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Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
by Bob Avakian | February 9, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors' Note: The following is part of what Bob Avakian had planned to include in his Opening Presentation to the Dialogue on November 15, 2014 with Cornel West, although it did not end up actually being included. We are publishing it here because of the importance of the question it speaks to.
What is a Revolutionary Situation? A deep crisis and sharpening conflicts in society and in the government and ruling circles, where they cannot find a way to resolve these conflicts—in society and among their own ranks—which do not make things worse for them and call forth more resistance and further undermine people's belief in their "right to rule" and in the "legitimacy" of their use of force to maintain their rule; programs of "reforming" the system are shown to be bankrupt, totally unable to deal with what more and more people recognize as profound dysfunction and intolerable injustice of the whole setup; those, in society as well as among the ruling class, who are trying to enforce the existing system are on the political defensive, even if lashing out; millions of people are actively seeking radical change, determined to fight for it, willing to put everything on the line to win it, and searching for a force to lead them in doing so; and a solid core of thousands is united around a leadership, an organized vanguard force with the vision and method, strategy and plan—and deepening ties among masses of people—to actually lead the fight to defeat and dismantle the violent repressive force of the existing system and its power structure, and to bring into being a new revolutionary system that can provide the means for people to radically transform society toward the goal of abolishing oppression and exploitation.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
From the editors:
For All Who Find the World Intolerable:
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
To all those who find the world as it is intolerable and want to see a real change, we are facing a crossroads: a moment where what we do now will have great impact on the lives of millions
There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth. (Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:1)
From the very beginning, slavery—along with the genocidal slaughter and dispossession of the indigenous Indian peoples who lived here—was at the heart of the empire they called America. America—and American capitalism—was founded on invasion, kidnapping, murder, rape, torture, dispossession, and literally hundreds of years of unimaginably brutal slave labor. And this is not ancient history. Despite heroic struggles, the oppression of the African-American people continued in different forms, and stayed at the heart of this society. After the Civil War, which ended outright slavery: lynching and Jim Crow enforcing different forms of exploitation and oppression. Today: mass incarceration and police murder, with the police playing the role of the Klan. The people who run this society can NOT eliminate this oppression; they have NO answers. (See “Genocidal Realities: Then and Now” and watch video clips from Bob Avakian: “They’re Selling Postcards of the Hanging” and “Emmett Till and Jim Crow: Black people lived under a death sentence”)
As Bob Avakian has said:
The book by Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, has shined a bright and much needed light on the reality of profound injustice at the very core of this country.
And this brings me back to a very basic point:
This system, in this country, in the whole history of its treatment of Black people, what has it been?
First, Slavery... Then, Jim Crow—segregation and Ku Klux Klan terror... And now, The New Jim Crow—police brutality and murder, wholesale criminalization and mass incarceration, and legalized discrimination yet again.
That’s it for this system: Three strikes and you’re out!
If this were all that was wrong with this system, that would be more than reason enough for revolution. But there are reasons on top of reasons to make revolution—horrors and outrages that pour out of this system like an overflowing sewer: the oppression and degradation of women; the heartless exploitation and persecution of immigrants; the heedless profit-driven destruction of the environment; and the empire of wars, torture, occupation, and drones. “We need a revolution—anything else, in the final analysis, is bullshit.” (from BAsics 3:1)
Last fall two things had a major impact on society and further cracked open the potential for revolution: the powerful actions all over the country against murder by police and the Dialogue in New York between Bob Avakian and Cornel West, “Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion.” These two things, together with other developments and acute contradictions in the world, could be part of opening up a real possibility to make revolution—if we rise to the challenge. For more on the Dialogue, read "Ardea Skybreak on Attending the Dialogue Between Bob Avakian and Cornel West."
The fabric that holds this system together being ripped open revealed the ugly truth about this country that most of the time is covered over with layer upon layer of lies and distractions. The vicious history and present-day reality of the lives of Black people in AmeriKKKa, and how that comes from a system of oppression and exploitation, stood naked before the world. The actions of thousands who refused to accept these cold-blooded murders, who stepped outside the normal channels and went into the streets night after night, forced millions in this society to confront this reality and take a side. Those who run this system, and their enforcers, were put on the defensive about their system and its illegitimate use of force and violence against the people, especially Black and Latino people. And on November 15, close to 2,000 people heard from Bob Avakian and Cornel West in dialogue, arguing that things do not have to be this way, that there is a whole different way society could be, and a call to stand up and fight for that. All this has inspired and challenged people to dare to dream of and work for a different kind of world.
In recent weeks, while people have not lost those yearnings, there has been a counter-attack designed to intimidate, confuse, and disorient people, turning upside down who has right on their side—who are the true heroes, and who are the vicious enforcers of this system. And this presents a challenge to all those who want to see revolution to go against all of that and lead millions of people to go back on the offensive, building on what was accomplished in 2014.
Right now, this week, there are urgent tasks the movement for revolution must take up. To rebuild the fight against police murder much more powerfully, as part of building this movement for revolution; and to spread the word of the revolutionary answer to all this, especially through promoting the upcoming film of the Dialogue between Bob Avakian, the foremost communist in the world today, and Cornel West, the revolutionary Christian thinker and fighter, on “Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and The Role of Religion.”
To begin with the fight against police murder: Last weekend in Atlanta, 170 people from across the country gathered to plan a major move against police murder—#ShutdownA14. They left this gathering on a mission to reach out to millions to act: April 14 STOP BUSINESS AS USUAL! WE WILL NOT GO BACK! NO SCHOOL! NO WORK! SAY NO MORE TO THE SYSTEM GIVING A GREEN LIGHT TO KILLER COPS! The Call gives a clear vision: “On this day, thousands of students must walk out of school, take over buildings and go on strike at colleges and high schools nationwide. People must gather and march in cities all across the U.S. The normal routine of this society includes wanton police murder of Black and Brown people. Everyone must disrupt that normal routine.”
This will be a day when people all through the society, through mass political action of many different kinds, will call out and disrupt this damn system of murder and brutality and these prisons bursting like the old slave ships with hundreds of thousands of Black and Latino people. It has to be a day in which hundreds of thousands take the streets and inspire millions more to challenge the legitimacy of a system where this can continue to happen, decade after decade up to the present. There are millions out there whose hopes for an end to this have NOT been extinguished, and this Call to retake the initiative provides a way for people to step up and act in an even more powerful way to demand that this stop. EVERYONE who wants to see an end to these injustices needs to be reached, challenged to take a stand, united with to go further, drawing on all their ideas and resources.
And it has to start now. Right now. Immediately, the call for #ShutdownA14 has to be made known in a major way, beginning on February 16. Then on February 22, there are major actions planned in cities across the country around the police murder of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland, and many other children as well. Spread this through social media—tweets, texts, postings, and everything else people can think of. But also: stickers and fliers out everywhere... people mobilized to be part of this... people going out in groups to give a sense of the movement developing and organizing people into it... blowing whistles and showing defiance... as well as people individually spreading the word wherever they go. This is something that thousands can be part of right now. The goal has to be to saturate neighborhoods, schools, and places where people gather so that this is what everybody is talking about—Shutdown April 14. There is a vein of righteous resistance that was exposed a few months ago that is still open, and still waiting to be tapped.
Everyone who wants to see real revolutionary change: raise people’s sights to the possibility of revolution and a truly bright future. As we spread word about April 14, bring other materials with you, including Revolution newspaper and BAsics, and promote people checking out www.revcom.us. It’s ALL about getting free.
Second, the new film of the Dialogue between BA and Cornel West, which will give people a powerful sense of the bright future that is possible, needs to be promoted in its own right and as part of the massive fliering in the next week. In this film, debuting on March 28, people will see BA and Cornel West go back and forth on the biggest questions in people’s hearts before a riveted crowd of nearly 2,000... BA putting forward the need for and possibility of revolution in many dimensions... Cornel West coming from a revolutionary Christian stance putting forth the need for people to act to change the world... and the two dialoguing on all this in a way that models a whole different way that society could be. The trailer for this new film gives a great sense of this and should be widely spread, and even before the film premieres, people should be drawn now to the simulcast of this Dialogue that is available to watch online, while we raise money for and publicize what will be an amazing film. Plans are being made for this Dialogue to reverberate through the hearts and minds of tens and hundreds of thousands of people. Go here for the excerpt from an interview with Ardea Skybreak on the importance of the Dialogue.
In short, this week: ALL OUT.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
by Larry Everest | February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Vast stretches of North Africa, the Middle East, and much of Central Asia—Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Libya, Nigeria, Yemen, Afghanistan, Pakistan—all and more are being turned into hellish cauldrons of unimaginable terror and suffering by the escalating clash between Islamic fundamentalism on one side and the U.S. and other Western imperialist powers under the banner of enlightened democracy on the other. Some commentators have called this expanding ideological, political, and military conflict Jihad vs. McWorld, or Jihad vs. McCrusade, and it’s a major, horrible, and defining element of the world today.
On one side, Islamists kidnap hundreds of school girls, slaughter the populations of whole villages, behead and burn prisoners alive, massacre religious minorities, execute members of the staff of a French parody magazine, ban music, destroy irreplaceable historical treasures, and brutally enforce women’s enslavement. On the other side, the U.S. and its allies launch wars that murder, cripple, or displace millions, occupy countries and install governments whose rule is enforced through massive torture and terror, and carry out drone strikes wiping out whole families—all to protect global capitalist empires of sweatshop exploitation, natural resource plunder, and environmental devastation.
Both sides represent violent oppression, brutal enslavement, and the crushing of the human spirit in one form or another, and their toxic clash is helping propel the planet into darker horrors, and more needless death and suffering.
On February 5, at the National Prayer Breakfast, President Obama waded into the global ideological battle raging for hearts and minds. His mission was to justify and legitimize U.S. imperialism’s wars and interventions around the world, but it was his passing criticism of Christianity’s history that sparked a headline-grabbing backlash from right-wing commentators and Christian fundamentalists who denounced him for not recognizing Christianity’s inherent superiority to Islam, for raising any criticisms of the U.S. and Christianity in the face of Islamist atrocities, and for refusing to state straight-up that the U.S. is at war with a current within the Islamic faith.
Here’s what Obama said that sparked all the outrage:
[L]est we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ.
Obama included this one passage in his speech in the context of insisting on the superiority of the U.S. system over Dark Ages Islamic theocracies, and to argue that mechanisms to correct things like slavery and Jim Crow—based on the U.S. Constitution—are a big part of what makes the U.S special and distinguishes it from the Dark Ages fundamentalism of the Islamists. (Obama’s speech was also aimed at building support for U.S. imperialism and its allies in countries where Islam is the predominant religion at a time of great upheaval and conflict, by arguing the U.S. is not waging a religious war against Islam, as the Islamists argue, just a war against radical jihadists. Making this distinction “is vital to our success in the war on terrorism,” one ruling class commentator argued.)
Regardless of the context, the fact that Obama even made this comment set off powerful ruling class forces who filled the media with outrage that Obama dared even compare the Inquisition (a campaign of Catholic persecution in Spain, Portugal, and other European countries that started in the 12th century and lasted hundreds of years and included the widespread torture of Muslims and Jews to force them to convert to Christianity) and the Crusades (a series of holy wars by Christianity against Islam that lasted some 200 years, from 1095 until 1291) to crimes committed in the name of Islam. The fact that even mentioning these events set off such fury highlights why it is not hyperbole to call these forces Christian fascists and to identify how influential they are in the halls of power.
Volumes could be written about why Barack Obama felt compelled to make brief mention of the Inquisition, slavery and Jim Crow—to not even mention them would have discredited the speech for people in other countries and many here at home. And Obama's list is far from complete. Not only slavery was justified by invoking the Christian Bible. So was lynching. The genocide of the Native people's was justified by painting them as "heathen savages." George Bush called the so-called "war on terror" that has brought misery to so much of the world a "crusade."
While commentators jumped on one passing criticism of Christianity in the speech, Obama’s overall theme was NOT to criticize Christianity, much less the U.S., but rather to promote that what the U.S. is, represents, and does around the world is the best humanity can aspire to:
There’s wisdom in our founders writing in those documents that help found this nation the notion of freedom of religion, because they understood the need for humility. They also understood the need to uphold freedom of speech, that there was a connection between freedom of speech and freedom of religion....
And the second thing we need is to uphold the distinction between our faith and our governments. Between church and between state. The United States is one of the most religious countries in the world—far more religious than most Western developed countries. And one of the reasons is that our founders wisely embraced the separation of church and state.... And the result is a culture where people of all backgrounds and beliefs can freely and proudly worship, without fear, or coercion....
In reality, slavery and Jim Crow evolved to the New Jim Crow; police brutality and murder replaced Klan lynch mobs, and mass incarceration is a form of genocide. The institutions Obama is promoting were, and remain perfect vehicles for enforcing oppression in new forms.
And let’s look at the reality of how the U.S. operates around the world. For the rulers, whether they back viciously repressive secular regimes (like Egypt), brutally repressive military juntas (again, like Egypt), or viciously repressive Islamic theocracies (like Saudi Arabia) is a matter of taste for them. The kingdom of Saudi Arabia, one of the U.S.’s closest allies, enforces—and promotes—an extremely reactionary form of Islamic fundamentalist rule through public beheadings, floggings, and amputations.
When U.S. imperialism and its allies back (more or less) secular democracies, that simply means this is the form through which they carry out their objectives—including horrific crimes. Israel is a prime example: The vaunted “only democracy in the Middle East” is built on terrorist ethnic cleansing, is carrying out genocidal attacks on the Palestinian people, and maintains a nuclear weapons arsenal that keeps the whole region under threat of a nuclear attack.
Some liberals will argue that while Christian fascists may be as bad as Islamic fundamentalists “in theory,” they don’t present the same kind of danger because in the U.S. and the West, the actions of Christian fascists are constrained by the secular democratic principles Obama spoke of.
For one, Christian fascist forces do carry out terrorist attacks—such as the murder of doctors who provide abortions and the bombing of abortion clinics in the U.S., or the 2011 massacre of 65 Social Democrats in Norway.
But at present, the aims and objectives of these Christian fascist forces are overwhelmingly acted out WITHIN the structures of the U.S. state. Take Chris Kyle, glorified in the movie American Sniper. (See the review of American Sniper at revcom.us.) Kyle was a Christian fundamentalist homicidal maniac intent on slaughtering non-Christians—women, children, anyone he considered a “savage.” But Chris Kyle didn’t have to go outside existing formal state structures to carry out that slaughter—he simply enlisted in the U.S. military, which is more or less a perfect fit for Christian fundamentalist homicidal mass murderers.
Here’s the punch line in Obama’s Prayer Breakfast speech:
Whatever our beliefs, whatever our traditions, we must seek to be instruments of peace, and bringing light where there is darkness, and sowing love where there is hatred.
Peace, light, and love!? The truth is just the opposite. As Obama was mouthing soothing phrases about “humility,” “peace,” and “love,” his administration was preparing a new authorization for war—supposedly only for three years but without any geographic boundaries. Thousands of U.S. troops are again being deployed to Iraq—where the U.S. has already caused millions of deaths or displacements—and the U.S. is again carrying out hundreds of airstrikes. In Afghanistan, thousands of U.S. troops are there indefinitely, continuing to terrorize people with drone strikes and night raids. Meanwhile, the U.S.-run or -supported dungeons of Guantánamo, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, and Saudi Arabia continue to carry out barbaric torture.
NEITHER side in the global clash between McCrusade and Jihad has any claim to light or love, to freedom or justice. Both are intolerable. Both reinforce each other—even as they clash. But there IS another way, there is a way to really emancipate humanity, and there IS a basis for it in the way the world is and the deep aspirations of people from Cairo to Ferguson... and it’s up to us to do the work to bring it into being.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Since August of the past year, there has been an orchestrated campaign of political censorship targeting the Wikipedia entries on Bob Avakian and on the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (RCP). This political censorship has taken the form of Wikipedia editors totally gutting these entries of substantial and vital content and turning them into sources of misinformation, lies, and slander. As this article will show, this activity appears to be driven by opposition to the political and philosophical revolutionary work, program, and objectives of the RCP and an attempt to “air brush” off the pages of Wikipedia the person of Bob Avakian and an account of his body of work which spans a period of 40+ years.
This Wikipedia entry on Bob Avakian had been the established entry for over five years. This entry had given an objective, factual, and extensively documented and footnoted presentation of BA’s life, the role he plays, and his contributions to revolutionary communist theory brought forward together in a new synthesis of communism. In short, it was exactly the type of objective biographical entry needed for the online encyclopedia that Wikipedia is intended to be.
But then beginning in August 2014, at the same time that the Ferguson, Missouri, outbreaks were gaining steam and deeply impacting U.S. society, and then when the Dialogue between Bob Avakian and Cornel West (“Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion”) was first announced, the Wikipedia entry on Bob Avakian was hit with a series of attempts to effectively or entirely dismantle it and turn it into a vehicle to demean and attack BA. Several Wikipedia editors began working in tag team fashion to systematically drain the entry on BA of almost all substantial and significant content, and to inject the entry with inaccuracies and slanderous statements, including those that could be used to fuel not only slander but repression. (Anyone is allowed to contribute to Wikipedia, and anyone who writes or edits Wikipedia entries is called an editor: the person doesn’t need to meet any qualifications or have any knowledge whatsoever of the subject matter of an entry.)
In an effort to cover up their motives and make it more difficult and time-consuming for other editors to reverse their malicious edits, these editors set about dismantling the entry bit by bit, engaging in serial vandalism. They made a steady succession of over 110 deletions and hostile edits to the entry over the period from August 13 to September 19 alone. As a result, the current entry is essentially devoid of any useful content and is less than one-eighth of its former length. Almost all references to BA’s works have been expunged as well as even any link to the revcom.us website. Furthermore, the original references have been replaced by references to unprincipled and crude attack pieces by opportunists and easily discredited works by right-wing forces and government agents.
Around the same time as the political censorship campaign against the BA entry was escalating, at least one of the same editors and some other Wikipedia editors launched a concerted effort to do a similar thing to the Wikipedia entry on the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Their target was the newly rewritten Wikipedia entry on the RCP, USA, which had been posted on August 12, 2014. A week after this newly rewritten entry was posted, an editor removed the new entry, and without presenting any evidence, falsely claimed that it violated Wikipedia guidelines on having a neutral point of view and that it was a propaganda piece for the RCP. When the new entry was reinstated and the reasons for this posted on Wikipedia, the person who had deleted the new entry put out an urgent call to other Wikipedia editors to join in his/her attack on the entry on the RCP. This call has led to a “mob edit” and this entry being whittled away bit-by-bit by malicious edits aimed at, in essence, making the entry disappear.
What this editor gave as the reason for making this call to other Wikipedia editors exposes the actual political motives underlying all of this: This editor wrote that he/she was making this urgent call because he/she was “moved by knowledge that the RCP is a highly active organization at present, in the news for its organizing activities amidst the civil unrest in Ferguson, MO, among other places.” This editor, as part of the reasons explaining his/her edit, included a link to a vicious attack piece against the RCP from the Gawker website, which was based entirely on material from a notorious white supremacist website called the Missouri Torch which had been spreading vicious lies and slander about the RCP, other political groups, and the people of Ferguson who were protesting the police murder of Michael Brown.
Along with these series of attacks on the BA and RCP Wikipedia entries, the Wikipedia entries of individuals associated with the RCP (Carl Dix, Raymond Lotta, and C. Clark Kissinger) have also been vandalized and subjected to attempts to gut or eliminate them. In fact, the entry on Raymond Lotta has been deleted entirely from Wikipedia.
This type of political censorship represents a flagrant violation of Wikipedia’s own policies and a manipulation of its protocols. Wikipedia guidelines do not allow vandalism—the intentional posting of information known to be false, libelous, or slanderous. It is not allowed for editors to deliberately edit or delete entries with the purpose of advancing or advocating their own opinions and viewpoints (political or otherwise) at the expense of the truth. Editors are frequently warned and admonished not to change or delete information just because they disagree with the views of the subjects of the entry, whatever those views may be—however, this has not been the case with the recent censorship of the entries of Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.
As the situation now stands, what had been an objective biographical entry on Bob Avakian and an objective historical entry on the RCP and its political philosophy have been replaced by entries which are beneath even the “standards” of the worst of tabloid journalism. All of this also raises a very fundamental question of what the approach to truth is on Wikipedia—whether truth is objective or whether “might makes right”—and how this is reflected in its “editing rules.” For a short discussion of this, see the accompanying box: “Wikipedia, answer this: Does the consensus of the mob trump truth?”
