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Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
USA, 1965—Black people in Selma, Alabama, viciously attacked by cops and the Klan for seeking the right to vote, beaten with baseball bats and billy clubs, tear gas, and whips; ... people murdered by brutalizing police, by racist vigilantes; ... “whites only” Jim Crow segregation still prevails across the South, and in the North—Black people crammed into crumbling ghettos; forced to attend overcrowded, underfunded inner city schools; arrested, beaten, and murdered by police; kept in the lowest-paying, most dangerous jobs, if they find work at all...
USA, 2015—a full half-century later—a New Jim Crow of criminalization and mass incarceration of Black and Latino men has led to more Black men in prison today than were enslaved in 1850; soaring unemployment for Black people in cities across the entire country; public schools more segregated now—60 years since the U.S. Supreme Court put an end to the hateful “separate but equal doctrine”—than they were in the late 1960s; Black men and youths murdered by police in every city of this country—choked to death on a sidewalk in New York; shot and killed walking down the street in Ferguson, Missouri, in a park in Cleveland, on a train in Oakland; racist vigilantes murdering Black youth in cold blood, being let free by courts at every level. And yes, increasingly, Black people denied the right to vote, supposedly the most “sacred” right of U.S. citizenship, at a rate seven times higher than that for white people.
We really do need a revolution.
The powerful, beautiful outpouring of protest against police brutality and murder by police that began in Ferguson last summer and soon blossomed coast to coast, rocked this country in a way it hadn’t been shaken since the 1960s and early ’70s. The current reality and long history of viciously enforced oppression of Black people was exposed to the world. Big questions—important, vital questions—have been confronted, debated, and investigated by tens of thousands of people. Why are so many Black and Latino people in prison? Why do the police continue to terrorize and murder Black youth? What is it going to take to finally put an end to this murderous horror show that has lasted for decades ... for centuries?
Different people and groups are developing different understandings of the problems confronting Black people in this society, and reaching different conclusions about the solution to these problems. Only one approach gets at the root of the problem. This American society—this system of capitalism-imperialism—cannot in fact be made “more just.” The brutal oppression of Black people that is an essential component of the “American way of life” cannot be overcome within this system.
People need to face reality. Bob Avakian, chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party expressed an essential starting point in understanding the history and ongoing reality of this country: “There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.” (BAsics 1:1)
The problem we face cannot be solved within the framework of what Martin Luther King called for. Nor can the problem be solved with a new civil rights movement. No matter how radically anyone tries to interpret these visions, the result will lead to some form of what exists now. The “American Dream” has been a centuries-long nightmare for Black and other oppressed people. And in this capitalist society it is a dream of individually “making it”... on the backs of others, including others around the world; letting a few people in on this dream who have been excluded cannot change the ugly, odious essence of it.
The “promises of democracy” have in reality been built upon the slave driver’s whip, the lynch mob’s noose, the penitentiary’s work farms, the guns, chokeholds, billy clubs, and solitary confinement torture chambers of the police. Those “promises” are built on the genocide of Native Americans and theft of their land, invasions of every corner of the world, drones, torturers, sweatshops, and slums. Nobody should want any part of “making it” or being included in that kind of democracy.
Enslavement, lynch mob terror, and mass incarceration of Black people; genocide against Native Americans; theft of Mexico; ongoing and deeply embedded brutality and murder by police of Black and Latino people... these are not unfortunate aberrations from the way the system of capitalism-imperialism could be made to work—they are how it works; they are in every strand of its “DNA,” expressions of its exploitative, oppressive essence. That can’t be changed any more than lions can become vegetarians. The problem is the system of capitalism-imperialism that has the oppression of Black people embedded deep into every aspect of its functioning. This is why neither Martin Luther King’s dream nor a new civil rights movement--both of which at most would attempt to reform, rather than uproot and do away with capitalism--would deal with the horrors that people face.
But revolution can—actual, all-the-way communist revolution that gets rid of this system root and branch, and moves on to fighting for a world free of all exploitation and oppression, everywhere; a world that most human beings would want to live in. Anything less, anything that falls short of that, will leave intact the machinery of oppression that has caused far too much pain and suffering already.
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) provides the legal-political framework for a truly emancipatory future society, overthrowing and uprooting all oppression. This Constitution is not a utopia; it is based on four decades of work by Bob Avakian (BA), the chairman of our Party, in digging deeply and scientifically into the experience of previous revolutions, as well as other developments in human society. It is the application of BA’s new synthesis of communism to actually figuring out how a new revolutionary state power could transform this society in the direction of eliminating exploitation and overcoming all oppressive divisions between people... how it would do all that while, and as part of, supporting revolution all over the world and meeting the material and cultural needs of the people in a way that you could barely conceive of today... until you read this document!
Just to take one egregious and typical, but totally unnecessary, outrage of everyday life in capitalism: In a revolutionary society, the police forces of the old society that had brutalized and degraded Black and Latino youth, that functioned as an occupying army, that maimed and killed in the name of security—they will have been disbanded with the seizure of state power. And that’s just day one! New public security forces will be created. They will protect the victories of the revolution. They will ensure the safety and rights of the people, including the right to take responsibility for the direction of society. These new public security forces will help people resolve disputes and problems among themselves in non-antagonistic ways.
In relation to the oppression of Black people and other oppressed people, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America mandates, among other things:
In light of the egregious crimes, oppression and injustice perpetrated by the former ruling class and government of the United States of America against various minority nationalities, to give expression to the voluntary union and growing unity of the various peoples within the New Socialist Republic in North America, and to give the most powerful effect to the principles and objectives set forth in this Constitution, discrimination against minority nationalities, in every sphere of society, including segregation in housing, education and other areas, shall be outlawed and prohibited, and concrete measures and steps shall be adopted and carried out, by the government at the central and other levels, to overcome the effects of discrimination and segregation, and the whole legacy of oppression, to which these peoples have been subjected.
This is not a pipe dream. This is the way the world could be. What stands between this and the system we live under now: AN ACTUAL REVOLUTION. We are serious. We fully understand that such a revolution would be full of sacrifice and difficulty. But the work has been done, again by BA, to map out how those who are fighting for revolution could get from where we are today to where, as things develop, you actually could mobilize millions for an all-out seizure of power, and how, if and as that came on the agenda, the forces of violent repression deployed by the exploiters could be defeated. All that is beyond the scope of what we can get into here, but the point is this: the essential framework exists in the “Statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party, ON THE STRATEGY FOR REVOLUTION,” and in “On the Possibility of Revolution.”
With the uprising in Ferguson, and everything that broke out after that across the country, people stood up in a way that they had not in decades. And because of that, the possibilities of revolution were opened up in a way that they had not been for a long, long time. There is no guarantee, but there is a chance that a revolution could develop out of the further unfolding of what erupted in Ferguson and beyond, along with the sharpening of other contradictions and conflicts in society and the world, and the work of the vanguard—the Revolutionary Communist Party.
If you want to fight and END oppression... if you are hungering for change... if you see that we need to go beyond programs rooted in the American dream, or fantasies of a leaderless “revolution” with no clear programs... then you need to check out and fight side by side with this Party.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
Getting Ready for the Online Launch and Premiere Screenings of the new film of
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
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.
—From “Excerpts from an interview with Ardea Skybreak: On Attending the Dialogue Between Bob Avakian and Cornel West”
The new film of Revolution and Religion: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian brings the awesome experience of the November 15, 2014 Dialogue to life. You will get the feeling that was in the room of being “on the edge of your seat because this really could open up a different future for humanity.” You sense the energy of the uniquely diverse audience. You are right up inside Cornel West’s and Bob Avakian’s opening presentations: the passion, the audacity, the science, the morality, the revolutionary substance. You see their reactions to each other’s opening presentations—the delight, the thoughtful appreciation, their pondering of points of disagreement. BA and Cornel exude a contagious “in the bones” hatred of all that oppresses people today and the need to act to stop it now, along with a profound love of the people. The 3 hours and 53 minutes of this film is a school of revolution that you want to go to. If you want to know what Bob Avakian’s new synthesis of communism looks like in action, if you want to get a sense of the revolution that BA is fighting for, if you want to see and learn from two voices of conscience modeling a morality that refuses to accept injustice, that pours heart and soul into standing together for a world worthy of humanity, you couldn’t do better than to start with watching this film again and again.
The impact of the Cornel West and Bob Avakian Dialogue has only just begun with the 1,900 people who were at Riverside Church in NYC last fall and the tens of thousands of people who have since watched the simulcast broadcast on the Internet. With the appearance of Revolution and Religion... ONLINE, beginning at 10 pm EST on MARCH 28, 2015 and then continuing over the next months at www.revcom.us, this film can reach huge numbers—10, 20, a hundred times—more people with even greater impact, if we make it widely known. One key part of making the ONLINE LAUNCH a big deal will be the national Premiere Screenings on March 28.
By March 28 scores and hundreds of people should be spreading the word online, reaching tens of thousands more, through the social media, on campuses, high schools, in the neighborhoods and at key cultural and political gatherings with palm cards, posters and showing the trailer. The BA Everywhere Campaign, a mass campaign to raise major funds to project Bob Avakian’s (BA’s) vision and works into every corner of society, will be involving many people in raising funds to spread the word of this film in different ways. In addition to the spreading through Twitter, Internet ads, and by showing it on the street, as the March 28 launch date draws near and in an ongoing way afterward, there is a vision of creating and popularizing short YouTubes of key questions/sharp points made in the course of the Dialogue that will make important impact in their own right and which should also drive people to watch the whole film.
This film will make its appearance at a time when people across the country are mounting the political stage in defiant struggle to stop the police murder of our youth and the whole program of mass incarceration. It will interact with the struggle, deepening people’s understanding of why this system does what it does over and over again; infusing people with the morality and moral conviction to stand up, raising sights to the vision and strategy for a revolution that really could put an end to the unnecessary madness that is today.
The March 28 Premiere screenings at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, NYC; the Los Angeles Theatre Center; The Goldman Theater at the David Brower Center in Berkeley; the Encore Theater in Houston; and at Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago are first of all important opportunities to raise the profile of the film. Articles on line and in print, radio spots, social media—a splash of publicity that will inspire and drive people not only to the Premiere screenings but also to spread the word of the online video and/or to get a copy of the two DVD set of the full film.
And, second, being at a celebratory premiere, viewing the film with hundreds of other people will be an incredible rich experience. Watching together on a big screen, with big sound, and talking afterward will be a cohering collective experience. Many new people, activists in different social movements, and old friends should feel inspired after this to spread the film and be a part of the BA Everywhere campaign to continue to raise the tens of thousands of dollars necessary to make this film, and Bob Avakian and the work he has done known to millions.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
1) Now is not the time for “digging in for the long haul” or coming up with a “program of reforms.” Now is the time to retake the offensive against police murder, against the New Jim Crow, and against the whole genocidal program being directed against Black and brown people, to prepare to go back into the streets in an even more powerful way. The call to action for April 14 by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network is critical to that.
2) It will take struggle, of different kinds, to do this. It will take mass political struggle right up against the enemy, including in the streets, on April 14 and leading up to April 14. And it will take struggle, in the form of debate and discussion over right and wrong and the way forward, among the people.
3) Mobilizing for shutting down business as usual on April 14 is key right now to the whole process of retaking the offensive against police murder and the whole genocidal program. Everyone who wants to prevent this struggle from being stuffed back down should join this effort, and be part of wrangling and planning over how to go forward, how to make April 14 as powerful as possible. Get with those who are taking this up, and take up the plans that are being made to make April 14 happen as powerfully as possible.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
From "Bombingham" and Selma to 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This is an interview with Hank, who grew up in the South—about his life and struggle under Jim Crow as a child in SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) at age 11-12 in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1963; running away to Atlanta at age 15 and joining up with and becoming a revolutionary in SNCC (Student National Coordinating Committee); how later he became a revolutionary communist as he sought the answers for how to end the oppression of Black people and emancipate all humanity. What he says has a lot of lessons for today.
Hank: I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, and some of you might know it was also called “Bombingham.” My family owned a small business. We lived right across the street from the First Baptist Church, which was the church of A.D. King, Martin Luther King’s brother, and at that time there was a lot of bombings going on in the city and stuff.
There was a neighborhood called Fountain Heights, and it was a working-class white neighborhood that people began to integrate. And as Black people moved in, people’s homes began to be bombed. It was later nicknamed Dynamite Hill because of all the bombings, so this is almost like a constant in terms of some of the things going on in the city at that time and everybody, whether you were a little kid or an older person, you lived with that kind of fear that something like that might happen. So that was part of the atmosphere you grew up in on the one hand, but then on the other hand while it was very turbulent, it was very exciting because there was all this stuff going on that people were resisting, so in that sense it was exciting.
Again, growing up in Birmingham during that era, the question of the fear and brutality, you saw that all the time. Most people are aware of it in relation to the demonstrations, with the dogs, the water hoses, things like that—but there was also the constant brutality of people being beaten by the police. Fair Park was one of the places where they used to take the youth. It wasn’t open, but they would take people to Fair Park and actually beat them there. It was part of the atmosphere and you were actually taught how to respond to police and white people because of all of that. Your parents cautioned you about this and when you did things; one of the things I will never forget is my mother would tell me: “I will kill you before I let these white folks kill you.” I took it at the time that she actually meant it from the standpoint of that being a reality for youth growing up at the time.
Revolution: What was it like when you did things that kids like to do—sports, swimming, movies, all the things that kids like to do?
Hank: I thought everything that was going on was normal. We went to the movies but when we went to the movies white people sat in the main theater at the bottom and we sat in the back, at the top. I enjoyed sports and excelled at them pretty much. The only integrated thing that was going on at that point was at the swimming hole. This is the place we called the Big Ditch that bordered the white community and the Black community, and both white and Black youth would swim there, but it was also you had to fight each other to actually be able to do that, so there was always some kind of confrontation between Blacks and whites. Part of the life was not just the official stuff but just what was going on in everyday life, the interaction and how you confronted white people and how white people confronted you. You got tested in a lot of forms of confrontation, particularly among the youth at that time. Sometimes it got really, really heavy, and other times, being youth, we actually thought it was just a lot of fun.
I grew up actually hating white people and hating the system of Jim Crow. We were talking earlier about the swimming hole and having to fight through that. I remember one time we got into this fight with these white kids and I was beating the shit out of one of them, and all the while when I was doing this, he kept calling me a “nigger.” And I tried to take some dirt and just stuff it in his mouth and even after he spit it out I was still to him a “nigger.” That had a kind of impact on me because growing up back then, you say “uncle” and you give up, but there was no “give” and the impact of how deep this stuff was, that had an impact on me. It seemed like this stuff is ingrained in people and in one sense—what do you do? Even as you’re kicking ass, it doesn’t go away.
Around ’64, I remember the Mule Train came around with all these different people from around the country. They were part of the civil rights movement and I remember them coming to our church. Our minister was head or one of the heads of the SCLC chapter, and all these different people, all these different nationalities, they came with the Mule Train and they parked at the park where we played baseball, and this was the first time I actually began to get a sense of how all white people ain’t the same. That really had a big impact on me because the hatred I had in seeing white people as the enemy began to reshape. It began to get changed, and that also meant a lot to me that people came down and was willing to stand up with us, and not just stand up, but with interacting with us in the church. And I saw how they were interacting with one another and it was real genuine and it made you feel like you wanted to be a part of something like that. I thought that was part of something that was really, really important.
Revolution: Could you describe how you got drawn into the movement?
Hank: It was mainly through the church. I come from a very religious family, and again being from a little better off family, people have certain expectations for you. Even as a youth, as early as 11, I was a Sunday school teacher. One of the things in my life that was different than a lot of my peers is we grew up with books. We grew up with encyclopedias. I began to read early on. At a certain point I had read the Bible all the way through, and I was very informed by religion and certain things about fighting against evil, fighting against injustice. For me, I got a sense of that from those religious kind of views. SCLC had a youth organization, and part of the thing we did was we went out in the community. We knocked on doors to try to get people to be registered voters. That’s part of what you did and that was a lot of fun. I remember going to one woman’s door, which also had an impact. This was an older Black woman, and she actually slammed the door in my face. But before she did she told me to get away from her door because she didn’t want these white folks bombing her home. And the way she said it and the look in her eyes was very, very troubling because you saw the fear that she had. And at that point I made up my mind that I will never ever live like that. I can’t see myself being this old woman living in that kind of fear.
Revolution: What did you say, and what kind of arguments went on in your house about this?
Hank: In my house you didn’t argue. My house was ruled by the whip. What they said was law so you didn’t argue; you just took the lashing. You did what you were going to do and you took the lashing.
Revolution: Even to go out and try to register people to vote?
Hank: I could do that. That was supported by my family because it was not seen as the same as demonstrating in the streets.
Revolution: So if you went to a protest you would not only face Bull Connor (police commissioner of Birmingham, notorious for his brutality) out in the street, but when you got home, you would be whipped?
Hank: Exactly, so that was somewhat of a deterrent but it didn’t stop me. This was around ’63. Every year up until the time I actually went to high school they would have these walk-outs. They would walk out, they would stop at every school, elementary school or high school within that community, until people got down to the Kelly Ingram Park (next to the 16th Street Baptist Church), which was about five or six miles from where the high school is, and I couldn’t wait to get to high school to be part of the walk-out. But the anticipation of being them coming to my school, it was there. I never saw any adults as a part of this. It was very organized in what they were going to do and nobody [teachers] put up any resistance. It was open, and many kids went on down; some went home. At a certain point I watched, then at another point it was kinda like, “I don’t care.” I would go on to the next one and end up at Kelly Park.
There would be a march and demonstrations; sometimes nothing happened. And in some instances you would be met by the police, the water hose, the dogs. It was my first opportunity to actually be a part but also witness first hand the kind of cruelty and brutality that was going on, and I made a point not to try to get arrested. I had some older friends, and this was important to me; they took me kind of under their wing. And they were on the sidelines, and they weren’t into a whole lot of the non-violent philosophy themselves—and actually they did do a lot of stuff with rocks and the bottles, and I would say they were considered “the unwelcomed.” But they were part of that movement that actually came down there, so I never took an arrest in any of this, and part of it was we were on the sidelines hurling different things and stuff. There was a saying, “If you’re not going to be non-violent, don’t get in the demonstration.” These older kids weren’t having it. They weren’t gonna just allow themselves to be brutalized and this and that and the other. We might have gotten wet, but we didn’t take the brunt of this, and we weren’t in the crowd but we were on the sidelines. But these older kids were actually hurling objects at the cops and trying to fend them off in relationship to what they were doing, brutalizing people.
Revolution: Did you believe in the non-violent philosophy of SCLC and Martin Luther King?
Hank: I was never non-violent and my house was never non-violent. This is some of the contradictoriness.
Revolution: Can you talk about the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church, which was adjacent to Kelly Park and it was a big center of the organizing, including of the youth who were taking part in the demonstrations? This was the 1963 bombing that killed the four little girls and injured many others.
Hank: My memory of the church bombing was that the whole community was both in shock and grief and at the same time outraged around all of that. Even right there on the spot there was escalations of things between the community and police. I know that in the community I grew up in, the police actually did go to A.D. King’s home, supposedly to protect him, and people actually set fire to the police cars.
While there was shock and grief, there was a lot of anger, and that poured out in different ways. I’m not sure all the different ways, but I actually do remember that was one of the things that was also re-broadcast on the news after that happening. And that was a certain determination of people that “this shit has to end,” “this shit has to stop.” I think it emboldened more people, and even people who at a certain point were opposed to this kind of stuff. When I say opposed to this demonstration and it was stirring up more people who couldn’t sit by and watch children being bombed in worship. I think that had a big impact in bringing more people into things and also solidifying people’s commitment that this stuff actually has to stop. If you think about that period and you think about what transpired afterwards, I think that during this period the whole question of people actually really, really looking for something different. And this is the first time I began to question god.
Revolution: When the bombing of the church happened it made you question god?
Hank: My thing was “why is he letting it happen? And this is his house, and these kids hadn’t done anything so why are you doing this?” Because I was born a religious person, I used to have nightmares about even the thought of questioning god. It wasn’t all thought out but I just knew it was wrong, and he could do something about it if he wanted to and I couldn’t figure out why he wanted this to happen. I was maybe 11 or 12. It was these things and it was very troubling for me because even up to the time I ran away from home, I was on my way to church when I ran away from home. Church was a constant. I don’t care what stuff I got into, every Sunday we left home going to church; that was one constant.
Revolution: Can you talk some more about what it was like among the youth?
Hank: A lot doesn’t get told in a lot of these documentaries and things like that. I remember seeing a scene from Eyes on the Prize (from episode 4 of the documentary film, available online) and one of these SNCC organizers was getting ready to go to a demonstration, and this was a demonstration when mainly a lot of the youth were involved. So he ask them, “Before you go, everybody empty your pockets.” And one of the things I saw, and I laughed about because it was really, really consistent with what was going on there... Everybody started emptying their pockets and you had all these pocket knives that was lined up on the ground. And one of the things you don’t see when you look at these films about the attacks on Black people in particular, the dogs and the water hoses, you don’t ever see the scenes where people are actually stabbing the dogs, slitting the dogs and stuff like that. This doesn’t get shown and I do think that has something to do with not seeing how people actually did go up against it and what that might inspire. This is not what you ever see in terms of how people responded back, in one form or another. And people talk about the “riots” where people en masse actually did those kind of things but then there were all kinds of confrontations that went on all the time. There was the “official” version of the struggle against segregation in the mass movement, but then there was daily life in which people confronted and had to confront different things in different ways and a lot of it actually did consist of fighting back. People would try things. Youth would just try things on their own. We would go to a bowling alley where we knew we shouldn’t be because it was all white, and we’d go in there and confrontations would break out and we’d get in fights and we’d get chased out of the neighborhood. We would go to white recreation centers and challenge people there and get into things. Now none of this was “sanctioned” by the movement, but this is what’s happening among the youth all over the place and it wasn’t just the crew of people I was involved with. It was just part of testing the waters and actually saying “all right, we have a right to be here and we’re gonna be here and so be it.”
You would go some place like this all-white recreation center; we’d go there and people would be treated a certain way, and we would get our little group and we’d just march around the outside singing “we shall overcome” and daring anybody to mess with anybody out doing that. This is not by the church. This is not by SCLC. We did those things as part of; a lot of it was just in defiance of the official movement and a lot of it had to do with how older people approached things. I think there was a lot of defiance in what was going on, but as youth we wanted to express in our own way.
Revolution: Can you describe how your thinking developed and changed as you got more deeply involved and as the movement itself was coming up against bigger challenges and questions?
Hank: There were some things that happened that were very significant. One was the whole question of seeing that there was a system, a Jim Crow system, and not white people that were responsible.
Revolution: How did you make that change in your understanding?
