world! As we post this, more than 2,000 people have joined a weekend of resistance in Ferguson itself—many people from all walks of life who refuse to live like this.
The murder of Michael Brown is a horror and outrage in its own right, and it is emblematic of an epidemic of police terror, brutality, and murder. Black and Latino people in this society—especially those in the poverty-wracked inner cities but way beyond that as well—live with a target on their backs. And this is the spear point of a larger agenda, a larger system that has been put in place to "deal with" large sections of Black and Latino youth: a New Jim Crow of mass incarceration.
In addition, there is a whole section of society that is racist, armed, dangerous, and on the offensive. When these people came out in extremely ugly ways in the wake of Ferguson, it signaled how dangerous the situation is, and it called forth further resistance from those outraged by these KKK types.
There is a growing sense: This is outrageous. This is illegitimate. This is intolerable.
This must find expression in powerful nationwide demonstrations on October 22.
The demonstrations on October 22 will build off the resistance that has been developing over the past few years. There was nationwide outrage and protest, drawing in all kinds of people, after the murder of Trayvon Martin in February of 2012 by a white racist vigilante. There were heroic prison hunger strikes, and agreements to end hostilities between the races forged by prisoners in California and beyond in 2013—which shined a light on the hellish torture inflicted in particular by massive solitary confinement. The murder of Michael Brown inspired expressions of outrage on a number of campuses, with Black students in particular standing up.
Now, in important ways, the resistance has been challenged to take a leap, and given coherence by a call issued by Cornel West and Carl Dix for October to be a Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Cultural expressions of resistance have emerged, dance and music, art and poetry—including Alice Walker's powerful creation, "Gather." Clergy brought the Month of Resistance into sermons. Hundreds have turned out at campuses for symposiums on mass incarceration. In some cities, youths on the street corners began to take up blowing whistles to check police brutality and it seems like everyone is taking cell phone videos of these murderous pigs every time they do their dirty shit. People came into Ferguson from all over the country, and they told anyone who asked, "Hey, we don't care if we get arrested—we're here to put something on the line to change things." A mood and culture of resistance is beginning to gather strength; it needs to be fanned and strengthened.
As all this has gone on, over the past several years there has been a re-examination of the role of African-American people in the history of this country and a deep look at what the New Jim Crow means: in films; in books and articles; and in forums and speak-outs.
This is a moment to seize and act on, and to take higher. And the questions: "Why does this keep happening over and over? Why is this so intractable, so hard to change? How do we finally get free of this madness? What must be done?"—must be more sharply posed and joined. (See the accompanying "The Problem and the Solution.")
The demonstrations in Ferguson, which drew people from all over the country and riveted the attention of millions, and in which these questions were in the air and revolutionaries were part of the ferment, marked a major step.
The next critical step is the call for protests on October 22 to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. POWERFUL protests of THOUSANDS on October 22 can further radically change how people think about what is just and unjust, what is legitimate and illegitimate, what is tolerable and what must not be tolerated in relation to this continual and horrific racist police abuse and murder... This can and must build on what has been brought forward so far in this month.
These demonstrations must embody a spirit of telling the truth and a spirit of defiance. They must build on everything that has gone before. Youths from the inner-city high schools and youths who have been pushed out of the school system... joining with college students... with the parents of those who have been murdered and incarcerated bearing witness... along with many people of conscience who refuse to live in this kind of society... all out together. In the centers of the cities and in the neighborhoods. All over.
The fact that all this takes place when there is the upcoming November 15 Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian on "Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion" is a big, powerful plus. We discuss this critically important Dialogue in print and online; you can get a sense of what each of these leaders stands for, the kinds of questions they'll be digging into and how they'll go at them. What we will say here about it is this: Anyone who is motivated to stand up and fight police terror owes it to themselves and to the struggle to find out what these two leaders will be saying on November 15. Especially if you are someone agonizing over the future that this country holds for African-Americans and Latinos... if you are actively taking up the struggle against the outrages and abuses of mass incarceration and police brutality... how could you not want to know what these leaders will be saying to each other and to all of us? These two events can work together to powerfully put the question of fundamental revolutionary social change, for real, on the map in a whole different way than it's been for years.
To return to October 22: the unified determination coming out of Ferguson to take this next step on October 22 is very powerful and this unity must now be spread. The word must get out. Meetings, teach-ins, classroom speak-outs, street-corner rallies... confronting police everywhere with whistles... stickers up all over and hash-tag offensives... we have 10 days from the time we are writing to double and redouble everything that has fed in up to now.
Right now: Connect with people in your area organizing for October 22: National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation by clicking on the big "STOP" sign at revcom.us, or by going to stopmassincarceration.net. Get fliers. Spread the word. And be in the streets on O22.
Put materials in the hands of everyone who cares, and stay in touch with them. Don't let the haters or the naysayers deter you for a second—this is about the future of humanity and if they can't get with it yet, others can. Tap into the deep, deep anger and dissatisfaction out there. It is just beneath the surface. And turn everyone you meet on to revcom.us. Put that URL on your protest signs, your fliers, your tweets, and your Facebook postings. If you are down with the Party or the Revolution Club, or you have been turned on by the Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian, get out those materials at the same time.
One very important element: either locate groups of people who can be organizing cores in different areas, or help forge such cores out of people you meet. You cannot organize on your own everything you need to organize; but if you orient people and put the tasks in their hands, and stay in touch with them to help them see things through, much more will be accomplished. People will contribute their ideas... they will learn, and so will we... and the people's organized strength, consciousness, and ability to fight will grow.
Our website, revcom.us, is not only the place to get organized, it is the place you go, and you send everyone else, to get a feel for how all the things we are doing fit into the strategy for revolution. It is where you connect with the vanguard. And it is where you can get with the leader of the revolution—Bob Avakian.
Send your experiences, your questions, the problems you run up against, to email@example.com. We're here.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
What IS the reality we face? This system of capitalism-imperialism and white supremacy—which perpetuates and enforces every kind of oppression including the oppression of women, here and around the world—has never had any use for Black and Latino people, except to exploit them. There was the slave master’s whip, enforcing the merciless exploitation of the labor of Black slaves on which much of the wealth and power of the USA was built. After the end of formal slavery, there was the Klansman’s noose, enforcing slave-like exploitation of Black people on Southern plantations. When African-American people were drawn into the cities to work in the factories, white racist mobs and cops became the instruments of violence to keep people “in their place.” Today, in “post-industrial America,” when masses of Black or Latino youth can no longer be profitably exploited, the massive expansion of prisons and of police power has become a whole new system of white supremacy.
The powers-that-be put a Black man in the White House. But the real situation for the great majority of Blacks and Latinos is more and more desperate. No jobs. No hope. People driven to desperate acts to survive, lashing out at one another, ending up dead or in prison. In the last three decades, more Black people have been murdered by police than were lynched in three of the worst decades of Jim Crow terror.
Who created this situation? Not the victims of this system. In the mad, dog-eat-dog rush of capitalists for profit, the dirtiest, most dangerous, lowest-paid work where Black and Latino people were employed has been moved to Bangladesh, Mexico, Vietnam, or Honduras... or some other place where those who rule the world can exploit people even more viciously.
Today the modern-day slave masters look down from their skyscrapers and see—in the millions struggling to survive—nothing but a largely unemployable, dangerous threat to their whole setup. That’s why their police murder with impunity. That’s why their prisons are packed like the holds of the slave ships that brought kidnapped Africans to this country.
This is slow genocide, and there are danger signs that it could become fast genocide. Anyone who can think straight can figure out that this whole setup is INSANE. Anyone with a heart can see this is WRONG. But what most people don’t get, YET, is that all this is UNNECESSARY. Humanity does not need to live this way. This madness is a product of a SYSTEM—capitalism—where the vast abundance that is created by human beings all around the world is VIOLENTLY RIPPED from them, and twisted into profit. And white supremacy, beginning with slavery, is the offspring of that system; it had a beginning, and it can have an end—through revolution.
Why can’t the incredible resources of this planet—most of all the people—be mobilized to solve the problems this world faces? Health care, education, and dealing with the environmental crisis? Overcoming obscene inequalities? Fully liberating women? Providing a life with meaning, where people can relate to each other as humans and not things to buy and sell?
All this CAN change. But again—only after this system is overthrown. So long as capitalism-imperialism stays in effect, it MUST exploit in order to profit and survive, and it must oppress in order to exploit.
There is a strategy to actually win millions to this goal and lead millions to do this. There is a doctrine which can actually guide the revolution to defeat the violent repression of the power structure, as the system goes into deeper crisis and those millions come forward. There is a plan—a Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America—for a whole new society, with a different political power and different economic system, one being led to overcome exploitation and oppression—NOT to feed off it and reinforce it, as this one does. There is a leadership—the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and its Chairman, Bob Avakian—for all this. And you can find out about it at revcom.us.
What do we need to do right now? Prepare the ground, prepare the people, and prepare the vanguard—get ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all-out, with a real chance to win.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 13, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A growing wave of resistance against police murder and the whole genocidal program that it spearheads is gaining strength. In important ways this is being inspired and cohered by the Call from Cornel West and Carl Dix for a Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a young revolutionary:
November 15, 2014. Riverside Church. New York City. “Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion.” Bob Avakian, the chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party and leader of a new stage of communist revolution, in dialogue with Cornel West, fellow champion of the oppressed and one of the most provocative public intellectuals of our time.
There are several reasons why this Dialogue will be, to put it quite simply, a historic and extraordinary event that is not to be missed. Here, I want to speak briefly to one of those reasons—and it’s huge: the opportunity to see Bob Avakian, live and in person.
In thinking about what this opportunity means, and how to drive this home, I was reflecting on my passion for music, and live music in particular. Sometimes, for fun, I think—and talk with friends and loved ones about— all the great musical artists of the past 50 years or so, and who among them I would give anything to see live. Sometimes, the discussion turns to whom I would most like to—but sadly never will get the chance to—see in concert. I always come up with the same name at the top of that list: Jimi Hendrix.
People who are expert musicians, or who know more about the technical aspects of guitar-playing, could no doubt write very insightful and compelling explanations of what set Jimi Hendrix apart in that regard. I just know that he played unlike anyone else, before or since. Of course, he was influenced by those who came before him – Robert Johnson, Chuck Berry, and Buddy Guy, to name just a few. But Jimi was just on a whole other level. He did things on the guitar that no one else had done. There was not just music coming from his guitar: there was truly unique poetry and beauty and emotion. Anyone who wants to—or at least deserves to—be taken seriously as a guitarist is deeply familiar with, and studies, Hendrix and his work. And Jimi also connected with, and profoundly inspired, his audience in a way that they did not just hear his music but could feel it.
I highly doubt that very many people lucky enough to see Jimi live said: “Well, okay, I’ve seen him live. No point in listening to his albums anymore.” On the contrary, I would imagine that people who saw him in concert left with a feeling of being on fire to get into—or deeper into—his albums. On the flip side, it is difficult to think that anyone who knew about Hendrix and had the actual opportunity to see him live said: “No, that’s okay. I’ll just listen to his albums.”
On November 15 at Riverside Church in New York City, you have a chance to see the Jimi Hendrix of revolution: Bob Avakian.
Bob Avakian (BA) was also heavily influenced by—and has gone forward on the foundation of—those who came before him. Most notably: Marx, Lenin, and Mao. But BA, too, is unlike anyone else, before or since. When it comes to the science of revolution and communism—of how humanity can get free—BA has done things that no one else has done before. Specifically, he has done the work that no one else has done and made breakthroughs that no one else has made on the biggest questions bound up with human emancipation. Anyone who wishes to be taken seriously when it comes to radically changing the world needs to study, and learn all they can from, BA’s work. BA has brought forward a new synthesis of communism—the theory, method, strategy and vision for how, through revolution, humanity could overcome thousands of years of brutal exploitation and oppressive divisions between people. This new synthesis provides the framework to bring into being a society and world where people’s basic needs are met, where people relate to each other in a completely different way, where society is alive and pulsing with wide-ranging intellectual, scientific and artistic exploration and revolutionary joy, and where humanity as a whole works together for the common good and works to protect the planet. And BA is leading a party and a movement for revolution on the basis of this new synthesis that he has brought forward.
BA will be bringing all of that to the Dialogue with Cornel West at Riverside Church on November 15. But that isn’t all. He will also be bringing the experience of BA speaking, live and in person.
Like Jimi Hendrix, BA connects with and profoundly inspires his audience in a way that people do not simply hear but viscerally feel. It’s in the way he continuously lays reality bare, fearlessly exposing this system and society—and everything that keeps them going—unearthing and boldly putting forward the truths that are hidden and that people are not allowed to think and say. It’s in the way he rips the mask of legitimacy and permanence off the existing order, dismantling any notion that things have to stay as they are, lifting hearts and sights to a whole different way the world could be. It’s in the way BA does all this with rage and joy, humor and defiance, passion and poetic spirit, utter contempt for the system and those who rule it and deep compassion for all those who can and must be part of the fight to sweep that system away, especially those on the very bottom of society who are most viciously oppressed. It’s in the way he breaks concepts down so that a professor with a Ph.D. or someone without any formal education can understand and take up these concepts. It’s in the method with which he approaches reality, always going for the truth, always looking at things scientifically. It’s in the way he illuminates the link between where we are today and where we can and must go tomorrow, and speaks to the biggest obstacles and contradictions standing in the way. It’s in the way he ranges very broadly, through different spheres of society and different historical eras, without ever losing the core of revolution and communism. It’s in the way he weaves so many different threads together. It’s in the way he can break down the strategy for revolution or talk about the historical experience of communism in one moment, and then reference lyrics from The Clash or routines from Richard Pryor the next.
As with Jimi Hendrix, there is a total synergy, not an opposition, between the opportunity to see BA live and in person and the importance of studying his works in an ongoing way. Failing to fully recognize the incredibly special and unique opportunity to see BA live and in person because one is already familiar with BA’s works would make no more sense than people failing to recognize how special it would have been to see Hendrix live and in person because they already were familiar with his albums. Similarly, people who do see BA live and in person should only leave the room even more determined and inspired to dig into his works.
I’ll end on this point: With Hendrix, one could definitely have explained what set him apart and what made him and his work so special, and that was certainly worthwhile and important to do. But at a certain point, people simply had to wake up and realize—and make the decision—that they better go see for themselves.
The same is true with the opportunity to see BA live and in person. There is a lot that can, and should, be said about what sets BA apart, and what makes him and his work so special. But then, at a certain point, you just have to wake up and realize that you need to go see for yourself.
You have this opportunity at Riverside Church, in New York City, on November 15. Don’t miss the chance!
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I was in a recent discussion where someone asked what it means to join the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP). I want to begin to answer this question—having made that leap to join within the last couple of years. In addition, I encourage everyone to read Lenny Wolff’s article, “Why You Absolutely Need a Vanguard Party to Make Revolution,” as this frames the scientific importance of a vanguard party.
First, joining the Party is an ideological rupture; it means being a thoroughgoing communist and subordinating oneself to the vanguard party. It is a life commitment and it is not something to do or take lightly. But, there’s nothing more important your life can be about than making revolution and contributing at the highest level to the emancipation of all of humanity. I encourage everyone to get into and proceed off of the Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, as this gets deeply into what it means to be in a vanguard party.
Think for a second what a real revolution would mean—actually being able to end the tremendous suffering and horror inflicted on the people of the world—because this is what’s crying out to be done. As the Party itself has correctly emphasized, there won’t be a revolution without a revolutionary party.
Being in the Party means taking responsibility for the line of the Party as a whole and among the ranks of the Party. As the Constitution states: “The party’s line consists of its understanding of the scientific method and body of knowledge of communism (of communist theory, in the most sweeping sense); its application of that theory to reality; and the basic principles, strategy and policy that result from that application.” So when you’re taking responsibility for the line of the Party as a whole, it means you are taking responsibility for whether this Party stays on the revolutionary road, it means you’re taking responsibility for whether this Party is really straining against the limits of the objective situation and hastening to the greatest degree possible the emergence of a revolutionary situation and a revolutionary people in their millions. This is the highest, and most important, level of responsibility for anyone in the Party.
As a part of that, one of the things that has struck me the most about being in the Party is what it means to take responsibility for the line of the Party at this whole different level. In the Party, you are a part of the chain of knowledge (a team of scientists)—constantly contributing to it, wrangling with it, and collectively wielding it to transform the world... and drawing theory out of that process (along with other developments and changes in the world), which goes on in a larger process of what we call the “theory/practice/theory” dynamic.
This is wrangled with, above all, collectively but is also done through a system of reports. This is described as well in the Party’s Constitution. And actually writing reports is part of the process of being more scientific: you step back, look at the work we’ve done, systematize what we’ve done, and within that you’re looking for trends and patterns that are significant. You have to ask questions: How reflective was this practice of the overall strategy for revolution? Did we max out as much as possible? What were the advances—both qualitative and quantitative? If there were shortcomings, you have to identify those and wrestle with why. What did we run up against? What didn’t we understand, or what did we understand wrong? Was it objective or were there subjective elements that pulled on not being able to really max out and wield the line to the maximum degree possible?
You also have to work at thinking of ways—and this is part of taking responsibility—to further seize on openings or opportunities as part of leading the overall movement for revolution, even as you are working on a particularity that is feeding into the broader work the Party as a whole is doing.
In addition to summing up our practice, you are summing up trends on the terrain—obstacles in people’s thinking that we’re reaching out to, ideological and methodological questions that need to be spoken to or ruptured with among different sections of people. You are summing up the larger motion and dynamics in objective reality—which holds the material basis for revolution in the first place.
In writing reports, one thing I’ve paid attention to is working to make sure it’s reflective of reality, and not political truth that can sometimes slip in (in other words, making shit up that sounds good but actually doesn’t reflect reality)—it really matters whether you’re basing yourself on reality; and that the whole Party—in this larger collective process—is really able to proceed from scientifically understanding that reality at the deepest level possible. Truth—to the deepest of our understanding at that point—really matters.
All this has to be done systematically because it is feeding into the larger process. And you are trying to synthesize as much as possible to really contribute at the highest level you can. I’ve found that approaching it this way, I’ve actually further developed a scientific method and approach. Not just in what difference it makes to wield the line, but to be better able to learn from and synthesize key trends in reality in a more breathing in-and-out way—while this is a conscious method and approach, it’s not something that is imposed on reality. This too contributes to being able to take responsibility for the line at an increasingly higher level.
Related to this, I’ve more deeply recognized the importance of being a part of this disciplined collective process to coming to understand—and be able to transform—reality itself more deeply. Democratic Centralism in a vanguard party really is the best way to know and change the world. The Constitution uses the analogy to a team of scientists: “Party units should function like teams of scientists—plunging into vigorous struggle over the character and dynamics of the material reality they are engaging, then applying the resulting analysis to transform that reality, and summing up results with the same orientation and method, as thoroughly and sweepingly as possible, as part of the overall chain of knowledge and chain of command of the party.”
We are able to learn so much more this way—acting collectively in a disciplined way on what you’ve come to understand to be true instead of proceeding from yourself out and essentially ignoring or stepping around the actual scientific breakthroughs that have been made up to that point through a collective process.
This approach goes up against how we’re taught in this society—“I don’t want anyone to tell me what to do.” Aside from the fact that you’re being told what to do and think all the time in this society, you will actually learn less this way and it will undermine the collective process of developing a revolutionary line. BA talks about this in the talk, “The Method and Material Basis for Making Revolution.”
There’s another point he talks about in that talk as well which I’ve come to appreciate: “having the humility to allow yourself to be led, but without a hint of slavishness.” You’re applying that synthesized leadership to being able to understand and change the world and acting consciously based on that leadership—that’s the first part. And if in that process, you see a problem in that synthesized line, or you see a problem in how things are being carried out or if there are other people raising things that are more reflective of reality, that has to be raised and wrestled with. It could contribute to a better understanding and approach, but only if it’s part of this larger, collective scientific process. And when there are disagreements, you have to do the work to raise that to the level of line from the perspective of why that wouldn’t be reflective of the great need we are aiming to fill—that great need being to change all of society in a direction favorable for revolution.
One rupture I’ve had to make has been with the idea of feeling daunted at taking on responsibility—especially at a higher level—out of a fear of making mistakes. Not because of how I’d look but because of the stakes involved—we’re up against so much, and we really can’t afford to fuck things up, or to lose this. Someone was struggling with me about this and talked about the difference in orientation between playing not to lose and playing to win. The choice is not between making mistakes or not making mistakes, it’s between setting out to transform the world radically and making mistakes in that process (even as we should try to minimize them) or doing nothing. You can’t have a party culture where leadership develops the line and everyone else just carries it out—that will just ossify everything and contribute to the kind of religious bullshit that BA has been struggling against... there is no formula, we have to probe reality, make analysis and synthesis, we are standing on a very developed line but there are no guarantees and all of us—individually and collectively—have to dare to take initiative on the basis of the best synthesis we can forge at any given time (standing on and building on the fundamentals... even as we are open to questioning those). It’s a living science and if we’re really leading the process that has to be led, we will make mistakes—but again, the biggest mistake is to get comfortable in that stagnant pool and leave the world as it is with the system humming in the background, destroying lives and crushing spirits.
This is what it means to take responsibility for changing the world. There is great importance to leadership and there is a dire need for more communists in the world who are wielding the new synthesis of communism. The world, as it is, is a horror and it does not have to be this way. But that can only change if the scientific method and approach of making revolution and emancipating all of humanity is actually wielded.
Related to this, a point I constantly wrestle with is the two roads for humanity—the reality of the potential for human emancipation or the world staying as it is, with the system in place with all of the horrors that means for the billions of people on the planet, and the planet itself. As a part of the vanguard of the revolution, I am doing all I can to contribute to that first road—working to make revolution at the earliest possible time. And wherever people are at, they have a responsibility to throw into this as they themselves are going through a process of determining what their life should be about—directly related with what kind of world we want to live in.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
From A World to Win News Service
October 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
October 6, 2014. A World to Win News Service. Protests are building in Ayotzinapa in the State of Guerrero in southwestern Mexico after a police attack on teachers college students there that left six known dead and 43 missing, many of whom may be among 28 charred bodies found near the neighboring industrial city of Iguala on 5 October. Nationwide shutdowns were called for 8 October to demand that the government produce the disappeared. Despite the fact that Mexico's president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has sent in national security forces, a member of a newly formed Ayotzinapa parents' group declared, “There is no reason to trust the government if the government itself kidnapped them.”
The 500-student Ayotzinapa Normal School, like other rural teacher training institutions, has been known for decades as a hotbed of opposition to the government and the prevailing state of affairs in Mexico. On 26 September, about 150 youths from this mountain city went to Iguala, population 130,000, to agitate for student demands and raise funds to travel to Mexico City for a demonstration to commemorate the infamous 1968 Plaza Tlatelolco massacre when government security forces killed hundreds of students and other demonstrators.
The students left Iguala to return to Ayotzinapa that night. The three buses they were traveling in were met with police gunfire as they left the terminal. A few kilometres farther on, the police and other men attacked the buses again, cutting off the road and firing with assault rifles, forcing the students to get off. Three students seem to have been killed on the spot, although reports have been contradictory. Another 43 have not been seen since. Witnesses said their classmates were grabbed, forced into trucks and driven off into the darkness.