A very fundamental question: When the biographical entry on Bob Avakian was first posted on Wikipedia (over five years ago), there were attempts to censor it, but established editors on Wikipedia authorized the entry as meeting the standards of Wikipedia—so why now this about-face in Wikipedia’s position towards the BA entry? An obvious follow-up question: Could the timing of this political censorship have anything to do with the huge social eruption around the police murders that have put a spotlight on a contradiction that goes to the very deepest core of this society: the historical and present day oppression of Black people, a contradiction which can only be resolved by either further repression and dramatic steps towards genocide against Black people or, ultimately, by revolution? Could this have anything to do with how the RCP, led by its Chair, Bob Avakian, has stood up and clearly called out and exposed both the problem and the solution—calling for a deeper and further spread of outrage and rebellion as well as actually building a movement which can lead to a revolution which will sweep away a whole system responsible for this historic injustice against Black people and all the ways this system fucks up this planet and the people on it?
In this recent period, agents of government repression, the media, as well as all and sundry counter-revolutionaries, right and “left,” have jumped out to target the RCP and the movement for revolution, and Bob Avakian and the pathbreaking new synthesis of communism that he has brought forward.*
This political censorship by Wikipedia amounts to the banning of objective, truthful entries on Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, and is part and parcel of these repressive political attacks. Wikipedia is the sixth most visited website on the entire Internet worldwide, which means that anyone turning to this online encyclopedia to learn about BA or the RCP is being fed total lies and distortions.
The basic question, Wikipedia or WikiPIGia?, is being acutely posed—right now—by this campaign of political censorship being waged against Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party. Whether this campaign is being orchestrated by counter-intelligence operatives of the government or by their functional equivalent in the form of individuals/groups bent on attacking revolutionary political leaders, or whether top Wikipedia administrators are aware of and permitting this censorship, is unknown at this point. Whatever the case, this political censorship smells of piggery and must be called out for what it is and a very broad spectrum of people must be won to step forward to oppose it and to reinstate the entries that present an accurate portrayal of Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party.
» Contact Wikipedia to protest this political censorship and demand that they immediately restore the uncensored entries on Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Email the Wikipedia Board of Trustees at WMFboard@wikimedia.org. Please cc a copy of your email to revcom.us at firstname.lastname@example.org
» Spread this article via social media.
» Read, share, and spread the uncensored Wikipedia articles on Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. (See box above.)
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Those perpetrating the attacks on the Wikipedia entries of Bob Avakian (BA) and the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA have tried to hide their political opposition behind a smokescreen, citing (on the Wikipedia “Talk” pages) phony reasons for their malicious edits and pointing to certain Wikipedia guidelines and procedures which they have cherry-picked and misused to justify what they are doing. Beyond the obvious problem of political censorship, a fundamental question is also raised here: What is Wikipedia’s approach to standards of truth as reflected in their editing rules and practice which give room not only for such political censorship, but for lies and actual distortions of the truth?
The practices and rationalizations of Wikipedia editors have included:
» Deleting huge sections of the entry, charging that material which is undeniably factual, accurate, written in a neutral manner, and backed up with numerous supporting references, is somehow not presented with a “neutral point of view” (a Wikipedia requirement) and is instead a political “soapbox” presentation. What is the logic here? Would an entry on Einstein that highlights his theory on relativity be a “soapbox” presentation or would it be a factual representation of Einstein’s intellectual thinking on crucial questions of physics? Similarly, if an entry on Bob Avakian—the foremost communist thinker in the world today—accurately outlines his thinking on revolution and communist theory, isn’t this precisely what such a biographical entry should do? Clearly, by bringing this so-called political “soapbox” argument into play, these Wikipedia editors are revealing their personal political motivations and not only their objections to the content of the Bob Avakian entry, but also their hostility to BA and what he represents.
» Deleting almost all references to BA’s works (claiming these are not acceptable references) while at the same time replacing them with references which are extremely dubious by any standard to bolster lies and slander. Some of the sources that they rely on are in fact notorious right-wing or anti-communist authors.
» Claiming that BA is somehow not notable enough to deserve a substantive Wikipedia entry and based on this “pronouncement,” actually deleting most of the entry so that it is now one-eighth of its original length. First, based on what authority does some random “editor” have the right to hand down such a judgment? Second and more to the point, it is an indisputable fact that since the 1960s, BA has been a well-known, albeit very controversial, communist leader and theoretician. Let’s call this out for what it is—an attempt at political censorship by “air brushing” an actual revolutionary leader with a very notable history and deep and wide-ranging body of work off the “pages” of Wikipedia.
» All of this is justified, according to this handful of “editors” who have ganged up to attack and vandalize the entries on Bob Avakian and the RCP, by their claim that this somehow represents the “consensus” of Wikipedia editors. It is beyond the scope of this article to deeply interrogate the policy of Wikipedia regarding standards related to having truthful content on the website, but there is an elephant in the room here: Is it the official policy of Wikipedia that “mob” editing of this type done under the banner of “consensus” trumps facts and truth?
Not only has this mob editing resulted in the gutting of what once was a truthful and objective biography of Bob Avakian, but distortions and lies have been deliberately inserted into the entry and are being legitimized by Wikipedia in the name of consensus. When outright factual inaccuracies are pointed out, the Wikipedia decision is that these actual inaccuracies should remain because a so-called consensus of “editors” says so.
Keep in mind that at Wikipedia, anyone can call him or herself an editor without needing to meet any qualifications. These “editors” have clearly shown that they are people who know nothing about Bob Avakian and have not studied his life and the body of work he has done since the 1960s. On what basis could they possibly have standing to completely rewrite this biographical entry?
Furthermore, why should anyone give credence to what is posted on Wikipedia (which millions of people do) when Wikipedia’s method of deciding what is true relies on the concept of consensus that legitimizes mob editing, such as was done to the BA and RCP entries, by editors who 1) know nothing about the subject matter they are editing; and 2) in this case clearly are not basing themselves on a “neutral point of view,” but instead on their opposition to BA and their anti-communist prejudices against what he represents?
Finally, to take Wikipedia’s policy on editorial “consensus” and follow it to its logical conclusion: If the original authors of the BA/RCP entries recruited a bunch of supporters to post as editors on Wikipedia and back the original entries, should the fact that they now outnumber the vandals be what decides what is true? Of course not.
This type of an approach to truth, essentially “might makes right,” is truly dangerous and should not be tolerated on Wikipedia.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
by Rigel Kane | February 9, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
by Sunsara Taylor | February 13, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Photo: Special to revcom.us
Last night, in New York City and Los Angeles, Stop Patriarchy staged our opening protests against the premiere of the film 50 Shades of Grey.
This film romanticizes, glamorizes, and eroticizes violence against women, stalking, abuse, degradation, and dehumanization of women. Here is just one excerpt from the books the film is based on:
“No,” I protest, kicking him off.
Christian replies, "If you struggle, I'll tie your feet, too. If you make a noise, Anastasia, I will gag you."
Grey, the absurdly unrealistic mega-billionaire stalker/abuser, then proceeds to have sex with Anastasia against her will. No, that is not “sexy.” That is sexual assault.
50 Shades romanticizes the story of Anastasia Steele, a young, painfully insecure, sexually inexperienced college student who is stalked, controlled, and alternately flattered and raged at by Grey. Steele is systematically broken down, taken way beyond her comfort zone, isolated from friends, and violated physically, emotionally, and through the denial of even a shred of privacy or personal autonomy. This is then packaged and sold on the big screen as “romance” and “true love.”
Many thanked us:
Photos: Special to revcom.us
We hadn't even pulled out all our signs yet or really set up when the first person stopped. “I want one of those,” said a man, “I have daughters.” He made clear he wasn't one of those “purity ring” type fathers trying to suppress his teenage daughter's sexuality, he was deeply concerned about the way this story makes dangerous and abusive men look like they “just need to be loved enough.” He took extra fliers to share with his daughter and wife.
Overall, the most common response we got from people on the street was, “Thank you!” Many just reached out their hands for the flier as they thanked us, but some stopped to talk. A young Latino guy opened up about how three of the women he has dated have been raped. A Muslim couple was alarmed that the woman's younger sister was obsessed with the books and didn't understand how dangerous it is to date a guy like Grey. Two young Black women made their friends wait a long time for them as they joined in handing out flyers and yelling to passersby, “Everyone has a right to their opinion, but mine is 'Fuck 50 Shades!' Women are not objects!”
A lawyer who works at a shelter that assists women who have been sexually trafficked and families fleeing domestic abuse stopped. She wasn't familiar with the books but she knows deeply what women's lives look like when they are trapped in abuse. Abusers often seek out women who are just like Anastasia Steele, young, insecure, and thinking that a man's desire to control them is an expression of love. Too many women and girls don't know the signs of abuse, and now this film is romanticizing those signs, increasing the danger.
Several staff members of a local group that assists domestic abuse survivors showed up to join the protest. They had heard about it through social media. Also, a guy from Belgium stopped to pose with one of our signs. He said the film is being promoted like crazy among women's magazines there and was so happy to see women in this country standing up against it.
Among the audience...
Among those going to watch the movie (typically groups of female friends, also some dates), more people tried to avoid us. Many laughed uncomfortably and averted their eyes, but still a significant number took the flier. For most this seemed like the first time anyone had suggested to them that there is a problem with the film.
Given that the first showing last night didn't start until 8 pm (and how bitterly cold New York City is right now), we were not able to stick around and talk with people on their way out. But, tonight and tomorrow night we will be able to do so. So check back in for new reports tomorrow.
Among those who defended the film, “But it’s her choice”...
A few were snotty and defiantly defended the film. One snapped, “Its not rape, she consents.” Well, as you can see in the excerpt above, she does not always consent in the books. The books romanticize sex that is non-consensual and sex that is explicitly used as “punishment” for Steele's alleged wrongs.
But, just as importantly, the idea that everything short of rape should be upheld is just wrong. Things that degrade and abuse women should be opposed, and blockbuster films that distort and romanticize and promote that degradation as “empowerment” and “love” should be called out for the real damage they do.
Others argued, “But it’s her choice.” The premise of this argument, that anything a woman chooses to do should be upheld, is also wrong. Yes, consent matters enormously and sex that is not consensual (rape) should be against the law and should be punished (when the evidence proves guilt beyond a reasonable doubt). But, just because something is not—and should not be—against the law does not mean that it should be beyond critique and conscious struggle over what values and what view of women is being promoted.
The idea that controlling, dominating, humiliating, terrorizing, and hurting a woman is “erotic” flows from a world that systematically treats women as sex objects to be used and abused for the sexual pleasure of men. Men don't just develop these fantasies in a vacuum—they are subjected to a lifetime of ideological training through pornography that eroticizes the hatred and revenge against women and even the torture and humiliation of women. This combines with thousands of years of patriarchal tradition that teaches that women are only valuable as “helpmeets” to men, mothers to their children, or sexual objects/servants.
Women, too, do not develop their fantasies in a vacuum. They are bombarded their entire lives both by the overall pornified culture (including advertising, popular music, and mainstream television and film) and by propaganda that is directed specifically to them: fairy tales, romance novels, “how to please him” articles in women's magazines, and more. All these train women to feel shame about their own sexual desires and to identify “driving a man crazy with desire” as validation of their worth.
There is no denying that many women fantasize about men who control and dominate them—in and outside the bedroom. The enormous success of 50 Shades is a clear indication of that. But, there is also no denying that this fantasy is pushed on women and that it is—in real life—extremely dangerous. Every day, 3-4 women are killed by their “partners.” A woman is beaten in this country every 15 seconds. As many who work in domestic abuse shelters have pointed out, “In real life, women who fall in love with Christian Greys end up in abuse shelters and cemeteries.”
The fact is, the very things that have trained people of all genders to find the abuse and degradation and control of women “sexy” are the very things that give rise to a world in which women and very young girls are kidnapped, beaten, sold into sexual slavery, pimped out, abused, disrespected and discriminated against by the billions. You don't get one without the other.
Stay tuned and join in!
So, that is a taste of our first day out protesting 50 Shades of Grey. Tonight and Saturday we are staging protests in Los Angeles, New York City, Oakland, and Seattle. If you are in these areas, join us. Elsewhere, stage your own protest—print off our flier and take it to your local theater—and let us know how it goes. Everyone: follow and retweet updates and photos from these protests at: @StopPatriarchy and @SunsaraTaylor.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Brian Williams, one of the most prominent network news broadcasters in the U.S., experienced an abrupt, highly public takedown and shaming in the past week. Williams is accused of making on-air claims that in 2003, when he was embedded with the U.S. invaders in Iraq, he was in a helicopter hit by a rocket-propelled grenade. He embellished, developed, and changed this story somewhat over the years. Now, 12 years after the supposed event, some people who had been with Williams when he went to Iraq have come forward to say he has been lying.Williams has been removed from his post as lead anchor for NBC Nightly News for six months, without pay, and indications are that he won’t be reinstated. Williams is being called a “disgrace.” Pundits said NBC would “lose all credibility” if it didn’t fire him.
What did Williams do that is deemed so terrible by virtually every other media mouthpiece and hack in the country?
Did he say he should not have allowed himself to be “embedded” in Iraq with an invading imperialist army? Did he say he should have exposed the massive atrocities and war crimes this army committed? Did he say that he should have done everything he could to bring the towering crimes against humanity—the rivers of blood being shed unjustly that he was literally in the midst of—to the world’s attention?
Did Williams finally acknowledge and apologize for his part in perpetrating the “weapons of mass destruction” hoax, the obvious lies coming from the George W. Bush regime that Saddam Hussein’s Iraq had chemical and nuclear weapons, which was used as the pretext for the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq? Did he call on his fellow journalists to do the same, to “come clean” and admit that they too had aided and abetted horrible war crimes, and vow never to do so again?
The U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq that began in 2003 is one of the towering crimes against humanity perpetrated by U.S. imperialism. Up to a million Iraqi people have died from the war, either directly from the massive violence inflicted by the U.S. or because of the destruction and devastation it has caused; millions have been maimed and injured, often crippled for life; four-and-a-half million people lost their homes in the warfare; and poisonous weapons of mass destruction used by the U.S. continue to cause severe illnesses among Iraqi people, and in particular birth defects among children. Horrific networks of torture chambers were set up by the Americans. Children have been orphaned; massive numbers of women have been forced to turn to prostitution for basic survival; and much of Iraq’s infrastructure—sewage treatment plants, hospitals, roads, bridges, schools, railroad lines—has been laid to waste.
This was an unjust, immoral war initiated on the basis of a big lie and fought in the interests of a predatory imperialist power. The big media in the U.S.—of all stripes—including Brian Williams, helped promote criminal war aims; they also contributed to attempts at intimidating and silencing opposition to the war. Williams and other news anchors did or led no serious journalistic investigation into the Bush administration’s blatant lies that “weapons of mass destruction” were in Iraqi hands. They never brought out the scale and depth of the horrific violence and destruction the U.S. inflicted on the people of Iraq, which barely registered as an afterthought in their “coverage.”
Instead, the mainstream media played an endless loop of statements by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saying that she didn’t want the evidence of Iraq’s alleged (nonexistent, in fact) nuclear weapons to be the “mushroom cloud” of their detonation, and by Colin Powell with his completely fictitious PowerPoint display at the United Nations about Iraqi weapons and nuclear material.
Williams and other journalists embedded themselves with invading U.S. troops and blatantly discarded even the pretense of journalistic objectivity. They fronted for an endless stream of commentary by military, political, and “intelligence” (i.e., spy) officials, and contending, antiwar views were virtually completely absent—all this was part of the systematic barrage of war-mongering propaganda trumpeted by Brian Williams, NBC News, and every other major media outlet in this country.
The job of major news anchors is to tell official lies in the service of the system, and to do it so well that the great majority of people actually believe them, no matter how outrageous—and deadly—the lies are. It is to assure the population that America is the “greatest country in the world, always fighting for good against evil”; that the wars it fights are “good wars” and that all the troops are “heroes”; that its leaders have, in the end, the interests of the people at heart, that the police, leaving aside a few “bad apples,” are there to “serve and protect” the people, that this is the “land of opportunity” for anyone willing to “work hard and play by the rules,” and on and on and on.
This episode is about much more than the professional destruction of Brian Williams. It is about continuing and compounding the lies, deceit, cover-ups, and hypocrisy that have justified not only the invasion of Iraq in 2003, but all the bloody aggression the U.S. has inflicted in the past 14 years. It is about trying to make “heroes” out of U.S. military personnel who carry out barbaric acts of murder and torture, when in fact the only heroes in the military are the ones who resist and expose the atrocities that are an everyday part of its functioning.
What kind of system can carry out such despicable acts, and why should it be allowed to exist a day longer than necessary?
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
There is a new mood on the campuses across the country—students beginning to think about and acting to stop the horrible crimes and injustices being inflicted upon the people by the system we live under. In recent months, students at hundreds of colleges and high schools joined in the major wave of protests across the country against police murder—walking out of schools, taking over freeways, dying in, and thinking and acting in daring new ways. There is also a new openness to revolutionary analysis and solutions, as demonstrated in the turnout of hundreds of students to the historic November 15 Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian on “Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion,” and in other ways. Of course, there is still a lot of apathy, but this only underscores how important it is to recognize these changes and to build on them—precisely because students have a very significant role to play—both in their own direct impact and in the hope and strength and scope of thinking they can spur among others—in making an actual revolution.
Now the question is how to go further—how to rip things back open and take them much, much further, how to bring forward a real revolutionary communist current on the campuses as part of that, and how to make leaps in building organization among students to hasten and seize on the possible emergence of a revolutionary situation—to get organized for an actual revolution.
I am calling on you to step forward and join with others around the country to take responsibility for doing this—and offering a few thoughts on how we should approach this.
In very immediate terms, we have to make breakthroughs in three major realms:
First, April 14, the National Shutdown Day Against Police Murder must truly reverberate throughout all of society, no business as usual. After the tremendous upsurge of protest last fall, the rulers made clear that they will not easily back off of giving the green light to their police to murder Black and brown youth. They lashed out against protesters with heavy repression (brutal arrests, trumped-up charges, media slanders, etc.) and with the LIE that “now is the time to get out of the streets and work towards ‘realistic solutions.’” Will students take the bait, leaving those who suffer every day under the gun and in the prisons alone once again, allowing demoralization and isolation to set in? Or, will students step forward even more powerfully—shutting down schools, taking over buildings, blocking freeways on thousands of campuses—taking the lead in busting open new levels of resistance throughout society that do not stop until this genocide STOPS? It is urgent that we take this question out very boldly right now to students and challenge them—and organize them—to make sure that the answer is the latter: even more powerful resistance that rises to a new level on April 14 and continues until this genocide is STOPPED. There are real stakes and they are right now.
Second, in late-March, the premiere of the film of the historic Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian on REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion must be built very boldly and broadly among students.
This Dialogue gives people an incredible introduction to the most advanced leadership and understanding of revolution in the world today and to a model of how people who are coming from very different perspectives can stand together, struggle over differences but also explore and deepen their unity—and the unity of others in the audience and throughout society—in their commitment to bring about a world free of all oppression and injustice. Never has such an event taken place, bringing together a leader like Bob Avakian, the architect of a new framework of human emancipation and an active leader of a revolutionary party, and someone like Cornel West, a powerful voice of revolutionary Christianity and an important public intellectual, to explore questions that weigh so heavily on humanity and its future: Revolution and Religion: the Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion. Through their differences and their unity, through their shared love and respect and their humor and their honesty, they opened up questions that millions need to grapple with and brought alive a real and palpable sense that the world could be radically and liberatingly different.
Right now, we need to work to bring hundreds of students to these premieres and to make this Dialogue—and BA’s work overall—a point of reference among thousands and soon tens of thousands on the campuses. This is critical in both bringing forward a real revolutionary and communist current that sees and is fighting for the way out of all this madness for real, and for the full breadth of involvement in the struggle against oppression in all its forms today.
Third, we must forge organization. There is a real basis right now among many students stepping into political life to join and be part of fighting for Revolution Clubs, collectivizing and getting guidance from the Revolutionary Communist Party and this website (www.revcom.us), as well as contributing to this process. This is a critical part of getting organized for an actual revolution. Also, among students very broadly, build organized involvement in—and chapters of—the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Stop Patriarchy, as other forms of organizing taking up the fight against what could be characterized as the “Five Stops.”
