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Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
Updated September 18, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Michael Brown...Freddie Gray... Rekia Boyd... Andy Lopez...Tamir Rice
One after another—and so many others, precious Black and Brown lives—victims of police murder. We think of their faces, and furiously ache for justice. Over 1,000 people a year killed by police—yet since 2005, less than 60 indictments, less than 25 convictions! 1
Millions languish in prison, generation after generation, Black and Latino brothers and sisters. The spearpoint of a whole matrix of oppression.
People have struggled, resisted, risen up. This must go on and go further—all summer, in many different ways, intensifying.
At the same time, these repeated outrages cry out for a major, national manifestation this fall that states very clearly:
NO! THESE MURDERS BY POLICE MUST STOP—NOW!!
This demonstration will be resistance-based, uncompromising in spirit and, at the same time, pluralistic and diverse, involving hundreds of thousands of people, reaching into every corner of this society and powerfully impacting the whole world.
History has shown that no significant change has been won without mass determined resistance.
We refuse to be derailed by promises of reform that are merely that: promises.
We refuse to be intimidated by government repression or by threats from forces of open and unrepentant racism and fascism. We will respond to the urgency of the political situation by mobilizing hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets to say these horrors must stop.
We aim to amplify the many forms of resistance against police murder and mass incarceration. More important, we aim to change the whole social landscape, to the point where a growing section of people all over take ever-increasing initiative and make it unmistakably clear that they refuse to live in a society that sanctions this outrage, and where those who do NOT feel this way are put on the defensive.
Join us—on October 24 in the streets of New York City.
Initiated by Carl Dix, Revolutionary Communist Party & Dr. Cornel West, author and educator
Initiating Endorsers include family members of those whose lives were taken by police:
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
Updated July 3, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The cold-blooded massacre of nine Black people at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina shocked and angered people across the entire country, and across the world.
Even by the bloody standards of American history—the whipping post, the lynch mob, the fire hoses and police dogs, the church bombings, the seemingly endless but always outrageous murder by cop—this massacre was an enormous crime. The murderer echoed a common theme and complaint of white men who feel they are losing their “entitlement.” He told his victims he was killing them because “You (Black people) rape our women and you’re taking over our country, and you have to go!”
The young racist who gunned down the Black people who had welcomed him to their church was steeped in the outlook of white supremacy that has long been a pillar of the “American way of life.” The enslavement of millions of Africans and their descendants, and the genocide of Native Americans and theft of their land were overwhelmingly the main basis for the great wealth accumulated at the foundation of the U.S. as a country. A strong sense of “white entitlement,” of the U.S. being a “white man’s country” developed on this basis, and became embedded not only in the culture and morality of the country, but in its legal codes, including the U.S. Constitution. Black people, Native Americans, and later Latinos and Asians, were regarded as “pariahs”—people outside protection of the law, outsiders treated with unpunished violence and contempt. This whole sense of “white entitlement,” and the reality of white privilege, has been part of the ideological glue that has held this country together, and continues at the core of the American mentality. (For a deeper understanding of this crucial point, see Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy, by Bob Avakian.)
The oppression of Black people is at the very core of what makes the U.S. system of capitalist imperialism “tick.” Over hundreds of years, the forms of this oppression have changed somewhat, but the oppression, and the brutality with which it is enforced, have in fact deepened and become more embedded within and woven throughout the entire system. The massacre in Charleston is a gruesomely monstrous concentration of all that—it is not an “aberration,” not the work of a “deranged lone wolf.”
Carl Dix said in a recent statement: “The blood of the nine people murdered in Charleston is on the hands of the rulers of this country. Whether this guy acted alone or not, he was acting within a climate that has been deliberately whipped up.” This is a climate that has repeatedly exonerated cops who murder unarmed Black people; that acquits a racist murderer like George Zimmerman; a climate that justifies the mass criminalization of generation after generation of Black and Latino youth.
After the Charleston massacre last week—and 150 years after the U.S.Civil War officially ended in 1865—leaders of both major political parties came to the “sudden realization” that the Confederate battle flag, which for decades has flown over the South Carolina capitol, as well as many other places, represents slavery, Jim Crow, and ongoing white supremacy, and is despised by Black people (and many whites and people of other nationalities as well).
A tidal wave of rejection of the most hated and blatant symbol of white supremacy seems to be sweeping the country, and the South in particular. Deeply racist legislators, Tea Party fascists, and hard core upholders of “Southern heritage” (more accurately, white supremacists) have joined with many thousands of honest people who despise that flag and the enslavement and lynching it represents.
It would certainly be a positive development if this society were to be purged of the hated Confederate flag. It is also positive that thousands of people have rallied to demand the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina capitol in Columbia. Demands have arisen to remove or change the names of hated symbols of white supremacy in dozens of other places. As far north as Minnesota, people have demanded that a lake named for a notorious Southern white supremacist be changed; on the campus of the University of Texas, a statue of Confederate leader Jefferson Davis has repeatedly been spray painted with “Black Lives Matter” in the past week.
All this must continue—but even more, people need to fight to get to the root of the problem of racism, white supremacy, and the ongoing oppression of Black people in this society.
What kind of society not only has refused to get rid of the flag of slavery, but in fact, for 150 years has enshrined enslavers and their symbols in places of “honor”? Even more fundamentally, what kind of society cannot do away with the kind of terror like that perpetrated by the Charleston killer, and even more, every day, by uniformed pigs who routinely inflict brutality and murder upon people?
This is a system that—since the days of slavery and every day since―has feasted upon the deep oppression, brutally enforced, of Black people. Wealth wrung from work done by Black people over centuries—as slaves, as share croppers, as low paid factory and shop workers—has been a pillar of the American empire. But now—due to changes in the globalized capitalist economy—this system has no place for millions of Black and Latino youth. It has no jobs for them, no future. It sends them to crumbling schools that are more like minimum detention centers; it has no social resources to allocate to train the youth for jobs, or to develop their communities. Why? Because there is no profit for the capitalists to be had in any of that.
What this system does have are brutalizing and murdering police, it has overcrowded prisons that can always accommodate a few more bodies; it has work camps and detention centers; it has crowded space in county lockups across the country where hundreds of thousands of people waste away time “awaiting trial.” It has racist killers in and out of official uniform—including people like Dylann Roof, George Zimmerman, Michael Dunn (the killer of Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida), the armed vigilantes who patrol the Texas-Mexico border, and others. These people are engendered by a society steeped in a history and current reality of hatred and fear towards Black people, and contempt for Black lives. They are a product of this system, and often quite directly of powerful racist forces within it.
There has been almost a year now of massive protest against murder and brutality by police, beginning in Ferguson, then rippling across the country and bursting forth in New York, Cleveland, Oakland, Baltimore, and hundreds of cities and towns coast to coast. The phrase and hashtag “Black Lives Matter” has been used by millions of people from many arenas of society in protest—a rallying cry that has reverberated broadly. And there has been retaliation from the system: rallies of police and their supporters, massive repression against protesters, and ongoing murder and brutality perpetrated by the cops.
Basic questions about the nature and history of this system have been probed and debated. Why does murder by cop of Black and Latino people happen over and over and over? Why are the inner cities crumbling, the schools falling apart, and public housing being torn down? What kind of society and system do we live in, and what kind of society and system should we live in, what kind of society and system is possible? These are becoming mass questions in ways they haven’t for decades. This situation is dangerously “out of the box” for the ruling class.