Hank: It took some time and a while, and part of it was the first thing was to actually look at, in my mind, this is how I looked at things: Bull Connor was white, the policemen were white, the firemen were white, George Wallace [governor of Alabama] was white, the people who owned these stores were white, and these were the people who were denying and messing over Black people, oppressing Black people. Everything I saw pointed to white people as being the problem. There was nothing, Jim Crow or other things, that didn’t point to white people, so I grew up thinking the problem was white people—not that it was the system of Jim Crow, it was their system.
When people came on the Mule Train—people from all over the country of all different nationalities—you began to question: Is this all white people, or is it just some people? Is this all white people in the South, or is it that white people from the North are different than white people in the South? Because you didn’t have, that I could tell, anyone in the South, white people who were actually supporting what was going on. And part of this was you ran the risk of being brutalized and murdered as well, so you didn’t have that open kind of thing. So I began to see at least not all white people are the enemy. Some people will stand with you, and this, that and the other.
Revolution: Did you have views about the role of the federal government at that time? You were describing to me that when JFK was assassinated, everybody was crying. Did you have a hope or expectation that the federal government would come in and intervene and force George Wallace to back off segregation?
Hank: I wouldn’t say it was my expectation as a youth one way or the other; I do know that was the expectations of our parents. I do know for myself as well as most Black people at that time, Kennedy was seen as a friend and someone who was working to actually help Black people overall and in particular in the South this is part of the persona. I know right after his assassination there was not a Black house I went into, including my own, that did not have a picture of Jesus and a picture of Kennedy.
Revolution: Selma. Were you aware of that when you were in Birmingham in 1965?
Hank: These are things that actually hit national news.
Revolution: Did it have any effect of making you aware that this was not just a problem in Birmingham or just a problem of Alabama, but it was much more extensive, or did you already know that?
Hank: We knew what was going on in Mississippi, what was going on in Georgia. We used to have these things with kids from other states who would come and visit and talk. We knew who the mayors were and who the governors were. We was talking about the hatchet-toting governor of another state, “at least our governor don’t run people out of the restaurant with hatchets.” Because it’s televised, it’s really out there. So you get some history of what’s happening in Mississippi, what’s happening in Georgia, Little Rock. Unless you’re just not keeping up with things, you have a very good sense of the connections between what’s happening to Black people all over the South.
Revolution: In the wake of that you began to see H. Rap Brown and Stokely Carmichael from SNCC on the news, what effect did that have on you? And on others around you?
Hank: It had a real positive effect. One of the things is that they weren’t calling on people to be non-violent. They weren’t calling on people to be calm. They were actually telling people they had the right to stand up and fight. For youth this was different than “turn the other cheek,” and it was articulated from the standpoint of the need for people to actually stand up. I was still torn. Torn between whether or not you could actually change anything. And then my religious beliefs about putting things in god’s hands. I could understand that what happened to Black people was wrong and nothing could deter me from that understanding and the need to act on that. That in itself begins to get to a lot of questions. This is when I hadn’t met “non-believers” or atheists. It was not until I got into SNCC that the whole question of whether there was a god or not a god was even being raised as a question.
Revolution: When did you leave Birmingham?
Hank: I ran away from home when I was 15. There was this friend; I always hung out with older kids. He had graduated from high school and was working in Atlanta and he came home for the Thanksgiving holiday and I made up my mind because I was kicked out of school for having sideburns. This was1967 and the school is an integrated school at that point. It was kind of ironic that because I had sideburns, I’m kicked out. Then you had the Beatles all around the school and you had all the white kids with the Beatles kind of looks but we had to cut our sideburns. I got kicked out for not cutting those. It was a bunch of racist bullshit, but I was also fed up with everything that was happening there.
I wanted out of the city and my home and Atlanta was an opportunity.
So I went to live with this friend in Atlanta, found a job and worked with him doing yard work in one of these rich suburban areas of Atlanta. Up the street from us, there was an H. Rap Brown Community Center. And it was just that—a community center where they had it open to kids. So we used to go there. We were very athletic, and we liked to do stuff and we went there and played ping pong—and we start talking. People would start talking about what they’re about, what they were doing and eventually I end up joining SNCC.
In Atlanta, there was a movement that was different than Birmingham. Birmingham mainly consisted of the civil rights movement. In Atlanta, you had the Black liberation struggles and a lot of organized nationalism. I am very much into the streets and fighting, but all the different trends, as we call them today, and all the organizations that existed back then—I am new to all of this. And in SNCC, it was a mixed bag of people. In its main character it was students from Morehouse and Spelman [two Black colleges]. There was also Black intellectuals and intelligentsia who was all a part of this. They were debating all kind of stuff going on in society from all kinds of viewpoints, and it was really new and exciting and it had a very militant and radical edge to it. In that process, I became more radicalized, to even begin to grapple with these big questions going on in society. If you look back in Birmingham and the movement there, it was a different feel and mixture of things. The question of how to end oppression of Black people was very widely debated in Atlanta and nobody was putting forth elections or voting in that circle. But there was a lot of reformism nonetheless. One of the things that still sticks in my mind is the question of land for a separate Black territory: Black people can only be free if they form a country. So autonomy for Black people in the Black Belt South was one of the questions that was being widely discussed. These were not things on the agenda in Birmingham. The kind of political climate that existed in Atlanta was so different even on a cultural level—so much more sophisticated. This is the beginning of me being introduced to radical ideas and solutions. Before then my framework was the civil rights movement, so this opened up a new way of looking and thinking about the world.
At that point they were the Student National Coordinating Committee. When I joined SNCC, they had both changed their name [from Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee] to more reflect their break with non-violence, and also at that point they had kicked out all the white people that was in it, and in that sense it was more of a nationalist organization, but it had a lot of ties with a lot of different groupings. I remember people debating over whether or not it was the right strategy, and part of the people were saying that because of the white purse strings it made them have to cohere to a certain kind of view.
Revolution: Earlier you mentioned further questioning your religious views as you were getting involved with SNCC. Can you talk more about that process?
Hank: It was people raising the right questions, as BA would say. If there was a god, why would he do this? Why would he do that? If he could stop all this stuff, why doesn’t he? People were actually challenging me to look at my faith and my belief in god and say, “why?” And people (believe me various people with different views about why this stuff is happening) did point to that the only reason this stuff is happening is because of the system of Jim Crow. And I got a deeper sense of Jim Crow and the laws, etc. These people were very factual about different things and could point you to different things about the system and it raised more questions. This is where the whole question of white people begins to get raised. It’s not just white people. It’s the system. You get rid of the system. Racism is used to enforce that system.
And then my thinking became, “I’m going to live my life as a righteous person. I’m not going to do certain things. I’m not going to be a bad person.” In other words, if I am wrong on this question then you have to judge me on the merits of what the fuck I do. It was a whole long process, and like I say it took a long time to really, really make the rupture that there’s no superior being, there’s nothing out here but matter in motion. That’s beginning to come into me getting into Marxism and Mao.
Revolution: What was being involved with SNCC like?
Hank: Actually I became a revolutionary in SNCC, and one of the things was that we were much more radical. One of the things I remember—at the national office, we got communiques from all over the world. We got the Peking Review, we got the newsletter from Cuba, we got stuff from Vietnam, we got all kinds of communiques came to the national office, in bulk. It was in reading some of those things; it was reading the diary of Che in terms of the Cuban revolution. At that point SNCC itself in character was more and more leaning toward revolution as being the only way out of this and it was very diverse and I actually remember a group of us wanted to get training.
I had a lot of respect for H. Rap Brown. He was somebody who had a profound impact on me and this question of leadership was really, really a big one. One of the things I remember is when he went underground and when he reemerged (he was shot and spent a few years in prison). When he came out of prison he was a Muslim. And I saw him. He came to Atlanta and he opened up a boutique shop selling incense and this and that. And I was devastated because this was somebody I looked to for leadership, this was somebody I would follow to the end of the earth and he was in this boutique shop. I went to confront him about that. At that time I saw him as selling out. And we had some very heated words and it almost bordered on fighting. I just remember leaving there disgusted. It took me a long time to get over this. This is something that BA helped me understand when he wrote this thing around Huey—about there being a limitation to people’s understanding, that they can only go so far because of their understanding of what’s needed and how to get there. It took me a long time to actually not feel ill feelings toward H. Rap Brown because of what he came to represent. Again, the way BA talks about this helped me a lot to view this differently. BA talks about this in terms of what these people were running up against. This actually helped me view this differently and put it in another perspective and even to appreciate who H. Rap Brown was and what he was during those times. Not to become them or to use this as an excuse or that they couldn’t have dealt with this in other ways, but at least to have more understanding of what they were running up against. At a certain point you develop these views towards people who were in the movement that they are either sellouts or traitors. That’s a hard thing when it’s people who you actually looked up to.
Revolution: How did you go from being a revolutionary nationalist-minded person in SNCC to becoming a revolutionary communist?
Hank: I met these two guys when I was in SNCC. These people introduced me to Mao and Marxism and again it was through the Red Book. They were always quoting Mao.
A friend took me under his wing and began to get me into Mao, and they both often talked about Lenin and Marx, but I wasn’t quite ready for what we called back then “European philosophy” [Marxism]. Mao I could deal with, but “European philosophy” I wasn’t quite ready for. It was in early ’70 that he and another SNCC staffer were on their way to a trial of Rap’s in Maryland and they were killed in a car bombing, and that was a big, big thing for me. The authorities were trying to say that they did it to themselves. They were trying to say that this was connected to some sort of act of terrorism in relationship to Rap’s trial that was going on, which was totally bullshit. Everybody who knew these people knew that was not even a remote possibility. They were killed by authorities and that was a big blow.
Coming through the movement, you got introduced to every kind of philosophy out there; in terms of the nationalism. There was revolutionary nationalism, which is part of what SNCC was, a revolutionary nationalist organization, who saw the struggles of Black people as essential of what they were fighting for and about. There were Pan-Africanists, who saw the Black people’s struggle here connected to the “motherland” of Africa, and that Black people in this country or anywhere around the world could never be free unless the motherland was free, and this is something that Stokely actually became a part of during this same period. There was the cultural nationalists, who saw the only way of struggle was through culture—and a lot of the culture was really, really good, but a lot of it was divorced from changing the world. And then you also had what I guess we would call “pork-chop nationalists”—this was just a weird form of nationalism that saw everything that was going on had to do with white people, Yakub was the devil. It had something in common with the Black Muslims’ view that white people were the devil. But it was mixed in with the dashikis, with the culture, and a whole lot of mysticism along with it.
And the reason I’m raising all this, is all of this was a kind of framework that the movement was a part of, and I was a part of, and everybody was putting forth all these different views, even SNCC itself was a mixed bag of different philosophies. And Atlanta was a kind of center, particularly for the cultural things that was going on. Atlanta was similar to Harlem in that sense. It had a very large Black middle class in Atlanta, even at that time, and there was a lot of influence on the movement. It’s like you had all this “Blackness,” you know what I’m talkin’ bout?—that was resonating in different kind of ways. I was affected by a lot of that, and you just had to sort through what was bullshit, what was not, what was good. Again, there was a lot of struggle, and there were key individuals who played an important role in me doing that. It was trying to get a sense of what the problem was, what was the real problem. Do we need revolution? Do we need some kind of reform?
A lot of questions that came up in Ferguson were a lot of the questions that came up back in the day. And a lot of the resolutions being put forward—police review boards, more Black policemen, more Black officials—all these things being put forward as the ways to resolve things, a lot of this shit affected Black people.
Revolution: What convinced you? Because certainly some people pursued that other road—for instance, John Lewis left SNCC to become a congressman. What influenced you to decide that wasn’t the answer?
Hank: I just thought that this system wasn’t reformable. I just thought that what it actually did was really fucked up. And mainly it was coming from a Black perspective: what was the whole history of Black people in this country? That there’s nothing it’s shown me, in this country’s history that said that anything other than revolution would reform it. Now what kind of revolution? This is the thing about not being scientific and not having a real understanding of shit. This is where again, and BA really hammers on [the limitations of this view]... this thing about “all we wanted to do was get rid of this, alright? Get rid of this, and then we’ll be in power.” And I think this has a lot to do with two things: revenge, and also this is part of the church shit in a way, the thing about “the last shall be first”....
Revolution: So what began to convince you, how did you go from where you were there, to actually getting connected up to revolutionary communists?
Hank: I was for socialism. That communism word had a baaaaaad connotation for me, OK? I want to make revolution, I want to make socialism, and socialism is more acceptable to me and where I was. And again, I started reading about socialism. People started to go different places. People went to [revolutionary] China, people went to the Soviet Union... and then they’d talk about these things.
But it was through reading Mao—and this is one of the finer things about Mao and nationalism: you’re reading this Chinese guy and you know that they kicked ass over in China, and all these great things in socialist China, and you’re reading this, and this guy is always quoting this white guy! And these white guys [chuckles], Marx, Lenin, Engels and Stalin. And the more you’re reading, and see the influence that they had on him, and the more you’re internalizing who he is and what he represents, you have to come off of some of your nationalism. You had to begin looking into what they’re saying. You had to begin looking into whether or not this is where I want to go, and this is where humanity needs to go. And this is not a one-step process, because you are actually beginning to rupture with the way you are looking at different things.
Revolution: In relationship to this, how did the struggles round the world and that whole environment influence what you were thinking?
Hank: It had a big impact. Everything that was going on in the world at that time. There was the Cold War that was going on, and there was the Vietnam War going on, and there was more and more resistance to that. You can have two thoughts at the same time. I had a deep hatred for Jim Crow and how this system treated people; at the same time, there was feelings of patriotism about defending the country against the threat of this communist thing... the threat from the Soviet Union and the Vietnam War being the “spread of communism,” and all of this.
My best friend got drafted into the service, and instead of going into the army he volunteered for the Marines, and I actually said I was going with him. It was the buddy plan we were goin’ on, I had to get my parents to sign and all of that. And it was through a lot of struggle with people in SNCC, up until the day I was supposed to meet my friend at the induction center, I was still going. And there was a lot of struggle with the people in SNCC about what this war was about, what it represented, and they showed me this picture: if I remember correctly it was a call from the Vietnamese people to Black soldiers, and it resonated so much with me. It said, Black soldiers, am I the one who bombed your churches, raped your women... in other words, it was painting a picture of Birmingham, and the history of Black people, and why are you over here fighting? So... I didn’t go! This is the power of ideology, and how you understand things, and how different things can be working on you. I wasn’t quite in “solid core” at that point, but influenced by all kinds of things, including personal relationships. This guy was my best friend, and I’m not gonna lie, there was a certain kind of thing, growing up under “John Wayne” kind of shit that was an influence, so that was a process going on of breaking with all kinda shit.
Revolution: So this is the atmosphere where all these big questions about the nature of society and social relations are being struggled over, and at the time you left SNCC and joined the Black Workers Congress (BWC), people who considered themselves Marxists and communists, but combined that with nationalism (my people first). Can you talk about that and then later why you left BWC and joined up with the Revolutionary Communist Party led by Bob Avakian?
Hank: This is where I undertook to study more Marxist theory. It actually began to take hold. There was all these different organizations in society and in the world. I remember reading Mao. And you read about different things the Chinese revolution was doing, you read about different things happening in the international arena, but it was hard for me to ever [find] things where he didn’t talk about the need for a party and the role that a vanguard party played... and this was something that I think a lot of people began to grapple with. If we were going to do what we said we were going to do [make a revolution], how were we going to do it with these different groupings? This was the question in my mind and I’m sure in other people’s minds. I do remember at a certain point the Revolutionary Union [the forerunner to the RCP] was trying to coalesce different groupings to develop a vanguard party. You know, you like to think that you were, even when you weren’t. Then you face the hard reality: if you’re a nationalist, is there something wrong in relation to being a communist? And what is a communist? So even the question of becoming a communist, there was still the rupturing with nationalism. And I do remember the struggle over this...
Revolution: You’re getting into very interesting questions. Among young people coming up there’s the view that people’s life experience is enough to understand the world, they don’t need any kind of “outside” ideology; that Black people who have suffered this oppression are more capable of understanding where this needs to go. What did you come to understand about all of that, and what would be the implications for the youth today who are grappling with some of the same questions about how to get out of this?
Hank: I do think for a lot of people, including myself, people do have experiences that do reflect a lot about not just what happened to them but the oppression of Black people—but even how you see that and sum that up actually takes more than your experience. I’m not downplaying the role of experience in all of this. But understanding where all this is coming from and what is possible—it takes theory, actually. [Your experience] is not enough to understand all these different things.
People are responding, in this country as a whole, to the oppression of Black people, in particular to police murders [of Black and Latino people]. This is really important. And there are a number of different things that are actually being put forward as a way to resolve a lot of these things. Until I got a basic understanding of what is the problem in society, what is the solution, what is it actually gonna take to end all this, and not just for Black people but for humanity as a whole. If you don’t have that as a framework, it’s like Lenin’s quote about how until people get an understanding of different class forces and their views on things, people will always be victims of deceit and self-deceit.
And that’s the role that theory plays: It actually enables you to understand the world. It’s not like people become conscious, and all of a sudden, that’s it. Even when I really believed I was a communist and had some sense of internationalism, for many years the question of revenge was still there and part of that was not having a solid understanding of where things really need to go and how to get them there. Because remember earlier we were talking about seeing socialism, and the first shall be last? All right, part of the thing is just getting to there. Part of the view is that that’s enough. And in my own mind, as a communist, I was still wrestling with these questions, and all the connotations.
There were a couple of things that I think were important to really becoming a communist, and part of the Party. Most of us had come to understand that if you were going to make revolution in this country, you were going to have to be part of a vanguard party, multinational in character, and that was a driving force. Even though there were contradictions around “Black workers take the lead,” there was still an understanding that we needed a party if we were going to do this.
I remember a group of us actually went to hear this debate between Bob Avakian and two other people. And it was all on this question of party-building. The other two people were leading figures of some group. They all gave presentations, and I remember a discussion of it afterwards, and the profound impact Avakian had on us as a group and this had a lot to do with us proceeding forward to be part of the coalition to debate these questions out.
Revolution: Could you talk about that—"Black workers take the lead”—what was wrong with that view, and how did you come to that conclusion?
Hank: Well, we were certainly looking at things from the standpoint of nationalism. We understood some of the context of the need for a working class, the proletariat, to lead all of humanity to emancipation, we had some understanding of that, but also for a lot of us—and it would come out in SNCC—there was still a lot of distrust for white people, and if white people were the fundamental people who were leading this, then it would lead to something that would not be good. Part of it was that in order for this to actually go anywhere, it was essential, from our perspective, that Black people play a leading role.
But that didn’t comprehend the most far-sighted vision and understanding. Who represented that is what should lead. What understanding could actually transform things for humanity. Eventually some of us, a small minority, actually came to that. Carl Dix, one of the founders of the Revolutionary Communist Party, who was also a member of the BWC at the time, often talks about his all-nighter, his encounter with BA—and he was a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party. And others of us, we took up revolutionary communism later.
It was understanding that this IS the way forward, this is the right thing to do, and also, again, breaking with some of the nationalism, becoming more of an internationalist. When you’re looking at things through the prism of your own nationality, then everybody else gets left out. Your struggle becomes more important than the struggles of the farmworkers, of Spanish- speaking people. You’re proceeding from what you have “invested” in all of this, in a sense... because most of us came forward in response to what was happening to Black people, and you sacrificed quite a bit, including time spent with families and friends. But once you understand you’re doing this as part of all humanity, once you understand that you’re doing this as part of ending everything that you hate, not just for “your people” but for the people of the world, it means more. And there was other factors: you look at the tremendous sacrifice and heroism of the Chinese people, what they were doing to support liberation struggle of people all over the world, including of Black people, their view towards internationalism, then you have a responsibility, if you consider yourself to be a communist, to proceed from that. Understanding that this is about humanity, about ALL the horrors—this is really important.
There was a lot of documents circulated among us and there was a lot of struggle in the BWC. And again, only a few of us went, but it wasn’t just by ourselves, there was a lot of struggle, Red Papers and other papers were circulated, and people even wrote replies. It was serious, and people took it serious. I think those who did join the Party actually made the right choice.
Revolution: If you were addressing these youth today, in the middle of this mushrooming struggle against the oppression of Black people, when people are saying here we are, 50 years after Selma, people look back on the courage and sacrifices that were made then—and even the Black middle class is somewhat saying, some of us may have done OK in this past period, although nobody escapes what Black people are subjected to in this country; and a lot of youth are for the first time raising their heads and saying this is a horror show that’s going on—so what would you want to convey to them from your experience?
Hank: I do think what they’re doing, it’s important. And I do know from experience these kinds of struggles raise a LOT of questions for people about the nature of all of this and what it’s actually going to take to end this. And they’re going to be presented with a lot of different outlooks and ideologies about “problem and solution.” And I do think that in terms of what BA and this Party [the RCP] represents and the need to check this out more, one of the things about my own experience is that, as I was fighting against this society, I did follow my convictions to wherever the fuck they led me. There was nothing in my life that said I was going to end up being a revolutionary communist. But there were things out there that I wanted to understand, that I wanted to know. And we didn’t have a party out there, but we did have advanced views and elements, and these things actually led me to where I am. And now there IS a Party, and this is the thing about BA and how he is challenging people to follow through on their convictions to really end these outrages.
Look, it’s confusing as a muthafucker out there for these people right now, what they’re trying to grapple with. But there IS a Party [the RCP] and a leader [BA] that’s actually done a lot of the work, that actually does have a scientific understanding of where all this shit that you’re going through actually comes from; they have a scientific understanding of what it’s actually gonna take to get rid of it. There is the leadership that’s been developed in the course of these years that actually is capable of leading revolution, based on the new synthesis of communism brought forward by BA. It’s something that they themselves need to actually get into, they need to check this out, AND compare and contrast to other things they’re going to encounter. I really do think that’s an important part of their development, in how they step forward. And for us, it’s important to recognize that these questions ARE out there in society, and that we need to make this accessible to people. They shouldn’t be “out in the desert wandering aimlessly.” It’s important for us to be in the mix and giving people this understanding of a way out. Because, again: I gravitated towards this; many other people went other ways—there is these other elements out there trying to shape and influence things. In all BA’s speeches, he always ends with a challenge to people to get with and check out this Party, and to always follow where your conviction leads you. They’re running up against some shit out there. The genie was let out of the bottle, and even for the conservative element, even for people on the “left,” it is hard to contain this fury that was released.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revcom.us/Revolution received this letter from a revolutionary ex-prisoner.We feel this is an important letter to circulate among prisoners and more broadly.
To my brothers and sisters locked down behind the walls:
One important dynamic that developed during the historic uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, that began last August after the police execution of 18-year-old Michael Brown for “walking while Black” was that brothers and sisters who the morning before were into it with each other in rivalries between different street organizations and other conflicts, courageously and defiantly stood together in the face of racist pigs desperately trying to repress the rebellion. The world watched the people of Ferguson stand boldly and unrelentingly in the face of old-school Jim Crow tactics like threatening people with snarling, vicious police dogs straining on leashes held by white cops, to the New Jim Crow-era tactics of armored assault vehicles with snipers atop aiming down their sights at women and children holding hand-lettered “Justice for Mike Brown” posters, body-armor and desert-camo-clad SWAT teams with assault rifles and no ID tags, and the flash-bangs and tear gas of advancing police blockades attempting to push the overwhelmingly Black protesters out of the streets — their utterly failed attempts to get people to “go away” and get this rebellion off the streets and out of the view of the world.