In short: I am calling on you to step forward as part of a growing cohort of young revolutionaries around the country who are taking responsibility together—and who feel that responsibility and that togetherness—for making all this real. Yes, the Party will be there for you, providing overall leadership and guidance and you should take full advantage of this—checking in regularly to this website and in other ways. And, yes, people like Carl Dix, Raymond Lotta, Andy Zee, and myself will be available to you—both through this website and in as many kinds of formal and informal activities and time spent on your campuses and with you as possible. So, no, you will not be alone. But, I am asking that you do more than simply “chip in” or to “do your part.” I am asking you to be part of taking full responsibility for all this with us. I am asking you to get deeply involved in the feel and flow of campus life and to bring the real revolution into every sphere—into the political movements and the classrooms, into the parties and the dorm life, into the coffee shops and philosophical debates, and into the poetry, music, and art scenes. I am asking you to bring alive and fight for communist morality—a morality consistent with the kind of truly liberated world we are fighting for, with mutual respect and equality between genders and nationalities, without ego and narrow-mindedness, with a spirit of cooperation and a willingness to sacrifice for a better world—and for the scientific method. And I am asking you to offer—through this website—your ideas, raise your questions, share your experiences, and make proposals through this website in an ongoing way.
Whether you have been with this for a long time or are just new to this, if you are serious about wanting a better world, not just for yourself but for all of humanity, step forward and be part of shouldering this responsibility. Write to me today, or at least this week, through this website (email@example.com) and let’s get started together.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On February 4, there was a joint hearing of four New York State Senate committees that focused on recent protests against police brutality and last year’s killing of two NYPD officers. At this hearing, NYPD Police Commissioner William Bratton, and Pat Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, put forward proposals for new moves to increase repression and punishment against the people.
Bratton, testifying at the hearing, called for New York State to change the charge of resisting arrest to a felony. Currently, resisting arrest is a misdemeanor carrying a maximum punishment of one year. Making resisting arrest a felony would mean someone found guilty of this could face anything from four years of probation to, in some cases, life in prison. It is unclear if Bratton is proposing that resisting arrest be made a felony charge in all cases. But he is proposing that what is now a Class A misdemeanor be changed to a felony. He told reporters, “I think a felony would be very helpful in terms of raising the bar significantly in the penalty for the resistance of arrest.”
Bratton even admitted, “The vast majority might end up being dismissed,” but went on to say, “We’re asking district attorneys to treat them more seriously than they have been treated in the past” and that this should be considered a felony.
There are already two different bills in the New York State Legislature, one that would explicitly create a felony resisting arrest charge to cover the use of physical force against a cop making an arrest. Another version of the bill would make resisting arrest a felony when the person has a prior resisting conviction in the previous 10 years.
Now Bratton—with the support of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio—is adding his powerful voice to and pressing forward such efforts to make resisting arrest a felony.
In fact, resisting arrest is frequently used as a bogus charge to trump up charges against people. This happens even in minor arrests, like someone being taken in for having a joint in their pocket after being stopped and frisked. And it’s used the time against protesters. In all these instances, what happens a lot of times is basically that the pigs beat you up for no reason and then they pile on a “resisting arrest” charge to justify it.
Sam Walker, a former criminal justice professor at the University of Nebraska-Omaha, notes, “There’s a widespread pattern in American policing where resisting arrest charges are used to sort of cover—and that phrase is used—the officer’s use of force. Why did the officer use force? Well, the person was resisting arrest.” Monica Potts, a journalist who previously worked on a civilian review board that investigated complaints against NYPD officers, says police are given wide discretion in deciding what counts as resistance during an arrest. She says resisting arrest is part of an array of charges—along with disorderly conduct and assault on an officer—that investigators casually refer to as “P.O.P.,” or “Pissing Off Police.”
This new and dangerous move comes in the context of the tremendous upsurge of protests against police brutality—starting last August in Ferguson, Missouri, after the police killing of Michael Brown; the spreading of the courageous protests in Ferguson to cities all over the country; and then the powerful waves of continuous protests for weeks from coast to coast after grand juries refused to indict the police who murdered Michael Brown and then Eric Garner in Staten Island.
According to a WNYC radio report, in New York City there were at least 51,503 cases of resisting arrest charges between 2009 and 2014, approximately 13,500 per year. Of these, less than 6.2 percent resulted in any conviction, according to the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services, and in some areas like the Bronx, less than 4.4 percent resulted in any conviction. That means that each year, more than 10,000 people are arrested, charged, and held in jail on completely bogus charges. This same report found that “a black person arrested for disorderly conduct is 65 percent more likely to be charged with resisting arrest than a white defendant, and 85 percent more likely to be charged in arrests involving drug possession.”
In other words, tens of thousands of people a year—disproportionally Black—are hit with resisting arrest charges the police can’t prove in court and judges have to throw out. But the victims of this still have this arrest on their record and have to go through all the bullshit in court to try to get the charge dropped.
Already, the police, judges, parole officers, etc. can use a record of “resisting arrest” to target people as “troublemakers”—even if the charge is eventually dropped or even if the resisting arrest charge happened in connection with an arrest for which the person was eventually found not guilty. Look at the case that the police and courts are trying to build up against the revolutionary Noche Diaz, who is facing multiple charges stemming from arrests at protests and, if convicted, could receive a two-year sentence. Noche has been singled out in protests by the NYPD—threatened, assaulted; and when he has been arrested he has almost always been slapped with an additional “resisting arrest” charge. This can be used by prosecutors to argue that there is a pattern of behavior that the courts must punish with added jail time.
Changing resisting arrest from a misdemeanor to a felony also has huge repercussions for those found guilty of this charge. People with a felony conviction on their record are treated like pariahs in this society—where they have to “check the box” on an employment form and are denied all kinds of things, from housing, to employment, to government loans, and the right to vote.
Pat Lynch, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, also testified at this hearing putting forth another outrageous and ominous proposal. Lynch called for ratcheted-up penalties against protesters—asking the legislature to make assaulting a police officer at a public assembly a Class B felony, which would carry a penalty of up to 25 years in prison. Lynch connected this directly with recent demonstrations against police brutality, saying he believed this change in law was necessary to “deter the type of conduct we saw during last month’s demonstrations.” This was a blatant threat against protesters who not only have a legal right to be demonstrating in the street—but these protesters are DOING THE RIGHT THING in demonstrating and refusing to tolerate police brutality, terror, and murder.
Lynch’s proposal for stiffer penalties for assaulting a police officer was made in clear reference to recent demonstrations—and comes after the December 13, 2014 protest on the Brooklyn Bridge when NYPD cops claimed they were assaulted by protesters. A whole campaign was launched in the media to hunt down, arrest and convict these protesters—based mainly on a two-minute YouTube video. The level of hysteria was ratcheted way up for days. There were high-profile press conferences with Bratton and other city officials calling on people to help identify those responsible for supposedly “assaulting two NYPD lieutenants.” A “Wanted” poster was issued with photos of seven “suspects”—that then appeared on tabloid front pages. People were called on to turn these people in and were offered a reward of $25,000. This orchestrated “trial by media” was an attempt by city and police officials to target the protests as a whole, put those who have been defiantly taking to the streets on the defensive, and try to put a lid on any further demonstrations against the police.
Now Lynch and others, in the context of all this, are trying to change the law to threaten people with bigger prison time if they are charged with assault on a police officer at a protest.
Meanwhile, at the hearing, Lynch and Bratton made it clear that they are going to stand by and protect the right of the police to murder people in the street and not face any consequences. Both asked the state legislature to block a proposal for an independent monitor to oversee cases in which a grand jury declines to indict a police officer accused of killing a civilian.
In recent months tens of thousands of people have acted in a way that forces millions here and around the world to confront the unacceptable reality that police in the USA kill people, especially Black and Latino people, all the time and are almost never even indicted on any charges. People have taken to the streets and protested in other ways, saying: NO MORE to this! What people are doing is RIGHT and it is WRONG to suppress and criminalize it.
The efforts to drastically increase the penalties for so-called “resisting arrest,” and other charges that are frequently thrown at protesters to cover up police brutality, like “assault on a police officer,” are part of a counter-offensive by the powers-that-be to suppress and kill the massive and inspiring movement against police murder. These moves are aimed at both protesters and at tightening the existing police-state repressive apparatus generally, especially in the oppressed communities. These moves by Bratton and others must be exposed and beaten back.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
At the end of January, NYPD chief William Bratton outlined a plan for a new unit of specially trained officers focused on patrolling terrorist targets and protests, using more high-powered weapons. This plan includes the creation of a heavily armed unit of about 350 officers to be called the Strategic Response Group to respond to what Bratton called “large-scale events, such as protests or terrorist attacks.” Bratton said these officers would be equipped with heavy protective gear and machine guns, and trained in counterterrorism tactics and “advanced disorder control.”
Bratton said, “It is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris.”
STOP. Look at what Bratton said here. He grouped three things together: “terrorist attacks” in India in 2008; the murders of journalists at the parody magazine Charlie Hebdo in France; and recent massive protests against police murder.
First of all, Bratton is equating instances of “terrorist murder” carried out by small groups with a reactionary agenda with mass demonstrations of thousands of people protesting police murder.
Bratton said New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio supports this plan and that “They’ll [Strategic Response Group] be equipped and trained in ways that our normal patrol officers are not... They’ll be equipped with all the extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns—unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances.”
Bratton’s view that protesters against police brutality should essentially be seen as enemy combatants and treated like “terrorists” was put out there in the world to hit headlines and infiltrate articles and commentary for several days.
Only later, after widespread outrage at how this proposal outrageously and blatantly paints protesters against police brutality as “terrorists,” did Bratton come out and say the interpretation of his remarks “may have confused the issue” and he slightly changed his plan to one where there are two new groupings of officers—one heavily armed unit to “combat terrorism” and a mobile unit to handle things like “protests and neighborhood crime spikes.”
But whatever way they organize it, it still sounds and looks a lot like Ferguson last August after Michael Brown was killed and the police used tear gas, rubber bullets, and armored vehicles against protesters. Rightfully so, this display prompted a lot of protests against the militarization of the police. And now Bratton is not only upping the militarization of the NYPD, he’s adding the political rhetoric that preparation for such protests should be treated as part of “counter-terrorism readiness.”
The moves to call for increased penalties against protesters, like Bratton’s proposal to make resisting arrest a felony as well as efforts like this, to paint protests with a “terrorist brush” in order to justify increased repressive measures, is coming from a ruling class that has been stung by and is worried by the tremendous upsurge of anger and protest against police murder. In the face of this whole counter-offensive by the powers-that-be, the movement against police murder must now not only continue, but also retake the initiative.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
I wanted to write my deep appreciation and excitement on the publication of the new issue of Demarcations and especially on the polemic, “Ajith—A Portrait of the Residue of the Past.”
I have to say I was initially very challenged by feeling the contradiction of wanting to dive right into this polemic while, at the same time, feeling great necessity around the moment we find ourselves in, especially in building on the victory of the Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian, and continuing to fight to advance the struggle for justice sparked by the determined actions of the defiant ones of Ferguson, Missouri. “Should I try to get right into the polemic or put it off for a few days to try to find the time to get into it?” In the end I decided that a few days might well become a few weeks, months, whatever and that I would find the time to read the polemic.
In my case, I decided that I would try getting up 45 minutes early each day before work and spend the time reading the polemic. As I got more into it, I found more time than I imagined. And I am really glad I did because the penetrating analysis in the polemic—on comparing and contrasting the approach, method, and orientation between Ajith and Bob Avakian—the epistemological roots of Ajith’s worldview, where these two roads lead and the potential consequences for the masses of people, is incredibly relevant both in an ongoing way insofar as the responsibilities of revolutionary communists (and as members of the Party of BA) and also in the moment we find ourselves, where many of the lines and outlooks we find ourselves confronting and struggling with, find expression in the work of Ajith. It is one thing to confront these lines and outlooks among sections of the people. It is far worse for them to be presented as the road forward being fought for by communists. The description “Vanguard of the Future or Residue of the Past” absolutely captures the significance of this debate.
For me, a starting point with the polemic is in understanding the stakes of the struggle concentrated around Ajith’s attempt to attack and slander BA and the new synthesis of communism he has brought forward—and that clarity on this question has everything to do with the possibility of the emancipation of all humanity. The polemic makes this clear in an opening paragraph: “In reality, Ajith makes an all-around assault on revolutionary communism, not only as it has been advanced by Avakian’s new synthesis of communism but on the fundamental building blocks of Marxism itself.” This should make people pause and think about the significance of the ideological struggle and its relationship to the political battles we are waging. We are locked in a life-and-death struggle—can the new synthesis of communism brought forward by BA force itself onto the world stage as the material force for revolution? There have been tragic examples in the international arena of where the lack of such a material force has contributed to terrible setbacks—Egypt for one.
The polemic is rich and layered. It deserves much more than one reading and there is far too much for me to try to recapitulate. However, I did find that the authors’ breaking down Ajith’s attacks into 10 central positions very helpful because, not only is there so much to dig into, but because Ajith’s method of relying on eclectics to make his arguments can easily leave a reader somewhat confused. One thing I thought that the polemic did especially well was break down how, at the heart of Ajith’s argument, is the outlook that we can’t use communism to understand the material world and human social relations in all their contradictoriness in order to transform the world (and develop our understanding of the science itself—as BA has done with the new synthesis of communism—in the process), but are essentially condemned to go forward on the basis that “what is good for the proletariat is true,” with a reified view of the proletariat that is profoundly linked to national chauvinism and capitulation.
As the authors repeatedly expose, Ajith relies on the same erroneous methodology as he is criticizing Avakian for employing and, for me, underscored the importance of more deeply engaging with communism as a science—and the continuing importance of continually interrogating ourselves from the standpoint as that team of scientists out to change the world.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
"This book will be of tremendous benefit to many..."
— Richard Leakey
Ardea Skybreak: Oh god (!), it was really great to be at this Dialogue. I’m so glad I was able to be there in person, and I’m also so glad that the livestream is available for anybody who wasn’t able to be there. I would encourage people to go to the revcom.us website, and you can access it right there and experience the whole thing. And I am really excited that a high-quality film is being made of the Dialogue, which will soon be available as well.
I don’t even know where to start. It was like there was magic in the air. It was one of the most hopeful things that I’ve seen in a very long time. I think it was historic in many different dimensions: in terms of the topic that was approached; the people who were involved in it, the two speakers; the moment in time. I felt like I was able to see a great demonstration of morality and conscience applied to dealing with the problems of humanity—that both speakers stood out this way.
I am sick to death of the culture that prevails so much in this society today that is all about self-involvement and self, individualism, and so on. In contrast to this prevailing culture of basically small-mindedness, self-centeredness, selfishness, whatever you wanna call it, here were two people, Bob Avakian and Cornel West, who have different views on many important questions, but they came together to speak to the people together in a way that was projecting tremendous morality and conscience, a tremendous amount of social responsibility. And I thought, yes, please, promote this, let’s have more of this. I thought it was a wonderful example of how you could have principled differences—you could have differences and debate and discuss some of those differences in a principled manner, but draw out the points of unity. They were both so generous in spirit, and part of why is because they’re not focused on self, neither one of them; they’re different people, but one of the things they have in common is that they are both trying to think about the conditions of the oppressed and all the horrors that are visited upon so many people on a daily basis in this country and throughout the world...and what could be done about that.
And, in Bob Avakian’s case, he’s been spending his whole life, decades and decades, developing work that is deepening our understanding of why these problems are not just accidental, or periodic anomalies–how they actually stem from, originate in, the deeper structures of the system, and why it’s the system itself, the system of capitalism-imperialism, that has to go, and be replaced with a completely different system, before we could really emancipate humanity. He brings that to life, and he’s dedicated his whole life to studying and bringing out to people, in a very scientific way, in a very rich and developed way, why that is the case, what is actually needed, what kind of revolution is needed, what is the strategy to actually be able to get to revolution, how can we actually have a serious strategy for seizing power, for dismantling the existing state apparatus of capitalism-imperialism, and replacing it with a new state apparatus of socialism, socialist institutions that move in the direction of a communist world that would be a genuinely emancipatory journey for the majority of people. He’s done a lot of very serious scientific work on this over decades. Has he ever made mistakes? Of course. Will he make more mistakes? I’m quite sure—everyone does, you know. The point is that he’s willing to examine his own mistakes and the mistakes of others throughout history, throughout the communist movement, and in what’s been done by other forces in society—constantly being like a good scientist who is actually willing to do critical examination of all of this to try to figure out what’s right and can move things forward in a good way for the majority of people, and what’s wrong and can actually take things in very bad directions. And even when the mistakes come from the historical forces of the revolutionaries or communists in this country or around the world, he’s willing to examine that. And so, because of that, you feel like you’re in the presence of a real scientist who’s actually going to work and has been working for decades. It’s like a very advanced scientist who is at the top of his field in terms of analyzing empire, in terms of analyzing the sources of problems and the alternatives and how to get there, and what pitfalls to avoid, what are the dangers, what are the wrong kinds of thinking that people can fall into and do fall into. You don’t have to agree with everything, but you can really feel like you’re grappling with a scientist who’s being serious about this, and whose heart is with the people.
And what you see with Cornel West—and BA pointed that out in his part of the Dialogue—you see someone who is a very wide-ranging intellectual who’s studied many different questions, and who is very concerned about the history of oppression, but who also recognizes that it is not enough to just be an intellectual behind closed doors who thinks about these things...it is important to play a role as a public intellectual and to actually help develop understanding and consciousness about these issues. He understands, in short, the social responsibility of a progressive intellectual. And he, also, is not concerned with self. He also is willing to take some risks and to stand up to slanders and be demeaned for some of this. He refuses to go along—and he doesn’t. I think one of the things that both these people show is a willingness to stand up under fire of a certain kind. We can talk about this later, but there are all sorts of people who wanna tear down people who are trying to change things in a positive direction.
So, not to go into that right now so much, but I just wanna say that there was something—I’m trying to find the words to describe the magical atmosphere. Here’s the thing: I think there were some people who were in attendance...I heard that they said afterwards, I wish every day could be like today. And I felt that myself. It felt like you were in the presence of...that there was leadership in the room, that there was a diversity of people in the audience, that there was a shared concern about a lot of the outrages and injustices in society and a shared lively determination to do something about it, rather than just accept it as the way of the world. So it was very encouraging.
And there were many other things. I mean, even the venue. Okay, look, I’m an atheist, I’m not a religious person. I don’t believe in supernatural forces of any kind. I’m a scientist who is deeply steeped in historical materialism, and I don’t get wowed or awed by the sanctity of religious places or religious venues. But that doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate the beauty of the religious art. This church, Riverside Church, is a beautiful venue, and it has all sorts of interesting and beautiful carvings in wood and in stone, and so on. It’s just a beautiful place, and you’d have to be stone cold not to be able to appreciate the art, even if you’re not a believer. And this was a wonderful setting for this historic event. It is a church that historically has hosted many controversial subjects and topics over the years and has provided a platform for the contestation of ideas. And I thought that, once again, this happened in this period in a way that hasn’t been seen in a long time, has never been seen actually. I can’t think of another example of exactly this kind of event in history, where a revolutionary communist leader of the revolution is meeting together with a revolutionary Christian so that they can bring forward what they have in common and explore the differences and put it before the people and encourage hundreds, thousands and ultimately millions of people to engage these very important questions that have to do with morality and conscience and with the future of humanity.
And the topic itself is so important, the topic about religion and revolution. Look, I’ve been arguing, and I know this is definitely BA’s framework, that you have to have a scientific materialist approach to analyzing the patterns of society—past, present and future—in order to figure out what to do about the problems of the world. Other people think that you have to apply a religious spiritual framework. That’s a different approach to trying to deal with some of the same problems. It’s a different approach to some of the solutions. It’s a different approach, but it doesn’t have to be in all cases an antagonistic difference. In this case, one of the things that I saw, and was inspired by, was that I thought there was a strategic alliance being modeled between a revolutionary communist... the revolutionary communist project, and progressive moral religious people, as embodied by Cornel West. Many religious people are not so generous of spirit, so moral, so solid in terms of their conscience. But this is an example of how two people can walk together and two actual sections of society can walk together in a strategic alliance. I thought that was very inspiring and should give hope to people.
And there was a lot that was modeled methodologically by BA in this Dialogue, in how he dealt with a lot of these questions. Many people are afraid to criticize religion—they think the people need it and you shouldn’t say anything. One of the things I really like about BA is that he’s never afraid to tell people what’s what, even if he knows it will make them uncomfortable, even if he knows that it’ll be controversial, that it’s not the popular way of thinking, that he will be attacked or even slandered or reviled for doing so. He’s just gonna tell people the way he sees things, on the basis of a scientific examination over decades of some of the key underlying phenomena. And, okay, religion, as Cornel expressed it very clearly, especially for Black people in this country, this is where many people live, this is very close to their heart, this is very intertwined with the history of resistance of Black people to oppression since the days of slavery, it’s very intimately tied in with people’s loved ones, and their feeling of who has led them in the past to fight against oppression. So it’s all very intertwined. And BA is very clearly expressing to people that he understands all of that, but that you have to let a lot of this go, you have to let it go because it doesn’t correspond to reality and it will actually take you off course and make it harder for you to actually transform the world in the direction that would benefit the majority of humanity. So there’s a difference there, but it is a difference that can be wrangled with and analyzed and subjected to critical analysis and thinking. And the audience was into it. The vast majority of the audience was really into this—BA’s presentation, Cornel’s shorter but substantial remarks, and then the dialogue between them where they went back and forth. So there’s a tremendous amount there. I think it’s worth re-watching and reviewing the livestream, and the upcoming film, because there’s a lot to learn from what was being modeled there, and by the whole event.