Banner carried at protest, Columbia, South Carolina June 23, 2015. Photo: special to revcom.us
The ruling class of capitalist-imperialists has some understanding of this, and they are moving on it. Through all their mouthpieces and representatives, they are working mightily to try to confine the terms of the struggle now to mourning, to “healing,” and to reforming this system.
All representatives of the ruling class agree on the foundation of their approach towards the ongoing upsurge of protest and resistance that has rippled across this country, and towards the masses of Black and Latino youth in particular. It is a program of mass incarceration, brutal and murdering police, backed up by a legal system that supports nearly every atrocity these cops commit, no matter how outrageous and cruel. But differences within the ruling class about how to go about this are real, and they are deep. They aren’t going to be resolved through “bipartisan negotiations.” They are rooted in an intractable problem that cannot be resolved within the confines of this system.
Obama and people associated with the Democratic Party in particular have been working energetically to suppress and channel growing rebellion and resistance, especially among the basic people. The Democrats offer inclusion in the “political process” to a section of Black people, but have nothing but weak-ass charity for the masses of people who have been systematically impoverished and made jobless by this system. Their program seeks to keep people confined within electoral politics, and out of meaningful protest.
Obama and other Democratic Party leaders hold out the promise of some minor reforms in the face of the growing struggle against police brutality—while continuing to back these pigs to the hilt. In fact, Obama has made a huge point of speaking to large gatherings of police to tell them how much he supports them, even if the love affair is rather one-sided now. More to the point, murdering, brutalizing cops have received full support from the Obama administration, and his Department of Justice has given full backing to police murder after police murder.
As we wrote recently in Revolution, Obama’s program for the people “has three prongs. One, fraud. He is pushing programs he claims will help solve the problem of brutalizing, murdering police, but will actually do nothing of the kind. Two, repression. Obama is not only giving moral backing to cops, he is pushing programs that step up police power OVER and AGAINST the masses of people. Three, sugar-coated poison. He is using words of concern and promises of money, designed to mislead, confuse, and derail the struggle of the people.”
The eulogy Obama delivered in South Carolina has been described as one of the most powerful and passionate he has ever given. He even acknowledged some of the history and legacy of oppression Black people have faced. But he offered absolutely no answer to this, other than to trust in god, hope for grace, reconciliation, and most of all, trust in the American system, and “... striving to form a more perfect union.” This is the response of someone who wants to keep this system going—the very system that has inflicted so much of the horror and pain that Obama only touched on in his eulogy.
Others within the ruling class disagree with one or another component of the Obama program. For one thing, they demand across the board support for the police in whatever they do, and make the absurd and utterly false complaint that Obama and other leading Democrats undermine the cops. Among other things, these people have been working to limit the participation of Black people in the electoral process, and have been making major efforts to suppress voting rights of Black and other oppressed people.
For some in the ruling class, even the whiff of any concession or anything less than unquestioning support for every atrocity the police perpetrate on Black people is too much. Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York and a leading Republican, said on a news show late last year: “We’ve had four months of propaganda starting with the president that everyone should hate the police”. Presidential candidate Ted Cruz said Obama has “inflamed racial tensions,” and that his alleged “vilification of law enforcement has been fundamentally wrong and it has hurt the minority community.”
One thing to note is that when someone like Cruz talks of “inflaming racial tensions,” he definitely is not talking about white cops who do things like jump on a car hood and fire over a dozen shots through the windshield at two Black people sitting inside. He doesn’t mean white cops choking a Black man to death on the sidewalk in broad daylight. Nothing like that. To Cruz and others of his ilk, “inflaming racial tensions” means raising, however mildly, that Black people are perhaps treated a bit unjustly in this society, that inequalities persist. This is considered “inflammatory,” or “playing the race card.” Cruz received campaign contributions from the head of the white supremacist Council of Conservative Citizens; he later returned the money, but clearly this racist pig liked what he heard coming out of Cruz’s mouth.
These people represent a hard core within the U.S. ruling class, and the Republican Party in particular, that is, as Revolution has pointed out previously, a fascist force. This isn’t just a nasty name to call them. It isn’t an exaggeration. It is a scientific assessment of them, and most of all, of their program.
A major pillar of their whole outlook and program is straight-up white supremacy, whatever code words they may sometimes use to try to make that hateful outlook more palatable and “acceptable” to society as a whole. They are not going to let this go, or compromise on it, even if they make some (temporary) concessions on the Confederate flag. This emblem of slavery and oppression, as anyone with a functioning memory bank knows, was just fine with them until a few days ago.
A key expression of this supremacist outlook is unwavering support for any murderous or brutal act against Black people, especially committed by the police (and in many cases, racist vigilantes like George Zimmerman, the murderer of Trayvon Martin). They threateningly demand that everyone else better do the same.
Thousands formed a human chain across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge that separates downtown Charleston (where the AME Church is located) from the almost all-white suburb of Mt. Pleasant. Above: Revolution Club at the Unity Chain. Photo: special to revcom.us
In a society divided into classes, all political viewpoints have their ultimate source in how one class or another sees its interests. Classes are determined by their position in society’s relations of production—most especially (though not only), ownership and control over the means of production: the land, tools, machines, etc., through which things are made. In capitalist society, this means the capitalist-imperialists control huge chunks of the socially produced wealth, the middle strata with much less, and the masses of proletarians with nothing.
Seeking some kind of “middle ground” or reconciliation with the authorities and their supporters who uphold the endless onslaught of atrocities upon the people is the outlook and expresses the interests of people in the middle—people who oppose some of the abuses of the system but also think they have something to lose; people caught between the masses of basic people, and the handful of capitalist-imperialists in whose interests this system is run. This outlook can only lead to accommodating and excusing those very atrocities—and allowing them to continue. These views can change, among individuals and among large blocs of people, but they can never lead a movement to bring about fundamental change and rid society of its injustices.
The struggle bursting forth in this society over the past year is the kind of thing that doesn’t come along very often. The situation in this country has changed radically in the past year, in ways favorable for bringing forward the movement for revolution. People have repeatedly entered into the fight to stop the abuses of this system. They’ve had a lot of preconceptions, misconceptions, illusions, and false hopes. Many people are weighed down by outlooks that prevent them from getting at the truth systematically. Many are actively seeking ways to keep everything within the confines of the very system they are protesting. But people are repeatedly compelled to confront the workings of the system itself.
Many different forces are working on this situation. The ruling class, especially, is aggressively carrying out repression, and to an extent in some cases, extending “carrots” to try to pacify and contain people’s anger. But wave after wave of outpourings have spread throughout the country as people confront the reality of police murder, courts that exonerate cops, and hateful racist vigilante massacres of Black people.
Further fierce resistance and struggle is needed, along with calling on many others—millions of people—to take sides themselves, to get into the fight. This struggle has to go to a whole other level and aim to actually STOP these murders! At the same time, people need to continue to confront, and ask themselves and others: What is the character of this system that can’t get along without brutalizing and murdering Black people? Why is the outlook of white supremacy so deeply embedded in this society and what keeps it going? What is it really going to take to actually STOP these outrages once and for all?
Answers to these questions exist. To get them, watch the film REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN; and the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!; read Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy by Bob Avakian; and the special issue of Revolution, The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need.