Many youths were able to flee. When some returned to the scene a few hours later with local journalists, they were attacked again by men shooting from unmarked vans.
In another incident that night, masked men shot up a bus carrying a local youth football team, apparently thinking that students were aboard, killing two people and a woman in a passing taxi.
The local authorities tried to claim that the students had “hijacked” the buses and the police were simply trying to halt the stolen vehicles. (A survivor later said the bus drivers had agreed to take them home.) They claimed that the missing students were hiding to avoid arrest. It was left to students and families to compile a list of the missing.
The official "investigation" of the incident was so half-hearted that family members of the disappeared began seeking out possible witnesses. They seized a local radio station to broadcast a request that anyone with information come forward.
On October 3, students and relatives staged a night-time torch-light march in the state capital Chilpancingo to demand that their comrades be brought back alive. They were joined by students from another teachers college in the region. The next day, hundreds protested outside the governor's residence, and clashed with police when they were told they would not be allowed to visit suspected burial sites to identify bodies. On 5 October, when the authorities confirmed that they had found mass graves, about 2,000 students and relatives blocked a major highway in Chilpancingo with a huge banner saying, “They were alive when you took them and we want them back alive." Streets were also blocked in Acapulco, the region's largest city.
State-level authorities announced the discovery of at least 28 burned bodies buried in the hills in the outskirts of Iguala. One journalist was told that the dead were apparently driven to the end of a dirt road, walked up a hillside and shot, and their bodies burned and buried in several pits. But other media people have been told that the mass graves may have been the result of one or more older, unrelated incidents involving drug cartels. Officials have said that it may take weeks or months to identify the corpses. A forensic team has come from Argentina, specialists in identifying bodies of the thousands disappeared during the political repression there in the 1970s and '80s, although at least until now the Mexican armed forces have been keeping the graves under their exclusive control.
So far, 37 relatives have given DNA samples that has had the effect of undermining official attempts to imply that the identities of the dead and other facts may never be understood. In a country racked by unresolved mass murders, with 13,000 people currently on the official disappeared list, the authorities have not found it difficult to sow confusion.
State authorities have begun blaming the local government, saying that many police were in the pay of the Guerreros Unidos drug cartel, so that "they weren't really policemen." Some 30 police and alleged cartel members have been arrested. Students have told the media that local officials and police enlisted the help of "sicarios" (hired killers) to put down a political challenge.
Federal police and other security forces and the army were sent to take over Iguala, whose mayor and police chief were conveniently lost from view when a warrant was issued for their arrest. Rather than this federal presence being taken as a reassuring sign, many people remember the army massacre of 21 youth last June in Tlatlaya, in the State of Mexico, which borders the State of Guerrero. At that time the national Secretary of Defence, in charge of the armed forces, claimed that the soldiers were defending themselves from a drug-gang attack, but later evidence indicated that the youth, from a very poor area, had surrendered to the army and were then summarily executed.
An opinion column in the national daily La Jornada called the killing and disappearance of the Ayotzinapa students "a state crime" – "repression carried out by a government that has brought organized crime violence into its service."
For all the bluster from the state and the Mexican federal government seeking to confine the blame to local officials and corrupt police, there is much to contradict that claim, including the history of another attack on Ayotzinapa students in December 2011. An article back then in Aurora Roja, the publication and website of the Revolutionary Communist Organization of Mexico (OCR) explained the responsibility of the State of Guerrero governor, Ángel Aguirre Rivero, a representative of the ruling Party of the Democractic Revolution who still runs the state, and the federal government itself.
In that incident, hundreds of students had joined with a peasant organization and a Mixtec group (a native ethnicity) to block a highway demanding that Governor Aguirre meet student demands such as easier entrance requirements, better food facilities and food, and jobs after graduation. Two were killed, shot in the head, and others wounded. Security forces kidnapped a student and forced him to fire an AK-47 to fabricate evidence that armed students had attacked the police. The governor denounced the demonstrators as "pseudo-students" with unreasonable demands. Many people felt that Aguirre was behind the 2011 attack. Still in office, he is now blaming the Iguala police and mayor for this latest crime.
The Aurora Roja article refutes the governor's argument that there is no need for teacher training because there is no need for more teachers. "Teachers are lacking in many rural communities, especially indigenous communities... The government blames demographics when they close schools, but if the population is falling, it is because big capital is driving people from the countryside, grabbing the water, woodlands, gold and farm land, plundering the peasants and leaving them with the choice of immigrating or starving, or simply sending police and paramilitaries to shoot them.
"'No more teachers' is the position taken at all levels of government, not because there are no children who need them but because more teachers are not a priority in the new educational schemes cooked up by imperialist institutions such as the OECD and the World Bank... resulting in a general attack on public education, creating more inequality...
"The government wants to eliminate [the rural teachers colleges in Mexico set up after decades of struggle] for several reasons: Because these institutions are not in the interests of their system, and because of the social activism in these schools, which they label 'seedbeds for guerrillas.'" Several prominent guerrilla leaders of the 1970s came out of Ayotzinapa and similar rural educational institutions, and today's government has often clashed with organized groups of teachers.
In short, now and for years, students in Ayotzinapa and similar schools have been a major political thorn in the side of the Guerrero governor and federal government.
The OCR has joined with others to launch a "National Network of Resistance – Stop the War Against the People" and to organize a "Week of Resistance" from 20-26 October. The call for the week's events denounces "the massacres committed by the armed guards of this capitalist system whose political and military chiefs are in collusion with the chiefs of the narcotics cartels" in a war that is both between different sections of the state and the capitalists and their respective drug lord allies and above all against the people. A war in the service of an exploiting and illegitimate system, armed and under the thumb of the rulers of the U.S., whose government and military is deeply involved in these state and non-state criminal structures. (See aurora-roja.blogspot.com, in Spanish)
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
by Carl Dix | October 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A white off duty St. Louis cop gunned down Vonderrit Myers Jr., an 18-year-old Black man, last night. One day short of 2 months after the police murder of Michael Brown, another Black life is stolen. THESE POLICE MURDERS MUST STOP, and it's up to us to stop them.
The police say that Myers and several friends ran when the off duty cop tried to make “a pedestrian stop” on them and that Myers shot at the cop first. So, according to them, the 17 shots the cop fired were in self-defense. Witnesses to the incident say Myers was unarmed, that he had just bought a sandwich and that’s all he had in his hands when he was chased and gunned down. People gathered at the scene of the murder to protest it within minutes and soon the crowd had grown to several hundred angry people. A resident whose son had been with Myers on Wednesday night said, "They have been harassing him all day like they do all the time, pulling him over, stopping him." "That's how it is. They harass the kids in the neighborhood. Our kids walk around in their own neighborhood and get harassed for it." This is the reality of life in this country for Black people. It has become a daily fact of life that Black youth have to fear for their lives, and face the danger of summary execution by police at any time, for doing anything, or nothing.
Why does an off-duty cop feel like he can be making “pedestrian stops” of Black youth while he's moonlighting as a security guard? This killing and the story the police are using to justify it reflect how Black people are criminalized in this society. Some Black youth walking together are suspicious and need to be jacked up by a cop, even if the cop is off duty. This is like the Black Codes that southern states, including Missouri, enforced during the days of slavery which gave whites the power to break up any gatherings of 3 or more Black people. And it brings to mind the 1857 Dred Scott decision by the U.S. Supreme Court which said that Black people had no rights that white people are bound to respect.
This police terror concentrates an overall program of suppression, a program that includes warehousing more than 2.2 million people in prison, subjecting tens of thousands of these people to the torture of long-term solitary confinement and treating the youth like criminals, guilty until proven innocent, if they can survive to prove their innocence. This program has genocidal implications, and it must be STOPPED!
Things don't have to be this way. Thru revolution, communist revolution, we could end these and all the other horrors this system enforces on people here and around the world. We have the leadership needed to make this kind of revolution in Bob Avakian (BA), the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party. And we are building a movement for revolution and building the party as its leading core. Get with this movement for revolution.
And right now we need massive resistance to these horrors. Everybody who hates the fact that in this country the color of a person's skin determines whether someone lives and how they live needs to come together to say NO MORE to police murder, NO MORE to mass incarceration and all the other abuses of the criminal “injustice” system in this country.
Many people who suffer this abuse are beginning to stand up and resist This resistance must continue and grow. All those who don't suffer this abuse, but who don't want to live in a society where these horrors are the daily lot for tens of millions of people need to join in the resistance.
And now is the time. Get ready to take to the streets on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. Go to the web site stopmassincarceration.net/, find out what's being planned for October 22 in your area and mobilize people to come out to the demonstration. If nothing's happening in your area, then organize something.
This is not time to be talking about gradually reducing how many people are in prison or appealing to the federal Department of Justice to oversee brutal, murdering cops. A big STOP SIGN to police terror, mass incarceration and all their consequences must be put right in the face of U.S. society, and it needs to be done NOW! Not some time off in the future, but RIGHT NOW!
October is the time to make a big leap in doing this, and you need to be part of doing that. Let's make October a month of the kind of resistance that can be the beginning of the end for mass incarceration in this country.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 9, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On October 8, St. Louis, Missouri police shot multiple times and killed a young Black man on the south side of St. Louis. An off duty cop working as security, in his St. Louis police uniform, pursued four young Black men who had come out of a store, chased them down and shot and killed Vonderrit Myers Jr. People on the scene said they heard a barrage of gunfire. They estimated 16-17 shots fired.
Immediately this went out on social media. The brave and defiant Black youth hit the streets and were on the murder scene, chanting and calling out the police. It was an intense and volatile situation. Other people who had been protesting at the Ferguson police station jumped in their cars and took off to the murder site. Within a very short time, they were joined by many young people from that south side St. Louis neighborhood. Ministers were there to join in protesting the killing. The crowd was multinational—many white young men and women joined the protest. This was a welcome development. The south side had not been a place where people had expected protest against police murder. In the face of yet another infuriating, unjust murder of a Black youth, it is very important that people are standing up.
The family of Vonderrit Myers Jr. arrived on the scene of the killing and spoke out. A cousin, Teyonna Myers, said, “It’s like Michael Brown all over again.”
The authorities are putting out various stories about what happened. Relatives of Vonderrit Myers Jr. who came to the scene disputed the police version. Family members said he didn't have a weapon. According to Jackie Williams, “My nephew was coming out of a store from purchasing a sandwich... I don’t know how this happened, but they went off and shot him 16 times. That’s outright murder.”
A neighbor who lives in the area and happened upon the scene said he heard 14 or 15 shots as he was in his car. “When I pulled up I saw the cop standing over him (Myers) then he pointed the gun at everyone else telling everyone to get back while he was searching for another clip.” He heard others nearby telling the officer, “You killed my friend.” A resident who lives in the Shaw neighborhood said his son was with Myers on Wednesday night. "They have been harassing him all day like they do all the time, pulling him over, stopping him. That's how it is. They harass the kids in the neighborhood. Our kids walk around in their own neighborhood and get harassed for it."
This murder took place in the context of a wave of police assaulting, choking, brutalizing, terrorizing, and shooting down young Black and Latino men. For holding their hands up in the air saying “Don’t shoot!" like Michael Brown ... for being suspected of selling loose cigarettes like Eric Garner... for having mental health issues like Kajieme Powell ... for supposedly not having seat belts fastened and the list goes on and on and on. Here’s the situation: It has become a daily fact of life that Black youth face daily harassment and even have to fear for their lives, and face the danger of summary execution by police at any time, for doing anything, or nothing.
As word spread, the crowd grew to 200-300 people. In the mix Revolution newspaper and the Call for the October Month of Resistance got out. Chants of “Fuck the police,” “No Justice No Peace,” and banner and signs that said “Black Lives Matter,” “Quit Killing Black People,” and “Day 60, Indict Now!” were seen and heard. A police car was surrounded by protesters and damaged during ensuing demonstrations; windows broke, back light kicked out, and people pounded on the car. The cop car managed to get out.
Many of the people had been influenced by the murder of Mike Brown, others said that this was their first time out in the streets. Some we had met at Peace Fest around the time of Mike Brown’s murder. One guy said he had been at a book club when the murder occurred. They broke up their meeting as soon as they heard and got into the streets.
People at the site are not buying the police story; if a young Black man is shot, people are filled with anger over this happening time and time again. Mike Brown was unarmed when he was gunned down by police in the St. Louis suburb of Ferguson on Aug. 9, and his death set off a defiant righteous rebellion and has had national and international impact. A grand jury, which has been nothing but a cover-up, has refused to indict the officer, Darren Wilson, who shot Mike Brown. It’s been 61 days since Mike Brown was murdered and there has not been an indictment. Protesters have spent more time in jail than the murdering pig Darren Wilson.
The shooting took place as the St. Louis area prepared for a planned “Weekend of Resistance.” That whole weekend is shaping up to be very significant. Many people from around the country will be pouring into Ferguson and the St. Louis area. As part of that, the National October Month of Resistance to Stop Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation will be marching in a contingent, building a national movement and building and spreading for October 22nd, the National Day of Protest against Police Brutality. Some of us are inviting and challenging people to come to the historic dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian on November 15 in NYC at the Riverside Church.
Hands Up Coalition and others organizers have scheduled protest marches, acts of civil disobedience and, on Sunday night, a mass meeting at Chaifetz Arena, which is on the campus of Saint Louis University, with Cornel West and others.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From an ex-prisoner:
To the youth who this system has cast off and counts for nothing, but who can actually count for a great deal:
The Dialogue on November 15, 2014 between Bob Avakian and Cornel West is for you. This is a conversation between two people who have a deep love for people just like you. With everything that keeps you fucked up and doing fucked up shit to each other, neither one of these two people are willing to turn their back on you.
The main reason I am going to be there is because I want to see Bob Avakian (BA). I feel a strong connection to BA because his writings transformed me. I was caught up in the senseless shit that goes down in the neighborhoods, spent too many years of my life behind prison walls and treated by this system as less than nothing. Through BA, I learned the world doesn’t have to be this way, that we could make a revolution and that we have to start working on that now. Through BA, I learned that even though this system treated me as human waste, I could count for a great deal by being a part of the movement to get rid of that system. BA helped me understand all these complex things I couldn’t understand before, things that used to go right over my head. I recognized in BA a precious leader that we really do need—that his leadership could actually get us out of this shit.
I want to see this Dialogue unfold—the whole conversation, I want to be there as it happens. And I really, really, really want to see BA. It’s a rare opportunity to see BA speak publicly, live and in person.
Bob Avakian is the leader of a group that aims to make a revolution. Yes, a revolution. A physical overthrow of the system that rules over society. That group is the Revolutionary Communist Party and its ranks are filled with people who have stepped up and are down to lead this whole process. From building the movement for revolution today to a future revolutionary situation, when this revolution can fight to go all the way in defeating the repressive forces of the state, not just the police but all the other forces this system will send to crush this, including the army. This will be difficult and it will involve a lot of sacrifice. But they’re not waiting for people to agree that this is a good idea—they have a strategy for revolution and they are calling on you to be a part of this.
Even while people down here are caught up in all kinds of fucked up shit fighting and killing each other, making money from selling drugs to people whose life is even more fucked up than theirs... even with all that, BA and the Party he leads believe that people down here will be the backbone for this revolution because we have nothing to lose and everything to win. It’s the fact that we are all “down here” that we get caught up in this fucked up shit in the first place. That’s why BA and CW (Cornel West) have so much love for people on the bottom of society—even when they are caught up in shit that involves hurting each other. Because BA and CW understand, on different levels, why this shit keeps happening and that we are capable of so much more.
BA especially understands that it will keep happening until people are living under a whole different system—a system that doesn’t treat so many Black and Brown people as less than human, a system that values the lives of people like you, a system that doesn’t allow pigs to keep killing unarmed youth and never paying for the lives they’ve destroyed.
Like I said, this Party isn’t asking anyone permission to stop all this shit. They are building a movement now to seize on the next opportunity this system itself throws up to wage the struggle for power. And they’re out to recruit people just like you.
Revolution and Religion; The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion. This Dialogue is for you and you need to be there. This Dialogue is about freeing people from the fucked up conditions that causes them to be fucked up to each other, and the role of religion in all of that.
BA and the Party he leads are atheists. They don’t believe in god. They don’t think praying to the sky will change anything. They know that no matter how much or how hard mothers, like the mother of Michael Brown or Ezell Ford, pray for their sons to come home safe, there will be pigs ready and willing to pump them full of bullets. BA and the RCP believe that the idea of an imaginary god stands in the way of people fully understanding why shit is so fucked up throughout the world and what people can do to change it. At the same time, they don’t turn their backs or look down on people who believe in a god. And they don’t tell people they can’t be part of making revolution if they hold on to those beliefs. They unite with people all the time who believe in a god as they fight the power while building a movement for revolution.
Cornel West is someone who, coming from his religious and moral beliefs, hates what’s happening to poor people under this system and at the hands of the police. He sharply exposes all kinds of shit that is done to people under this system. He’s passionate about people around the world and has a deep love for the oppressed.
With this Dialogue, people who don’t believe in god, and people who do believe are coming together to say no more to all this oppressive shit. They’re saying, to quote BA, “No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born...” Both BA and CW understand that, whether you pray or not, making that “no more” a reality is going to take concrete actions. They understand that it’s going to take millions of people both religious and not religious rising up to change this. And it’s going to take people digging into the biggest questions of how to get free, including ones that will take them out of their comfort zone, challenging them to play a radically different role than they are playing now.
If you’re sick of being dogged and degraded by this system... if you’re sick of seeing young women tricked out as someone’s property... if you’re sick of the pigs having free reign to kill and brutalize unarmed youth... and if you want to see people here and all around the world finally free from this shit... then this Dialogue is for you.
Now is the time for you to raise your head above the day to day bullshit, playing this system’s game with no prospect of ever winning. Get into BA and get ready to hear him in dialogue with Cornel West, get ready to hear him speak directly to you. Set aside the time. Get there, get others there. Be part of raising funds to get this known throughout your neighborhood and across the country. Saturday, November 15, doors open 1:30 pm—be there. This is for you.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
Updated October 21, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
October 20, 2014, New York City Hall
Carl Dix Presents Demand Directly to Mayor Bill DeBlasio: "The NYPD must not prevent the O22 march from going into Times Square!"
October 21, 2014
PARENTS DEMAND RIGHT TODAY TO MARCH INTO TIMES SQUARE
Who: Parents of Stolen Lives, Parents Against Police Brutality
What: Vigil/Press conference demanding right to march into Times Square on October 22, National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality
When: Tuesday, October 21, 2014, 3 p.m.
Where: Gracie Mansion, 88th and East End Avenue, New York
Why: Blocking October 22 march into Times Square effectively marginalizes the message that police brutality must stop.
# # #
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Steve Yip: (347) 979-7646; (917) 868-6007
Andree Penix Smith: (212) 920-1957
Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN): stopmassincarceration.net
Following a refusal by police to grant a permit to march into Times Square, yesterday at city hall Mayor Bill de Blasio was handed a demand for the right to protest anywhere in the city against police brutality.
During a news conference of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, activist Carl Dix gave de Blasio a letter from the group calling on the mayor not to allow the NYPD to prevent marchers from entering Times Square during the National Day of Protest.
In addition to the New York march tomorrow, 78 actions will take place in 65 locations throughout the U.S. as well as two in Canada and one in New Zealand.
October 22nd leaders Monday met with NYPD officials, who said such a march would be detrimental to traffic and safety if it proceeds into Times Square. March organizers contend this move effectively marginalizes the message that needs to be brought to the world’s attention – that police murder and abuse, racially-targeted mass incarceration and the criminalization of Black and Latino youth must stop.
At 1 p.m. tomorrow, a rally kicking off the 18th Annual October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality will begin at Union Square followed by a march to 42nd Street.
“Given the abuse the NYPD has inflicted on people, we must be allowed to raise our voices in protest and to deliver our message that police brutality must stop in Times Square before the eyes of the world," said Dix, an October 22nd co-founder.
"What about the safety of Eric Garner, of Ramarley Graham, of Anthony Rosario, of Malcolm Ferguson, of Nicholas Heyward Jr., of Anthony Baez and of all the other people whose lives have been stolen by the NYPD? What about the safety of the hundreds of people the NYPD has subjected to chokeholds? What about the safety of all those who might be brutalized or murdered by the NYPD?" he added.
A variety of actions – from protests and rallies to film screenings and sermons in religious institutions – took place during what the group calls the Month of Resistance. In the national effort to challenge injustices within the criminal justice system, Dix teamed with Union Theological Seminary Professor Dr. Cornel West to devise the call for the month-long protests, which were endorsed by families of those killed by police, former prisoners, clergy, academics and community organizations.
Public figures such as rapper, author and producer Chuck D and author and activist Alice Walker are also supporters. Chuck D recorded a pledge of support and Walker wrote a poem entitled “Gather” for Dix and West in support of the Month of Resistance.
Further information is available online at http://www.stopmassincarceration.net/
* * * * *
The following letter was presented by Carl Dix to New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio at a press conference October 20, 2014.
October 20, 2014
To MAYOR Bill de Blasio:
The NYPD must not be allowed to prevent the march on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, from proceeding into Times Square to deliver its message that police brutality, in New York and around the country, must STOP!
For all these reasons and more, it is NECESSARY that we march on October 22 and raise our voices in protest of police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation. We must take this message into Times Square where it will reach the eyes of the world.
The NYPD has no right and should not have the authority to prevent this.
October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression, and the Criminalization of a Generation
http://nyc.october22.org/ 866 235 7814
Stop Mass Incarceration Networkhttp://www.stopmassincarceration.net/ 917 868 6007
CAT (Convention Against Torture) Day of Action
October 17, 2014
from the U.S. Human Rights Network
On October 22, groups around the U.S. are collectively calling for an absolute end to torture in all its forms. This action coincides with Stop Police Brutality Day (October 22) and the 20th anniversary of the U.S. ratifying the UN Convention Against Torture (October 21).
Follow or join the conversation using #endtorture. Feel free to use and edit these sample tweets:
By formally accepting this treaty 20 years ago, the U.S. Government made a commitment to end the use of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Sadly, the U.S. Government has failed to meet this obligation and people continue to be subjected to torture, and cruel and dehumanizing treatment in the United States. The death penalty, police brutality, shackling of pregnant women, and the state of prison and detention conditions are all forms of torture. We need to end torture in all its forms now.
Next month, human rights activists will travel to Geneva, Switzerland for the United Nations’ review of the U.S. Government’s compliance with the Convention Against Torture. During the review, advocates will discuss key concerns around the government’s failure to sufficiently address cruel and inhumane treatment of civilians within U.S. borders, particularly in light of ongoing incidents of state-sanctioned violence and abuse happening in places like Ferguson, New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles.
For more information about the various violations of the CAT treaty, check out the 43 other reports submitted through the USHRN to the UN Committee Against Torture.
October 15, 2014
A press conference was held Wednesday, October 15 on the steps of New York’s City Hall to demand that the NYPD Grant a Permit to March to Times Square On the October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
CALL City Hall and the NYPD – Demand the permit be granted!