So the speakers were great, the topic was great—and then I have to say about the audience: There was also a magical element, something that was greater than the sum of the parts, that came out of the connection, the presence of the audience with the speakers. That was something that I may be having trouble putting into words exactly, but I felt it very strongly at the time. There were 2,000 people or so filling this historic venue. And many came from the area, from New York, but many came from far away. There were people there from Chicago, from Ferguson, from Boston, from Hawaii, and so on. People actually traveled there, people raised money for some of their friends to be able to go and represent for them and for the ones who couldn’t all go and travel such distances. So you had people arriving, you had buses arriving, there was an excitement in the air, you got the definite sense that people felt this is an important day, a day where we’re going to talk about the things that are really wrong in the world, all the outrages and injustices, and, in particular, at that moment, there was a lot of focus on these police murders and brutality. And we’re gonna talk about: do we have to take it, or can we put a stop to this, and how are we going to go forward from here? And partly it is taking a moral stand, but it’s more than that. There was a lot of discussion with both speakers encouraging the people to stand up and fight this stuff. Both speakers were very good about doing that. And there was a certain electricity in the air when, for instance, the buses came and there were people from Ferguson who arrived, and they came in chanting, "Hands Up, Don’t Shoot," and the entire audience...this was before the start of the program...the audience stood up and joined in: Hands Up, Don’t Shoot! I’m getting goose bumps even thinking about that. And everybody felt it.
And part of what was really, really special about this was the mix of people. And this is something I give great credit to the Revolutionary Communist Party and the leadership of Bob Avakian for, historically, going way back to the '70s and since then. I don’t know any other organization that brings people together in the way that BA’s leadership and the Revolutionary Communist Party does, in terms of being able to bring together people from what are often referred to as basic masses, in other words, the people from the inner cities, the people who might not have much education, who are poor and the most oppressed of the oppressed, and for whom daily life is a constant struggle under the boot of the oppressors...bringing them together with students, college students and others, including older people, from the middle strata, from the intellectual strata, from the artists and the scientists, and so on. So you have a Ph.D. professor, or a prominent person in the arts, who is sitting with somebody who is from one of the hardest inner city ghettos in the country—and they’re together! They’re not looking at each other with suspicion. They’re not looking at each other with fear or disdain. They’re together in this because they are being brought together by this project and by this whole determination to put an end to this degrading and dehumanizing oppression, and to make a better world. And whenever I’ve seen glimpses of that, going way back even to the '70s, even in how I, myself came forward, that was one of the things that has inspired me.
BA talked at the Dialogue, very movingly, about Wayne Webb, also known as Clyde Young, and what a hard life he came out of, and how he developed and emerged as a leader who became a member of the Central Committee of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and what his whole life trajectory was about, coming from the hard streets and from the prisons. You have someone like that, and you have people who’ve gotten Ph.D.s in science or who are prominent artists or prominent members of society who can be in the same party and in the same movement for revolution. That tells you something. It doesn’t tell you everything, but it tells you something important about the nature and characteristics, the type of movement that this is. And this bringing together—the great diversity of the audience being brought together, at this moment in time when people are waking up and standing up against some of these egregious police murders and other abuses in society, and becoming, once again, more determined to figure out if there’s any real way we can change things for the better—and coming together with these two speakers who, in their own different ways, were speaking to the people. One was a speaker of conscience who describes himself as a revolutionary Christian who was encouraging intellectuals to have principle and integrity and to stand with the oppressed. There are not many people from the intellectual strata these days who are doing that, and I salute Cornel West for taking that position and promoting it and serving as an example of that.
And then you have Bob Avakian standing there, on the basis of decades of hard work developing a whole body of work—theory to advance the science of communism, to advance the science of revolution, to more deeply explain where the problems come from, what the strategy is for getting out of this mess, what the methods and approaches should be to stay on track and actually build a better world, to build a society that most human beings would want to live in. That’s a hallmark of Bob Avakian’s work, working on building a society that most human beings would want to live in. But, to do that, you have to understand the need to sweep away the system of capitalism-imperialism and to build a completely different society on a different foundation—economically, politically, culturally. He was bringing that to life. And he was also bringing to bear the strategy for today. You know, it was brief [laughs]. Some idiots were complaining that he spoke too long. Actually, a lot of people were glued to their seats and wanted to hear even more, if there’d only been more time. But luckily, we have his whole body of work and the website at revcom.us is full of books, articles, speeches. There’s the film Revolution—Nothing Less! which is six hours of exposition from Bob Avakian’s work, which people should really get into. There’s BAsics, which is a really good book to start with, which also points people to the major works that things are taken from. So there’s no shortage of materials to go to.
But at least, in that short period of time, you were able to get a feel for the strategy for an actual revolution, what it means to work towards that, what it means to provide leadership, what is the nature of leadership, what is the role of new people in relation to that, why everybody needs to come into this process, and there’s a place for you no matter where you come from, there’s a place for you in this process, in this revolutionary process, and there was a lot of modeling of the kind of culture in society that we would want to bring into being. And then there were some very serious discussions of the connection between the very necessary fights of today—the protests, for instance, around Ferguson, and so on—and the actual struggle for revolutionary power, the seizure of power. What is the connection, how does one help build the other?
And there was at least preliminary discussion of some of the work that’s been done to bring out the real possibilities for how to actually win. That working on revolution isn’t just a good moral thing to be doing—you actually have to do it in a way that you have a chance of winning and not being crushed. BA spoke about that some, and he pointed people to some key documents that are available on that revcom.us website: the documents “On the Strategy for Revolution”; and “On the Possibility of Revolution,” which is a document that talks about the strategy for the actual seizure of power, and how you might have a chance of winning instead of being crushed by the forces of the other side. And then he was also pointing to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America—and...I have to say it just for a second here...that’s an incredible document that I don’t think enough people have actually looked at, or even leafed through briefly, to get a sense of it. There is actually a Constitution, for a new society, that has been developed based on the work brought forward by Bob Avakian, his whole new synthesis of communism. So if you wanna know what kind of society Bob Avakian’s work is trying to bring into being and lead people towards, you have something very concrete that you can dig into, that talks about the rule of law under socialism and what kind of freedoms there would be, how you would organize the economy, education...I mean, every imaginable question.
So, there was a lot presented there at the Dialogue, in a short period of time. There was enough, I think, to whet a lot of people’s appetite to actually go and dig further into this and join in, both in the struggles of today that are very necessary: again, things like the police murders, and on a number of other fronts, including what is happening in terms of women and the attacks on abortion—this is basically a way to enslave women, to deny them the right to their own reproduction, to control their own reproduction—and other abuses, and the wars, and the environment, and so on. There was an outlining of a lot of that, and then there was a pointing to where people could go to learn a lot more and to get into a lot more.
And something else I want to say about the Dialogue is that there was this wonderful affectionate, warm, rapport between the two speakers, which was also a model. These are two people who, with their differences, care about each other greatly, and appreciate each other deeply. There was a lot of warmth, and both people just came off as really warm, generous-minded individuals, and there was just a wonderful comradely atmosphere between them that I thought also was in sharp contrast to the kind of culture that prevails today. It was a good model of how you could have differences—and neither one of them was going to throw away their principles, you know, they had their differences and they were going to make those differences clear—but not only did they also bring out all the points that they agreed on, and the need to fight injustice and oppression, but they served as a model of how to handle differences. This is very important: They were modeling how people should relate to each other when they have differences. Because they were more concerned with the conditions of the oppressed and what to do about it than about themselves and their own egos. Because both people were much more focused on that, they found it in themselves to interact in a principled way, and with generosity of spirit and comradeliness. Nobody was—to be crude, nobody was kissing ass to anybody else. When there were differences, there were differences. But they were very respectful and principled and willing to dig into things. And that was a model that a lot of other people in society should actually be inspired by and try to emulate. This is what the people should do. When you have differences, you should struggle over substance and not...look, there’s generally way too much of a culture in current society of nasty attacks and gossip and snarkiness and petty complaints and petty criticism. When people dedicate their whole lives, and this is certainly the case...you want to talk about Bob Avakian, he has spent his entire life dedicating himself to trying to serve the people, to trying to bring into being a better world, to fighting for that...he could have feathered his own nest, he could have just made out his own life to be better for himself. But this is not what he’s done. He’s dedicated his whole life to working on the problems of why there are so many outrages and oppression and so on, and what to do about it. That deserves respect, that deserves appreciation, and it deserves being looked into critically but deeply, to really try to grapple with what it is that he’s bringing forward that is new and different and should be learned from.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
Announcing the LAUNCH of the FILM:
REVOLUTION AND RELIGION:
The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion;
A Dialogue Between BOB AVAKIAN AND CORNEL WEST
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following talk was given at fundraising dinners hosted by BA Everywhere Committees on February 15. At the dinners, people watched the trailer for and clips from the forthcoming film of the Dialogue between Bob Avakian and Cornel West.
People all over the country need to know about and see this film. High school students who have to pass through metal detectors before they can even open a book need to see and experience it. College students who want to do something meaningful for the betterment of humanity. The youth who fear for their lives when they walk the streets need to see it. And artists who want to make art that matters. Intellectuals alive to critical and innovative thinking need to experience and engage this film. Basic people in the ghettos and barrios who catch the worst hell from this system, they need to get deeply into this film.
Let’s really recognize how extraordinary what we have in this film is. Ardea Skybreak said in an interview in Revolution newspaper: “I can’t think of another example of exactly this kind of event in history, where a revolutionary communist leader of the revolution is meeting together with a revolutionary Christian so that they can bring forward what they have in common and explore the differences and put it before the people and encourage hundreds, thousands and ultimately millions of people to engage these very important questions that have to do with morality and conscience and with the future of humanity.”
And here’s the exciting news. On Saturday, March 28, the film of the historic Dialogue between Bob Avakian and Cornel West—Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion—will have its premiere. It will be screened in several major cities in the U.S. It will also be going online so that tens of thousands can quickly see it and spread it. March 28 is the national launch of the film. This is the focal point for the BA Everywhere campaign for the winter/spring. BA Everywhere is the mass campaign to raise major funds to project Bob Avakian’s (BA’s) vision and works into every corner of society.
We have a plan for making this film a big deal in society. We have to start organizing and preparing now for March 28. A lot is riding on this. Getting this film out widely—sparking discussion, study, debate, and controversy in neighborhoods, on campuses, in the social media—can change the terms of things in society. We’re talking about how tens and hundreds of thousands of people think about the world, the struggle to change it through revolution, and their role in this.
Let’s step back for a minute. As Revolution newspaper’s New Year’s editorial put it, 2014 was a momentous year. Ferguson. The long-suppressed rage burst into a massive struggle against police murder. A new spirit of resistance emerged and caught fire. The youth were on the front lines. And as the outrages multiplied—from the chokehold execution of Eric Garner to the senseless and heartbreaking murder by Cleveland police of Tamir Rice, a young Black boy playing with a toy gun—things went to another level. Tens and even hundreds of thousands from all walks of life joined in. The streets thundered with... artists responded with... society was confronted with: This Must Stop! Black Lives Matter!
The Dialogue took place as this upsurge was gaining momentum. Bob Avakian put forward a full-out, vibrant message of revolution. BA and Cornel West were engaging one of the most critical questions of our time: revolution and the role of religion. They were challenging people to act with moral conviction and courage in the face of these outrages—in a world that cries out for fundamental change, for revolution.
Now we have to spread this film, get it out into the world!
It can play a crucial role interacting with the urgent battle to retake the offensive around stopping police murder and the slow genocide of Black people. It will influence how people understand that they have no common interest with the rulers of this country in the growing difficulties and problems they face, at home and internationally.
The upheaval around police murder, along with other important struggles, including against the whole war on women, and the fact that the message of revolution is being brought out within these struggles and within society more broadly—this is having tremendous impact in society. The workings of the system, the responses and anger of the people, and the conscious work of revolutionaries and others are contributing to the mix.
As the New Year’s editorial from Revolution newspaper put it: “All this and more could develop into the first steps toward an actual revolution. Not guaranteed but possible.”
That’s a serious statement and that’s what the vanguard, the RCP, is working to bring about. There are different elements of the work and organizing required, and all kinds of challenges. And at junctures like this, it is critical to be raising people’s sights to a radically different and better world, to have people’s thinking challenged and changed by what is gotten into in this Dialogue, and for people to be grappling with what underlies the madness of this system and the way out. This has everything to do with people coming to know about BA and the work he has done—and for this to become known throughout society.
The film of this Dialogue can open eyes to the basis, the possibility, and the strategy and vision of an actual revolution that could bring about a world free of oppression.
This film can provoke and help train the defiant ones of the new generation... educate them in the science and morality of communist revolution. One of the special qualities of the Dialogue that comes through in the clip is the camaraderie and love between BA and Cornel—and how they explore their differences and engage in principled struggle with one another. Something is being modeled here. This film can be part of changing what kind of people we are.
If you want this film to be out there, along with other works by BA, setting terms in society—raising people’s sights to another way that society and people could be, and giving voice to people’s desire to be free of the bone- and spirit-crushing life we are forced to live—then get involved with the BA Everywhere campaign. Get with the plans and contribute to the plans around the film.
Now some of you might be thinking: I like a lot of what BA is about, but I don’t agree with everything, or at least I’m not so sure. Well, you CAN get involved at the same time that you are trying to learn more about revolution and communism and are figuring out what you think. You can be getting into this film and the work of BA at the same time that you are part of getting this out into society—helping to make BA a household word, helping to get BA’s work, his leadership and vision, known, discussed, and debated. It’s a process, an exciting one.
So let’s get into the plan. March 28, that’s the big launch online—on the Internet—and that will be the first public screenings of the film in major cities. Hundreds of people coming together to see the film—with reviews, articles, and radio interviews—will generate momentum and bring forward people to be part of making this a big deal.
Over the next few months this film needs to reach hundreds of thousands. Word has to get out. That requires advertising, public service announcements, posters, palm cards, and buzz in the social media. And all that is going to take money.
So we have to raise funds. Fundraising raises both money and people—because thousands of people have to be involved. At the grass-roots level, that means canvassing for donations, holding bake sales, selling buttons, organizing house parties, and other creative do-it-yourself things.
Let’s reach out to better-off and wealthy people and organize fundraising get-togethers with professors, lawyers, doctors, and even wealthier people to watch some of the same clips that we saw tonight or other excerpts that will be made into YouTubes.
There’ll be argument and struggle. That’s good and an important part of the process. At the same time, keep in mind two things: First, many people have been influenced and their thinking transformed by the recent upsurge after Ferguson; and many of these people are deeply concerned over issues like what’s happening in the Middle East, or with the war on women, or to the environment. And, second, THE SYSTEM HAS NO ANSWER to these problems—while THE REVOLUTION DOES. It’s concentrated in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), this incredible document based on BA’s new synthesis of communism.
There’s potential for all kinds of people to be won to seeing the importance of BA’s work and leadership becoming a point of reference in society, the difference it can make, especially at this intense moment, and using their public platforms to make this known. Our goal is to raise $20,000 by March 25.
We’re creating public opinion... we’re organizing forces... and we’re raising funds for the March 28 launch.
Students are a crucial part of this plan. Teams have to go onto campuses—into classrooms, student unions, dorms, and cafeterias with the trailer of the film, YouTube excerpts, and other materials from revcom.us/Revolution. By early March we will have pre-release DVDs of the film for organizers to show on campus and in the neighborhoods—bringing forward people to contribute to making the launch of the film a big deal. Building on the initial forays on the campuses, we should aim for a campus-wide showing of the DVD in early March on a major campus wherever possible. Those students who come and are inspired or intrigued by the film can take up the online campaign and help build for March 28.
We should also organize showings at Revolution Books, at the Revolution Clubs, and in the neighborhoods. People in the Stop Mass Incarceration Network should be taking this up, as they are building for A14, April 14, No School! No Work! Stop Business as Usual! People in Stop Patriarchy should be taking this up in the course of that work. People in various other movements in society, around the environment and immigrants’ rights, should be finding out about the film. We want to bring forward a dynamic mix of people at the March 28 citywide screenings—students and intellectuals, artists and professionals, basic people, and activists.
What’s most important is people taking this up and making it a big deal on their campuses, in the neighborhoods, and on social media all while raising funds. The trailer should be tweeted everywhere. Advertisements promoting the trailer and date of the launch of the film need to appear on websites all over.
And, all this will be knitted together at the BA Everywhere page at revcom.us. People can go there to see the latest listing of the cities and times for the film showings; to learn about the progress being made and the questions and controversies coming up; to find out about how we’re doing with fundraising; and to read the latest comments from people who have watched the video simulcast and DVD of the Dialogue.
Everyone here, and the many others that we have to meet and get involved, can contribute. If all you can do is spread this through the social media—there’s a place for you; if all you can do is bring this up at your place of worship, or with people you work with—there’s a place for you. If you have ideas for fundraising but can’t do much yourself—let’s brainstorm.
So that’s the core of the plan for this film to have real impact—stretching far and deep into society, at this intense juncture in society, and continuing beyond March 28. With this film, we can make a major leap in making BA a household word, changing thinking, and raising sights to a radically different and far better world through revolution.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
Updated April 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The people have stood up. Beginning in August with the youth in the streets of Ferguson and continuing through the end of the year, all across the country, thousands and thousands of people took to the streets to stop the murder of Black and Brown people at the hands of the police. People blocked highways and bridges, marched through shopping malls, stopping commerce as usual, did die-ins everywhere, walked out from school, and shook this country to its core, opening the eyes of millions around the world to the brutal reality that time and time again police kill Black, Brown, and other people of color with impunity. For many people, this was the first time they had ever marched and demonstrated. This outpouring was long past due and was a real advance in the people’s struggle to stop this horror.
Now we are at a crossroads: will the authorities succeed in suppressing our resistance, or will we move forward on the offensive and bring even more massive waves of struggle to STOP the murder of Black, Brown, and all people by the police?
WE WILL NOT GO BACK!
On April 14, we will take our movement to STOP wanton police murder to a whole new level. NO SCHOOL! NO WORK! STOP BUSINESS AS USUAL!
On this day, thousands of students must walk out of school, take over buildings and go on strike at colleges and high schools nationwide. People must gather and march in cities all across the U.S. The normal routine of this society includes wanton police murder of Black and Brown people. Everyone must disrupt that normal routine.
Our demands are clear:
The business as usual of police killing our people and never being punished is a concentration of an overall program of mass incarceration and all its consequences that has tens of millions of people living their lives caught up in the criminal “injustice” system of this country. A hidden part of this program is the demonization, criminalization, deportation, and murder of immigrants. This must stop. Will our righteous protest and the people’s determination to STOP this be suppressed with threats and empty promises? Will that business as usual continue? Or will we retake the initiative to lead, YES, millions back out into the streets, not stopping until the police murder of Black and Brown people stops? This is the challenge we face. All of us must act on April 14 to loudly declare we will not go back. Stop the police murder of our people.
This Call for a day of massive resistance all over the country on April 14 was adopted at the national meeting hosted by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network in Atlanta on February 7 and 8. Everyone needs to get on a mission to work from now to April 14 to make the day of stopping business as usual as powerful as possible to end the system putting its stamp of approval on police murdering people.