In the face of all of that — and I was there personally on those front lines in those first days, in that tears gas with the people of Ferguson — many, many young brothers and sisters who live every day with the boot of these racist pigs on their necks for the first time saw and experienced the power of standing collectively against the real enemy — the police, the armed enforcers of this whole racist, oppressive system. Blue, red, Crips, Bloods, GDs, Vice Lords, Folks, People — it didn’t matter what organization they represented, or who they rode with — what mattered was that for the first time in way too damn long the people refused to accept another police murder of another Black youth, and the daily repression of police-state New Jim Crow America.
And those of us who have spent time behind the walls, many of us have had similar experiences when we are locked down with brothers and sisters who are in different street organizations, or of difference races. We’ve had the chance to stand together and put those differences aside in the face of our real enemy. Many of you, I’m sure, know of (and some of you, like myself, took part in and/or supported) the California prison hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013. Tens of thousands of prisoners, of all different racial backgrounds, from many different street organizations, came together and put their lives on the line to demand an end to the torture of solitary confinement and demand humane treatment. In fact, the lead organizers of the California prison hunger strike collectively issued an Agreement to End Hostilities in October 2012, in which they called on brothers and sisters locked up across California — as well as on the streets — to put aside their differences and direct the struggle towards the oppressors running this system.
These examples show the power and potential of what we can collectively accomplish when we stand together and recognize who our real enemies are. And look, we know the youth are far too often engaged in rivalries and violence against each other, all of us locked on the bottom of this society, fighting over crumbs or for a little respect. Many of us have been caught up in and been part of that ourselves, myself included. This must be transformed, we must be part of transforming ourselves, and the world.
I’ve been through that struggle myself. I was never no “big time shot caller” or anything, but during my time in prison — particularly during the years I did in solitary confinement — I began to see how all the shit we were going through to try to survive on the bottom of this society was part of how this capitalist system operates. And through a lot of study and struggle, in which this newspaper was very integral, I came out of prison and got involved in the movement for revolution. Because nothing short of revolution is going to end this — the world doesn’t have to be like this and can be radically different.
But you don’t have to be a revolutionary to see and know that if we put aside our differences, especially those of us in street organizations, we can be a powerful force in the struggle to push back the New Jim Crow, the pigs fucking with and trying to lock us up every day, murdering Black and brown youth every fucking day.
The Stop Mass Incarceration Network has called for April 14 to be a nationwide day of shutting this system down, to take forward and heighten the struggle that kicked off in Ferguson and spread nationwide through the end of the year. An important component to that would be for those youth and O.G.’s and others in street organizations to make a formal call for nationwide cessation of hostilities with each other and to take up being part of the struggle against the New Jim Crow. So we are calling on those of you locked down to take this up. Write to us — and to everyone you know on the streets, as well — and give us your thinking on this. I know you have been watching and reading and keeping keenly abreast of the historic uprising that has been going down nationwide since Ferguson kicked it off in August. Many of us have been in the streets a lot, and one shortcoming has been getting the voices of the brothers and sisters behind the walls into the mix of this. A nationwide Call for a Cessation of Hostilities between street organizations could play a monumental role in taking this struggle to a higher level.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
February 2, 2015
To: PRLF Volunteers
Greetings to all, and I am so grateful to all of you for continuing to keep the struggle and resistance alive. Most of all for keeping us prisoners informed of what is truly transpiring in the streets.
For a second I thought the protests stopped, however I see they are still going strong. Just that the amerikkkan controlled news does not wish to acknowledge them. We cannot give them any breaks, as you are well aware the pigs used the shootings of the two pigs in New York to gain sympathy and to silence the resistance.
The black and Latino pigs are only modern day house niggers. They crack the whips harder then the white pigs to show their white brethren they are nothing like us. Even in the prison settings the black and Latino pigs are worse, because they want the white masters to see they do their jobs exceptionally well by punishing the black and Latino prisoners worse than anything.
The resistance can’t allow anything to stop its forward progression... What about all the black and Latino youth that have been slaughtered by the pigs for no reason.
The United Snakes promotes peaceful protests in other countries and condemns world leaders if they hurt those protesting. Imagine if 1 million people camped out at our nation’s capital, and stayed for a week peacefully. Do you think it would be allowed, hell no! They will gas and beat and arrest all protestors! ....
“The power of the Tongue”
I appreciate the 3-part interview with an Ex-prisoner that y’all have sent me. There were a lot of topics that was spoken on that I agree with strongly. There should be more interviews like that being put out in society and in prison more so people can become conscious of what’s going on around them and why it’s happening the way it’s happening. But the crazy thing is that people are too lazy to get up and make a change or either scared or don’t care bout what’s going on for real. And this is crippling our society to strive to its fullest aspirations to make a change. Our people’s minds are so brain-washed and dumb-downed by the enemies of us that they don’t even realize they’re programed for destruction, and that’s the scary thing about it because what you don’t know will kill you and history has already beared witness to this and this is exactly what this system is doing to our people. Killing us. So this is something that pertains to everybody on a world wide scale that determines humanity’s path of life or Death. So I encourage everyone who’s conscious to help bring our friends and family minds out of darkness and wake up to the wars of the world we’re fighting against and become active in this Revolution to a New life by the power of the tongue.
I’m at AAA Correctional facility (the worst prison in Alabama) in lock-up 24 hrs a day in closed custody for rebelling against this wicked system... for the bullshit they do down here that don’t reach out to society. There are a lot of us in lock-up Resisting against this System and I’ve been educating some of them on the works of BA and the movement. So I’ma need a lil help with getting more literature to keep my Fellow Brothers informed. I would like y’all to give us a shout out for still striving in this struggle to let society know what we’re doing here at AAA in Alabama. We are down here fighting for Justice to get something done about this prison and the way they’re running it because this prison is specifically designed to keep us in prison and to stay here and suffer under oppression and we need help to protest against this prison out in society because we need it.
January 25, 2015
My name is YYY. [I] am currently housed at XX in ZZ and recently came across your newspaper and as a young black male who has 2 young sons age 6 and 1 years old, it hit me hard because I’ve never looked at the things we as black males go through the way I do now after reading your paper. It has gave me way more insight on a lot of things that black males lack. Of me being born and raised in California I was subject to the product of my environment, in which means that since I’m from the other side of my city that the black males from the other side was the enemy, and it was not only my duty but the duty of all my homies to smash them any and every chance we get and the same for them. But now I realize that I was doing the white man/police job and that is to extinct us [as] a race. It’s okay for a cop to kill a black male because he has the badge but when we do it they win big, we get life and another black man is dead. Thats 2 less niggas they haft to deal with. This could have me on one for days.
What I would like is a subscription to your paper please. I don’t have anybody out there and my money is beyond funny, but I believe this is something I could share with other black males at risk in prison, so please help me and if you got time look on da computer and google Lamon Haslip* “Daddy-o” . A Fresh 18 year old From Moreno Valley, CA. Killed by a cop while handcuffed behind his back, executed one shot to the head and still no answers or justice. Yes he had a gun in his front waistband but he was cuffed, layed on the ground—he should have been searched before cuffed period, and the reason it touch me so hard is because that was/is my Homie from my hood and it’s been swept under the rug—so yeah I look forward to hearing from you guys thank you.. This Happened 12-18-12.
UNTIL THEN: RIP Michael Brown, Lamon Haslip,* Trayvon Martin, Tamir Rice, Akai Gurley, Eric Garner. They Deserve More, We Deserve More, PERIOD
HANDS UP DONT SHOOT! WE WANT ANSWERS!
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
Naomi Klein's influential book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate evades confronting the actual forces behind the climate emergency and rules out the radical changes the crisis demands.
Reposted December 14, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We are reposting this polemic versus Naomi Klein’s influential book This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate that appeared at revcom.us earlier this year—with the following intro, dated December 7, 2015, from A World to Win News Service.
A World to Win News Service. Heads of most of the world's states and governments are continuing to meet in Paris for the CoP21 climate crisis, chaired by the French foreign minister whose government is bombing and sending soldiers to Syria and unleashing terror tactics against immigrant communities and potential climate demonstrators at home. Protest activities in favour of the climate are taking place in Paris and other cities across Europe and the world. The slogan ''System change, not climate change'' is widespread, but the content remains ambiguous. Do we mean that the system can be changed to save the environment, or that the system is just that, a system that operates according to an overall inherent logic and can't operate in any other way? Can we take the climate emergency as an opportunity to make corporations and governments accept a gradual process of making the system more human and green, or can the planet only be saved through a whole new, and ultimately global, economic, social and political system, which requires that the states that enforce that system be overthrown and replaced by a new kind of revolutionary political power? As these questions are discussed and debated, the views of Naomi Klein have currency among many of the more radical-minded protesters. As a response to these ideas, we are reprinting the following review of her book from the March 2, 2015 issue of Revolution, newspaper of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA (revcom.us).
2014 was the warmest year in Earth’s recorded history. The ice caps at the North and South poles are melting and sea levels are rising; extreme storms hit harder and more often; carbon in the atmosphere is turning the oceans more acidic, posing great threats to marine life.
This Revolution special issue focuses on the environmental emergency that now faces humanity and earth's ecosystems. In this issue we show:
We face a real and accelerating climate emergency. It is driven by the relentless burning of oil, coal, and natural gas; destruction of rain forests; and environmentally harmful agriculture. Scientists warn of the mass loss of species, of human civilization being compromised, even the possibility of a planet on which human beings can no longer survive—if things continue as they are.
This is a dire crisis, and the environmental movement to save the planet is growing and spreading. Within this movement and beyond, big questions are being discussed and debated: Why is the climate crisis advancing so relentlessly... why is the system’s response to “let the planet burn”... and what will it take to stop looming environmental disaster?
In this setting, Naomi Klein’s new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate is causing a lot of stir. Klein is a writer and radical activist who is very influential in this movement. The buzz and controversy around her book have everything to do with the title: capitalism vs. the climate. Indeed, Klein offers valuable exposure of how the economies of the industrialized capitalist countries, especially the United States, have degraded the ecosystems of the planet. And there is excitement about the book because she claims to offer a way forward.
But, as we will show in this polemic, Naomi Klein does not get at the root causes of the climate crisis. And she puts forward a program based on the illusion that it is possible for THIS system to become something it cannot be: environmentally sustainable. Yes, we must “change everything.” But to do so requires revolution.
Klein passionately declares: “Our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life”—and she’s right. But for Klein, the problem is not the actual nature and functioning of the capitalist system of production but a particular form of capitalism. She says:
We have not done the things that are necessary to lower emissions because those things fundamentally conflict with deregulated capitalism, the reigning ideology for the entire period we have been struggling to find a way out of this crisis (p. 18, our emphasis).
As Klein sees it, an extreme ideology, “free market fundamentalism” (sometimes called “neoliberalism”), has hijacked economic priorities and decision-making. She argues that this ideology is setting the terms of things: government regulations are cut back, public life gets more privatized, oil companies and the ultra-wealthy more easily buy off politicians, and uncontrolled extraction of fossil fuels leads to a “careless economy.” This free market fundamentalism is what she wants to change. And she advocates a mass politics that will pressure those on top to bend away from this “free market capitalism” to move towards a more caring and “greener” economy.
Klein indicts and rejects “deregulated” capitalism—but not capitalism. She does not probe deeper into the capitalist system and its underlying ways of operating. But that is where you have to go to scientifically understand what is driving the environmental crisis, and what it will take to confront and act on this crisis on the scale and with the urgency required.
The special environmental emergency issue of Revolution explains this well:
Any society is a system that operates according to certain rules, like a game. If the rules are violated, the system doesn’t work.... So you need to understand the rules. And you need to understand whether you can make the game work by modifying the rules, or whether you need to be playing a different game altogether.
The same is true with the system of capitalism. Yes, there are individual capitalists and corporations who have created the crisis. But we need to understand if there is something about the rules of that game that have led to this crisis. We need to understand whether we can deal with this crisis by working within the rules of capitalism, including perhaps modifying those rules—or whether capitalism itself must go. The future of life itself depends on our getting this right.
So what are the core rules of capitalism?
Rule #1: Everything is a commodity and everything must be done for profit. Everything under capitalism is produced to be exchanged, to be sold. What gets produced, and how it is produced, is motivated and measured by profit: whether it’s housing, computers, medicine, or energy. And profit comes from the exploitation of billions of human beings on this planet. Under capitalism, the environment is regarded and treated as a free “input” to be seized and poured into production for profit. And so rain forests are cleared for agribusiness, pristine wilderness and coastlines are auctioned off for oil drilling... and the planet heats up.
Klein says that the problem is that an “ideological wall has blocked a serious response to climate change” (p. 72). But it is the material-social system of production for profit that is the foundation of things. And the ideology of “markets bring freedom,” of “winner take all,” of “competition brings out the best”—this reflects and reinforces the system of production based on profit.
Rule #2: Capitalist production is privately owned and driven forward by the commandment expand-or-die. Competition runs through this whole system. It’s beat or be beaten. Apple takes on Microsoft. GM and VW battle over the China market. The key way to gain advantage is to cheapen costs, to introduce new technology to produce on a larger and more efficient scale—with devastating consequences to humanity and the planet. For the capitalists, this is not a matter of choice or greed, or the result of the blinders of an “ideological wall.” If individual capitals don’t invest and expand, and keep accumulating profit and more profit, they can’t stay in the game as profitable units of capital—and they go under or get gobbled up.
Klein wants the powers-that-be to “manage” what she calls “degrowth” to save the planet. But under THIS system, no person or group “manages” the economy. It is managed by these rules of the game. Yes, the capitalist state enacts regulations and standards to keep the system functioning. But it is not possible to consciously regulate the economy on a society-wide scale according to a rational plan. Why? Because of private ownership and competition. And you can’t have a capitalism that doesn’t grow. Suppose GM said to VW and Toyota, “We’re going to slow our growth to save the planet—and you can have the China market.” Well, goodbye to GM.
Rule #3 is the drive for global control. Capitalism is a worldwide system. It is made up of a handful of rich capitalist countries that dominate the world. It operates through a great divide: between the capitalist-imperialist countries and the countries of the Third World that it brutally oppresses and pillages.
Competition and rivalry between corporations and banks take place on this global playing field. But the most intense form of rivalry is between contending world powers for strategic control over regions, markets, and resources. Klein passionately indicts the big oil companies for what they have done to the environment. But oil is bigger than Exxon, bigger than the Koch brothers (right-wing billionaires and big-time political operatives whose companies include oil refining and distribution). Oil is a strategic commodity: control over oil supplies and oil markets brings with it leverage over the world economy. Oil is a strategic weapon of rivalry and intimidation. The U.S. imperialists under Obama, for example, have ramped up oil and natural gas production to maneuver against imperialist Russia as well as countries like Iran and Venezuela that depend on oil sales.
This is the nature of the system. And a fundamental consequence of these rules is that capitalism, as a system, cannot deal with the environment in a sustainable and rational way—even if an individual capitalist, or group of capitalists, wanted to.
Klein puts forward a program:
[I]f enough of us stop looking away and decide that climate change is a crisis worthy of a Marshall Plan level of response, then it will become one, and the political class will have to respond, both by making resources available and by bending the free market rules that have proven so pliable when elite interests are in peril (emphasis added, p. 6).
There is so much here that is wrong.
First, for a supposedly radical critic of the system to embrace the original Marshall Plan is outrageous. What was the Marshall Plan about? After World War 2 ended in 1945, the Western European economies were in a state of ruin, and there was widespread radical and revolutionary sentiment. The United States had come out of the war as the strongest imperialist power and provided aid and financing to rebuild and modernize economies like West Germany. This was the Marshall Plan. But this was not global humanitarianism.
The Marshall Plan had three basic objectives: to rescue capitalism and prevent revolution in Western Europe; to shore up Western Europe to stand against the then-socialist Soviet Union; and to ensure that the U.S. would stay the dominant imperialist power in the world capitalist system. The U.S. imperialists “bent” some of the rules, like offering low-interest loans, to achieve this. But it was the same game of capitalism.
Klein turns her head away from the savage consequences of reviving the world imperialist system: decades of cancerous growth based on cheap fossil fuels, the mass use of tens of thousands of chemicals whose environmental impact is harmful or unknown, and massive expansion of the automobile. The imperialist system that was revived and modernized carried out unjust and horrific wars in Korea, Algeria, Vietnam, and Iraq. The system that was revived and modernized forged a global network of sweatshop exploitation.
Sorry, Naomi Klein... but the Marshall Plan, along with financial institutions like the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, gave us the world we have, not the world we need!
Let’s go back to Klein’s program for action. She says that if we start to think differently and pressure the elites, they will bend the rules—and this will bring about a switch from oil, coal, and natural gas to solar and renewable forms of energy, investment in environmentally safe mass transit, and creation of new jobs. Klein makes it sound so very reasonable: it will be good for the capitalists who can invest in “green,” good for the people, and good for the planet.
Once again, Klein ignores the real rules of the game:
» Take the fossil-fuel industry. Huge amounts of resources, infrastructure (like pipelines), and knowledge are sunk into this sector. In a capitalist economy, this investment has to be made good on. In other words, in order to cover these huge investment costs and to return a profit, oil and natural gas have to be extracted and refined or liquefied—and then sold on the market. You can’t just move from oil to solar, like moving pieces on a chessboard.
To create a truly “green economy” would require a radical rupture in the structure of the economy, a monumental outlay of capital, and comprehensive planning: to break the dominance of the automobile, to create sustainable cities, to develop agriculture that does not rely on petroleum-based chemicals. Under capitalism, you can’t rapidly shift resources and the surplus produced in one sector of the economy to another—exactly because of private ownership and control.
» It is astonishing. Klein has written an over 500-page book about capitalism and climate change that barely says a word about the military. In fact, the U.S. imperialist military—with its tanks and fighter jets, its military bases and logistics, and its unjust wars and occupations—is the single largest institutional consumer of oil in the world. You can’t run an imperialist military on solar and wind power. Okay, the U.S. has been installing solar panels at the Guantánamo naval base. Torture powered by green energy—is this the world we want?
» And let’s look more closely at the solar power industry itself. Yes, the imperialists have “bent the rules” some and given the solar power industry subsidies and backing. But a) it is a drop in the bucket compared to what gets invested in fossil fuels; and b) the solar power industry does not escape the real rules of capitalism. For example, capitalist China is producing solar panels cheaply, utilizing its huge reserves of super-exploited labor—and it dominates this industry globally. The U.S. and Western European imperialists have responded, and Klein notes this, by trying to restrict imports of solar panels from China.
» Klein argues that we can make policy shifts under this system that can bring us back to 1970s levels of consumption: “we enjoyed a healthy and moderate lifestyle and we need to return to this to keep emissions under control” (p. 91). Say what! The 1970s lifestyle for most in the U.S. was based on living in the largest global imperialist empire in history.
But leaving aside this chauvinist blind spot, there is something else. Climate science shows that we must cut carbon emissions by 80 percent or more in the decades ahead if we are going to prevent the possible collapse of ecosystems and threats to human civilization. To make those cuts will require profound and seismic changes in how we live, in what is produced and how, in consumption, in our values. Klein suggests that we can readily adapt and easily change. No, this requires a wrenching transformation.
Klein’s book turns out to be a dead end. She does not really face the depth and seriousness of the social transformations that the environmental crisis demands. She does not confront what the best of her own research points to: that we have to get on a radically different trajectory. She cannot conceive of a world without Exxon. She writes: “Since the oil companies are going to continue being rich for the foreseeable future, the best hope of breaking the political deadlock is to radically restrict their ability to spend their profits on buying, and bullying, politicians” (p. 151). This is hardly a vision of “changing everything”!
Naomi Klein and this book represent the outlook and class position of a radical section of the petite bourgeoisie. This is a class that is “in the middle” between the two great classes, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, whose interests and outlook are capable of leading society in today’s world.
Instead of seeking a fundamental break with the whole train of environmental destruction, and the capitalist-imperialist system that has given rise to it, Klein goes for the “middle ground,” seeking to resolve all this without rupture and dislocation. She wants to find a solution within the framework of the system itself, and ends up attempting to solve the system’s problems for it. She invents illusory solutions, non-solutions, for excruciating problems that can be solved only by revolution and a new system.
There is a way out, through communist revolution. Exxon, and imperialist governments, their police and armies will be no more. We can far surpass a world where the planet’s animals, plants, and sea life are destroyed. Where its resources are ravaged and the oil extracted from this process is burned to serve the private profit of small groups that fight it out for global imperialist domination.
A radically different system will be in place of capitalism. What a society like this would be like and how it would function is developed in the visionary Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
Socialist society, and even more, a communist world, makes possible economic planning based on the largest and most important needs of human society. The widespread use of renewable power sources like solar, wind, and geothermal (heat energy from the Earth) can become reasonable and possible in a socialist society. A socialist society can mobilize the people, scientific knowledge, and resources to drastically restrict and ultimately move beyond the use of fossil fuels, while solving the practical and economic problems that will come with such a transition to renewable energy. And do that as part of moving to a world in which human society has an economic foundation that takes care of the planet as one of its foundational principles.
With capitalism’s domination of ideas and culture gone, the understanding of the natural world, science, and the values that foster preserving the world will no longer be the preserve of an elite. With a new revolutionary state that serves a radically different system, we can bring into being a culture and orientation towards learning about and changing the world to undo the damage from the past and develop completely new and positive relations between people and the planet.
As an essential component of a global process of revolution, we can develop a process that links together the knowledge, experience, and method of scientists, with people who have lived in the rain forests and know its life intimately, with fisher-people and others all over the world—cooperating, sharing information and experience, working to overcome the deep inequalities left from capitalism, while engaged in a global battle to prevent ecological catastrophe. The questions, research, and experience can reverberate around the world: How is the great international effort to undo the destruction of the fabric of life on the planet going? How are we doing at stopping the injection of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere? At rebuilding the rain forests to take more carbon out? And so much more.
Capitalist society screams at people “buy, buy, buy,” and ranks people by the money and “goodies” they own. With socialism, it will be possible not just to raise opposition to consumerism as a kind of moral principle, but to have an entire society in which profit no longer rules, and where it is no longer necessary for the functioning of the economy to sell more and more goods. In this society, the relations between people will not be based on buying and selling.
It will now be possible for people, increasingly and in a mass way, to see themselves not from within capitalism’s framework of a race for accumulation, “each against all,” but instead as emancipators of humanity and the planet. People will come to see nature not as objects to be hurled into production for profit or carelessly despoiled, but as a rich, living fabric of which humans are one part. They will learn how the natural world is billions of years in the making, and that each human generation has the responsibility to pass it to the next in an improved condition.