Revolution/revcom.us received the following from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network:
The NYPD denied a permit to the Stop Mass Incarceration Network to march into Times Square on the October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. They claim they denied the permit on the grounds of "traffic/public safety” concerns. They will only allow us to march from Union Square to W. 42 St stretching south on 7 Ave., penning us in and away from the thousands of people in Times Square. They are seeking to keep the message of October 22 away from the country and the world that being in Times Square allows us to reach.
What about the safety concerns of millions that the murder of Black and Brown people like Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Chantel Davis, Ramarley Graham and thousands of others must STOP NOW!? What about the safety concerns of millions that the criminalization of Black and Brown people MUST STOP!? The safety concerns of millions that police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation MUST STOP! are much more important than "traffic concerns". We demand the a permit to march into Times Square.
All over the country and here in New York, millions are outraged that the police are getting away with the murder of our people. How many more Eric Garners will be choked to death? How many more Michael Browns will be gunned down with their hands up? We have the right to march into Times Square to reach the thousands that are there from all over the city, the country and the world with the message that this country is committing grave crimes against it own people and this must stop. Join us to demand that the NYPD grant a permit to march into Times Square on October 22.
Call City Hall and the NYPD demanding that the permit be granted.
City Hall (212) 639-9675
NYPD Switchboard (646) 610-5000
Building for October 22: Important New York City Organizing Events & Protests
Organizing Meeting for the October 22 National Day of Protest
Thursday, October 16, 6:30 PM
Project Reach, 39 Eldridge Street 4/F, between Canal & Hester Street in Chinatown. D train to Grand Street
Month of Resistance: Rally at Rikers Island
Saturday, October 18, 3 PM
We demand: "End Solitary Confinement for All! STOP Abusing & Killing Our Brothers and Sisters Incarcerated in NYC Jails"
In front of the Rikers Island Sign at the corner of 19th Ave & Hazen Street
Take the Q100 bus from Long Island City
Month of Resistance Film Showing: The House I Live In
Monday, October 20, 7 PM
The Riverside Church, 120th and Claremont Avenue, Upper Manhattan, #1 train to 116th Street.
On October 15, Revolution/revcom.us received the following from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network:
Rally at 100 Centre Street Stands with the Black and Latino Youth Swept Up in the June 4th NYPD Military Style Raids in West Harlem and their Families.
Manhattan Criminal Court, 100 Centre Street Building
Thursday, October 16, 2014 at 8:30 AM
HARLEM, NY – West Harlem Residents and family members from the General Grant, Manhattanville Houses, and Manhattan Avenue neighborhood, and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, congregations for Justice and Justice at Saint Mary's Episcopal Church, and others will hold a press conference and rally to support the Black and Latino youth who were the targets of the June 4th raids in West Harlem and their families, and to denounce the military style assault by over 400 NYPD cops. Some of the youth swept up on that day will appear in court on the 16th.
On June 4th at 6:00 A.M as helicopters hovered overhead, 400 police in body armor, with weapons drawn, charged down hallways breaking down doors with battering rams in public housing projects and in private apartment buildings in West Harlem. Mothers scrambled to protect their children, most especially their teen-aged boys. It was a scene reminiscent of slavery days, or U.S. troops rousting villagers in Vietnam or present day Afghanistan. Dozens and dozens of young men, as young as 15, were dragged away by cops. They were given bails of hundreds of 1000’s of dollars in some cases and are facing 15 years to life in prison.
The June 4th raid were a brutal escalation of this system’s war on Black and Latino people, especially the youth. It is bound up with the criminalization of generations of young people by a system that has no future for them other than the horror of mass incarceration, poverty, misery, or death at an early age. It is part of a slow genocide that could become a fast one.
The NYPD's pretext for these raids were from conflict between two housing projects in the 2011 death of basketball star, and resident of the General Grant Houses, Tayshana Murphy.
Taylonn Murphy, father of Tayshana Murphy, said, "I don't want the death of my daughter to be the excuse for the police doing what they did on June 4th and are doing in the court. People need to be there on the 16th and let the system know that we are not going to accept injustice. "
From Carl Dix in Ferguson - Mon, Oct. 13, 11:20 PM:
All Out for Oct 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality
DAY OF DETERMINED ACTIONS CLOSES OUT FERGUSON OCTOBER!
The last day of Ferguson October featured a determined group of clergy and others laying siege to the Ferguson Police Station. Intent on putting their bodies on the line to say NO MORE to police murders of Black youth, people braved driving rain and repeated attempts by police to drive them back as they penetrated police lines and refused to allow business as usual to go down in that pig sty. 42 people were arrested in this action. Cornel West and Carl Dix – co-founders of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and initiators of the October 2014 national Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression & the Criminalization of a Generation – along with MOR steering committee member Efia Nwangaza, were among those arrested.
West was the keynote speaker at a mass meeting held at St. Louis University (SLU) the previous night. Youth who have been in the forefront of the resistance in Ferguson demanded that their voices be heard and a number of that got onto the stage to speak, injecting a sense of urgency into the meeting. This sense ran thru a march of more than 1000 people to the site of the police murder of Vonderrit Myers, another young Black man whose life was stolen by police, and back to SLU. And it added to the determination of the action the following morning when religious leaders bitterly condemned the way police treat Black youth like criminals and called for it to end.
More than 60 people were arrested on Monday, giving Ferguson weekend a fitting finale. The task now is to go on from here, continuing the fight for Justice for Michael Brown and connecting that fight to taking the resistance to police terror, mass incarceration and all its consequences to a much higher level. Many people left Ferguson October intent on mobilizing powerful outpourings on October 22 as the next step. Everyone who hates the way police murder Black youth and get away with no punishment needs to do the same. Go to the web site: www.stopmassincarceration.net for information, to get involved and to make a generous financial contribution to the effort.
(See, Ferguson Month! Everywhere! A Call From Carl Dix, below)
FergusonOctober Protests / Civil Disobedience Covered Globally:
The massive, defiant protests in the Ferguson-St. Louis area this past weekend – Oct. 10-13 – and especially Monday’s civil disobedience became a top story in the U.S. mainstream media and was covered globally, including CNN, The New York Times, Time, Yahoo News, NBC, Fox, ABC, CBS, USA Today, Russia Today, the Guardian UK, and many other outlets.
“Ferguson Protests Take New Edge, Months After Killing – With Coordination and Scale, Civil Disobedience Acts Recall Earlier Era,” was the headline in the Oct. 14 print edition of The New York Times. Its online edition featured a picture of Cornel West being arrested. Another was a beautiful photo of the Oct. 13 marched headed by Cornel West with Carl Dix close behind.
Yahoo News quoted one person saying people from outside the St. Louis area “don't know the real struggle,” but also reported, “But members of the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Revolutionary Communist Party and even Palestinian activists have joined the protests.” The report continued:
Outside activists say everyone needs to take a stand and the issues in Ferguson resound nationally.
Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party said he came to Ferguson in August to protest and was arrested. He was arrested again on Monday in an act of civil disobedience, along with other national figures.
"People in Ferguson stood up and that put the question of police murder of black people right out in front of all of society," said Dix, who is black. "Everybody has to take a stand and that's what the weekend is a reflection of. More and more people taking a stand."
This breakthrough into the media “superstructure” – forced by people's defiance and refusal to stop demanding Justice for Michael Brown! – is significant and reflective of the big changes in the political terrain and people's thinking taking place, including inspiring more outbreaks of protest against police murder and mass incarceration, and in many cases hearing about the Month of Resistance, as well as the Revolutionary Communist Party, Bob Avakian, and the movement for revolution for the first time.
Ferguson October has already represented a leap in resistance to police terror, mass incarceration and all its consequences, and today's events will take things farther. Our responsibility coming off that is to make it a springboard for going farther in putting up a huge STOP SIGN to the horrors the criminal "injustice" system in this country enforces on people.
We'll update you on the developments today and be getting to you soon about what's next, but let me say now that October 22, the National Day of Protest to stop Police Brutality is 9 days from now, and we have to be gearing up and going all out to make that a powerful day of resistance all across the country.
October 13: 100 Rally in Oakland – “Not One More Deportation!”
100 people marched and rallied at the Fruitvale BART plaza in Oakland, California, near where Oscar Grant was killed. The rally was part of the Month of Resistance and joined mostly by .Latino immigrant women, as well as some college and high school youth. “Deportation of immigrants... not one more!” and “Criminalization of immigrant sons and daughters... not one more!” rang out in Spanish and English. Attacks on immigrants, including the criminalizing of young children crossing the border from Central America, the militarization of the border with people dying while trying to cross the deserts of Arizona and California, the killing of Latino youth along with African-American youth were linked. All are part of a whole genocidal program that has to be stopped. Calls went out to join together and bring others to the October 22 national day of protest to rock the streets of downtown Oakland.
Among those speaking out at the rally were a group of Latino high school youth who did a drama about a Mexican immigrant father beaten to death by the border patrol. Others called for more opposition to the Obama administration’s speed-up of deportations . There is a feeling among many who’ve demanded changes in punitive immigration policies, that Obama has betrayed them – he’s deported almost 2 million undocumented immigrants! And he’s railroading these kids through the courts to keep them from entering the country.
Joey Johnson, who went to Ferguson, said people standing up heroically there have changed things and is inspiring others to stand up and resist. He also spoke about going to Murietta, California to confront Tea Party racists who are attacking the Central American children trying to cross the border as unwanted criminals.
Even for children who manage to get asylum status and are able to stay in the US, their fate is still like Black children: the system of criminalization a police terror means they have to survive life in America walking around with a target on their backs, hoping they won’t end up like Oscar Grant, shot dead by police at Fruitvale Station.
October 15, Wednesday, 7 pm, "Mass Incarceration On Trial" - Jonathan Simon Presents His New Book
Our prisons are not only vast and overcrowded, they are degrading—relying on racist gangs, lockdowns, and Supermax-style segregation units to maintain a tenuous order.
MONTH OF RESISTANCE EVENT, Revolution Books, Berkeley
From Greensboro: New Song and Video in Honor of Mike Brown and All the Stolen Lives
Artists and activists from several local movements in Greensboro, North Carolina, including SMIN_NC, Greensboro4Justice, Artists4Justice, and Justice4Humanity, wrote and recorded this song and video in honor of Mike Brown and all the Stolen Lives.
Tuesday, October 14 - 9:00 am, Manhattan Criminal Court 100 Center Street. Rally in support of Noche of the Revolution Club & Stop Mass Incarceration Network. Noche has a 9:30 court appearance on 6 misdemeanor charges received when the NYPD targeted him for leading an August 14 march of 1,000 from Union Square to Times Square in protest of Michael Brown's murder in Ferguson, MO. We demand: drop these charges!
Stop Mass Incarceration Network
@StopMassIncNet / 347-979-SMIN (7646)
Monday, October 13 – 4:50pm
FLASH! From Ferguson
At this writing, Carl Dix and Cornel West have been released from the county lockup. They are waiting for more people to be released, including steering committee members of the Month of Resistance to be released.
From Gregory Koger. Earlier today Cornel West and Carl Dix—cofounders of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and initiators of the October 2014 national Month of Resistance to Mass Incarceration, Police Terror, Repression & the Criminalization of a Generation—were arrested at the Ferguson police department, along with faith leaders and others. Their arrests—part of the Ferguson October Weekend of Resistance—came after over two months of defiant protests sparked by the police execution of Michael Brown by police officer Darren Wilson. Despite the arrests of hundreds of people for protesting during the course of the Ferguson uprising, Wilson has not spent one day in jail.
Dr. West was the keynote speaker at St. Louis University Sunday night, where a number of youth who have been on the front lines of the Ferguson uprising demanded their voices be heard and were invited onto the stage to speak. After the event, several thousand people took to the streets of St. Louis, gathering at the site of the police murder of Vonderrit Myers, another young Black man who's life was stolen by police just blocks from St. Louis University last week. The march ended with an occupation of St. Louis university, where the crowd called on students to come out of their dorms and into the streets to stand with the youth under the gun of police terror & the New Jim Crow.
Oct. 13 - @Carl_Dix tweeting from Ferguson March and Civil Disobediance
10am: .@Carl_Dix @CornelWest prepare to put our bodies on the line. #BlackLivesMatter #FergusonOctober #OCT22
11am: @Carl_Dix @CornelWest marching for our youth in #FergusonOctober #BlackLivesMatter #OCT22
Noon: At the police dpt showing #resistance #FergusonOctober #BlackLivesMatter #OCT22
Noon: Pushed passed the pollice #FergusonOctober #BlackLivesMatter #
1pm: Carl & Cornel West arrested Ferguson demanding Indict Killer Cop. RT, spread. Donate at http://stopmassincarceration.net ! #FergusonOctober #Oct22
6pm after being released from jail: "It is our duty 2fight it is our duty 2win we must love & respect each other we have nothing to lose but our chains"
Monday Morning, Oct. 13.
600 people march, then civil disobedience with about 50 people arrested, including Cornel West, one of the first to get handcuffed. Carl Dix, from the RCP and co-founder with Cornel West of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network. also arrested.
“Cornel West, at a mass meeting in Ferguson on Sunday as part of the Weekend of Resistance, said, "I didn't come here to give a speech, I came to get arrested!" Carl Dix has said, "On Monday morning, civil disobedience is planned. We plan to connect more people to the October Month of Resistance and organize more people to act on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation." (See "In Ferguson: Carl Dix, Cornel West to Participate in Civil Disobedience Today.")
Organized by and included many clergy and other religious forces. But also many others from the St. Louis area and those who had come from out of town. The leaders of the action stated that this had been organized in order for the clergy to take a step forward in taking up this whole struggle around justice for Mike Brown—after some of the youth and others in Ferguson had asked the question, “where are the clergy?”
There was a march to the Ferguson police station where there was a standoff, face to face with the police at the station doors. Many went right up to the faces of the police to testify about the situation of police brutality. Many were calling on the police to “repent.” At one point dozens of names of victims of police murder were called out to the crowd. Some in the crowd were visibly shaken by this, some breaking into sobs. When the police didn’t arrest anyone at the front doors, people lined up and then confronted the police at another barricaded area. They made it known that they intended to go through the barricade and were arrested one by one.
—Li Onesto, Revolution
Sunday, Oct 12 – Afternoon. The placed was packed for an afternoon of Hip Hop music that was part of the Weekend of Resistance. Many artists took the stage and it was really refreshing to go to a hip hip show and hear rappers who were not doing songs about getting rich or objectifying women’s bodies. The theme this afternoon was definitely “We want justice for Mike Brown” and FUCK THE POLICE!! The middle finger was a major gesture aimed at the police by just about every artist who I saw perform. Rebel Diaz was great. They did a bunch of songs directly addressing the question of police brutality and also talked about how this system oppressed immigrants—sharing their own experience as an introduction to a performance of their version of Sting's song, "I'm an Alien." Cornel West also showed up and gave big props to the youth for being such a crucial part of this struggle and announced that he had come to Ferguson to get arrested.
Updated 10/15/2014: Sunday Night. A couple of thousand people packed the St. Louis University arena for a program that was part of the Weekend of Resistance. Thousands had come into town from all over the country and hundreds of them were in the audience. The speakers were largely representatives of different religious forces. There were also other social justice activists including a speaker from the struggle around Palestine—as at the rally on Saturday. This program reflected the fact that many, many different class and social forces have sincerely joined on the right side of this struggle AND THAT IS A VERY GOOD THING. Many speakers addressed how they had been shaken out of complacency by what has unfolded in Ferguson and around the country, especially the actions of the youth. Some of the speakers spoke to the moral dimension from their religious convictions of the need to act. Reverand Sekou went so far as to say, “we are willing to risk our lives because the young have said even though they bring tanks and rubber bullets, we will not back down.” Others were self-critical, “we have been too complacent,” “it is time to risk arrest.”
At one point there was a disruption from some youth in the audience who wanted their voices to be heard, their humanity recognized. These youth are passionate about continuing the struggle that they have been part of for over 2 months now and they are not backing down and not going to stop. This is a very important stand, pushing things forward. The impatience and breaking through all the months of advice to “be calm” and make the movement be about voting and respectable ways of bringing about change – this was righteous. In the main, this also characterized the speakers on the stage as well and that too was a welcome development. The passionate call to join the struggle by the youth undoubtedly contributed to hundreds taking to the street that very night. Secondarily, some of this was contradictory not surprisingly. There was some definite narrowness from some of the youth who did not seem to appreciate what the struggle had called forward among important sections of the people. Their stance was that we are leading on the street and you all just talk about getting rid of racism but you are not out there in the street – a narrow measuring of everything in relationship to being out in the streets with them.
Cornel West was the only other scheduled speaker who still addressed the crowd after the youth were called up to the stage and he spoke to the urgent and pressing issues of police brutality and racial oppression in this country in a powerful way. He spoke to great applause. Cornel West being in St Louis helped bring national attention to the days of resistance in Ferguson and has made an invaluable contribution to the fight against the new Jim Crow and the criminalization of a generation. He has stood out from the traditional civil rights and religious leaders in his willingness to speak truth to power and to fight ferociously for those trapped in impoverished conditions and against the brutality rained on them.
Late Sunday Night/Early Monday Morning. After the program about 800 people gathered in Shaw and took to the streets. The crowd was very diverse—a mix of people from the St. Louis area and many people who had come from out of town for the Weekend of Resistance. A determined and loud march took off around 11pm and marched through the area for about 2 hours—dividing into 2 groups at one point. One group blocked an intersection for about an hour. The two groups then joined up together again and marched to St. Louis University. At the front gate, there were about 4 security guards. The leaders at the front of the march said, “you want to see our IDs”? and pulled out their IDs and then the whole march just pushed through. There were about 1,000 protesters at this point. People called out to the students who were watching from the building windows, “come out of your dorms, join us!” The crowd took a the clock tower square on campus and held a rally, which included one of the relatives of Vonderitt Myers and a student from SLU who voiced his support for this struggle. The crowd was feeling very victorious, a real mood that this action had in fact, we had taken things into the street—and were calling on many more, including students, to join the struggle for justice for Mike Brown. At 3am it was announced that people were going to occupy the square. Most of the crowd left in the next couple of hours but at 5:30pm the news was reporting that a small group was still occupying the clock tower space.
—Li Onesto, Revolution
A report from Carl Dix, Sunday, October 12, 2014
We've reached the last day of Ferguson weekend. Today as the Amerikkkan empire celebrates the beginnings of the occupation of this land which led to the genocide against the native inhabitants, we here are preparing to put our bodies on the line to say NO MORE to police murder of Black youth.
Ferguson October has already represented a leap in resistance to police terror, mass incarceration and all its consequences, and today's events will take things farther. Our responsibility coming off that is to make it a springboard for going farther in putting up a huge STOP SIGN to the horrors the criminal "injustice" system in this country enforces on people.
We'll update you on the developments today and be getting to you soon about what's next, but let me say now that October 22, the National Day of Protest to stop Police Brutality is 9 days from now, and we have to be gearing up and going all out to make that a powerful day of resistance all across the country.
And as always we need your involvement to make this happen. Go to the web site: www.stopmassincarceration.net to find out what's happened and how you can get involved. And also to contribute money (and frequent flyer miles) to help make it possible for the people on the front lines of this fight to keep getting to where the struggle is sharpest and to function while we're there.
In struggle, Carl
October 11, Ferguson, MO:
Your Support Needed to Help Make October 22 Successful
POWERFUL RESISTANCE MANIFESTED AT FERGUSON OCTOBER
from Carl Dix in Ferguson
Ferguson October is off to a powerful start. Between one and two thousand people marched thru downtown St. Louis, with chants like “Hands Up-Don’t Shoot” and “Mike Brown did not have to die. We all know the reason why. The whole system’s guilty!” echoing as they marched. At a rally, the crowd heard from people organizing on the ground in Ferguson who vowed to continue the struggle until the killer cop was indicted and arrested. The rally ended with a call for everyone to go back to their areas and mobilize people to take to the streets on October 22.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revolution received the following from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network:
In New York City: **October 22, Wednesday, 1 PM **
**Gather at Union Square, March to Times Square**
Spread Facebook Event for October 22
For National October 22nd Mobilization Plans, go here!
No School! No Work! Walk Out! No More!
On October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, thousands of people must gather in Union Square, take to the streets, and march to Times Square, in a defiant statement that we will not live this way. Students walking out of the high schools and universities, people leaving work, all determined that October 22 will not be a routine day, this will not be business as usual, loudly proclaiming that we are taking responsibility to stop these outrages.
We will gather in Union Square, people from all the different organizations, faith communities, the projects, those that are the target of police brutality, activists and others. And especially, youth from the high schools walk out, busting out of the schools, those that are sweated and brutalized by the police everyday, bringing their energy, their enthusiasm, their defiance, their refusal to live like this. Everyone should bring their banners and signs. Pictures of loved ones whose lives have been stolen by the police should be everywhere. Thousands will be holding the poster of the target that says, “No More”. A huge banner with the name of the day and the O22 logo will be at the front with a contingent of the parents and the youth that are being criminalized.
On this October 22 we don’t need a long rally. We will have short messages that inspire us to take the message that “THIS MUST STOP!” to the streets. These will come from the parents and youth that refuse to accept being demonized and criminalized. Our defiant march to Times Square will be our statement. No business as usual, no routine rally and demonstration, no acting like this is just another march. NO! Defiance and resistance and we will make that real. The slow genocide is picking up speed. The time to act is now!
We will take to the streets to march to Times Square with drums beating, horns blowing, our banners, target posters that say “No More”, posters that say “We stand with the defiant ones of Ferguson”, pictures of loved ones, everyone blowing the whistle. We will be loud, raucous, and defiant. One and all will see that we are determined to stop police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation.
Times Square, where people from all over the country and the world go to visit, will not be business as usual. We will Circle the Square and the NYPD Times Square Precinct. We will rally in Times Square with the voices of the families who have been robbed of their loved ones by the police. With our presence and action, a message will go out to the world that this country is guilty of horrific crimes against its own people and this must stop, NOW! We will gather and read the Pledge of Resistance in one loud voice, declaring that this is the beginning of a movement that aims to stop police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation, NOW! People will get a sense that across the country thousands have been acting on this day together, this movement is real, and they must be a part of it. We will demonstrate and march and bring many more into our ranks to put an end to these crimes.
Stop Mass Incarceration Network
c/o P.O. Box 941 Knickerbocker Station
New York, NY 10002-0900
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
Selling Tickets to Those This System Has Cast Out
October 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Recently, I got to be part of a team that went out to some housing projects and a main drag in an oppressed neighborhood to promote and sell tickets to the upcoming Dialogue Between Cornel West and Bob Avakian on Revolution and Religion, The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion. We also had whistles, stickers, and palm-cards for the October 22 National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality. And, of course, we had Revolution newspaper.
What I am about to share is but one element of what must be a multifaceted approach of reaching back to everyone we've met over the years, selling them tickets and involving them in building a social movement towards this Dialogue. Here, I will focus on the dimension of going out very broadly to sell tickets and make this Dialogue a reference point among new people in a mass way.