Cornel West, Author, Educator
Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party
Elliott Adams, Veterans for Peace*
Ramona Africa, MOVE organization
All of Us or None (Inland Empire)
Rafael Angulo, Professor, USC, School of Social Work*
Iris Baez, mother of Anthony Baez, killed by NYPD, Dec 22, 1994
Fr. Bob Bossie (SCJ)
Lorentz Bruc, brother of Kami Stevens, killed by Long Beach Police, Dec 26, 2007
Bianca Carlisle-Parker, wife of Dan'te Parker, killed by Victorville police
Colia Lafayette Clark, Green Party, Grandmas for Mumia Abu Jamal
Coalition For Justice (Milwaukee)
Claude Conkrite, Secretary of the Black Caucus, Washoe County, Nevada*
Gerry Condon, Member of Veterans for Peace*
DeLisa Davis, sister of Kevin Davis, murdered by DeKalb County, GA police
Dr. Jesse Diaz, UC Riverside*
Dougie the Abolitionist, Georgia Coalition to End the New Jim Crow
Ophelia Ealy, mother of Michael Ealy, killed by Seattle Police Dec 28, 1998
8th Day Center of Justice
Tarik Farrar, Professor of African American Studies, City College of San Francisco*
Ty Ellis-Hadnot, brother of Barry Montgomery, beat nearly to death by Compton Sheriffs, now facing felony charges
Family of O'Shane Evans, killed by San Francisco Police, Oct 7, 2014
Tara Fenamore, Teachers College, Columbia University*
Maria Perez Giron, Adopted son Oscar Perez Giron murdered by Seattle Police Department
Nicholas Heyward Sr., father of 13 year old Nicholas Heyward Jr murdered by NYPD
Mike Holman, Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund
Dorothy Holmes, mother of son killed by Chicago police October 12, 2014
Yolanda Hurte, aunt of Dante Parker, killed by San Bernardino CA Sheriffs, Aug 12, 2014 and Donte Jordan, killed by Long Beach Police, Nov 10, 2013
Interfaith Communities United for Justice and Peace (ICUJP), Los Angeles
Stephen Jaeger, Professor Emeritus, U of Illinois, Urbana*
Khafre James, Hip Hop for Change*
Cephus "Uncle Bobby" Johnson, uncle of Oscar Grant, killed by BART police, Jan 1, 2009
Kelly Kunta, Skid Row Advocate, LA
David Kunzle, Professor, UCLA, Department of Art History*
Jim Lafferty, Executive Director, National Lawyers Guild, LA Chapter*
Gloria Leiva, Mother of Donte Pomar, killed in 2004 by NYPD
Rabbi Michael Lerner, Editor, Tikkun MagazineChair, Network of Spiritual Progressives*
Jessica Loarca, mother of Jesse Delgadillo, killed by Long Beach Police, April 28, 2013
Ernestine Lopez, sister of Ernesto Lopez, killed by Phoenix police 2011
Marin Interfaith Task Force on the Americas
Marie Martin, mother of son who spent 38 years in CA prison system
Rev. Jerome McCorry, The Adam Project, Dayton Ohio
Deltra Paulk McCoy, mother of Dante Parker, killed by the San Bernardino CA Sheriffs, Aug 12, 2014
Travis Morales, Stop Mass Incarceration Network
Frank Nevarez, brother of Ernesto Lopez killed by Phoenix Police 2011
Efia Nwanganza, Malcolm X Center/Radio Station WMXP
April Nation, aunt of James White Shield
Angela Netter, aunt of Matthew Netter, killed by police in Silverdale, WA, July, 2010
Maureen O'Connell-Caputo, Don't Shoot Inc.
Arturo O'Farrill, musician
Reginald Owens, father of Na'im Owens, killed by NYPD, Aug 31, 2014 and step-father of Khiel Coppin, killed by NYPD, Nov 12, 2007
Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith, Jr., Sr. Pastor Allen Temple Baptist Church
J. Andree Penix Smith, Mother's Cry for Justice, mother of Justin Smith, killed by Tulsa, OK Police, Aug 14, 1998
Richard and Pat Perez, Family of Richard "Pedie" Perez, Killed by Richmond CA police
Rev. Stephen Phelps, PC (USA)
Jean-Guerly Petion, artist
Mary Ratcliff, editor, San Francisco Bay View newspaper*
Tony Serra, lawyer
Charissa Shamley, loved one of Jedidiah Waters, killed by police in Federal Way, WA, July 21, 2011
Bill Shields, Faculty, City College of San Francisco*
Chris Silva, brother of David Silva, beat to death by Bakersfield Police, May 7, 2013
Dionne Smith Downs and Carey Downs, parents of James Rivera Jr., 16 years old, unarmed, killed July 22, 2010 by Stockton PD, in a hail of 48 bullets
Lynne Stewart, people's attorney and former political prisoner
Debra Sweet, Director, World Can't Wait
Toni Taylor, mother of Cary Ball, Jr.
Immortal Technique, music artist
Aleta Alston Toure, New. Jim Crow Movement/Free Marissa Now
Rev. Frank Wulf, Pastor, USC United University Church*
Juanita Young, Mother of Malcolm Ferguson, killed by NYPD in year 2000
United Against Police Terror, San Diego
Laurie Valdez, wife of Antonio Guzman Lopez, murdered by San Jose State University police*
Jim Vrettos, John Jay College of Criminal Justice
* org listed for ID purposes only.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
February 22 is a day of action—in Cleveland and nationwide—calling for Justice for Tamir Rice and all other children who have been victims of police murder. If actions are planned in your area, people join them and work to make them stronger. If not, call an action. And connect the struggle for justice for Tamir and other victims to the need to disrupt business as usual on April 14. The list of actions for February 22 can be found at fergusonresponse.tumblr.com, on this page.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I’m Carl Dix. I’m down with the Revolutionary Communist Party and I’m a co-founder of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and I have an important message about April 14. April 14 needs to be a day when business as usual in this country gets disrupted—when everybody who hates the way the police murder people and get a pass from this system when they do it, knows that that is the day to act to STOP this.
There was a meeting of 170 people in Atlanta called by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and we decided that this was the day to it—April 14. Everybody who was at that meeting, and everybody who wasn’t at that meeting but knows police murder needs to stop, has gotta get on a mission to make April 14 as powerful as it can be. We HAVE to do this. We’ve reached a crossroads in the battle to stop police murder. When people stood up in Ferguson following the murder of Michael Brown; when the defiant young people went into the streets and stayed in the streets in the face of everything that the system threw at them—tear gas, rubber bullets, and more—that reached out to people all across the country. It let people who were suffering the same kinds of problems know that we could stand up and do something about it. It opened the eyes of those who didn’t suffer it to see these horrors going down and called on them to join in to the resistance, and that went to an even higher level when the system let the cops who murdered Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in New York walk.
People were in the streets all across the country. It was beautiful, it was powerful, and it was very necessary. People were calling out the way this system abuses and mistreats Black people and Latino people in ways that hadn’t happened in decades, and it was challenging people to look at what happened and to take a stand on it. The ugly reality of how this system brutalizes and has its cops even murder Black people that had been covered up for so long was being ripped apart and put right out in the open. That was important, that was necessary.
Now look, the folks who run this system—THEY didn’t like it. And, in fact, they’ve been trying as hard as they can to stuff everything back, to push the resistance down. They’ve come out with mass arrests, heavy charges, outrageous bail. They’ve also tried to confuse and disorient people—trying to flip the script and say it’s the police who are heroes doing a tough job and that the people who are protesting what the police are doing are wrong. That’s BULLSHIT! The people who are right are the people who stood up and said police murder has to stop. We’re the ones who’ve got right on our side, not the brutal murdering cops and not the system that has them out there doing that stuff.
We cannot let them push us back, sisters and brothers, because they wanna continue the normal routine of America, a normal routine that has wanton police murder built into its very fabric and framework as a concentration point of a whole program of abuse targeting Black and Latino people and other oppressed people. This has gotta stop and not only do we need to continue resisting, we gotta retake the offensive—we gotta go from thousands to bringing more people out and ultimately to the point of a movement of millions of people acting to stop this.
April 14 has gotta be a very important part of doing that—it’s gotta be a day when we retake the offensive, when we build on, continue but go much higher with this. Students—thousands and thousands of students—campuses all across the country, have gotta act on that day. In the communities, people gotta gather, stand together, stand up, raise their voices, and act to stop business as usual. Everybody needs to be a part of this. Everybody who sees the horror of police murder and knows that it’s gotta stop.
We can’t wait until April 14—we gotta get on a mission right now to make this happen. A call was issued by that meeting in Atlanta for April 14 as a day of disrupting business as usual. That call has gotta be spread everywhere. Everybody’s gotta get a copy of it. Everbody’s gotta see it online and in different ways. A hashtag, #ShutdownA14, has gotta be spread everywhere. Spread it online. Put it on stickers. Get it out there. Get everybody involved in building up to this and making plans to act building up to April 14, and to act on April 14.
Look, this system has no answer for the way the police wantonly brutalize and murder people. In fact, it has the police out there doing that because the role of the police is not to protect and serve the people but to protect and serve the system that rules over the people. This is illegitimate—it’s no damn good. It’s gotta be stopped and it’s up to US to stop it. April 14 is an important day to build up to it. April 14—disrupt business as usual. Go to the website, StopMassIncarceration.net, get material there and spread it. Also go to the website revcom.us, find reports there on that meeting and materials to spread and get it everywhere. Police murder must stop and it’s up to us to stop it.
APRIL 14—SHUT DOWN! Be a part of that. Make it happen.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
Updated February 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Sunday, February 8. A very important two-day conference in Atlanta drew over 170 people, from different walks of life, different nationalities and ages, to discuss and issue a Call from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network for a day of massive resistance this April 14 as a crucial step to get back on the offensive in the fight to stop police murder.
Carl Dix kicked things off on Saturday, February 7, with a talk, pointing to the real challenges facing the struggle against police murder and the plans that need to be realized for a day of No Business as Usual for April 14.
Sunday afternoon, at the end of the conference, a press release was issued announcing: “April 14, 2015 National Shut Down of Business as Usual to Stop Police Murder of Black and Brown People.”
Finalizing the Call was a very important task of the conference. In the course of the conference, in discussion of the Call and the vision of April 14, people expressed real determination to re-take the initiative in the fight against police murder by going on a mission to shut down business as usual across the country. Discussion included serious wrangling with what is really needed to STOP police murder, in contrast to pulls on sections of those who have been active to settle for solutions short of that. People came out united on working for a day of resistance on April 14, including some who had just heard about it. And everyone threw into the discussion, getting into why such a day is crucial at this moment and why it is so important to have a societywide impact—to, as the Call says, “take our movement to STOP wanton police murder to a whole new level.”
There was a dynamic mix of backgrounds, walks of life, philosophies, and political perspectives at the Conference—Black nationalists, revolutionary communists, people from the faith community, lawyers, artists, and teachers, and members of families of victims of police murder. Two dozen students—mostly college plus a few high school students—brought insight and energy—including a contingent from the Ohio Students Association representing students organizing for justice for John Crawford who have linked up with mobilizations around Eric Garner and Mike Brown, and who are a significant force in the Black Lives Matter movement. They are helping take responsibility for spreading the call for the 14th nationwide among students. Revolution Clubs, including from NYC, Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago, and LA played important roles in the conference and represented for revolution.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
“Between the Civil War and World War II, thousands of African Americans were lynched in the United States. Lynchings were violent and public acts of torture that traumatized black people throughout the country and were largely tolerated by state and federal officials. These lynchings were terrorism.”
From Lynchings in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror
A recently released report sheds further light on the horrific history of lynchings of Black people in the United States. The report, Lynchings in America: Confronting the Legacy of Racial Terror from the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI), is a result of five years of extensive research and documents 3,959 lynchings of Black people in 12 Southern states between the end of Reconstruction in 1877 and 1950. This is at least 700 more lynchings than had been found in any previous reports. In other words, lynchings were an even more widely used form of terror against Black people than previously thought.
The researchers confirmed that many victims of lynchings were murdered without being accused of any crime—like 14-year-old Emmett Till, who was killed for whistling at a white woman. As the EJI study notes, "Racial lynching was a tool used to enforce Jim Crow laws and racial segregation—a tactic for maintaining racial control by victimizing the entire African American community, not merely punishment for an alleged perpetrator of a crime."
Many of these lynchings were made into public spectacles, involving savage torture of the victims, gruesome treatment of their bodies, and the selling of postcards of the murderous events. From the EJI report: "Large crowds of people, often numbering in the thousands and including elected officials and prominent citizens, gathered to witness pre-planned, heinous killings that featured prolonged torture, mutilation, dismemberment, and/or burning of the victim. White press justified and promoted these carnival-like events, with vendors selling food, printers producing postcards featuring photographs of the lynching and corpse, and the victim's body parts collected as souvenirs. There killings were bold, public acts that implicated the entire community and sent a message that African Americans were sub-human, their subjugation was to be achieved through any means necessary, and whites who carried out lynchings would face no legal repercussions."
As the authors of the EJI study point out, there is today an "astonishing absence of any effort to acknowledge, discuss, or address lynching"—even as many of the very places where the lynchings took place "have gone to great lengths to erect markers and monuments that memorialize the Civil War, the Confederacy, and historical events during which local power was violently reclaimed by white Southerners."
As protesters filled the streets from New York to Ferguson to Seattle to Atlanta in a national eruption of protest against police murder, the powers-that-be struck back. They seized on the killing of two New York police on December 20 to make it seem like the problem is people killing police. That’s not what’s happening.
According to statistics compiled by the pro-police National Law Enforcement Memorial Fund, 27 police were killed as a result of “felonious acts" in 2013. Their same report found that “firearms-related fatalities [against police] reached a 126-year low.”
And according to the FBI, U.S. violent crimes, including murders, fell 4.4 percent in 2013 to their lowest number since the 1970s. (Chicago Tribune)
But while reported crime and killing of police are at record lows, the number of felony suspects fatally shot by police last year—461—was the most in two decades, according to a new FBI report. And it is known that these numbers are way low, as they rely on local police departments submitting data to the FBI, which many major police departments do not do.
Missing from these official statistics is the vastly disproportional police violence and murder aimed at Black and Latino people. But even based on their own statistics, do the math: The problem is police are killing people, not the other way around.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
From The Michael Slate Show:
February 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following is a transcript of a January 30, 2015 interview with Edward Baptist on The Michael Slate Show, KPFK Pacifica radio.
Michael Slate: Every now and then you get the opportunity to read a book that really, really stuns you, that gives you a glimpse of the world as it is, and it's in a way that you never even imagined before, or that you didn't understand thoroughly enough before. That's how I felt when I read the book, The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism. It was a mind-blower. It's a book by Edward Baptist. He is a professor of history at Cornell University.
Michael Slate: What compelled you to write this book?
Edward Baptist: I was writing a dissertation, a kind of standard scholarly production, and I kept running across these accounts from formerly enslaved people, which of course had been written about by historians before, but I felt that there were layers to that story that hadn't been told, specifically the process of the expansion of the South and the way that linked into the development of American and in fact global capitalism. I think there's probably a bigger story which has to do with life experience and early education and what I saw as a child and a teenager in the 1970s and ‘80s. But the narrow version takes me right to that experience of reading those accounts that were left behind by formerly enslaved people, survivors of slavery.
Michael Slate: The way we're taught to look at it is that there was slavery and there was capitalism. There were the “good guys” and there were the “bad guys.” I remember going down to a beach in Maryland when I was a kid, and you'd see Confederate flags, and you had no idea what that was. But nobody ever told you this. Or we got my kid a “Dukes of Hazzard” pedal car when he was a kid, and he was incensed when we wouldn't let him put the Confederate flag stickers on it. I realized that at six years old, he was being given a different and untrue history of the relation between what they've often portrayed as two different, separate systems and not any kind of link together.
Edward Baptist: In a way, the fact that those Confederate flag decals are available when you’re buying a kid this car, I guess that was 1979 or 1980, something like that, the fact that that's available is a relic. It's a piece of evidence of the bargain I talk about, and lots of historians have talked about, that happens between 1875 and 1900, where northern whites and southern whites agree that they’re going to essentially forget that the war was over slavery. They're going to allow southern whites fully back into the leadership of the United States. And they're going to pretend like what happened didn't happen.
What happened, of course, was mass treason, a rebellion against the government for the purpose of insuring that slavery would be able to expand. And white people agreed not to remember it that way. On the other hand, African-Americans remembered it a different way. That's really obvious in the interviews with the formerly enslaved people. It's also obvious in the scholarship that African- Americans created over the 150 years since the Civil War. I've been rereading W.E.B. Du Bois recently, and I keep saying, “Wow! On some levels I'm not sure I've added anything new to what Du Bois said.” I mean, I've done my best, but this sort of analysis, that slavery and capitalism were linked, that slavery was the cause of the Civil War, this was deeply embedded in African-American history at every level, from the sort of told level that formerly enslaved people understood, to the academic level.
Michael Slate: The assumption that slavery was not part of the American legacy was something that was critically important for the way the U.S. portrayed itself both internally to its own people, but also throughout the world as sort of the bastion of freedom. These kinds of things wouldn't happen in a country like the U.S.
Edward Baptist: I think that's certainly true. We see sometimes in our history that the portrayal of the United States as a land of freedom is crucially important to what the United States is trying to do overseas, as well as to what the government is trying to do and what the economic leadership is trying to do in terms of building international coherence. We even see this in the 1950s and the 1960s with the Cold War. We see that there's a conscious effort to portray the United States as a land of interracial harmony, of African-American access and opportunity, whereas we know that that was not actually the truth.
Michael Slate: You said that the reality of all this is that the changes that shaped the entire world began on a slave auction block in the U.S. Let's talk about that.
Edward Baptist: This in some ways goes back to cotton, and here I've got to give a shout-out to Sven Beckert's new book about cotton which talks about cotton from a global perspective [Empire of Cotton: A Global History]. I'm much more interested in talking about it, or at least starting the story in the nitty gritty of people's everyday lives because I think that's where we see the transformations that reshape the world in the industrial revolution and the rise of capitalism. That's where they really begin. And in the United States, those transformations began with the production of cotton, the most important raw material of the 19th century, the petroleum, the oil, of the early industrialization of the West. They really start with the expansion of slavery into areas where cotton can be grown, and the purchase of individual enslaved people who could be driven at a faster and faster pace to produce that cotton more and more efficiently for that thirsty world market that's eager to consume more cotton.
Michael Slate: From the very beginning, U.S. slave labor was actually crucial to building the economy and the political strength of this country, right?
Edward Baptist: Not just the United States, but I think Western economies in general, but certainly most specifically, most obviously, the United States. If you look at that scene you just described which is repeated a million times or more in the history of the South leading up to the Civil War, the scene of an individual person being sold, whether in a showroom or on an auction block, you can see all the connections between that and American economic development. Specifically, there's a financial connection, because individual enslaved people were expensive. They were expensive to move, transport and resell. The price in today's equivalent could probably be about $200,000 to $250,000. so these purchases had to be financed. There were huge financial networks that helped to finance the movement of a million people from the older states of the South to the newer cotton states of the South.
Once they're there, once all those slices of profit have been taken in the process of financing the movement and the sale and the resale and so on – once they're there, they are forced to generate more profit. Tremendous profit, in fact, with an ever-increasing production of cotton. This cotton, as I said before, has a ready market. In fact, enslavers are incentivized to drive people to work faster and faster because they've got these big debts to pay back.
Michael Slate: As we opened up this interview, you said that some of the source material that you used were the stories that were recorded from ex-slaves. I was really surprised that you were able to include and actually frame your book in these stories, and reading about how the WPA [Work Progress Administration] sent people out to canvass the South and to find ex-slaves to tell their stories in the 1930s. Can we talk about what pushed you in that direction, because it was a very powerful way to begin, where these stories actually unfolded from voices that people don't generally conceive of even existing at a time when you could gather information from them.
Edward Baptist: It's a reminder that, first of all, slavery is a long time ago. It ended officially 150 years ago. But then on the other hand, in historical time, that's not that long. A lifetime ago, there were thousands, maybe tens of thousands of survivors of slavery still living. And they could be interviewed. They were in many cases happy to talk about what they'd experienced. Now in some situations they couldn't talk openly. They had to sort of disguise some of the things that they were saying, because some of the WPA interviewers were members of locally-powerful white families, and this was the Jim Crow South when it wasn't necessarily safe to say exactly what you thought about white people.
But other interviewers were African-American. I opened the book with the story of Lorenzo Ivy who's interviewed in Danville, Virginia. He's actually interviewed by an African-American master's student from Hampton University. His interview always struck me as incredibly powerful because he frames the story of slavery, and in some ways of American history, by talking about the coffles, the chained gangs of enslaved people being marched from Virginia on down to Alabama and New Orleans and so on for sale, as the key memory that he recalled from his own growing up.
He tells the story. He says, this is what I remember about slavery most clearly: separation of families by sale and forced migration, the movement of people in chains, how all of that fed into the cotton economy. And then he says to his interviewer, “Truly, son, the half has never been told.” And I read that, and I said, I have to frame the book around this interview. It absolutely has to happen this way, because we owe so much to those voices. We have to open with those voices and go backwards in time from there.
Michael Slate: There's a method that runs through your entire book. In telling the story of one of the most grotesque, dehumanizing events in the history of humanity, you frame everything with a very deep concept of humanity, of really needing to portray the humanity of the enslaved people.