Carl Dix asked in a recent statement: “All this faces us all with an urgent question: Which side are you on? Are you on the side of the savage oppression and brutality this system enforces on Black people? Or do you stand against these kinds of horrors?” What is really needed now is for people—masses of people—to take sides, and get out into the fight. What’s most needed is fierce struggle against the entire onslaught upon Black people perpetrated by the authorities and by racist vigilantes.
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
Statement by Carl Dix
June 18, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Outrageous! A white supremacist motivated by racist venom enters Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, during a Bible study class. He sits down with people there for a while and then starts shooting them, murdering six Black women and three Black men. He calmly reloaded in the course of carrying out these foul murders, telling his victims that he had to do this “because you [meaning Black people] rape our women and are taking over our country"!
Mass murder carried out in a church—a place that is supposed to be a sanctuary in the face of injustice. This brings to mind the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham in 1963 which killed four little girls. And the wave of burnings of Black churches in more recent decades.
Mass murder carried out at this church, which has a history of being a place Black people gathered to organize themselves to stand up to the savage oppression this system has enforced on them for centuries. This history goes back to the church's founding in 1816. Among its founders was Denmark Vesey who was hung in 1822, along with 35 other Black people, for planning a slave uprising.
The blood of the nine people murdered in Charleston is on the hands of the rulers of this country. Whether this guy acted alone or not, he was acting within a climate that has been deliberately whipped up. White supremacy has been ingrained in the fabric of America from its very beginning. This country was founded on theft of land from and genocide inflicted on the native inhabitants and the dragging of millions of Africans to these shores in slave chains. And white supremacy remains at the heart of this society right down to today.
What does it tell you about this country that George Zimmerman could murder Trayvon Martin as he walked home carrying Skittles and iced tea and walk away with no punishment. That cops could choke Eric Garner to death, ignoring his cries of “I can't breathe,” and get off scot free. That a South Carolina cop could feel he could get away with shooting Walter Scott in the back as he ran away. That Black communities are built on toxic areas that poison people. That Black couples with good credit were steered to sub-prime loans that led to them disproportionately losing their homes in the 2007 economic meltdown. That 2+ million people are imprisoned in this country, vastly disproportionately Black and Latino. These and more amount to a genocidal program of suppression and deprivation targeting Black people. And they have contributed to a climate in which it is legitimate to view Black people as criminals and justified to murder them. In these and a thousand other ways a message is delivered that Black life doesn't matter.
All this faces us all with an urgent question: Which side are you on? Are you on the side of the savage oppression and brutality this system enforces on Black people? Or do you stand against these kinds of horrors?
The crocodile tears being shed by those who preside over the brutality and murder this system inflicts on people are worse than useless. It will take revolution, nothing less, to uproot white supremacy and end the oppression of Black people and all the other horrors this system inflicts on humanity. If you want to see these horrors stopped, there is a movement you can get with, a movement for revolution that the Revolutionary Communist Party is building. To get information and to join in dealing with the questions and obstacles this revolution faces, go to the website: www.revcom.us.
Everyone should understand that there is no middle ground in this struggle where people can be neutral while this system grinds away, crushing the bodies and breaking the spirits of those on the bottom of society. If you have an ounce of humanity, you must add your voice to those demanding that horrors like these STOP! Right Now!
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
June 26, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a 5-4 margin that same-sex marriage is legal throughout the United States. The right to marry is a basic right. Denial of that right has, for hundreds of years in this country, essentially deprived LGBT people of their humanity. This has been an historic, horrible injustice and outrage. This ruling is long overdue, and something to celebrate!
At the same time, there are many battles to come, and still a historic challenge to really, fully, deeply uproot enforced ignorance, cruel prejudice, legal discrimination, and vicious attacks on people who do not fit into patriarchy-defined gender roles.
Stonewall protesters on the night of June 28, 1969
Act Up: “Read My Lips” was a campaign tactic that played on George H. W. Bush’s famous line from the 1988 Republican National Convention, "Read my lips, no new taxes" that forced the public to confront same sex unions. (Photo: www.openingceremony.us)
From the time gay people fought back against being arrested, beaten and persecuted by police at the Stonewall Inn nightclub in New York City, in 1969; through the courageous battles waged by ACT UP in the arenas of science, morality, medicine and law in the 1980s against the promotion of ignorance, hatred, superstition and persecution of people with HIV and AIDS; through defiant and defiantly joyous Pride events; and in the battle for legal equality—the courageous struggle for LGBT people to be treated as human beings has had to go up in the face of official and unofficial persecution, shaming, brutality and horrible cruelty.
And the determined struggle for equality, and to have the humanity of LGBT people acknowledged, in many realms, in many forms, has intersected with, and interacted with other struggles against injustice and oppression, as well as changes in the world and people’s attitudes.
All those factors contributed to today’s court ruling.
At the same time, this ruling has already been met with Dark Ages attacks, and overt contempt and defiance by legal and religious authorities. The Texas attorney general instructed officials not to follow the ruling—at least for now—and justified that with overtly theocratic logic: “no court, no law, no rule, and no words will change the simple truth that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”
The Catholic News Agency favorably quoted Justice Antonin Scalia saying the decision was a “threat to American democracy,” “hubris” and a “judicial Putsch" [a Putsch is like an illegitimate coup d’etat that overthrows a government]. These are ominous developments, which we will be speaking to more here in coming days.
A father kisses his son as his husband holds the child during the Gay Pride March, New York, June 28, 2015. (AP photo)
Beyond attacks on this ruling, it is still the case in 2015 that only a handful of states even have anti-discrimination laws protecting the rights of gay, transgender, or gender non-conforming people. It is still perfectly legal in vast regions of this nation of so-called “equal rights” to fire a person from their job, kick a person out of a store, evict someone from their home or apartment, or deny a person the right to be legal guardians of their own children, just because they do not conform to the rigid gender roles dictated to them by this patriarchal system.
And it is still the case that huge sections of the religious establishment preach the most hateful and vicious contempt for LGBT people.
In short, this is still a society where millions and millions of people live in fear, are subjected to persecution, are driven to suicide, and even killed for being of a different sexual orientation than the patriarchal norm.
Persecution, oppression, and prejudice of all kinds are not “just the way it is.” Prejudice is not “human nature” or decreed by any supposed (invented) supernatural being. All this is a product of and has served thousands of years—the long dark night in human history—of societies divided into masters and slaves.
That long dark night must, and can, end everywhere in the world.
That is the mission of the revolution we need, and that we can make. That is the goal of the society brought to life in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America. We are building a movement now for that revolution—to bring into being a completely different kind of system that will mobilize and unleash people to transform the world and themselves, to sweep away all forms and manifestations of oppression of every kind.
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In mid-June, more than 1,200 people died in southern Pakistan, especially in the city of Karachi, during a deadly heat wave. Temperatures reached as high as 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius) for several days. While it is often very hot in that region this time of the year, the high temperatures that lasted for days were extreme and unusual. Thousands of people were brought to hospitals to be treated for dehydration, heat stroke, and other ailments. The city morgue became filled beyond capacity. Most of the victims were elderly. or homeless, or worked in the streets as day laborers.
Infant suffers from dehydration. Karachi, Pakistan. June 23. (AP photo)
The heat wave struck right at the start of Ramadan, the month of fasting when people holding to Islamic practices are not supposed to drink liquids or eat during the day. Islam is the official state religion in Pakistan, and a law says people can be sent to prison if they eat or drink during fasting hours, or even if they give someone else something to eat or drink. Some religious authorities advised people to drink water if they needed it, but many people could not or did not. In the scorching heat of the unrelenting daytime sun, not drinking water was deadly for those whose health was the most vulnerable, and for those whose work is extremely draining even under mild weather conditions.