First off, this was thrilling! I got to stand on the street corner, bullhorn in hand, yelling out to thousands of people from among the most cast off and oppressed sections of society that they have the opportunity to see Bob Avakian, the leader of the revolution, live and in person! “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” I would say, “One that can not only change your whole life, but enable you to be part of changing the whole world—of emancipating all of humanity.” Over and over again I repeated the quote from Bob Avakian, “Those this system has cast off, those it has treated as less than human, 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.” Then, I would make clear, “Those are the words of Bob Avakian, the leader of the revolution, a man who has never turned his back on the people this system treats like human waste—this is a leader who knows that you can rise up out of all this shit and be part of changing everything and he will show you how. November 15th. Riverside Church. Bob Avakian and Cornel West will be talking to YOU, and YOU need to be there! Get your ticket today!” I interspersed this agitation with words about the need to stand up now to STOP police brutality and calling on everyone to be out on October 22.
Folks listened as they walked by, some stopped for a while. But even among those who stopped, it still took leadership and struggle to move them from simple appreciation of what they were hearing to becoming actively involved, including through buying or putting a “down-payment” down on their ticket to November 15th.
Early in the day, a young Black couple threw their hands out to grab for fliers, saying, “We talk about this all the time. Tell us what to do!” Its not every day that so many people are so raw with anger and so eager to find some way to join a real fight to put an end to this shit. But, rather than being satisfied that they took a stack of fliers, I stopped what I was doing and I spoke seriously with them.
The young man showed me scars on his lip and forehead from being beaten by police. I put it to him straight up that he needs to fight against this shit right now and be on a mission to bring everyone he knows out on October 22 and that he needs to buy his ticket today to hear Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, live and in person in Dialogue with Cornel West, a revolutionary Christian, on November 15th. He and his girlfriend were intrigued by both of these things and said immediately, “Yeah, we'll be there for sure.” But again, I wasn't satisfied.
I spoke further about who BA is: his long history in the revolutionary struggle and leadership going back to the 60s and all the way up to this critical moment, how he has re-envisioned revolution and communism and rescued the entire project of human emancipation, and how he is especially committed to fighting so that people like them can rise up as emancipators of humanity. They hadn't known about either BA or Cornel West and it was important to get concretely into who they are and what a unique opportunity it is to hear them together. Again, I put to them the need to buy their tickets today, to hold their seat and to make a commitment to be there on November 15.
They didn't have the money to buy the whole ticket, but he was able to put a few dollars down to begin paying for his ticket and we worked out how we would get together to involve him more fully and to collect the rest of his ticket money.
As he got a deeper sense of who BA is, the young man spoke about how the government kills revolutionary leaders. We talked about the responsibility that people like him have to protecting and defending Bob Avakian as well as this upcoming event. All this only gave him a deeper sense of how serious we are about changing the whole world and made him more serious, too.
He stayed for half an hour, getting into the strategy for revolution, making plans to mobilize everyone he knows for October 22, and getting more deeply into BA and the nature of this revolution. After a while, he began intervening in the work of other revolutionaries; if another young Black man ignored our comrades he would challenge them, “Slow down, man—you got to take the flier, this is serious.” Many of them did then slow down and take the flier.
I told them we are collecting video statements from people across the country as to why they are coming to this Dialogue. Off everything we had gotten into, he was eager to record a statement about why he is standing up on O22 and why he put money down for his ticket to November 15.
A bit later, a young Puerto Rican-Dominican woman came out of the projects to find out what we were all about. She said she was sick of how complacent many of her neighbors are, going along with being treated poorly, distracted by TV and other things. She has an eight-month-old child and is concerned about what kind of world she will grow up in. She was heartened when I told her about the Dialogue and in particular how Bob Avakian has fought for decades to provide the kind of leadership that can enable people like her and her neighbors to rise up and change themselves in the course of changing the whole world. We spoke about BA's life and the topics that he and Cornel West will be getting into and she was happy to hear about a leader who really cares about those on the bottom. She explained that she gets paid on Thursday and made plans to buy a ticket for herself and her baby's father. She also recorded a video statement about why she wants to attend the Dialogue and why others in the neighborhood should too.
Later, a young Black man stood listening as I agitated for a long while. When he finally began to move I got off the bullhorn and approached him. He believes in revolution and he believes deeply in god. He had listened to me talk on the bullhorn at length about what an opportunity it will be to hear BA live and in person and said he wanted to be there. Still, it took some struggle for him to make the leap of committing to attend by purchasing a ticket. For him—and this was the case with everyone I spoke to—it wasn't mainly a question of finding the money. To be clear, many folks did not have much money, but even more there was a question of whether they could see themselves going to an event like this.
The more I got into who BA is, what this event is about, and the tremendous importance of those this system has cast off being in the house, the more people were moved to make that commitment by purchasing—or beginning to purchase—their tickets. This wasn't a mere “transaction.” This was a transformation—in the way they saw themselves, how they saw BA, and how they saw their role in the revolution. I am not saying that everyone signed up to be part of the revolution in some organized way, and agreeing to be an organized part of this movement is not a pre-requisite for attending the Dialogue. But, there was a need to struggle with people to see that they not only have an opportunity, but they have a responsibility to come and hear this leader and consider deeply what their lives are going to be about. I would paraphrase BA in BAsics 5:23, "Your life is going to be about something—or it's going to be about nothing. And there is nothing greater more meaningful or liberating your life can be about than doing whatever you can to contribute to real revolution and the emancipation of humanity. You can't miss the chance to hear BA live, he knows the way out of this hellhole and nothing can compare to the chance to be part of that!” This was part of reaching inside them and putting the ideological challenge to them about what it would mean to hear BA live, or to pass on this opportunity.
With this young brother, there was transformation. He purchased his ticket on the spot. He also opened up more, sharing his views and listening deeply. At first he was shocked to hear that BA was an atheist, telling me he's never met a good atheist. I told him I was an atheist and his jaw dropped. This confused him because he had loved everything I had been saying up until then. He wanted to know why I didn't believe in god and I told him and I opened up the approach that BA takes to this question in Away With All Gods, but also after a while of getting into this I also brought out and read from the letter from the ex-prisoner where he says:
“With this Dialogue, people who don’t believe in god, and people who do believe are coming together to say no more to all this oppressive shit. They’re saying, to quote BA, 'No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born...' Both BA and CW understand that, whether you pray or not, making that 'no more' a reality is going to take concrete actions. They understand that it’s going to take millions of people both religious and not religious rising up to change this. And it’s going to take people digging into the biggest questions of how to get free, including ones that will take them out of their comfort zone, challenging them to play a radically different role than they are playing now.
“If you’re sick of being dogged and degraded by this system... if you’re sick of seeing young women tricked out as someone’s property... if you’re sick of the pigs having free reign to kill and brutalize unarmed youth... and if you want to see people here and all around the world finally free from this shit... then this Dialogue is for you.”
This brought a big smile to his face and we continued to struggle over the existence of god, while also repeatedly coming back to how important it is that we stand up together to fight back and to get into the big questions of how we really get free, most of all by hearing BA and Cornel West on November 15. It was off the ex-prisoner's letter that he opened up about having been in prison in Texas and we talked about that. Towards the end, he asked me, “You said there would be a bus from up here going to the event together?” This made a big impression on me. Clearly, knowing that there would be a busload of people from this very community, and hearing from an ex-prisoner saying explicitly that this event was for him and people like him, made a big difference in him being able to see himself coming to it and feeling welcome. We worked out to a way to get him on the bus and to get his younger brother a ticket too.
There were many other exchanges throughout the day but rather than recounting them all I want to extract a few overall lessons.
First, the mood among people right now is incredibly favorable. There is tremendous anger seething among people, and people are in a mood right now where they want to be part of doing something about it. We had better not be satisfied with or just tail after their spontaneous favorable responses—but instead work to wrench major advances for the revolutionary movement out of this by fighting to transform people's thinking and concretely move them to purchase their tickets and be part of mobilizing others to be at this Dialogue and to turn out during this Month of Resistance!
Second, we ourselves had better appreciate and project what a truly historic and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity it is to hear Bob Avakian, live and in person, together with Cornel West. This is not just “another event” the revolution is putting on, not even the “best event we've ever done.” This truly is an historic opportunity, a chance for thousands to hear from a leader who has fought for 50 years with everything he has and made tremendous break-throughs in both the understanding necessary to emancipate humanity and the practical leadership to make this real, including especially taking responsibility for leading those on the bottom to rise up as conscious emancipators of humanity.
Third, selling tickets is not simply a transaction—it is a concrete expression of a transformation. It is an expression of people going from being glad that someone is talking about revolution and hoping from the sidelines that it succeeds while not really taking it all that seriously or feeling responsible for it, to seeing themselves in this revolution. It is a key expression of those on the bottom casting off the ways this system puts on them, refusing any longer to just go along caught up in the daily grind or the daily hustle, and instead seizing the opportunity to hear from a leader who will challenge them and fight for them to be part of channeling their anger and their pain, their creativity and their intellects, their communities and their highest aspirations into fighting and getting free. Putting the money down, making plans to get on the bus, strategizing to pull in others, and getting into BA and the big questions of the revolution, this is a transformation. It must be fought for and led. In many ways, the people who are the most enthusiastic are the ones we must fight for the hardest. With the folks who put money down or bought their tickets, I spent a good half an hour digging into things further—deepening their commitment, learning as much as I could about what attracted them and what might be holding them back, and working to unleash them to have a bigger impact on spreading this. With all these folks, really wielding the materials—the quotes from BA, the message from the ex-prisoner, the orientation put forward in the piece about the “Jimi Hendrix of the Revolution” and the many other pieces that have been up on our website, and more—was absolutely critical.
Fourth, this approach is one that anyone can take up—whether you have been working for revolution for decades or just got involved today. All of us need to be out there fighting to transform people so that they are putting money down and making a commitment to be there to hear from BA. And all of us need to be sharing our experiences in this through this newspaper so that we can take this further in every part of the country.
All this is just a beginning, but it points to the tremendous potential that we must go out and fight to realize on a much grander scale. We cannot fail to strain against and seek to bust through every obstacle to packing the church to hear Cornel West and Bob Avakian, including by fighting especially hard to turn out a huge section from among those who catch the hardest hell every day.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, thousands of people must gather in Union Square, take to the streets, and march to Times Square, in a defiant statement that we will not live this way. Students walking out of the high schools and universities, people leaving work, all determined that October 22 will not be business as usual.
In unity with demonstrations all over the country, we will gather in Union Square at 1 p.m.—people from all the different organizations, faith communities, the projects, those that are the target of police brutality, activists and others. And especially, youth from the high schools walk out, busting out of the schools, those that are sweated and brutalized by the police everyday, bringing their energy, their enthusiasm, their defiance, their refusal to live like this. Everyone should bring their banners and signs. Pictures of loved ones whose lives have been stolen by the police should be everywhere.
We will have short messages that inspire us to take the message that “THIS MUST STOP!” into the streets, with drums beating, defiant rhythms, whistles blowing against the police—loud, raucous and defiant—bringing it all to Times Square where we will deliver a powerful message to the powers that be, that the world can hear. With our presence and action, a message will go out to the world that this country is guilty of horrific crimes against its own people and this must stop, NOW! We will gather and read the Pledge of Resistance in one loud voice, declaring that this is the beginning of a movement that aims to stop this genocide—mass incarceration, police brutality, repression and the criminalization of a generation—NOW! People will get a sense that across the country thousands have been acting on this day together, this movement is real, and they must be a part of it.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 15, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
People who hate the Revolutionary Communist Party, its leader Bob Avakian, and the movement for revolution—who in fact hate actual revolution and communism, and even the idea of truly radical change, far more than they hate how the world is now—sometimes hurl the bullshit accusation that this party and movement for revolution is a “cult.” In addition, there are people who may not be firmly entrenched in an antagonistic stance, and who should—and could—know better, who are all too willing to uncritically accept and repeat this accusation. They do so because, whether they know it or not, they are heavily influenced by widespread distortions of and prejudices against communism, communist leaders, and leadership more generally. And they are also influenced by a general culture and society in which slander, snark, pettiness and personal attacks are broadly treated as an acceptable substitute for critical thinking and substantive engagement with points of content.
As this article will briefly speak to, this charge of “cult” is complete and utter nonsense, and it is a charge that both reflects and feeds off this pervasive anticommunism and culture of snark.
The rampant anti-communist prejudices and distortions in our society originate from those who run the capitalist-imperialist system we live under now, which is a worldwide system based on vicious exploitation and oppression and monumental inequalities. Those who run this system have every reason to slander past efforts or future attempts to sweep this system away and organize society in a radically different way, and to slander people who are working towards this. So, those who enforce and advocate for this capitalist-imperialist system constantly spread absurd lies and prejudices about communism that are then repeated over and over again in the media, educational system, popular culture, and—unfortunately—even by many who call themselves “progressives.” In fact, this very charge of “cult” is a reflection and expression of the sort of crude, unimaginative stereotypes of communism that could be pulled straight from a U.S. Cold War propaganda film, with depictions of communists as “mindless, brainwashed robots who all think the same way”...blah, blah, blah.
One key particular form that this type of anti-communist attack takes is slanders against communist leaders and the role that they play. If you think about it for a minute, people in this society—and those who run this society—follow and promote all kinds of leaders in all different spheres of society, whether in politics, the arts, sports, or elsewhere. But somehow, when people follow and promote a communist leader, they are a “cult.” NO. The way any leader should be evaluated is: What does that leader stand for? What is the content of that leader’s ideas? What will be the result if these ideas gain broad influence and are taken up? What overall role is that leader playing in society and in the world?
It is also worth noting that it’s not even only against communists that the slander of “cult” has been leveled. In the radical and revolutionary upsurges of the 1960s and 1970s, the powers-that-be and their mouthpieces warned parents about their radical children joining “cults,” and while there were in fact some cults on the scene in the '60s and '70s just as there are today, very often what were being labeled as cults were far from that in reality—they were simply radical social and political movements whose influence the powers-that-be feared.
Haters: We’re calling you out. And to those who may not be haters, but are allowing themselves to swallow the lies spewed forth by the haters, we’re challenging you to be better than that. This accusation of “cult” is just bullshit. It is lazy. It is intellectually cowardly. And it is harmful, because it spreads lies and confusion about what Bob Avakian, and the party and movement for revolution he leads, are actually all about; stands in the way of the critically needed theoretical engagement and practical involvement with the movement for revolution to emancipate humanity; and perpetuates rotten standards in which people deal in lies, snark, slander, pettiness and personal attacks rather than principled discussion and debate over the substance of key questions.
As the Revolutionary Communist Party, the movement for revolution, and its leadership continue to gain increasing influence in society and make significant advances, those who feel fundamentally threatened by what they represent will continue to spew their garbage out of desperation. For this reason, it’s worth speaking to this briefly.
Here are three very basic and key points on this:
Point 1: The Revolutionary Communist Party, its leader Bob Avakian, and the movement for revolution represent the exact OPPOSITE of a cult.
Think about it. What is a cult? Generally, it is a group of people who separate themselves from the rest of society, who literally or figuratively initiate members into some “secret society” or “secret temple of knowledge,” and who adopt an unthinking, uncritical and religious approach to reality. Cults encourage blind following, or religious worship, of their leaders. And yes, they also often adopt practices and rituals that are wacky, or truly horrific—such as mass suicide pacts. And cults have absolutely nothing to do with transforming society or emancipating humanity.
In complete contrast to all of that: The Revolutionary Communist Party, its chairman Bob Avakian, and the movement for revolution engage, and seek to learn from and transform, every sphere of society and society as a whole. They do this as part of the process of making revolution and then continuing that revolution all the way to communism. As a critical element of this process, they seek to reach and influence literally millions of people from all sections of society, unleashing them to take up a thoroughly scientific approach to all of reality, including thinking critically about everything. All of this is for the purpose of changing the entire world through revolution, bringing an end to all the horrific ways in which human beings unnecessarily suffer. It is for that purpose and on that basis that the party, and the movement for revolution, follows and promotes Avakian, based on a scientific and not a blind, religious approach and because of what Avakian, his work, and his leadership objectively represent in relation to the goal of revolution and human emancipation.
All of these points are a matter of public record. For instance, you can read the Constitution of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA and see for yourself the party’s purpose, principles, and basis of functioning. You can dig into Bob Avakian’s works and see for yourself his consistent, unwavering emphasis on the critical importance of taking a scientific approach to all of reality, thinking critically about everything, and learning very broadly. You can find these works, and more generally follow the theory and practice of the revolution, at revcom.us.
Point 2: Saying things like “you guys are a cult” is an awfully convenient way to avoid engaging and discussing—and doing the work of engaging and discussing—the content of what this leader, party, and movement represent.
People need to have the principle, honesty and intellectual courage to go to the source, do the work, and see for themselves. And then let’s get into the content—as well as questions, and points of agreement and disagreement, regarding that content.
This matters too much for humanity to allow any other standards to be accepted. Billions of people on this planet suffer terribly every day, the very future of the planet itself is in danger, and the tremendous potential of humanity as a whole is squashed and suppressed. When a leader, party, and movement step forward and—based on decades of work—present a way that humanity can break free of these horrors once and for all, people have a responsibility to at the very least engage this seriously. Petty, snarky, cynical and absurd dismissals without engagement just will not fly.
Point 3: We need to fight for much better standards within political and social movements, and within society as a whole.
We should be clear that it is especially vicious and harmful when those who have devoted their lives to, and done decades of work on, human emancipation are met with lies, slander and personal attacks. While the particular egregiousness of this should definitely not be overlooked or minimized, there is also a need to fight against the broader, overlapping culture and society of snark, nastiness and slander. A lot of this gets especially disgusting on the Internet, where people hide behind anonymity to spit forth lies and gossip; to degrade, taunt and bully others; and to engage in personal attacks.
On any question, and especially when it comes to questions of what it will take for humanity to get free of oppression, people need to get out of the gutter...and loft things up to principled discussion and debate over matters of substance.
People very broadly need to raise their sights to the vantage point of what it will take to emancipate humanity. And then let’s talk about things on those terms.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 17, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A historic Dialogue Between Bob Avakian and Cornel West on Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion will take place at Riverside Church on November 15.
Here are three reasons you should BUY YOUR TICKET AND GET TO THE DIALOGUE, why you should not want to miss this:
1. This is a chance to come see and hear Bob Avakian live! This is a very rare opportunity to see him in person and hear what this revolutionary leader and architect of a whole new framework for the emancipation of all of humanity is saying about the prospects for revolution and what transformations have to be undertaken to truly get free of the confines and horrors of the present system. How could you not want to be there?
2. This is a chance to see and hear Bob Avakian and Cornel West sharing a public stage together for the very first time, rolling up their sleeves and dialoguing together, exploring some of the important things they agree on and some of the important things they don’t agree on, no doubt surprising and challenging their audience to think more deeply, study more critically, reflect on how they might step up their own participation—with all this taking place in an atmosphere of love, mutual respect, and principled struggle, between these two people, with the shared passion for emancipation of the most oppressed and all of humanity front and center. How could you not want to be there?
3. This is a chance to experience what they have to say on a topic, Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion, that is objectively very important. Not so much because of what any of you, as individuals, may personally think about religion. Both believers and non-believers are very welcome at this Dialogue. But individual belief or non-belief is not the heart of the matter on this occasion. The reason the subject of this particular Dialogue is so important right now is because the topic of religion (any religion, all the many different kinds of religion) matters deeply to hundreds of millions of people, and even billions of people, not only in this country but all around the world. We all happen to be living at a moment in time where that is very much the reality: Religion really matters to a whole lot of people, and shapes many people’s thinking and actions. But what is religion’s place, what is its role in relation to fighting injustices and in advancing towards truly emancipatory social revolution? Can religion help with this? Or is it a hindrance and gets in the way? These are some of the questions Bob Avakian and Cornel West are going to be batting around and exploring together, sharing their points of unity as well as their differences with a broad audience. Again, how could you not want to be there?
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 17, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
A fundraising dinner held recently among immigrants raised $110 for the Cornel West-Bob Avakian dialogue. It was an informal dinner held with a few family and friends, plus someone from the Party. There were eight of us altogether. The entire discussion was in Spanish with translation for the comrade. The food was great and the discussion was pretty intense at times, and very ideological. It revolved around the theme of the Dialogue and the two speakers.
At first, people were talking mostly about their personal backgrounds, coming from the impoverished mountainous areas of Southern Mexico, with one person saying how revolution in the U.S. is not possible because people, including immigrants, get comfortable with life/work in the U.S. The comrade opened the centerfold of Revolution #349 and went through the three pictures as to why revolution is necessary, and someone read from the first segment of the RCP’s strategy statement in Chapter 3 of BAsics. He went into the importance/role of BA, the high caliber communist leader we have, who has developed the most advanced communist theory in the world so far, and how this impacts the possibility.
One person put the Dialogue palm card on the table and said he wanted each person at the table to speak to what will happen there, and if the purpose is for BA and CW to convert or win over each other through it? One immigrant woman said in a somewhat angry tone “you can’t tell me there is no God, he exists for me.”
The comrade spoke to the historic nature of the Dialogue, the significance of each of the two speakers and stressed that it is about the entire title of the dialogue, given a notable tendency to want to focus it on religion full stop, cutting off the first half of the theme. Not surprisingly, these immigrant masses aren’t familiar with Cornel at all so we pulled up his picture on a smart phone and explained who he is. A Party supporter spoke to the importance of epistemology and challenged the view that “god exists for me so who are you to say he doesn’t exist.” He talked about reality and objectively truth exists for everyone in the world, or it doesn’t.
Someone brought out a Spanish copy of the Bible and read a passage from it where God asks Moses to slaughter men, women and children, bring down the plague and burn down their villages for disobeying him. When he finished, you could hear a pin drop. One person finally broke the silence with “that is shocking!”, admitting he had never read the Bible, while the woman mentioned earlier continue to argue irrationally that “maybe God had a reason to have them killed” and no one can take her faith from her.
Two immigrant youth asked if we can be good without God, and one of them emotionally put his hands over his chest and said “there is an empty space in my heart that religion fills.” He said when he died he “will go to a better place whereas you all will end up nowhere” (or with nothing), and that he would be doing a lot of very bad things if he didn’t have God.
The comrade spoke to why religion is a philosophy of submission, getting people to accept the horrible world that needs to and can be changed through revolution, and the empty spot or hole in people’s hearts is hopelessness about the world, and for the youth in particular, the question of having a purpose to one’s life is a big part of filling the emptiness of life under this system. She said revolutionaries die but revolution is infinite, that the struggle for communism to end all oppression and exploitation will continue for human beings to get free.
The discussion was so intense that at one moment, all eight of us were talking at the same time, but some of the questions weren’t returned to (e.g. whether we can be good without God) due to the necessity of going back and forth in Spanish and English so that everyone could participate. But at the end of a long evening, two people said they want to read Away With All Gods by Bob Avakian, and with the deeply religious woman saying she is interested in knowing more about this movement for revolution, and agreed we are on the same side in fighting oppression, even as she continues to differ on God/religion.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following was sent to revcom.us by the Bay Area Chapter of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.
This beautiful color poster calling for the October 13 march and rally was prepared by Pablo Paredes of 67 Sueños Project.
Please post far and wide.
We will email the poster by request. Send requests to: StopMassIncarcerationBayArea@gmail.com.