Edward Baptist: Yeah. I try to do that. And again, I think lots of other historians try to do it that way as well. But specifically in my book, I lay it out in a series of chapters named after body parts. And there are two reasons why I do this. One is that I was reading an essay written by Ralph Ellison and thinking about that essay. In that essay, he says, we should really think of the history of America as a drama enacted on the supine body of a “Negro giant.” He's writing in the 1950s. And this person, who's tied down like Gulliver, as he puts it, is central to all the action, the frame of all the action, part of all the action, but not able to fully act as he or she would want to act. That's the metaphor that really struck me and I started thinking about it. Then I started thinking about the ways in which enslavement as it was practiced and brought in some ways to its highest level in the American South in the early 19th century, literally tried to turn African-Americans bodies against African-Americans as persons, as people.
So when people were chained and forced to walk south, their feet were not chained, but their arms were chained. They could not resist. They couldn't fight back. In fact, they were all chained together to make it harder for them to run away. And we could continue with the ways in which bodies are turned in certain ways against personhood.
And yet, African-Americans also, as enslaved people, found ways to re-appropriate, to take back their bodies, even if only for moments, as ways to struggle against slavery. So that the simple act of survival and helping one's family members to survive was a kind of resistance to the deepest, cruelest things that slavery was trying to do. I tried to enact that in the structure and in the writing of my book.
Michael Slate: You open the book up with a section on the rapid expansion of slavery in the Deep South in the 1790s. When you're talking about the coffle, one of the things that struck me about the book is that you portray, in the grotesque dehumanization and torture of the people who were actually locked up, chained together and forced to walk, this massive migration to the Deep South, this enforced migration. But you also talk about how this coffle was about more than just chaining the slaves together, that it was actually chaining the early republic together. Let's talk about that.
Edward Baptist: One of the questions that the framers of the country and of the Constitution had to face in the 1780s, is how they can get local elites and migrants, settlers who are going to be expanding westward, how they can get them to actually participate in this new republic, how they can link them together as the size of the country expands. This expansion was seen as a big problem, because most countries were not as big as the United States was even in 1783, and if you're talking about moving to the Mississippi and beyond, you're looking at a continental scale of a country.
So one way to do it would be to create relationships of credit and debt, financial networks that would link people in disparate places together, and give them a reason to support each other's interests, a reason to work together to help the country to prosper economically. So the fact that enslaved people can be moved, can be moved by force and can be forced to labor at the production of valuable commodities by force, actually ends up linking New England and the Deep South together very effectively by 1800. Because these credit networks are set up in which New Englanders invest in the purchase of land and slaves by entrepreneurs who were moving from South Carolina or Georgia, western Alabama or Mississippi, or even in some cases from places like Pennsylvania or New England itself, into those new cotton areas.
So both of these regions of the country have a tremendous interest in seeing the other region succeed. The entrepreneurs in Mississippi and Alabama want New Englanders to be able to lend money to them. And the New Englanders, on the other hand, and there are also people in New York and Philadelphia in the same boat – they want to see these individuals, these entrepreneurs down in Alabama and Georgia and Mississippi selling commodities to the world market so they can pay back the debts. So this massive investment in the expansion of slavery actually ends up linking the United States together pretty effectively by the early 1800s.
Michael Slate: You talk about how the economic and industrial expansion in the world also depended on slavery in the U.S.
Edward Baptist: In terms of the expansion of the world economy, probably the single biggest factor is the way that the expansion of slavery in the United States, and the intensification and the innovation within slave labor in cotton, actually brings down the price of this crucial commodity, cotton, even as world demand for it is increasing.
So in the 1780s, raw cotton is pretty expensive. It's expensive for two reasons. It's hard to pick, and it's also hard to process. It's hard to get the seeds out of the cotton. Most of what is coming to Britain from the world market and is being used in its early factory system is coming from India and from the Middle East. Some is coming from the West Indies. Some is coming from China. Very little is coming from the American South, and it's pretty expensive.
The cotton gin helps to solve one of those problems. It makes the processing part of cotton production much easier. But cotton still has to be picked. The speed of picking cotton becomes a limiting factor in all production of cotton. It's the bottleneck in the production process. What enslavers are able to do as they take individuals and groups of enslaved people, they move them to new places, they break up their families, they dissolve their networks of resistance that enabled some 18th century slaves to slow the pace of labor. As they move them, they also discover a new system of measuring enslaved people's labor every day, assigning them quotas based on what they've been able to pick in the past, and then slowly raising those quotas over time.
So over the period from 1800 to 1860, the amount of cotton the average enslaved person picks per day rises 400%. So the price of raw cotton on the world market declines, even as the demand for it is increasing. It's as if, as we use more oil, the price was getting rapidly cheaper and lower all the time. That wouldn't necessarily be good for the planet, but it would produce a higher raw economic growth rate. So the increase in the speed of production of slave cotton enables the world market and the early capitalist economy to expand much, much more quickly.
Michael Slate: Let me ask you about Thomas Jefferson and his role in this, because here he is, the guy who is universally promoted as the father of democracy, true democracy, Jeffersonian democracy. Yet he played a very important role in this whole development of capitalism and slavery together.
Edward Baptist: Yeah, in some ways Thomas Jefferson is a tragic story, although the tragedy you see with his compromise of his own principles is minuscule compared to the tragedies that he personally inflicts on families that he breaks up as a slave owner. He sells people off repeatedly to pay his own debts. He doesn't free the mother of his own children, etc. But more broadly, some of his other choices end up having tragic consequences.
Specifically, as he shifts into recognizing, certainly implicitly, that the expansion of slavery is good for the expansion of the American economy and the unity of this expanding country as a whole – as he makes that shift over time, and as he moves into higher and higher positions of political power in the new republic, eventually becoming president, he becomes a more and more active agent for the expansion of slavery. Nowhere do you see this more clearly than in 1803 with the Louisiana Purchase, in which he acquires nearly a million square miles of land, if I've got my figures correct, from France. And he does it knowing full well that slavery is going to expand into this new territory, and it's going to link together a new slave empire.
Michael Slate: I'm thinking of people like Andrew Jackson as well, if we go down the line, all these people who were presidents and actually were advocates of slavery. It's not one of those things that's hurled into grade school history books: Presidents: slavery lovers! But each one of them, in the interest of developing the country and its place in the world, and the entire economy and the relationship between capitalism and farming and slavery, they weren't saying, “I've really got to go up against this. This is really immoral. It's inhuman.” They were actually facilitators of this.
Edward Baptist: Absolutely. Up until Abraham Lincoln, you do not have a single president who comes out and says, “We should stop the expansion of slavery,. That should be our policy, to block the expansion of slavery.” The one asterisk you can put in there is there's some suggestion that Zachary Taylor didn't want to see slavery expand, certainly he tries to ensure that California does not enter the Union as a slave state. But every other president presides over the expansion of slavery in some way, shape, or form, and some are particularly active agents of it, Jefferson and Andrew Jackson most obviously. But even people like James Buchanan are presiding over the expansion of slavery, into new territories, and in some cases into territories that had been more or less or sometimes explicitly declared free. Up until Abraham Lincoln, that is the unending story of American presidential politics.
Michael Slate: This is about the Louisiana Purchase. One of the things that you brought out, and I hadn't seen it brought out before, is the revolution in Haiti and what happened there, the most radical revolution in the world at the time, and the most radical definition of citizenry, and yet it also opened the door for the most massive expansion of the inhuman slavery in the U.S. with the Louisiana Purchase and all this. Can we talk about that?
Edward Baptist: It's one of the powerful ironies of history. As you say, the Haitian revolution is in some ways the most radical revolution in human history by some measures. Up until the late 1790s, the expansion of a certain kind of sugar slavery was one of the big engines of the Atlantic economy. Typically this depended on the importation of enslaved Africans, most of whom did not have children, so you have a continual die-off and turnover of enslaved populations, particularly in the Caribbean islands and northeastern Brazil. This is very profitable for the world economy, and nowhere is it more profitable than in the western part of the island of Hispaniola, the French colony of Saint-Domingue, which becomes Haiti ultimately. It's a tremendous reversal in human history, where this very powerful, very valuable in its most prosperous incarnation, this one colony which is the leading sugar colony in the world, probably the most valuable real estate in the world, in August of 1791, 100,000 enslaved people rise up and start to burn sugar plantations. They almost capture the capital. And that launches a 13-year process which ultimately ends in the defeat of Napoleon's armies as he tries to recapture Saint-Domingue and turn it back into a slave colony, and the declaration of an independent country.
Haiti's had a tragic history before, during and since the Haitian revolution for all kinds of reasons, but I think we can certainly celebrate the revolution as a moment in human freedom. And yet that revolution also convinces Napoleon to sell Louisiana to the United States, which he was not planning to do. And that sale opens up the entire Mississippi Valley to the expansion of a brand-new kind of slavery, a second slavery, some historians have called it, I think in a really evocative phrase. We have the first slavery which is that on the islands primarily, and it's driven first and foremost by the importing of slaves from Africa. And then you have a second slavery which is tied indirectly to the industrial expansion of the capitalist economy in a brand-new way.
Michael Slate: You have around the same time the 1811 Rebellion in New Orleans. I'd like you to tell people a little about what that was and what its significance was.
Edward Baptist: The 1811 Rebellion was one of these events in U.S. history which at least until very recently, definitely has not made its way into the textbooks. But it's probably the largest slave revolt up until the Civil War in U.S. history. Ultimately, as many as 500 enslaved people were gathered together in a sort of impromptu army. But clearly the revolt was also planned as well by a group of insiders who start about 50 or 60 miles from New Orleans on sugar plantations there and attempt to kill enslavers and gather more forces as they march towards New Orleans, which is the capital of the New Orleans territory as it's called at that time, and really is the most important city in the American West.
Had they captured that city, and had they been able to hold it, which are of course big “ifs,” you don't know what would have come about as a result of that and as a result of the spreading use of the success of that revolt throughout the South. The fact is that enslavers in the United States had learned lessons from the Haitian Revolution, and they perhaps had skill sets that the whites in Saint-Domingue had not mastered. They were better armed; they were better organized. They had the federal government behind them. Federal troops helped to participate in putting down this rebellion. And they ultimately do put down this rebellion.
The fact of the failure of the rebellion, and the success of those who put it down, points to something very important that we need to understand about slavery in the U.S. South, which is that it's fine to ask the question, why wasn't there a rebellion? Why didn't enslaved people overthrow slavery if it was so bad? The reality is it was impossible in the U.S. South to do this because it was so bad. Whites were a majority in virtually every southern state. They figured out the problem of how to maintain white unity. They were very well-armed. They were on the alert most of the time. And above all they had the cooperation of the federal government in maintaining slavery. What was increasingly one of the most powerful governments in the world was fully committed to putting down slave revolts. It's only in the Civil War, when the power of enslavers is really severely threatened by their own rebellion against the government, that enslaved people are actually able to find situations in which revolt is not suicide.
Michael Slate: Let's go back to the idea of naming the chapters after body parts. I was struck with, in reading about the 1811 revolt, the ferocious, barbaric response that the system made to the rebellion: the beheading of people, the posting of people's heads on poles all up and down the levees. After you talk about this, you get into chapters that you call “the right hand” and “the left hand.” What's the significance of that? Why the right hand and then the left hand? Because I think they do go together in a way.
Edward Baptist: The religious reformer, theologian, whatever you want to call him, Martin Luther, really fruitfully lays out, when he's talking about what his idea of god is, a definition of different kinds of power. He talks about right-handed power and left-handed power. Right-handed power is the god who comes in and smashes bad people and stomps all over Israel when Israel is doing bad things or stomps all over Assyria when Assyria is trying to conquer Israel. But left-handed power for Luther, and I think for a lot of people, is more interesting, because in his theological conception, left-handed power is the quiet god, the god who works in the dark, the god who works through people who society sees as weak, and through sort of secret pathways, and things we don't see, the power that is the seed lying in the cold ground that's going to sprout unexpectedly just when it seems like winter is going to last forever.
What human societies had been composed of for a very long time by 1800, I would argue, is a balance between right-handed power of the state and organized religion that told people they had to act like they believed X, Y and Z – and then left-handed power on the other hand, which would be peasant traditions, secret beliefs, secret peasant societies in some cases that resisted organized power. And in the workplace, the solidarities that people had, the ways of slowing down together so that nobody got in trouble but also nobody got super-exploited, the ways of passing down secret crafts from father to son or mother to daughter, so that oppressors always had to negotiate with the oppressed in order to get what they wanted out of the skills that craftsmen and peasants possessed.
This was the balance in human society. It's even the balance in some forms of slavery that you see, even in the 18th century South. And that balance is broken in the 1800s. You can see this most clearly in the expansion of cotton slavery. On the one hand, enslavers’ right-handed power is clearly expanding as the American state comes to conquer more and more territory, as they're able to muster the military power to intimidate enslaved people so they don't revolt, as they're able to forcibly move people from place to place.
But the enslavers are also conquering the terrain of left-handed power. In the American rice swamps, the rice plantations of the 18th century, enslaved people were able to establish limits. They were able to negotiate limits to the amount of work that they did in the course of a day. And part of that was because enslavers didn't always know how to do all the work that was done on the rice plantation. Part of that was also because over time enslaved people were able to establish customs, were able to convince enslavers to follow those customs, and were able to, together, effect a slowdown in work, if enslavers pushed back against those customs and tried to speed up work.
When enslaved people are moved, separated from their families, often as young teenagers – most of the people who were moved by the domestic slave trade are under 20. They're between 12 and 20. And as they're moved and they're brought into new places, and they're confronted with terrifying power, they're also confronted with technology, the technology of measuring their work, inflicting daily punishment if they don't meet a daily quota, and then forcing them to speed up that work over time. What is happening in effect is also that their left-handed power is being taken away from them. It's much harder to figure out a way to slow down work together in those kinds of conditions. It's much harder to hold secret the knowledge that you could pick a little faster if you had to, if you're being forced every day to pick faster, and then to learn a new way to pick even faster than that.
That's why I lay out those two chapters, right hand and left hand. I'm showing the expansion of both right-handed power on the part of enslavers, and the way that they conquer this terrain of left-handed power.
Michael Slate: You already started talking about the invention of the cotton gin, and how that was going to be a big advance and make things go much faster. But you point out that the key element is the enslaved people who are working it. You talk about the pushing system, the use of torture, the whipping machine, all that as ways that the enslavers found to force the people to actually step up their output in murdering ways. Just the immense torture it must have been on the body, both figuratively and literally. And people should understand: this was all crucial to the industrial revolution as a whole and the birth of the new world as a whole.
Edward Baptist: Remember the figures that we now have which show that there's a four-fold increase in the amount of cotton enslaved people are picking per day from 1800 to 1860. And a little bit of that might come from improved seeds or other sorts of changes in the biology of the cotton plant. But the cotton still has to get picked. It has to get grown, and it has to get picked. So enslavers have two separate innovations. The first is called by survivors of the system, it's called in some places the pushing system. This happens in the part of the production process running up to the harvest. Actually plowing, planting, cultivating the soil, using a hoe, in other words, to chop out all the weeds. What enslavers start to do, and this is not the system in rice and it's not the system in tobacco, is line up everybody, or sometimes they break them up into groups of 10, take the fastest person in each group, and tell that person, “If I see you slow down, you're going to be in for a whipping at the end of the day,” or sometimes directly in the field. And then they just have to tell everybody else, you've got to keep up with the fastest guy, or else you're going to get whipped on the spot. They concentrate on driving the faster people, the captains, and they force everybody else to keep up with them. This is what's called the pushing system. It allows the amount of land cultivated by each “hand,” as enslavers start to call enslaved people, to increase dramatically. And this puts more cotton in the fields.
Cotton, on the other hand, still has to get picked at the end of the year. And this is, as I said before, the bottleneck to the system. It's the slowest part of the production process. I read a WPA interview with a guy named Henry Clay. He was named after the perennial presidential candidate from Kentucky, this famous American politician. And he was born in North Carolina and moved to Louisiana in his teens. He was asked by his interviewer, and remember, Henry Clay is in his 80s or maybe early 90s by now – he's asked what that was like, and he said, well, my enslaver was a very clever man. He had something he called the “whipping machine.” The interviewer asked, what was the whipping machine? And Henry Clay said, well, it was a whole contraption. It included a board where somebody who didn't work fast enough was tied face down on this board, and above the board was suspended a wheel that had a lot of long leather straps attached to it. And that wheel in turn was pumped by a sort of pulley and treadle system. So if somebody pumped a treadle with their foot, just like an old-fashioned sewing machine, this would turn the wheel, and it would beat the enslaved person faster than any one human being could do.
It's possible that this machine – this instrument of torture – actually existed. Enslavers were very creative. In my research I ran across dozens if not hundreds of different kinds of tortures: everything that you read about from Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, it already happened at some point or another in the American South. But it's also possible that this was a metaphor. It was a metaphor for another system that I discovered. This system I sometimes refer to in the book as the whipping machine using Henry Clay's technology. And this was the system of measuring people, measuring their output each day, and then whipping them if they don't meet their quota – and then raising the quota.
One person, Israel Campbell, who was moved from Kentucky to Mississippi, reported that, when he got to Mississippi and he was put into the cotton fields, he was told he had to pick 100 pounds a day. And he could never pick more than 90. So the enslaver started saying, well, you owe me a debt of 10 pounds. I'm going to account it in this way: one lash for each pound short. So I'm going to give you 10 lashes at the end of the day.
The systematicity of this, the way in which everything was linked: measurement, the recording of output, the accounting system which underlies all of this, and then of course the torture which drove the system, pushed people to continually find ways to pick faster and faster, but sometimes in extremely difficult, personally painful ways, whether physically or psychologically painful. The idea of having to pick as fast as you can all day, knowing that you may face something really horrible at the end of the day if you cannot do it, obviously spurs innovation, but is in itself a form of constant psychological trauma.
Michael Slate: All of this leads to something really important in your book: the slave response to all this, the enslaved people building community. How can you out of millions of people thrown together with completely different experiences, oftentimes different languages, traditions, all that? You talk about two things. The role of music is first, and then the idea of storytelling, and even the creation of an oral history that incorporated the word “stole,” which hadn't been used in relation to this. It really set a whole new spin on the character, the essence, of what was going on. Can we talk about that response?
Edward Baptist: In a situation like the situation that enslaved people found themselves in, particularly when they’re ripped out of their communities of origin, still communities that are enslaved, but communities that are quite different, and in certain ways much richer, with much more heritage and so on, and put into these individualistic situations, potentially individualistic situations, where they don't know the people who are around them. They don't necessarily trust the people who are around them, where every day brings a new kind of threat, and potentially a new kind of betrayal or danger. When you're put in that situation, it seems to me you have two choices. One is that you can go into yourself, try to protect yourself, and another is that you can reach out to other people. And obviously, there's a whole array of individual responses for the enslaved people who go through this process. We can find lots of people who behave individualistically, self-destructively, others destructively. You can certainly find that. But you also find this astonishing response that I think was probably the majority response, and that's the response of actually building community.
We see this in a lot of different ways. We see this in the development of literally a new dialect, a new accent. What we understand today as sort of the main, central stream of African-American dialect, in certain ways, scholars of linguistics tell us, is found in the mid-South region, stretching from Kentucky and Tennessee, down into Alabama, west Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi – exactly the area to which enslaved African-Americans from all over the United States had been brought and put together in the early 19th century. It's pretty obvious to me that what they do is they figure out a way to talk to each other. And over time that is enriched and reproduced. And of course, African-American language continues to change rapidly in this country. But that's a key origin point, and it lies in the decision of people to literally talk to each other, form a common dialect, form a common new vocabulary and so on.
Music, as you said, is also crucial to that. Music is something in particular that always resists our attempts to intellectualize it, and it's constantly changing, and we cannot really put on paper the ways in which it animates life and brings people together or pulls them apart. But it's pretty obvious from the history of world popular music that African-American popular music, and maybe especially the genres which either originate or have significant contributions from that Mississippi Valley area, that these are tremendously successful and influential musical genres in the history of the world. From blues and country, which of course has African-American origins, jazz, rock 'n' roll, R&B, and even hip-hop, which to a large extent is founded by migrants or the children of migrants from that region.
These have tremendous influence. And there are a lot of reasons for this, and not all of them have to do with the fact that a million people were brought there, and they were told to figure out a way to survive or else die. But it seems clear to me, and there are a lot of sources that I think confirm this, that the process of survival required, as a lot of African-American authors and scholars have pointed out, continual innovation, even in music. So that's another thing that brings people together and helps them to survive.