This is just a glimpse of what a revolutionary society and people can do. This world is possible. This is what the Revolutionary Communist Party is taking responsibility for—building a movement for an actual revolution with the party at its core to defeat and dismantle the state institutions of the old society, to create a new state power and socialist system, and to work urgently towards the full emancipation of humanity and protecting the planet for current and future generations.
At this perilous juncture for the planet, we do need to “change everything”—through revolution. It won’t be easy. But it is our only chance of achieving a truly sustainable society—and beginning the process of restoring the ecosystems of the planet.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
3 Years Since the Murder of Trayvon Martin—
February 28, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Statement by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, February 25, 2015
The federal Department of “Justice” (DOJ) announced February 24 that it will not indict George Zimmerman, the vigilante who murdered Trayvon Martin 3 years ago on February 26, 2012. In announcing this decision the DOJ said, “... the independent federal investigation found insufficient evidence to pursue federal criminal civil rights charges against George Zimmerman for the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin on Feb. 26, 2012, in Sanford, Florida.”
Think about this—Zimmerman saw a Black youth walking through a housing development, decided he was a “thug” and “up to no good,” pursued him, confronted him and shot him to death. Yet the feds found “insufficient evidence” to charge him with violating Trayvon Martin's civil rights. The legal system in Florida initially refused to even charge Zimmerman until thousands of people marched all across the country demanding Zimmerman be brought to trial. After being forced to try Zimmerman, the prosecutors forgot how to prosecute, and Zimmerman walked free. Now with this DOJ decision, the legal system has given this vigilante murderer a complete pass. And think about how the DOJ chose to announce this decision on the eve of the anniversary of Trayvon's murder. This is a huge slap in the face to his family and to everyone who was saddened and angered by his murder.
THE WHOLE DAMNED SYSTEM IS GUILTY!
When the court in Florida found Zimmerman not guilty, many people looked to the feds to come in and provide justice. In the face of case after case of police killing people and getting a pass from district attorneys and courts locally, many raised that we should look to the federal government to provide justice. It's time to wake up to reality.
The DOJ is put out there as the hope to get justice when police get away with killing somebody. This is a myth, and it's meant to lure people out of the streets and back into the normal channels of the system and keep people accepting the legitimacy of this system. The authorities do this because they fear people breaking out of these channels and disrupting the normal routine of society. The DOJ never brought a single indictment in the thousands of cases where white mobs lynched Black people between the 1870s and the 1960s. Since then the DOJ has done investigations in hundreds of cases where cops (or racist vigilantes) got away with killing someone, and they have almost never indicted any of them. It's like Malcolm X said, you can't rely on the federal “foxes” to deal with the hell the local “wolves” inflict on you. We have to stand up and say NO MORE to these horrors. The Shut Down day called for April 14 is the way to do that.
Letting this killer walk is a criminal act by a criminal system. It comes down to the system declaring that Black youth have a target on their backs in this society, that they can be harassed, brutalized and even murdered by cops, and by racist vigilantes, and the system will do nothing to punish them! This is racist, illegitimate and unacceptable!
From Ferguson to New York City to Los Angeles and everywhere in between, a cry rang out from those who took to the streets saying NO MORE to the horror of police wantonly murdering Black and Latino people and getting away with it: Indict, Convict, Send the Killer Cops to Jail, the Whole Damned System is Guilty as Hell! This decision by the DOJ, like the verdict in this case in Florida, the exonerations of the cops who murdered Michael Brown, Eric Garner and many, many other victims of murdering cops—they all point to how that slogan is right on time.
And it points to the need to get back out in the streets, mobilizing wave after wave of even more powerful resistance to the system giving a green light to cops, and racist vigilantes, to murder people at will. This is exactly what will be done on April 14, 2015—a day of NO WORK, NO SCHOOL—a day of DISRUPTING BUSINESS AS USUAL; because business as usual in this society includes the murder of Black and Brown people by those who are sworn to protect and serve.
JUSTICE FOR TRAYVON AND ALL VICTIMS OF KILLER COPS AND RACIST VIGILANTES!
APRIL 14—#ShutDownA14—DISRUPT BUSINESS AS USUAL!
More from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network at www.stopmassincarceration.net
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
Report from Protest Against Police Murder of Antonio Zambrano-Montes
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
A group of revolutionaries, along with family members of loved ones lost to police murder, traveled to Pasco, Washington, for a rally on February 21 against the police murder of Antonio Zambrano-Montes.
Antonio, 35, was originally from Michoaćan, Mexico, and worked in the orchards in this area in southeastern Washington State. On February 10, cops chased down Antonio, who was unarmed—when he stopped, turned around, and put his arms halfway up, the three cops gunned him down in a hail of bullets.
People immediately took to the streets after he was murdered, with rallies and protests being called for every weekend. There is also a daily presence outside Pasco City Hall organized by Occupy Tri-Cities (Tri-Cities includes Kennewick and Richland along with Pasco). A man at one of these rallies said, “When three cops all do the same thing, it’s obvious that’s what they were trained to do!”
Our group was welcomed with open arms—people opened their homes to us, appreciating that we traveled so far and helped them to not feel isolated and alone. Pasco is an agricultural community of almost 70,000. The majority of the population is Latino, with most of the people, who work almost every day, facing deep exploitation and intense physical labor where they are often injured. We heard stories of immigrants who had been threatened to be fired for reporting injuries while their white co-workers would receive very different medical treatment for the same injuries. A young woman we met works two jobs, seven days a week, and goes to high school online.
Antonio's aunt said he was a very hard worker who himself had an accident at work where both of his arms were broken, and he had to have screws in them. He had been making about $800 a week but after his accident the company gave him $80 a month. In the video of his murder, you can see that he is only able to put his arms up slightly. People told us over and over again that police could have handled this situation without killing Antonio.
A lot of the people, including the youth, are harassed by the police on a daily basis. Many of them say that they have been pulled over by the police for no reason at all. There is one small Washington State University extension in the Tri-Cities, but most of those growing up there don't have plans for college or university. Their future is about working in the fields or food processing plants.
We heard stories of cops pulling guns on people just sitting in cars or assisting disabled people at work. Some describe the cops as being “trigger happy.”
One woman told us that while handcuffed in the backseat of the police car, a cop maced her right in the face. Another time, “[A cop] grabbed me by the vagina." She said, "We have to stand up for ourselves, nothing is gonna change unless we stand up for ourselves, it's not." She works at a food processing plant chopping the tops and bottoms off onions all day long: “Everyone who works there is on work release or immigrants or old and nobody else wants to hire them. They get paid $10.25 an hour. One time the sewer flooded and they told us it was fine and to keep working. They don't give our breaks on time. My throat hurts, my back hurts.” She tells people to stand up and speak out against police brutality, but she says people are scared, especially of deportation.
A young woman whose dad was deported said that at a May Day rally, cops threatened to deport people if they didn't stop marching and they brought out huge police buses. She said her dad received horrific treatment at an immigrant detention center, only getting fed stale bread once a day, and that he told her that two other immigrants were shot for trying to bring food in.
So this gives you a sense of what life is like in this area for people. There is a very strong feeling that what happened to Antonio Zambrano-Montes could happen to anybody—that it could be their parents, their kids, their brothers and their sisters. In this light, it is very significant that a section of people here, mainly young people, have overcome being scared and have begun to find their voices, to speak out, taking the streets, blocking intersections, and even shutting down a major bridge. They are refusing to put up with this anymore, and this has begun to get connected up with the Call for the April 14 shutdown, with a bit of a buzz about it going on in town. One person said we have to stop business as usual, shut down the whole city, and they are a big part of this economy. He also said the body cams on cops aren't doing a damn thing.
We are told that the police give out stickers to kids at the schools, but the kids are no longer taking them, because they don't trust police. A college student who came in from a neighboring town said, “The system is based off of the oppression of us, Blacks and Latinos. Without oppressing us, their system doesn't work.”
People spoke bitterness at the rally on Saturday, February 21. People really appreciated it when a statement was read from Uncle Bobby, whose nephew Oscar Grant was killed in 2009 by transit police in Oakland, California. There was a woman holding a poster with an enlarged photo of her husband who had been killed by the Pasco police, and their four children standing there with her, without their father.
Joey Johnson (JJ), Stop Mass Incarceration Network activist and longtime revolutionary, spoke about why he and a crew of folks from Oakland came up to Pasco to stand with the people. He talked about how millions of people around the world have seen the video of the Pasco police’s heinous murder of Antonio Zambrano-Montes—how clearly he was not thinking rationally and needed mental health care, but instead the system sent the assassins. And that THREE cops pulled their guns and pumped bullets into Antonio’s body! JJ talked about the crossroads the movement against police murder is at, with the system trying to rule the rising of the people all over the country over last fall and winter “Out of Order!” and shove the genie of the masses' resistance back into the bottle. He spoke about the importance of April 14 to re-seize the initiative and shutting down the business-as-usual of police murder. And JJ talked about how we need revolution to really get at the root of all this madness and bring into being a new society, where this police murder and all the other outrages of this system are a thing of the past.
In the march following the rally, we went through the neighborhoods, calling people out of their houses and into the streets. People did die-ins at the different intersections. As dusk approached, young people came out, including kids on bikes and skateboards, and we headed towards the big bridge with the setting sun lighting its white towers. We were chanting loud as we marched onto it, a large suspension bridge that crosses the Columbia River and links Pasco to Kennewick.
We were chanting “¿Qué queremos? ¡¡Justicia!! ¿Cuándo? ¡¡Ahora!! What do we want? Justice!! When do we want it? Now!!” “Antonio did not have to die, we all know the reason why, the whole system is guilty! Indict, convict, send the killer cop to jail, the whole damn system is guilty as hell! ¿Cuál es el problema? ¡El sistema, el sistema! ¿Cuál es la solución? ¡Revolución! ¡Revolución!”
We also did some beautiful chants that captured the imagination about April 14, saying, "Pasco, shut it down! Seattle shut it down! LA! Shut it down! Detention centers! Shut it down!" And on the bridge were all ages, including whole families with two or three little kids with their parents. Little shorties carrying signs. There were Stolen Lives banners and a bunch of United Farm Workers flags. There were also some very cool white people who came out who hate the way Blacks and Latinos are treated. New leaders from the masses were stepping up to help organize and lead things. The march was a very, very bold thing to do, and obviously something that drew impetus from the fall and winter upsurge in the rest of the country. Taking the march to the bridge really captured the young people's edge and imagination.
During this day there was some racist shit from a few passersby, and an incident where the pigs tried to fuck with the revolutionaries for speaking out on a street corner before the march, but overall the cops had a hands-off approach to the march. They want to sweep this under the rug, and there is some sense, possibly coming from the national government and police leadership, that if they hit back too hard, it will just bring more attention to this question.
The question of where all this will go is still being posed and struggled over. Will people's outrage get repressed or sucked into some dead-end reform? Or will people get organized to stand up on April 14 to stop business as usual, with many more getting into the movement for revolution that could actually end police murder and all the horrible conditions that people face here and around the world.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
From a member of the Revolution Club, San Francisco Bay Area:
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Very sad to announce the death of Kaleb, who was only 17 years old when he died unexpectedly and tragically from a brain aneurysm. Kaleb was one of a group of high school students who stepped forward and hooked up with the Revolution Club this past summer following the murder of Michael Brown and the uprising in Ferguson, Missouri. He helped to organize a walkout at his high school for the October 22 protest against police brutality and mass incarceration. On O22, when the police blocked our march and everyone else had turned around, we looked back and Kaleb was still there, refusing to back down, the last one still yelling! And he was at the front lines of the protests following the non-indictment of the cops who killed Michael Brown and Eric Garner. I'll never forget the look of joyous rebellion and determination on Kaleb's face, in the streets of downtown Oakland in front of lines of riot police. Here's what Kaleb said, in a recent interview we did with him, about how he felt when he heard they weren't going to charge those cops:
And I was so insulted that they just laughed at us, that you guys really think there can be justice for you guys, even if you stop the nation, you know? It was really insulting, not surprising, shocking, and I just didn’t actually know how to react, it was so mind-boggling they actually proceeded with their decisions. It wasn’t just the case that no one heard, that it was just a small room and it was just them, it was the whole nation watching, and for them to make that decision was so upsetting, so upsetting, shocking. But it also reveals the truth of this nation, this country, it really does, it just outlines it. That Black lives don’t matter. There is not justice for colored people, minorities, not just African-Americans. It was really a big wakening moment. Before it you just kind of heard “there is no justice.” But when they actually show to your face and to the whole world... It was a slap in the face to me. It was an insult and slap in the face.
Kaleb was a beautiful human being, a thoughtful and sweet young man with an infectious smile, who always looked out for others. His friends and family remember him as a good-hearted prankster. But when it came to standing up against injustice, Kaleb was completely serious and sincere. Kaleb was a real fighter. He was fearless. Here's what his dad said about him at the memorial:
Kaleb has always had compassion for the disadvantaged and was a brave champion of underdogs. One night he called around 11 pm to assure me he would be home by his midnight curfew. When he didn't show up until 2:30 in the morning, I was blowing a fuse. He explained that on his walk home he ran into a homeless guy who was lonely and needed someone to talk to. So Kaleb stopped and talked with him. I knew immediately he was telling the truth.
Kaleb was not big, but he was fearless in standing up for social justice. This included violence about which I expressed strong misgivings. I noticed him nursing an injured hand for a couple of days. Turns out he'd injured it beating up an unruly passenger on the bus who had called him the n-word.
He was, of course, at the front of the Ferguson protests, eyeball-to-eyeball with the cops. Ironically, but true to form, a vindictive officer singled him out and smashed his face into the pavement for daring to speak out against police racism and brutality. If you aren't feeling the rage, you aren't understanding Kaleb.
At school one day, he came across a gang member beating up a female student who was a close friend of Kaleb's. Kaleb promptly jumped in and fought the guy off, knowing that he would spend the next several weeks—the last three weeks of his life, as it turned out—on the run from gang retaliation. Kaleb was becoming a warrior, in the good sense.
And he was beginning to become a revolutionary. Although he was new to the Revolution Club, and was just beginning to learn what revolution is all about and how to make one, he said with great enthusiasm during the interview we did with him, “I am for the revolution, I dream of revolution every day. I am all for it and whatever it takes. I support the revolution in America 100%.” Kaleb is gone, but his fighting spirit will live on as we work to uproot and abolish the injustices that Kaleb felt so passionately about, and struggle for a world where the underdogs and all of humanity can truly flourish. We in the Revolution Club will miss him greatly. Our hearts go out to his sister, his whole family, and his many friends.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Any rape of anyone is a horrific crime, and the massive rape of women throughout the world and over many centuries is one of the biggest ongoing crimes of this whole way of life. Everyone with an ounce of justice and morality must join the fight to make this STOP.
However, it must be confronted: You cannot rely on the structures and procedures of a patriarchal system that created this world of rape to change that world—even if you modify those structures and procedures. That is a dead end.
We need, instead, a different culture right now that values women as full human beings—not bitches, hos, punching bags, breeders, or sex objects...
We need to fight against all the many outrages against women—especially those that most concentrate women’s subjugation and dehumanization and which strengthen and fuel the whole epidemic of rape, like the increasingly violent, degrading, cruel, and humiliating pornography that is more and more saturating every aspect of society...
And most of all, we need to get organized for and fight for an actual revolution. Only through an actual revolution can we sweep away all the structures and relations that require and reinforce the domination of men over women, the culture and violence against women this gives rise to, and the whole way of thinking and being that sets the terms for the way billions relate to each other. Only through an actual revolution—and a new revolutionary state power—can we give full backing to the fight to really put an end to all forms of violence, rape, degradation, humiliation, and oppression against women as a key and integral part of bringing into being a world free of exploitation and oppression of any kind.
Read further on how the Revolutionary Communist Party sees the question of rape and putting an end to a world of sexual assault.
“Bob Avakian, ‘A world of rape and sexual assault’,” a clip from Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
Updated March 3, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
It is time to rise up against the enslavement of half of humanity!
Across the globe, women face rape and abuse at the hands of soldiers, law enforcement, fathers and brothers, even from those who are supposed to be their most “intimate lovers.” Women face thousands of years of stigma and shame, preached at them from religious patriarchs out of Dark Ages scriptures who command them to obey their husbands and fathers “as the lord.” Women—and young girls—are kidnapped, drugged, battered and stripped naked, and sold as sex slaves. Women are demeaned and humiliated through pornography. Women are imprisoned under veils and burkhas, denied the right to travel or work or even drive without permission from the men who “own” them. Women are forced to have children against their will—or forced to risk their lives to avoid this fate, with 47,000 women dying each year around the world from unsafe illegal abortions.
Everywhere that poverty, wars, and oppression strike, women are hit doubly hard. They are the first to be sold by starving families, to be killed in the name of “honor,” to be pulled out of school, to have their bodies violated during wars, to be super-exploited in dangerous work, to be left to care for children alone, and then to be mercilessly shamed for the circumstances they are forced into and for every “choice” that is available to them. And no matter the heights of “success” attained, women can never escape the threat of violence, rape, discrimination, disrespect, and a culture that demeans and devalues them, resents them, and seeks to punish them in countless ways.
There is nothing more brutal and outmoded, more outrageous yet “normalized,” more unnecessary yet pervasive than the abuse, subjugation, and oppression of women. None of this is “human nature.” It flows from the nature of the system. The oppression of women by men is woven into the very fabric of the system of capitalism-imperialism that rules over humanity. This system has inherited this oppression from previous forms of class divided societies, and the very dynamism of capitalism-imperialism—the very ways it continually redivides and reshapes the globe in its global chase for profits and domination—both undermines traditional forms of this patriarchy and gives rise to new, even more perverse and extreme expressions of it.
As Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has analyzed, all this dramatic change increases the need—but also increases the basis—more than ever before to bring forward a tidal wave of powerful revolutionary struggle to put an END to all forms of enslavement, degradation, abuse, and oppression of women. And to do this as a central and driving element of the revolution needed to emancipate all of humanity.
This International Women’s Day, revolutionaries everywhere should mobilize meaningful expressions of resistance against all forms of female enslavement. It is important to build these on the campuses among students, out in the communities among the oppressed, among those who have stepped forward in resistance for the first time in recent months, and out to organizations, and everywhere that revolutionaries go. On International Women’s Day itself, the fury of women should be unleashed in protests right up against the sites and institutions of hatred against women. Celebrations and dinners should be held to bring people together, forging new liberating culture and community, and bringing people into the movement for an actual revolution. People should get out broadly—and get into deeply—the way women’s liberation is gone at more fully and scientifically than ever before as a core element of the new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian in the powerful pamphlet, “Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution.”
Fighting to put an END to all forms of female enslavement has everything to do with making a revolution that can emancipate humanity. And, making a leap in this fight now is an important part hastening the development of—and being in position to seize on—a situation in which revolution becomes the order of the day.
As Bob Avakian has put it powerfully, “You cannot break all the chains, except one. You cannot say you want to be free of exploitation and oppression, except you want to keep the oppression of women by men. You can’t say you want to liberate humanity yet keep one half of the people enslaved to the other half. The oppression of women is completely bound up with the division of society into masters and slaves, exploiters and exploited, and the ending of all such conditions is impossible without the complete liberation of women. All this is why women have a tremendous role to play not only in making revolution but in making sure there is all-the-way revolution. The fury of women can and must be fully unleashed as a mighty force for proletarian revolution.”
Women are not bitches, hos, punching bags, sex objects or breeders.
Women are FULL HUMAN BEINGS!
Fight for the Liberation of Women Here and All Over the World!
Break the Chains! Unleash the Fury of Women as a Mighty Force for Revolution!
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
by Rigel Kane | February 21, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A lot of people see nothing wrong with porn. They say it's just a "fantasy." If you believe that or are not sure how to answer that when you hear it, I have three things to say to you.
1. The people in porn are real. It is produced in real life. These are real people, and in particular real women, who are providing you with your "fantasy"— really being choked, slapped, tied down, ejaculated on, penetrated in multiple orifices from many men at a time to the point of tearing, and called racial slurs, whores, sluts, bitches, and worse.
2. The society that makes people think that porn is "not a big deal" is real. It is a society that is capable and culpable of slavery, using and exploiting people for profit, waging war for the sake of controlling resources, and treating women as property. It's the same society that offers mail-order brides, pimps out 11- and 12-year-olds, justifies rape, and denies women the right to make their own reproductive decisions. The demand for porn is a reflection of a society that has eroticized and commodified women's humiliation and subjugation, and it further fuels the demand for all this very real degradation and dehumanization.
3. The effects of the fantasies being fed to you by porn are real. If you are watching porn, it is erasing your empathy for half of humanity. It is eroding your ability to see a woman as a full human being, and anything more complex or valuable than a tool for you to get off. A receptacle. It makes it easier for you to accept the outrages—and makes you a contributor to the outrages—committed every day against the half of humanity that is female. It makes it very difficult for you to be on her side.
It doesn't matter what gender you are or where you come from. If you have ever had a woman in your life that you have admired as a person—not just "as a woman"—you should confront the reality of what porn is and what it does, where it comes from, and how it's training millions to accept the unacceptable, and you should not only stop watching it, but also join the fight to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
As we go to press (March 1, 2015), the top headline on the front page of the New York Times is “A Brutal Beating Wakes Attica’s Ghosts.” August 9, 2011, three guards and a sergeant at Attica Correctional Facility beat George Williams until he couldn’t stand. They handcuffed him and shoved him down a flight of stairs. The guard in charge of the Special Housing Unit (SHU), where Williams was taken afterward, said, “We can’t take him in here looking like that.” (Emphasis ours.)
Williams wound up in a hospital in Buffalo, 50 miles away, after first being taken to the prison infirmary, then to a local hospital. His shoulder was broken, as were both his legs and the bone surrounding one of his eyes. Several of his ribs were cracked. Doctors had to realign one of his legs, using a plate and six screws.
March 2, the sergeant and two of the guards go on trial for first degree assault, filing false reports, and tampering with evidence. State officials told the Times that this is the first time “criminal charges had been brought against correctional officers for a nonsexual assault on an inmate.” A prisoner said, and many others agreed: “What they did? How they jumped on that guy? That was normal. It happens all the time.”
Attica Correctional Facility is the official name of Attica state prison in New York. Eighty percent of the prisoners at Attica are Black or Latino. Nearly all the guards are white. Attica became known throughout the world when, in the fall of 1971, 1,200 prisoners rose up and took control of half the prison. Read the September 11, 2011 Revolution article, “40th Anniversary of Attica Prison Rebellion: ‘We are not beasts and we do not intend to be beaten or driven as such.’”
The brutality, indignity, and inhumanity the Attica brothers rebelled against continues there and in every other prison and jail in the United States. The Times article talks about “rogue officers” protected by their union and about a number of people, including a former state corrections chief, saying that Attica should be closed. Read closely, though. Attica state prison itself, prisons and jails in general, the brutality of the guards—all are essential parts of bourgeois state power, tools for enforcing the capitalist-imperialist system.