All out for the October 13 rally and march! Make our voices heard far and wide!
As an important part of building for a Powerful October 22nd Rally and March to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation.
October 22nd, 1 pm, 14th and Broadway, Oakland
"...Alongside this has risen a massive program of criminally prosecuting undocumented immigrants, essentially hidden from public view. As a result of the devastation of their homelands, these immigrants have been driven to this country to work without papers, and today they are being criminalized. The US chastises other countries for human rights violations, yet it enmeshes the lives of tens of millions of people in its criminal 'injustice' system. The courts, cops, prisons and La Migra all play a part in enforcing mass incarceration. There are genocidal aspects and a genocidal logic to this program, and it has been gathering momentum. All this is intolerable, and, if it isn’t stopped, it will get much worse!"
From "WE SAY NO MORE!", A Call for October 2014 - A MONTH OF RESISTANCE TO MASS INCARCERATION, POLICE TERROR, REPRESSION AND THE CRIMINALIZATION OF A GENERATION!
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 10, 2014
October 10, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revolution/revcom.us received the following press release from the Justice for Cecily Committee—which also calls on people to support Noche Diaz at his upcoming October 14 court appearance:
Cecily was found not guilty!
The jury returned their verdict around noon, finding that Cecily had not committed Obstruction of Government Administration. The charge carried a maximum sentence of one year in Rikers, the infamous jail complex where Cecily served fifty-eight days over the summer.
In the courtroom, we breathed a collective sigh of relief as the jury foreman read the verdict, in surprise that the police and prosecution's efforts were thwarted by members of the public. We hope our success today sets a precedent for solidarity efforts with activists facing criminal charges.
Cecily participated in a press conference with Green Party candidate for Governor Howie Hawkins shortly before the verdict was read. Mr. Hawkins pledges to exonerate and expunge records for all nonviolent drug offenders, and has supported Cecily since her felony trial.
After the verdict was announced, Cecily spoke outside the courtroom along with defense attorney Marty Stolar, reiterating the need to film police and fight retaliatory charges in court.
Thanks to everyone who came to court and supported Cecily! We emphasize that most people who film police are harassed, abused, and convicted with impunity. Now more than ever, it is necessary for us to support one another in the struggle for justice for all.
We ask our allies to stand with Noche Diaz as he appears in court on Tuesday, October 14 on six misdemeanor charges related to his participation in a Ferguson solidarity demonstration. We will be holding a rally outside the courthouse at 100 Centre Street in Manhattan at 9:00am on Tuesday, October 14. Please RSVP on Facebook here to support Noche and the right to protest!
Love and solidarity,
For more on Cecily McMillan, see:
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 6, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
It is with great grief and aching hearts, and with profound love for a wonderful comrade, that the Central Committee of the RCP, USA announces the death of Clyde Young. Clyde Young, also known as Wayne Webb, was a communist for nearly 40 years...a leader of the people... and a member of the Party’s Central Committee. We extend our deepest condolences to Clyde’s partner of many years, to his immediate and extended family, to his comrades and his friends... and to that wide circle of those he counted as his brothers and sisters.
We, his comrades, will miss his earnest struggle for clarity and his unshakeable firmness and courage in the face of the enemy. We will miss his profound anger toward the enemy and his great gentleness toward the people and his comrades, and the love he so generously gave. We will miss his seriousness and his fierce spirit—and we will deeply miss his twinkling eyes, and his delicious and inclusive sense of humor and mischief. We will miss the joy he took in the struggle—both the political struggle, and the struggle for ideological and theoretical clarity. And we will carry him, always, in our hearts.
Clyde Young came up the hard way, in the mean streets of the Midwestern ghettos. He was always rebellious—and from the age of 12 years old he was snatched up and put into the hellholes of this system, first in the juvenile jails and then the maximum security dungeons, spending his entire adolescence and young adulthood locked up. He was one of the many this system slated for death at an early age, one of the millions and tens of millions whom this system has cast off and cast down; yet he fought to rise above all that, and came to dedicate his life to the emancipation of all humanity. He embodied rising to the challenge put out by Bob Avakian, in BAsics 3:16, to those the system has cast off to become “the gravediggers of this system and the bearers of the future communist society.”
Clyde went into prison as one person, and came out as another. His rebelliousness and unbreakable spirit remained—indeed, it was tempered and grew stronger—but it found powerful direction. Inspired by the revolutionary struggles of the 1960s, Clyde helped lead a strike at an Indiana prison—one in which non-violent prisoners sitting in on a field were mowed down by guards, killing two and wounding scores. While in prison, he began studying—trying to figure out WHY these things happened and began to work with others, forming a revolutionary collective right under the eyes of the authorities and following the struggle in the movements for revolution—first the revolutionary nationalist movement, and then the communist movement. When Clyde got out in the mid-'70s, he got involved with the new communist movement...and never looked back. (To give people a fuller sense of Clyde’s life and how he became a communist, we are reprinting an interview he did in the early 1990s, under the name “Comrade X.”)
Clyde joined the Party shortly after it was formed. To do this, he had to break with—and he had to lead others to break with the outlook of nationalism. Indeed, Clyde set an example—in what he believed and what he lived and fought for and practiced—for his internationalism and his firm opposition to patriarchy. Clyde was truly about breaking every chain on humanity.
From the very first, he did not fear struggle—either against the enemy in very close-quarters battles, or to find out what was true and to struggle for that truth with comrades once he found it. And from the very first, he never wavered in the depth of his commitment; he was “all in” from the “git-go,” fighting for this Party and especially fighting for the leadership of Bob Avakian. Clyde had the chance in those years to work very closely with BA, and he cherished every opportunity to learn all he could...while having plenty of fun in the process!
The Constitution of the RCP, USA states that “the greatest responsibility of every party member is to struggle for the party’s line to remain, and develop further as, a revolutionary line.” Clyde lived this. He fought to contribute as much as he could, especially in the struggle for a revolutionary line, and played an important role in many crucial struggles inside and outside the Party. He did not shy from taking responsibility—he dared to lead, dared to “reach for the heights and fly without a safety net.” Clyde listened to and learned from criticism, wherever it came from, even as he would struggle for what he thought was right. Like all comrades, Clyde made mistakes; like all of us, he could at times become tired, or discouraged, or scared. But he never stopped relying on his comrades for strength, he never stopped struggling for understanding, and he never stopped fighting to contribute all he could to emancipating humanity—to changing the world. As a party leader, he inspired confidence in those he led, lending people courage and compassion at challenging junctures. He struggled to instill in all a spirit of collectivity, up against the constant pulls of capitalist society toward individualism and “me first.” As part of that, he fought for the organizational integrity of the Party, upholding and helping to strengthen its chain of knowledge and chain of command.
Clyde Young also led, or helped to lead, the Party’s work on many different fronts of struggle. To mention just a few, these included: building demonstrations on African Liberation Day in the mid-1970s against U.S. imperialist oppression in Africa; the fight to stop the legal railroad of Bob Avakian and other defendants in a mass political/legal campaign in 1979-1982, including helping to lead over 170 volunteers in Washington, D.C. in 1979; the Party’s work in Atlanta during the period of the Atlanta child murders, when forces that are to this day unknown kidnapped and ultimately murdered over 20 Black children in Atlanta in 1979-1981 and activists, revolutionaries, cultural figures, and masses worked to uncover what was at work and lead resistance to efforts of the authorities to cover things up; special efforts by the Party to develop a revolutionary political movement among the most dispossessed and despised in society; and many other particular battles in over half a dozen different cities. In recent years, Clyde gave major public speeches on revolution in LA, Chicago, Oakland, New York and DC; he played a key role in fighting through in different cities to hold the very important dialogues between Carl Dix and Cornel West in a number of cities; and he played a key role as well in the bus tour through the South promoting the work and leadership of Bob Avakian, as part of the BA Everywhere campaign.
Through all this, Clyde still found the time to engage in his side passion: chess games with all comers, whether on the Internet, in tournaments or out on the street, taking on everyone from professors to veterans of the prison system. Though Clyde was a willing and gracious teacher, those who dared to underestimate his strategic breadth and tactical boldness across the chessboard were definitely doomed to defeat!
And he could turn around and break your heart—or lift your spirits—with his a cappella rendition of the Chi-Lites classic “Oh, Girl.”
There is a special hurt, a particular poignancy to Clyde’s death. For decades Clyde waged a courageous battle against very serious illness and disability. He fought the pull to yield to the individual torture of what it is to battle such disability under this system. He fought this not just with courage, but with science—by working together with and drawing on the expertise of a number of very compassionate health professionals as well as support and assistance of family members and many others and especially the collectivity of the Party. As the Resolution on Leaders and Leadership states, “Inside the Party, comrades share the good and the bad, and look out for each other: this too is an expression of our collectivity and our revolutionary outlook.” More than once Clyde came close to death and this became very acute in the last year. Yet he continued this battle, continued fighting to get well, motivated by a desire to contribute all he could to the struggle. Finally, in the last few weeks, though still battling, Clyde seemed to have turned a corner. Right before he died, on the eve of the month of resistance against mass incarceration and police terror, Clyde wrote to Carl Dix to say that he was “freed up on things I have been focusing on and can now build for the Month of Resistance...I’m prepared to get into things immediately, so drop me a line right away...” The next day, tragically, Clyde died.
What we feel today—collectively and as individuals—is captured in the following passage from “Some Points on the Question of Revolutionary Leadership and Individual Leaders”:
...There is no denying it: The loss of a true revolutionary leader—and all the more so if this is an individual who plays a key and critical leadership role—is like having a heart ripped out of our collective chest. When such things happen, we should deal with it—new leaders must step forward and be brought forward to continue to guide the revolutionary cause. But we should first of all do everything in our power to prevent such things from happening.
We mourn our comrade’s death, on the eve of tremendous struggles he so hungered to be part of, struggles he so strove to give his all for. So we will remember Clyde Young as we fight the enemy, and we will turn our grief at his death and our inspiration from the example of his life into the compassion, courage, boldness, energy, and scientific approach required in the huge challenges we face—both in the years ahead and very immediately in these next weeks. We will draw strength from his memory all through the Month of Resistance in October and Clyde will definitely be “presente” in spirit during the Dialogue between Bob Avakian and Cornel West on November 15! The example of his life will find expression every time a new person—especially but not only from among those society has cast off—takes up the study of communism, or steps forward in struggle and defiance, or dares to join the vanguard of the revolution to which Clyde Young dedicated his life, the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
So we will not only mourn our beloved comrade, we will celebrate his life and carry him in our hearts and minds—a life given over to the cause of humanity, the cause of emancipation...a life which enriched beyond measure all of us who were privileged to count him a comrade.
As we noted, Clyde stood staunchly beside Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the RCP, USA, in many different battles and many different kinds of battles over the course of decades. He deeply and fiercely loved BA. So it is especially fitting to end this tribute to Clyde Young with this quote from BA:
If you have had a chance to see the world as it really is, there are profoundly different roads you can take with your life. You can just get into the dog-eat-dog, and most likely get swallowed up by that while trying to get ahead in it. You can put your snout into the trough and try to scarf up as much as you can, while scrambling desperately to get more than others. Or you can try to do something that would change the whole direction of society and the whole way the world is. When you put those things alongside each other, which one has any meaning, which one really contributes to anything worthwhile? Your life is going to be about something—or it’s going to be about nothing. And there is nothing greater your life can be about than contributing whatever you can to the revolutionary transformation of society and the world, to put an end to all systems and relations of oppression and exploitation and all the unnecessary suffering and destruction that goes along with them. I have learned that more and more deeply through all the twists and turns and even the great setbacks, as well as the great achievements, of the communist revolution so far, in what are really still its early stages historically.
From Ike to Mao and Beyond: My Journey from Mainstream America to Revolutionary Communist,
A Memoir by Bob Avakian, 2005
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
*Directions: Heading east on E. Garfield Boulevard/55th St. stay to the right; one block east of Martin Luther King Drive turn right (south) onto Russell St. in Washington Park. The parking lot is off the next possible right turn. The Refectory is due south of the parking lot. Watch for signs to the memorial.
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
October 6, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In this interview, the RW talks with Clyde Young [formerly known as "Comrade X"], a leading comrade in the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. His life journey—as a Black street youth coming up in the early 1960s, through two prison rebellions, and up to the present—is of definite interest to sisters and brothers who are looking for a way out of this racist and downpressing system. The interview originally appeared in RW issues #569-573, August 26 – September 23, 1990.
RW: You spent a lot of time in prison when you were coming up and you became a revolutionary in prison—and a revolutionary leader. So we'd like to get down on that whole story. And we know that your experience can shed some light for the brothers and sisters—who are right now up against some heavy fire from the powers-that-be—on why they should become revolutionaries.
There's some lines in the rap by Public Enemy "Don't Believe the Hype" that typify the situation for Black youth today:
"About the gun...
I wasn't licensed to have one
The minute they see me, fear me
I'm the epitome—a public enemy
used, abused without clues
I refused to blow a fuse
they even had it on the news
Don't believe the hype."
How does this song relate to your situation when you were coming up in the 1960s?
Comrade X: A lot of what's captured there speaks to what it is for Black youth and other oppressed youth coming up in this society, not just now, but when I was coming up too. One of the main differences is that now the shit is a lot sharper. Public Enemy has this picture on the front of their album—a Black youth with a target on his chest. And a lot of what characterizes the situation today is that the powers are tightening up their whole state apparatus and in the name of the war on drugs actually conducting a war on the people and the youth. That's the character of it.
Malcolm X used to talk about that there was minimum security and maximum security. He'd be talking and be saying he had been in prison and he'd tell people, "Well don't be surprised, you're in prison too—it's a question of maximum versus minimum security prison." But increasingly from what I can see, the distinctions are getting blurred. I mean, when you have people getting stopped like these youth stopped in Boston and strip-searched out in public and shit—and housing projects being turned almost literally into prisons—some of the distinctions between the maximum and the minimum is beginning to get blurred.
So things are a lot sharper. And even in terms of the reaction of the youth I think, as is somewhat captured in the lyrics of Public Enemy and some of the other rap groups, there is a rough edge or a hard edge that didn't exist quite in the same way when I was coming up. But there's a lot that's similar in terms of going up against the other side. Like that point from Mao about how the oppressed fight back and in fighting back they search out for philosophy and I think that speaks in a lot of ways to what my life was like.
I can remember when I was arrested for the first time was when I was nine years old. It was a situation where I was in a 5 and 10 cent store—I don't think they even have those anymore. I stole something. At this time I can't even remember what it was but it was something really petty. And I was arrested and taken downtown and put in jail. I was in a cell by myself, but I was actually in the jail for men—when I was nine years old. And they held me down there and tried to intimidate me—and succeeded, at that age—until my parents came and got me. This is the kind of thing that happens growing up Black in this country. Had I been white it probably would have been resolved a lot differently, just by either taking me home or telling me not to do it anymore. But in my case, right from the beginning, it was resolved in a very harsh fashion.
From the time before I was a teenager up until I was a grown man way into my 20s, I was repeatedly involved in various contradictions with the state and being put into prison. And if you put together the crimes supposedly that precipitated that, they were all very, very minor. But I'll try to get into some of that as we go along.
The first time that I was really convicted of something was a very minor and petty offense—I stole a pound of hamburger. At the time when I was coming up we were very poor, so I had a scheme that I would work. My mother would send me to the store with a dollar or two, and I would steal what she wanted me to buy, and then I would keep the money to have some spending money. And this one Saturday—I can remember it very vividly—I went in to do that and I got busted. And once again, right away they took me downtown. But this time it wasn't even a question of my parents coming to get me. They put me in a juvenile detention center for a couple of months and then I was put on probation. This was when I was 12 years old.
By the time I reached 13, I had been arrested again for shoplifting and riding in a stolen car, or stealing a car, which was a violation of my probation of the previous incident of stealing the hamburger. So I was sentenced to the reform school (or boys' school) for a period of time. Actually the way they did it at that time was they sent you there indefinitely until you were 18 years old.
At that time I was not really conscious of how to understand all this. There were some ways I knew that this shit wasn't right, some things were wrong, and I had some sense of how Blacks were oppressed. But it wasn't any kind of put-together understanding that I had at that time. So I went off to reform school for nearly a year, and I would say that through all of this I was beginning more and more to get an understanding of some things.
RW: A lot of times the youth are caught up in it but they don't see that it's the whole system coming down on them.
Comrade X: Of course I can see it much more clearly now looking back. At that time when I was growing up, in the South people still had to sit in the back of the bus and were subjected to all kinds of Jim Crow shit. And that was not only true in the South but also in the North. In fact, Malcolm X made the statement at one point that the South began at the border of Canada. In other words, it was the whole country, because in the North some of the same stuff went on, but it was more disguised. Cuz I can remember even where I lived, which was in the North, some of the drug stores and restaurants, Blacks couldn't sit at the counter—the same way it was in the South. But the whole system, the whole penal system and the whole state apparatus, was set up in such a way so that everything was aimed back at the oppressed people. And this is the same kind of thing that you see coming down on the youth today in a lot of ways.
You'd go in to see your probation officer or the social worker, and the interviews a lot of times would consist of, "Were you fed well, did your parents abuse you?" Here was a situation where we were very poor and a lot of times it was a question of not having anything to eat of having fuel or coal. I would have to go out and find wood so we could stay warm, and eat sugar sandwiches and shit like that. In other words, we didn't have shit. This was before there was a lot of openings in the '60s where people began to get into better-paying jobs. And instead of that being looked at as the source of the problem, the authorities, the social workers and such, would ask you, "Well, do you think you're a kleptomaniac?"
And ultimately I came to see it as a bigger problem—that capitalism and imperialism was the source of this and the whole character and nature of the oppression of Black people in this country, having been brought here as slaves, forced into slavery, and then even after slavery being forced into a state of virtual slavery in the South. And all of this had everything to do with the contradictions that I was facing as I was coming up as a kid.
RW: What happened when you went to boys' school?
Comrade X: When I went to boys' school it was a very regimented type of situation. The boys were in cottages which were like small houses. But first they kept you in what they called "quarantine" where they oriented you to the rules and basically began the process of breaking your spirit, which is what it was all about. I can remember being in quarantine. The floors were just spotless, you could almost eat off of them. And largely what we spent our time doing was mopping and waxing the floors and walking around with pieces of cloth under our feet so we wouldn't scratch the floors. We couldn't wear shoes or anything.
It was also very segregated. The Blacks were in certain cottages and the whites were in certain cottages. And the whites, to the extent that this could be the case, had more privileges than the Blacks. When I got out of quarantine I went into this cottage—and everybody was going into what we called the scullery—I guess it's some English word for the kitchen—and I was the last to go in. As I walked past the cottage supervisor, he said something to me and I said, "No," and all hell broke loose. He knocked me down, threw a chair on top of me, and hit me with a chair, pulled out a whip and whipped me, and all of this was because I didn't say, "Yes SIR."
They only let you wear your hair so long, so in order to keep your hair long you had to put on a woman's stocking. You'd take it and put it on your hair so that it would be pressed down and it wouldn't be too long. Otherwise they'd make you get it cut off, because when you first go in there it's just like the army. They cut your hair off, it's very regimental, very humiliating. They make you march in formation and say the Lord's Prayer and pledge allegiance to the flag and all this kind of regimentation and strict control over everything you did. There were certain areas in the cottage where you could talk and where you couldn't talk and if you were caught talking, there were snitches and what not that would write your name down. And if your name came on the list then you would get the strap. For all this talk about child abuse, they would make you lean over a chair and make you pull your pants down and beat you with a razor strap. For talking in the dining room you'd get 10 licks—but if you let go of the chair before the cottage supervisor got to 10 then you had to start all over again, so this could go on for quite a long time. It was just very fascistic in that kind of way. And that was not all that inconsistent with the atmosphere in the country in the '50s and early '60s—that was the way things were carried out. Later on when I got out and got a little older and came back, I rebelled against some of that—including challenging the cottage supervisor himself.
RW: Where were most of the guys from, what kind of background?
Comrade X: Overwhelmingly proletarians. A lot of the people I met in reform school—and these people came from all throughout the state—later, when I was older and went to prison, there was the same people. This was the track you were on and the people you met there were frequently the same people you met when you got to prison later on in life.
RW: Some people treat the whole question of crime in the inner cities and youth gangs like it never existed before, when in reality the oppressed people have always been in a situation where it was allowable to brutalize each other, but crossing that line to fight the system was something different.
Comrade X: That's definitely true. In fact that was a point the Chairman1 made in the interview about the Black Panther Party. Where I grew up it wasn't like there was organized gangs as such, but it was more that there was turfs, which is more or less the same. It was the East side versus the West and the North side versus the South. If you went on the wrong side of town then it was your ass. Of if you went to a party on the wrong side of town and you stepped on somebody's shoe or something, these minor kind of things like this, it very often went over to violence. And in some other places like Chicago, not only did they have gangs, but they were like empires. Thousands of people were in them and in fact you were forced into them. So it is definitely the case that this has existed for a long time.
And also, too, this whole point of it being "allowable" in a certain sense if you are doing it to one another. It is different than if you even step out and start committing violence and violent crimes against whites, to say nothing if you begin to go over to become a revolutionary and start attacking the system. Then there is a whole different ball game.
RW: Getting back to your story. Clearly when you were in the boys' school and they ran this whole discipline trip on you, it did not work. It did not achieve the results that they desired.
Comrade X: No, it did not. I would have to say before I began to take up revolutionary ideas and especially before I began to take up Marxism-Leninism-Maoism2 that they could confuse you. They never really succeeded in breaking me and a lot of the people that I grew up with, but they could confuse you in terms of your understanding. I used to think, "Why am I getting into this shit all the time? I don't want to get busted all the time but here I am. I made a promise to myself that I wasn't going to get into this situation again, but here I am again." In other words, there was a whole thing of making you think it was really you that was the problem rather than that there's a whole system and the whole setup. Like when I was young and used to shoot dice, they used to have different kinds of fake dice they could put in on you. And that's the way this system is: the dice are loaded. They are shooting loaded dice against you.
It wasn't like I really had it all together in terms of why all this shit was happening this way. But like a lot of youth, I not only had dreams but I also thought about why shit was this way and why it was that people over here were poor and people over there were just born rich. Where I lived, on this street and this whole area was all Blacks and extremely poor, but then not far away from where we lived it was like a whole rich section of town. And you'd think about these things. Why was it that way? Why was it that people had to go hungry and go without the basic essentials of what it takes to live? And on the other hand, they were mocked and surrounded by all this wealth. That was a thing I did ponder when I was a kid before I came to understand fully what this was all about.
RW: Who were your heroes?
Comrade X: As I grew older I wanted to be a hustler, I wanted to live by my wits and I wanted to be in the streets. I didn't see much of a future in working like a slave eight hours a day like I'd seen my parents do and other people around me. It just didn't seem to be heading anywhere. It didn't have any attraction to me. What attracted me was this other kind of life, where you are more in the streets and living by your wits and hustling. And that's the sort of thing I got into.
When I was coming up, a lot of the people that I admired were the older "brave elements"—the brothers who stood on the corners and wore their pants high up. They used to have a style where you wore your pants all the way up to your chest. And they wore their Kadies and they had their switchblades. It was just a certain style of going up against things, not in a conscious way, but there was a certain style in opposition. And it was what it meant to be a youth at that time. Those were a lot of the people that I admired and later ended up in prison with—the "Brother Russells."
