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Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
Updated May 18, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In the past week, this system has once again shown its true nature. In two separate decisions—the cases of Tony Robinson (an unarmed young man shot seven times) and Justus Howell (killed with two shots to the back)—it backed up murdering cops and gave the green light for MORE police murder. We cover both these cases in this issue. A day later, cops in Miami were exposed as having sent and received over 200 vicious and pornographic racist emails, joining their brethren cops in other cities where this has also been dragged into the open. And Obama topped it off by paying tribute to the police at a police memorial in DC, claiming to "heal the rift" between the police and those whose oppression they enthusiastically enforce.
The following editorial ran last week, but remains timely. What will be done—when the people have risen up, but the oppressors keep hammering down?
The struggle for justice for Freddie Gray began when someone videotaped the murderous assault of the Baltimore police on a young man innocent of any crime. It gained momentum as people went into the streets, day after day. And it hit a high point in the rebellion of April 27. This rebellion—and then the way in which many other sections of society refused to stop fighting for justice, even after the rebellion was slandered and violently suppressed—forced the powers-that-be to file charges.
There are high stakes—very high stakes—in what happens next. High stakes for the powers-that-be themselves—the capitalist-imperialists—who sit atop a world of exploitation and oppression of every kind. These capitalist-imperialists rely on their police to enforce that order within this country, even as they rely on their armies to go all over the world to do the same. When the right of these police to run around like mad dogs in the communities of the oppressed comes under challenge, that is a big, risky problem for them. And when people not only protest but actively resist as they did on April 27 and in the days that followed, that challenge is bigger.
But there are even higher stakes for the oppressed and those who hate oppression, and for the revolutionaries leading the fight against that oppression. High stakes in mobilizing people to fight through and win this battle... and far higher stakes in bringing to people the word that there IS a solution to this, that revolution is possible, and that emancipation from this madness can be achieved, and in organizing people to carry forward that revolution. Will this opening be seized to bring forward the work that Bob Avakian has done on this very question, and the leadership that he has provided? Will those who ARE stepping forward to this be organized in a way that can lead to an ACTUAL revolution? Will this be done in a way that enables people to go up against all the repression that will be brought down on them as they do so? And, in that context, will the struggle for justice be fought through in such a way that it is NOT derailed, but instead strikes real blows against the ability of the powers to keep on hammering down on people, and at the same time leads people further toward revolution and emancipation?
The rebellion on April 27 was a great thing.
Revolution correspondents have been listening, learning, and engaging with people who were at the heart of what happened in Baltimore. One thing that emerges is the heroism of the young rebels. The exact circumstances of how the initial clashes between youths and police came about are unclear, but on Monday, April 27, hundreds of teenage, mostly high school youths found themselves in a situation where they were being confronted by the police who heartlessly murdered Freddie Gray. The pigs were threatening these youths and moving to shut them down. The youths didn’t back down in this situation, but for hours and hours went toe to toe with these highly militarized police. The Stolen Lives poster was in the mix as these youths righteously confronted the pigs with what this system and its enforcers are all about.
This revealed the courage and potential power of the people, when they stand up together in courage. Such defiance in the face of great odds is liberating. And this was far from “mindless.” People were out to make it unmistakably clear that there MUST be justice. Symbols and instruments of violent repression were dealt with. People in the crowd made sure, at different points, that bystanders—like a group of construction workers early on—were not targeted.
You don’t find courage to do that because you’re trying to “loot” a drugstore. There was a largeness of mind and sense of purpose, along with unbreakable joyous defiance, that grew during the rebellion and that people need to know about. People told us how youths were grabbing diabetes medicine from the shelves for people who can’t get needed medicine, in a community where an epidemic of diabetes is an element of a slow genocide. And where the powers-that-be brag that in their generosity they provided a single drugstore for the oppressed.
So, a section of people for whom this system has no future but jail or early death had risen up, against great odds and real violence. For this courage, they were attacked as “thugs” by Obama and the mayor of Baltimore, instruments and mouthpieces of a system that stands alone in criminality and thuggery.
Then, on April 29, thousands of people took to the streets demanding justice, many if not most of them college students, including from elite, mainly white universities like Johns Hopkins in Baltimore (even as Black students were playing a decisive role). While some had mixed feelings about the intensity of the rebellion, others defended the youths. And they were all there standing with the oppressed, making clear that the violent murder of Freddie Gray was the issue here and that they were not having it.
In sum, this rebellion revealed the potential of the most oppressed to rise up against big odds, with courage. This rebellion transformed how everyone saw things: it made very clear the urgency of this injustice and that it must not and would not be tolerated. And it showed how, when this is done, there is potential to win active and important support from people who do not face that same hell, but can be won to sympathize.
Revolutionaries have been out among the people in Baltimore, standing with them. They have been spreading word of the revolution: the path forward for it, the leadership we have in Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, and the ways now to spread this further. Carl Dix has done this in speeches and talks and organizing, and members of the Revolution Club have also been talking with people, and organizing them to represent and to stand up. Old and new members of the club have gotten together to watch and discuss the film of Bob Avakian’s dialogue with Cornel West, and to begin to get into works like BAsics, the handbook for revolutionaries with quotes and essays from BA. They are getting out Revolution, the Party’s newspaper, and spreading word of revcom.us, our website. They are out there in the streets when people protest, and they are making plans, with the people, on how to carry forward the fight for justice as part of all this. They are planning as well to go to students and indeed all sections of people, with this same basic message. Our reporters have been there too, and in these next days and weeks, we will be reporting more on this.
What revolutionaries do in situations like Baltimore can play a big role in making revolution. The Party’s statement on its strategy talks about how this system gives rise to great suffering, and sometimes this leads to “sudden jolts and breakdowns in the ‘normal functioning’ of society, which compel many people to question and to resist what they usually accept. No one can say in advance exactly what will happen in these situations—how deep the crisis may go, in what ways and to what extent it might pose challenges to the system as a whole, and to what degree and in what ways it might call forth unrest and rebellion among people who are normally caught up in, or feel powerless to stand up against, what this system does.”
The statement goes on to say that in these kinds of situations, “many more people are searching for answers and open to considering radical change.” At just such times, leaps must be “made in building up the movement and the organized forces for revolution, creating in this way a stronger basis from which to work for further advances.”
But that is not all. There are ways in which jolts like this, as they develop and in combination with other things, including what revolutionaries do, can go further. The statement says that things “can come together in such a way that the system is shaken to its foundations...deep cracks appear and magnify within the ruling structures and institutions...the raw relations of oppression are more sharply exposed...conflicts among the powers-that-be deepen, and cannot be easily resolved, and it becomes much more difficult for them to hold things together under their control and keep people down. In this kind of situation, for great numbers of people, the ‘legitimacy’ of the current system, and the right and ability of the ruling powers to keep on ruling, can be called seriously and directly into question, with millions hungering for a radical change that only a revolution can bring about.”
On the streets of Baltimore, April 25. Photo: Special to revcom.us
Baltimore has brought all that into sharp relief. People want to hear about revolution, and they want to get into BA to find out more about what kind of revolution and how to make it, in a way that is different from “normal times.” They want to wear the “Revolution—Nothing Less!” T-shirt, and let others know about this. They hunger to be part of a genuine force that is working to change things, in a real way. And from this vantage point, the struggle for justice for Freddie Gray, as part of the larger struggle against police murder and the criminalization of a whole people, is more, not less, important. A letter from a reader, which emphasized the centrality of getting the word out on BA and the revolution he has envisioned and been giving leadership to, also made this point:
The revolutionaries must also lead the masses to continue to fight the power, including leading them through all the twists and turns, major developments, and heavy repression, slanders, and diversions thrown at the struggle by this system and its enforcers, mouthpieces, defenders and apologists. And, in fact, the masses must be led to understand the scope and scale of the outrages that they are rising up against—the fact that there is a national, decades-long, and unrelenting epidemic of police brutality and police murder, and that they are not isolated in being outraged by and fighting against this epidemic of police murder and brutality, as the system and its mouthpieces constantly try to make them think and feel that they are. This is one of many reasons that broadly getting out the posters and banners from revcom.us with the faces and names of victims of police brutality and murder has been, is, and will continue to be so important, as is continuing to fight to broaden and deepen the struggle against police brutality, murder and mass incarceration, bringing forward and leading people broadly, from many different sections of society, to take up this fight.
All this must be built upon, urgently, and with leaps. There is no room for hitting the pause button. But what happens in Baltimore cannot stay in Baltimore. It must be taken up all over society. Word of revolution needs to get out all over, and resistance must spread to every city.
Let’s go back to this question of the high stakes.
There are high stakes for the powers-that-be. Baltimore is a big city. In frothing at the mouth and demanding more violent repression, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer repeatedly railed that this was going on only 60 miles from the nation’s capital. They don’t want the spirit of Baltimore spreading. They didn’t like—at all—the fact that they were not able to isolate the uprising anywhere near to the degree they wanted to, that protests broke out around the country. And they don’t like what all this does to their image and interests around the world where they brand themselves champions of freedom and equality.
From the very top, the rulers of this system are moving on two tracks to put what emerged back in the bottle, to lock it down, cover it up, smother it and crush it. Obama called the rebels “thugs.” Some cops had the nerve to compare the protesters to a lynch mob—when the real lynch mob in blue does its dirty work day in, day out in every city and town. They brought very heavy charges against people arrested. Bail for one protester, accused of breaking a window in a pig car, was $500,000! Twice that of the police charged with murder of a human being.
When Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced charges against six cops, this was a decision by the powers-that-be, or at least a section of them, that something had to be done to chill things, for now. But it’s a long way from charges to conviction and jail, and there is a world of police brutality and murder to STOP, and a whole new world to bring into being. This road of voting for some savior that the rulers put up in their elections—the same rulers who caused and perpetuate the problem in the first place—is a very, very deadly trap.
And along with this, the system is running every hustle and diversion it can. All of a sudden Obama—after first calling these youths thugs—began to profess great sympathy. He revived his “My Brother’s Keeper” program, which promotes different charities and small projects, often run by businesses that claim to make a difference for individuals. As Malcolm X said, these dual tactics are like that of a wolf and his trickier cousin the fox—the point is, they both want to eat you!
There are also high stakes for forces representing the views of the middle class—views that want to cool things out, that want both sides to “tone it down.” These forces propose different kinds of solutions, most of which involve “keeping things peaceful” (i.e., keeping people from rising up) and hoping for what amounts to band-aids to deal with cancer. Many of them have real sympathy for the masses and very much oppose what is being done by the system, and can be united with in different ways—but this line cannot lead the struggle, or that struggle will go nowhere. And these views also affect people who are not middle class, which adds to the importance of criticizing them.
Why? Because NONE of this gets anywhere in addressing the real situation. And the more that people are led to see and push for their real interests on this, the rougher it could get for these rulers.
First of all, there must be JUSTICE for Freddie Gray. The whole world saw what happened to him. He was minding his own business, feeling fine when the pigs jumped on him, and dead when they were finished with him. They murdered him, and they need to go to jail. If they don’t this is another signal that it is open season on Black and Latino youth, that these pigs can murder with impunity. And that can NOT be allowed. And the powers-that-be must DROP ALL THE CHARGES against ALL THOSE ARRESTED IN THE PROTESTS. The system itself admits there would be no charges against the police who murdered Freddie Gray if not for the rebellion, and demanding justice is not a crime.
But even more than that, what has been happening to Black people has been nothing less than a slow genocide. (The intensity of this slow genocide has also affected other oppressed groups, even as the persecution of these groups—and intense police violence against them—flows from their own dynamics.) This genocide has been and is being caused by a SYSTEM—capitalism-imperialism—and relying on charities or even talking about “structural change” is meaningless and worse without the MAIN STRUCTURAL CHANGE that must happen: the radical overturning of this ruthless system of capitalism and white supremacy, through revolution, and its replacement by a whole new system in which the power is devoted to eliminating all oppression and exploitation, meeting the material needs of the people as it does so, and supporting revolution all over the world.
And this gets back to the point: We NEED a revolution, we need to get organized for an ACTUAL revolution. What the masses have done in Baltimore has increased the possibility of that... and increased the challenges that revolutionaries must recognize and meet to actually move closer to being able to make that revolution.
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On May 1, a week after the killing of Freddie Gray, Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced that six of the police who brutally beat and killed Freddie Gray would be prosecuted—one of them for murder.
It was a remarkable moment. Stunning, because of the obscenity of the picture of a public lynching of a young Black man, the horrible way he was tortured and murdered so callously. And remarkable because this prosecutor was actually bringing charges—including a murder charge—against police when, over and over and over again, prosecutors refuse to do that even when medical examiners rule that a Black man’s death at the hands of police was “homicide”—as was the case with Eric Garner in New York City who was choked to death by a pig for supposedly selling loose cigarettes.
Marilyn Mosby acknowledged that a factor in bringing charges was the people demanding it in the streets: “To the people of Baltimore and the demonstrators across America: I heard your call for ‘No justice, no peace.’”
But then Marilyn Mosby said: “Last but certainly not least, to the youth of the city. I will seek justice on your behalf. This is a moment. This is your moment. Let’s insure we have peaceful and productive rallies that will develop structural and systemic changes for generations to come. You’re at the forefront of this cause and as young people, our time is now.”
It’s a long way from indictment to conviction, and there are powerful forces and deeply embedded elements in the in-justice system that have let murdering police walk over and over even in the rare events when they are indicted for their crimes. (See “Obama: “Let Legal System Work” to Let Murdering Police Walk.”)
Allowing the struggle for justice to be confined to what is acceptable to the system would be to throw away what has been accomplished so far in even getting these murdering police arrested (they are all out on bail now).
And the in-justice system that time and again rewards pigs who murder Black and Brown people serves a system that has the violently enforced oppression of Black people at its core. That system does not need “structural reform” or cosmetic rebranding. It demands revolution.
Why were six cops charged and arrested for the murder of Freddie Gray? Examine the evidence. Not the evidence that Freddie Gray was murdered by police, but as Carl Dix, co-initiator with Cornel West of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, said at the march and rally in Baltimore on May 2nd:
...Let’s talk about why they indicted those cops. This is not their system working. This is their system showing its fear of you. They saw you stand up. They saw you saying “not this time.” They hear you saying “no more.” So they said, “Well, maybe we should indict and maybe they’ll go home and maybe they’ll forget about it.”
No sooner did Marilyn Mosby announce charges than she, and more to the point the decision to bring charges, came under attack from a barrage of lies and bullshit in the national media. They are trying to make it appear as if people throughout this society must choose between backing/supporting Mosby or taking the side of the police. As if there is a fork in the road and everyone must take one road or the other. We can’t go for that.
So what is really going on here?
There are conflicts and contradictions within the ruling class over how to maintain their rule. On the one hand, there is Marilyn Mosby, and those in the ruling class who are backing her, who have responded to the outrage over Freddie Gray’s homicide by issuing charges. On the other, there are those who are taking up the defense of the police and have attacked Mosby with real venom.
An op-ed piece in the Baltimore Sun fumed that “Mosby's ‘quick’ and ‘decisive’ action in charging six Baltimore police officers a mere two weeks after the death of Freddie Gray reflects either incompetence or an unethical recklessness.”
CNN has put on a whole parade of ex-prosecutors and pigs to attack the indictments.
Alan Dershowitz—a lawyer who many, many years ago did some work in support of civil liberties and against police abuse, but who for years has provided cover for all kinds of police abuse, torture, and violations of civil liberties—charged that Mosby was employing "crowd control" in bringing charges, without refuting with any of the facts or substance at all in the damning description of events she presented when she brought charges—material that Dershowitz obviously had access to.
And Dershowitz essentially echoed and provided a “pro-civil rights” cover for police claims that those demanding justice are a “lynch mob” when he tried to equate the “sordid history of justice by mob rule, particularly in the South where the threat of violent demonstrations and lynching too often influenced the outcomes of trials” with demands for justice in a murder for which there is all kinds of evidence (Boston Globe 5/5/15).
It is obscene to equate a righteous struggle to demand justice for a murdered Black man with a racist lynch mob carrying out random terror and murder against Black people to enforce a system of white supremacy. If you are looking for a force doing that today, Mr. Dershowitz—a force acting like a lynch mob—look no further than the police department in any city or town in the USA!