But you talked about this use of language and the interpretation of history that develops in the slave labor camps of the cotton South, and this I think is in certain ways the most historically significant of all of these processes of survival. Enslaved people get together. They talk about, at the end of the workday – we've got a lot of sources that confirm this – they talk about how they got to where they are. In some point in that process, in community after community, they start to understand that what's happening to them is something that's very big, that it's transforming not just their own lives, but it's transforming the world. And even though it's being justified by whites, it is powerfully unethical. It's criminal. They come up with a vocabulary drawing on African roots, on African-American roots, on religious roots, on political roots, and on their innovation. They come up with a vocabulary for describing the process as one of theft. They identify some of the key points of it, some of the key crimes that are involved in this larger crime of theft, and they come up with a sort of canonical way to describe it. This is very crucial. It's very crucial to say, we're all going through the same thing. There's no individual escape from this. This is a collective process. This is something which forces us all to think about it in more or less the same way, if we're really going to identify what's going on and figure out how to survive and push back against it.
It's important for two reasons that enslaved people do this. And again, I'm not saying that everybody thought the same thing. But there are an awful lot of people that contribute to the process of coming up with this critique of slavery. It's important for two reasons, as I said. First of all, for African-American unity. If you compare African-American political unity to the political behavior of the descendants of enslaved Africans in other countries in the western hemisphere, what you see is that there's a difference between those countries like the U.S., where the descendants of formerly enslaved people tend to identify with each other, and those countries where there's identification with other aspects of identity. If you look at Brazilian identity, for instance, there's not a coherent Afro-Brazilian identity in the same way that you have a coherent African-American identity. This produces different political behavior. Afro-Brazilians do not all vote for the same presidential candidate. Of course, not all African- Americans vote for the same presidential candidate, but they do so to a much greater extent than other ethnic groups in the United States. That is a product, I would argue, of this process of producing a unity through understanding one's history, and understanding one's history as a collective process which is inescapable. There's no way out of this common identity, so we have to find a way to work together to make the outcome better.
The outcome is better because when people do escape from the Deep South, and there's only a few of them every year, but they bring this very powerful story, this story which is almost unanimous in its shape and its form and its key points. That radically shapes, it transforms the abolitionist movement in the United States. Formerly enslaved people repeatedly push white abolitionists to abandon the idea of “colonizing,” that is, sending all African-Americans out of the United States, to abandon the idea of gradual emancipation, and convince them that what is going on in the Deep South is so horrific that it has to be opposed whole cloth. It has to be taken down and destroyed. The radicalism of the abolitionist movement eventually splits the American political system open and leads to Lincoln's election, and to the southerners' reaction to Lincoln's election, which in turn brings about the Civil War and emancipation. So there’s that process of developing a political unity and a powerful, relentless, uncompromising critique of slavery as a crime, as a theft. That is absolutely essential to ultimately the end of slavery, bringing about emancipation itself.
Michael Slate: You've described the 1830s as a hinge of U.S. history, that by the mid-1800s, slavery is driving the expansion of U.S. industry, you have the role of the banks in that, you have all this stuff that's going on, the impact of 1837 and 1839, the economic crises that developed there. You had this really close relationship between slavery and industry, capitalism. But something happens in that period from the 1830s on that actually pushes things to the extreme where a Civil War does have to break out.
Edward Baptist: The 1830s are crucial both to the expansion of slavery in the U.S. and to the development of capitalism more broadly, because on the one hand, it's a decade where you see this furious, absolutely rapid expansion of cotton production in the United States and forced migration. Probably a quarter of a million people are moved in this one decade into the new states. You see the enslaved population of Mississippi multiply two or three times over. The production of cotton also doubles.
All these things happen in part because the United States and more broadly western capitalism make a massive investment, a massive bet on the expansion of cotton. In some ways it pays off. You have this flood of investment flowing in. It's attracted in part by the chartering of all these new banks, the deregulation of the American financial economy by the cotton planter Andrew Jackson which then allows all these banks to expand their lending massively. British lenders, western European lenders, northern lenders, these are all crucial to the expansion of the domestic slave trade in particular.
But the only catch to all that is, as enslavers are able to borrow all this money, buy all these individuals, move all of these 15-, 16-, 18-year-olds into Mississippi and Louisiana, put them in the cotton fields, force them to pick faster and faster – the only catch to all of that is that the production of cotton doubles. And this slowly brings down the price of cotton over the course of the 1830s. And of course, all of these enslavers are relying on revenue from cotton to pay back the mortgages that they owe. It's sort of like in 2008 when everybody was depending on that house that they planned to flip and resell for a quarter of a million dollars when they paid $125,000 or whatever – they were relying on that to pay back the mortgages that they had taken out in 2004. The consequence in some ways is very similar. You see a financial-market collapse in 1837, which is driven by the collapse in the price of cotton. Then there are all sorts of efforts made to re-inflate the market. And these bring about another crash in 1839.
Two things come out of that process. The first is that for about five or six years after 1839, the southern economy is in the doldrums. It's really suffering. There's a lot of what people today would call debt overhang. There is a lot of what people today would call zombie banks that are still carrying on. There are many, many attempts to collect the debts, to foreclose on the debts. Often those come from outside the South. This pushes southerners, I think, to greater hostility towards the North because they're constantly getting dunned for debts. Nobody particularly likes the collection agency that's bugging them and threatening them. It also leads to a sense of psychological doubt, anxiety, weakness, a sense that we may not be able to prosper inside this nation-state forever. So it's no surprise that it's at this point in time, in the 1840s, that the call for a separate southern nation really began to get a little bit of traction among enslavers. That's going to grow and grow and grow until 1860.
On the other hand, in the North, what you see is that even with the losses, the bad debts, there's tremendous profit-taking that comes out of the 1830s. In fact, the collapse of all these southern banks allows full control of the national financial economy from New York. This is really the period when Wall Street emerges from the wreckage as the center of the American financial economy. And all those profits, and the financial strength of the North relative to the South, enables, slowly, maybe even accidentally, the development of a northern industrial economy that doesn't depend on cotton. You see that in 1830, the northern industrial economy was growing, but it depended directly on cotton. It was almost completely based on cotton factories and factories that produced goods that were used to produce cotton: axes to clear the land, hoes to chop the ground, cotton gins, etc.
By the 1840s, a different kind of northern industrial economy is growing. It's developing. It's increasingly selling to a northern market. So you have the development of a northern economic leadership that no longer feels as directly connected and as directly tied to the South. The cotton manufacturers are going to stick around. Wall Street is going to continue to have tremendous interests in the South, and is not going to want to see the South knocked around or bullied or leaving the country. But these other industrialists are not going to have the same kind of connection to the South. In fact, they're going to see the South as the land of bad debts and the people who can't pay them back. So you have increasingly the development of a situation of conflict between the economic and political leadership of the South, and part of the North's economic and political leadership – part, but not all. That helps to lead toward 1860.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
Updated February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This year's Black History Month comes at a time when we've seen a massive struggle for justice--beginning with the rebellion in Ferguson, Missouri, in August--unlike anything since the Black liberation struggle of the 1960s. Big questions are posed. Why—more than two centuries after the founding of this country and 50 years after the events depicted in the film Selma—are Black people still oppressed, still brutally discriminated against, and still brutalized and murdered by the police?
On the occasion of Black History Month, we have gathered here a selection of material for those who really want to dig into these questions. This material—including a syllabus that teachers can use for their classes or for other group discussions—speaks to the foundation of this country in slavery, the oppression of African-Americans which has continued throughout the history of the U.S. while taking different forms, and the present-day reality.
by Bob Avakian
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
Updated February 23, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
For this month, a team working with revcom.us/Revolution has been developing a syllabus that can be used for groupings of people getting together to engage in these discussions—in classrooms, conferences, living room gatherings and meetings large and small.
To help guide the discussions, we are suggesting an array of topics/questions that can be taken up. A reading list for each topic will be provided, which includes works from Bob Avakian, Revolution newspaper/revcom.us and other publications. And for each session—we are providing some questions to spark off the discussion.
This syllabus is in development. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org with any suggestions and questions as well as responses and experience gained in taking up these discussions.
2. “The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need,” special issue of Revolution/revcom.us, sections titled “The Rise of Capital—on a Foundation of Slavery and Genocide” and “There Would Be No United States as We Now Know It Today Without Slavery.”
3. Three clips from the DVD REVOLUTION: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian (see the embedded clips on the Resource page):
“They are selling postcards of the hanging”
“Emmett Till and Jim Crow: Black people lived under a death sentence”
“What To The Slave Is Your Fourth of July? From the Past to the Present”
2. Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, by Bob Avakian, in particular the section “Jeffersonian Democracy, Ideals, Illusions, and Reality” (pp. 3-8 in the print edition)
1. The U.S. Constitution and the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal): Two Constitutions, Two Different Systems, Two Different Futures for African-American People
2. A Question Sharply Posed—Nat Turner or Thomas Jefferson, by Bob Avakian
For further study:
1. Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, by Bob Avakian
2. Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves, by Henry Wiencek (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012)
1. The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need, special issue of Revolution/revcom.us sections titled: ‘The First Betrayal, after Slavery”; “Aftermath of the 60s: The Second Betrayal”
2. Three Strikes...by Bob Avakian
3. How This System Has Betrayed Black People: Crucial Turning Points, by Bob Avakian
4. Two Constitutions, Two Different Systems, Two Different Futures for African-American People , Part 2: Reconstruction and the First Great Betrayal, 1867-1896 Part 3: Battle Over Segregated Education in the 1950s and 1960s.
1. Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian, Session 1.
2. The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, by Michelle Alexander (The New Press)
1. The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need special issue of Revolution/revcom.us. See section: The Civil War.
2. Democracy: Can’t We Do Better Than That? by Bob Avakian, Chapter 4, “The USA as Democratic Example...Leader of the Pack,” page 110-111
For further study:
1. The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need, special issue of Revolution/revcom.us
2. Democracy: Can’t We Do Better Than That? by Bob Avakian, Chapter 4
3. "We Call Bullshit—4 Big Lies and the 1 truth of Lincoln", by Toby O’Ryan , February 24, 2013, Revolution
4. Lincoln, 2012 film directed by Steven Spielberg
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On February 12, the Supreme Court of Israel dismissed the appeal of Cindy and Craig Corrie in the wrongful death case of their daughter, Rachel Corrie.
Rachel was from Olympia, Washington, and was 23 when she was murdered by the Israeli army in 2003. She was taking part in an International Solidarity Movement protest in Gaza against the illegal destruction of Palestinian homes by the Israeli occupiers. The protest aimed to shed light on Israel's brutal destruction of Palestinian society and the continuing project of ethnic cleansing that has been underway since the 1948 establishment of the state of Israel. (For more on the nature of the state of Israel, see the special Revolution issue, Bastion of Enlightenment or Enforcer for Imperialism: The Case of Israel)
Standing in front of a targeted home, Rachel Corrie was brutally crushed by a U.S.-made Caterpillar bulldozer driven by an Israeli soldier. After this outrageous killing, Rachel's parents, Cindy and Craig Corrie, along with many other people, launched a campaign for justice for Rachel and to continue Rachel's work in resisting oppression. (See Revolution Interview with Cindy and Craig Corrie, October 10, 2010.)
In 2012, nine years after Rachel was killed, an Israeli court ruled that the Israeli army was not responsible, despite numerous eyewitness accounts that Rachel was clearly visible to the bulldozer driver and the revelation in court that the Israeli army had a standing “shoot to kill” order against any adult in this zone.
A statement by Rachel Corrie’s family said: “It will take some time before we have ability to read the decision in English and to process all the court has said. Nevertheless, it is clear that this decision affirming the August 2012 lower court finding amounts to judicial sanction of immunity for Israeli military forces when they commit injustices and human rights violations.”
The story is painfully familiar for far too many people around the world, including in the U.S. In a world dominated by capitalism-imperialism, far too many lives have been stolen by armed enforcers of the oppressive setup; far too many families have suffered the traumatic loss of loved ones; far too many times the authorities responsible have blatantly claimed they have no blame; far too many times the blame is leveled against the victim by a system that declares itself “not guilty.”
Rachel Corrie was a fighter for justice who had made the cause of the Palestinian people her own. She was standing up and standing firm, and she paid the ultimate price for not backing down from what she knew was right. Though justice has been denied her for now, her sacrifice has helped many people around the world to see the bloodthirsty hypocrisy and the actual nature of the state of Israel—a power that is founded on driving nearly a million people from their homes and stealing their land, and has been committing murder and war crimes on a huge scale to expand its occupation, right down to today. All this while serving as a military fortress to help U.S. imperialism enforce its domination in the region and around the world.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
By Alan Goodman | February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A few of us caught the movie Timbuktu at a local art house theater, and I think it’s worth alerting revcom.us readers that this is a film worth checking out.
Timbuktu is set in and around the fabled city of the same name in the North African country of Mali. In February, 2013 France invaded Mali and drove the Islamic fundamentalists out of Timbuktu (I’ll come back to that). But for a period—when this film is set—Islamic fundamentalist jihadists imposed their own version of a brutal, sadistic, and viciously women-hating regime there. For many of us in the U.S., this film might be the closest we get to meeting people like the ones portrayed in this fascinating, diverse part of the world, and the amazing, multi-lingual, multi-cultural, vibrant crossroads of Timbuktu. And feeling what life is like under Sharia law.
We meet a family of cattle herders who live outside of town. They make beautiful music together figuratively and literally, but have to keep the music hidden when the sleazy Sharia law enforcement police come around. We connect with a woman who might or might not have mental health issues but who jubilantly and defiantly abuses all the Sharia laws for how a woman should conduct herself in public. We sit in on a jam session of blues/jazz influenced African musicians as the Sharia law police hunt them down —unleashing 80 lashes on the woman in the group as especially hateful punishment. We see a couple stoned to death for adultery.
This is an amazing movie and we come to care deeply about the people in it. In some ways the people of Timbuktu (the film) could be—as the Clash used to sing—living in “Any frontier. Any hemisphere. No man's land.” where “There ain't no asylum here. King Solomon he never lived round here.” The day-in, day-out enforcement of Sharia law is not all that different, if you dig beneath the surface, from the law enforcement in Western democracies: property over people, men over women, arbitrary disregard for even their own rules by those in power, and social structures and morality—everything has a price, and might makes right—to enforce those body and soul killing values. If you watch with open eyes, you see echoes of the injustice in different forms in the inner cities, Indian reservations, and immigrant communities in “the Democratic West.”
And before anyone gets too self-righteous about how much better women are treated in the West, pay attention to the state of forced motherhood (no access to abortion) in much of the country and the promotion of sadistic violence against women in “hit movies” like 50 Shades of Gray (see “Fifty Shades of Grey: A Putrid Pornographic Story” at revcom.us).
Timbuktu—the movie (like the city)—is complex and nuanced. There are contradictions among the Islamic fundamentalist—highlighted in a scene depicting a pathetic attempt to make a propaganda video denouncing rap music. Apparently this kind of nuance in the portrayal of the Islamic fundamentalists was enough to set off some fascists in France—the mayor of a suburb of Paris denounced the movie as an apology for terrorism and had it banned (in the midst of the French ruling class and the rulers of the U.S. proclaiming themselves champions of tolerance, diversity, and free artistic expression!).
The co-writer and director of the movie, Abderrahmane Sissako, also made the 2006 movie Bamako. I haven’t seen it, but reviewers describe it as revolving around a trial where African civil society spokesmen expose the crimes of the World Bank and the IMF whom they expose as being responsible for Africa's woes.
But if anybody thinks life under the Islamic fundamentalists is some kind of radical or rebellious alternative to Western-style capitalism-imperialism (which they brand as “democracy”), this movie challenges that paradigm with a realistic picture of what that really means—it’s a horror.
Or, if you’ve adopted a smug attitude that “we” (Western capitalist-imperialist democracies) are better, pop over to YouTube and watch the murders of Eric Garner by police who lynch him on video for allegedly selling loose cigarettes, or the police execution of 12-year-old Tamir Rice for playing on a playground. France, the “liberators” of Mali, enslaved over 3 million people (literally slaves) in Africa to build their land of “liberty, equality, fraternity” and the U.S. empire was built on genocide and slavery. (See “French "Saviors" in Mali: World-Class Enforcers of Slavery, Genocide, and Oppression”).
No: There IS ANOTHER WAY. We need to do the work to bring it into being.
* * * *
Timbuktu is showing now—look up show times in your area at the IMDB page for the movie.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
From a reader:
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I really appreciated the Check It Out on D’Angelo and the Vanguard’s song “Charade” from their album Black Messiah. It is a very courageous and inspiring song and performance on Saturday Night Live in the wake of the police getting away with murder with impunity.
In the article you quote from the liner notes from where D’Angelo explains why he named the album Black Messiah, that it is not a religious reference, and he is not saying that he, D’Angelo, is the messiah, but that collectively “we are all that leader.” IF what D’Angelo meant is that there will be no savior and that if we want emancipation it is up to us to emancipate ourselves, then I would agree with his sentiment. A critical part of emancipating ourselves is fully appreciating the decisive role that vanguard leadership does play in leading the revolutionary struggle to emancipate all of humanity. This is all the more true when you have a revolutionary leader who is breaking new ground in summing up the history of the past revolutions and attempts to build a whole new society and charting the way to get to a world without oppression and exploitation. In today’s world this means getting with Bob Avakian.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
From a reader:
February 13, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Thursday night, with just a couple days leading up to Valentines, 50 Shades of Grey the movie had its first showings in NYC – and I was invited by Stop Patriarchy to be there in protest. Initially, I felt a part of me very reluctant to go protest a film or a book. Within a few minutes of arriving to the scene, I was already holding a big sign – Stop Romanticizing Female Enslavement, Start Fighting for Women’s Liberation – and I was shouting our chants – “Fuck 50 Shades!” and “Stand up against the degradation of women!”
I knew it was the correct choice, and so I was compelled to come through and correspond.
Firstly, I have to testify that I love Stop Patriarchy. They’re seriously - the shit. Whenever I can share solidarity with these revolutionary feminists, I get exposed to advanced thinking on how to fight back against the sexist values that saturate our society. In summing up the first night of protest actions, these are a few points that were brought up:
1. This is black and white – if you can identify the misogyny that underlies a book like 50 Shades, then the “everyone’s entitled to their own opinion” and the “live and let live” approach actually becomes a choice to tolerate a culture of rape.
2. The folks that join in these protest actions are sending a message and attracting like-minded forces so that this is the actual seeding of a movement.
One-third of all women have experienced rape or sexual assault. The U.S. porn industry pulls in $2.84 billion annually and worldwide approximately 1 of every 8 websites is a porn site. We are blitzed daily by marketing, music and film, promoting sexual objectification and degradation. There is a War on Women. It will take a movement in the millions to revolt against and stop patriarchy.
3. BDSM – bondage discipline sadomasochism – is not just a personal matter or a private choice of sexual preference. If it were, it’d be “the wrong choice,” but rather it is really important to ask “What is the societal effect?” None of us are making personal choices in some vacuum. We are situated in a culture and set of relations, norms, and indoctrinated values. In a liberating culture, where women are empowered as first class citizens, and where we all fight to uproot class distinctions, people would be much less likely to find torture erotic or to get off on abuse and humiliation. My comrade said she wouldn’t protest someone’s personal choice to practice BDSM, and rather, if needed she would fight along their side against state repression of personal choice. BUT if you make a movie celebrating rape culture, especially dressing it up as a love story, and you are ultimately having an abhorrent social effect – then yes, your bullshit movie needs to be called out and protested.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
Report from Pasco, Washington:
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Police have murdered another Latino immigrant in Washington State, this time in Pasco. His name was Antonio Zambrano-Montes. Cops there have now killed four people in the last six months.
On Tuesday, February 10, Antonio, an orchard worker originally from Mexico, was reportedly throwing rocks at passing cars. He clearly was not acting rationally and needed help. He had nothing more than rocks or dirt clods. But the police aggressively confronted him and, in the words of his family, killed him “execution style.” When the cops shot Antonio Zambrano-Montes, he was trying to flee and was not a threat. This horrific murder is caught on video, which reveals him being cut down by a storm of bullets from three deadly cops. The film has gone viral on YouTube, with 300,000 views as of Friday night, February 13.
Right away there was a righteous outpouring into the streets by the people of Pasco. Pasco is a small city in the eastern part of the state where many Latino immigrants live and work in the orchards picking fruit and doing other farm labor. People from across the U.S. have sent messages of solidarity, and people from across the state came to Pasco on Saturday, February 14, to stand with those in Pasco resisting this terror. Many had come because they have been inspired by the nationwide resistance to police murder.