Brother Russell, who himself is dead now, was one of the people that I admired and looked to as a "role model" as opposed to somebody like King. I was reading recently this tale about Stagger Lee, and he reminded me of Brother Russell. He was one of the "brave elements" that hung out on the corner. Brother Russell got into prison because he was involved in a crap game and somebody made the mistake of slapping him and he ended up in prison for murder. Brother Russell was not the type of person that you'd want to slap, that was like a serious mistake and ended up to be a fatal mistake. So Brother Russell ended up going to prison and ended up in prison when I was there. By that time I had become a revolutionary and I became a different kind of "role model" for him, so it was kind of a switch.
Those were the kinds of people, the people who had their hair fried and dyed and laid to the side, with a part not too wide. Back then, it was like a process. There was a certain edge to that style that was not respectable, that was "in your face." Black people who were respectable or who were in entertainment might wear a process, but to wear your do-rag and to have your do-rag in your pocket and that sort of thing, there was a certain unrespectable edge to it that sent the other side up the wall.
They were the outlaws. They would wear their outrageous clothes and they would stand on the corner and they would croon and those kinds of things. And that's who I admired and who I wanted to model myself after. And later it was me that was out there like that.
RW: In opposition to the treatment you received, you developed a certain contempt for death which is similar to the attitude in the lyrics of the NWA rap "Fuck tha Police":
"...They have the authority to kill a minority.
Fuck that shit, cuz I ain't the one
For a punk motherfucker with a badge and a gun
To be beatin' on and thrown in jail."
Comrade X: I think early on a lot of this contempt for death and a lot of the way the stuff came down was against one another. There was this whole thing about who was bad on the corner and you weren't gonna let anyone get the better of you.
But there was also contempt for the pigs. When I first began committing robberies and burglaries, I would go into a place and start burglarizing it, and just in terms of the fearlessness I had of the state, I would go in and start cooking myself a meal. Like I figured they had the same thing that I had and I probably had more heart than they did, so if they came I was ready for them. And that was the spirit that I had and in fact a lot of the youth had, and it's not all that different than what exists now.
I was just not long ago rereading some of Malcolm X, and he talks about when he was coming up—this whole thing about "face." It's like a street code and also it's a similar type of code in prison. In other words, the way he puts it in his book is that for a hustler in our sidewalk jungle world, "face" and honor were important, no matter. No hustler could have it known that he had been hyped, meaning outsmarted or made a fool of, and worse a hustler could never afford to have it demonstrated that he could be bluffed, that he could be frightened by a threat and that he lacked nerve. It just basically comes down to machoism—that you can't let people do anything that would offend your manhood or offend your face. And if that happened then you had to go down, or you weren't down.
That was a whole part of existing on the street, is that you had to have that heart, have that nerve, not be able to be backed down by someone else if it came to a confrontation. That's part of the whole psychology of the streets that goes on, and some people from the '60s who are getting down on the youth today forget that. This is not something that even just existed in the '60s, Malcolm is talking more back in the '40s, that same kind of code of the streets and also something that exists in prison.
RW: Looking back on it, you said you see positive and negative things in it. What do you mean by that?
Comrade X: On the negative side, what can I say: that street code or prison code has a lot of individualism mixed up with it—to say nothing of machoism and male chauvinism. I've been there, I know what it is all about. And I've come a long way in breaking with that kind of outlook. That's the Man's way. Our way is: "Brothers rising up with sisters, strong, proud and with equality: that's our way, the way we all get free." The youth today (and here I'm speaking especially of the brothers) have to be struggling over that kind of thing, that kind of macho outlook. The revolutionaries have to have a first-string orientation and all-the-way revolutionary politics in command, uniting with the anger of the people and striving to direct it in the most powerful way at this cesspool that they call "the greatest system on earth." And we got to make that part of preparing to bring this system down. As we've said: "While we're battling them back, politically like that, we got to make this part of getting ready for The Time—and it can come soon—to wage revolutionary war."
On the positive side, when these youth begin to become more conscious and that same fearlessness and anger and contempt for death begins to be directed at the system and the powers-that-be, then you have a whole different ball game. All that is a necessary part of what we have to do in bringing this whole thing down, you need that, you need that spirit. You obviously need a lot more than "heart" but you do need that. So that's how it divides into two. On the one hand the way it plays itself out in the streets and in prison and all of that is a reflection of machoism and gangsterism and that sort of thing. But on the other hand, there is the situation that when that attitude gets transformed through the leadership of a party and when people begin to take up the science of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, it's not like you lose that same fearlessness and that same hatred—it's just tempered, if you want to put it that way.
I can remember having a lot of hatred, but it was not focused and not directed and oftentimes it would be focused in the wrong way and the wrong direction, but it's not like I've lost that hatred and anger. I still have a monumental anger and a monumental hatred for imperialism, as the song says, "deep in my heart I still abhor 'em." And after all these years, I still don't fear them. So the question is how do you lead that, how do you have a first-string orientation?
When I was coming up, there wasn't a party, there wasn't a party that was based on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, that could give some direction. And later as I got into my teens there was the Black Panther Party which played a vanguard role and made a tremendous difference. Today there is a party, our Party, that is preparing to make revolution in this country as a component part of the world revolution. There is a party with the line, leadership and battle-plan to lead things all the way this time around.
A whole generation of youth came forward in the '60s who wouldn't be intimidated and weren't too impressed with the power of the state, and we need to bring that forward again and take it all the way this time.
RW: The rap "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos" tells the story of a brother who refuses to join the army and ends up in the joint. You almost joined the army once. What happened to change your mind and how do you see it now?
Comrade X: There was a time when I was under the gun. I knew that it was a turning point in my life. I had been repeatedly into jails and I had just recently went through a whole situation with a stolen car where I was being chased through woods and shot at and dogs were after me and all of that. And I knew that there was a very good likelihood that within a short time I would be dead or in prison. That was the terms of things. There wasn't any other terms I was looking at.
A lot of people in my family tried to talk to me. Especially some of my uncles tried to talk to me and tell me to "slow down," that I was living "too fast of a life." They could see that I was up against something and I was headed toward some kind of climax that wasn't going to be real great.
I was not so politically aware at that time. So I was going to get into the marines, become a man, that sort of thing. I was desperate.
It was one of my uncles... I don't think he actually had fought in the Korean War himself, but he had been in the military. He caught me on the street corner, which was at that time where you could catch me. And I was like, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I gotta go man." But he was persistent and he struggled with me. He was coming from an orientation of, "Why would we go and fight and die for these people, it ain't our war." And his whole point was, "When people go over there, it's just a fight to get back, it ain't like you got something to fight for."
So somehow, someway—even though I was moving fast then and not really prone to listen—he got through to me and changed my mind.
RW: This was during the beginning years of the Vietnam War?
Comrade X: Right. It's kind of ironic, because here I was into all this shit with the state and had pretty much grown up in prison institutions, but at the same time I was caught in a trap of their ideology—you become a marine and go overseas and all that and you become a man. And that's the sort of thing that had floated around in my family from others who had gone and fought in Korea and some of the other wars. So I felt that this was my way to get on a different track. But as it turns out, a few months later I was in prison, which in the final analysis was a much better resolution of the contradiction.
RW: Some people would be shocked to hear you say that you thought being in prison was a better resolution than being in the army.
Comrade X: In hindsight, in looking back, yes. When my uncle was struggling with me not to go in the army, he was struggling from a Black nationalist position. But later on when I got into prison and as I evolved in terms of taking up revolutionary theory and practice, I became an INTERNATIONALIST. There was a certain sense in the '60s, a certain aligning of oneself with the enemy of your enemy. So there was a whole thing of identifying with the struggle that was going on in Vietnam from the standpoint of the Vietnamese people and identifying with the struggle that had gone on in China and in Korea. Some of the things that were really exciting and liberating to me when I was in prison was studying about how the U.S. had gotten their ass kicked in Korea and how they were getting their ass kicked in Vietnam. Here was a country with peasants who were able to defeat one of the most powerful countries in the world. That was tremendously inspiring. So I think that going into prison was in a certain sense going into school for me. I had been schooled through my life and my life experiences. But there I was introduced to revolutionary ideas. And that's why I would say looking back on it that it was a better resolution to the contradiction.
RW: This was around the time of the Detroit rebellion when you were sent to prison for 20 years. How did that come down?
Comrade X: I was convicted for armed robbery, and in the course of it there was a shootout with the police. No one was hit, but my trial came up against the backdrop of the Newark rebellion, and more immediately the Detroit rebellion had occurred—and the whole atmosphere was charged. I was aware that these things had happened, but I wasn't aware of the overall impact of them. But even in my own trial it had some impact in terms of the jury. It was basically an all-white jury, and they didn't like my arrogance, they thought I was too uppity. This I learned later, through my lawyer.
It came out in the summation of the prosecutor that I had this attitude problem. It wasn't like the Detroit rebellion itself was brought into the trial, but the way it came out, I felt, was this whole reference to being uppity and being belligerent and in the final analysis being rebellious in the way I presented myself in the courtroom. And they gave me 20 years.
RW: So you were sentenced for being part of the oppressed people who had dared to rise up?
Comrade X: Right, at that time I wasn't all that politically conscious but that's the way they viewed me.
RW: How did you get caught? You must remember that day...
Comrade X: All too well. It's funny. Two of my friends and I, we all got busted together. But I had money in my pocket, so I got out on bond and I went to get some money to bail these other guys out of jail. At that time I wore like a gangster lid and a big dark overcoat, and I could have had some work on my tactics, because I went into this depressed white area, dressed up this kind of way, to stick up this place. And it just so happened that some pigs happened to see me going in there, so they circled around and came back and saw the robbery in process. And there was a shootout and they managed to apprehend me at the spot.
RW: What were some of the early incidents you remember when you started to have more of a revolutionary awareness?
Comrade X: Well, when I went to prison, just to give you a sense of this whole attitude of fuck you, my whole orientation when I got 20 years was, "I'll do 10 of those standing on my head and the other 10 getting back on my feet." That was my attitude. "I'm young—fuck you."
I was beginning to put some things together that had been occurring to me throughout my life on what the fuck was going on, and one of the things that began to strike me was how many oppressed people were in these prisons, both Black and white, that if you had money you were able to avoid such things, and that it was overwhelmingly proletarians that were sent in there.
The robbery that I was involved in netted $140. And here I was marching in with 20 years. The deck was stacked, so to speak.
When I went in, there was this one guy I had been in jail with for a period of time, whom I had grown up with, and by the time I got to prison, he was already into Black nationalist politics. So he tried to turn me on to it. But I kind of kept my distance. Then there was an event that had a big impact on me and began to change me.
A year or so after I was in, some of the more politically conscious prisoners—who at that time were into revolutionary nationalism—they had a protest. I can't even remember what the demands were. I was in a dormitory situation and I was able to look out my window and observe all this.
These guys came out and they had some demands that they were going to present to the warden. And the prison authorities immediately came out with shotguns and surrounded them. There was one Black guard but they wouldn't give him a shotgun, they gave him a club. He was like a token lieutenant if I remember correctly. And the prisoners were doing a lot of agitation about that and telling him, "Look at you, they won't even give you a gun," and it was a very sharp experience for me. A lot of times in prison, that's what happens, when you protest, right away they bring out the guns and they use 'em.
So my fear was that they were just going to blow everybody away. Things went back and forth for an hour or two—a very tense situation—where the prisoners clearly weren't going to give up, but at the same time it seemed like they were just going to get massacred. Ultimately it got resolved in a way where nobody was killed and they just put everybody on the buses and transferred them out to the state prison. But it had a very big impact on me as to the courage of people to do that and the anger they had that they were willing to risk getting killed for what they believed in. It created an interest in me for where they were coming from.
So that's when I began to start reading some things. First Malcolm, the Autobiography of Malcolm X and Malcolm X Speaks and so forth. And in a very intense period of about a year I went through a lot of changes. My Nation of Islam stint lasted only a couple of months and it wasn't long after that that I turned to an interest in the Black Panther Party.
RW: What was the turning point where you first started to consider yourself a revolutionary?
Comrade X: Within a couple of years after I was in prison, I would call myself a REVOLUTIONARY. I had become familiar with some of the most advanced revolutionary leaders and thinking in the country at that time. I had studied and become aware of the Black Panther Party, and I would have given anything to be right there with Huey and Bobby and all of them when they were facing down the pigs. It was very difficult to be in prison at that time, you know. So I got into the Panther and through the Panthers I met Mao.
I had also tried, at that early stage of my development, to read things like the Communist Manifesto, but it was just over my head. Mao was something that I could really grab ahold to. I continued to try to struggle with things like the Communist Manifesto and later I got into much more difficult things. But I was really into Mao and I could relate to some of the ways the Panthers were promoting Mao and also to some of what I had learned about the Cultural Revolution in China. It's not that I could get a full understanding of the Cultural Revolution from where I was sitting, but I was really inspired and excited by what I learned of it and heard of it. You know, people throughout the whole world, including people in our international movement, a lot of us were brought forward by that whole Cultural Revolution and Mao in terms of becoming revolutionaries and taking up the science of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
RW: Were there certain individuals who played a key role in the revolutionary movement in the prison or was there a group? How did that come down?
Comrade X: At the time in prison, people would get together in groups and collectives and study. There was a core of people who had more revolutionary consciousness and we would study together and work out together. What we envisioned in that period was that there was going to be a REVOLUTION. And we were going to be READY. So we were studying and we were training physically and all of that.
Then at one point some Panthers actually came into the prison, and that was quite an experience in terms of beginning to get more of a sense directly of where the Panthers were coming from and what they were all about. I can remember when they came in, one of the things that happened. In the school there was a mimeograph machine and these Panthers were instrumental in the writing of a leaflet, several pages long—it was more like a propaganda tract. It was hot—it had pictures of pigs in it, the kind of stuff that Emory Douglas used to draw. And we ran it off and distributed it. And the pigs had a fit, they had a heart attack.
One of these brothers had been in the military, so one of the revolutionary things we did was drilling. People would be out on the recreation yard and they'd be drilling, marching up and down in formation. And this is something the prison authorities didn't like at all, they didn't tolerate it at all. The irony is that previously, the guards were forcing us to do it—going back and forth between various places in the prison we were forced to march in formation. But when we began doing this on our own for different reasons and different purposes, they weren't too happy about that. So there were orders that we couldn't do that, that we couldn't drill. There was also another thing that we used to do for recreation a lot of times—instead of playing basketball, we would sit out on the recreation yard and study. And that was another thing that was forbidden. So there was all these kinds of repressive measures that were going on. And they ended up putting those Panther brothers and some others in solitary confinement for some of their revolutionary activities.
This was in 1969. By that time I had developed into a revolutionary and a revolutionary leader. And the locking up of these Panthers in solitary basically precipitated a rebellion in the prison.
RW: Tell us about it.
Comrade X: It sort of played itself out over the course of two days. The first day we sat down in the prison yard and submitted some demands to the warden. The warden was going to review them. And if these prisoners weren't released from segregation, we had our plans. After we presented these demands to the administration and they said they were going to take certain steps to release these brothers and deal with the other demands we had presented to them, we basically dispersed. But at the same time we were very skeptical that this stuff was going to get resolved. So that night we began making our backup plans, so to speak. We were trying to figure out how could we really hurt 'em if they didn't release the brothers like they said they were gonna do.
On the second day after we had submitted our demands to the prison authorities, they said they would consider releasing these prisoners who had been put into segregation. This was the central demand that we had. There were some others about conditions and what not, but really the central one was the repression of these prisoners. I wrote about this in an essay a few years later while still in prison: "By the time we were released from our shelters for recreation that day, most of us anticipated a confrontation with the prison guards but few if any anticipated the tragic consequences of that confrontation. Before we assembled on the recreation yard we received word by way of the prison grapevine that the prison officials had not acted in accordance with their promise to release two of the brothers from administrative segregation. Instead they had placed the brothers in the hole." Segregation is a situation where you are confined to a cell 24 hours a day except for showers and what not. And these cells are separated off from the general prison population. The hole is like when you are put in there you don't have any blankets or any bedding, you just sleep on the concrete floor and it's dark. So they had been put in the hole. The other brothers had been sent to the state prison, as had been agreed.
I wrote: "Frustrated and angered by the treachery of the prison officials, approximately thirty of us decided to burn down the prison's furniture factory, as had been planned on the previous day. Although the furniture factory is the source of a considerable amount of the state's income, prisoners who work there are paid a meager salary of approx. 15 cents an hour. Therefore we felt that the destruction of the furniture factory would constitute a powerful blow to the bureaucratic state and the 'correctional' officers who were responsible for the oppressive conditions which then prevailed at the prison."
So that was our orientation.
RW: Do you remember that day, could you describe it?
Comrade X: I remember it very vividly. It was very tense when we came out of our cells that morning, like you didn't know what was going to happen. You knew that something serious was going to happen, but you didn't know what. We were confronted with the prospect that many of us would probably be dead. That was the way it was. And there was tremendous anger. Things had mounted up and locking up these prisoners who we saw as our leaders was like the culmination of a whole number of things.
So when we went out that day, the plan was that some people who were working in the furniture factory, they were going to supply the liquids that were necessary. And some others of us were going to come into the furniture factory and carry out our plan. What happened, though, is that we were repelled. We got shot at from the guard tower and we weren't able get in and to carry out our plan. So we went back to the recreation yard. Several guards came out armed with shotguns with double-ought slugs in them and they surrounded the perimeter of the recreation yard. The prison authorities ordered everybody to leave who wanted to leave and there were about 450 prisoners who left. There were 212 of us left behind. One of the lieutenants ordered a Black guard, like a token sergeant, who was out there, to leave. He was unarmed. He had promised us that we wouldn't get shot. So the lieutenant told him, "Well, walk around the corner and you won't see it." All the guards remaining behind were white.
We were overwhelmingly Black on the drill ground, with two white guys and one Chicano. And there was something that I learned in that particular battle in terms of uniting all who could be united against the enemy. Because we hadn't succeeded in doing that. In other words, it wasn't like the white prisoners couldn't have been won over—at least some of them—to what we were trying to do, but there hadn't been sufficient efforts to reach out to them to do that.
I can remember thinking at that time and I'm sure a lot of other people were thinking, "This is it." There was a good possibility that we could lose our life, but it was like we had entered onto a continuum from which you couldn't really turn back. We had thrown down with the prison authorities and we were determined that we were going to see this through. We weren't going to turn back even at the risk of being shot or killed. So it was like a real heavy situation. It's kind of hard to put it into words, the tension that we felt. But at the same time there was a certain amount of strength we all felt too, that we were standing up to these motherfuckers and we weren't going to let them intimidate us even though they had their guns and what not.
The guards surrounded the drill ground and I can't remember the exact words, but it was something along the lines of "You niggers have five minutes to leave." So we said, "Fuck you, the five minutes is up, we're not going to leave." And, from what I can remember of the sentiment, it was like that point Lenin talks about in his writings about those times when the oppressed have "contempt for death." That's what we had... utter contempt for death.
It was clear that some of us could likely die, but we were determined that we were not going to back down, that we would see through what we had set out to do. It wasn't like we had this Martin Luther King "sit down and turn the other cheek" kind of thing. We were just fucking angry, and at the same time it was like a tactical mis-assessment on our part that because we were not engaged in any violent acts, their hand would be stayed, that they wouldn't actually kill us. But that was like a really violent introduction to what these people will do to you.
After the five minute period was up, they opened fire on us. We were on a volleyball court. It was like a fenced-in recreation yard and the volleyball court was like five or six feet from the fence. The guards were immediately in front of us outside the fence. And they had shut the door to the fence and stuck their shotguns through there. And some of them were pumping and shooting so fast that one of their guns began to malfunction, they were so anxious to shoot.
But one prisoner just wouldn't sit down. He stood with his Black Power fist in the air and he didn't sit down until they shot him down.
So I learned more from that than I learned from many books about the nature of the enemy at that time. Two people were killed and 45 were injured. The brother who wouldn't sit down was not killed, but he was seriously injured.
So when you enter into these things, it's like Mao talks about—everybody has to die sometime, but your life can be as light as a feather or heavier than Mount Tai. That's the way you felt.
And even after that, the events that occurred were an indictment of the system too. A lot of these prisons are set up in these rural areas that are mainly white—and the hospitals in the surrounding area wouldn't take Black people. So the people had to be taken several miles away to a major city to get into the hospital because they just wouldn't take them in the local hospital because they were Black. And people were saying, "This is something they will have to pay for." This was just another crime of imperialism and another reason why they had to be overthrown. But it wasn't like we felt scared or intimidated, even though they had done this dastardly deed, this cowardly deed. We were angry.
RW: People saw it as a battle in a bigger war?
Comrade X: Right, and I can recall the spirit in solitary. They put us in solitary. We had to carry the injured from the recreation yard out into the prison compound. And we laid them on the grass in front of the prison hospital. And the rest of us were taken into solitary and put in 10 or 12 or 15 deep. And these cells are no bigger than 8 x 10 or 10 x 12. So we were crammed in there, but the chants and the slogans and the singing and the spirit was absolutely electric.
RW: The Chairman has said, if you want to be bad, the revolution is the baddest. Reflecting back, you had been faced with death before in your life, how would you compare the difference?
Comrade X: In some of the Chairman's writings he talks about the difference between soldierly courage and revolutionary courage. I have yet to see that in its most profound sense, you know, in terms of taking a leap into revolutionary warfare. But in a more miniature sense, this was an example of seeing that. On the one hand, if you're going up against someone else who is oppressed like you, whether it's for "face" or all those other kinds of things of the street code that I was talking about earlier [See Part 1, "Fried, Dyed and Laid to the Side."], that's one thing that's a certain kind of courage. Or even if you are going up against the state—like I would go into these places and be ripping off something and then cook my breakfast—that was one thing. But it's another thing when you are going up against the enemy, the awesome power of the state. That's a whole different ball game in terms of having the courage to do that.
The whole point about dying that Mao made in the Red Book is this: to die for the people is heavier than a mountain, but to die for the imperialists is lighter than a feather. And there was a whole spirit in that period that captured all of us, about the willingness to put your life on the line for the people and die fighting imperialism. And we not only felt it then, but we have not given up on it. And I think that's a lot of what the youth have to get down on. The courage they have in one context has to be translated in terms of going up against this whole system and bringing down this whole thing. Because one of the things we understood then in a basic sense is that without power, everything was an illusion—that once we could bring these people down then we could perform miracles.
RW: You mean state power, taking on the whole system, not just having a piece of turf?
Comrade X: State power, taking on the whole thing, not just having a block or having a corner or having part of a city, but taking on the imperialists and overthrowing them in revolutionary warfare and establishing socialism and beginning to move on towards communism. That's the whole vision that I began to develop back then. And that was a whole different kind of thing.
RW: Do you remember the first time that you realized that it was going to take a revolution against the whole system to deal with the problems coming down on Black people and all the other social problems?