By May 7, reports flooded the media, attributed to unnamed police sources, without any facts or evidence, declaring “police investigation doesn't support some of prosecution's charges." For example, CNN reported “homicide investigators who were briefed by the medical examiner's office believed the examiner's autopsy report would likely find the cause of death to fall short of homicide.” This despite fact that this assertion was refuted by the final autopsy report, quoted by Mosby, which did rule Freddie Gray’s death a homicide. (CNN 5/7/15). The head of the police union (who called righteous protests in the wake of the murder of Freddie Gray a “lynch mob”) cried that this case—based on far more evidence that has been mustered to put millions of regular people in jail—was an “egregious rush to judgment."
Protesters show determined resistance to the murder of Freddie Gray by Baltimore police. Baltimore, MD, April 28, 2015. AP photo
Here’s the contradiction and the reality: The system is caught between a rock and a hard place. On the one hand, the system has NO future for the masses of Black and Latino youth. There are no jobs for them. Now there is work these youth could do that would fill a great social need and tap into their initiative, creativity and desire to transform the world, but under this capitalist system there is no way to profitably exploit them. This system sends them to rotten schools that are more like prisons. There is nothing for the youth but a life in and out of low-wage work and/or crime (and prison). They are told in a million ways that their lives don’t matter. And for that reason, the system sees them as “social dynamite.” To the powers-that-be, these youth, our youth, are a force to be hounded and controlled, degraded and brutalized, locked up and if need be murdered.
And who does that? The police. Why do you think every major politician (including Mosby) in every comment they make about police goes on and on about how much they respect and support them, and how much “the community” needs them? Because every major politician knows that this is the program, and they know that the police are the ones who carry it out. Some of them might say there need to be reforms. Others say the police should be allowed and encouraged to carry out all this brutality and murder even more openly.
In this case, the upsurge of the people forced the system to promise to bring some police to trial—something they only very rarely do. But this is just to steer people back into having faith in the powers-that-be to deliver justice. This system is using Marilyn Mosby to tell people they should chill out the struggle and trust in a savior.
Let’s face it: Marilyn Mosby is a prosecutor. She is, regardless of her personal views (whatever they may be), part of the machinery of repression that fills the prisons with oppressed people and unleashes the police as an occupying army in the inner cities. On a very on-the-ground level, the operation of her office requires the most intimate collaboration with and backing for police brutality and murder. But it is larger than that. It’s about the whole system.
Her “job” is not about real justice for the thousands who are brutalized and yes, murdered, in Baltimore. As millions are incarcerated in this country, she is working to preserve and maintain the illusion that the American legal system is about justice and not about protecting the set-up as it exists, a set-up which keeps the vast majority of Black and Latino people in Baltimore and in society as a whole downpressed.
The reality is that the choice the people face is not between supporting Mosby’s actions or supporting the foaming at the mouth police supporters, but in continuing to mount a fierce and ongoing struggle against the system which is founded on the oppression and exploitation of people here and around the world.
Remember: the decision to bring charges against the police who murdered Freddie Gray was a call by the powers-that-be overall, not a single prosecutor. Mosby herself acknowledged in her statement that bringing charges required cooperation of elements of the Baltimore Police Department, sheriffs, and the (Republican) governor of Maryland. And she has been overt about doing this to chill out the struggle.
The kinds of conflicts and contradictions within the ruling class that have accompanied that decision are part of the terrain on which the struggle for justice will be fought. And, as a matter of fact, conflicts within the ruling class—which tend to intensify when the people rise up—are part of the reason why revolution is possible—scientifically understood—they reveal “cracks in the wall” that the people have to go up against to bring about an actual revolution.
But we’ll get nowhere lining up behind one or other of theses forces. Efforts by forces who for various reasons are already throwing out a lot of bullshit have to be called out. But all these forces are coming from trying to preserve and shore up a system that has—from its inception—been built on the oppression of Black people, and that today—because of factors inherent to—built into—the way capitalism works—is implementing a program of slow genocide that could become fast genocide.
The police who murdered Freddie Gray must be convicted and sent to jail! You can’t say “no justice, no peace” and then call for “peace” when there is no justice. And you can’t rely on the enforcers for the system to bring about any kind of serious change in that system.
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
May 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
What follows is drawn from an interview with several revolutionaries who work with the New York City Revolution Club and who came to Baltimore to join in the fight for justice for Freddie Gray and to spread the revolution among the freedom fighters there.
The atmosphere in the room was electric as nine people, mainly from West Baltimore, where Freddie Gray was murdered, gathered around the tiny screen of a DVD player to watch excerpts from REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion. From teenagers to people in their 50s and older, men and women, and some who had done long bids in prison—everyone in the room was glued to the screen, hooting, laughing, and clapping at times, and at other times audibly silent, intensely listening to the dialogue—with some particular intensity to the part where Bob Avakian laid out in clear and serious terms how it could be possible to make an actual revolution and defeat the brutal power of the rulers.
Three selections from the Dialogue were shown, the first being from the opening presentation by Avakian on “What if the world didn’t have to be this way?”, the second one from the Q&A, “Why are we still fighting for justice in 2015?”, and also another Q&A section roughly titled, “How are we the oppressed supposed to accomplish true revolution peacefully when we’re up against those who have so much power to destroy? I see a no-win in that situation.” The excerpts ran 30 to 40 minutes.
The “What if...” section of the Dialogue drew a visceral reaction, with people kind of expecting BA to speak on the question of police murder, but then really deeply feeling the way he goes at that and at the way you’re assaulted in every way as a Black person in this society. And when BA goes on to lay out a vision of a world where the lives of all of humanity really do matter, it resonated deeply and opened new horizons beyond what people had ever even dared to imagine could be possible—where not only would there be an immediate end to the murderous terror of the police, but women would no longer be devalued and abused as sex objects and there would be no more immigrants because there would be no more borders to divide and oppress humanity. When BA talked about women being able to walk down the street and be able to look every man in the eye, one woman in the group just erupted—she was verbal as well as applauding. And other people joined in, partly because they did actually agree, but partly also because she drew a line by being so vocal, and you had to choose which side you were on. If you weren’t going to applaud, then it was kind of like you weren’t serious about all of this oppression. And then came the point where he talks about getting to a world where women aren’t battered, raped, abused, and then deprived of the right to control their own bodies.
During the second cut, people were listening a lot, and it was interesting—a couple of people in the room were familiar with the reference to 1968 and urban rebellions, they had a sense of widespread rebellions all across the country. People were really listening to where BA talks about why we are still here struggling, we’re still living under the same system. People were really responding to the back and forth between BA and CW over the role of art and having a different kind of culture—the point about the tenderness, the sweetness, and the collectivity. When BA said, “It’s not weak to love,” that really struck a chord—people not expecting it, but then really appreciating it. And also the thing about hip hop and Ice-T going from rapping about cop killers to playing a cop on TV. That was something that really had people with it and laughing. And that last banter between BA and Cornel about “god doesn’t ask for your permission”—and some people responded to BA, “oh, don’t worry you’ll hear god.” That was a response some people had at the end of that cut. But off of that, people were in a very lively, uplifted mood.
When the third cut came on, where BA gets into how you could really make a revolution and win, the whole way people were sitting literally changed. People moved their chairs forward and leaned in. Then this section framed a lot of the seriousness of the tone of the conversation that followed.
One young guy was talking about how people don’t always see a white dude get up there and talk about how they’re feeling in ways that are convincing in the way BA was, and with the seriousness in what he was talking about. Others appreciated that, but were also talking about how there’s something about this country, that it has been white supremacy, and it has been Black people catching the most hell. So there was some back and forth around that, how to understand that. It wasn’t so much a question of “white people are the problem” but more it was: “What is the problem with white people?” There was a lot of sincerity, broadness of mind, and just genuine sentiments of wanting a world where human beings can just be—and the kind of way they were dealing with this was everyone has oppression, white people can be oppressed, too, under this system—they were trying to figure out how to correctly understand this. But it’s not just that—the question is what kind of world do we want to live in? Do we want to live in a society where whole sections of people are treated that way? No! There was a lot of fluidity that was in the room.
The other big theme of the conversation was this question of winning, making it something worth winning. People talked about sacrifice—not just dying, but being willing to sacrifice for revolution and living your life for something. And this is where the seriousness of how people were taking this really came through. One guy referenced the “What if” part and then the point that if you’re going to go up against them, you have to take seriously into account what they will bring down on people who try to fight them. He said, “I leaned forward when I heard that.” He said how he’d hate to be motivated and get into that and come to find out people are not on that same page. There was back and forth on that, too. OK, what’s the responsibility of people who do see that, and leading people who are not yet ready to make that level of commitment and sacrifice?
Summing up the conversation afterwards, one Revolution Club member said, “You really got a sense that people want to fight, they want to stand up, they really want to see how serious BA is, you know. Is he real or what? I could see people engage BA—is he real or what? And they’re watching him, and when he talked about that serious thing, could we actually win, they were quiet, they were listening, they really wanted to know. And they asked us, are you guys serious, basically? Are you guys going to stand with people here in Baltimore, because if you’re not, you’re getting our hopes up for nothing... One guy at the meeting, he keeps the Stolen Lives poster on his wall so that he’ll never forget that he has to fight this every day... At the end of the meeting [one woman] said she was “worried” because she felt so good. She felt so full of hope. We talked a little bit about this thing of how much it hurts for people to hope, but how much this raises people’s hopes and sights and dreams. Physically you could see she was so full of excitement—but she was also thinking, ‘am I a fool to hope?’ It was sort of an unspoken—or actually a spoken—thing. People were trying to take a measure of us, and of BA. I don’t think there was a question in people’s minds that BA is for real.”
There were several ways that people indicated that while this was the first time they’d heard BA, they wanted to hear a lot more. One way it came out was in the course of the discussion, several people quoted from BAsics—and then everybody in the room wanted a copy. People were figuring out about saving their nickels and dimes so they could make down payments on copies of it. Also in the course of the discussion, it was brought out how this film, in other sections, really gets into this question of if we really want emancipation, it’s not about revenge—and people were very eager to know they could see the whole movie. A date was set to watch the whole film.
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
From A World To Win News Service
May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
4 May 2015. A World to Win News Service. Following is an abridged version of an article that appeared on the website of the Colombian Anti-Imperialist Brigades. The footnotes can be found on that site.
The paramo is a kind of mountain wetlands unique to the northern Andes. A decision by Colombia’s Ministry of the Environment has signed the paramo’s death warrant by authorizing large-scale mining in the northern reaches of the country’s eastern mountains.
In time-honoured bureaucratic jargon, the government claims that the giant mining companies will strive to avoid affecting “the ecosystemic services” provided by the paramo, as if the paramo were one of the sub-sub-sub contractors employed by officialdom or imperialist corporations.
The official decision is eclectic as well as hypocritical. It claims to recognize the importance of this crucial ecosystem, saying that it has taken into account that water from the paramo “benefits” more than 68 towns, including the city of Bucaramanga. It would be more accurate to say that more than 2.5 million people can’t live without its waters. On the one hand, the decision proclaims that its measures are intended to “improve the quality of life for the paramo’s inhabitants, equitable distribution of opportunities and the preservation of a healthy environment.” On the other, it emphasizes that “the Constitution protects private property, business and initiative”, “obliging the state to be fair and equitable” in relation to big business and its initiatives, and not just protect the small farmers and the miners who live in the paramo and depend on it for their livelihood.
More than 2.5 million people in this area of the high Andes can't live without water from the paramos.
With a lot of rhetoric about “harmonizing” and “seeking balance” between these two sectors, and promises of “preventing” and “attenuating” “disturbances to the ecosystem,” the decision approves mineral rights concessions in the area. Above all, it gives carte blanche to big imperialist companies like Eco Oro (the notorious Canadian gold mining company formerly known as Greystar), AUX Colombia and Leyhat, among others. In confirming already existing titles to enormous tracts of land granted by the previous government, the state has chosen to ignore the negative experiences so far. For instance, as the decision itself admits, Eco Oro’s 850 drill holes (averaging more than 400 metres deep) have “often been badly managed, affecting the surrounding vegetation.”
Imperialist capital has shown a voracious appetite for the paramo. These ecosystems were formed over millions of years by means of a complex interaction between the evolution of a wide variety of plant and animal species and geological transformations, creating a diverse topology marked by mountain ranges, rivers and valleys. This is the world’s highest natural ecosystem. It gets stronger sunlight (due to the high altitude) and has a greater variety of plants than any other mountain ecosystem on Earth. It is a continuous source of very pure water, and by storing carbon dioxide it acts as a buffer against global warming. It is also a biological corridor for a wide variety of animal life.
The straw-like frailejon and giant senecio plants are highly adapted to the extreme climate, the cold and wind, strong solar radiation (due to the thinner atmosphere at high altitude) and humidity. Their thick trunks retain water. These plants are the main ground cover in the paramo, protecting many smaller plants and animals. This coverage also protects the soil, regulating the circulation of water, an extremely important feature of mountain wetlands in Africa and Oceania as well as Latin America. Not only does it limit the evaporation of rain water, it also retains water from the fog that covers much of this area most of the time. The vegetation structure captures water and leads it underground, keeping the soil from drying out and preventing erosion. The moistness of the high mountain soil is also due to the slow decomposition of organic matter because of the cold, and the specific characteristics of volcanic cinders. These soils can be considered “mineral peat bogs”. Black and deep, they are natural sponges that can hold as much as twice their weight in water, collecting all the rainfall during the winter months (up to 500 mm) and then releasing it slowly during the dry season. It could be said that every cubic meter of paramo “produces” a litre of water daily.
Mountain wetlands are the source of most of the drinking water for cities, irrigation water for food crops and hydroelectric power in the northern Andes, from north-east Peru to north-western Venezuela. For example, Bogota, with eight million inhabitants, gets 70 percent of its water from one single such wetland, called Chingaza.
Much of the land that used to grow crops has been sterilized or dried out by excessive use.
For many reasons, human activities (farming, mining, etc.) in these wetlands tend to be intensive and generally unsustainable. This was true to a lesser degree even before Columbus. The remnants of many forests have been cut down and the wetlands drained, leaving eroded pastures and barren crop land. Mining in mountain wetlands is bad for agriculture and livestock, though the wetlands’ chief importance is as a source of water and for biodiversity. By the early years of the 21st century about 30 percent of all the world’s mountain wetlands had been totally transformed or ruined. Another 40 percent have been negatively modified. Only about a third are still in natural conditions, mostly in inaccessible areas. A large part of the world’s surviving mountain wetlands are in Colombia, the source of the country’s hydraulic wealth some people brag about—or used to.
In the last few years the Santurbán Páramo, which used to extend over 142,000 hectares in the departments of Santander and Norte de Santander, has been repeatedly threatened by large-scale mining projects. Although small mines have existed here for centuries, these are mega-mines to be dug and operated by transnational companies. Mining associations have begun to proclaim that the paramo no longer exists and therefore can’t be defended.
The damage from mining will range from the destruction of the exceptional soil to the massive contamination of water bodies with cyanide (a poison used separate out minerals). Since these ecosystems are fragile, damage to one element can have a cascading effect. Santurbán is not the only páramo in danger—mountain wetlands all over the country are under attack. Right now 448 mining rights contracts have been awarded in 26 páramo areas. Rights to disregard environmental protection rules have been awarded in 347 cases already.
It’s not just the high wetlands that are at stake. We are facing an unprecedented global environmental emergency, whose consequences could be a climate change both irreversible and devastating. As the prominent climatologist James Hansen warns, our planet is nearing a tipping point, with temperature ranges that humanity has never before experienced. Once that point is crossed, the situation would be irreversible for many generations and many of the species of life on Earth would go extinct.
This environmental emergency is reaching enormous dimensions. Approximately half the world’s rain forests, concentrated along the equator, have been cut down for agriculture, wood and livestock raising. (Here in Colombia, every year 336,000 hectares of forest and native vegetation are cleared, an area equivalent in size to the country’s Atlantico department.) Much of the land that used to grow crops has been sterilized or dried out by excessive use, especially in the 40 percent of the world’s land surface that is arid or semi-arid. Globalization’s catastrophic effects on the environment have been most felt in the oppressed countries, but have been disproportionately caused by the imperialist countries. The big companies and governmental authorities know about the damage being caused, but they cannot escape the “expand or die” logic of capitalism.