News reports indicate the Pasco police are threatening the people resisting in Pasco and trying to isolate them from other people coming to stand with them by warning they will be on alert for “violence” from “outsiders.” These police, who carried out this cold-blooded murder, have absolutely no right to speak about violence! People are determined to stand together with those standing up in Pasco, and will not be intimidated by police threats that are aimed at suppressing and covering up this righteous protest!
A team of people from the October 22nd Coalition and supporters of revcom.us/Revolution fresh off of coming back from the February 7-8 Stop Mass Incarceration Network national conference in Atlanta, headed to Pasco to stand with the people there, and to spread word of the call for April 14 shutdown of business as usual to STOP police murder and brutality. The team included family members of Oscar Perez-Giron, murdered by police at a light rail station in Seattle, and friends and family of two others killed by police, including Native American woodcarver John T. Williams. Below is the team’s initial report, delivered over the phone at 9 pm Saturday, February 14. They remained out in the street in Pasco with about 100 others who refused to go home after a whole day of protest, cars constantly driving buy honking in support, others pulling up with people hanging out of car windows with protest signs, etc.
Five hundred people turned out to demand justice for Antonio Zambrano-Montes in Pasco today. The people were largely Latino, but other nationalities represented as well. Mostly there were local people, though also significant numbers of people from other parts of the state and Seattle. People rallied at City Hall and marched to the point of the murder of Antonio. Some speakers demanded justice, but a common theme from those leading the march was to tell people to remain calm and let the investigation and “process” work and not look for trouble.
At the final point of the initial march, a family member of Oscar Perez-Giron got on the mic and spoke powerfully about Oscar’s murder by police in Seattle and connecting it to what had happened to Antonio in Pasco. A revolutionary laid into and broke open how people need to stand up and not “stay calm.” She linked the resistance around Antonio’s murder with the struggle nationwide against the police murder of Black and Latino people and argued that people must not go home, or else this murder of Antonio would be swept under the rug. She told people they could stand up along with people all over the country on April 14 to stop this shit, and shut things down.
This struck a deep chord among people. After she spoke, people swarmed her, telling her they had been waiting for someone to say this, and asking what group she was with. Many youth especially had story after story of how they had been fucked with by police, followed and racially profiled, stopped and handcuffed for no reason, harassed. One woman told how her brother had a gun put to his head by police. Many said Antonio could have been them, could have been their brother or father, and this has to stop. Some people have been following other cases of police brutality and said body cameras don’t work, investigations don’t work, if we don’t stand up the police will get away with this. People said they were sick and tired of this, “We have rights.”
The revolutionary called for people to do a die-in, which many did. Many people refused to go home despite leaders of the march telling people they should disperse and move out of the streets so the city could open them back up.
Rally organizers left and 100-200 people took off into the streets again, blocking intersections and marching back to the park where the rally started. Family members of those killed by police spoke out, including Maria Perez Giron, adoptive mother of Oscar Perez Giron. She said, “We’re not afraid of deportations anymore.” Throughout the day people stayed in the streets. At one point the police moved in and threatened to arrest everyone and forced people onto sidewalks—but people still didn’t leave. Cars were pulling up, people walking in, especially youth. One car pulled up with people hanging out of the car with protest signs saying “Antonio—Rest in Peace” and “We will fight.” In this whole scene there was lots of discussion, people exchanged information and contact information, stories, and views.
The call for April 14 got out very broadly—all the fliers went into people’s hands and people were talking about it throughout the crowd. There was a lot of interest in the day. Some people were saying that “April 14th can show we’re serious, that we mean business. We need to be united, we need justice for everyone.” People were grappling with what impact it could have if things were shut down. A lot of Revolution newspapers went into people’s hands, people were asking for it. People learned there is a real way out with revolution and that a movement for that is being built. A core of people was forged to lead the march throughout the day. Important connections were made and there is a lot of sentiment that this must continue.
This whole movement must continue to go forward—in Pasco, Seattle, Ferguson, and everywhere. We must not let it get pushed back!!!
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
What kind of society, what kind of a system, is this where the “police protocol” for dealing with a delusional 95-year-old is to kill him? What does it mean when this is approved and upheld in a court of law?
John Wrana was a frail 95-year-old who needed a cane and a walker to get around the assisted-living facility where he lived. In July 2013, when he became delirious, the staff called paramedics to transport him to the hospital, suspecting an infection that often causes delirium in very old people. But John Wrana was confused and scared and he refused to go with staff or paramedics. He was delusional from the infection. He stood in his room with a kitchen knife and a long shoehorn in his hands, and told everybody to leave him alone.
Wrana clearly needed help. What would have been a humane and effective way to help him? Talk to him calmly and try to get him to sit down? Leave the room and check on him periodically to make sure he’s ok? Wait til he tired out and fell asleep? The paramedics made the fatal mistake of calling the police.
The police in Park Forest, Illinois, a Chicago suburb, arrived in riot gear. They immediately escalated the situation, treating Wrana not as a very ill old man in need, but as a dangerous threat. Then they staged a five-man invasion of Wrana’s room to “extract” him, armed with riot shields, Tasers, handguns, and a 12-gauge shotgun loaded with “nonlethal” beanbags. They burst into his room and ordered him to drop the knife, and when he didn’t, they Tasered him. And when the Tasers failed to hit him, the supervising officer ordered that beanbags be fired at Wrana. Five beanbags, fired at close range and travelling at over 180 mph, knocked Wrana down—and he was “subdued.” THEN they took him to the hospital.
John Wrana died the next day from massive internal bleeding from the beanbag rounds. Character assassination of Wrana began as soon as he died. The first story by the police said that Wrana was wielding a machete—it was actually a long shoehorn. The five cops towered over Wrana, who was 5'5", but Wrana was depicted by the cops as a dangerous menace even though he couldn’t walk without a cane. They said that the cops were in fear for their lives and had no choice but to attack him. Really?
This case is different from most other murders by police because the cop who pulled the trigger of the shotgun under orders, Craig Taylor, was actually indicted and tried on charges of reckless conduct. The supervisor who planned and ordered the raid and was in the room when Wrana was hit was not charged with anything, nor were the other three cops who participated. When Taylor was indicted, there was a huge outcry from police, outraged that he was charged at all. They protested that he did absolutely nothing wrong, that he was following regular police protocols. Every day in court a large contingent of cops from all over the area showed up to support Taylor.
But this case was not different in outcome from the vast majority of the tiny number of murders by police that ever go to trial. Taylor was found not guilty by the judge. Taylor’s defense was based on his ludicrous claim that he feared for his life, and that therefore he followed official police protocol for using deadly force. Two of the other cops with him testified they too feared for their lives. Taylor testified that he considered shooting Wrana with his handgun, and would have been within protocol to do so, but decided to try the beanbags first because of Wrana’s age! The judge upheld all this, finding that Taylor did not use excessive force and that he was indeed doing his job correctly.
So we have to ask once again: what kind of a system is it where the official and legal “police protocol” for dealing with mentally ill or distressed people—like this delirious 95-year-old—is to kill them? It is a system that needs to be overthrown and replaced.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From an LA Revolution Club member:
In reflecting on the Stop Mass Incarceration Network national meeting in Atlanta, I was re-invigorated with the urgent need to continue taking the struggle of resistance to police brutality and murder to a higher level with a nationwide #ShutDownA14 on April 14. (See “Atlanta Conference Calls for NO BUSINESS AS USUAL April 14 to STOP POLICE MURDER.”)
On Wednesday, February 11, Los Angeles County District Attorney Jackie Lacey gave a lecture on “Criminal Justice Mental Health Project” at UCLA. This is the same DA who presides over the neighborhood where Ezell Ford, a mentally ill man (well-known to the police department), was killed eight months ago. (The autopsy report released December 2014 showed he was shot in the back at close range—see revcom.us article on this.) Besides the hypocrisy in the title of her lecture, Lacey was given a platform to speak at a time when—as the call from the Call for April 14 from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network has identified, “We are at a crossroads: will the authorities succeed in suppressing our resistance, or will we move forward on the offensive and bring even more massive waves of struggle to STOP the murder of Black, Brown, and all people by the police?”
A group of students called on “anyone interested in demanding that killer cops are charged with murder” (this is a paraphrase) to protest this event. I took up the call. We were six strong (students and non-students). And, as we gathered, there was a real sense of determination. We got into the crossroads this movement of resistance is at: with some struggling with their friends and peers to join the protest. And posing the question “Do you think Black and brown lives matter?” with some students avoiding the question or strongly affirming their agreement.
As we entered the lecture hall where Lacey spoke, we were swarmed with questions: “Why are you here and what’s your purpose, do you plan to disrupt this event?” We affirmed we had every right to attend this lecture. DA Lacey’s posse assigned a person to surveil us while the program began. Meanwhile, the person surveilling us began insulting one of the students for their weight.
Eventually the program began. Lacey had ample time to speak (and lie) about her role in “improving” South Central LA. But, as she began to talk about mental health, one of the students (rightfully so) got up, went to the front of the stage, and unfurled his banner that read “Black Lives Matter.” We all got up and started chanting. And, questions were sharply posed: Why is this event being held by an institution that is supposed to be about the underprivileged? What about the treatment of Ezell Ford? Lacey immediately walked off the stage. A young woman sitting behind us began gleefully clapping. As we continued to chant and agitate “Black Lives Matter,” a speaker from the stage threatened us with arrest. The students were shocked and condemned this behavior. The organizers had to concede in letting us pose questions to DA Lacey (even as that was not our intent).
DA Lacey walked back on stage and (like a robot) continued her lecture. We all collectivized on what questions we would ask. Eventually, the Q&A began and the first question posed was on mass incarceration. The next question was on the murder of Ezell Ford. Lacey was put on the defensive. She said, “It’s complicated,” “I think Black lives matter,” and “protesters have a right to express their first amendment.” To which we replied: “It’s been eight months since the murder of Ezell Ford,” “the autopsy report has been out for months,” “what about the mass arrest and repression?” She quickly ended the Q&A and walked off the stage again.
Gleefully we all got up—marched and chanted out of the event with a couple of students joining us. As we were collectivizing on our experience, a couple of people from the event came up to thank us. An older alum said our behavior reminded him of the ’60s and told us to keep up the fight.
The organizers of the event are furious with our actions (given the chancellor and vice-chancellor were in attendance) and are threatening repercussions. But, actually this is more of what’s needed. As we’re heading towards a national #ShutDownA14 we need to have the backs of the defiant ones continuing to resist and we need to be calling on many more to join us. We cannot go back to Business as Usual!
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 16, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Another outrageous police shooting of an unarmed Black youth happened in Los Angeles this past week. Fifteen-year-old Jamar Nicholson was shot in the back while he and his friends were on the way to school. Jamar survived the shooting as the bullet narrowly missed his spine and remains lodged in his back.
The four youth, three Black and one Latino, were playing in an alley doing some freestyle rapping and dancing with a toy gun when the cops arrived and shot Jamar in the back. Jamar was not the one with the toy gun, and he was not the one the police were wildly shooting at from 20 feet away.
The cops spun a story that was disputed by the youth and by people in their homes close by. The cops’ story was that they came upon someone “pointing a gun at another person,” gave several commands to “drop the gun,” and then shot. Jamar told the LA Times that he was taken to the hospital handcuffed to a gurney. He and one of his friends, Jason Huerta, both said that they did not hear any commands, only the word “freeze” a second before the cops shot. A woman whose apartment overlooks the alley said she did not hear any commands before the cops started shooting and she said that these boys usually play in this alley every day as they go to school. She said, “They don’t cause any trouble. They’re just innocent kids.”
This shooting becomes even more outrageous as the cops said the reason they shot was “to save a life.” Let’s be clear on this. Cops don’t save the lives of Black and Latino youth. Cops take the lives of Black and Latino youth!
After the shooting the cops told Huerta that “it looks wrong” for Black and Latino youth to be hanging out together, and that they felt that the three Black youth were jacking up a Latino. That outlook, by itself, tells a lot about how this system and the cops that enforce it see youth like these—as nothing but garbage to be thrown away.
Articles in Los Angeles Times about this shooting are blaming this and some other cop shootings on toy guns. Let’s be clear on this, too. Toy guns do not kill Black and Latino youth; COPS KILL BLACK AND LATINO YOUTH!
How many more times is this going to happen before we put a stop to it? The time is now and the day for that is April 14 for people to stand up and be heard and “take our movement to STOP wanton police murder to a whole new level.” On that day, NO SCHOOL! NO WORK! STOP BUSINESS AS USUAL!
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
February 10, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revcom.us received this correspondence:
A February 7 “town hall meeting” organized at Texas Southern University (TSU) by the Houston Police Department (HPD), and intended to promote “community engagement” with the police, was turned on its head. Revolutionaries marched in carrying pictures of people who have been murdered by the police, chanting “hands up, don’t shoot,” “I can’t breathe,” and “arrest, indict, send the killer cops to jail. The whole damn system is guilty as hell.”
The meeting was brought to a halt as the revolutionaries marched to the front of the stage. Three were arrested and dragged from the auditorium. Outside, several of the 20 people who had come to protest the event exposed the police for arresting the revolutionaries.
One Black man yelled at the pigs, “They didn't hurt nobody, they didn't shoot nobody, all they did was talk and you make this a crime! You talk about all these other countries that don't allow people to speak. What kind of country is this that people can't speak? They were just telling the truth!” In the midst of all this, some people chanted, “Who are the real criminals, the police are the real criminals,” and “shame on you.”
As word got out about the arrests, several people jumped into action to get the arrested revolutionaries out of jail. A couple of people spread it all over social media, while other people went out and raised bail money. A revolutionary raised over $200 from family and friends. A student went out to his friends and donated $180. Other people also donated. One person said that she is very concerned about the people arrested and that she does not like how the authorities are responding to political protest. A student drove to TSU and talked to other students there. The TSU students said that they had all been encouraged to attend the town hall meeting, but most of them didn’t because they saw it as a slap in the face. One guy said that “it looks like a military occupation” of their campus. They were excited to hear about the protest and said that they would check out the Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) because all of the killing of youth by the police has got to stop.
Texas Southern University is a historically Black school in the heart of the 3rd ward, one of the oldest and largest Black communities in Houston. The HPD enlisted the support of a network of pastors for the event, which included a helicopter, SWAT mobiles, a kid-friendly robot, and cookies and punch. A key feature of the program was enactments of a high-tech "training" simulator called “shoot don’t shoot,” which is aimed at getting people to “step into the shoes of the police” and see what a "hard job" they have.
This is in the context of the tremendous outpourings of resistance against police murder and brutality around the country and in Houston—and as police brutality and murder have continued with impunity. Only about 40 people not affiliated with the police showed up for the event, and about half of them were there to protest. Revolutionaries were in the middle of this mix, and struggled with people to take things further and more boldly challenge this pig fest, as part of retaking the initiative in the struggle for police murder and brutality to stop. The police are working to push the whole struggle backwards, and this is not acceptable. As a revolutionary said during the protest action, on that same day in Atlanta, people from around the country were gathered in the meeting called by SMIN to develop plans for April 14—Stop Business as Usual! and ran down the demands from the April 14 Call.
Revolution #374 February 16, 2015
Fifty Years Since the Assassination of Malcolm X
by Carl Dix | February 20, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Fifty years ago this month, Malcolm X, El-Hajj Malik El-Shabazz, was assassinated. His is a life that we must never forget.
In the movie Selma and elsewhere Malcolm X is often being portrayed today as a radical sidekick of Martin Luther King, someone whose presence served to give the rulers more reason to give King a hearing. This is nowhere near true. In fact, Malcolm stood out from every other major figure of his time and was pursuing a very different path than King.
As Bob Avakian put it in his book, A Horrible End, or An End To The Horror?, “Overwhelmingly, the main thing about Malcolm X, which made him stand out from every other major Black leader of his time (the early ’60s), was his basic revolutionary stand: his defiance right in the face of the system; his uncompromising hatred for the oppression of the Black masses and his determination to fight against it; his bold disloyalty to America and exposure of its whole history of barbarous crimes against Black people and others...”
Malcolm was far more radical than other forces active at that time, and this represented a serious threat to the powers-that-be and their system. He played an indispensable role in the transformation of the Black resistance movement of the 1960s, from one that was trying to deal with the savage oppression Black people faced by getting into the system to a movement whose most advanced elements had come to see that system as the source of this oppression.
Malcolm was relentless in condemning the U.S. for its crimes against Black people. Especially after he broke with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam (NOI), he called out the crimes the U.S. committed against oppressed people in Africa and other parts of the world. And he called out trying to deal with the oppression of Black people by trying to get into the system that was oppressing them as a foolish, no-win road. He ridiculed turning the other cheek while racist crackers got away with murdering Black people. He said he wasn’t an American and had sense enough to know it—he was one of the 20 million Black victims of America. Rather than appealing to the oppressors to give Black people equality because this would strengthen their global empire, Malcolm identified with the Vietnamese revolutionaries and others who were fighting that empire.
Malcolm told people they were fools if they thought they could trust the “foxes” in the federal government to do anything about the savage horrors the southern segregationists, the “wolves,” were inflicting on Black people.
And Malcolm didn’t hold back on telling people what the real deal was, refusing to wait until people were ready to hear what he had to say. He loved to tell his audiences, “I didn’t come to tell you what you want to hear. I came to tell you the truth, whether you like it or not.”
Malcolm’s work helped to move groups like the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) to a more radical stance in challenging the vicious oppression of Black people. Huey Newton and Bobby Seale spoke openly of their debt to Malcolm, saying that his exposure of this system led them to take up self-defense against police brutality and to see the need for revolution right here in the belly of the beast, as we used to put it back in the 1960s and ’70s. On a personal note, Malcolm’s impact on SNCC and the Black Panther Party (BPP) was a big part of what enabled me to see that, as a Black person, I had no business going to Vietnam and helping drown the Vietnamese people’s war for liberation in blood. What the BPP and people like Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) and H. Rap Brown were saying about Vietnam played a role in moving me to refuse orders to go to Vietnam.
At the end of his life, Malcolm was grappling with and promoting revolution and revolutionary leadership, including Mao Zedong’s leadership of the Chinese Revolution. But he never made the leap to becoming a communist. His program for freeing Black people still contained strong elements of promoting Black capitalism. And he never ruptured with the patriarchal views that women should play subordinate roles in society and in the resistance movements, views that were widespread in the movements of the 1960s.
I know the system’s official story on his assassination is that it resulted from his dispute with the NOI, but to this day the full story on the assassination has not been revealed, and many questions remain. It is clear both that the imperialists were at minimum complicit in this assassination, having kept Malcolm under intense surveillance and having infiltrated his organization, and that vicious personal slanders, physical threats, and physical attacks against Malcolm by forces associated with the Nation of Islam played a role in allowing the government to murk up what actually happened. (This latter point is something today’s movements of resistance have to study, learn from, and not repeat.)
Malcolm wasn’t struck down for nothing. His was a life that was dedicated to calling out and working to end the oppression of Black people. And in death his legacy influenced many more people to look at the reality of what America was really all about and to take the path of revolution, rather than reform.
This is a legacy we must cherish, and we must go beyond. Malcolm posed the question—the ballot or the bullet, which broke things out of the terms of the time. His influence helped lead to the powerful Black liberation movement of the late ’60s and early ’70s, which shook America to its foundations and put the question of revolution on the agenda. The system responded to that movement both with some concessions, but also with violent repression. The movement of that time, heroic as it was, was not able to go all the way. But we do have the lessons of that movement to sum up, as part of figuring out just what it will take to end the oppression of Black people and ALL oppression once and for all.
To end the oppression of Black people, and all the other horrors this capitalist/imperialist system inflicts on people around the world—the wars for empire, the devastation of the environment of the very planet we live on, the violence and degradation women are subjected to, the government spying and the rest—will take revolution, nothing less.
We have the leadership needed to make this necessary revolution in Bob Avakian (BA), a leader who has developed a new approach to making revolution and to bringing into being, thru revolution, a society that people would want to live in, and a society that is in transition to a classless, communist world. BA was both profoundly influenced by and played a significant role in the upheavals of the 1960s, and summing up the lessons of those years—what was so great about them and what the people back then ran up against—has been part of BA’s work in developing a new synthesis of communism. The revolutionary society envisioned by BA would wipe out the oppression of Black people and other oppressed peoples as an integral part of getting rid of all oppression and exploitation. You can check this out in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). And BA has developed a strategy that could actually make a revolution in the U.S.—which you can get into in BAsics. And he leads a party that is urgently working to make that vision real.
This party and the revolution it is working to bring about are for real. If you hate the oppression of Black people, and the other horrors this system is enforcing on people in this country and around the world, you need to check out this party. You need to go to the website revcom.us and study what it says and what it does. And you need to get with this party and the movement for revolution it is building.