Heartbreaking news videos showed Karachi residents describing their friends, relatives, or strangers collapsing in the intense heat. A young man says in one video, “I just saw a dead body, and when I asked the family what happened, they told me that the father had died because there was no ambulance available. These are the conditions under which we are living.”
These “conditions under which we are living” have to do, first of all, with the realities of the present-day world, where there is a sharp division between a handful of “advanced” capitalist-imperialist countries that dominate the planet’s wealth and resources, and the vast majority living in poor, oppressed countries like Pakistan. This extreme lopsidedness means that, even as health care is a horror for many in a country like the U.S., the health situation is even worse for billions of people around the world. People have died from heat waves in imperialist countries—but in Third World countries the state of health resources, water treatment, and sewage disposal, etc. means that heat waves (or floods, earthquakes, and other natural disasters) have much more devastating impacts on people’s lives. A heat wave that hit India just a month earlier, in May, killed more than 2,200 people.
Karachi, with more than 22 million people, is the third-largest city in the world—its population doubled in the last 15 years with people fleeing poverty in the countryside or areas in the north targeted by U.S. drone attacks in the name of the “war on terror.” There are also many refugees from other countries, such as Afghanistan. These millions coming into the city have ended up in slums sprouting up almost overnight. There is “development” in Karachi—driven by and benefiting the Pakistani elite, who are tied to foreign capitalism-imperialism. The Pakistani writer Mohammed Hanif points out one aspect of such “development” in relation to the heat wave crisis: “Trees have been cut down to widen roads, overpasses have gobbled up footpaths; there are few shaded bus stops. Without water and without shade, while fasting or pretending to fast, people going to and coming back from work just fell on the streets and died.” (“In Karachi, a Fatal Mix of Heat and Piety,” op-ed in the New York Times, June 26, 2015)
Along with the horrendous effects of imperialist domination are the effects of religious fundamentalism and superstitious beliefs. A prominent Islamic cleric in Karachi issued a fatwa, or a religious edict, saying people could eat and drink in daytime during this heat wave if a doctor says their health was in danger. But the homeless and day laborers have little or no access to doctors, and there is also the continuing pull of tradition on people. And, as Pakistani writer Hanif points out, “Even if they could get past their inhibitions, there was no water to be had. All the little tea stalls, roadside restaurants, small juice or snack vendors disappear from the streets during fasting hours. In this month you can walk miles without finding a sip of water.” And so people continued to die because they could not get water in the scorching heat.
Another factor is the impact of global climate change. A former Pakistani environmental official said, “There has been a rise in the Earth’s average temperature from 15.5°C to 16.2°C [59.9°F to 61.2°F] over the last 100 years due to which we are experiencing such extreme weather conditions both in summers and winters.” (Express Tribune, June 21, 2015) Although this heat wave or other particular weather events can’t be directly attributed to climate change, scientists are analyzing that global warming and other climate changes are leading to more extreme storms, droughts, floods, etc. And while this affects the whole planet, it hits most devastatingly on the oppressed countries and people of the world. (See “The Human Costs of Climate Change.”)
Extreme lopsidedness in the world between capitalist-imperialist countries and the poor and oppressed countries and people... the enforced ignorance of religious fundamentalism... global climate change... these are all huge questions facing people in Pakistan and around the world.
Different forces put forward different ideas and programs about how to deal with these huge and urgent problems. All these programs need to be evaluated on how deeply and scientifically they deal with actual reality—and whether they offer real solutions. The basic truth is that all of these big questions can be addressed through actual revolution—through the overthrow of capitalist-imperialist rule and domination that aims and digs away at the deep roots of the horrors confronting the world, with its sights set on emancipation of all humanity.
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
There is the potential for something of unprecedented beauty to arise out of unspeakable ugliness: Black people playing a crucial role in putting an end, at long last, to this system which has, for so long, not just exploited but dehumanized, terrorized and tormented them in a thousand ways—putting an end to this in the only way it can be done—by fighting to emancipate humanity, to put an end to the long night in which human society has been divided into masters and slaves, and the masses of humanity have been lashed, beaten, raped, slaughtered, shackled and shrouded in ignorance and misery.
—Bob Avakian, Chairman, Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
Los Angeles, California
In the wake of unspeakable brutality in Charleston, in the face of the white supremacist system that, in and out of uniform, continues to murder our youth and people... for all those who have stepped into the streets and raised their fists in defiant protest, or all those who are questioning why does this keep happening, and what will it take to stop it... in the midst of all of the calls for healing, forgiveness, faith, and the democratic process... think of the clarity and leadership this statement by Bob Avakian (BA) brings... a radically different way to look at and act in the world... for a radically different and far better world.
Imagine the Difference... if this statement got out in the tens of thousands the weekend of July 4th... and as we do this, we raise big money to get this and other works by BA out further into all corners of society, winning people to see what a difference it will make—provoking discussion and debate at family picnics and barbecues, in movie lines and jazz concerts, at farmer’s markets and open-air concerts, in the courtyards and hallways of housing projects, at basketball courts and community swimming pools, on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
If you are moved or inspired by this statement—or want to see this heard by people because it is a radically different viewpoint that needs to be out in society—the BA Everywhere campaign (see box on this page) invites your contribution to making this happen—by joining us in the July 4th weekend mass outings, organizing a fundraising pie/bake and sale, hosting friends to discuss the statement, spreading it through social media, or in other ways you can raise funds and spread the word.
A Basic Vision for the July 4th Mass Outings
* Fundraising with mass distribution of tens of thousands of two palm cards. (Both cards are available online along with other promotional materials for the Dialogue film.) The first card has the statement above, with a provocation and encouragement on the other side for people to get into BA. The second palm card publicizes the film of REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN. This is the title and theme of the historic Dialogue between the revolutionary Christian Cornel West and the revolutionary communist Bob Avakian that took place at the Riverside Church in New York City last November, and also the title of the film of the Dialogue—now available online at revcom.us and on DVD.This is a moment when this theme is very much “in the air” in the wake of Ferguson, Baltimore, and Charleston. We aim to have at least a thousand people preparing to and watching the Dialogue the July 4th weekend, individually and collectively, measured in the increase in online viewings and actual DVD sales (which we will carry for immediate sale and which is also available on Amazon).
* The mass fundraising includes buckets, pie sales, and penny jars on the street and in the neighborhoods of the oppressed, in the ghettos and barrios—and pledge cards and follow-up sit- down appointments to raise tens of thousands of dollars over the summer... reaching out to the doctors and nurses, the teachers and artists, the professors and philanthropists, giving them a chance to contribute to this process of radically changing the world. To do this, fundraising outings with the palm cards should include forays to the wealthy and middle-strata progressive people—theater and films, author readings and jazz performances, progressive churches, artist retreats, and resort areas. If you have ideas of places or events to go to, please write us or contact your local BA Everywhere committee.