Colombia’s economy, or in other words the whole network of its productive activities, is dominated by imperialism. Decisions about what is produced, how and for what are determined by the imperialist monopolies’ needs for profit extraction and not the needs of the country’s people. Under this system the Colombian economy is addicted to foreign capital investment and adjusts to its needs. For example, the state has set targets to double the amount of coal mined and quadruple gold mining, tripling the amount of land given over for mining leases. It has also given high priority to geological surveys “so that private enterprises can better assess the risk level of their investments.”
The Colombian state is part of the global capitalist-imperialist system, and so it has to respect that system’s rules of the game. The official national plan for development includes modifying legislation, making labour costs more “flexible” and giving out mining rights and permits for environmental damage, all to attract imperialist investment seeking profit opportunities. This state also uses the most vicious violence, through its legal armed forces and/or its illegal armed groups, to guarantee access to land for multinationals. This process of injecting foreign capital into the country also brings profits to the Colombian ruling classes, especially through state revenues and their participation in major projects as junior partners.
This is why it is an illusion to focus efforts on getting the state structure to implement reforms, vote for “good” candidates in elections, lobby for legislative reforms, etc. As long as this type of state exists it will guarantee the system’s functioning through both fooling people and repression. No one can reform a state that serves a system that can’t be reformed.
The ecosystems of the northern Andes were formed over millions of years creating the world’s highest natural ecosystem. The paramo has a greater variety of plants than any other mountain ecosystem on Earth.
We call on those who are seriously concerned by the destruction of the environment in the Santurbán mountain wetlands and who see the broader framework of the dangers brought by the global destruction of ecosystems; and those who feel a moral obligation to build resistance against the sacrifice of natural resources for the sake of the drive for profits: Follow your convictions that this rising and spreading resistance is right, don’t give up your decision to stop nature-destroying projects, no matter who is carrying them out. Don’t trade your principles for “intelligent” and “realistic” agreements with one or another section of the oppressors, and start looking for the underlying causes of this situation that has made you become active. Don’t back up when you find out that nothing but the truly revolutionary transformation of society, the overthrow of the capitalist-imperialist system, can change the direction this planet is heading in. Join together with the others who are now really working to take things in that direction so that together we can shoulder this tremendous task: we need a revolution, nothing less.
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 #386 May 11, 2015
Revolution Books New York Emergency Meeting:
May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On May 7, Revolution Books in New York City held an emergency meeting. Andy Zee, spokesperson for the store, made opening remarks. Following is an edited and expanded version of those remarks.
May 7, 2015, Andy Zee spoke to a packed audience at Revolution Books on the emergency facing the store.
Your being here tonight really matters. It matters in a personal way to everybody who’s worked in this store, but it matters much more for the future of humanity. This is not hyperbole. Each of you and others who have responded to the Call to Save Revolution Books, are on the cusp of a social movement that must grow overnight to raise the money to Save and Move Revolution Books RIGHT NOW.
Faced with the necessity to move, we can and must turn this situation into new freedom—making RB a major factor in New York City, with impact around the world. The necessity to raise the $150,000 in emergency funds can be the catalyst to build a huge base of support for and involvement with Revolution Books at a moment when the Baltimore uprising captured the imagination and conscience of people around the world. We are entering times when people feel the import of Revolution Books.
The situation is this:
RB has been operating at this location on a month-by-month basis. The store has just been leased at market value—a much higher rent—and RB must move by the end of May. Confronting this situation, we have decided to make a BIG move that will be signal to all that REVOLUTION BOOKS IS NOT GOING AWAY, but instead will become even more of a force and pole of attraction by moving to Harlem.
This is a big move. HARLEM is where RB should be now. Harlem with its rich history of struggle and intellectual ferment, and pathbreaking art, music, and literature. At the same time, Harlem has been and remains today a concentration of the foundational oppression of Black people: of housing projects run like prisons, militarized police raids on those projects; setting up, framing, and sending the youth to prison. And all this runs smack up against the energy, creativity, and cultural legacy of the people and place of Harlem. In recent decades, there is a new diversity of people in Harlem—new immigrants from Central America and Africa, as well as middle class white people, including students. There’s a new energy in the air. All of this will infuse the new RB, and RB will bring the potential of a radically new world through revolution to Harlem and the world.
To make this real requires serious money now. THIS IS AN EMERGENCY MEETING AND WE ARE TONIGHT SOUNDING AN URGENT CALL. To NOT LOSE RB REQUIRES RAISING $150,000 NOW.
These funds are absolutely essential to sign a lease, to fulfill past obligations, to renovate the new space, to move and to publicize the move. This $150,000 is WHAT IS NEEDED. It is not optional.
Revolution Books fills a great need and this is a time when RB is needed more than ever. Because of this acute need, there is a basis to find the people who see this reality and provide them with an opportunity to contribute to the place that is about ending all that torments humanity and is a center for building a movement for revolution to bring about a radically different and better future.
This morning I re-watched a YouTube of a Baltimore youth on the morning after the uprising ... he was filled with passionate determination that he and the brothers and sisters gathered round him would not take this abuse any longer. He was running on adrenaline. He turned the cell phone camera on a young woman friend’s wound from a plastic police bullet the night before... With great emotion, he described how the police do the youth and said, on the morning after a night of fierce struggle to break free, “I’m optimistic.”
Beginning last August in Ferguson and continuing through the fall nationwide, then re-energized with the April 14 “Shut It Down” Protests Against Police Murder in cities across the country, and now on a whole other level with Baltimore—where people’s outrage and hunger for real change burst forth in ways not seen in decades. A new day is being shaped. A new people needs Revolution Books.
You can see this potential written on the faces of the youth who filled the streets with joy and determination declaring, “Black Lives Matter!” and “Stop Police Murder!” At the same time, important new books, films, and art are being created which dig into and tell the stories of slavery, the civil rights and Black liberation movements, and the situation of Black people today. There are new insights and revelations, controversy, and debate over the scale and scope of this oppression, how foundational to America is it, is it systemic, and what is the solution?
It is written in the footsteps of the hundreds of thousands of people who marched in September in New York City to Save the Environment.
It is written in the faces of people who traveled to the desert Texas town where a protest was held last weekend against the brutal incarceration of innocent women and children fleeing poverty and war in Mexico and Central America.
It is written in the rage of young women and men from the campuses in the U.S. to the streets of India, Pakistan, and South America... speaking the unspoken against the rape, degradation, and oppression of women.
All this could be the first winds of a complex struggle with the potential to be a part of the fight for real liberation.
Yet, the murder of Black youth by police continues, war rages on in the Middle East, nothing is done to save the planet... and the system continues on every front and in every sphere—destroying lives and crushing spirits. These horrors drive home that Revolution Books is needed now more than ever. It is also a moment when Revolution Books could be lost. But, you, and we, have something to say and do about that. Your contribution, your raising funds, your being a part of moving and renovating RB will make the difference.
RB’s mission is this: People come into Revolution Books from all over the world to find the books and the deep engagement about why the world is the way it is and the possibility of a radically different way the world could be. Scientific and poetic, wrangling and visionary, Revolution Books is at the center of building a movement for revolution.
It is quite simply true that there is no other place, no other bookstore, that is dedicated to this mission. RB gives people the opportunity to engage with a scientific understanding of history and the world today. The store is infused with the morality and vision that lifts people’s sights to struggle for a world that is overcoming all forms of exploitation and oppression. And RB does this with big arms to engage and embrace wide spheres and tributaries of intellectual and cultural life that are a part of fighting for a new world.
What makes this possible is the scientific method and approach, the vision and architecture for a radically new society made possible by a pathbreaking strategy for revolution. All of this and more is concentrated in the new synthesis of communism developed by the revolutionary leader, Bob Avakian, “BA.”
Bob Avakian has looked deeply at the first attempts of the slaves to form new societies to overcome all forms of oppression—the Russian and Chinese communist revolutions of the 20th century—digging into their great accomplishments as well as their errors and shortcomings and why they were defeated by imperialism decades ago. He draws from a broad range of human experience, and has developed a new synthesis of revolution and communism. This is a framework for a new society that is moving to end all the inequalities, all the divisions—the oppression of different nationalities; the oppression of women and people of different genders; the division between those who have the privilege of working with their minds and those who work in manual labor; as well as working to overcome the devastation of the planet.
The movement for revolution that RB is at the center of today, what happens here in the store every day, and the society and world we are fighting to bring into being involves a process—a scientific method and approach that gives great scope to intellectual work, ferment, and dissent as a key part of how people come to understand and act to change the world.
Revolutionary theory, history, science, and the arts live at RB and are appreciated, engaged, and critically mined for insight and inspiration, to enable us all to deepen our understanding of the world and to discover and to act on the pathways to liberate humanity. This is not just a dream, but is rooted in the deep contradictions of the system of capitalism-imperialism that rules the world today. Revolution Books is where all of this is probed and engaged by a diversity of people and viewpoints, and where there is a movement for a real revolution that is leading the struggle to make it a reality.
Authors, filmmakers, actors, and poets remark that the critical engagement and dialogue at RB is like no other. There is a passion for getting at what’s true, a morality of serving the people, dialogue carried forth with a mutual respect that comes from the profound place of putting the interests of the oppressed of the world first in heart and mind.
Everyone can experience this ethos and principled struggle at its highest level in the new film of the historic dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian that took place at Riverside Church on November 15, 2014 before 1,900 people, REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion. Watch the video and get a living sense of what is opened up by BA and the revolution that is at the heart of RB. More, at Revolution Books people can find and dig into Bob Avakian’s extensive body of work—books, films, talks—work that opens up a new era for revolution and a new stage of communism.
Revolution Books fights for critical thinking. Youth learn the method and import of science and the science of revolution. RB involves a unique and rare mix of people, from university students to people from the hardest streets, youth and people with years of experience, different nationalities, people from all over the world, and different genders—all coming together to grapple with how to understand and respond to all the various ways the system comes at the people—and why and how humanity can do so much better.
At RB, the whole world comes first ... people engage and learn the real history of this country and its imperialist role in the world today. All of this comes from the deep morality put forward by Bob Avakian that we need to bring forward a people and movement for the emancipation of all humanity—and not “the first shall be last and last shall be first.”
Revolution Books’ move to Harlem—where, as I said earlier, the hard streets and projects that live under the constant terror of the NYPD are right alongside the campuses of Columbia University and the City College of New York and a wealth of cultural richness—will enrich one of the unique treasures of Revolution Books: the mix of people who engage ideas together with urgency and collective spirit. The sense of being isolated and despised that those who catch the hardest hell experience gets broken down, the important work that artists and scholars do enriches those normally denied access to this knowledge, and the intellectuals are impacted and transformed themselves, coming to understand the reality of this country on a whole other level.
Take a look at the breadth of writers, artists, and voices of conscience who have read, performed, dialogued, and spoken at RB including: Edwidge Danticat, Eve Ensler, Ngügï wa Thiong’o, Arturo O’Farrill, Saul Williams, Walter Mosley, Lewis Lapham, and Wallace Shawn, among many others. These beautiful and important voices, engaged at this place, with this breadth of audience and the revolutionary method and approach I’ve talked about tonight, this, too, is at stake in our fight to re-open Revolution Books in Harlem. There is NO PLACE else where people engage the burning questions of today the way they are discussed at RB. Watch the videos, listen to what those who have spoken and performed at RB have said about their experience.
Before moving on to how we are going to raise the funds and make this move a big deal, let me underscore that what is at stake is nothing less than the present and the future, and, in a very living sense, what we learn from the past. How people understand reality shapes what they do, how they fight back, with what objectives, how they determine friends of the people from enemies, how differences among the people should be taken up, how to fight and how to win—not just the immediate struggle, whether in the streets or in the realm of ideology and culture, but how to win in bringing about a whole new society through revolution. Without Revolution Books, without this place with the scientific spirit of discovery, the critical thinking, the poetic spirit, and the engagement with revolutionary theory and a broad spectrum of intellectual, cultural, and scientific work, without a place that can connect people to the movement for revolution and its leadership, no matter how heroically people fight, no matter how passionately people expose and denounce the current state of the world, it will stay as it is.
Take a moment and think, and ask yourself what you can do now to answer the call:
Humanity Needs Revolution
The Revolution Needs Revolution Books
Revolution Books Needs You!
Tonight I am asking you to give all you can to the emergency fund drive. Make a pledge and donate part of the funds tonight and more going forward. EVERY DONATION MAKES A DIFFERENCE. But, if you can give $500, $1,000 or pledge $5,000, do so.
But even if all of you here give all you can tonight, to raise $150,000 will require providing hundreds and even thousands of people the opportunity to make a huge difference by contributing to Revolution Books.
When you ask people to donate, you are building the community that will sustain RB. A community of people engaged with the books, the films, the programs, and the movement that RB is at the heart of.
Yes, people need money to survive in this outrageously expensive city, but that, too, underscores the need for a world where people could live and flourish collectively. Many people donate to many causes, but very few causes get to the root of getting free of a system that requires charity to deal with the outrages that are the product of that system itself. Giving to the Emergency Fund of RB is about changing that. That’s why struggling with people to donate big funds is not about giving to “our” thing, but about donating for the future.
I want to say to people who are new to this that you don’t have to agree with everything I've said tonight—whether about the new synthesis of communism or the necessity and possibility of revolution—to be a part of saving Revolution Books. If you can recognize the great difference it makes that we have a place where people are engaging revolution, where this conversation takes place; and, on the other hand, if you can see the reality that without this bookstore where the questions posed by a movement and a theory that says that the world doesn't have to be this way and that it could be radically different through revolution and which looks at revolution in a radically different way than is the common discourse in society, including in the universities, people's political imaginations of what could be possible would be stunted. If you recognize that, you can see why RB really matters and why you should support it.
You can be a part of the movement to save Revolution Books, donating and raising funds, while you are finding and figuring out what you think about the revolution it is at the center of, the process of doing and thinking, engaging and struggling that is the lifeblood of the movement for revolution and of RB. We have plenty of room for people to engage and argue over all these questions. But... do so while making sure that Revolution Books continues to thrive. Because if we don’t raise the money, then that could be cut off. We should understand that. Together with your support, we are determined that will not happen.
Some people have said this is a lot of money to raise and they’re right. So we need to break this down. I am asking you tonight to be a part of working on figuring this out. The plan is being forged as we are carrying it out. But here are some ways to begin to think about it:
What about 100 students becoming Friends of RB for $60 a year. That comes to $5 a month. And, it also comes to $6,000. Can’t we go out and find 50 professors who will donate between $250 and $1,000? We should aim to raise $15,000 to $20,000 from professors. We should go door to door and get lots of people to contact friends and relatives and workmates and raise $100-$250 from them. We are working to find patrons and large donors. And, in June, we will launch an Indiegogo Campaign with the objective of raising something on the order of $50,000... All of this is to stimulate thinking and to get things going.
Revolution Books needs loans—funds so that we can quickly renovate new space and make the move. As we do fundraising over the summer and then re-open the store, these loans will be repaid.
For the next eight days, we are going to go far and wide raising funds and spreading word of the emergency fundraising to Save and Move Revolution Books. Then beginning Friday night, May 15, we are going to have an Open House Weekend of events to raise funds that will be a grand send off for Revolution Books on 26th Street.
Once again, think of the difference it will make to have Revolution Books re-born in Harlem, able to dramatically expand its programming and stock of books, changing people and changing the world.
Dig deep into your pocket, heart, and conscience. DONATE and SPREAD THE WORD—play your part in opening up vistas for understanding why the world is the horror it is for the majority of humanity, and how it could be radically transformed.
Humanity Needs Revolution
The Revolution Needs Revolution Books
Revolution Books Needs You!
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
By Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Editor's note: The following article by Bob Avakian appeared in Revolutionary Worker #1270, March 13, 2005.
This article is a supplement to Chapter 6 of the book
BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian.