Comrade X: When Fred Hampton was killed—this was part of the events that set me on a certain trajectory. It was some months after we had been shot in the prison rebellion I told you about earlier. [See Part 2, "Burning Down the House."] And it was obvious to me, knowing the nature of these people, having lived in the belly of the beast, even within the belly of the belly, it was obvious to me that Fred Hampton was assassinated. Some things came together. There were some things that were there in my thinking and my understanding, but some things came together on a much higher level around that time.
Leading up to the prison massacre in 1969, on one level I looked at myself as a revolutionary. Those events combined with the Fred Hampton murder, those were crucial things that played a certain role in terms of me crossing a line in the sense of feeling that this is what I wanted to do with my life. That was the most profound turning point, if you want to put it that way. There was no turning back.
RW: If someone had told you a few years before that you were going to be a revolutionary leader, what would you have thought?
Comrade X: I wouldn't have believed it. But the fact that there was the Black liberation struggle and a revolutionary movement that existed at that time played a tremendous role in propelling a lot of us forward into becoming what we were. In the years earlier when I was just a street youth doing my thing, I would have never thought of it. But here you were, you were thrust into a whole period where there's a lot of upheaval throughout the world and in this country and even reflected in a microcosm kind of way in prison. And you were propelled forward to take a stand.
When I first went into prison I was just going to do my time and get out and I didn't see any reason to get involved in anything that would interfere with that. In fact, when I was first let out of quarantine, there was a race riot that went down in the cell house that I was in and it was very violent, with bottles and shit being thrown off the range and people being hit with steel pipes. And I had some knowledge of the oppression of Black people and the contradictions that existed on that front, but I didn't see myself taking either side. It was just something I was thrust into.
I didn't understand what people were doing and I didn't see a reason for it. But it really hit me that people not only believed in what they believed in, but they were willing to put their lives on the line for it. That made me sit up and take note—to try to dig into it more to find out why it was they were doing that. I had no sense at that time that it would even be possible to bring the imperialists down. On the level of individual rebellion or going up against the police in an individual way or with a few friends or whatever, I had done that, but in terms of being able to mobilize a mass of people and to field any kind of army to bring them down, I had no sense of that, I had no sense of the possibility of that.
Mao says that the oppressed are oppressed and in fighting back they search out a philosophy. And that's what I did. I couldn't read that well, I hadn't really been that interested in school when I was growing up, especially a lot of the history they taught at that time. When you read the school history, it was the slaves picking cotton and that sort of thing which was just humiliating—you were just glad when the class proceeded past those pages. But when I got in prison—and got affected and influenced by all of what was going on in society and throughout the world—I began to take some steps to try to understand things better.
First it began by FIGHTING against the prison authorities, and through that I began to dig more deeper into what this shit was all about. I went into the situation of Black people in this country, how did that come about. One book I remember was called Black Cargoes about how people were packed into these slave ships and the conditions were so horrendous that a lot of times the slaves would just jump over and kill themselves rather than to put up with it. All those things began to come together for me in terms of understanding more about the oppression of Black people in this country and how and why it had to be ended and it only could be ended with violence. It couldn't be ended through praying or marching, it could only be ended through an armed struggle. That's what I came to understand through my experiences.
RW: So it was like Mao talks about learning warfare through warfare.
Comrade X: Very much so, very much so. It was just being thrust into the struggle with the other side and a lot of that raising questions about what kind of society you would replace it with. And I can remember being just excited and thinking about not only how they can be defeated and how they can be brought down but getting a beginning vision—from what I could understand of things like the Cultural Revolution in China under Mao's leadership—of what the society would be like having done that, having overthrown the system, what kind of society would it be—that we can deal with a lot of these problems in terms of the oppression that the masses of people face, the humiliation and degradation, the rich over the poor, men over women, whites over Blacks and other oppressed nationalities and so forth. And that overthrowing them would be a big step in wiping this shit out not only in this country but throughout the entire world. And that vision was very inspiring to me when I began to take up and study Marxism in a serious way—and it has been deepened and enriched over the years since that time.
RW: That's the strategic Double C—contempt for the enemy and confidence in the masses that the Chairman talks about.
Comrade X: Right, it's based on something, it's based on the party which is armed with the most revolutionary science that exists today. And I learned this through the crucible of struggle against the enemy. I explored a lot of different philosophies but I came to see that this was the most advanced philosophy that exists. This was controversial. Some people said back then, "Well, that's just for the white boy" or "That's the white man's philosophy"—just like some people say it today. And in fact one of my best friends stopped talking to me because he disagreed with my insistence that we had to unite all who could be united against the enemy, including white people. That was very hard because we had been through some heavy struggle together. Later he came around. But for some months he wouldn't talk to me. But I stuck with it because this science is the revolutionary philosophy, the most advanced philosophy for people all over the world because it is a LIBERATING PHILOSOPHY.
RW: At a certain point after the rebellion in '69, the prison authorities moved you to another prison.
Comrade X: Yes. I was moved to a different prison. There was not the same level of revolutionary consciousness as there had been before cuz the place where I was moved had much older prisoners. And it was much more of a stifling atmosphere where you were locked up longer periods of time. And this was a very difficult period. To tell you the truth, on a certain level, in terms of my spirit, I almost died for the first year or so.
Then a lot of younger prisoners began to be sent in from other places and some of the character of the prison began to change and two or three years later the level of struggle changed even there, but for a couple years or so it was a very difficult transition to make.
RW: How did you deal with that? Was this a tactic of the enemy to cool things out?
Comrade X: The tactic was precisely to try to separate the leaders off from the broader prison population, and in large part the way that was dealt with was to try to draw strength and inspiration from what was going on in society as a whole, and there was a tremendous amount going on at the time.
One of the things that had a big impact on me was George Jackson and his writings, and that was all part of trying to get a better understanding of and being positively affected by the Black Panther Party. One of the things that really hit me a lot about George was this thing of becoming a revolutionary under very difficult conditions and overcoming some obstacles and barriers to actually become a revolutionary leader. His heart was fundamentally with the people, and the determination he had in the face of threats and intimidation to not give in and not capitulate on his revolutionary principles—that was something that had a very powerful impact not just on prisoners but on a lot of other people.
The Attica rebellion was something else that had a very powerful impact on me in terms of the courage and the determination and the fearlessness in the face of the enemy. But also too the revolutionary consciousness that was reflected in that rebellion. One of the demands they were putting forward was that they be allowed to go to a non-imperialist country. So that had a profound impact on me and thousands and thousands of others both inside and outside of prison.
So I was beginning to take up the science of revolution—Marxism-Leninism-Maoism—in a more thoroughgoing way. And then at the same time at one point, under the cover of doing Black history class, the small core of revolutionaries began to reach out to broader prisoners. There was some discussion of Black history but at the same time there were efforts through that to raise the consciousness of the prisoners and also to link up with some people who were more interested in revolutionary politics. So that's how we survived and sustained that period and then later there were significant outbreaks that went on in that prison that we were right in the middle of.
RW: What were some of the obstacles that you had to get over to carry out this revolutionary work in the prison? You are under the gun and you have to deal with that, but also there is a strong cult of survival in prison. Sometimes people say that in prison "you must bite or be bitten, or you must eat others or be eaten up by others." How did the revolutionaries deal with this?
Comrade X: I think again, first and foremost, we have to look at the climate that existed throughout the country and throughout the whole world. And including at that time, a sense of unity that existed even on a basic level between Black people—for instance, that's when the terms "brother" and "sister" and all of that began to be brought to the fore. But I must admit that even with that political atmosphere in the world, in prison there was a question of GOING AGAINST THE TIDE. You were going against the tide in terms of everything you were doing. But I think in the context of a whole revolutionary movement in the world and in this country, there was the ability to stand apart from some of the dog-eat-dog, "bite or be bitten" atmosphere that was promoted in prison. And there was often a lot of struggles with people.
There's a whole thing that goes down in there. The younger guys who come in are preyed on by the older guys, and there was a whole thing as we were trying to organize and do what we were doing in the prison that we didn't tolerate that, that people came in and especially as they were taking up revolutionary politics and what not, that we would oppose that mentality and wouldn't tolerate that in terms of the younger guys coming in and being raped and those kinds of "bite or be bitten" kind of outlooks.
RW: You know I have noticed that among some men revolutionaries who have been in prison there seems to be more of an understanding about not treating women like sex objects and property. And I was wondering if this was because men in prison actually go through some of the same abuses that women do—where power relations actually take the form of sexual abuse—and the whole question of being treated like a sex object is so intense. Speaking of going against the tide, this must have been a big topic of struggle.
Comrade X: That's an interesting thought. I think for myself and for a lot of others it was more a question of being forced to confront that if you were going to be down for revolution, then you couldn't at the same time be for oppressing women. There was an analogy that you didn't want to be called 'boy" and you didn't want to be called "nigger" and all of that, and if you didn't want to be subjected...
RW: If you didn't want to be raped...
Comrade X: Yeah, that whole kind of thing, then how could you do that to women. I don't know that the example you're making was consciously filtered through, but I think it was more a combination of things, including the fact that a lot of women were in the streets at that time around women's liberation, to say nothing of the women who were engaging in armed struggle in Vietnam and elsewhere in the world. And that had a certain impact. But like the Chairman talks about in his book, A Horrible End, or an End to the Horror? you have to "prove it all night." I do think on the woman question you do have to "prove it all night." It's not some question where you just "get it right" and don't have to struggle over it anymore, speaking especially of the brothers.
But I would say for myself it was something that I had to come to grips with and really break with some things. Like in growing up and before I became a revolutionary, you could be against being called a "nigger" or "boy" or being called "colored"—and this was a lot of the things that people would throw down around in those days. But prior to becoming a revolutionary, all the kinds of degrading ways that men treat women, it wasn't something I had even thought about. Things have a certain edge now, but when I was coming up it was a real problem too—a problem among the oppressed themselves. Even in some of the common language that the kids would use about "pulling a train" on women—it was just rape, you know. A woman would be interested in one person and have sex with one person and several other guys would be waiting to get in on it too. And when you stop and think about it, it's really anti-women. It wasn't about sex—it's about "this is a power trip." But that was looked at positively among the men. Or you would go out with a woman and she would get a few drinks and she'd get a little high or something and then you would force yourself on her. That was rape but it wasn't looked at that way. It was looked at by men in a positive light. And there were a thousand other ways this shit came down—and still does. So it's very good that there is a lot of controversy coming out these days and this type of behavior is being exposed for what it is.
When I was a kid some of the people we admired were the pimps. In fact, there is a series of books that were written—I was in the bookstore the other day and I see that they are still out there—a series of books that were written by this guy called Iceberg Slim who was a pimp. And the young brothers would read those books and admired his style and where he was coming from. And thinking back on it now you can see how far some of the brothers had to come. I'm speaking now of the period of time before I became a revolutionary and started taking up revolutionary politics. On the streets it was considered hip to be a pimp, or a "player," which was a term for a guy who lived off the money a woman made on the street. To have a Cadillac and to have several women, that was a goal to aspire to. And those very brothers who looked toward the pimps and admired them and in some cases did actually do that themselves, if they had been forced into some form of servitude in that kind of way, they would have been totally outraged about it. But in this case, it was something that was part of being cool, and it was considered part of being cool to dog women in this way and to actually end up being a slave master in this type of way. And that's the screwy relations and contradictions that you actually get under imperialism.
Men can't say that we're against imperialism but at the same time carry out the imperialist mentality in relationship to women. There's no way that you can carry through a thoroughgoing revolution in that kind of way.
RW: Right. But at the same time it is hopeful to the people and to the sisters in particular that through fighting the power and taking up the science of revolution people can change.
Comrade X: And there is a much more powerful basis to do that today. The Party has put this question out pretty sharply including this slogan: Brothers Don't Be Dominators, Rise Up With Sisters, Strong Proud and with Equality, Fight the Power, Bury the System. And I think that whole orientation that is being fought for is a very good basis to make a leap even farther than we went in the '60s, because in the '60s this question was not well understood.
RW: So you see that this is going to be an even hotter question in the 1990s?
Comrade X: This is already a hot question and I think it will be resolved in a much more profound way than in the '60s. There's a war now on women—from the highest offices in the country. And I think that there is the question of taking a stand: are you going to be PART OF THE PROBLEM OR PART OF THE SOLUTION? And I'm not saying that to be pessimistic about it. I think there is a profound basis to resolve this on a much higher level and a much more thoroughgoing way than it has been previously. This is definitely a big aspect of carrying out a thoroughgoing revolution.
RW: So you think it's posed pretty sharply to the young brothers—are they going to hold onto their macho attitudes or unite with the women who are rising up against the powers.
Comrade X: Right, I think this is putting it sharply to 'em, but I think from everything I'm hearing and everything I'm seeing these days, there's a lot of sisters that are determined to make 'em get the point.
RW: Getting back to your revolutionary work in prison, you were talking about how the revolutionary core would begin to change the terms in struggling with people over these things.
Comrade X: Right. In some sense it was kind of like the seeds of dual power—even though they had us locked up. Once we began doing what we were doing and setting a tone in a different kind of way—it's not that we were setting ourselves apart from the rest of the prisoners—but it was that we were conscious and we were revolutionaries and we were trying to recruit other people to be that. And once people began to ally themselves with us, other people wouldn't bother them, in terms of trying to rape them and that sort of thing. So we did try to set a certain tone—not that we were missionaries or some kind of Christians or something—but we tried to set a certain tone in terms of where we were coming from in being revolutionaries and setting a certain standard.
This actually meant putting your life on the line too, sometimes. I can remember an incident where there was this gang in prison that was extorting people and ripping people off and what not, and a lot of the prisoners who weren't so political, they came to us saying look, this shit is going down and we are going to deal with it and what are you all going to do? And we actually went and confronted the gang leaders and said, "Hey, look, this is divisive, and this is a question of getting people all divided up," and actually we were able to change some of those goings-on without resorting to any kind of violence. Through struggling with them we were able to change things in terms of some of the kind of stuff they were doing inside the prison.
RW: Was that by relying on a certain atmosphere and initiative that you had?
Comrade X: Right, and even some of the gangs were forced to have respect for you because it was the kind of thing of "Those brothers there, they are not into a lot of foolishness, but when it comes to going up against the prison authorities, they are for real." There was an expression in prison—"they are for real."
When we first began to be revolutionaries, people would respond to you by saying, "Well, you wasn't doing that shit before you came in here." That was their response to you. But more as they saw you going up against the other side, being fearless and being uncompromising and determined in going up against the other side and not selling out, even some of the more lumpen elements, they were forced to have begrudging respect for you on a certain level.
So you had to learn all kinds of tactics for dealing with different contradictions, including, like you mentioned earlier, that you were working directly under the gun. And we were always having to apply Mao's teachings on who are our friends and who are our enemies and knowing the enemy well.
For example, there was a work stoppage that I played a role in organizing. And we were actually trying to sum up what had been previous experience in going up against the prison authorities and what their tactics were. One of their tactics was to immediately try to grab the leaders and the whole thing would die. So what we did was we organized different layers of people, so as they grabbed these people, some more would be waiting in the background and they would step forward. But despite all that planning, we had made a mistake and somehow I ended up with some leaflets in my cell.
And I will never forget it, these three guards came to my cell. And they were calling me "sir" and "mister" and all of this. And right away I could read that they were afraid of getting into a confrontation with me and having a fight with me because they figured that they would really set off some stuff they didn't want to happen among the other prisoners. So they were very delicate with me and they were calling me "mister" and "sir." So right away I thought of what to do with these leaflets.
I had the leaflets in an envelope. So I started putting on an act and I said, "Oh shit, man, why do you want me." And they said, "Well, the warden told us to come and get you and lock you up." And I said, "What for? I haven't done anything," playing along with them. Then, finally I said, "Well, damn, I've been working on my legal case and I have these papers I have to file. Would it be possible for you to take these three cells down the range and give them to so and so." "Oh, sure, Mister so and so," they said. And they took those leaflets and gave them to someone else and that was the hard evidence they would have had that I was deeply involved in this whole work stoppage.
So that was a funny story—and it goes back to this question of strategic contempt and knowing about their strengths and weaknesses and taking advantage of those. They were relieved that they didn't have to attack me and lead to some kind of rebellion—because I was like a leading figure in the prison and if they had attacked me and beat me up that would have led to some serious consequences they weren't willing to confront. So I was able to read that situation and take tactical advantage of it.
RW: How did the revolutionaries unite the brothers in the prison to take on the powers?
Comrade X: A lot of times when we were involved in mass struggle it was a situation where things had gotten to a point where they were going to break and a good majority of people would be in unity with what was going down. And sometimes things which turned out to be very important kicked off in a brainless way. In fact, I can recall another incident that I was involved in where the initiators were some of these gangsters who had come up against the prison system and they were on a protest. And one of the things that they were going to do was something similar to what we had done earlier which was to have a protest in the prison yard within the range of the gun towers and everything. So we went out amongst them and struggle with them and said, hey, this is not the correct tactic, this has been tried before and this is part of our experience and this is not the way to go.
RW: What was the issue they were protesting over?
Comrade X: This was some years after that previous rebellion and by this time I considered myself a communist. There was a series of things that had mounted up in terms of the general living conditions—which always mount up after a period of time—but there were things going down like people dying under mysterious circumstances. For instance, there was this young kid. He was not that much younger than I was at the time, but he was one of these street kids who was bad and he came in and got into some contradiction with another prisoner and got in a fight and later the other prisoner came back and threw some flammable fluids on him and burned him up. And after they had treated him medically, they put him in solitary confinement for over a year and a half, and he gradually began to deteriorate and eventually one morning he was found hanged in his cell. There was a lot of speculation as to whether or not he had been murdered, because, if I remember the facts correctly, his hands had been tied behind his back. But whether he was directly hung by the guards or whether he did it himself, ultimately we saw it as murder.
RW: How did the revolutionaries respond?
Comrade X: At the time I was in segregation, I had been put into segregation for four months for refusing to button up my coat—it was one of those kinds of things.
We had somehow gotten hold of a press or a mimeograph machine. I don't recall all the details of how we acquired it. I think we bought it with cigarettes, which is like the prison currency. But somehow we bought it from one of the prisoners who worked in one of the departments. We had all been reading What Is To Be Done? by Lenin, and we were really fascinated with a lot of what Lenin was talking about in there and really picking up on the whole idea about trying to work under difficult circumstances, and the question of trying to work secretly was what we were zeroing in on. And that gave rise to a lot of brainstorming and thinking on how we could apply some of Lenin's thinking in there.
In prison it was difficult circumstances in terms of applying revolutionary theory, but we did to the extent that we could try to combine theory with practice, and this is one example of it. We acquired this press. So sometime after this guy was murdered, we printed up a leaflet basically indicting the prison authorities for his murder one way or another and we managed to distribute it secretly throughout the whole prison. And the prison authorities blew a head gasket that this level of organization actually existed in there. And before we had did it, we had a lot of discussion back and forth about how to conceal the press and there was a lot of discussion about dismantling it and hiding it on top of the cell block. And the upshot was that they locked the whole prison down. They went around and tested every typewriter to see if it corresponded to the leaflet. They tested as many typewriters as they could—because they couldn't find the one that we used—to see if they corresponded with the leaflet. And they also tore the prison apart trying to find the press. Maybe we even buried it, but the upshot was that they didn't find it. And this was electrifying and inspiring to the other prisoners that this actually could go down and they were not able to find out how it happened. So in terms of developing tactics and trying to apply theory, that was a good example.
So there was a whole series of things like that. And then I think there was an immediate precipitating factor like a fight between some gang members and they got locked up and they were trying to get their comrades released from solitary or something like that. And this is what immediately precipitated the idea of a protest among these gang members. So those of us who were more conscious revolutionaries went out amongst them and struggled against just taking this tactic of having a protest in the yard right in view of the guard tower because we had seen that before. So after we struggled with them, they were dissuaded from that and they apparently went back to their cell house and took it over.
We revolutionaries were mainly housed at another cell house, so as we were walking toward the cell house, we saw this prisoner with the keys. And we weren't real happy to see this particular guy with the keys—he was a loose cannon, so to speak. He was hollering at us, "Well you better hurry and come in," so we didn't have any choice. What were we going to do? We certainly wouldn't have taken a position of, "Hey boss, we're not involved in this"—they were going to deal with us regardless. We had crossed that line and we had put ourselves in a certain position in relationship to the prison authorities, and there's no way we were just going to say, "We organized the last one but we didn't organize this one." So we went into the cell house and what we tried to do was to get involved and give the takeover a certain direction. And we ended up taking over the prison and we had several guards hostage, instead of repeating the events of 1969.
We also heard over the radio where the warden was telling lies that this rebellion had happened because of the weather and other such ridiculous shit, and basically we just wrote on a sheet, "The warden is lying," and hung it outside the windows where people could see it from the street. Then later we set up a public address system of our own.
Some of the prisoners had record players and speakers and somehow somebody was able to rig up a sound system. The cell block that we were in faced out toward the street. So we were able to rig up a system where we could be heard over the walls out to the street where there were people who had gathered to support us, families and all that. And we were able to agitate about what we were trying to do and what we were trying to accomplish. So there was a level of organization and certain forms of "people's power" that actually went on in that particular cell house that didn't exist in the other places. And we were prepared to die for what we were doing.
This was a situation where again it was not clear that we would live through that. We did have a division of labor where a few of us were outside, not actually involved in it, who were going to play a role in terms of trying to help sum some things up after, if we had gotten killed. And we said our goodbyes. This was in the wake of Attica and the wake of the murder of George Jackson, and it was not altogether clear that we would not be murdered too.
What happened was that, after 36 hours, they backed down and basically conceded to our demands, including there was a demand for amnesty that nobody be convicted or be charged with any crime as the result of the rebellion. I haven't really tried to stop and analyze it all, but I think it probably had a lot to do with the whole climate in the country, including what they had done in Attica and the outrage that brought, and there was probably a combination of factors that forced them to back down.
RW: You mentioned certain forms of "people's power" in this rebellion. What was this "people's power" like and what did you learn off of that about the possibility for really changing the world?
Clyde Young: First of all what provoked that was the Attica experience. I was very much aware of the Attica experience. That was a tremendously inspiring experience overall, but also an excruciating experience in terms of what the imperialists did of just going in and gunning down the prisoners and even gunning down the hostages. Much of that was revealed in a vivid way in this Eye on the Prize series that had been on television recently—and I thought brought the story out very vividly—including the lies that the imperialists told about the prisoners having killed the hostages and then it turned out that the state themselves had actually killed the guards and actually executed some of the leaders of the rebellion after the prison was retaken. So that whole thing was something that had a tremendous impact on me as it did on a lot of other people who were revolutionaries at that time.
When we took over the prison, as I was explaining earlier, it wasn't something that we had planned. It was something that happened spontaneously and those of us who were conscious revolutionaries and communists at that time went into it and played a leading role within it. And one of the things that we did was that we called everybody together in the one cell house that we were in and discussed these demands that the Attica brothers had. It wasn't like we went into and discussed the whole situation in Attica, but we discussed these demands and tried to figure out the ones that were applicable to our situation and reflected what the conditions were in that prison and the demands that we came up with were based on that.