* Crews rolling with the REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! T-shirts with revolutionary élan, even as many wearing the shirts are in the process of grappling with what this revolution is all about. We will reach out to and involve those we have met in this last intense year, and those from years ago... alive and attuned to the stirrings and inchoate yearnings for something radically different. We will have hundreds of extra shirts so that people who are inspired by this can step in and be part of representing on the spot, with concrete goals of fundraising for and selling hundreds of T-shirts through this weekend. Within this broader mix, we have the Revolution Club leading growing, and cohered crews rolling with these T-shirts. “Every where we go... people want to know... who we are... we are the revcoms, the mighty mighty revcoms”... and everywhere we go, people ask for the T-shirts! Let’s start to get thousands out through the summer, fundraising as we go.
Everyone who wants to contribute to and enhance this basic vision is welcome and should be invited, with your participation, your thinking, and your ideas. We will find a role and place for you. What is needed is YOU!
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
November 27, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
What follows is a new version of a previously posted article which incorporates some changes to more correctly express the relationship between the leadership of BA and the prospects for revolution.
Life is an unrelenting horror for billions of people around the world. It doesn’t have to be this way, there is a way out of the madness, but people do not know this.
Why do 10 million children die every year from preventable disease? Why are the earth’s atmosphere and water being destroyed? Why are women subjected to rape, assault, and degradation on every continent? Why are millions of Black and Latino youth in the U.S. going through life with a target on their backs with the prospect of prison more likely than college? Why did the election of a Black president in the U.S. not change any of this, and in some ways made it worse?
Why? Because what drives every nation on every continent is a dog-eat-dog system. A system driven by competition over who can viciously exploit the people and the resources ever more ruthlessly. Wars are fought, laws written, people jailed and suppressed to enforce and reinforce these relations. All this misery, all the outrages that people agonize over, have their common source in the system that dominates the world today—capitalism-imperialism.
But, can you get rid of it?
Yes. This way of life is no longer necessary. There is a whole other way humanity could be. A world where people could work and struggle together for the common good... where exploitation and all forms of oppression were no more and where people could flourish and live lives worthy of human beings. This is communism. A society that can only come about through a great, liberating revolution as the first step to emancipate all of humanity.
The basis for revolution lies within the very nature of the capitalist system itself—the very sharp contradictions within this system which it is incapable of resolving and which repeatedly give rise to great suffering and crisis, including at times acute situations when the system is shaken to its foundations. Whether the contradictions and crisis of this system can be transformed into a revolution depends in great part on far-sighted, scientific revolutionary leadership. With this understanding, the importance of the leadership of BA, and the new synthesis of communism he has brought forward, stands out.
The first communist-led revolutions in Russia and China were defeated in 1956 in the Soviet Union and then in 1976 in China after the death of Mao Zedong. At this juncture, BA stepped up to scientifically analyze these first liberatory revolutions in order to deeply understand and draw from this experience so that humanity could move forward again. BA faced an analogous situation to that of “Marx at the beginning of the communist movement—establishing in the new conditions that exist, after the end of the first stage of the communist revolution, a theoretical framework for the renewed advance of that revolution.”1 Learning from the path-breaking achievements of these first revolutions and digging deeply into their shortcomings, including at times serious errors, along with drawing from broader human experiences, BA developed a new synthesis of communism that is an advance in the science of revolution that in several dimensions is a radical rupture beyond what came before, enabling humanity to do even better going forward.
A key breakthrough in Bob Avakian’s new synthesis has been the development of a viable strategy to be able to make revolution to get to a new society. BA leads a party that is actively working today to prepare millions to carry out that strategy and realize the vision of a new world when conditions emerge to do so.
For these reasons, communism today means BA’s new synthesis of communism. People need to know about this. Putting communism on a more scientific foundation, we have a deeper understanding of the problem: the life- and spirit-draining profit system, and the solution: a new era of revolution to thoroughly uproot and overcome all forms and relations of exploitation and oppression, domination, and degradation throughout the whole world.
People need to know BA so that they have a vision of a whole new world, an understanding that the horrors of today need not be forever. People need to hear this not in whispers or off in some niche to the side of society, but as a point of reference and a contending pole in society. This needs to resonate deep into the neighborhoods of the oppressed, be known and debated on the campuses, become a source of controversy in the media, given backing by respected prominent voices of influence—by all kinds of opinion makers. In short, BA needs to become a revolutionary pole with impact and influence penetrating all quarters of society. The BA Everywhere campaign will make BA a household name and, in so doing, make this revolution known. This requires huge sums of money. That is why BA Everywhere is a multi-faceted fundraising campaign to involve and bring forward thousands of people to contribute and be a part of raising these funds with the stakes being no less than whether or not humanity is going to suffer needlessly under the vicious workings of capitalism.
The widespread promotion and popularization of the new synthesis of communism that BA has brought forward, and what is embodied in his leadership overall, is a crucial part of preparing minds as well as organizing forces for revolution. In this period BA Everywhere is the concentrated focus of the work to carry out that promotion and popularization. It is the leading edge now of a whole strategic process interacting with objective developments in the world through which the movement for revolution and the party that is leading the revolution gets built; a process through which a revolutionary people takes shape; a process which can hasten the understanding of people broadly that the system is the problem—with its leaders and structures seen to be illegitimate and through which millions can come to see that this revolution is the solution to the horrific and intractable problems that humanity faces. If people broadly do not know there is another way the world could be—with a vision and plan for a far better society that would actually be liberatory; and know and respect that there is a plan and a leadership to make that real; that there is a whole other way to think about, understand, and act on what is the problem and what the solution is in the world today, then the world will stay as it is—destroying lives and crushing spirits.
BA and the new synthesis of communism sets the goal, context, and framework for all the different elements of revolutionary work in today’s situation—preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution. Without this, no matter how much resistance and struggle is waged—against mass incarceration, against the oppression and degradation of women, against the wars, torture, and mass police state spying, against the demonization and deportation of immigrants, against the accelerating, wanton destruction of the environment—the source of these outrages, capitalism-imperialism, will continue to give rise to the same oppression in even more grotesque forms. Without the vision and plan for a new society and the strategy to get there, all the “movement building” and struggle will become aimless and reformist, serving to reinforce this horrific system—which is the problem—rather than serving to build up the understanding and the forces to finally do away with it.
BA has written:
“...what people see as tolerable, or intolerable, is dialectically related to what they see is possible or necessary (or, on the other hand, what they come to see as un-necessary—or no longer necessary—no longer something they just have to put up with and endure).... the more that people grasp that this is not the way things have to be, but only the way things are because of the workings of a system—a system which is full of contradiction—the more they can feel, and will feel, impelled to act. Lacking that, even our best efforts at mobilizing them to act are going to eventually run into their limitations and be sidetracked or turned around into their opposite, into something which actually reinforces the present system and the sense that nothing can be done to radically change things.”2
Looking back over the past decades since the 1960s and early 1970s, the reality that there was not a revolution in this country even after all the upheaval of that time, as well as the loss of the first socialist revolutions, weighs heavy, even if unexamined, on people’s consciousness of the possibility of revolution. Getting out now in a big, bold, contending way with BA’s new synthesis and with BA Everywhere is key to people beginning to think about how society actually works, seeing things from the vantage point of the whole world—coming to understand what the sweatshops in Bangladesh have to do with whole generations of Black and Latino youth being treated as superfluous, suitable only to be locked up; opening eyes so that people find common cause with the oppressed of the whole planet. Even more fundamentally, sharply delineating that either this system continues with what it does to people and the planet or there is the road of this revolution—in reality there are just two choices—enables more and more people to see revolution not as some far-off dream but as something to be actively and urgently worked for.