One of the things that I see, something that I haven't lost sight of, is this: I see all the strength of the ruling class, but I also see all the way through all this shit, all the contradictions in society—I actually see a force in this society that, if it were developed into a revolutionary people, actually could have a go at it, could have a real chance of making a revolution, or being the backbone force of a revolution, when the conditions were ripe. I see a force of millions and millions and millions—youth and others—for whom this system is a horror: It isn't going to take some cataclysmic crisis for this system to be fucking over them. The ruling class, ironically, sees them too. It is those who once had but have lost—or those who never had—a revolutionary perspective...it is they who can't see this.
So what I'm working on is all the things that are in between that revolutionary potential and its actual realization. How does this force of masses at the base of society get joined by people from other strata, how does it get allies broadly, how does it get "friendly neutrality" among many in the middle strata—how does all this get developed into a revolutionary people that can become a powerful fighting force when the conditions emerge to fight all out for the seizure of power? How does all that happen not in a passive sense, but how do we work on bringing this revolutionary people into being, even if most of the changes in society and the world are not owing to our initiative but to larger objective factors? I actually believe there is such a revolutionary force in potential—I actually believe this, I see this potential—I believe that there is a force there that, if somehow (and the bourgeoisie knows this too) if somehow the bourgeoisie got into a real, deep crisis....
Yes, these masses have got a lot of ideological hang‑ups, and everything else—that's why we have work to do—but we should never lose sight of that potential. And it's not only the oppressed nationalities either—although that is a good part of it, it's not the whole of it. There are a lot of youth, and there are a lot of other masses, of all nationalities. They are not a revolutionary people now, and they are not joined by other forces in the way they need to be—they don't have the necessary allies, they don't have the necessary "friendly neutrality," they don't have the political paralysis of the half‑hearted reformist trends, and whatever. But that relates to the crucial question of where we come in, in relation to all that. Do we just wait for "the stars to all align"? Or do we have a lot we can do—is there a lot of back and forth between us and the objective situation, not just at the point of a revolutionary crisis but all along the way toward that point?
This is why, among other things, I haven't become discouraged with all these twists and turns. Not only do I have the moral dimension of feeling it's an outrage the way that masses of people, tens of millions in the U.S. and literally billions more in the world, are treated, but I'm also thinking about how to bring into being this revolutionary people—not just how are they going to become a revolutionary people in the sense of wanting to make revolution and overthrowing the system, but how are they going to become a revolutionary people in terms of "fitting themselves to rule" as Marx once put it. This is why I don't feel like tailing them—because what good is that doing for them?
I told some people in a discussion recently: If anybody expects that, because I'm a white male, I am going to be apologetic about putting myself forward as a leader, they are going to be terribly disappointed—you are in for a big disappointment if you expect me to be apologetic about that. Because whom are we thinking about when we're thinking that way? And what are we thinking about? Are we really thinking about the masses of people who are bitterly oppressed, and what they need to get out from that oppression, and to make a whole different, much better world—or are we thinking about something else? That's why I don't feel like tailing these masses. There are plenty of people pandering to them and using them in various ways, and feeling sorry for them. I hate the way the masses of people suffer, but I don't feel sorry for them. They have the potential to remake the world, and we have to struggle like hell with them to get them to see that and to get them to rise to that. We shouldn't aim for anything less. Why should we think they are capable of anything less?
And, yes, there are a tremendous number of contradictions. I'm not an idealist—I'm not a "soft-headed liberal"—I know that the masses of people have real limitations and shortcomings, as a result of living and struggling to survive under this system. Many of them have been denied not only formal education but access to knowledge about many spheres—and a good number of them have even been denied the means to learn basic things, like how to read—but that doesn't mean they are not capable of overcoming all this. And it doesn't mean that they have not accumulated a great deal of experience and knowledge and wisdom of many kinds, which can contribute to the development of the revolutionary struggle, especially as this is taken up by people wielding a scientific communist outlook and method and spreading this among the masses of people. We should understand, on a scientific basis, that these masses are fully capable of becoming conscious communist revolutionaries. Those who have been kept illiterate by this system are capable of being leaders of a revolution and of a new society that will overcome the things that made them illiterate. We should struggle like hell, ideologically and practically, to enable them to become literate; but, even if they don't, they can still play a leading role in the revolution. You want to talk about the non‑professional leading the professional? This is how you do it—you do it with ideology, communist ideology and methodology, in the fullest sense. And you do it with the correct understanding of this ideology. Some of the masses who are going to play leading roles in this process are never going to understand much beyond some basic things about physics, for example. And most of us here aren't either. But they don't have to understand all that to be able to lead. If you have the right ideology and methodology, you can still relate correctly to physics, and to physicists, and to people in all these spheres. You can still enable the masses to enter into these spheres and learn about them, and learn how to give leadership, in an overall sense politically and ideologically, to people in these spheres—without undermining and undercutting these spheres, without acting in a narrow way, or worse yet a tyrannical way, towards the people who do have specialized knowledge and expertise in these spheres, and without limiting and constricting them but, on the contrary, valuing and learning from them and their knowledge—and their search for knowledge—and uniting and struggling in a good way with them. It's tough, we have to work on these problems some more, but there is a methodology here that can lead to correctly dealing with these contradictions, in a way that gives full expression to the scientific method, the scientific spirit and scientific inquiry, to the flowering of the imagination and the search for the truth, and that leads all this to serve the emancipation and the betterment of humanity.
And, at the same time, it is very important to keep in mind that more than a few physicists, and people with expertise in other fields, will themselves become communists and play leading roles, not only in relation to their particular area of expertise but in an overall sense, in making revolution and transforming all of society and bringing a whole new world into being.
Masses of different strata, including the basic masses—we cannot have the idea that they are capable of less than they are capable of. They are capable of terrible things, yes; some do terrible things, too, as a result of what this system has done to them; but that doesn't mean that this is somehow their "essence" and all that they are capable of. Speaking of the broad masses, including some who have gotten caught up in terrible things, they are also capable of great things.
It is the responsibility of those who are the vanguard to lead the masses to realize this potential, to become a revolutionary people and, when the time becomes ripe, to be the backbone of a revolution that will open up the way to a whole better world. And, yes, that means struggling with the masses to, first of all, recognize their own revolutionary potential, their potential to become the emancipators of humanity, and then to act in accordance with that potential.
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader
Shouts of “Murder!” and “Show Us the Video!” filled the crowded auditorium as a standing room only crowd burst forth with their anger over the murder of Brendon Glenn, a 29-year-old unarmed, homeless Black man. Glenn was gunned down just a few blocks from the famous Venice Beach area during an altercation with the cops.
300-400 people inside and dozens outside came to confront the Los Angeles Police Department and their spokespeople, who were holding a town hall meeting in the Venice district of LA to try and throw water on the anger that was being expressed since Glenn’s murder on Tuesday, May 5. When the LAPD’s Community Engagement Specialist opened up the meeting and spoke for a few minutes, Keith James from the Stop Mass Incarceration Network stood up and shouted at him, “You haven’t said anything about murder!” Someone else shouted out, “Say it!” When the area’s city councilman Mike Bonin spoke, it was reported that “he was booed almost completely off from the podium.” Vice.com reported that “The event soon became an outpouring of rage and grief from the crowd that lasted almost three hours.”
The crowd was outraged that Police Chief Charles Beck and Mayor Eric Garcetti were not in attendance, as the crowd wanted to confront them. People were saying, “Where is the mayor? Where is the chief of police?”
People were demanding that the security video of the murder be released, but the cops aren’t releasing it. Those who have seen it have told the Los Angeles Times that they could see no clear reasons on the video as to why the cop shot Brendon, when “it appeared the officers had control over him.” A witness to the murder, who was standing just 10 feet away from the shooting, said that Glenn was asked for his identification, and when he reached in his pocket to get it, he was shot in the chest.
Before the town hall started, SMIN unfurled a large vinyl banner of the Stolen Lives and walked around inside the room with it. They passed out Stolen Lives posters to the majority of the crowd, and people were grabbing them up. They got out Revolution newspaper and spoke to people about how revolution IS possible and that we need to get organized for that, and THAT is what will deal with this problem. Nothing else can or will.
Keith James of SMIN spoke about the murder of Brendon Glenn and said that it was part of the epidemic of police murders taking place all throughout the country—Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, Walter Scott, and thousands of others, including Freddie Gray in Baltimore—and that these murders by police must stop. He spoke about the people who have stood up in Baltimore, making clear the days when police can murder people and get away with it are over. He said that the LAPD has murdered hundreds of people, there has never been a single indictment for murder for any of these cops, and those sitting in the front of the room are giving a green light to these murders. He talked about how these same people were trotted out for a town hall when Manuel Jaminez was shot to death by LAPD in Pico Union, and pushed the murder under the rug. He spoke about the LAPD murders of Ezell Ford, Omar Abrego, and Brother Africa and said that we are going to have to fight for justice if we want to see justice and the murderers held, indicted, convicted, and put in jail. He also spoke to how the murder of Brenden Glenn is part of a campaign of murders of homeless people by police across the U.S., including Kelly Thomas in Fullerton, James Boyd in Albuquerque, and Brother Africa in Los Angeles.
People from all walks of life spoke. There was a large section of people who are very concerned about the homeless. Their anger and angst was genuine, with real concerns—demands for bathrooms, housing, and mental health care. One guy got up and said, “We don’t want a police officer in the car. We want a professional mental health person in the car who understands what the problem really is.” Then the crowd erupted in applause.
There was a section of broadly progressive middle strata. They came to hear the police and the powers out. They didn’t like the disruptions, saying “give them a chance,” speaking about the police and council people. They were saying that the Democratic leadership in LA is good and has potential. But they were also in some real flux. They were open to hearing a different perspective, including revolution as the solution to this problem and other outrages here and around the world.
There was a section of people very outraged, including people voicing this has been going on a long time, since the ’60s some might say, some said for hundreds of years, and they were looking for answers. This included a smaller section who were very angry, including some who live in Venice who are homeless and/or are somewhat transient, and some others. These folks were a diverse mix of Black, Latino, Asian, and white. Most were in their late 20s or 30s, while a few had been through the liberation struggles that took place in the 1960s.
A retired journalist gave all sorts of examples of how the cops use violence and said that “the problem is disproportional use of violence against the poor.” Then she told the panel, “I don’t think you’re going to change it,” but “fucking prove me wrong.”
A lot of people spoke to who Brendon Glenn was. A community organizer said, “I don’t think they realize this person was someone people really cared about. He was connected to all the [homeless] services and he was struggling to improve his life.”
Another guy said, “He always watched out for me. I saw him two hours before the shooting. I wish I never left him.... This cop needs to be in prison like I would be if I killed somebody. Brendon was unarmed.”
“He was one of the nicest guys I’ve ever met,” Paris Edwards told KPCC, while another person at the meeting said, “That man that got shot was a good man; he was a good man, and he didn’t deserve that. And it was murder.”
Brendon’s family in Troy, New York, spoke to the LA Times about him: “His 79-year-old grandmother told the Times that his family was shocked to hear he had been shot by police. Ann McGuirk said her grandson wasn’t a troublemaker and had kept in touch with his family and 3-year-old child since he moved to California.” She said that her “grandson came to Los Angeles because a friend lived there and he thought it would be a good place to work. The family encouraged the move” because he was young and “they thought it would be a good experience.” She went on, “He didn’t do anything to deserve to be shot dead. It was uncalled for. He had his whole life ahead of him.”
Earlier in the day, there was a march through Venice, and later that night more than 100 people held a candlelight vigil for Glenn on the sidewalk not far from where he was shot. People did a die-in that day at the spot where he was murdered. This Saturday there was a protest held at the site where Brendon was murdered. We will report further on this as things develop.
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
by Larry Everest | May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On Sunday, May 3, several thousand Ethiopian Jews and their supporters marched against police harassment and brutality right in the heart of Tel Aviv, Israel’s main and largest city, and brought business-as-usual to a halt for hours. The protest then turned into what the New York Times (May 3) called “a chaotic and unusually violent confrontation with the police.” The Times reported, “demonstrators hurled stones, overturned a police vehicle and clashed with the police.... Officers responded with stun grenades and water cannons.” Forty-six were injured and 26 arrested.
Israeli police claimed the outbreak took place because “agitators had stirred up the atmosphere.” But thousands marched because racism and police brutality directed against Ethiopians is common in Israel. The New York Times reported, “Many here compared the cry of the young, angry generation of Ethiopian-Israelis who came out on Sunday to the tensions in American cities like Baltimore or Ferguson, Mo....” “Enough of racism, enough of violence” the marchers chanted. “A violent police officer should be in prison!”
This outpouring was sparked by the unprovoked beating by police of Damas Pakada, an Ethiopian-born Israeli soldier who was in uniform, a week earlier in a suburb of Tel Aviv. The beating was caught on video. Damas Pakada was simply riding his bike, and was shoved off by an Israeli pig who told him, “I can do whatever I want.... I’m doing my job and if I need to put a bullet in your head, I would do it. I am proud of my job.” Pakada said “It’s because of [my] skin color.” (Times of Israel, April 27, 2015).
One protester told the New York Times how cops had attacked and pepper sprayed him, then put him in jail for three days for “attacking a police officer.” Another said, when he was in the military years earlier, Israeli police claimed he’d stolen his uniform and then beat him.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was forced to intervene, trying to contain the situation by calling for calm, stating, “All claims will be looked into but there is no place for violence and such disturbances,” and agreeing to meet with Pakada and representatives of Israel’s Ethiopian community. The cop who beat Pakada was fired.
The contradictions that erupted in the streets of Tel Aviv on May 3 cannot be papered over or contained with firings, statements, or photo-opportunity meetings. There are about 125,000 Ethiopian Jews in Israel, a state with just over 8 million people (6.2 million or 75 percent are Jews, 1.7 million or 21 percent are Palestinians). Israel’s Ethiopian Jewish population has come in waves of immigration. Two of the largest—so-called “Operation Moses” in 1984 and “Operation Solomon” in 1991 when 14,000 Ethiopian Jews were secretly airlifted to Israel in 36 hours—were organized by the Israeli government in collaboration with the U.S.
There were various necessities at work in these missions; in many cases the people who were shipped to Israel were in desperate situations. But Israel’s motives, and the actual effect of moving Ethiopians to Israel, were not humanitarian. They were bound up with efforts to bolster Israel’s legitimacy. First, by portraying it as a safe haven for Jews in a hostile, anti-Semitic region. In reality, there have been Jewish communities across the Middle East for centuries and whatever mistreatment Jews were subjected to in the Arab world doesn’t hold a candle to the centuries of systematic persecution, pogroms, and finally the Holocaust in Europe!
The nature of Israeli society is defined in a million ways by the reality that it is a country built on the ongoing genocidal ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Israel's motives for "adopting" Ethiopians Jews, as well as the racist discrimination they face in Israel, are framed by that reality. "Rescuing" Ethiopians and moving them into Israeli society was an effort to obscure the nature of Israel, and to help brand Israel as a multi-ethnic democracy for all Jews and other Israeli citizens. Ethiopian Jews were dropped into a European-supremacist, settler-colonial enforcer for imperialism, built on the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Arab/Palestinian population. And with a deep current of racism arising with and justifying all this.
One professor who has researched treatment of Ethiopian Jews by Israeli police told the New York Times that “Ethiopian-Israelis perceived themselves, much like blacks in the United States, as subject to ‘overpolicing,’ including racial profiling; being stopped and arrested more often than other, ‘white,’ Israelis; and being treated with a tougher hand. Ethiopian-Israeli citizens strongly believe that they are discriminated against and harassed. Young Ethiopian males in particular feel the police are out to get them and that they won’t get justice.”