(Quotes are from “A Brutal Beating Wakes Attica’s Ghosts,” New York Times, February 28, 2015 [print version, March 1, 2015].)
In September 2014, four guards beat Jose Guadalupe unconscious in his jail cell at Rikers Island, New York City’s main jail complex. Guadalupe got such a bad concussion that after he was returned to Rikers from the hospital, he spent the next three weeks in a wheelchair.
In October 2014, Rikers guards handcuffed Pernell Griffin and punched him in the face, breaking his jaw so badly that it took two surgeries, including a nine-hour bone transplant, to repair it. Rikers authorities put Griffin in a solitary confinement cell two days after the surgery.
The same week in October, seven guards snapped Rauf Yearde’s left upper arm when they pulled his handcuffed hands behind him.
Rikers Island is a 400-acre jail complex in New York City. It houses about 11,000 prisoners, at least 90 percent of whom are Black and Latino. The vast majority—about 85 percent—of prisoners held there are awaiting trial—they haven’t been convicted of anything.
Eleven times a day on average, guards at Rikers Island pepper spray or beat prisoners. New York City Correction Department data reports 4,074 instances of guards using physical force against prisoners last year. This is higher than for any other year in the last 10 even though the average daily population at Rikers Island has gone down from 14,000 to 10,000 in the same decade. Studies by the New York Times and others have found widespread cover-ups of assaults on prisoners by authorities, meaning that in fact there were far more beatings than the 4,074. (“Even as Many Eyes Watch, Brutality at Rikers Island Persists,” New York Times, February 21, 2015)
The New York Times investigated 62 of the beatings and found that 70 percent resulted in head injuries and that more than half the inmates suffered broken bones. In some episodes, guards broke hand and finger bones while inflicting head injuries on prisoners.
Beyond the beatings are the deaths, many due to willful neglect of mentally ill prisoners. A few:
At least 14 inmates have died from extreme heat exposure in Texas state prisons since 2007. Although a few areas of Texas state prisons are air conditioned, inmates are rarely allowed in them. Instead, prisoners swelter in 90+ or even 100+ degree heat in the hot Texas summers. Temperature logs from Texas prisons have often recorded a heat index of 100+ degrees at 8:30 in the morning. Exposure to extreme heat is considered “cruel and unusual punishment” by international human rights standards and by U.S. constitutional law. (See “Deadly Heat in Texas Prison,” April 2014 report by the Human Rights Clinic at the University of Texas School of Law.”)
While there is air conditioning in wardens’ offices and armories, there is mostly no air conditioning in the areas where prisoners live. The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) says it can’t afford to air condition its prisons, according to “Deadly Heat in Texas Prisons,” which hold about 150,000 prisoners, 69 percent of whom are Black or Latino. In the eyes of prison authorities, pigs—the four-legged animal kind—deserve more humanity than is given to the human beings in prison: Last year, TDCJ agreed to a $750,000 deal for climate controlled housing for its pig-breeding program. The TDJC provides employees with risk management training and admits that heatstroke risk can begin at 91 degrees. Its risk management circular even offers advice about how to protect pets from extreme heat. No measures for protection from extreme heat are available to the prisoners.
Old people and those on psychiatric or blood pressure medications are especially vulnerable to extreme heat, but no consideration is given to such prisoners.
The extreme heat in Texas prisons killed Douglas Hudson in July 2011, Kenneth James in August 2011, and Robert Allen Webb, also in August 2011. When Rodney Adams died of heatstroke one day after he arrived at a Texas prison in August 2012, his internal temperature was 109.9 degrees. Larry Gene McCollum died from heatstroke in July 2011, one month after he arrived at a Texas state jail. When he first arrived, the guards had greeted him with “Welcome to hell.” (“Inmate Families Sue Over Heat-Related Prison Deaths,” Texas Tribune, June 14, 2013)
In South Carolina, where 65 percent of people locked up in state prisons are Black, prisoners have been sentenced to years in solitary confinement because they have posted on Facebook or other social media sites, or because their relatives or friends posted on their behalf.
The Electronic Freedom Foundation (EFF) found: “Since the policy was implemented , SCDC [South Carolina Department of Corrections] has brought 432 disciplinary cases against 397 inmates, with more than 40 inmates receiving more than two years in solitary confinement.” South Carolina prisons have sentenced 16 prisoners to more than 10 years in “disciplinary detention.” One man got 37 and a half years in solitary for 38 Facebook posts, another received 34 and one-half years for 35 posts, a third, nearly 27 years for 25 posts. Each of these guys lost phone, visitation, and canteen privileges and lost good time (days for good behavior that can lessen time spent locked up).
It’s more than just Facebook. The EFF report says: “The policy is also incredibly broad; it can be applied to any reason an inmate may ask someone outside to access the Internet for them, such as having a family member manage their online financial affairs, working with activists to organize an online legal defense campaign, sending letters to online news sites, or just staying in touch with family and friends to create the type of community support crucial to reintegrating into society.”
And it’s more than South Carolina. In New Mexico a prisoner’s relatives accessed Facebook on his behalf. He got 90 days in solitary. Alabama has a new law that makes it a misdemeanor to post on the Internet on behalf of a prisoner.
(See “Hundreds of South Carolina Inmates Sent to Solitary Confinement Over Facebook,” by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, February 12, 2015)
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
From A World to Win News Service:
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
February 23, 2015. A World to Win News Service. On January 24, 2015, a young woman, Shaimaa al Sabbagh, described as a mother, poet and leftist, was shot by police near Cairo’s Tahrir Square. In her hands were flowers she meant to lay at a memorial for the more than 800 people killed during the January 2011 revolt that brought down President Hosni Mubarak. A photographer captured her dying moments. Now she is being called “a symbol of opposition to Egypt’s military rule” or “a symbol of the revolution.”
This is the story that Egyptian media tell us about her death, but they don’t answer the question of why this happened. She and her friends belonged to a secular group. They were only 25 people, and their demonstration only lasted two minutes. In a video you can see a policeman carrying a shotgun aim and fire under the direction of an officer, without any warning. Why?
To answer this question we should look at Egyptian news these days:
With all these events, the Egyptian regime led by President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi is sending a clear message to people: it doesn’t matter who you are or what you want, if you want to change anything you’ll go to jail, and if you come into the street you’ll be shot.
While the U.S. publicly expresses distaste for some of this repression, it fully supported Sisi when, as head of the armed forces, he overthrew the elected Muslim Brotherhood government, and it continues to fully fund those armed forces. Some people say this situation is the result of lack of democracy, but Sisi became president in a real election. Many people like Shaimaa al Sabbagh supported him in opposition to the Brotherhood, after earlier backing the Brotherhood against the military.
What is often called the Egyptian Revolution was a just uprising against Mubarak, who ruled Egypt on behalf of the U.S. since before many of the young rebels were born. But there was no revolutionary change in the country’s state (armed forces, police, courts, etc.) and society. Even the regime change turned out to be partial and temporary under these conditions. People are still shot by the exact same police who killed 846, injured 6,467 and arrested 12,000 people during the uprising. They are imprisoned by the same judiciary, under the supervision of the armed forces the U.S. carefully cultivated. This regime and its courts have even cleared Mubarak himself of conspiring to kill protesters before he fell.
The story of Shaimaa al Sabbagh’s death has another side also. Let’s look at the Egyptian news again. This is not the first time the media has shown young women demonstrators being punished in Egypt. Remember the “blue bra woman” who was brutally beaten by Sisi’s riot police in 2011. Remember the women who were arrested by Sisi’s military police in Tahrir Square on March 2011 and forced to submit to “virginity tests,” being humiliated, video-taped and exposed by the military’s soldiers and officers. Remember the gang rape of women in Tahrir Square during mass demonstrations. Why are the women at the centre of Egyptian political news?
That’s a double-edged sword. While these media reports show that women’s demands are as serious as ever, they also tell women what kind of hazards await them if they come into the streets. In a traditional and religious society like Egypt, death is not considered the worst thing that can happen to a woman. Look again at the news: gang rape, virginity tests, a mother who was shot, leaving alone her five-year-old son.
The worst things that can happen to a woman in a patriarchal society are: losing family honour and not being a good mother. You would definitely laugh if you heard that police forced men to pass a “virginity test.” Have you ever heard a man activist described as a father? Have you ever heard about his five-year-old son waiting for him to come back home? Patriarchal societies never talk about a woman as a political activist or a revolutionary-minded person who wants to change her society and flourish as an individual in the course of that, despite all the risks. The opinion-makers always say a mother should think about her babies before anything else, she should care about family honour more than anything else. This society sends this message to women all the time: if you want to raise serious demands about changing society, you’d better think about the price you have to pay.
The photo of Shaimma al Sabbagh’s death is very powerful. There is something in this image that reminds us of this sentence, “I’d rather die on my feet than live on my knees.”
We received this correction from A World to Win News Service:
The article "Egypt: The murder of Shaimaa al Sabbagh" in AWTWNS150223 [above] referred incorrectly to the two dozen people sentenced to prison February 23, 2015. Their case was not directly related to that of the 269 people sentenced to life in prison in connection with demonstrations in November 2011 (the battles at the Interior Ministry). They were arrested and convicted for defying a law against unauthorized demonstrations in November 2013. An appeals court overturned these verdicts and sentences. They were then convicted and sentenced again on February 23, this time to five years for those considered leaders, like the well-known blogger Alaa Abd el-Fattah, and three for the rest.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The artist Banksy has just released images of work he’s put up in Gaza, and a short video entitled “Make this the year YOU discover a new destination.” Banksy is known for his thoughtful and provocative street art challenging consumerist culture, government surveillance and repression with beauty, parody and humor.
The video’s shocking images show destroyed Gaza streets and homes “well away from the tourist track” where “development opportunities are everywhere. (The 2014 Operation Protective Edge destroyed over 18,000 homes).” Israel called its invasion of Gaza Operation Protective Edge.
Banksy made art on ruined Gaza buildings, ending the short film with graffiti on a wall of a quote from Paulo Freire: “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless, we side with the powerful—we don’t remain neutral.”
In connection with these works, Banksy said, “Gaza is often described as ‘the world’s largest open air prison’ because no-one is allowed to enter or leave. But that seems a bit unfair to prisons—they don’t have their electricity and drinking water cut off randomly almost every day.”
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
A supportive prof at a college asked me to come show his class the trailer for the upcoming film of the Cornel West-BA Dialogue. He left me about 15 minutes at the end of class. Many of the students already knew about Cornel and the whole class had just been discussing a piece on revcom.us by Ardea Skybreak when I walked in. Plus they had talked about April 14th/Shut It Down! the week before and a number of students had signed up to be part of it.
I briefly reviewed who Cornel and BA are. Then I said a few words about the crossroads we face right now—whether the inspiring upsurge of struggle ignited by the defiant ones in Ferguson and then taken further by youth all across the country—was that going to be crammed back down people’s throats or was it going to take a big leap forward with April 14-Shut It Down? Is resistance going to spread and intensify against the war on women, immigrants, and the environment? The people running this system hate the awakening that has begun and they are determined to crush it. I stressed to the students that it was in their hands to make sure that the rulers’ plans do not succeed.
Then I told them about Cornel West speaking recently at a progressive, mainly Black church. He drew deeply from Black history to passionately challenge people to act in the face of injustice—both those done to Black people but also those done to people everywhere. At the end, there was a call for people to come up to the front of the church who were willing to put their lives on the line to fight for justice. Well over 100 people came forward, revolutionaries among them. Almost everyone at this event had gotten information about both the upcoming film of the Dialogue and the call for A/14. Afterward, in talking with people about why they had stepped forward, one thing was clear. When you say I am willing to die to end injustice, then you come right up against the question of “OK, how are you going to end it?” And that’s where the Dialogue comes in.
That was my intro to the trailer. The 25 or so students were riveted. When it finished there was silence for a few moments. I asked for people’s thoughts. A young woman said that she was just so moved. Here were two people who disagreed about important things, but who agreed about even more important things and treated each other with such respect. This is just so rare in the world today. Another young woman echoed the same sentiment and stressed what a needed example this is and that she was definitely coming to the film. Another person contrasted how Cornel and BA related to each other with the way politicians try to rip each other’s throats out. This led to a brief discussion of how Cornel and BA’s determination to end all oppression was the basis for their mutual respect—while the political leaders of this system feast off that oppression and that is reflected in everything they do.
I passed around a stack of fliers for the premiere and a sign-up sheet for those who wanted to get involved in making this a really big deal. Thirteen of the students signed up. I also introduced the class to another student (from the prof’s class last fall) who had been to the Dialogue and wanted to work on publicizing the premiere. She connected with a student from this class who is studying media and they started sharing ideas about how they could spread the word for this premiere. They also want to be in touch with the national effort to publicize the film because they have ideas about how to create YouTubes and other social media that will grab the youth
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
From Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund is an educational literature fund that fills requests from U.S. prisoners for revolutionary literature. The main requests received by PRLF from those behind bars are complimentary subscriptions in Spanish and English to the weekly newspaper Revolution and for revolutionary and other books. No matter where you are and whether you can spend an hour every couple of weeks or more time, you can make a real difference by stepping forward to volunteer with PRLF. The prisoners’ letters are so full of life, engagement with ideas, and unique, powerful stories that it is an honor and lots of fun to be part of helping to get the PRLF literature to the prisoners and to share their thoughtful and challenging letters with the world. As long as you have access to the Internet, there are many ways you can help:
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
by Carl Dix | March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A commonly held opinion among people who want to do something about the way the system refuses to punish cops who brutalize and even murder people is to “hit them in the pocketbook”—organize economic boycotts. The thinking behind this view is that, if Black people and their supporters withhold their money, the powers-that-be may be forced to rein in their front-line enforcers. This view misses what the powerful outpourings of protest accomplished last year, and it is based on a wrong view of what strength the masses who hate this horror actually have. The other thing that makes this approach seem seductive to so many people is because it’s easier than what really needs to be done.
Think about it—if people had responded to the police murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson by calling for a boycott instead of pouring into the streets and staying there in the face of the tear gas, rubber bullets and everything else the system threw at them, what would’ve happened? No one outside of that area would have ever learned about Michael’s murder. There wouldn’t have been people taking to the streets all across the country. And when the grand jury let the cop walk, there wouldn’t have been thousands of people pouring into the streets saying police getting away with murder must STOP! And millions of people wouldn’t have had their eyes open to the horrors being inflicted on Black and Latino people by this system and been challenged to take a stand with those demanding justice.
That’s the real power the masses of people have—the ability to challenge the injustice this system has brought down on Black people and other oppressed people from the very beginning of this country; not withholding our dollars from the economy of the country. The outpourings of protest have stripped away the cover of legitimacy the rulers work to keep over the savage oppression and the vicious exploitation this capitalist-imperialist system brings down on people. Rather than calling on people to stay home and not shop, which is a very passive form of activity, we need to mobilize even more powerful resistance, bringing forward wave after wave of people taking to the streets and saying NO MORE to police getting away with murder. This is just what the April 14 day of disrupting business as usual in this society is all about doing.
It is easier to stay home and not shop or to work on getting people to do that than to go right into the teeth of the repression, the mass arrests and the threats the authorities have unleashed against those who have stood up to say this shit must STOP! But it won’t stop the horrors from continuing to be perpetrated against the people.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
by Sunsara Taylor | March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
When Patricia Arquette won the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in Boyhood, she used part of her 90 seconds on stage before tens of millions to speak about something much bigger than herself. She said, “To every woman who gave birth, to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”
This was a breath of fresh air. It is an outrageous part of the overall oppression faced by women that they still earn less for the same work than men do, even as they are often left to care for children alone. Meryl Streep and Jennifer Lopez joyously leapt out of their seats to cheer. Millions of viewers shared the sentiment.
Almost immediately, the backlash began. In a world with such venom against women, it is not surprising that some opposed her—even viciously. But what made this backlash particularly appalling and shameful was that those attacking Arquette most fiercely call themselves feminists and progressives.
These haters seized on—and significantly distorted—a statement Arquette gave back stage. After compellingly explaining that, despite the loud claims to the contrary, women in America do not have equal rights, Arquette said, “It’s time for all the women in America, and all the men that love women and all the gay people and all the people of color that we’ve all fought for to fight for us now.”
Rather than recognizing that by mentioning specifically “women,” “men who love women,” “gay people,” and “people of color” Arquette was clearly making an effort to include the great diversity of people who have a common interest in women's equality, these haters claimed that by mentioning these categories individually she was excluding gays and people of color from the category of “women.” They outrageously and wrongly accused her of speaking and being concerned about “only white women.” From there they went on to howl that she had “no place” to call on gays or people of color to fight for “white privileged women like herself.”
Many of these haters claimed this was a “teachable moment.” They are right. But not in the way they meant it. It is NOT a moment to learn so-called progressive or feminist rationalizations for distorting and tearing down women—white or otherwise—for daring to speak against oppression. It is a moment to raise our sights to the kind of outlook, morality, spirit and real solution needed to finally get free, to bring into being a world without all the degradation and horror that is part of daily life today for billions.
In reality, there is no legitimate basis to claim that Arquette was speaking only for “privileged white women like herself.” She used her time to talk about all women, and she said so. Further, all women—no matter how much “success” they achieve—face oppression as women, and all this oppression must be opposed.
Everyone who hates oppression ought to applaud Arquette, even as we encourage her—and others who were moved by her remarks—to go more deeply into the roots of the inequality and oppression faced by women and what it will take to put an end to it once and for all. That will take an actual revolution—a communist revolution aimed at liberating women and emancipating all of humanity. One of the places you can learn about this is in the pamphlet, BREAK ALL THE CHAINS! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution.
Finally, in the fight for liberation, we need largeness of mind and generosity of spirit. Eagerly searching for—and even inventing—shortcomings in the approach of people who step forward against oppression is reactionary and wrong. It is part of the outlook of this system that sees advancing the interests of a few by tearing others down. It puts a chill on others who would step forward and fosters small-minded pettiness. It has no place in the fight for a world of actual liberation!
Instead, we need to direct our political fire at the real enemy. When people take a courageous and controversial stand, we need to have their backs. We need to struggle honestly, vigorously, and substantively over differences that truly matter with an approach of lifting everyone’s sights and sorting out differences in the context of how we get free. We need to learn from each other, help each other, and go forward together.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A diverse crowd of 150-200 people demonstrated Saturday, February 28, at the recently exposed Homan Square police site in the heart of the overwhelmingly Black West Side of Chicago. The demonstration, using the hashtag #Gitmo2Chicago to rally support widely, was called by Chicago Anonymous, Stop Mass Incarceration Network-Chicago, and the Gay Liberation Network; endorsed by Chicago World Can’t Wait and the Chicago Coalition to Shut Down Guantánamo, and was in response to recent exposures by the Guardian UK of Chicago Police Department (CPD) detective Richard Zuley and of the Homan Square “black site” for secretive torture. (Search for “Zuley” and “Homan Square” at www.theguardian.com/us.)
Among the Guardian exposures of Zuley:
“While ‘assigned’ to the US military base at Guantanamo Bay, longtime Chicago detective and US Naval reservist Richard Zuley led one of the most brutal interrogations ever conducted at the prison. ‘I’ve never seen anyone stoop to these levels’, a former Marine Corps prosecutor said.”
Lathierial Boyd, an innocent man convicted of murder in Chicago in 1990, and released in 2013 after serving 23 years in prison because of Zuley’s police work, told the Guardian that Zuley told him, “No nigger is supposed to live like this” after searching his expensive loft.
Among the Guardian exposures of Homan Square:
At the end of the rally, about half of the crowd seized major streets on the West Side of Chicago, shutting down significant amounts of traffic and marching for more than 1½ miles, chanting “Homan Square—Shut It Down! CPD—Shut It Down! The whole damn system—Shut It Down!” and “Indict, Convict, Send the Torturers to Jail! The Whole Damn System is Guilty as Hell!” and other chants. This seemed to catch the CPD by surprise. In 18 degree weather, one demonstrator said that it was so good to see people out in the streets again after this long, cold winter.
This exposure of the CPD has become a flashpoint of anger, attracting media coverage in many cities and states across the U.S. This demonstration comes on the heels of last fall’s powerful, beautiful, and necessary demonstrations across the U.S. that demanded the end to police murders. Other demonstrations around the country against the black site are planned over the next week.
The speakers were from a wide spectrum of political views. Several speakers denounced the beatings and other violations of democratic principles they believe in. One poster said, “No Gitmo in Chicago.” Some demanded that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, former chief-of-staff to President Obama, and who despite an in-person endorsement by Obama only days before the recent mayoral election, failed to get a majority of the votes (leading to a runoff in six weeks), say something other than “everything is OK.”
Chicago Anonymous denounced the misleading coverage by the mainstream media, which rather than address issues of torture and violation of basic rights, argue about minor details of the phrase “black sites.” They called for the Homan Square site to be shut down.
A spokesman for the Stop Mass Incarceration Network linked what happens in Guantánamo, in Chicago police stations, and the solitary confinement of 80,000 prisoners in the U.S., which is a violation of international standards against torture. He pointed out that these are not acts by “bad apples,” but are systemic crimes against humanity that the people must STOP. He called for this demonstration and other upcoming actions to be part of more massive waves of struggle leading towards April 14, when people Stop Business as Usual across the country.
A 19-year-old college student said that these are not isolated incidents, and called for more actions to “move the vectors of power.” An older Black man told the crowd about how people are disrespected when they have to go to this building, looking for property of theirs that was “lost” when they were booked or jailed.
Chicago World Can’t Wait denounced torture in Guantánamo, in Chicago, and elsewhere, and called for people to “Stop Thinking Like Americans! Start Thinking About Humanity!”
A representative from the Chicago Revolution Club told the crowd that while the rest of the world was now learning about this “black site,” it was well known for its crimes against the people to those in Chicago’s West Side. He said that this is not the only site where this happens in Chicago, but what happens throughout Chicago almost certainly happens in city after city across the country. He called for shutting down this and all torture sites, and for people to build our strength and make April 14 a day when people around the country Stop Business as Usual.
This was a good day for the people.
Revolution #376 March 2, 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 #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
April 14 needs to be a day when everybody who hates the way police get away with murdering Black and Latino people again and again knows they have to act to say NO MORE to this horror. It needs to be a day when business as usual is shut down; a day when students walk out of class or don’t go to school at all; a day when people don’t go to work; a day when everybody who wants to STOP police getting away with murdering people again and again takes to the streets and stands together to disrupt the normal routine of this society because that normal routine includes the system giving a green light to cops to brutalize and even murder Black and brown people. All sections of society must act on this day: young people tired of going thru life with a target on their backs in the eyes of the police and society, communities targeted by the police and the whole criminal “injustice” system, students, entertainers and athletes, teachers, lawyers, people of different races and nationalities—everybody. We all must stand together, raise our voices to say: NO MORE to this horror!