This applies and matters internationally. Look only to Egypt to see how urgently people need a materially founded—that is, a scientific—framework for a new, emancipatory society and the strategy to get there. And, how without it, not only is the struggle being drowned in blood and jail, but disillusion spreads there and globally because people don’t see another way.
A key part of how to build the movement for revolution is fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution. Fighting the power, standing up and refusing to be crushed, helps people to raise their sights—propelling them to look out beyond their daily grind. But again, without transforming their thinking about why these abuses keep happening, why those who govern and rule this society cannot and will not redress these enormous injustices, why this system can only keep doing what it is doing, in short, without having a scientific understanding of the problem and the solution, which is concentrated in BA’s new synthesis, then all this struggle will only lead to new outrages and a sense that you can’t change the world—that what is must always be.
In the course of the BA Everywhere campaign, people should learn about the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal),3 which is a plan for a new kind of state power that would be organized with radically different aims, morality, laws, a qualitatively different and greater justice than what exists anywhere in the world today, and a plan and structure for society that would be overcoming all the oppressive social divisions of the past, and is a living, concrete application of BA’s new synthesis of communism. Imagine this being debated up against the U.S. Constitution—an enshrinement of the principles of exploitation—and you get a picture of the difference that BA Everywhere can make.
BA Everywhere puts revolution at the front and at the center of preparing minds and organizing forces for revolution. There needs to be a situation where growing numbers of people from all strata are seeking out and want to be a part of or to support the movement for revolution. For this to develop, people need to see and know there is a way—that there is the leadership, organization, vision, and a concrete plan for revolution. This, the real solution to casting off the millennia of oppressive society, the leadership and work of BA, being way out in society, known everywhere, hastens the development of a revolutionary people and a situation where revolution could actually be possible.
* * * * *
There is a very real objective basis, and need, for broad numbers of people, from many different parts of society, to take part in and contribute to BA Everywhere. People will have varying levels of agreement and disagreement with what is represented by the new synthesis and BA, but can at the same time recognize—or be won to see—the importance for this to be out there in a big way creating major impact in society, playing a significant and positive role in influencing and raising the level of what people think about, discuss, and debate regarding human possibility and the kind of future that would be both desirable and achievable.
Those who are raising funds for BA Everywhere should expect, welcome, and engage in healthy struggle over the big questions while finding the ways for people to contribute even as they are engaging what it’s all about. Fundraisers should recognize that people will come to these conversations with all their preexisting assumptions and ways that they think about the world: Is the world today the product of a flawed human nature or the nature of the system? Is it a god’s will or fate? Weren’t the past attempts to radically remake society really bad and unworkable?4 And most critically, what sort of world is really desirable, viable, and possible? Isn’t U.S. democracy a perfectible society and model even if it is imperfect today? Often these ideas have to be brought to the surface, articulated in the discussion, so that they can be joined and so that people are able to see what is real and true and what is not. It is, after all, true that society at this stage of human history is either going to be organized in accordance with the vicious exploiting dynamics of capitalism, or be organized on the basis of communist principles that are leading to a world community where all forms of exploitation and oppression are being overcome.
Fundraising for BA Everywhere necessarily involves transforming the thinking of blocs of people. And that’s a good thing. It’s a big part of the whole point—the campaign is raising big funds so that revolution is in the air. Now that would be a big societal change in thinking. People can see and be won to the importance and difference that BA and what he represents being widely known and debated will make even as they have not yet resolved their thinking about what they agree with and what they don’t. People can appreciate, desire, and support the political, cultural, and intellectual ferment and process that will be unleashed as BA increasingly becomes a point of reference in society. On the basis of good ideological struggle over the heart and soul of what BA and the new synthesis of communism means for the future of humanity, and as people come to see the positive impact this being out in the world can have, people can unite with and contribute funds to make this possible.
In What Humanity Needs: Revolution, and the New Synthesis of Communism, An Interview with Bob Avakian by A. Brooks, speaking of the BA Everywhere campaign, Bob Avakian said that:
...people are fully capable of holding two thoughts in their head at the same time.... [They] can feel that they personally don't know that much about, or maybe don't agree with parts or much of what is actually embodied in the new synthesis of communism and my body of work and method and approach overall, but they can at the same time feel that it would be very important for these ideas to be projected broadly into society and for many, many more people, in all corners of society, to be actively engaging and debating these ideas as part of generating a much greater and much loftier wrangling with the question of, once again, "whither humanity?" What is the situation humanity is confronted with? Why are we confronted with the situation we are today? Is there a possibility of radically changing it? Does it need to be radically changed? If so, how?
Even people who may not agree with or may not know that much about the new synthesis of communism, for example—many, many people, thousands and thousands of people—can get actively involved in and be motivated to be part of helping to project this into all corners of society. They can find their own level, so to speak—as long as the way is provided for them to find their own level—to participate in that, with that kind of contradiction in their own understanding, and in their own approach.
There are millions of people from all strata who are agonizing over the state of the world—and each of us reading this article can think of family, friends, and colleagues who feel this way, because we all live in this same social reality with its truly massive, horrific suffering, injustices, and devastation that is continually generated by the workings of this system. Recognizing this should open up huge vistas of places and people to take the BA Everywhere campaign, from concerts and plays, to schools and campuses, to churches and libraries, to museums and cultural festivals, in the media and on the Internet, and into the projects and neighborhoods.
Achieving this—BA Everywhere—will require truly massive fundraising, on a mass scale among people of different strata, including major donors.
This need for massive fundraising comes into sharp relief with even just a moment of reflection and real reckoning on what it will take to get BA out to ALL corners of society. Just think of what is spent for the advertising budgets to attract audiences to major films involving known Hollywood actors. Then, think about what a large-scale promotional campaign for the films Stepping Into the Future...and BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live would cost. Consider too what it would cost to sustain and support teams of full-time young volunteers for a nationwide campaign, or to really get thousands of copies of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian into the prisons on a mass scale, and then to make known the response. The amount of money required starts not just adding up, but multiplying, quickly.
Raising money for BA Everywhere is bringing something new onto the political landscape that will accelerate the whole process of building a movement for revolution, giving a living sense and involving people from all strata, transforming the thinking of different sections of people impacting on the whole atmosphere. These are times that require radical thinking and radical solutions. People can recognize and support how BA Everywhere makes that possible.
BA Everywhere should be, and can only succeed if it is a mass campaign infused with imagination, defiance, and community in all it does. These are times of great peril and great potential—potential that is currently constrained by people not knowing that there is a viable revolutionary solution. That can—and will—be changed through BA Everywhere. Millions and millions will come to know of BA, and that there is a way out of this madness and horror. Society will resonate with big dreams and a living, growing potential of fundamental change and the emancipation of humanity.
4. See the special Revolution/revcom.us issue: "You Don't Know What You Think You 'Know' About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future." [back]
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
I got to go out with youths from the Revolution Club Summer this past weekend as part of the BA Everywhere Summer Solstice and I want to share two discussions and some observations I had that I thought people could learn from.
First, I was on a mission to show people a clip from the Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian, REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion. It’s easy sometimes when you’re talking to people about revolution to get caught up in just answering what they raise. And while it’s important to listen to and learn from people, it makes a big difference if they’re able to encounter and take in BA directly. There’s just no one like him in terms of really laying bare that the problem is this system of capitalism-imperialism, the reality and serious potential of revolution and raising people’s sights to a whole better world that is possible. But it can also take a struggle for people to commit—on the spot—to really taking the time for this.