Israel’s Ethiopian Jews are subject to systemic discrimination and oppression, which also drove Sunday’s protest. One newspaper reports: “Fifty-two percent of Ethiopian-Israeli families live under the poverty line, according to a report jointly compiled by the Brookdale Institute and Israel’s ministry of immigration. Compare that to 16% for the general Israeli population. In 2010, only 65% of Ethiopian-Israelis enjoyed regular employment. Those who do secure jobs still face a labor market rife with exploitation.... There are more blatant instances of discrimination, too, according to Tebeka, a legal aid organization serving the Ethiopian community. In 2012, protests erupted after reports surfaced that a group of Israeli landlords had conspired to deny property rentals to Israelis of Ethiopian descent. In 2011, the parents of 281 Ethiopian-Israeli children sued a school in Petah Tikva for denying them enrollment. Perhaps the most infamous instance of anti-Ethiopian racism was revealed in 2013, however, when the Israeli ministry of health admitted to injecting a number of Ethiopian women with a long-acting birth control drug without informed consent. This is the same government body criticized in 1996 for destroying stocks of blood donated by Ethiopian Israelis out of fear that it might be infected with HIV.” (Quartz, qz.com, May 5, 2015)
The European/white supremacist nature of Israelis has become more blatant and overt as Israel and its main backer, the United States, are increasingly exposed and isolated over the crimes Israel commits against the Palestinians. Just this past March, on the eve of national parliamentary elections, Netanyahu openly expressed this reality in a racist rant warning right-wing Israelis that “Arabs” (Palestinian citizens of Israel) were streaming to the polls “in droves,” threatening to steal the election. (See “Israel’s Ugly Election—Heightened Conflicts, New Challenges.”)
Israeli pigs have had a long history of training and collaborating with U.S. pigs in all manner of crimes—within their countries and around the world. It is fitting that rebellions against illegitimate police violence are now rocking both societies.
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
A new and damning exposure of Israeli war crimes in Gaza last summer has recently been released by Breaking the Silence, an Israeli veterans group. Based on the testimony of Israeli soldiers who took part in Israel’s attack, the report found a deliberate policy of “indiscriminate fire” at any Palestinian the soldiers saw. One soldier testified he was told: “The rules are: Any person at a distance that could put you at risk, you kill him with no need for clearance.” More than 2,200 Palestinians were killed and 20,000 homes were destroyed during Israel’s 50-day military assault. (Democracy Now!, May 6, 2015)
On April 1, the Palestinian Authority formally joined the International Criminal Court in The Hague, over U.S. and Israeli objections. This creates the possibility, according to former U.N. Special Rapporteur John Dugard, that Palestinians could now bring an apartheid case against Israel before the Court. "I’m a South African who lived through apartheid," Dugard told Democracy Now! (May 6). "I have no hesitation in saying that Israel’s crimes are infinitely worse than those committed by the apartheid regime of South Africa.”
Bringing Foward Another Way is an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in 2006. It is must reading for a serious understanding of what the U.S. "war on terror" is really about and how to bring forward a positive force in the world in opposition to both Western imperialism and Islamic Jihad.Download PDF
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
May 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors’ Note: The Obama administration has instituted a series of highly repressive anti-immigrant measures throughout the country, and especially along the U.S.-Mexico border. A new prison for immigrant women and children in Dilley, Texas—the largest of its type—is a cornerstone of these vicious attacks. On May 2, a protest was held outside the gates of the Dilley prison. This letter reports on the protest and a bus ride that took people from Houston to Dilley.
On Saturday, May 2, 300 people from all over Texas and as far away as Iowa marched in Dilley, Texas, against the immigrant detention center there, and against the brutal incarceration of innocent women and children fleeing poverty and war in Mexico and Central America. We caught a ride on a bus chartered by the ACLU and spent the trip digging into questions of revolution, the new synthesis of communism, the conditions of intensifying civil unrest in Mexico, and learning what young people are grappling with as they fight to SHUT DOWN these prisons. The march took over the highway at one point. At the rally, there were moments full of emotion as people considered the bland exterior of buildings surrounded by razor wire and heard the call of former prisoners, including children as young as four years old, to “let them go!”
Younger folks and immigrants were especially attracted to the Revolution newspaper as they were introduced to the Revolutionary Communist Party and the leadership of this movement for revolution. Thirty copies got out, and one person made a $20 donation to the revolution. “I want to talk to anyone who thinks that communism could produce a viable society,” said one young woman. And various others considered this program up against everything from anarchism to lobbying the legislature and trying to work through the labyrinth of the legal process.
At several points people wanted to know more about what would be different in this new society and were intrigued by the idea that one of people’s main responsibilities would be to break down the divisions between those who worked with their heads and those who worked with their hands. What would that mean on the job and in the community? One big question was: WHY this government was jailing innocent women and children?
A freshman who had just established a new student organization said, “If they would only recognize what they have actually done to people all this time,” talking about the history of this country. She and her friends were challenged to think deeper about what it would mean for a country like this to admit that “there would be no United States as it exists today without slavery,”1 or the history of genocide and the robbery of the lands of Mexico.
Almost a third of the marchers were older members of Methodist congregations and other churches, some of which had contributed greatly to cover the expenses for this action. These folks were particularly interested in the Dialogue on Revolution and Religion, and one of them invited us to join them in a showing of the new film and further dialogue on what humanity needs.
1. “There would be no United States as we now know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.”—Bob Avakian, BAsics 1:1 [back]
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editor's note: On May 11, the Obama administration approved Shell's drilling plan, further clearing the way for them to start drilling in the Chukchi sea this summer. Now, all Shell requires is the administration to approve their particular drilling permits.
April 29, an environmental group called “Shell No” organized a Seattle protest of the drilling for fossil fuels in the Arctic. (Photo: Damien Conway)
Drilling in the Arctic Ocean, and burning fossil fuels from the Arctic, would further accelerate a developing crisis in the oceans and on the planet.
Ocean ecosystems are the basis of all life. The plankton in the oceans provides 50 percent of the oxygen we breathe and forms the basis of a web of fish life that one billion people rely on for their only protein. But due to the on-going and relentless predations under the expanding economic activity of world capitalism, the oceans are in deep trouble. 90 percent of the oceans' top predators have been eliminated. Eighty percent of the commercial fish stocks are fully exploited or over-exploited. Huge trawlers with immense nets as long as 25 miles are sucking up and literally wiping out huge populations of ocean life. Coral reefs, which are rich garden oases of life forming the base and linking all ocean life, are dying off due to the warming of the seas. Overfishing, pollution, and the clogging of the oceans with plastics are contributing to an overall crisis. All over the world, populations of many species are plummeting. A major study of the oceans this year concluded that the oceans “may be sitting on the precipice of a major extinction event.”(See “The Accelerating Destruction of Our Planet, the Need for Urgent Transformation,” January 26, 2015.)
450 regions of the ocean have now been declared dead zones, devoid of oxygen and incapable of sustaining life due to pollution’s effect on algae growth. This number has grown tremendously over the past several decades. The oceans have been sucking up enormous amounts of heat from global warming caused by the build-up of greenhouse gases. The oceans now threaten to belch that heat back into the atmosphere, accelerating dangerous warming. Huge migrations of species and disruption of ecosystems are underway in the oceans as ranges of species change with changing ocean temperature gradients. The vast ice masses in the Arctic, and also parts of the Western Antarctic ice shelves in the south, are melting at increasing rates, damaging these ecosystems and their regulation of world climate. The chemistry of the oceans themselves is being turned more acidic, threatening much of the base of life. The crisis of the oceans is part of and linked to a global environmental crisis that threatens our future. It is accelerating and life-threatening.
It is truly stunning, as the movie Planet Ocean put it—in “barely 200 years we have disrupted four billion years of biological history.” This is not due to humanity in the abstract, but to the outcome of a capitalist system where countries and companies are driven to expand profitability, to grow and expand relentlessly, and beat out other competitors, no matter the cost to our planet.
For more on the beauty and the crisis in the oceans, see the documentary Planet Ocean
This summer, a critical front in the battle to save the planet’s environment is shaping up. Shell Oil is preparing to restart drilling for oil and natural gas in the Arctic waters north of Alaska.
The destructive practices of capitalism, especially its burning of fossil fuels, is warming the planet and causing the melting of polar ice. This is leading to potentially devastating consequences for polar ecosystems. And not only this. Melting at the poles is destabilizing the planet’s climate and threatens to further accelerate global warming as the sun’s energy is reflected less and absorbed more by open water than by ice. Further, the melting of this ice threatens the world with catastrophic sea level rise.
Now, after setting loose all this destruction that threatens everything, instead of putting an immediate halt to it, the world’s powers are scrambling to compete over who can best exploit this as an opportunity. It’s been estimated that the Arctic could contain as much as 22 percent of the world’s remaining undiscovered oil and large quantities of natural gas. So the world powers are racing against each other to gain control of the now more accessible Arctic oil and gas, and to gain control of the newly opened summer shipping lanes. Shell is charting the way for U.S. companies to follow, even as Canada, Russia, Norway, and others step up their bids to exploit the transforming conditions in the Arctic Ocean in other regions.
Shell has plans to bring two drilling rigs into the Seattle harbor this month, before towing them to Alaska, and environmental groups in the Northwest have announced plans to block them. Already, activists with Greenpeace mounted Shell’s Polar Pioneer drilling rig as it was being towed across the Pacific and camped out for a week in protest of Shell’s plans.
An environmental coalition called “Shell No!” is organizing the Seattle protests. Their website says “Drilling for Arctic oil is an open attack on people in the global south, who are already losing communities to rising seas and extreme weather. It could also spell disaster for one of the most unique wilderness areas on the planet and all of its inhabitants....We will unite in creative action, including a mass water-based blockade, and an event focused on working to honor our connections with this beautiful and complex planet. These events will build to a day of Mass Direct Action on Monday May 18th, when we will use nonviolent action to SHUT DOWN SHELL and all operations related to their Arctic expedition.”
These actions are very important to spread and support given the tremendous ecological stakes involved in preventing any drilling for fossil fuels in the Arctic.
This summer, Shell is targeting the Chukchi Sea, north and west of Alaska. The Chukchi is one of the most pristine and productive ocean ecosystems left on the planet. It is a rich ecosystem sustaining polar bears, walruses, whales, many species of seabirds, and several kinds of seals. All of this life is dependent on the sea ice and the organisms that thrive in relation to it. Many of these species are already endangered or threatened; as the sea ice in the region recedes, shorelines erode and sea temperatures rise. Also severely threatened is a whole culture of the indigenous Inupiat people that has been based on harvesting life from the sea to sustain their way of life for thousands of years. Drilling in the region would bring yet another danger—from oil spills.
In 2012, Shell began exploratory drilling in the Arctic and ran into huge problems. Their drilling rig Kulluk broke loose while being towed in rough water and ran aground. Their other rig, the Discoverer, almost drifted ashore and at another time caught fire. When examined by the Coast Guard, the Discoverer had 16 safety violations. This year, Obama’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM)—which decides on drilling leases—admitted that there would be a 75 percent chance of a major oil spill over the life of the lease that would result in a massive loss of polar bears and seals, and decimation of the bird population. Yet they still allowed the lease to go ahead! There is no reason to believe that Shell, or any other oil company, has the capacity to prevent or control oil spills, no matter what they say. In fact spills are routine and constant, and the danger has not lessened since the disastrous Gulf of Mexico oil spill.
Drummers from the Inupiat people who depend on the sea for their livelihood, now severely threatened by oil drilling. (Photo: Floyd Davidson)
The danger is made worse by the remoteness and extremity of conditions in the very harsh Arctic waters, which are ice covered much of the year, and prone to extreme storms and other difficult weather. A major oil spill in the Arctic would be a disaster to life there. Despite these problems and dangers to such a rich environment, the Obama administration has continued to facilitate Shell and other companies in pursuing Arctic drilling.
Beyond the spill threat, there is another overriding reason why the oil in the Arctic should not be exploited. A January 2015 study in the scientific magazine Nature showed for the first time that to prevent global temperature from rising above 2 degrees Celsius (it is generally agreed that more than this will bring on catastrophe), that a third of oil reserves, one half of gas reserves and more than 80 percent of coal reserves would have to remain unused. This study further stated that developing fossil fuels in the Arctic or increasing unconventional oil production would make it impossible to limit global warming to 2 degrees C.
Given all this, the idea of further threatening this rich ecosystem with the possibility of spilling oil that would decimate life in the Arctic, and expanding exploitation of fossil fuels in the Arctic, makes no rational sense. But this system does not make decisions based on the needs of people or the environment. Profitability and beating out other powers is embedded in every decision. Capitalism is not capable of taking account of the needs of these ecosystems or people, or the long-term needs of the planet’s ecology
This Revolution special issue focuses on the environmental emergency that now faces humanity and Earth's ecosystems. In this issue we show:
There is increasing pressure among the world’s powers to grab and control these resources before their rivals do. This is reflected within U.S ruling class circles. In March, Senator Lisa Murkowski, who is chair of the Senate Energy and Resource Committee, held a hearing on the need for the U.S. to further exploit the Arctic and said the U.S. is “woefully behind” and needs to catch up to others. U.S. military advisors have also been directing attention for the U.S. to increase its ability to project its forces into the region in preparation for a vast scrambling among powers to cash in on fossil fuel exploration and new shipping lanes created by the melting of sea ice.
In seeking to maintain some legitimacy for the U.S. among millions of people who care about the environment, in January 2015 Obama withdrew certain regions along the Arctic Alaskan coastline and other key wildlife areas from being opened to drilling. But along with this, he opened up much larger swaths of the open Alaska waters in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. At the same time he opened huge areas of the Atlantic Ocean to selling of leases for oil drilling for the first time. Both of these decisions are made from the strategic position of preserving the interests of U.S. capitalism-imperialism and its competition with other powers, and directly opposed to the interests of protecting the planet or its people.
Shell still has to receive final approval for drilling permits, and the mayor of Seattle has thrown a kink in the works by requiring Shell to get new permits before carrying out work at Seattle ports. How this will work out isn’t yet clear.
This Arctic drilling can’t be allowed! It’s important that all the efforts to stop Arctic drilling be spread and the legitimacy of the whole system be exposed so the drilling can’t proceed. The stakes are simply too high for anything else to happen. In this it is important that those standing up to stop this follow through on their convictions, and not stop until the drilling and the environmental destruction of the planet is stopped. From our view, this will require a revolution, and stepping up mass resistance should be linked to building a powerful movement for revolution. We need a new socialist system, where the entire energy foundation of society and the way humanity relates to nature is transformed. We need a socialist system, moving toward emancipating all of humanity, that can meet people’s needs while allowing us to preserve, protect, and work to reverse and mitigate the damage to global ecosystems. There is a way out. There is a strategy for making revolution and the necessary leadership for making it. And there is a plan for a new socialist sustainable society with an approach to making the transformations needed. Now is the time for people to take this up, as they fight to save the planet.
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The most lasting image of the police execution of Walter Scott in South Carolina is of Scott desperately running away from a cold-blooded cop who slowly takes aim before wantonly taking his life. The connection between that moment and the hundreds of years of slavery and Jim Crow segregation was captured vividly by the poster at revcom.us that superimposed another picture next to it—the infamous drawing of a slave desperately trying to escape from a slave catcher.
What was Walter Scott trying to escape from? According to his brother, Walter’s life had gone into a tailspin decades earlier when he was first sent to jail for two weeks for being unable to pay child support. As a result, he lost what he called the best job he ever had—making $35,000 a year with a filmmaking company—which sent him into drinking and depression. And the pattern kept repeating itself. He lost another job while doing five months in prison, again for not paying child support. Scott once asked a judge, “How am I supposed to live?” The judge reportedly replied, “That’s your problem. You figure it out.”(See “Skip Child Support. Go to Jail. Lose Job. Repeat,” New York Times, April 20, 2015.)
When parents are separated, the burden of financial responsibility for raising the children is supposed to be shared by the parents. In most cases, the mother takes custody of the children, which makes the financial burden on single mothers especially difficult to manage without support from the children’s father. But laws passed decades ago—supposedly intended to put pressure especially on fathers who could afford to pay child support but were refusing to do so—are now used to ensnare men with no ability to pay into the custody of the criminal “justice” system at staggering rates.
For millions of fathers scrambling to make ends meet, the choice is often between eating, having transportation and a roof over their heads, or making child support payments. According to the New York Times, a study done by the Urban Institute in 2007 found that 70 percent of people in nine large states who are behind in their child support payments earned less than $10,000 a year. And they were expected to pay 83 percent of their income for child support! Once warrants for non-payment are issued, any encounter with law enforcement will land you in jail.
This system is brutally enforced by the thugs with badges, with the support of those with power, who—not so unlike the slave catchers of centuries earlier—are rewarded for rounding up and taking off to jail these so-called “criminals.” The New York Times reported that in South Carolina in 2009, one in eight inmates had been jailed for failure to pay child support! In Georgia, 3,500 parents were jailed in 2010; 1,800 parents were jailed or given ankle bracelets in New Jersey in 2013.