We have to spread the word to make sure that everyone knows that April 14 is the day to act to STOP police from getting away with murder. But it won’t be enough to just spread the word. We have to mobilize people to act on important cases and issues as we build up to April 14.
The conference in Atlanta which issued the call for April 14 mapped out a plan for mobilizing resistance at key nodal points leading up to the Shut Down day in April. This plan includes:
HERE’S HOW YOU CAN BECOME PART OF MAKING APRIL 14 HAPPEN
If you hate hearing about another life being stolen by cops who are supposed to protect and serve and want to be part of STOPPING this horror by making April 14 happen as powerfully as possible, here’s what you need to do:
1) Spread the word everywhere and make sure everybody knows April 14 is the day to say NO MORE to police getting away with murdering people. Get the Call for April 14 everywhere. Spread it thru social media and online to everyone you know and to people you don’t know yet. Download copies of the Call and get them everywhere—distribute them at your school or workplace and in your community, take it to places where people gather and enlist them in this important effort;
2) Go to the web site: www.stopmassincarceration.net, find out what’s planned in your area or at your school and get connected with it. If there’s nothing planned in your area or at your school yet, get some people together and plan something. Call a meeting to discuss the Call for April 14 and make plans to get the word out on your campus or in your neighborhood. And make plans to act on April 14.
3) Contact the Stop Mass Incarceration network and bring a speaker to your school or your city to talk about why people who want to STOP police terror need to become involved in making April 14 happen;
4) Make a generous contribution and/or raise money to help make April 14 happen. You can donate on line at stopmassincarceration.net/donate, or you can make tax-deductible contribution by snail mail by making out a check to “Stop Mass Incarceration/AfGJ” with “Stop Mass Incarceration” in the memo line and mailing it to the address below.
Stop Mass Incarceration Network, P.O. Box 941, Knickerbocker Station, New York City, NY 10002-0900
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
For decades, ever since the Black liberation struggle of the 1960s was crushed, there has been a slow genocide going on against African-American people. There has been an explosion of mass incarceration that has been the leading edge of the devastation of entire communities; and this genocidal thrust has hit other communities of color as well. It is not that people did not fight, it is not that there was not resistance, sometimes even heroic resistance; but the hopes for revolution and real emancipation seemed to get further and further away, and every dream of change turned sour.
But beginning this summer and going into early winter, that began to change. The outpourings of resistance to the system’s refusal to punish the police who murdered Michael Brown, Eric Garner and many other Black and Latino people opened the minds of a whole lot of people to the possibility of making revolution. Think about it—the sight of thousands and thousands of people of different races and nationalities and from all walks of life taking to the streets together to say police getting away with murdering people must STOP! This showed people suffering under the system’s program of punishment and deprivation that when they stand up and resist, they won’t be alone. And it opened the eyes of many people who had been shielded from this ugly reality to what was really being done to people and challenged them to join the fight against it. This had people thinking about the chances for radically changing things in a way that hasn’t been seen in decades.
Because of this struggle, it is possible that a real chance at revolution could develop, as other things also come into play. Think about that. Liberation. But it is also not impossible that the uprising of the fall could be suffocated in its cradle, smothered by the repression of the system and the double-edged words of its representatives. There is no justice at all in any of these outrageous cases. And not only will these outrageous unpunished murders by police and this whole genocidal program go on—and I use the word “genocide” very consciously, and very seriously—but it will get worse.
Last fall cannot become a distant memory. If you were one of the tens of thousands who stepped out back then for justice, and didn’t get justice... if you were one of the millions who were inspired and wanted to support this, if only you knew how... then April 14 must be your day. April 14 has to be the time when people re-take the offensive. When college campuses shut down. When high school students walk out. When people in the communities hit hardest by this turn out, blowing whistles and refusing to be silent. When the “gangs” make common cause. When people in the middle classes and prominent people make it known that they will not be silent in a society where 1 out of 3 young Black men are on track for prison from the time they are born, and where the police murder of Black and Latino people has replaced the lyncher’s rope.
Who should be part of this? Everyone who wants to see these outrages STOP and who refuses to stand by until they do... and everybody who can be won, through struggle, to seeing things that way.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
This poem was submitted to Revolution newspaper and to Stop Mass Incarceration Network in support of and to stand with the call for #ShutDownA14. It was written by the 15-year-old younger brother of Darius Pinex, murdered by Chicago police on January 7, 2011. He wrote this poem while riding the bus home from school reflecting on the events of the last week, including the refusal of the federal government to file any charges against George Zimmerman, the killer of Trayvon Martin, as well as his brother's federal civil case happening this week.
Here is the poem:
Hands up don’t shoot
And we can’t breathe
Until we see justice served on a platter.
Put your hoodies on
to stand for the Niggas
And stand against the ones
with they finger on the triggas
They killing us all and do it with permission
It seems as the government is focused on a mission.
I’m here to speak the truth
Their taken out America’s black populated youth
So RIP Mike Brown and Trayvon
That’s just a few
as this list can just go on
So RIP Darius and Flint Farmer too
Eric Garner and that’s still just a few
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The night of December 13, 2013 was the last day of the life of Brian Beaird, who was a disabled veteran. After being chased by the police his car spun out of control and hit a tree and light pole. When Beaird got out of the car the cops fired a beanbag at him, causing him to stagger and bend over. Then, as he continued to walk with his arms up—three cops opened fire with a total of 21 shots. An investigation would later show that Beaird was hit with 13 rounds—three that were fatal and, based on the trajectory of the bullets, were fired when he was on the ground.
This was a clear case of unjustifiable homicide by LAPD that was seen by many people live on TV. After the city voted to pay a $5 million settle to the Beaird family, Beaird’s 80-year-old father, Billy Beaird, said “They shot my son in cold blood. I would not trade my son’s life for every nickel in LA. He means that much to me. I could not believe what I saw.”
Now, the IN-justice system has announced that three Los Angeles police officers will not face any criminal charges for shooting and killing Brian Beaird. Prosecutors admit that the shots that killed Beaird hit him as he fell or while he was on the ground. But they said there was “insufficient evidence” to prove the officers did not fire to defend themselves or someone else. So once again, the police shoot and kill in cold blood but there is NO INDICTMENT, NO CHARGES, and NO JUSTICE.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
While you’re “unpacking your privilege,” the economic and political system we live under—capitalism-imperialism—is grinding billions of people a day to dust, transforming flesh and blood into commodities and profit, or casting people off altogether. Structures of domination enforce that. The patterns of our personal relations, behavior, and—yes—feelings, grow out of the roots of the underlying dynamics of that system. Without mainly fighting and working to radically overturn the system which generates those patterns, such “unpacking” amounts to an empty exercise, or worse.
So yeah, change yourself and the way you relate to people. But do it with your face to the world, do it as part of and while you are standing up on the real, fighting the power, and transforming the people (including yourself), for revolution. As part of emancipating all humanity.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
With this online issue, revcom.us is beginning to make radical changes to better accomplish our mission of “organizing thousands, and influencing millions—fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution—hastening and preparing for the time when we can go for the whole thing, with a real chance to win.” (Click here for more about WWW.REVCOM.US/REVOLUTIONNEWSPAPER).
These changes will make it totally clear that this site is about preparing for an ACTUAL REVOLUTION. They allow us to speak with more edge, more sharply, to the ways in which this system is an utter disaster for the vast majority of humanity, why it is unnecessary, and how we can work on carrying out a serious strategy for revolution. The changes we are beginning to make will more compellingly invite and challenge people to engage in a dynamic way with the leadership of this revolution, Bob Avakian, and the party he leads—the Revolutionary Communist Party. And we are working to bring to life the section of this site, Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution, to make it easier for people to connect with, learn about, and join the movement for revolution.
These changes are a work in progress, but regular readers will see immediate changes in the current issue page for issues of Revolution, and in the Stop Mass Incarceration—Mass Incarceration + Silence = Genocide section of this site.
As we make these changes, we encourage everyone reading this to:
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revcom.us/Revolution recently interviewed a revolutionary woman who was in school in New Jersey in the early 1960s when she became involved in the struggle against Jim Crow, including traveling to Selma after Bloody Sunday in 1965.
Revolution: The documentaries about the struggle against Jim Crow in the early 1960s, what most people call the civil rights movement, show how white college students came from around the country to join the struggle that was unfolding in the South. You were in high school in 1963 in an area near Princeton University in New Jersey at that time. How did you end up getting involved and what were things like, where you were at that time?
Jackie: I got involved because a number of things that had happened already in my life made me very, very aware of what was unfolding at what became like a major point for me which was when the youth in Birmingham went into the streets and faced down the dogs and the hoses. That had a huge impact on me. When I was very young I had followed the whole Little Rock, Arkansas 9 and tried to imagine then and again about Birmingham; how could those youths be so courageous and so determined? What did they understand and what was in them that made them able to do that? And I wanted to do the same against what I saw as injustice. I was in a college town and there were many people around, including high school teachers that really encouraged the interests and challenged me ideologically. I had just thought about this the other day. This English teacher. We were reading Shakespeare and there was some point when somebody says in the thing that they were going to go back and do something but would it make any difference if they did and I made the argument that it didn’t matter because it wouldn’t have any effect. And she said, “Is that the attitude you’re going to take if you’re going to be part of the civil rights movement? You have to fight for everything; you don’t know how it’s going to turn out.” And this was my English teacher with whom I had no political discussion but who just knew that we had started a high school friends of SNCC and we were thinking about....
Revolution: Would you explain what SNCC is?
Jackie: SNCC was the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and they were the youth movement that separated off very early from SCLC, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which was Martin Luther King, more the ministers and the traditional leaders, if you want to put it that way. And these were the students who did the sit-ins and then took up the Freedom Rides after the first bus was surrounded and stopped. They ended up in Jackson, Mississippi and a great number of the people ended up in Parchman Prison because they had a “jail, no bail” policy.
Revolution: Can you explain how you got attracted to SNCC in particular in the first place and then as a high school student how were you able to participate in SNCC and in the movement?
Jackie: That was part of the wild and wonderful part of it all. I went to the march on Washington in '63. My high school history teacher mobilized a bunch of people, including a bunch of people from the high school and I listened to the speeches from the stage and I could tell that John Lewis’ speech was different from the others. There was an edge to his speech. John Lewis was president of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee there was a determination to transform people’s lives as opposed to just get some laws passed. It came through to me and that very much appealed to me and so when I filled out my little card at the end of the march; everybody got a card to fill out. We had to make a pledge; we raised our hands and made a pledge and then we filled out these little cards about who we wanted to work with and so somebody from the SNCC office in Atlanta gave me a call and said, “You should form a Friends of SNCC committee there in your high school,” and so we did (laughs) and did several things that relied more on the high school students, like testing barbershops all the white-owned barbershops and beauty shops—somebody Black would call first to try to make an appointment and get refused and then somebody white would call a half hour later and they would get the appointment and we put together a whole report on that and the local news picked it up so those were important but then very soon after school started there was the bombing that killed the four girls in the church in Birmingham. This is fall of '63 now, and very shortly after that Governor Ross Barnett of Mississippi came to Princeton University to speak and the Princeton University students worked with us to mobilize people to oppose Ross Barnett even being given the stage which turned into—the whole town turned out. Three thousand people came out including virtually the entire Black neighborhood in Princeton which is the site of the former slave quarters of the slaves owned by students who came to Princeton so that was mobilized by the high school students. They got their parents out there so it was huge. University students and the community in a way that was not ordinary and people were very excited and exhilarated and started to feel that there was something happening here and that could build.
Revolution: So after high school did you get more directly involved in the struggle that was taking place in the South?
Jackie: We were on the edge of our seats about just about everything that was happening in the South and by the time the call went out summer of 1964, I wanted to be there. A friend of mine that I became friends with in the course of that year, a young Black woman who was a year younger than I was who became very involved; we were both determined that we were going to at least Atlanta. We understood that we couldn’t go to Mississippi because we were too young and we would be the excuse for the authorities in Mississippi, for instance, to charge somebody with contributing to the delinquency of a minor just because we were 17 and 16 so that was spelled out that we couldn’t go to Mississippi but we could help in Atlanta, so we went to work in an ice cream parlor to earn the money and everybody in that ice cream parlor knew why we were working and helped contribute.
We had to be there; to be “in” that because that was the forefront of everything that was going to push things forward and we had to be there so she (her name was Sheila), and the process of even becoming friends with her was something that was quite new because I was on that track that they had in high schools then to go to college and then there was another track that a lot of the Black kids were in that was leading them to “wherever” but it wasn’t to college. And so she came to my house and looked around and it was a pretty normal middle-class house and she thought it was like House and Beautiful and I went to her house once and her grandmother was raising a bunch of kids. They had a kitchen table which was a card table and some chairs and a green sofa that seated two people and that was it in their house. So we both had our eyes opened but we became close, real close.
Revolution: Let me ask you this because by that point everybody knew that the South was an incredibly dangerous place for people to go work so for a young Black woman and a young white woman who were under age 18, what did both of your sets of parents or relatives or friends say about the fact that you were determined to go?
Jackie: Well, my mother had a routine that never worked, and I think a lot of other people’s mothers said the same thing, “Why does it have to be you that goes? This is very important but why you? Couldn’t you not have to be on the front lines?” And I would say, “If everyone’s mother said that and every kid believed that, it wouldn’t happen so all the ‘you’s’ have to go.” And she was secretly proud and she sent me money and she wrote me every week and all of that but she agonized and I don’t blame her because when you step back from it and you don’t know what’s really going on, it’s agonizing and my dad would be in the grocery store bragging to people that I was in Mississippi or something but he was agonizing too. And I’m not sure what her (Sheila’s) struggle with her grandmother was but she managed to work it out and we arrived in the airport.
Revolution: What about the two of you? Were you guys afraid? You had a sense of how vicious the repression was; how ugly the white citizenry was down there?
Jackie: Maybe I had the sense to be afraid at midnight or something but overwhelmingly it was “I have got to be there. I have got to be in the middle of it.” I have to do whatever I can do and I want to be a part of the people who are pushing things forward. Now it might have helped that when I grew up the upstairs neighbors had been in the French Resistance and I grew up on all the stories they told or whatever but it just didn’t really...in fact when we got to the airport and we had some how managed to trick our parents into thinking we had everything taken care of when we got to the airport but the two of us arrived TOTAL babes in the woods; we really did not know the world at all, at the Atlanta airport, after midnight sometime and she had an aunt in the area that was supposed to come pick us up but she also had a job at 3 in the morning and she was sound asleep and didn’t come pick us up. And these 2 Black guys who was wandering the Atlanta airport at 2 and 3 in the morning came up to us and in hindsight I suspect they were guys who looked for young women to pimp. In this case they found out (a) we were babes in the woods, and (b) we were coming to work with SNCC and they drove us to her aunt’s with all the care in the world as if they were our uncles, and that was the spirit that was in the land at that point and so in many ways we didn’t know enough to be really afraid and then lots of people stepped forward to make sure the worst didn’t happen.
Revolution: Can you talk about what you learned that summer and also the culmination of that summer in certain ways was a Freedom Summer which was itself a very big deal which you weren’t a part of that but you were assisting by helping run the Atlanta office so the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee, with the efforts that they were undertaking in Mississippi where people were teaching, doing voter registration drives, but in general the feel you get from that whole period is that they were doing a huge challenge to the whole structure of Jim Crow and of course keeping African Americans in a very second-class and terrorized status and that was beginning to break down but there was, for every step that was on the people’s side there was very heavy handed terrorizing move that would often take place coming back. So, while hundreds were being arrested or beaten, what effect did that have because it was not a light thing to be arrested in the South, particularly if you were Black during that period. People said it was very, very scary. In rural areas you could disappear and nobody would know what happened to you. And then at the end of the summer, you were coming up to Mississippi, Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation to the Democratic Convention. So can you talk about the arc of that summer—what you were learning and then what happened at the Mississippi Freedom Party’s attempt to unseat the Mississippi delegation to the Democratic Party and get itself seated instead.
Jackie: Everything you said about confronting the “powers that be” in Mississippi. The whole thinking behind it was to go up against the “worst of the worst” and turn it out for everyone to see so the people who were in Mississippi, all the volunteers were really acting in a huge and courageous manner and trying to bring the attention of the whole world on what Mississippi and my main job was to answer what they called the Watts line, it was like a 1-800 number these days but people would call in and say, “so and so got arrested; 23 hours ago; we’ve called the jail; they say he’s not there; we don’t know where he is; you need to get some people to call down there to make sure; we don’t know if he’s “in” or “out,” if he’s alive or in jail or whatever.” I did a 12-hour shift at night which was when there was a lot of this and you didn’t literally know these people but their lives and the intensity of this battle was unfolding right there and then you and other people who were there were trying to figure out how DO we make sure they don’t kill this person, disappear this person, let this person end up in the Mississippi river and I was sitting in an office which was decorated with the postcards of the hangings, the way BA talks about. They had these posters on the walls that were very clear what had happened.
Revolution: When you say postcards of the hangings, you mean postcards of lynchings that took place in the South and then were made into postcards by white people....
Jackie: Who celebrated those events. Exactly. But I was also meeting people. There was one young woman who had been a 14-year-old in Mobile, AL, who had gone to jail for so long that they decided she was a juvenile delinquent so she had come to Atlanta so there were people who had come from the front lines and then also people who were a little bit more on the organizational end, but there was this mix of people who had given their lives essentially to this and so there was this intense discussion - what’s going on. People were learning what each other’s lives were like. We went swimming at midnight and did crazy things but everyone felt better after you did that. I learned so much about people that I had only read about, because I had done a lot of reading, Black people, their lives and their struggles sort of came alive to me in a way that I had never imagined and in the course of that summer I essentially went from being somebody who thought what I had wanted to be with my life was to be a professor or some kind of academic and to someone who wanted to be in the struggle.
I was already an atheist at that point but there wasn’t a lot of religious discussion and I think it’s partly because some of the key people who were there—when we were in Atlanta, Atlanta was a city with five Black universities so some of the volunteers who were helping run the office came from there and from that background. So it was more the question of, the various forms of trying to make this system work and they came out in different ways and there were people who were dedicated to non-violence as a way of life and a way of thinking. John Lewis would be in and out and you would hear that, and there were people who really thought elections were really important and I wouldn’t say my thinking was really sharp at that point but.
Jackie: I was in the process of changing because I had been somebody who had knocked on doors for JFK when I was 14. I sort of grew up in the Democratic Party machinery but it wasn’t smelling so good so there was a whole process, so there were questions, more like a debate over what does this mean and how do you do this and then you get to the Freedom Democratic Party challenge to the Mississippi all-white democratic party and we really thought that we were going to win and the delegation that was headed by Fannie Lou Hamer and Ed King who was a white Mississippian who was a progressive professor who was part of that delegation that they and the rest of the delegation, and there had been meetings in each precinct, all according to the Democratic Party rules and regulations and the exact opposite of what happened in the white-run party where they just picked their people and did their thing. And we knew how people had suffered and all the changes they had gone through, the jobs they’d lost, the beatings they had taken, to go there. We thought that because we were right we were going to win and we go to Atlantic City and ....
Revolution: What was in Atlantic City?
Jackie: The Democratic Convention was in Atlantic City that year and what became much clearer afterwards and even somewhat clearer at that point was that Lyndon Johnson and some of the people who we thought were our lawyers and friends but were more Democratic Party hacks were working on some kind of compromise to make sure the last thing in the world to happen was the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was seated in place of the white Democratic Party in Mississippi which had come through for them and was part of the structure of how the whole system worked. So at the end of 3 days and sitting on the Boardwalk and having Fannie Lou Hamer’s testimony, that’s really worth going and finding a YouTube or whatever. You could see it now. She had been kicked off the plantation because of registering to vote and had become a leader of the people and tremendous courage and vision and people tremendously respected her but she was testifying about what it was like and why they should be seated and Johnson got into it and gave some speech that was nationally televised to try to keep that from reaching people. The end result was the system was....
Revolution: How did that affect your thinking having come from a background where you expected the Democratic Party at the national level to fight for the and embrace the interests of Black people and the end of segregation. So how did that affect your thinking about that and as you mentioned earlier that they didn’t go along with it because they didn’t want to break with the southern Democrats essentially, even though they were segregationists, how did that affect yours and others’ thinking at the time, how did that affect you? In other words what lessons did you draw from that?
Jackie: It was a huge clash of what we’ve been taught to think in traditional thinking, and reality, and for me I was like: voting is not the way forward for the people. I never thought of registering to vote from that day forward, never have voted. I don’t even know what a voting booth looks like and that tore it and was partly the intensity of the whole experience that made that abrupt a break possible and I think a lot of people went through that same process because there was definitely a lot of struggle within SNCC that I wasn’t privy to because I wasn’t a staff person but I do understand that that’s when some of the more radical thinking started to really solidify and people started moving. I definitely would include Stokley Carmichael and other people and they moved to Lowndes County and they used the Black Panther as a symbol of their voting campaign so it was still around that question, but people were really starting to question the whole system in a lot of different kinds of ways but certainly voting. Voting was not a way to express your opinion and they were going to do what they were going to do anyhow but they were going to dress it up however they could to make you think that you were a part of something.
Revolution: So then after that experience with the Democratic Party, this was all in the summer after high school. Then what did you do after that?
Jackie: I went to college and I was a totally different person, maybe not totally, but a whole lot different from the person even in May who was determined to go to Atlanta because I didn’t consider myself a student anymore. There were a number of people I ended up in college with, who had been (in the South that summer).
Revolution: So now we get to the end of your summer, summer after high school, so you then ended up going to college at that point and what was that like after having been so deeply into the struggle and among people for whom college and any formal education was actually denied.
Jackie: It was a very challenging mixed experience. I kept finding myself thinking about things in different ways and having to figure out how I got there. It was sort of a battle of ideas in myself as to what was real in the world and what mattered and what I was responsible for. At the college I was at there was also a number of people who had been volunteers in Mississippi. A lot of them were older and these were questions that they were struggling with too and I remember one conversation where somebody was saying, “I consider myself a student who works with SNCC”and I said “I think I consider myself a SNCC person who is a student,”and that was part of that process that I was going through as far as priorities. I also wanted to be in the streets. I went to demonstrations and skipped class. I took off for 3 weeks and went to Vicksburg, Mississippi for some voter registration stuff so I did get to Mississippi right after I turned 18 and that was the first time I was shot at so you have these nodal points as you go along. It was a very intense year because that February Malcolm X was killed and my heart broke. It was a horrible, rainy, gloomy February day and that was an expression of what it meant that Malcolm X had been killed. I was determined to get to Mississippi and to try to be part of what people were still doing because it was still
Revolution: Do you remember where you were when Bloody Sunday in Selma, Alabama happened when people were viciously beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge?
Jackie: I was in my dorm and I started going up and down the hallway basically shouting to people “come out, come out, do you know what just happened”We mobilized a bunch of people and we went to the Federal Building and took it over. We went in and had a sit-in; and we brought our books and stuff with us but mainly we were just talking and singing and figuring out what all this meant and we were there for maybe 48 hours before they decided they were going to close the building down and they were going to kick us out, and then they did that.