And at the same time, we tried to set up what was called a people's militia. These were the people who were going to take certain responsibility for fighting the guards if they stormed the cell house. And we had certain tactics worked out for how we were going to do that if they tried to storm the cell house. We also had a people's tribunal. Even within this kind of situation where people were united to fight against the prison authorities, there's still contradictions that exist among the people. It wasn't like everybody was at the same level of consciousness and what not. And in fact, in one of the cell houses, not the one that we were in, some backward prisoners took advantage of the situation to rape somebody. And where we were, some other people tried to take advantage to rip somebody off.
So there were some contradictions among the prisoners even though everybody was united on one level in terms of going up against the guards. There were some people who were going to take advantage of this rebellion and of us having authority to steal and rape and whatever, and we had a firm line that none of that kind of stuff was going to go on. And I think we even had to detain a couple people who were insisting on carrying on that type of activity.
So it gave a vision of what it would mean if the people were actually to have the whole society. And it was not completely absent from our view that we would run things different from the way the powers did. And at the same time, even the way we dealt with the hostages that we had, the whole orientation was different. We were not going to take advantage of having the hostages to exact revenge or whatever. We had certain things we were fighting for and we were determined to get them, and if they stormed the cell house then it was out of our hands in terms of what happened to the hostages, but as long as that didn't happen, we were determined that they were not going to get fucked up just out of revenge. We were striving for something bigger. So some of the things we instituted like the people's tribunal and the people's militia and some of those kinds of forms—in a funny kind of way in that situation we had the authority and that's the way we were exercising it. It wasn't completely absent in our thinking, a certain vision of what it would mean to rule the whole society.
RW: When you see that footage that was showed in Eye on the Prize of the Attica rebellion, it is very striking that those revolutionary brothers who were locked up with all the guns of the state aimed at them—they're the ones that should be taking part in running the society and the pigs on the outside with the guns pointed at them are the ones who should be locked up.
Comrade X: That's very true.
RW: And this sense of preparing to take power is a theme that runs through your story too.
Comrade X: There was a sentiment in the prisons at that time. The events at Attica, George Jackson and the Soledad Brothers, and all that represented a very advanced current of what existed throughout the country. There was a whole attitude and a whole sentiment that there was going to be a revolution and people were getting prepared and when the prison doors were opened, people were going to be ready to come out and play a role in being able to bring this whole thing down. That was part of the whole climate and the whole atmosphere, and once again it brings me to the point that Chairman Avakian has stressed about the importance of a revolutionary movement and a politicized atmosphere, what that can do, not as an end in itself but as part of preparing for revolution and preparing to bring this whole thing down. And what that can do in terms of bringing out the best in people. I think a lot of the best in people was brought out in that period. And the point is not to look back on it just to be nostalgic and to talk about how things were when we were young, but to look back on it precisely for the purpose that we have to go forward and we can go for the whole thing this time. That's what we're working for and that's what we are preparing for, and those opportunities could very well come and soon.
RW: When did you decide to join the RCP?
Comrade X: When I was in prison in the early '70s, there was this group called the SLA. They were a group that was formed by some ex-prisoners and their political line was one of urban guerilla warfare. They kidnapped Patty Hearst and that became a whole national and international incident. So the revolutionaries in prison were checking out what all the radical groups were saying about it. And the thing that struck me about it at that time was that a lot of so-called revolutionaries were just condemning it, talking about how terrible it was that Patty Hearst had been kidnapped and condemning the SLA and that particular act.
Now it wasn't often that I was able to get a lot of revolutionary newspapers when I was in prison because of the censorship, but I did happen to come across a copy of Revolution—which was the newspaper of the Revolutionary Union, the organization that later formed the RCP—and there was a whole piece on the SLA in that issue. By that time I was really disgusted with a lot of what the other people on the left were saying and how they were summing it up and analyzing it. But the way the RU dealt with the whole thing really struck me as different, and I have never forgotten it, the way it was taken up. The RU had some big differences with the strategic approach of the SLA and the tactical approach they were taking also, but far from condemning the SLA out of hand, the RU aimed their fire first and foremost at the imperialists and united with the spirit of wanting to find a way to bring imperialism down as soon as possible. They made a lot of exposure of what the Hearsts were and their whole history that I thought was really rich. And at the same time there was some criticism that this was not the correct strategic approach that needs to be taken to making a revolution in this country.
At that time that kind of urban guerrilla warfare thinking was the currency. In other words, a lot of revolutionary people thought that if you were going to make a revolution in this country, you'd do it like they do it in the Third World. You would do it in an urban setting but adopting the same road of taking liberated territories that were used in the Third World. And this article by the RU was the first time I had ever seen something that was attempting to put forward what would be a correct strategic approach for revolution and the armed struggle in an advanced imperialist country like the U.S.
So I didn't know a lot, but what I did know sparked a lot of interest in me about the RU and the politics of Bob Avakian, who was the leader of the RU. And about a year or two after I got out—by this time the RCP had been formed—I actually made contact with the Party and subsequently joined.
RW: You mentioned the strategy for revolution being so important in terms of your looking toward the Party. I think at that time there was a real sense on a mass scale of "we have to figure this strategy out because we are actually going to do this revolutionary war"—that was an important element.
Comrade X: Yes, there was that spirit. And there was a lot of people, I would say thousands and thousands of people, who were seriously taking it up and struggling over these questions of how could the armed struggle be waged in a country like the USA. And that is a positive legacy that we have in terms of going into the '90s and preparing for DOING THE DOG IN BABYLON, as Huey used to say. But there was also that frustration that there wasn't a clear understanding of how would you bring this system down.
There was determination to do it. It was like what Malcolm used to say about the house slave and the field slave: The master's house would be burning down and the house slave would talk about, "Our house is burning down." And if you were gonna run away, the house slave would say, "Where are we going to go?" and the field slave would say, "Well, it doesn't much matter, cuz we got to get out of here." The point is not that we don't need to know where we are going, but in the '60s there was that sense that one way or the other we've got [to] bring this whole thing down. And at the same time a lot of his wasn't really thought through in terms of how would you go about bringing this whole thing down FOR REAL.
RW: Well, we need a whole new generation to make this revolution for real, so it's up to the youth now.
Comrade X: This is something I learned early in my experience—in every revolutionary struggle the youth play a very important role in that. So it's very critical, these questions that we're raising for struggle among the youth. In the May Day manifesto this year there was a very profound point from Mao: "When revolution has its day, people see things another way." And in the Chinese revolution led by Mao, when things went over to armed struggle and when people began waging armed struggle, a lot of youth who were considered previously as not being able to play any role were actually transformed and came forward to play a very important role in that revolutionary struggle.
RW: Righteous on that. Let's talk about some of the questions that are vexing the youth, things that make them hesitate towards getting down for PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION. For instance, coming up young and Black in America a lot of youth think there's not much hope for white people. They wonder if any of these people could be on their side. What was it in your own experience that gave you some insights that there would be some allies?
Comrade X: First of all, I went through a period of nationalism and being anti-white as a result of becoming more consciously aware of white supremacy and the whole history of slavery and the whole history of Black people in this country. So at first I did not have much confidence that there was much hope for any kind of unity or even any basis for going up against the system in terms of whites and Blacks together. But here again is where the overall revolutionary movement in the country at that time did have an effect, because it was hard to argue that all whites were hopeless because you did have people in the streets like at the Democratic National Convention. On television it was being shown how people were being beaten into the ground with clubs by the pigs and savagely attacked. I can remember being in prison and seeing that on television and that having a very profound effect on me. There was also the murders of the students at Kent State, and there was a lot of things where a lot of white youth were putting themselves and putting their lives on the line, including in terms of defending the Black Panther offices. So those kinds of things not only helped me to see things in a different way, but it was also material that I would use in struggling with other people to see how there was a basis for unity and to go forward.
RW: The youth themselves putting their politics and their life on the line...
Comrade X: Right, being willing to stand by what they believe in...
RW: It made the oppressed take heart...
Comrade X: Right. There was a back-and-forth kind of thing that went on there. The whole Black liberation struggle had a profound impact on a lot of people, including a lot of white youth. And then in turn the white youth going out in the streets in opposition to the war in Vietnam and against the draft—those things had a very profound impact in helping people to see that there was the potential for alliances.
And also, as I began to study history more, I found there were people who came forward and took a certain stand on the basis of principle and were willing to fight and die for it. I can remember studying about John Brown and Harpers Ferry and being affected by it in a positive way. But overall it was the climate in the country and what was going on in the country. People were putting themselves on the line and going up against the system, including white youth taking on more radical politics like carrying the NLF flag—which was the flag of the Vietnamese liberation fighters—and making firm statements in opposition to national oppression.
A lot of the struggle that went on—and it went on throughout the whole country—was trying to figure out who are your friends and who are your enemies. If we were going to bring these imperialists down, first of all we had to figure out—and this is something Mao talks about—who are your friends and enemies. Mao also talked about UNITING ALL WHO COULD BE UNITED AGAINST THE ENEMY. These are some of the things that we learned from Mao and then in turn tried to apply and tried to figure out, which I think led to breaking with some of these notions that it's just your people and just your nationality.
And as I began to broaden my view I started seeing that it's not just a question of my people, first and foremost, but beginning to look at and hate the oppression of people in China or the oppression of people in India, to hate the oppression of people in other parts of the world as much as I hated the oppression of Black people. I came to understand that the fight against national oppression—where imperialist nations lord it over oppressed nations and imperialist peoples lord it over oppressed peoples—was part of the fight to bring down imperialism and ALL kinds of oppression. And that it was not just a question of different races all around the world trying to get their thing together but coming to understand that throughout the whole world there were PROLETARIANS, there were propertyless people, there were people with nothing to lose but their chains. And when I talk about OUR PEOPLE, that's who I'm talking about. And that became what defined the struggle for me.
RW: Was it controversial among your friends that Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, is not Black?
Comrade X: Yes, that question came up in a big way! But I can remember playing the May Day speech that the Chairman gave back in 1979 for members of my family and many other people. And the thing I can remember is people just being blown away by that, that he was speaking to shit that they had felt all their lives, but he was putting the shit together in a way that they had never heard it put together before. And more recently I have heard of cases where people have been checking out Bullets, the silver book of quotations by the Chairman, and being really blown away by what he was saying and then turning to the front of the book and seeing his picture and seeing that he is white and not being able to put that together with the powerful shit that he was saying in that book. I actually heard a funny story a few years ago, where after reading something by the Chairman or hearing an old tape of one of his speeches, someone who is Black asked if he was "raised by a poor Black family."
So the point is that this question came up and it still comes up, and we have to fight through on that question with revolutionary people coming forward who, because of nationalism, might find that difficult to deal with or whatever. On one level it is not so surprising that questions like this come up even from the oppressed among our people. After all, the oppression of whole nations and peoples is a fundamental pillar of this imperialist system. H. Rap Brown used to say that "violence is as American as apple pie," and borrowing from that statement I would say that "racism and white supremacy is also as Amerikkkan as apple pie."
But let me say this: I have fought with many people over this question over the years but I have never been defensive about who our Chairman is or that he is white. And there is absolutely no reason to be defensive about that. It has certainly been a disadvantage that this brother has not been able to function openly, hasn't been out there in a public way, though his voice and his leadership is definitely on the scene. But the fact that he is not out there in that public way and in fact is in exile just shows how goddamn serious we are—serious about slam-dunking this whole putrid system, serious about winning.
In one of his recent articles, "Some Thoughts, Some Further Thoughts," the Chairman comments in paraphrasing Mao that what most stood out about Lenin wasn't "his political acumen or strategic and tactical sense, nor even his important theoretical developments and contributions in terms of revolutionary science... but instead the fact that HE GAVE HIS HEART TO THE MASSES, to the oppressed." On a personal note, having had the opportunity to work with the Chairman in the past in a number of situations, including going into housing projects with him when he could operate more freely, I can say without exaggeration—and I'm sure other comrades would join me in saying this—that our Chairman too has given his heart to the masses, to the oppressed, not just in this country but the world over. And this comrade is thoroughly intoxicated with the revolution. His leadership has been decisive at key turning points in the revolutionary movement in this country—going back to the '60s—and it is crucial today and looking ahead to the future. As we have said, our ideology is Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, our vanguard is the RCP and our leader is Chairman Avakian.
I realize a lot of the youth today, Black youth in particular, are looking back to things like Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party for direction, and it is not surprising, nor a bad thing, that many of the Black youth who are awakening to political life are attempting to learn from the revolutionary legacy of the '60s. It also seems that there is a broad sentiment that another BPP or Malcolm X is what is needed. Now, revolutionary nationalist leaders exist today, and it seems likely that as the situation sharpens new revolutionary leaders will emerge from the struggle of Black people, and I can only say right on to that. But what OUR people, the oppressed of ALL nationalities really need—what we already got in our Chairman and in our Party—is REVOLUTIONARY COMMUNIST/PROLETARIAN INTERNAITONALIST LEADERSHIP. Mao said, without a party, without a party based on Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, the masses of people have nothing at all! Well, that kind of party already exists and the question is that proletarians of all nationalities have to step forward and join it and help build it and help prepare for all-the-way—stone to the bone!—revolution. And ain't nothing soft about that!
RW: Let's talk about some of the changes that people go through when they start becoming revolutionaries; for instance, we have a different attitude toward criticism/self-criticism, and one of our points of discipline is around criticism/self-criticism. It's a different way of looking at criticism and it's also kind of hard when you are a young brother or sister coming up to engage in this criticism/self-criticism.
Comrade X: Oh, yes, this is very difficult. That's definitely true in my own experience. This is one of the things early on in the Red Book that we learned and were able to put in some perspective. Because the code of the streets and even in prison is not just that you don't criticize somebody. A lot of times if you just say the wrong thing to somebody or offend somebody in some kind of way, it can actually go over to physical struggle and sometimes people get killed. This whole thing I was talking about earlier about "face" and "manhood" or even your understanding or knowledge getting called into question could lead to people getting seriously hurt.
So this question of criticism/self-criticism was a very difficult question. But I think the thing that was instrumental in helping to get over some of those barriers and to grasp this a lot better was the Red Book. Mao talks about why criticism and self-criticism is important to the revolutionary struggle and why not having criticism and self-criticism is corrosive to the revolutionary movement. And I can remember at a certain point when we came to grasp that and the importance of that. It's not like it was easy even after understanding it, but at least there was a certain perspective you had of why it was necessary. In other words, there were certain things we learned from Mao about if you have a dirty face somebody has to tell you and you have to wash it. Or if you are sweeping, where the broom doesn't hit, you won't clean the room. So those things—in the very basic and down-to-earth way that Mao put it together—helped us to understand why this was a very powerful weapon in the hands of the people and was something that was entirely different from the way the enemy does things. It's part of FIGHTING OUR WAY, as opposed to fighting their way. You take this up as a powerful weapon in the revolutionary struggle—to strengthen the ranks, not to tear people down. And what we did, as we began to understand and grasp that more, we actually tried to memorize those things and then live by it.
RW: Also there's a difference between how you deal with contradictions of the enemy and how you deal with contradictions among people, but on the street and in the gangster life, those things get very blurred.
Comrade X: That was a very important lesson to learn, because from the standpoint of the gangster mentality, you can't let anybody cross you, you can't let anybody get one up on you. You can't let anybody put you down or something. And that's resolved by violence and that's the way it is. I can remember coming up—and this whole thing about dissing reminds me of what we called signifying—we'd sit around and poke fun at this or that about the other person, and a lot of times those kinds of situations would go over to violence. Because if someone felt they were put down in the wrong way or they were insulted some way, it would actually go over to violence. But again, we learned from Mao the necessity of this criticism/self-criticism to the revolutionary movement, but also the character of it—the character of it should be around political weaknesses and not a question of personal attacks. Some of those basic lessons that we learned from Mao I think are still quite valid today and very useful in terms of the youth in being able to MAKE A LEAP, and I think that is a point to emphasize. Coming forward and taking up this revolutionary politics is a leap.
And maybe some people will look at it and say there is no way I can make that leap. But there's an article that the Chairman wrote some years ago and it has been reprinted in this new book of his writings, Reflections and Sketches, called "Proletarian Internationalism, Or If You Have Ever Been Mistreated You Know What I Am Talking About." And that particular article was a very important one in the Party and I think it's still important. And one of the points he makes in there is that becoming a communist is a leap. And he talks about, in terms of the masses making that leap, that it is a leap from their life experiences and their conditions of life, but it's not a leap from nowhere. And I think that's important. There is a lot in the life experiences of our people and their conditions of life which provide a firm basis to be able to make that leap and to be able to understand in a more profound way a lot of things about this system. But that has to be combined with the science of revolution.
RW: So the oppressed people, even coming from the basic masses, still have to understand how to apply the mass line.
Comrade X: There's two things, because you come from the masses, it's not just "come as you are." There's a leap that has to be made in taking up MLM. Taking MLM to the masses in one sense is like taking it home. But there is a leap that people have to make to actually grasp it and go to a higher level. And that's definitely true in my experience. It is a struggle to understand that the masses are the makers of history and how to learn from the masses and lead the masses.
It's not just enough to have the hatred for the Man. Without that you don't have nothing, but that has got to be taken to a whole other level with the science of revolution, with MLM. It's the Party and the masses which gives us the strength to be able to stand up to whatever the enemy can throw at us—and be able to not only stand up to it, but advance through it and to defeat them.
RW: Sometimes the youth are hesitant to be the first in their set to step out.
Comrade X: I've been stressing this point about a revolutionary movement and politicized atmosphere. I think that as a vanguard we have a tremendous responsibility in helping to bring that into being, and the youth have to be in the forefront of leading the masses into struggle and going up against the other side and the shit they are trying to bring down on people these days—as part of preparing for revolution and looking ahead to and laying the groundwork for bringing into being in the future a revolutionary army of the proletariat. There's a certain responsibility we have, not totally unlike that of the Panthers in the 1960s. In a certain sense we are standing on their shoulders and on the shoulders of the previous movement and what has gone on, but WITH ALL OF OUR STRENGTHS.
And I do think that even a small number of people stepping forward to play that kind of role can play a tremendous part. Looking back to the rebellions we led in prison [See Parts 2 and 4, "Burning Down the House" and "In the Spirit of Attica."]—they had a profound impact throughout the prison and even broader than that. It had a profound impact of a relative minority of people stepping forward and taking a certain stand and playing a certain role in terms of being able to cause others to stand up and take note and for them to check this out in a more serious way. So there is that kind of dialectics—that kind of back-and-forth—that does go on and needs to go on.
So I was thinking about that in terms of some of the hesitations that some youth have in going to another level than where others in their posse might be at. It's not a question of making a leap yourself and writing the others off, but of making a leap and, precisely because there are those connections and links, seeing that as the basis for fighting to win the people over. You have to be down for the revolution and you have to love the people. That's really a critical principle.
The Chairman has talked about that in terms of the experience of the Black Panther Party, how Huey and Bobby stepped out in a certain way and played a role in drawing forward people and actually taking the struggle at that time to a whole other level beyond where Malcolm had been. This is something that's played itself out in different ways in various countries throughout the world and still continues to do that. And the situation going on right now in Peru, where the people's war led by the Communist Party of Peru is gaining victories, is a very good example of what I am talking about.
RW: Actually taking on and fighting the enemy brought the people forward.
Comrade X: Right. The path to power is different in a country like the U.S., and you can't engage in the armed struggle before the conditions are ripe for doing that. But I do think there are some lessons that can be drawn from that in terms of the political struggles where people are taking on the powers. It is precisely the point you're making about engaging the enemy, and that's something that is absolutely crucial right now in terms of what is coming down, the attacks that are being brought down on the youth and on the people.
RW: How did you get out of prison?
Comrade X: That's a funny story in its own right. In looking back, it actually surprises me, not only that I got out of prison but that I am still alive, cuz there was a lot of things that happened in my life and any one of them could have been the end. First of all, just before I got out I was involved in leading that prison takeover where we had three cell houses and three guards as hostages. And one of the demands that we made was for amnesty, and we were able to back the prison authorities down. They didn't charge the cell houses and kill anybody, and they basically were forced to go along with our demands. Again I think that had a lot to do with the whole atmosphere in the country, including what had happened in Attica no doubt figured into why they did what they did.
But just previous to that rebellion, there was this funny coincidence. There was this guy I had met when I first got into prison who was a teacher in the prison. And during the course of time he had actually quit his job and went back to school and had become a lawyer. So he came back to the prison and saw me locked up there and he was astounded that I was still in prison. And he took my case and took it back to court and some time later I got a reversal of my verdict, and to make a long story short I was released. So it was like a fortunate set of circumstances. Also at that time, the prison authorities—as part of their whole tactic of "cut off the head and the body will die"—they wanted to get some of us out of the prison. So they transferred me to a minimum security situation. And it was a very difficult decision in terms of whether to do that or not, because it was very clear what they were trying to do—they were trying to diffuse the level of resistance that existed in the prison. So I talked it over with some of the other comrades, because pretty much the prison officials had told me to basically leave quietly or else—it was like an implicit threat that they were going to kill me. So we decided that the best way was for me to go. Our Chairman talks about how the enemy comes at you with sugar-coated bullets and real bullets, and I think the prison officials thought that if I got out I would forget about all this revolution stuff—that this was just something I did when I was in there and I was just angry and when I got out I would forget it. But they made a mistake.
RW: Yes they did, and good for the proletariat. You spoke earlier about the slogan the Chairman raised, "Fear Nothing, Be Down for the Whole Thing." So in wrapping up this interview, what do you have to say to the youth who are coming up like you about the special significance of this slogan for them.
Comrade X: I think that the possibility to bring this system down is something real, and not only that, the opening to be able to do that could come soon, but we got some work to do to prepare for the time when we can actually go over to an armed struggle to bring these people down—which is precisely what it is going to take.
There is a song that was popular not that long ago, and I don't think the artists were revolutionaries, but it had a beat to it and the song goes something like this, "Are you ready for the time of your life, it's time to stand up and fight." So if you are ready for the time of your life, it's time to stand up and fight, it's time to prepare for revolution, it's time to fight the power and prepare to bury the system. Not only can we end the shit that exists in this country—all these oppressive relations that exist in this country—but we can end this downpressing shit throughout the whole world, together with our people throughout the whole world. And that's the vision that I think is worth living for and the vision that is worth fighting and dying for. That's what I would say to the youth and that's very much captured in the saying "FEAR NOTHING, BE DOWN FOR THE WHOLE THING."
1. Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA [back]
2. "Marxism-Leninism-Maoism (MLM)" is how the science of communism was referred to at the time of this interview. That science has continued to be developed. [back]
Revolution #357 October 13, 2014
September 29, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
To those who rule this system, the people who catch the most hell every day are expendable, dangerous. When it comes to those who catch the most hell digging into ideas, understanding and changing the world, this system has one big “DO NOT ENTER” sign. But BA says: “Those this system has cast off, those it has treated as less than human” are the ones 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.” This Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian on Revolution and Religion is for everyone who gives a damn about the state of humanity and the planet. And yes, that includes YOU! Get with people like yourself who maybe never have had a chance to even get out of their neighborhoods, let alone go to a historic event like this Dialogue. Get with people organizing for this Dialogue. Work out the ways and means to get to Riverside Church in New York City on November 15. DO NOT MISS THIS.