The laws have become much more vicious against the poor and oppressed in this country since Ronald Reagan’s election as president in 1980, which ushered in a backlash against advances made through the 1960s and early 1970s in how people viewed the government’s responsibility to help those at the bottom of society and to overcome the history of the oppression of Black people. Since that time, poverty has become increasingly criminalized. Now, if a mother has to rely on public assistance, she becomes suspect, and the husband or father is pursued to force him to repay it, whether he is able to or not. Automatic paycheck deductions have become enforced. In some jurisdictions, the size of payments required is based not on actual income but on the income that would be expected for someone with a full-time minimum- or median-wage job.
In the media the terms “deadbeat dad,” and for women, “welfare queen,” were popularized to change public perception of poverty, and to attack and eliminate public assistance to those straining to stay above water. So in order to receive public assistance, women are forced to assist the government’s pursuit of husbands or the children’s fathers, even when that’s the last thing they want to do. In a companion piece, the New York Times ran an article by a journalist who went to court to get her ex-husband’s $38,000 debt for child support forgiven. Talking about how disappointed her daughter was when her father couldn’t be at her junior high graduation for fear of being arrested, the mother said, “I would have paid the $38,000 myself if I could to remove that look from her face.” She added, “I don’t want the father of my children to be criminalized or to live in fear of prison.” (See “Forgiving $38,750 in Child Support, for My Kids’ Sake,” April 19, 2015.)
What this highlights is the crucial role the criminal justice system plays in the enforcement of a system of social control that forces millions of Black people into lives governed by prison, unemployment, broken homes, and broken dreams. This system of ‘“in-’justice” is in fact one of the pathways to mass incarceration.
In On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City, Alice Goffman reports on a sociological study she carried out in inner city Philadelphia. She herself spent years living there, experiencing up close the life of the young men. She described how, for them, it was assumed that you were always on the lookout for the police, because any encounter could end with you going to jail either because of an outstanding warrant for failing to pay a fine of one kind or another, or for nothing. In their part of the city, everyone ran at the sight of the police.
Michelle Alexander discusses the devastating impact of these conditions on the lives of millions of Black people in the inner cities of this country in the introduction to her booki The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. She argues that, for Black people, the criminal justice system itself serves as a “gateway into a much larger system of racial stigmatization and permanent marginalization,” which she calls mass incarceration. A system that:
locks people not only behind actual bars in actual prisons, but also behind virtual bars and virtual walls—walls that are invisible to the naked eye but function nearly as effectively as Jim Crow laws once did at locking people of color into a permanent second-class citizenship.
At the same time, the perception has been created that it is “legitimate” for the police to see a young Black man—any young Black man—as a “suspect;” and cause enough for the completely illegal stops by police that have resulted in the police murders of Walter Scott in South Carolina, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Omar Abrego and Ezell Ford in Los Angeles; and countless others.
Enough! No more! These crimes, and the system responsible for them, Must Be Stopped—Now!
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
Revolution Club Member on Going to Baltimore:
May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following is transcribed correspondence from a young person who recently joined the New York City Revolution Club. This was written after going with the Revolution Club to the May 2 march and rally in Baltimore against the murder of Freddie Gray and police brutality.
First of all, seeing the National Guard and not just reading about it, not just seeing it on a television screen but seeing it right before your eyes, seeing the National Guard in all their gear, geared up like they are ready to kill somebody, like they are ready for war, having snipers on a building surrounding all the protestors that were standing below, it just goes to show that the system is baring its teeth and this is what the system is meant to do. There’s no real solution for the people. What their proposed solution for everything is, is to go in and militarize, brutalize, and punish. And that’s their solution, to beat back the people until the people cannot speak, until they are subdued into these submissive roles.
And to see that right before your eyes, just by these assholes being there with their guns and everything, it was so real and so shake you to your core, you know, that this is happening right before your eyes. This is NOT a movie, this is NOT some story, this is HAPPENING in the streets. It looked like... it looked like a war zone, and they were ready to pounce and kill. All for people going out there and speaking the truth, for saying, we are going to rise up because we can’t take this shit anymore. You are coming into our communities; lower income communities, people of color, Black and Latino people, and you are occupying them. You’re not providing any solution, you’re occupying. You’re coming in and you are murdering. And you know, like I said before, they have no real solution, except to come in and dominate the people into submission.
And it was just really eye opening to also see the ’hood in the state that it was. As somebody who doesn’t live in the ’hood, as somebody that didn’t grow up around the ’hood, to go really into an impoverished area, to an area that I haven’t seen, not even like the projects in Manhattan, these buildings were just totally abandoned, foreclosed buildings. And it’s another symbol of the system not giving a shit about its people. They just leave it, these peoples’ homes. They get rid of schools in these neighborhoods. They act like the kids are thugs. You know, it’s another symbol, just like the National Guard, of the system showing its teeth and saying and giving a huge FUCK YOU!... a huge FUCK YOU! to the people.
And to be there with the people and say I stand with you, you are righteous in your rioting and what you’ve done because of Freddie Gray. And being able to stand there with the people and say you are righteous, THIS IS RIGHT because of everything that’s been done to your community, to your people, to OUR people—it’s enlightening. But it’s also disturbing to see how people in the system, the higher-ups in this country, just really don’t give a flying fuck and want to see these people die. And that’s straight up how it is.
Although it’s disturbing to see this happening to these people, it’s also amazing to see them rise up. It is beautiful to see them rise up and for them to say that this shit is foul, this system is foul, this system has no future for our youth. They are treating them like thugs. They are arresting them, they are harassing them, they are killing them, they are brutalizing them, they are following them home from school, they are letting them die in prisons. And after all of that, you know, these people rise. They continue to rise and enlighten everyone else around them.
To say that we are human beings and even in this face of disgusting oppression and disgusting acts against us, we rise and we are willing to die to make change, and to see that and to be around that is absolutely amazing and beautiful and inspiring. And although a lot of it is disturbing, there’s also a lot of beauty when you come out into the streets and you see what people put forward through all of this horrible shit that this system puts them through. It’s inspiring and it’s beautiful. You just feel a love like no other, a love that’s actually human and what human beings should feel for each other.
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
Letter from a college reader:
May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
(From my long, tired days at a women’s college buzzing with too much hope for an election we wouldn’t be able to vote in less than 100 years ago, make that 40 years ago when the Voting Rights Act enforced the rights of Black people to vote, oh wait so many people are still barred from the voting booth...)
1. Hillary Clinton has more to do with all of our oppression than with anybody’s liberation.
—Seriously though, it’s true. I’m not even sorry about it either. A woman in the White House is going to defeat patriarchy just about as effectively as President Obama’s two terms eliminated anti-Black racism and police terror and murder. NO!
The fact that this country is just NOW electing Black and female leaders says a great deal about how deeply rooted racism and patriarchy are here.
2. Hillary Clinton does not represent progress for American women.
—Her apologetic stance on abortion adds to stigma that heaps shame on women for making a responsible decision about their bodies and futures, and leaves doctors isolated targets of Christian terrorist murder. Also break with “America” right now! It wouldn’t even exist without slavery, so stop it.
3. Hillary Clinton represents a terrorist threat for women around the world.
—Hillary Clinton’s national chauvinism and imperialist policies are wrapped in bomb-y, drone-y realities for the people who live in the nations of Northern Africa and Western Asia.
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
With the vicious police murder of Freddie Gray, the uprising and protests, some light is being shined on the situation for poor and Black people in Baltimore.
Baltimore is the sixth poorest city in the United States. Its population of over 600,000 is 63 percent African-American. The city’s poor, Black neighborhoods bear the scars of decades of impoverishment and government neglect: row after row of vacant houses boarded up, abandoned buildings interrupted by empty lots, run-down apartments, lots of liquor stores but few if any stores with fresh vegetables and fruit. Unemployment is high, especially among the youth. People have been hit with cutbacks in food stamps, low-cost health care and other social services. On any given night, there are at least 3,000 homeless people in the city. (Health Care for the Homeless, hchmd.org)
The situation is a scandal. How did things get to be this way? And what is the solution?
In the Sandtown-Winchester section of Baltimore, life expectancy is the same as in Iraq and Kazakhstan. The rates of unemployment and poverty are at around 50 percent and about double those of the city as a whole. Lead-paint violations were four times the city average, as was the percentage of boarded up buildings—over 30 percent of the residential properties are vacant or abandoned. Median income is only $24,000 a year, which is under the federal poverty level for a family of four. (New York Times, April 28, 2015)
Ralph Moore, who grew up in Sandtown-Winchester and works at a shelter for homeless youth, said, “People want to work and live in a house that’s not going to fall down around them and is not infested with rats. They want a normal life—they want what everybody else wants, and they don’t seem to be able to get any closer to that.” (New York Times, May 3, 2015)
Today, Sandtown-Winchester has more residents in jails and prisons than any other neighborhood in the city.
In 1950, Baltimore was the sixth-largest city in the country, home to 950,000 people. Manufacturing, most especially the production of steel, provided 75 percent of all jobs to workers in the region. Baltimore had a booming economy, based in large part on the steel industry. Bethlehem Steel came to the city in the early 1900s, setting up the huge Sparrow Point mill. The steel industry peaked during World War 2, but then after the war companies began to seek cheaper steel production in other parts of the country and in other countries. This is how in cities like Baltimore tens of thousands of jobs “disappeared.” From the 1950s to 2000, the city lost more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs. The industrial workforce was depleted by 75 percent.
Now it’s not like when Black people had factory jobs in Baltimore there wasn’t vicious exploitation and oppression. In this issue, Carl Dix talks about the New Jim Crow-type conditions in the Baltimore steel mill where he worked in the 1970s. He recounts how Black workers were segregated and given the most dangerous and dirtiest jobs. (See: “Carl Dix on Working at Segregated Sparrows Point Steel Mill.”)
But now things are even worse. From 1970 to 2010, the number of high-poverty neighborhoods in Baltimore increased from 38 to 55. ("City Report: Lost in Place," at CityObservatory.org)
Ruling class voices, like Obama, the mayor of Baltimore, and bourgeois media mouthpieces call the people “thugs.” At the same time, they make vague promises about bringing back jobs. And from other perspectives, but still stuck in the basic mindset of the system, different voices propose various schemes and projects to bring jobs back to Baltimore.
But these so-called “solutions” don’t get to the ROOT cause of the problem. This oppressive situation didn’t spring up overnight or because of some kind of “culture of poverty” or because the people just don’t work hard enough. There are deep reasons and dynamics behind them that reside in the very nature of capitalism.
The driving force behind the capitalist-imperialist system we live under is profit. And in today’s world, the dynamics of this on a global scale have profoundly affected the situation in cities like Baltimore. The reason Black youth in Baltimore don’t have jobs isn’t about them needing to “pull up their pants” or “stay in school.” It’s because the laws of this system dictate that in the globalized economy different capitalists are competing with each other, constantly finding ways to cut costs, chasing after higher profits—in order to even stay in the game.
This constant hunt for ways to make more profit is what’s been behind the dynamic of the de-industrialization of U.S. cities, where factories have closed down, taking away tens of thousands of jobs. Those steel companies moved out of Baltimore to areas of the planet where workers can be more viciously exploited, and where investment is more profitable, because they had to or they would have gone under.
And the same laws that resulted in this de-industrialization are the same laws that still are in command, which means those jobs are NOT coming back.
Today, this system looks at the millions and millions of poor Black and Latino youth as just “surplus” that it cannot exploit in a profitable way. It looks at this section of society as a volatile force that has to be controlled and suppressed. This is why you’ve got stories of police brutality and murder in Baltimore that have piled up for decades and generations—with the system set up to let the cops who murder go free time after time.
Jobs disappeared and what the people got was a “war on drugs,” mass incarceration, police murder and brutality. This system has no future for millions and millions of Black youth who it cannot profitably employ. Its schools are not geared to give them an education. They are not being prepared for jobs—which don’t exist anyway. The schools function more and more like pipelines to prisons, feeding America’s mass incarceration.
Datwain, a high school youth in Baltimore, talked about how it feels to go to a school where students are subjected to “lockdown” conditions: “I feel like I need a short break. They do not allow us to step outside [to] cool off. They have police walking around the school armed with guns, mace, sticks, and cuffs... treating [us] like criminals.” (Iris Kirsch, “Baltimore’s School-to-Prison Pipeline and the New Youth Jail,” November 5, 2012)
In September 2014, the Baltimore Sun revealed that in the previous four years, more than 100 people had won court judgments or settlements related to allegations of police brutality and civil rights violations. “Officers have battered dozens of residents who suffered broken bones—jaws, noses, arms, legs, ankles—head trauma, organ failure, and even death, coming during questionable arrests. Some residents were beaten while handcuffed; others were thrown to the pavement. And in almost every case, prosecutors or judges dismissed the charges against the victims—if charges were filed at all.”
The source of all this is the capitalist-imperialist system we live under—and this system with all its crimes against the people cannot be reformed, tweaked or fixed with band-aids because it is the very nature and laws of the system that give rise to all this in the first place. All these horrors can only be ended by ending this system, getting rid of it through revolution, nothing less, and replacing it with a radically different and far better system and society where these horrors could be ended once and for all. That system, a socialist society that is not driven by profit, would unleash the now-crushed energy and creativity of millions and millions to provide jobs for everyone, and to meet people’s needs.
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In the wake of the police murder of Freddie Gray and the resistance and rebellion among the Black youth of Baltimore, there has been a lot of discussion about not just the problem of police murder and brutality, but also deeper problems like poverty and unemployment. Like many other cities around the country, tens of thousands of jobs have “disappeared” in Baltimore due to de-industrialization. The steel mills and other manufacturing plants that once employed thousands in Baltimore have left and set up production in other countries where wages are lower and working conditions are worse, where bigger profits can be made. From the 1950s to 2000, the city lost more than 100,000 manufacturing jobs. The industrial workforce was depleted by 75 percent. Today in the Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood where Freddie Gray lived and died, the rate of unemployment is around 50 percent, about double that of what it is in the city as a whole.
The following is from a Revolution interview with Carl Dix. He talks about his experience working in the Baltimore Sparrows Point Steel Mill in the 1970s and about how, when Black people did have factory jobs in Baltimore, they faced systematic Jim Crow-type conditions of segregation and discrimination, given the worst, dirtiest, lowest paying, and most dangerous jobs.
Carl Dix is a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and is the co-founder, with Dr. Cornel West, of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.
I was born and raised in Baltimore. I lived there the first 35 years of my life. As part of that, I worked for five years at the Sparrows Point steel plant in Maryland, from 1973 to 1978. Sparrows Point was one of the main industrial plants in the Baltimore area. There were others. There was another steel mill, a couple of shipyards, auto and electrical plants. But Sparrow was a place that a lot of people wanted to get work because it paid a bit more than some of the other places. At that time, at its height, the plant would employ about 20,000 people. But I found out after getting hired that there was a real boom and bust to how that went because when they had things going they had 20,000 people. But then the bust would come and they would employ only like one or two thousand, and everyone else would get laid off. There was a feast and famine part to it that you found out later.
But just getting hired and going into the plant for the first time, I was really struck by a couple of things. I got hired on the finishing side or what was called the tin side. The other side was called the steel side. The other side was where they took the raw iron ore, melted it down and formed it into the steel, which I guess is an alloy of iron. I was on the side where they would take the steel and finish it into sheets, different things like that, for different uses. So I was on the side where the pay was a little better and the work was viewed as a bit easier. And one thing that was striking when I first went into the plant, the first thing I saw was that for every restroom, there were two together. And not male and female. There would be two men’s bathrooms together, two women’s bathrooms together. And you kind of wondered like, why was there two next to each other like this. And it turned out that the reason was that up until a bit before I was hired there had been “white” and “colored” bathrooms in the plant. They had taken the signs down but the bathrooms were still there.