Revolution: Was this happening in other cities in response?
Jackie: It was happening everywhere. We were hearing that it was happening everywhere. Overwhelmingly it was students. It was all in major cities and a lot of college towns where this was happening but it was part of the furor. There was a huge furor throughout the country because it was so vicious and so unrepentant and so “we are white and we are superior and we will beat you down until you say that that’s the truth”They were just stone cold and it just sharpened the whole thing up in a really dramatic—you had to take a side and you couldn’t just say I’m on the side of right; you had to act.
Revolution: There were a number of people who answered the call from SCLC to go down there to march in the immediate response so when that’s happening you’re occupying of the Federal Building with other students, did the students at any point try to go down en masse down to be part of Selma? Were you able to be part of it?
Jackie: We were organizing buses, cars and all of that stuff while we were there. The police took us out of the building and we walked out of the building and into the street and got into cars and started driving south to Selma. We were trying to hook up with the demonstrations. We knew people were marching and we were trying everything we could do to get there. I was in a station wagon with 10 people so we got an elbow in somebody else’s ear but off we went and it was a real mix of people. There were people known as movement people but every time these things happened all kinds of people who hadn’t really understood it before felt they had to be a part of it. It made the conversations in the car really exciting and interesting but there were a bunch of cars that went from my college and a bunch of people and students basically headed there.
Revolution: Was there ever any question about your being a woman? Did you ever question your part of it, or any barrier to be part of this for being a woman?
Jackie: I didn’t feel it and maybe I ignored signals or something (laughs) but there were a number of very strong women in SNCC and in the SNCC office and in CORE. The women who organized the Friends of SNCC, their names are many, they were just dynamos and those were the main people that I was talking to and they were always on the phone. Like I would say: what can I do now? Or something’s happened; what can I do now and they were calling on me to do things that I never thought or never done before but there wasn’t any “oh, you’re a woman”. If it was in there I didn’t hear it so I kept blasting.
Revolution: So then how did you end up hooking up with the marchers? The march went from Selma to Montgomery which is 50-some miles and Montgomery was the capital of Alabama and that’s where Governor Wallace was sitting in his office and he was the one infamous for saying, “segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”
Jackie: Yes. We drove through the night and got to as close to the marchers as we could get and basically parked out car and jumped in and walked that last stretch to Montgomery but that was a few miles. We didn’t ever ....
Revolution: At that point, how large were the marches?
Jackie: Tens of thousands. I think they got up to 50,000 by the time they actually got to the capitol. It had both struck the conscience of a lot of people broadly in the country but also there were a lot of basic Black people who walked, took their aprons off and walked out the door and joined the march. There was something very profoundly wrong and people felt that there was something... they could see that something was happening. It was a real mix. There were a lot of students but it wasn’t only students by any means. Then we had to turn around. It was one of those things where the rallies were an anti-climax. There were a few speeches and whatever and then we ended up getting back in the car and we were driving back and later we found by listening to the radio that Viola Liuzzo had been killed. She was the woman they kept calling the housewife from Detroit but she was actually a very active member of the civil rights organization in Detroit and I think her husband was an auto worker and she was a part of the progressive wing of that and she had come down there to be part of the movement and was driving after the march, bringing supplies and a bunch of stuff back to the office and driving with a young Black man, and somebody drove right up to them and shot her dead and wounded him very seriously. We realized we had traveled that road about an hour earlier on that same main highway when we were heading back north. So it was one of those times when you felt it made all the difference in the world what you did and that something was going to change as a result of people standing up to that kind of outrage.
Revolution: So then you finally got to go to Mississippi which you had been striving to do since you were 17 so can you talk a little bit about that experience and what you learned and including you’re a field worker out among people in a way that you couldn’t be in Atlanta. What was that like and what did you learn, what changes did you go through in your own thinking, but also what did you learn from the people you were interacting with in Mississippi?
Jackie: The first thing that happened when I got there I came to Jackson, Mississippi. I didn’t know where I was going to be, but people said to go to Jackson because there was going to be a huge march. It turned out to be a huge march that went on day after day after day. They kept on arresting everybody that marched and then thousands more would come from all over the state but I was arrested the first day and we went to the fairgrounds. That’s where they took everybody that was arrested and I was looking around at the people who were there and I was realizing, I was seeing some women for instance and I said,“those are some very tough people and their lives have been very different from mine” and I have got to learn what it is their lives have been like, and what they have concluded from it, because there’s some strong, BAD women... There was one woman who was agitating about people not being able to get into the bathrooms. They had a thousand people and 2 stalls for the women and you had to raise your hand and have to go two by two. She was raising holy hell. Then I met this one young woman. She was a young Black woman from the county that I ended up going to. She and I held hands. We were both 18 years old and we were like: Oh, my god, what are we going to do? She was just 18 herself and then they separated all the white people; I think there were 16 of us who got transferred to county jail. All the rest of the people were Black and were kept in the fairgrounds. At one point we went on a hunger strike, did a lot of singing and drove the guards crazy so there’s one plus of going to jail. At one point they brought in a woman who had been really badly beaten. I realized this was the woman who was raising hell about the restrooms. She had little tiny pieces of her pink slip still stuck to her body by sweat but they had beat every shred of clothes off of that woman I don’t know what happened to her. They put her in solitary and we screamed and yelled but we never could get a result. We were yelling for a doctor for her, for help for her. To the day we got out I never found out what happened to her, but that was the introduction, that was the beginning (laughter)—welcome to Mississippi. Among the white folks there was another young woman who had been in Clay County, the county I ended up in, which is in the northeast of Mississippi. The delta if you picture it, wasn’t delta territory but we were two counties north of Neshoba County which is where the three young men who were killed in the summer of 64 were found—they were killed and found in the river there, in their car. So that gives you some picture of where we were but anyhow because of meeting those two women when I got out of jail I went to Clay County with them.
It was almost like '64 again but was slightly smaller numbers in the sense that there were a number of volunteers there that summer and there were Freedom Houses. The county had five areas and there was Freedom House, and the main town which is called West Point and there were in other farming...
Revolution: What was Freedom House?
Jackie: It was a place where the volunteers lived and it depended on the community what that existence meant. For most people it meant you slept on the floor so when the Klan or whoever shot through the windows they didn’t get you but the community had people’s backs in a lot of ways. They fed them; they came to the Freedom School.
Revolution: You weren’t staying in people’s homes. You were together in the Freedom House and relating to the community surrounding it.
Jackie: Right. As time went on there were fewer and fewer as more people were living with different families. By this point, summer of '65, there was something of a mass movement and a lot of people felt that this was their movement and something was going to change and they were part of it and in many cases were really in charge of it together with volunteers and there were SNCC people who had stayed over through this whole time and had real organized connections with the community, but I came into something the summer of '64 where it was a whole process where everybody was new, but by this time there had been some real advances so there was some struggles that were going on—one in particular was the school schedule and what it meant to go to Black schools, the Black schools schedules were set up so Black people were available to chop cotton – Black children were available to chop cotton. So, they went to school in the summer time while the cotton was growing when it could get up to 110 degrees and there was no such thing as an air conditioner, and they were reading 50-year-old beat-up old science books or something so the science was disproved and every book they had had the name of some white kid in it who had had it before and then come Fall when white kids started going to school they went to the field to chop cotton and they didn’t want to do that anymore so there was a boycott and a lot of demonstrations and in one area where it was a really concentrated battle they did actually change it and I think in some other places there were some changes but...
Revolution: The main way in counties like that people were still living was under the sharecropping system, right? Was that true where you were and what were the implications for people being involved in this?
Jackie: Sharecropping that was a ferociously difficult life that never got to any new place. A couple of people come to mind. One is this man named John Thomas who had 11 children, sharecropped, he’d been in the army in Korea. Every demonstration he, his wife and his 11 children marched and the jailers had a cell for the Thomas family because they knew they were coming and all 13 of them would be in that one cell until people got bailed out, and I don’t know how he survived, and how they lived. I know they all worked, ALL the time and including....
Revolution: Were people like that threatened for their involvement?
Jackie: He had somehow gotten something going so that his boss didn’t mess with him on one level at least on the day-to-day. Now part of the very tragic tale is that in 1970 he was killed by a Klansman behind a grocery store and an all-white jury found the guy not guilty although everyone and their mother knew who it was but it was another Klansman; it wasn’t his boss or whatever you call it. But then almost towards the end of the time that I was there, I met this woman named Sally who really sort of summed up the whole system. We had traveled back on these roads and twists and turns and gotten totally lost, and stumbled up on her place, and I was with another woman, another white woman, the two of us, and this woman Sally came out of the house and she just hugged us and she said, “you must be the Freedoms” and she spent the whole day—just gettin’ ready, get the lunch ready, you’re going with me to meet the neighbors. We had a day of it. She was so unleashed but she also explained in brutal detail what sharecropping meant including that if you made a better crop one year and got a little more cotton grown or a little more vegetables grown or whatever they would change the amount that they said you had bought at the store. Every one of these guys who ran a plantation or sharecropping, they owned a store, like a company store like you hear around the coal mines, and coal mining communities. They kept the books and you never did and you were always behind and you always owed and you never could get out of it and that’s what she told us. She said “no matter what you do, you cannot get out of this trap.”
Revolution: So when she saw you, what was she hoping would come of this? What was she so enthusiastic for, to say “The Freedoms are here!”
Jackie: It was that their lives could be profoundly different. She had a high-school age daughter who wanted to be a doctor who had this old raggedy-assed copy of Grey’s Anatomy and every page was rolled over cuz she was studying it. I don’t know where she got it but they had dreams; they wanted a life, they wanted to do things in the world and they did not want to just live this slavery, which is essentially what it was.
Slavery by another name and they were determined to find a way out of it and determined that their friends would too. She didn’t want to just sit down, she grabbed me by the hand, “Let’s go talk to so-and-so,” she wanted to mobilize everybody. We were going to change the way people lived. That’s why reducing the civil rights movement to voting rights or something like that, there was a whole trend like that, and now the way it’s talked about these days, it’s all about getting the right to vote, and the need to vote for Black mayors and sheriffs and whatever, that wasn’t what she was looking for and it wasn’t what a lot of people were looking for. They were looking for a profound change in how they lived their lives.
Revolution: Let me ask you a question: the violent reaction and suppression of these people, what they had to go up against, and anybody who took up their side, what they had to endure to stand up for what was right—it’s the kind of thing that makes you wonder, why ARE we “turning the other cheek,” why is it that the people,,, you know it was called the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, SNCC—why is non-violence the way that the people who were actually doing the right thing have to do, whereas the racists, the police forces, and the Ku Klux Klan, all of whom were intertwined, were violent and brutal? One guy from Birmingham called them Mr. Policeman Kukluxklanner. (laughter). So were people, were you, starting to question that?
Jackie: For a lot of people it was just a tactic. The name came when they were first formed in '60/'61 with the SCLC, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. And there were some people, who were leading people, who profoundly believed non-violence was the way to go, and John Lewis was one of them. I think in a lot of public demonstrations and that kind of thing, where the armed might of the other side was so ferocious, that was the tactic through which you could march, and live—maybe—to tell the tale, and a lot of people saw that as that tactic. But outside of every mass meeting I was at, there were men from the community who were standing outside with their trucks, and just about everybody... It was rural country, and everyone had a rifle on the back of their truck, you know? It was just part of the way people lived and there was a basic understanding that people might well defend themselves if they were attacked, so that chilled some of the stuff out. In Vicksburg, Mississippi, when I first got shot at? – we were in a church, and everybody was singing and there was one light up at the top and the Klan or whoever was shooting through several windows and there were a hundred people there, and somebody, as fast as you could say boo took a shoe off and threw it to knock that light out so that the people who were shooting couldn’t see us. Now there was a hornet’s nest around that, so that led to some other difficulties! (laughs)
But you know, it (the response) was that fast, and there were people outside who had the view that basically this must be defended—people have a right to meet in a church and talk, so... I’ll give you one example of the “tit for tat” that goes on in a rural community that has been so organized to suppress, and oppress, the Black people. At one point in a struggle that was intense, and we were out a midnight going around seeing people, and there were three or four of us in a car in this one rural area, and we slid off into the ditch – which is very easy to do, there’s no lights, it’s pitch black. You can hear everything that’s going on, and I learned this by being there, you can be sitting in somebody’s house and they’ll say, oh so-and-so’s going to see his mother, and you could hear their car a mile away, that had a certain sound, and it was so still, and so dark...but you knew those noises! (laughs)
Revolution: Why were you doing this at midnight?!
Jackie: Because it was very intense struggle at that particular point. And to go to farmers who get up at 3 or 4 in the morning, to knock at midnight, was because it was so intense. So—we slid off into the ditch. So, the closest place was a family called the Washingtons, who were stalwarts in the struggle and the Freedom House was right on their property, and across from them lived the leader of the Klan—and his place was dirt all in front, he had three or four dogs, and if the dogs smelled you or heard you and started barking, then all the lights came on, and you were visible to people who had no problem shooting you. So we have to make sure that we don’t alert the dogs, we get to the Washingtons, and go across this little bridge they had. And we thought, now the Washingtons don’t know who the hell we are, so we could be in trouble coming across this bridge, so we started singing freedom songs – but then we were on their property and we were safe. (laughs) But it was always that kind of tit-for-tat, you had to think on your feet all the time, and other people were doing the same.
There was a struggle that went on there and went on in several counties at that time, to really attack some of the economic stranglehold that the white power structure had on Black farmers. It focused on the cotton allotments that people got. Cotton was still being grown in some magnitude at the time.
Revolution: What is an “allotment”?
Jackie: There is a board in every county, and it’s always just white men who were on it, but there’s a whole process by which farmers in Mississippi (and more broadly) are told how much cotton they can grow on their land. And somebody like Senator Eastland from Mississippi, who had almost 6,000 acres, grew 5,800 acres of cotton. If you were a Black farmer who had, say, 100 acres, you might do good if you got an allotment of maybe a quarter of one acre, it was that kind of crap. And that’s how people lived, it was people with total power over them, telling them that they couldn’t even make a living. If they weren’t sharecropping, then this was what they faced. If they owned their own land then they couldn’t plant cotton, which was the biggest crop, and the most money-making crop.
So the whole county became embroiled in a battle around this, and we were trying to change who would make the decisions about cotton allotments. It was according to six different districts in the county, and there was one that had 90 percent Black people. There was a meeting, 100 people came, we ran Black candidates and they filled out their ballots right then and there. All these people had to be landowners, so we had a list of all the Black people who owned land and then we went house to house to anyone who wasn’t at the meeting. We knew every single ballot and what was happening. They came to count the votes, and I and another woman were watching the counting. And they said, oh this is an X, not a checkmark, this is smudged, this has a...
Revolution: A hanging chad! (laughter)
Jackie: The modern version, hanging chads, yes! And they threw all those ballots away! We sat right there, and people had gone through all kinds of hell to get there, faced down threats by the Klan, etc. I know myself I had gone 30 days straight—we counted it—that somebody threatened my life, or tried to shoot at me—I got pretty good at dealing with it. But they just threw all the shit away, they were not gonna let anybody...
Revolution: So what was the response?
Jackie: There was no way that the system was going to adjust to meet the needs of the people. The system itself, from top to bottom, was totally corrupt, and did all of that in the name of democracy, and come vote, and all of that. I mean, we really went through some changes, thinking of tactics and all of that—but the question is, what do you do if the whole system is against you? I think that’s what drove the Black Power movement. With the end of that election, it was starting to grow more and more. More and more people were thinking there’s just no way Black people are going to get justice, or a life under this system, so something profoundly different has to happen. And then that question of what’s the profoundly different thing and how do you get there?
And one of the things I was thinking about this is that there’s a process by which...I don’t know when I started to actually use the word revolutionary, but I remember when I got arrested in June of 1965 when I first came there, there was a book I was reading about Trotsky and Stalin, and it was a paperback book, and I tore it into about four different parts and put it into my underwear so they wouldn’t it when I went in (to jail)—so we all shared it and read it—so I was already trying to figure out something. But part of what made me think revolution—I was more and more thinking it was necessary, but I came out of Mississippi thinking it was possible, too, because I had seen the tremendous courage and determination and creativity and love and humor, and everything, that came from the people on the bottom who saw there was a crack here. that there were people who saw what was happening and were coming to their aid, if you want to say it that way—with the students and staff people that came in. There was a profound movement, and people’s lives changed and they thought differently. And all of the things people can do, when they’re not being pounded into the earth with every breath they take, started to flower. And it was a beautiful thing!
Revolution: OK, so after that really life-changing experience, then you go back to college, and how do you continue to make that transition. And there’s obviously much more that was going on in the world at that time that was influencing how people were responding to stuff without necessarily even being aware that revolution was happening in the world in countries like China, national liberation struggles were going on in places like Vietnam, anti-colonial struggles in places like Africa. That was in the air even if you weren’t actually that conscious of it. So then, how did that take shape for you? Did you become more conscious of it? Did you begin to see the connections with the oppression you had experienced in Mississippi?
Jackie: Well I was really trying to figure out what the road forward was, how would we do this? And the Vietnam War? There was both the movement here which was quite dynamic and bold, and increasingly so on the campuses, and also there was the struggle of the Vietnamese people, you were starting to get a sense of what people were doing there. And I forget at which point you were really rooting for the Vietnamese people to win, but it was happening during that whole process. And as you said, the anti-colonial struggles in Africa: I had a friend, a Nigerian who was telling me all about the struggle there, and at a certain point Biafra jumped off and he was explaining some of those things to me. There was a revolution within Nigeria and real contention over the road forward. So these questions of how DO you break out of what we called imperialism and capitalism at that point...and we knew that in a lot of anti-colonial and post-colonial struggles but now where—there were struggles around all of that. The Middle East—Israel and Palestine that started to get very sharp. My time at school, I was using everything I could to learn, I took classes on Marx—it was a class in what was wrong with Marx, which wasn’t what I was looking for, but that’s what you get sometimes! But the big question on my mind was how do we make a revolution in this country.
Well what I did was I became part of the GI movement. And that turned into a huge struggle.
Revolution: The GI movement was soldiers and inductees (draftees?) who were fighting against the U.S. involvement in Vietnam?
Jackie: Exactly. There started to be a movement in the summer of ’68. We were opening up coffeehouses near the different bases, in towns right close to the different Forts. And what happened in a lot of them was that people who had already been in that war and were really not in support at all—there were a lot of GI’s who were supporting the Vietnamese and were hoping they would win at that point. So it was in that context that we read the Red Papers 1 through 4. They were put out by the Revolutionary Union, the forerunner of the Revolutionary Communist Party. They were theoretical documents where people were wrestling on a high level with these questions. So staff people but also a big number of GI’s were reading these pieces that were at a very high level—on the fundamental nature of what’s going on and what’s wrong, and what then would be a solution, what would be a way forward. That was the level of the debate among a lot of the people on the bases, but these were mainly people who were not college people, they were GI’s. There was a high level of debate coming from the high level of the documents, with the Red Papers really standing out. That started to be the standard by which we were judging everything else. It was a process that came from just reading the documents, because it was the questions that were on our minds too.
Revolution: Looking back on all this and thinking about it, aren’t there lessons that you would sum up for youth (today), from that time? Including, it strikes me, that in high school it was often you and one other person who went off to do something, and it takes a tremendous amount of courage. It may be foolhardy and I’m sure you missed the comfort of the peer group doing something, but are there lessons for people that you could point to?
Jackie: Well, you make a good point about a small number of people. And in the summer of ’66 in Mississippi there were 800 people there! But it went up against a huge system that did not want to budge an inch, and they were in ones and twos, and twenty in one county was a drop in the bucket. I remember time after time when we would go out, and this was including in the GI movement, when you would think, we’re going out today, and there’s a big chance that somebody’s going to get shot and die, that somebody will kill one of us, but there’s no way in hell that we’re gonna let one of these blank-blank-blanks back us up, that we’re going to go back from where we’ve fought to get to here?! No way! And it did happen that some people got killed. But there was no way that we were backing up. It just becomes the main thing you’re thinking about is what has to happen and what has to change, and not about the courage to do this. I think you’re angrier or more determined, than brave. But the other thing that strikes me about this is this thing about, no outsiders allowed. I was an outsider through all of that. The volunteers, all the people were outsiders. There’s a view these days (about outsiders) but there’s no outsiders in the fight against oppression! Everybody who wants to be part of that fight needs to be welcomed and brought into it. Wherever they’re coming from, as long as they have the same goals, generally speaking, that they want to really end this, they need to step up and come, be part of it and learn, and we’ll all learn.
And be willing to go wherever that takes you! Because I definitely didn’t know, when I got on the plane to go to Atlanta in ’64, where I was going to end up. I think my mother had a clue! (laughs) That I wasn’t going to be the same person! But anyhow, I never regretted a moment of it—we talked about the sacrifices, but I always considered this just a joy, to be able to be part of this, and with good people, doing the same thing, what’s not to love?!
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 2, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Join crews of volunteers going to the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the savage attack on the people marching across the Bridge demanding rights for Black people in Selma, Alabama, on March 7 and 8, to connect the legacy of the struggle in that period to acting on April 14 to stop the savage attacks on Black and Latino people today. To join this crew, contact the Stop Mass Incarceration Network at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling: 347-979-7646.
Go to the whole article, "What Does April 14 Need to Look Like," to learn more about April 14, a day of actions around the country to STOP murder and brutality by police.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
by Sunsara Taylor | March 3, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On Saturday, February 28, I joined with members of the New York City Revolution Club, StopPatriarchy.org, and others to protest the first ever NYC Porn Film Festival. We headed out in the biting cold because this festival represented a further step in the mainstreaming of pornography, even as pornography more and more concentrates violence and hatred against women. A glimpse at some of the all-time most viewed videos on Pornhub (see accompanying box), the Festival's sponsor and the largest porn site in the world, reveal the truth of this.
The Festival was located in an experimental art space on a quiet street in Bushwick, Brooklyn and was attended by perhaps 80-100 people at its peak. Despite the extraordinarily heavy police presence—two police vans, two squad cars, and a long double line of barricades to keep us from the venue—we were able to engage quite a bit with those attending, some in very rich exchanges. We also spoke with about a dozen local and international journalists.
When the same questions come up over and over again, it is often a good idea to develop a set of FAQs, or Frequently Asked Questions. In this case, I think it is more appropriate to describe the arguments we were hit with over and over as “FEBs,” or “Frequently Encountered Bullshit.” While many of these folks clearly meant well and some were very thoughtful, there simply is no justification for porn. I hope you enjoy.
“What about MY choice? Liberation means I, as a woman, should have the right to do whatever I want!”
No, liberation is about EVERYONE getting free, not about YOU “getting yours” within the system of oppression.