I talked with a middle-aged Black man who stopped when I handed him a palm card for the Dialogue and said this is about a movement to make a revolution and we’re out here spreading the word, and raising funds to spread the word more, about the leadership we have for that revolution in Bob Avakian. Did he want to watch a clip of BA talking about what this revolution makes possible from this Dialogue? He looked at the palm card and agreed we needed a revolution, he said he didn’t want to take the time right then to watch the clip but talked positively about the need for people to wake up and come together. I told him this was a part of it, but a revolution is when a revolutionary people in their millions meets, defeats, and dismantles their whole state power and repressive apparatus when conditions come into being to make that possible. I said that we are right now working on a strategy for revolution and a big part of that is for people to know about, and get into, the leadership we have for that revolution in BA and the Party he leads, and involving people right now in carrying out this strategy, in bringing forward others who are getting more deeply into this themselves and bringing forward even more people. That people coming forward into this revolution and taking it out to others is a key part of working to bring closer the time when we can go all out to make revolution. And I repeated to him one of the slogans that concentrate the strategy for revolution: “Prepare the ground, prepare the people, and prepare the vanguard—get ready for the time when millions can be led to go for revolution, all out, with a real chance to win.” He said he liked how that sounded.
I repeated that the best way to introduce him to this was for him to watch a clip of BA. He again declined but continued to engage the discussion. He said if we were serious, we had to figure out how to defend ourselves against the state—they’ll come after people who speak out, and they especially come after the leaders. And he cited examples throughout history. I agreed with him and told him this was a very important insight, that they do come after our leadership, but two things: 1) they’re not all powerful; and 2) it is all of our responsibility to come forward to protect and defend our leadership. Right now, we have a leader in BA who comes along very rarely. I said that he’s given his whole heart and life and abilities to the masses of people, that he’s developed a strategy, vision, and concrete framework for how to make a real revolution and emancipate humanity. He is very precious and is someone this system has gone after before, is going after now in different ways, and will go after even more intensely in the future—it is on us to build a real wall of people saying he shouldn’t be fucked with.
The man was hearing me in all this but still didn’t really have a sense of what I was saying. I said again, “Look, the best way for you to have any idea of what I’m saying is to get introduced to BA himself and watch this video clip.” He said, “Maybe some other time, I’m in a crazy space right now,” and went on to explain how he’s juggling real financial difficulties, personal problems, that he might be on the verge of homelessness and he hadn’t been able to take a shower so felt embarrassed standing here and talking to me for so long. I said that I appreciated what he was saying but part of how this system maintains its power is that the very people who most need this revolution have real obstacles in getting into this revolution because of the chaos and conditions of their life; this system works hard to keep everyone’s head down and sights lowered just in the struggle for survival. BA has flipped that around and argued that the very things that make it difficult for people to get into the revolution are some of the very reasons we need the revolution... and be determined to lift our heads above the chaos and bullshit and get into it. I argued that he was hearing me out right then and there and his sights were lifted in a way they hadn’t been, right? He agreed. Instead of walking away with good intentions to get more into this that get swallowed up later, just take the time now to get introduced to this in a way that us talking isn’t going to do. At that point, he agreed and watched all seven minutes of the clip from BA titled “What If...?” from the Dialogue. He was very moved and responded vocally throughout.
Right after he watched it, his phone rang and he had to rush off to meet someone, but he thanked me for showing him that and took a small stack of palm cards to get out to others. I also told him about the website and what it was, and where he could see us regularly. I emphasized that he was needed in this revolution right now to work on making revolution.
The second exchange I had was much shorter and speaks to the need, and importance, of sharply challenging people’s fucked up assumptions and thinking. A young Latino man walked by and took a palm card and paused for a quick second, which gave me a chance to ask him what he thought of what I’d just said, that “we are building a movement for revolution and are out here to let people know about the leader we have for that revolution, Bob Avakian.” He said he didn’t know what he thought, that “I’m just focused on myself, I gotta do for me and my family.” I said, in a friendly but serious way, that was not just fucked up, but actually impossible. I asked him who he thought made his clothes. He said he didn’t know. I asked if he knew what sweatshops were and he did. I explained that his clothes are made in sweatshops by people all over the world like Bangladesh and Indonesia, Vietnam and, other places. And I said there was actually a major fire last year in a sweatshop in Bangladesh which killed over 100 women who were sewing things just like the T-shirt he was wearing. He said that was fucked up.
I then asked him if he knew who farmed his food. He said he didn’t. I said a lot of the food he eats comes from Mexico, where children spend all their days working in the hot fields. I went on, “You think you’re just doing for self, but what you’re actually saying is I’m going to live off all these people all around the world who are working in slave-like conditions and I don’t give a fuck.” He was quiet for a second and I asked him what he thought of what I just said. He answered, “Damn, I never thought about it like that before.” I went on that things are the way they are because of a system of capitalism-imperialism, but that system can be overthrown through revolution and a whole different world brought into being. I said briefly that this leader I mentioned, BA, has developed a strategy and vision to make a revolution so that all that can change, so we can emancipate humanity. Essential in this strategy is involving people now. He said he felt like he had to find out more and that he had to go but would go to the website. He also thanked me for talking to him. I don’t know where exactly that person will end up, but it made me appreciate how most people never have their thinking challenged in this kind of way. It’s not that everyone will be open to it but, 1) we’re never going to make a revolution with people’s thinking the way it is; and 2) if you can actually provide evidence for what you’re arguing, many people are open to having their thinking shaken up.
A final observation: we’re in a city where there aren’t a lot of people on the street most of the time, but we still decided to march through a residential area. This looked good: the Revolution Club all in their BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! T-shirts announcing to everyone who could hear, “We are the revcoms, the mighty mighty revcoms!” While it didn’t look on the surface like we were having an impact (because there were very few people out on the street), later that day as the sun started to set, a number of people stopped at a nearby corner and excitedly said they’d seen us. They had either driven by or peered out of their windows. This underscored the importance of really stepping out consistently as an attractive revolutionary force.
There will be a lot more to learn and share by carrying the new, different and exciting orientation put up on revcom on Monday [June 22], “In the wake of the Charleston Massacre... Getting Organized for an Actual Revolution.”
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
Updated June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On the weekend of June 20-21, people in cities across the country kicked off the summer by taking revolution and Bob Avakian, BA, to the people in an atmosphere of charged political ferment, and questioning. (See the call for Revolutionary Summer Solstice here.) Here are two videos—one of Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and the other of Andy Zee of Revolution Books in NYC—and scenes from the weekend in some of the cities.
The following is an excerpt from remarks by the MC at the June 21 Revolutionary Summer! Picnic and Talent Show in New York City, as part of the Revolutionary Summer Solstice weekend.
It seems like it’s a time that’s very important right now in the world. And how we’re thinking and what we’re doing is very important. It really matters because we can keep going in one direction—which as we’ve seen, and we keep seeing, for the masses of people is really horrible, and just an absolute horror. I mean, you can see this, just this poster [pointing to the revcom.us Stolen Lives poster with the faces and names of dozens of people murdered by police], which has been out in a lot of marches and stuff. And all these faces, these human beings, their lives taken away from them... Domestic violence. People’s lives being stolen by cops. And lives crushed and dreams crushed by capitalism. And people are thinking about this... Thinking about how do we end this. I see a lot of it on social media. I’m sure most of us do. And yesterday, a friend of mine posted a poster, I guess from the ’60s, with a fist. It was a red poster with a black fist. And there was an address and a phone number at the bottom of the poster, for contacting Fred Hampton.* And she wrote: “Where are our leaders?” Well, we have that leadership. We have a leader that not only has immense compassion for human beings. Uncompromising compassion. Who actually has dedicated his life to studying what Carl Dix was talking about—what’s happening in the world, what are the root causes of this, and how do we get to solving these problems. That leader is Bob Avakian. And we really need more and more people to delve into this work, spread it—so we can stop fighting the good fight, remaining in this system, and actually get out of it to something better.