Then the other thing is that I got hired into this department on the finishing side, and I noticed that the department that I got hired into—and most of the 20,000 people who worked there were Black. On the finishing side it was a little more than half Black, if you went over on the steel side, where the coke ovens, blast furnace were, where the harder and dirtier jobs were, then the percentage of Black workers went up quite a bit; lower paying, harder, more dangerous. But then even within this finishing side where the pay was higher and the jobs were easier, stark discrimination hits you just walking into the plant because there was an all-Black labor crew, mostly made up of older Black guys. They were a sub-department of a larger department and they were all Black. And they were the ones who taught us to do the jobs when they hired a lot of new people in. And we would start off as laborers, but then we could work the machines. And these guys in the all-Black labor gang knew how to work all the machines, and they were the ones who would train us how to work the machines. And if there was a shortage of people at any position on the machines, the guys from this labor gang would step in and run the machines where you would make a lot more money, ’cause first off, your base pay was higher, but you could also get bonuses based on production, which laborers couldn’t get. And we also found out that this was also a Jim Crow relic because this was from back in the days when all of the Blacks went into the labor gangs and only the whites got to work on the machines. And even in those days, they would train the white guys to work the machines and the Black workers were not allowed to move into these positions. They could work them as a stopgap thing if they needed them, but they could never move in and be promoted to that position. And these were all older guys, who at this point no longer wanted to move in and promote up. But you had a stark reminder of the Jim Crow period that had just recently ended in the plant by this all-Black labor gang.
And I talked about how these were easier, less dangerous jobs. But that doesn’t mean there was no danger on this side of the plant, because very early on, I remember one of the new guys who got hired was working on the midnight shift and this machine was flattening the steel into thin stripes. And it broke off and went flying into the area where the workers were and cut the guy’s finger off. And like this was the guy’s first week on the job and he loses his finger. This was kind of chilling, and you’re kind of like, oh, shit, this is what I’m getting into.
And then later during a big layoff, I found that I could transfer into the steel side. When I say the big layoff, I’m referring how the number of people working in the plant dropped from about 20,000 to about 5,000 in 1975, when I had been working there for about two years. Things had always been cyclical in the steel mill. There would be times when they had a big backlog of orders and people would be working, then there would be times when there was a big drop that would last months, even up to a year. And it wasn’t something they explained to us, they just laid people off. This was a time when steel factories were moving out of U.S. cities into other areas and more steel production was being done overseas. But that wasn’t the full reason for the layoffs because they did go back up after about a year. One thing that I did find out was that if I wanted to continue working and not be on unemployment and then run the risk of that running out and then having nothing, I had enough time to transfer over to the steel side, because it took a lot less seniority to be able to work in the coke ovens than in the finishing mills. So I did transfer over there and do that. And most of the people I was working with were considerably older than me, although you could miss how old they actually were because a lot of them looked real old and had serious physical ailments. But that actually wasn’t a function of their age. It was more a function of the jobs that they were doing, because the jobs were much more physical and the possibility of getting injured was much, much greater. One thing that happened to a lot of people is that people suffered a lot of burns working in the coke ovens. Because even if everything is going right, the pressure within the ovens could shoot one of the lids off and it could hit you. And the lids were like very, very heavy. But you weren’t mainly worried about the physical damage of the heavy metal hitting you, but it was like also extremely hot. And if it touched you, it would burn through several layers of your flesh. And rare was the coke oven worker who had not had this happen to him at least once.
What happened to me wasn’t that I didn’t just not dodge the lid fast enough. That did happen to me once and I have a scar from that. But I had a much bigger problem. This actually happened during a coal miner strike. There had been a slowdown in production because the coal miners were on strike and we weren’t getting as much coal. And what they would do is they would do what they called “stoke the ovens.” Because normally, you would be producing coke to melt the steel on a daily basis, but then with the slowdown of coal you were no longer able to do that. So instead of running and clearing the ovens on a daily basis, they would clear them out on a weekly or even on a monthly basis, depending on how long the coal strike went. This was a particularly prolonged one, as I recall, so the ovens hadn’t been “pushed”—that’s what they called it—in a month. So then when the coal strike ended and they started pushing the ovens, they were having a big problem with getting the coke to go down the conveyor belt, which they said they always did when there was production slowdown like this caused by disruption in the supply.
So they sent a couple of us down to clear the conveyor belt. We go down there and what we find out is they usually run water on the coal so it is no longer inflamed when it is on the conveyor belt. But we got there and we saw that the coke was still inflamed on the conveyor belt—we figured that had something to do with why it wasn’t going through. But then as we started trying to clear it, after about half an hour, it just started to explode, sending flaming particles flying our way. And we were in an enclosed area with a wall behind us, so we were kind of trapped there with these flaming particles flying down on us. The other guy was standing near the door to the enclosed area, so he was able to step out the door and get behind the wall. I was between two doors and I turned to run to the door and as I ran, I was showered with these flaming particles. They were on the ground in front of me and I’m stumbling over them and I fall and I get severely burned on one side of my body—the side that was facing the particles. I ended up with deep second and third degree burns over 25 percent of my body.
And it was interesting, though, because I was in shock when this happened. So I can smell burning hair, which is a very normal smell in the coke ovens, because people’s hair gets singed all the time, but I couldn’t actually tell I was severely burned and it didn’t hurt. So I get out there and the guy asks me am I OK, and I say, yeah I’m OK. He looks at me and he could tell I wasn’t, but he doesn’t want to break the news to me. The foreman calls over the line and says, what’s wrong over there? And the other guy says, we got a problem. And the foreman asks, can you get the line going? And the guy says to him, we got a problem over here. And the foreman says, I don’t care about your problem, can you get the line going? This angered me, and I’m like we could have been killed over here and he wants to know can we get the line going? I said, I’m going to go kick his ass. And because I was in shock, I was not aware that I was not capable of kicking his ass at that point. And the shock did not wear off until I got just outside his office, at which point I could no longer stand up because of the severity of the burns. I ended up spending two months in the hospital and I had to get several skin grafts.
In that particular instance, I was the only one hurt. But what I found out later was that whenever they went off the schedule of pushing the ovens everyday, they had that problem of the conveyor belt, and they sent people down and people reported being sprayed by flaming particles. But it was never spread among people. So when I went down there, it had already happened to other people, but I was the only one with severe burns. Other people had gotten minor burns for it, but no one had ever been caught between the doors like I had and had to run out. But it was a problem that had happened before, but no steps had been taken before to minimize the danger to the workers being sent down there.
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Anyone who watched the TV show, The Wire remembers the scenes of rows and rows of boarded up houses in Baltimore where today there are some 16,000 vacant buildings. How did this happen? Well, some of this happened because of racist real estate predators.
Jim Crow was very much alive and well in Baltimore just a generation ago—with blatant segregation that dictated “white” and “colored” bathrooms and open policies of discrimination in every aspect of life, including in housing where Black people were prevented from living in certain neighborhoods.
Today there is a new Jim Crow that delivers the discrimination and racist practices in new ways. For example Baltimore is a city infamous for the practice of “redlining.”
Redlining in housing refers to the practice of banks refusing loans and mortgages to certain people or charging them higher rates in a discriminatory, racist way. The U.S. government used to do this OPENLY.
The Home Owners’ Loan Corporation (a government-sponsored corporation created as part of the New Deal) would assess “mortgage-lending risk” in a city, neighborhood by neighborhood in different U.S. cities. It would gather information: terrain, type and age of buildings, sales and rental demand, and about the “threat of infiltration of foreign-born, negro, or lower grade population.” This data would be used to delineate neighborhoods as being desirable “hot spots” in green to “high risk” in red. (“After Nearly a Century, Redlining Still Divides Baltimore, Laura Bliss,” citylab.com)
The 1968 Fair Housing Act in 1968 made this kind of government-sanctioned segregation illegal. But redlining and other racist practices in real estate continue in other ways.
In 2008 a suit was brought to trial where Baltimore officials exposed how for decades, Wells Fargo Bank systematically singled out Black families in Baltimore and suburban Maryland for high-interest subprime mortgages.
One loan officer of the bank testified in court that Wells pushed Black customers who could have qualified for prime loans into subprime mortgages. Another loan officer stated in an affidavit that employees had referred to Blacks as “mud people” and to subprime lending as “ghetto loans.”
The effect from this was devastating. About 4,500 homeowners in Baltimore and Washington, DC had been affected by these practices. When the housing market crashed, many of these borrowers ended up facing mortgage payments that they simply couldn’t afford. Data released by the city as part of the suit showed that more than half the properties subject to foreclosure on a Wells Fargo loan from 2005 to 2008 now stand vacant. And 71 percent of those are in predominantly Black neighborhoods. (New York Times, June 6, 2009)
Last year Baltimore had 5,200 foreclosures—the ninth largest number in the country.
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
by Sunsara Taylor | May 7, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
People poured into City Hall Park in downtown Baltimore just one day after the indictment of six cops for the cold-blooded murder of Freddie Gray. The protesters were young and old, mostly Black with a large number of white people and a smaller, but rich, diversity of others mixed in. About half beamed with pride at having been out in the streets many times since Freddie Gray was murdered. The other half, including a larger number of students who came in groups of friends (no organized groupings that I could detect), had ventured out for the first time, feeling a responsibility to show their support and learn more.
The mood was celebratory yet angry, full of determination to keep fighting yet not entirely clear on what that should mean. Many of the speakers expressed exactly this confusion, at first heralding Marilyn Mosby, the State's Attorney, for indicting the cops, then recognizing that the only reason she did this was the righteous and powerful rebellion of the people. Quiet as it's kept, Mosby's platform when running for State's Attorney was to decry the fact that people were not being locked up for long enough and to repeatedly trumpet her deep support for the increased presence of police in West Baltimore. The only thing that “changed her tune” was the powerful, and spreading, demand for justice. Others condemned the “violence” of the rebellion only to add that without this fierce uprising nothing would have changed.
Carl Dix, of the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, brought tremendous clarity when he addressed the crowd, drawing people in right off the bat with the chant, “Indict! Convict! Send the killer cops to jail! The whole damn system is guilty as hell!” He helped people understand just how significant their uprising had been in winning the conviction, while calling on everyone not to be lulled by a mere indictment. He recounted that the long experience with the police, even when the massive struggle of the people has forced an indictment, has almost always been that they are acquitted when they murder, and the need to escalate the struggle to see that that doesn't happen.
Dix also spoke of the world we need to bring into being through an actual revolution that puts an end to the grinding genocide crushing the lives of millions of Blacks and Latinos. When he began to give flesh this to vision, how it encompasses not only an end to white supremacy but also an end to the degradation and enslavement of women, the crowd erupted in wild enthusiasm. Others had given shout-outs to Black women—at their best giving credit to those who have been in the streets and demanding the inclusion of those who have been killed by police, at their worst heralding Marilyn Mosby as if she was some champion of the oppressed. But, what Dix did deeper was to call out the way that all women are oppressed and degraded as women under this system of capitalism-imperialism; and the response he got was deeper too—something which is extremely significant for the prospects of revolution. He culminated by calling on people to get organized for an actual revolution and to get connected with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network.
When he finished, many throughout the crowd were eager to sign up with the revolution. Something to think about: more almost certainly could have been done by the revolutionaries in the crowd to recruit on the spot off Dix's powerful speech.
After several hours of speeches, a march finally stepped off. Thousands poured into the streets. The Revolution Club let out the chant that many sports teams do, “Everywhere we go... people want to know... who we are... so we tell them: We are the Rev Coms! The mighty, mighty Rev Coms!” A growing crowd joined in marching and singing along with us. Many threw their fists up in the air, others danced to the rhythm. People were attracted to this projection of a powerful and organized force for revolution.
When we finally hit the hard streets of West Baltimore, the heart of the rebellion, hundreds lined the blocks. The devastation that has plagued this city for decades was palpable: buildings abandoned, no grocery stores, older folks drinking on the curb, “R.I.P” spattered across walls... the destructiveness of capitalism was evidenced everywhere. But the creative and revolutionary potential born of this destruction, the explosive rage of hundreds of years of Black people being enslaved and oppressed, was also on display. The mood was an electric brew of jubilation, power, and fury.
Folks grabbed up the Stolen Lives poster, running down from the top floor of housing projects to get copies. Parents cheered as children held this poster in the air. Young adults waved these posters out car windows, or through sunroofs, as they drove slowly and honked horns. At the end, someone set up a huge sound-system and hundreds gathered to dance, to cheer, and to chop it up over things big and small.
The streets were filled with a mix of folks who probably have never been so intermingled in their lives. Students and middle class folks who have never been this deep in the ghetto interspersed with folks who have spent more time inside paddy wagons than college classrooms. This mingling was real, but also cautious; folks tended to stay close to those who were more familiar, while taking heart in and welcoming the larger mix.
Those of us who are down with the Revolutionary Communist Party, along with a growing cluster who had been drawn to us throughout the day, grouped up at the edge of the end-rally and began to chant once again. Slowly we marched down a residential street where hundreds of Black folks from the neighborhood were lining the sidewalks.
We agitated about how beautiful the uprising had been, how essential it had been in winning the first taste of justice, in inspiring and compelling people throughout society to see the humanity of those this system casts off and to stand with them, and of the need to go much further, putting the killer cops in jail and making an actual revolution. “We need a revolution!” we chanted, over and over. At first, those on the sidelines simply watched. Before long, a chorus joined in the cry for revolution. Young folks began stepping forward to snap pictures with the banner of the Revolution Club, which read, “We Refuse to Accept Slavery in ANY Form! Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution!” More of them streamed forward, including young women with their babies as well as young men, many of whom repping the colors of rival street organizations.
These are the youth derided as “thugs” by the media, and by Obama. They are young people whom this system has completely abandoned, who have been demonized and criminalized since before they were born. They have been cast in conditions where the only way they feel they can get any respect is by fighting deadly beefs with other kids just as fucked over as themselves. They've been to funerals for friends, some killed by police, others lost in these horrific and degrading conflicts. And yet, even with blood spilled between them, here they were nestled up to each other taking a stand for liberation. A glimpse of the even greater potential the revolution holds could be seen, and it was precious.
As this scene broke out into smaller knots of people mixing it up, a young man whose face was covered with bandanas began pointing out to me a row of buildings that were all boarded up. “That one there,” he said, pointing to the last one in a row, “was burned down on Monday night. All the rest were already boarded up.” Don't let anyone tell you the destruction of this community began with the people's righteous rebellion. In reality, what this rebellion brought was the first tastes of justice, of broader love and support, and of hope to visit these streets in generations!
A little ways away, Travis Morales of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network drew a crowd agitating in front of the huge Stolen Lives banner. A group of teenagers hanging near the back explained that, despite the indictment, they are not hopeful about change. “They indicted the guy who killed Trayvon,” one tells me. He was just 12 when Trayvon was killed. It's possible that he remembers this himself, but more likely it is the vibrant debate that has flooded these streets in recent days that brought him this cautionary lesson. Already he and his friends have stories of being chased and/or brutalized by police. I agree that an indictment is not yet enough, but also insist that a great deal has been accomplished. Those who run this system fear the kind of power and anger that has erupted in this neighborhood, as well as the broader support this has been winning among broader society. Smiles of pride appear on their faces and their posture shifts just enough to convey they are letting down their guards and getting more serious.
Running with the Rev Club, April 14. Bay Area, CA. Photo: ©Lonny Meyer
“What does it mean to get involved with the revolution?” one asks. I break down the strategy of “fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution” and how today we are organizing the thousands who will lead millions when the time comes for the all-out struggle for the seizure of power. He gets excited, but checks with his friends, “Should I sign up?” “Nah,” says the one who had brought up Trayvon as he turns away. They all turn. “What is it,” I say boldly, borrowing a line from Bob Avakian's epic talk, REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! “Do you like the way these cops do you out here? Do you like being disrespected and treated worse than a dog? Do you like the way this same system does that to people just like you all over the world? Cuz, if you like all that, then keep walking, this revolution is not for you.” They slow down. “But if you hate this shit, if you hate what they did to Freddie Gray, if you hate that he could have been any one of you, if you hate that this goes on day after day after day after day not just in Baltimore but all over this country, and all over this world, then you have a responsibility. I'm not selling something, I am telling you about real revolution, life and death, and you have a big role to play—not just fighting for your own liberation but for the emancipation of all of humanity.” The kid who had been enthusiastic is the only one still facing me, but he is hesitating. Then, the one who turned away first darts around and says, “Okay, I'll sign up.” The others did as well. We took some more time on the spot to get further into the revolution.