Pornography is a multi-billion-dollar international industry which traffics in the sexualized degradation, dehumanization, and cruel humiliation of women. It both reflects and fuels a world of hatred and violence against women. It is no more “liberating” for a woman to choose to be part of porn than it would be for a Black person to choose to be part of creating racist propaganda. People who want real liberation—not just for themselves, but for all of humanity—need to rise up against and fight the institutions that propagate oppression, not join them.
“But we are 'flipping the script' and making feminist—or LGBT—porn.”
No, you are getting played—and you are part of playing other oppressed people. Over and over when we asked what made their porn feminist, they explained that it was women or LGBT people behind the camera or “calling the shots.” None of them spoke about the social content of what was being shown. When asked, ineverycase they described depictions of sexualized domination and degradation—it just had women or LGBT people involved in degrading men or each other. This is wrong. No one gets the “right” to degrade themselves or others without living in a world that gives rise to the idea that domination and degradation are “sexy.” And that world is filled with millions of women and children who have been tricked, trafficked, molested, raped, beaten, humiliated and killed. It is filled with brutality and bigotry against LGBT people. Women and LGBT folks need liberation, not “equal access to degradation.”
“It's natural for men to dominate women sexually, all the mammals do it.”
Bullshit! It's an anti-scientific LIE to say that the males of most mammal species dominate and conquer the females—this is simply not the case. Even more fundamentally, one of the key differences between human beings and other species is precisely how much elasticity we have to live and relate in vastly different ways depending on our social and material conditions. We are not just a product of our genes, we are shaped by—and in turn can shape—the larger structures of society, the culture and the way of life we come up in. In this era, it is possible to fight for—and make—the most radical revolution in the history of humanity, one that puts an end to all forms of oppression and degradation. Doing this requires a scientific approach to understanding the way the world actually works and our role in it, not lazy pseudoscientific myths about some reactionary or “fallen” nature of man.
“What would you say to a woman who got into porn herself and has written a whole memoir about how it is empowering and how much she sincerely loves it?”
The exact same thing I'd say to a woman who stands outside an abortion clinic calling other women “murderers”: What you are doing is objectively very harmful to women and humanity as a whole. The question is not whether a woman—or anyone—is “sincere,” the question is what is the objective content and effect of their outlook and actions. Reducing women to objects of sexual plunder and propagating that idea is fundamentally no different than reducing women to breeders and propagating that notion. Both are harmful to all women and no one should do these things.
As for those who seize on these “empowerment stories” to rationalize their use of porn: For every woman with a book deal or academic paper talking about how “empowering sex work can be,” there are millions of women around the world who are being kidnapped, tricked, sold by starving families, brutalized and raped, and/or driven through the desperate need to feed themselves and their children into the sex “industry.” Highlighting the stories of the tiny percentage of women who feel “empowered” to defend pornography is like highlighting the handful of people who made riches during the Great Depression to defend that as a period of “economic opportunity.”
“But some porn objectifies men, how is that bad for women?”
The point is to end to all forms of oppression, degradation, objectification, dehumanization, and exploitation—not to gain access to the ability to oppress, degrade, objectify, dehumanize, or exploit others. Women and other oppressed people don't need revenge, or the equal right to objectify and oppress others, they need liberation.
“Porn is just about sex, don't be uptight.”
No. Trying to repress sexuality is “uptight.” Trying to rid sexuality of oppression is liberating.
Porn is not “just sex.” It is the propagation of a very oppressive kind of sex. And porn doesn't just train people in an oppressive view of sex, it also trains people in an oppressive view of women. In porn, all women at all times exist to be—and want to be—“fucked.” In real life, women who do not act this way are often perceived by men to be denying them what is “rightfully theirs.” Think I am making this up? Ask the women around you how many times a guy on the street has gone from, “Hey baby,” to “fucking bitch” simply because they didn't respond. The level of anger men express towards women simply for not being eager to be harassed, groped, or “fucked” is enormous. All this is reflected in and further reinforced through pornography.
“There have always been 'power dynamics' and master-slave relations, the point is that through porn you get to 'play with that' and 'work it out.'”
This is just craven capitulation to oppression. We don't need to “work out” and “play with” oppression and enslavement, we need to abolish it in every form! Besides, “playing” with master-slave relations in the bedroom does nothing to “work out” any of the horrors in the real world! Really, such “playing” is part of adjusting oneself to these horrors, coping with them, even getting in on—and getting off on—degradation and oppression. It is not incidental, for instance, that soldiers in the U.S. military often get pumped up on violent and degrading porn before going out into reactionary combat.
Besides, the world has NOT always been divided into masters and slaves, oppressors and oppressed, dominators and dominated. Read some history. It hasn't always been this way and it doesn't have to stay this way. Read some about the revolution that is possible in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). Now, stop “playing” with oppression and start fighting to end it!
“I don't tell you what you should do, you shouldn't tell me!”
If you really think your desire to get off on depictions of women—or others—being brutalized and degraded is more important than the right of women everywhere to not be terrorized and humiliated through these depictions and the violent degradation they reinforce, you are seriously mistaken. Simply put: you are not more important than half of humanity.
And you know what? If I—or anyone else—was part of something that was deeply oppressive, you absolutely should challenge it. While it is extremely important that people have the space to think differently and strike out in many directions, tolerating oppression is very different and is nothing to be proud of.
“But people are turned on by degradation, including women—and they shouldn't be shamed for that.”
Give this up. Challenging people to think about the content of what is turning them on, what kind of a world and conditioning it flows out of, and what kind of world it reinforces is NOT “shaming” them.
It is no surprise that many people—including many women—find degradation arousing. For their entire lives they have been propagandized through pornography as well as in other ways to see sex as something “dirty,” to find degradation titillating, to see women as “temptresses,” to see LGBT people as “deviant,” and to see domination as a “turn-on.” All this is a reason to fight against pornography—and to challenge others, even people who are really into it, to join confront how harmful this is—not a reason to defend it.
“You have no faith in human beings to tell the difference between real life and fantasy?”
If film and other media had no impact on how people felt, what they desired, and their outlook on the world then billions of dollars wouldn't be spent each year on advertising. Ads hook millions on the idea that their brand of shoes, soft drink, car, etc. defines who they are. Everyone knows this. Yet, somehow when it comes to videos of women being gang-raped, being “violently throat-fucked” til they gag, being spit on and called “dirty whores,” being punched and preyed upon—videos that are viewed millions and millions and millions of times by millions and millions and millions of men—we are supposed to believe this “has no effect.” Bullshit. Porn affects the way that millions of men view women, and the way that women and others have learned to view themselves.
Further, fighting against porn—even more, fighting against this as a key part of fighting to make a revolution that puts an end to all forms of oppression—has everything to do with having “faith in human beings.” Oppression and degradation—in the larger world and in the intimate sphere of sexuality—is not “human nature.” Through revolution it is possible to bring into being a new system and a new culture where women and men relate with mutual respect and equality, where people of all genders and sexual orientations are valued, where the great diversity of nationalities and “races” are celebrated, where the lives of people around the world are valued as much as our own, and where critical thought and the collective good are valued and fostered. Taking on the institutions that stand against this, and winning growing numbers of people to take up this morality today, is a big part of hastening and preparing for revolution.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
Check It Out
March 3, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
It is has been hard to avoid the ads, promotions, merchandize spin-offs, and drooling puff-pieces promoting Fifty Shades of Grey in recent weeks. The film (made from a book trilogy of the same title) is being promoted as “sexy,” “edgy,” and even “empowering to women.” The reality, however, is that it romanticizes abuse, violence, and outright ownership of women. Worse, it marks a major leap in mainstreaming view of women this throughout society – including to women themselves.
All this makes it particularly refreshing to hear Russell Brand's take on this film and all the reactionary hoopla surrounding it. He skewers the links between glamorizing violence against women on an intimate level and terrorizing oppressed people on a global scale. Then, he humorously, but also earnestly, discusses the way that pornography has taken a toll on men – including himself – and women, how they relate, and how all people relate throughout society. Others can learn a lot from what he is willing to confront in this video. Enjoy!
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
From A World To Win News Service
March 5, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Another 8 March, International Women’s Day, is on the way. This day commemorates the heroic struggle of women textile workers in New York that inspired the organised struggle of women worldwide. 8 March also reminds us of the memorable struggle and resistance of Iranian women on 8 March 1979 against the compulsory wearing of the hijab after the Islamists seized power and established the anti-woman Islamic Republic. On 8 March we also remember all those women who struggled against the brutal regime and continued their fight at home, in the streets, universities, schools, prisons and elsewhere against the patriarchal system and its subjugation of women and all its anti-woman policies.
Women’s struggle on a world scale has been a source of inspiration for us and all those determined to fight and eradicate the oppression and subjugation of women. There is no doubt that we have a tough and tortuous path in front of us. But the situation and conditions of millions of women in Iran and the region and the world is such that we can no longer tolerate such insulting and contemptible treatment.
We are approaching 8 March at a time when women in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria face unimaginable pressure because of imperialist invasions and occupations on the one hand, and the rise of Islamic fundamentalists on the other. The warmongering and brutal occupations by imperialist powers seeking to control the region under different pretexts, and the rise of Islamist forces who are competing with each other in backwardness, has imposed an even harsher situation on women in this region.
The furious face of women in this region is a loud statement that it is no longer possible for women to tolerate this situation and it is no longer acceptable to remain indifferent. A revolutionary and organised struggle to put an end to patriarchal religious fundamentalism and imperialism is a desperate necessity.
The situation for women in Afghanistan has not improved under the country’s occupation by the imperialist powers. In fact, they are now brutally oppressed by two fundamentalist forces, the imperialist-appointed regime and the Taliban opposition.
With the occupation of Iraq and the war in Syria that lead to the seizure of power by the Islamic State (Daesh), women in the region and in particular Yazidi women have been forced to become sex slaves and are traded. Millions of women in Iraq and Syria are deprived of all their basic and human rights and are continuously threatened with rape and violence, whether they are still living in their home villages and towns or forced to become refugees in the mountains under horrible conditions.
We are approaching 8 March this year in a situation where women in the so-called advanced capitalist countries are suffering from oppression. Their bodies and lives are under the control of male supremacy in various ways. Even though women in the Western countries are considered equal under law, discrimination against women in different forms and in a broad way exists and a male chauvinist system is reproduced continuously. Violence against women in forms such as rape and domestic violence is widespread. The right to abortion is limited in various countries. The situation in these countries has given rise to many forms of protest against the degradation of women.
Women’s bodies in these countries are a form of commodity, and in this way they are owned or controlled and traded. Every year thousands of young and teenage girls from the lower and deprived classes of these countries and also from Third World countries or Eastern Europe are lured and imported into the sex market by human traffickers, so they can work as sex slaves in the brothels of the modern Western countries or the pornography “industry.” In this way the degradation and brutal oppression of women is ensured, of course in a “modern way,” and billions of dollars go into the pockets of the monarchs of capital.
The situation of women all over the world shows that they are either covered up by a burqa as the property of a man, or their bodies become a commodity to be controlled or traded in the market. In both cases they are downgraded and humiliated, vulnerable to the violence of patriarchy and the male chauvinist system. The system is the same and the oppression of women is the same and there is no way around that. The oppression of women by Islamic fundamentalists such as the Islamic Republic of Iran, the Taliban and Daesh might be performed in its most brutal form, but the liberation of women cannot be achieved within the male supremacist capitalist system because this system itself is the main cause and source of escalation of the degradation of women on a world scale.
As 8 March approaches this year the Islamic Republic of Iran has launched an extensive anti-woman campaign. More than just a series of oppressive policies, with its different parts and components this campaign is a systematic assault meant to lower the position of women in society even more, produce a reactionary example for the treatment of women in the region, and allow the regime to compete with other backward and anti-woman forces in the region such as Daesh.
The regime’s project for the family and increasing the population, called a plan for “comprehensive population policies” to promote “excellence of the family” and the “Islamic family,” includes restricting access to contraception. This would further limit women’s participation in society. Even women who have managed to enter the social sphere despite mountains of restrictions, limitations and gender discrimination will be forced to go back to their kitchens and bedrooms. This overall plan has led to various laws that cut back all the facilities and budgets for preventing unwanted pregnancy. Further, any move from women to control their own bodies and lives will be considered illegal, punishable by imprisonment and whipping.
Speeches by the military heads of this project seem to indicate that the regime is aiming to prepare itself for a military showdown in the region and ensure a massive military force, i.e., cannon fodder, for possible future developments by increasing the population. In this way the regime wants to strengthen its ability to influence the balance of power in the region. It is looking for a chance to become a player in the games run by the imperialist powers as they form blocs with the aim of controlling the region and the world.
This assault on women is also evident in other projects and bills, such as the “law to protect privacy, modesty and hijab,” and measures such as reducing the number of women employees, encouraging employed women to retire early, restricting education for women, and limiting women’s rights to seek a divorce, open a bank account for their children and travel.
This proposed law and another called “for the promotion of virtue and prevention of vice” not only give power to the men in the family but also allow any regime forces and in fact any backward, anti-woman element to control the behaviour and the kind of clothing and cover of any woman—to police women.
In relation to this, the regime has also organised its thugs, in addition to its security forces, to impose the different aspects of its assault on women.
The series of incidents in which acid was thrown into women’s faces in the last few months, in cities such as Isfahan, Tehran, Shiraz and Tabriz, was part of that assault. Despite the regime’s denial, it was a continuation of its anti-woman policies and one of the forms of carrying out its “promotion of virtue and prevention of vice.” It is worth mentioning that the protest of women and men, in Isfahan in particular, and also the people’s angry reaction in opposition to these acid attacks, to some extent exposed the regime’s role and its aims.
The execution of Reyhaneh Jabbari last November was also part of the present regime’s assaults on women. The young woman was executed because she had dared to defend herself against a rapist who was an intelligence officer. The regime filed a fake case against Reyhaneh and hung her as a warning that other young women who dare to defend themselves against a rapist or the regime’s thugs will be punished brutally.
Behind the recent savage assault against women the weakness of the regime is evident too. The rebellious and defiant spirit of young people over the years has prevented the Islamic regime from fully carrying out its policies against women. Women’s contempt is a sign of defeat for the regime. The Islamic Republic’s desperation has played an important role in the recent campaign. The regime’s demoralization is an important advantage for the people and especially for women to organise themselves and stand up against this reactionary assault.
The reality is that the war against women the Islamic Republic launched after its seizure of power in 1979 has not ended yet. The current all-rounded assault to intensify the degradation of women is a campaign in that war. Despite all its military and political might, the Islamic Republic has real weaknesses. Its views and thinking belong to long gone centuries. Its existence is tied up with oppression and exploitation. Because of its reactionary nature, it has to rely on force and ruthlessness.
In contrast, women have no political and military power but they are dynamic, motivated and determined to achieve their liberation. Their struggle against oppression is courageous and inspiring. Only the broadening of the organised revolutionary struggle of women and the broad masses of people can achieve victory and put an end to the savage assaults of this anti-people regime. Only through an organised and persistent struggle with a clear perspective of a society without oppression and exploitation can we move ahead in the direction of overthrowing the Islamic Republic and imperialist male supremacy. Without that struggle and that perspective, the patriarchal system will continue to be reproduced.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 5, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On Wednesday, March 4, the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released a report on the Ferguson Police Department (FPD). Based on a six-month investigation, the 100+ page report documents how Black people in Ferguson, Missouri, are subjected to blatant racial discrimination. These criminal practices by the police, violating people’s constitutional rights, are routine and thorough, affecting “nearly every aspect of Ferguson police and court operations." The report also documents the thoroughly racist culture in the Ferguson Police Department as well as among city officials.
Two basic things must be said about this report:
#1: NONE of all this damning truth would be coming out from the U.S. government if it had not been for the powerful upsurge of the people, first the heroic protests in the streets of Ferguson after the police killing of Michael Brown in August 2014 and then the spreading of this spirit of rebellion against police murder around the country with tens of thousands taking to the streets in the fall and winter and into 2015, especially after grand juries refused to indict the killer cops of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
#2: The report concludes that the distrust and fear that Black people in Ferguson have for the police are well founded. This report shines a light on and exposes part of what so many people Black people live every day and already know is the truth about what the police do all the damn time.
For anybody who really steps back and looks at this whole situation, what is being unearthed and brought to public light around the police in Ferguson, is NOT an anomaly and not due to “a few bad apples” but to something deeply ingrained in the whole nature of the role of the police and the culture that goes with that. This is something that no doubt can be found in police departments all over the USA. And as has been shown time after time, in city after city, the police get away with crimes against Black people, including brutality and murder. The very day this report was released, the Department of IN-Justice announced that no civil rights charges would be brought against Darren Wilson, the cop who shot and killed Michael Brown.
Federal investigators conducted hundreds of interviews, reviewed 35,000 pages of police records, and analyzed race data compiled for every police stop. We will have more to say about this report but here is some of what the report found:
African-Americans make up 67 percent of the population in Ferguson, but they account for 85 percent of those subjected to traffic stops, get 90 percent of tickets and 93 percent of arrests.
The use of force by police is almost exclusively against Black people who are regularly stopped without probable cause. Nearly 90 percent of documented force used by FPD officers was used against African-Americans. In every incident where a police dog bit a person for which there was racial information available, the person bitten was Black. In 2013, one man was chased down and bitten by an officer’s dog even though the officer had frisked him and knew the man was unarmed.
A Black driver stopped by the police is twice as likely to be searched as a white driver who is stopped – even though, as the report also found, searches of white drivers are more likely to turn up drugs or other contraband.
Cops make decisions all the time about who they will and will not target, stop, harass, brutalize. It is almost certainly the case that a group of white people just standing on the corner is going to be a lot less likely considered “suspicious” by the cops than a group of young Black youth doing the same thing. The report found that such racially skewed discretion is used in even the most minor offenses like jaywalking. No doubt lots of people in Ferguson jaywalk, but Black people accounted for 95 percent of all jaywalking tickets. (People might remember that Darren Wilson said he stopped Michael Brown for “walking in the street.”) And such discretion also applied to “disturbing the peace” violations that were brought almost exclusively against Black people. Furthermore, when white people were charged with these crimes they were 68 percent more likely to have their cases dismissed.
Ferguson’s Municipal Court, run by the chief of police, is a big part of how the city raises revenue, and court officials routinely issued excessive fines and fees and violated people’s rights. Cops routinely issued multiple citations during a single stop, often for the same violation – in some cases writing six, eight, or, in at least one instance, 14 citations for a single encounter.
Talk to Black people in Ferguson and they’ll tell you how, when they are stopped, harassed, and beaten by the police, they also have to endure the most-racist insults hurled at them by the police. The DOJ report shows the whole culture of white supremacy in the Ferguson Police Department and city government.
There are ugly examples of the racist culture like remarks in emails or casually traded comments among police supervisors and court officials. One email from a city official depicts Black people as monkeys. Another talks about Black women having abortions as a way to stop crime. Another says Obama would not be president for long because “what black man holds a steady job for four years?” One email included a photo of a bare-chested group of dancing women, apparently in Africa, with the caption, “Michelle Obama’s High School Reunion.” Another email stated: “An African-American woman in New Orleans was admitted into the hospital for a pregnancy termination. Two weeks later she received a check for $5,000. She phoned the hospital to ask who it was from. The hospital said, ‘Crimestoppers ...’”
The DOJ report says there is no indication that anyone who engaged in these racist communications was ever disciplined, and no one was ever even asked to refrain from such activity – in fact such emails were usually forwarded along to others.
The report is damning. But at the same time, it is clearly not about – nor could it be about – actually doing something to put an end to such crimes against Black people in Ferguson. First of all, just look at what all else is going on around the release of this report: the continuing brutality and murder of Black people by cops and the continuing workings of the system to let killer cops go free. Again, the very day this report was released, the DOJ announced it was NOT going to bring any civil rights charges against the cop who killed Michael Brown.
The report simply says that city officials in Ferguson should acknowledge they have caused mistrust and violated civil rights.
Well, the mayor of Ferguson was quick to respond. He held a press conference to make the statement that such racism “will not be tolerated.” Then, as if to assure people that the problem is being solved, he announced that two people had been put on suspension and one had been fired.
This is bullshit! The Black people who have been and continue to be the victims of the Ferguson police know that the rot runs a lot deeper and higher. And it is not just the police but this whole system that needs these police to enforce the oppressive situation of Black people. As the chant that rang in the streets of Ferguson – and then around the country – put it: “Indict, Convict, Put the Killer Cops in Jail! The Whole Damn System Is Guilty as Hell!”
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 5, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The annual anti-abortion, anti-woman March for “Life” was brought to a halt for the first time ever this year as it approached the Supreme Court on January 22, the anniversary of the Court's Roe v. Wade decision 42 years ago legalizing abortion. Dozens of brave protesters led by Stop Patriarchy surged into the street and held up banners and signs calling for “Abortion On Demand and Without Apology,” along with huge portraits of women who had died because they could not get safe, legal abortions.
Police in motorized sidecars stretched across the street escorting and guarding the march and only stopped when they met an unmovable line of protesters chanting, “Without this basic right, women can't be free, Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!” This powerful and unprecedented political confrontation halted the march of hundreds of thousands of anti-abortion fanatics for close to an hour, and it was able to proceed only when eight protesters in Stop Patriarchy T-shirts were arrested and hauled out of the street by Capitol police.
They were held for hours and ordered to appear in a DC court February 11 or, the police told them, pay a fine that would carry with it a guilty plea to a misdemeanor. (They later found out the police had lied about this.) They refused to plead guilty and opted to return to court. They were charged with disorderly conduct and unlawful assembly, but their lawyers – both of whom have represented people arrested in many DC protests for progressive causes over the years – negotiated with the prosecution, and the government agreed to conclude the cases with payment of a small fine, in a “post and forfeit” arrangement that does not result in a criminal conviction.
This is a big victory not only for those arrested and their lawyers but for everyone who participated in and supported the action!
Talking with the defendants afterward, one of the attorneys said that they were proud to have been asked to represent them. He said this had been a very important action, the first time in 42 years, since Roe, that the anti-abortion march had been directly confronted. In past years, he said, you got the impression that everyone was “pro life” but this year another message got out – and it was about time!
Stop Patriarchy activists still have cases pending from arrests in Texas last summer during the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride, as well as another in NYC leading up to January 22, and news about these will come soon.
Revolution #376 March 2, 2015
March 5, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Mobilize for a day of Blowing the Whistle on brutal, murdering cops on March 14. Grass-roots groups in the communities should take this up. Students from elite universities and community colleges should be gathered to join in taking whistles into the communities that are targets of police murder to distribute whistles and organize people to blow the whistle when the police abuse people, giving a way for people to act and get organized.
This call for March 14 is from the Report on Stop Mass Incarceration Network Conference in Atlanta: #ShutDownA14—APRIL 14—STOP BUSINESS AS USUAL!—SAY NO MORE TO THE SYSTEM GIVING A GREEN LIGHT TO KILLER COPS! from Carl Dix & Travis Morales. Read more.