It seemed that everyone in the neighborhood had a story of police, many specifically detailing the horrors of the Baltimore police's notorious “rough rides” (where they cuff or hog-tie you unbuckled into the back of a police van, then intentionally drive so that you are brutally slammed against the walls without being able to protect yourself). The worst, I was told, is in summer when they do all that plus leave you locked in the stuffy van without air conditioning or water for hours. “It makes you look forward to being locked up,” one middle-aged Black man told me. “Then, you finally get there and you are filthy and hurting and they give you something green between two pieces of bread. I just fold it up like a pillow and go to sleep on concrete.” It's routine.
A young man who was very close to Freddie Gray is interrupted frequently as he speaks to me by hugs and condolences as well as folks joining in with the bitterness he speaks. “Next time they run up on us, we need to do more than just film them,” he insists as others erupt enthusiastically. “I am not saying we beat them down or beat them to death like they do us,” he clarified, “but we can't just keep sitting back and all we do is film them as they kill us. They have to be stopped.”
Indeed, they must be stopped!
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
First, Barack Obama called those who rose up demanding justice for Freddie Gray “thugs.” Then, when that uprising—and other struggles around the country of all kinds of people including students, many white people, and others—forced the system’s hand and charges were brought against six police involved in the murder of Freddie Gray, Barack Obama said: “All the evidence needs to be presented. Those individuals who are charged obviously are also entitled to due process and rule of law. So I want to make sure that our legal system runs the way it should.”
Well you can tell something about the way a system should run by the way it does run. And over and over again, where charges are brought, murdering pigs either get off, or get only the most token sentences: the authorities bring charges to release some of the pressure, drag out a trial, use the trial to sow confusion and bullshit, and then let the pig off.
Look at what happened to the cop who went to trial in Chicago this year for murdering 22-year-old Rekia Boyd back in 2012. Rekia Boyd was hanging out with friends when Dante Servin, an off duty Chicago cop, pulled up near the group and had words with one person. Servin shot over his shoulder five times into the group who were all facing away from him, hitting Rekia in the back of the head and another man in the hand. She died within 24 hours. Servin claimed that he “feared for his life” but the investigation later showed that none of the people he shot at were armed, nor were they threatening him. Rekia Boyd’s family and supporters waged a tenacious struggle for justice, and three years later, Dante Servin went to trial. But before the trial was even over, a judge essentially ruled that Servin was guilty of a much more serious crime than the one prosecutors charged him with, and so he threw out the case!
Or take the particularly egregious case of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. She was seven years old when she was murdered during a SWAT raid in her grandmother’s living room on May 16, 2010. Police fired a flash grenade into the house at 12:40 am, burst in, and shot and killed Aiyana. Only after national and global outrage, was one of these murdering thugs charged—and just with involuntary manslaughter and reckless endangerment with a gun. Three years later, his first trial ended in a mistrial, as did a second trial. On January 28, 2015, a prosecutor cleared Weekley (the cop who killed Aiyana) of the last remaining charge against him, ensuring there would not be a third trial.
If those pigs got off after murdering an unarmed seven-year-old in her grandmother’s home, this system can find a way to let any murdering cop off.
Again, this is a pattern. On November 25, 2006, New York City police fired fifty times on three men sitting in a car, killing Sean Bell on the morning of his wedding, and severely wounding two of his friends. As outrage threatened to erupt, three of the five detectives involved in the shooting went to trial on charges of first and second-degree manslaughter, first and second-degree assault, and second-degree reckless endangerment. They were found not guilty.
LA police beat Rodney King, 1991.
After the famous televised vicious police beating of Rodney King back in 1991, of the mob of pigs who beat him, four were charged with assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force. None were found guilty. It was only after days of sustained rebellion—what the system calls the “LA Riots” in 1992, were the police retried and a few went to jail.
Just the few examples we’ve listed here show, and as the whole history of unpunished police brutality and murder shows, the system working “the way it should” means letting the cops get away with murder.
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
May 11, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On March 3, six students from the University of California, Santa Cruz (UCSC) chained themselves together, linking arms through metal tubes and trash cans, and shut down Highway 1, the main artery along the coast, for five hours. The action—part of four days of protests at UCSC and other University of California campuses against tuition hikes and police brutality—included a student strike at Santa Cruz which completely shut down the campus. In response, Santa Cruz city officials and the UCSC administration are bringing down draconian punishment against these courageous students.
Initially the six were charged with three misdemeanor charges and a felony, “conspiring to execute a plan of conspiracy.” Facing the felony charge and threatened with 18 months in prison, the six pleaded no contest to two misdemeanors. The judge has already said that she plans to sentence the students to 30 days in jail and the city announced that it will seek $40,000 in restitution from the students—the cost of the police in arresting them. And UCSC has suspended the students for 10 months, saying that they cannot even set foot on campus until 2016!
Speaking at his initial arraignment, Ethan Pezzolo, one of the six, and a second year student at UCSC, said, “I am standing before you today to tell you that I am not a criminal. But there are real criminals in this world, real acts against our humanity that occur every day. The real criminals are the police officers who, working under a white supremacist, systemically racist umbrella of state-sponsored violence, murder countless Black and Brown people as they cry out under the weight of their oppression.”
A climate of hate has been fanned against these students. According to the Huffington Post, threats toward the activists have been seen on the “Official Group of UCSC Students”—a closed group on Facebook. And more than 4,000 people have signed a petition on change.org urging the chancellor to expel the students.
These courageous students—who are setting a moral example—are to be sentenced on June 19. And even BEFORE the sentencing hearing, the judge has announced the jail time and large fine that she plans to deliver. Meanwhile, 68 students from Stanford University are facing misdemeanor charges for shutting down the San Mateo-Hayward Bridge in a protest on January 19—part of actions around the country to protest police brutality and murder on Martin Luther King Day.
This cannot be allowed to stand! These students need to be defended and supported in the courts, against UC Santa Cruz’s outrageous suspension, and in public opinion. This is a crucial part of building the new wave of resistance across the country.
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
May 13, 2015:
May 12, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Osage Avenue burns after Philadelphia police dropped bomb on MOVE house. May 13, 1985. 11 people died and 61 homes burned down.
Thirty years ago, the mayor of Philadelphia was Wilson Goode, the city’s first Black mayor, and lots of Black people and progressive white people put their faith in him to make the oppressive system “work” for the people.
But thirty years ago, on May 13, 1985, city authorities, acting on Mayor Goode’s direct orders, carried out a massacre against the residents of a house on Osage Avenue on Philly’s West Side, and then unleashed a catastrophe for the mainly Black community around it. Their target was the home of a collective of Black radicals, the MOVE organization, which had already been the victim of years of violent assaults by the system aimed at crushing this rebellious group and anyone connected with it.*
On May 13, 1985, hundreds of police surrounded and attacked the home in the morning, firing thousands of bullets and using explosives on a home in which they knew there were a number of children.
But that was not enough for this system.
When MOVE did not surrender, the mayor ordered that a bomb be dropped on the roof. The MOVE house became a raging inferno.
But that was not enough for this system.
They unleashed a wall of gunfire against anyone who tried to escape the flames, forcing them back into the fire to die. Between the bullets and flames, 11 people were murdered, including five children. Only two occupants survived the massacre.
But that was not enough for this system.
The MOVE house was in a neighborhood of houses built closely together, yet the city ordered the Fire Department NOT to put out the flames, even as they spread beyond the MOVE house, roaring from one building to the next. By the end of the day, a whole block of houses, home to 250 people, had been destroyed.
But that was not enough for this system.
While the perpetrators of this horrendous crime – the mayor and the police – walked free, the only adult survivor, Ramona Africa, was arrested and spent seven years in prison for refusing to renounce MOVE, while the surviving child, Birdie Africa, was seized by the system and taken away from his family.
And with that, these authorities – those who serve the needs of a system that bellows with rage when youth in Baltimore fighting for justice break some windows, who cry crocodile tears about the deaths of Black men and the systematic impoverishment of the Black community, who cannot shut up about how “exceptional” America is – with that, these monsters called it a day!
In the wake this stunning and horrifying event, many people were paralyzed, partly by the sheer nightmarishness of what had happened, but also by the fact that this crime was carried out under the authority of a Black mayor. Far too many people who would have been outraged and outspoken if the same thing had happened in a city with white political leaders were silent in the aftermath of the massacre on Osage Avenue.
In response to this shameful situation, Carl Dix and others initiated the Draw the Line statement to denounce the MOVE massacre, and struggled fiercely for people to act on conscience and principal, not on false hopes, illusions and cowardice. The statement was signed by more than 100 prominent Black figures and others. It denounced the collusion of Black elected officials in the repression of the Black community, saying, in part: "When Black elected officials use their positions of power to attack Black people, or to cover up for or excuse such attacks, they are no friends of ours."
Never Forget or Forgive the MOVE Massacre!
Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution!
* This included the persecution of Mumia-abu-Jamal, former Black Panther, revolutionary journalist and MOVE supporter, who had been framed up and locked away in prison three years earlier, where he remains today, fighting for his life! See “F*%king horrible”: The Public Execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal?”. [back]
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
May 12, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a correspondent in Baltimore
Prince's "Rally 4 Peace" concert, Baltimore, May 10. Photos: Special to revcom.us
Sunday, May 10—Thousands came to Prince's "Rally 4 Peace" concert at a downtown arena where he debuted his song "Baltimore," which references the police murders of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray and has a refrain that goes "If there ain't no justice then there ain't no peace." The song features Eryn Allen Kane, and special guests at the Baltimore concert included rapper Doug E. Fresh and singers Estelle and Miguel. The song, which Prince dropped for free download on SoundCloud on Saturday, and the concert are another sign of the huge impact that the Baltimore uprising is having on broad sections of society.
Prince told the audience, "I am your servant tonight, Baltimore. We are your house band." Along with the new "Baltimore" piece, Prince played many fan favorites, like "1999," "Little Red Corvette," "When Doves Cry," and others. He declared "No curfew" several times—a pointed reference to the 10 p.m. curfew enforced by thousands of National Guard troops and law enforcement from Baltimore and other agencies that had been imposed after people rose up on April 27 in a cry for justice. After "Purple Rain," Prince said, "The system is broken. It's going to take young people to fix it. We need new ideas, new life."
Toward the end, after the band left the stage, the audience chanted "No curfew!" Prince returned with what Rolling Stone magazine called a "thrilling cover" of Michael Jackson's "Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough"—which has a chorus with the repeated lines "Keep On With The Force Don't Stop. Don't Stop 'Til You Get Enough."
Many at the concert were hardcore Prince fans who mainly came to hear and see him, others came as a way of making a statement in support of justice for Freddie Gray. Everyone there was aware that Prince was addressing in his way the fight for justice for Freddie Gray. There was a mix of Black and white people, from college age to those from the '60s generation and older, and many from Baltimore suburbs and farther away. Gray was a prominent color of clothing—Prince had requested people to wear gray "as a symbolic message of our shared humanity and love for one another."
A white college student, a big Prince fan who said he traveled six hours from Pennsylvania to come, said he was "disgusted" with the police killing of Freddie Gray, and that "finally, people are taking a stand against the marginalized, and who are obviously being targeted by the police because of their race." What did he think of Prince doing this concert? "It's incredible. Prince is such a high-profile cultural icon that for him to take a stand is an amazing thing." A '60s generation white man said, "Right now, what I want is for the police murder to stop, like it says there"—he pointed to the Stolen Lives poster, which was being passed out by the hundreds to concert-goers. A Black man who had a family member killed by police said, "It takes someone like Prince to stand up, stand up for people's rights, equal rights for people. It's something that this city and this country needs, because this has been going on for centuries."
The Revolution Club and other revolutionaries wearing "Revolution—Nothing Less!" t-shirts were an energetic presence outside the arena—calling out to the crowds of people with the chant "Indict, convict, send the killer cops to jail! The whole damn system is guilty as hell!" and connecting people with the way to put an end to murder by police and other horrors of the system, through an actual revolution. They got out "Revolution—Nothing Less!" t-shirts, Revolution newspapers, and many Stolen Lives posters for people to take into the concert. A carload of people on the way to the concert stopped to get some of the t-shirts—they had come from Ferguson and were involved in the fight for justice for Michael Brown there.
The situation in Baltimore is that six cops involved in murdering Freddie Gray have been charged with crimes, but that is far from those killer police actually being convicted and sent to jail.
And there are even higher stakes here for the oppressed and those who hate oppression, and for the revolutionaries leading the fight against that oppression. As we wrote in Revolution, “High stakes in mobilizing people to fight through and win this battle... and far higher stakes in bringing to people the word that there IS a solution to this, that revolution is possible, and that emancipation from this madness can be achieved, and in organizing people to carry forward that revolution. Will this opening be seized to bring forward the work that Bob Avakian has done on this very question, and the leadership that he has provided? Will those who ARE stepping forward to this be organized in a way that can lead to an ACTUAL revolution? Will this be done in a way that enables people to go up against all the repression that will be brought down on them as they do so? And, in that context, will the struggle for justice be fought through in such a way that it is NOT derailed, but instead strikes real blows against the ability of the powers to keep on hammering down on people, and at the same time leads people further toward revolution and emancipation?”
Revolution #386 May 11, 2015
Madison Cop who Murdered Tony Robinson Walks Free
May 14, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On May 13, 300-400 people marched throughout the streets in the city of Madison to protest the decision to not prosecute the cop who killed Tony Robinson. In a hail of 7 bullets another young Black man was shot and killed and the pigs walk free.
Speaking to the District Attorney’s excuses for not bringing the cop to trial, Carl Dix said “The DA is telling us we have to take the cop’s word for what happened, saying there is not sufficient evidence to prove the cop who murdered Tony Robinson is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. But that is what a trial is supposed to be about! Where we can get all the evidence on the table and where the cop’s story can be questioned and compared to real evidence. So now we are being told that’s not gonna happen. There is NO reason to believe the story the DA ran out at the press conference.”
And Carl Dix emphasized “But even if what he said was true, this was murder.” (See “Statement from Carl Dix, Madison, Wisconsin—NO CHARGES FOR COP WHO GUNNED DOWN 19-YEAR-OLD TONY ROBINSON COP ONCE AGAIN GETS AWAY WITH MURDER!”).
The march, followed by a People's Tribunal, was called by the Young, Gifted and Black Coalition, a direct action organization. Brandi Grayson, co-founder of the YGBC said: "It's important for people to understand that the black community in Dane County and the State of Wisconsin is in a state of emergency," said Grayson. "We are in a crisis, so there's no time for us to be silent or to abide by someone else's definition of order."
The march was a multi-national mix of community activists, students from local high schools, teachers, and others. Some local leaders supported the students who planned to "walk out" of school in their expressions of grief, anger and protest. And some teachers came out with them to make sure they were safe. Many of the high school students were shocked and stunned by the decision not to prosecute the killer of Tony Robinson.
Before the protest, the Superintendent of Schools sent out a letter saying in part “We also know that there will be protests planned for Tuesday that our middle and high school students may be asked to participate in. ...First, we ask that you would encourage your student to stay in school during the school day as to not negatively impact their instructional time.” And the “progressive” mayor threatened to arrest protesters.
Nevertheless, many students did march. One student decided to skip taking a test in school to take part in the march. "We had this really huge test today, that I really wanted to miss because I really wanted to come have my passion," she said. "I think it's really important to get involved since we're the next generation."
The sentiment in the crowd was: It’s not over! The poster of the faces of those murdered across the country by police was seen everywhere in the march with many donations coming in raising over $200. Many want to continue to talk about the way forward, and there was a wide range of ideas of what that means: community control of the police and courts, and also a mass movement to STOP police murder. The STOP Police Murder banner was carried throughout the march by various people who joined up with supporters of Revolution Newspaper and the Revolution Club.
After the Tribunal people took the street at an intersection. 28 people were arrested in nonviolent civil disobedience in front of the Dane County Court House and Jail. A number of people blocked the two doors going into the jail while others stood arm and arm in the middle of the street refusing to let business as usual go down.
There were solidarity protests in other cities including Oakland, CA and Minneapolis, where according to activists, police pepper-sprayed a 10-year-old protester.