* Fred Hampton was the leader of the Black Panther Party in Illinois, who was assassinated in 1969 by Chicago police in a FBI COINTELPRO operation. [back]
Los Angeles, California
Los Angeles, California
Harlem, New York City, New York
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader in Chicago:
This year at Chicago’s Printers Row Lit Fest, Revolution Books (RB) made big plans for our booth, aiming to boldly project out to thousands of people that “We ARE Building a Movement for Revolution” and to introduce them to Bob Avakian (BA), the leader of that revolution. We had a lively scene going on around the booth, with everyone on staff sporting their REVOLUTION―NOTHING LESS! T-shirts and engaging in lively discussions and interactions with people who came by and were attracted to the bold message the booth put forward. There were a lot of levels of our work at the Lit Fest: more in-depth conversations, sales of our core literature, introducing people to RB and the movement for revolution more broadly, and broader outreach and raising the recognition level of the store. While uneven, there was good work on all those levels.
We set out with the idea of doing this with the active involvement of some of the newer people who are getting involved with the movement for revolution, and to do it in a way that would make a qualitative leap in our relationships with them—as part of actively accumulating forces for revolution. A key qualitative lesson was that the time we spent beforehand calling on people to come and volunteer was time very well spent. We should emphasize this even more in the future. We had 7+ volunteers who came to actively help at the booth: some African-Americans and some white people, including a Revolution Club member, an ex-prisoner, a student, and several others. This was a really important experience for the volunteers who came and it had a big impact in creating a strong and lively presence there.
There were a few people who came by the table who had been to Revolution Books before and were excited to see us out at the Lit Fest. But overwhelmingly the people who were attracted to the booth were very new people, many of whom had not thought about revolution as a way out of this horrible system, or even seen it as a system. Most had not heard of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) or BA. The majority of the people who were attracted to the RB booth were white, more young people than middle-aged (with a few older ’60s-generation people). The contacts we made were mostly among the younger people, mostly white, some African-American and Latino.
We featured the REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN at the table and invited people to the Sunday brunches at Revolution Books, where clips of the Dialogue would be discussed. Many of the young people chose not to buy the DVD of the Dialogue but instead said they wanted to watch it online. People who engaged seemed refreshingly ready to contemplate a revolutionary solution. One ’60s-generation woman had been active in the movement in Chicago in the early 1970s. She ended up buying the DVD of the Dialogue because she said she saw that the movement was picking up again; she said she wanted to hope that there could be a change this time. This question of hope that there is a way out, a solution, was echoed in a lot of the sentiments that people voiced.
Another aspect that attracted people to the Dialogue was the notion that a revolutionary Christian and a revolutionary communist could find common ground. A white guy in his 40s was clearly disturbed and emotional at the Stop Murder by Police banner we had on display showing the faces of dozens of people who had been murdered by the police. He criticized the reforms he’d seen proposed (police cameras, etc.) as not getting to the fact that they just have to be made to STOP murdering people. He expressed his strong moral objection to being “the kind of white person who is not involved, because they say it’s not happening to me.” He talked about his main area of concern, a shelter he volunteers at through his church. He said that he was frustrated that the oppression people faced was so much larger than what this effort could address. We talked to him about the new synthesis of communism that BA has put forward and pointed him to the Dialogue. And then we posed the scenario: “suppose there was actually a cure for cancer, would you be the kind of person who, if confronted with someone who had cancer, would just wipe the brow of this patient and try to comfort them? Or would you bring them the cure?” He became more and more excited that there was hope for transforming this, through resistance and by transforming the thinking of people. We walked through the slogan “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.” He said he wasn’t sure about revolutionary communism but something was needed and he wanted to learn more, and wanted to come to a Sunday brunch (he already had decided not to buy the film, but to watch it online).
Quite a few people were attracted to the Constitution, Laws, and Rights compendium of BA’s writings, and in turn to the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) (CNSRNA) . We returned most often to the CNSRNA and BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian in response to the most common questions: How are you going to make a revolution, and what are you going to replace it with? The student who was volunteering at the booth was especially strong in promoting BAsics as a “dope” book, how BA has been working on these problems for a very long time; he put BAsics and the CNSRNA in people’s hands. People responded: there was a sense of outrage at what’s going on under capitalism-imperialism, and that we need a different kind of world, and some dug it when we brought out how the CNSRNA presents a concrete vision of such a world that’s both scientifically grounded and visionary.
In many discussions, these two books (the compendium on Constitution, Laws, and Rights and CNSRNA) were so complementary that we ended up selling at least one set as a pair (we decided later to offer a discount for buying both). One woman I spoke with was studying constitutional law and was very interested in both books. She was intrigued by the comparison of the Constitution of the U.S. under capitalism-imperialism and that of a socialist constitution based on and providing the structure of a society not based on inequality and the buttressing of the horrors in today’s world. We also talked about how the U.S. Constitution has been interpreted over time. At first she was saying how interesting it was that the U.S. Constitution had only been amended, I think, 27 times and she hadn’t thought about the interpretation of the Constitution to meet specific challenges the ruling class faced in relation to maintaining its system.... The deepest discussions I had with people were on the CNSRNA and compendium.
In relation to police murdering Black and Latino people, in some respects the atmosphere was less charged than two years ago, when the Fest took place while George Zimmerman was on trial, but there was a quite broad thoughtfulness and, on some people’s part, alarm about the never-ending stream of police murders and non-prosecutions. So in that sense, maybe this represents a deeper awareness and recognition that the problem is profound and intractable, and this is happening across the whole country. Many people—especially Black people, but not only—looked at length at the Stop Murder by Police poster and large banner on the fence by the booth. A few people just put money in the donation box and thanked us, others asked what we thought was at the root of the problem, what could we do about it, etc. In a lot of cases, we pointed to Revolution newspaper and revcom.us as the key backbone of the movement for revolution that was necessary to put a permanent stop to police murder and the oppressive exploitative society that depends on such an occupying force and all the other crimes.
There was mostly favorable polarization around the question of murders by police, but also some backward jumping out. Several white men asked about “Black-on-Black crime” in antagonistic voice and one guy asked why wasn’t there a poster of cops killed by criminals. We didn’t engage in long conversations with these reactionaries (nor did they stick around to argue), but we did have a few decent conversations with more backward, but not antagonistic, people who raised the crime issue. When we countered these lines, it created more freedom. For example, a white man argued that these people were criminals, ever since they “came here.” We said they were dragged here in chains, and he just said “B.S.” A middle class Black woman was walking by and started smiling at this exchange, and walked right over to the booth.
Many people were very concerned about the environmental crisis and the urgent need to do something about it. The RB flyer listed our upcoming author event on environmental issues, which gave rise to a lot of conversations and interest in Revolution Books as a center where the climate emergency was taken up as a systemic issue, and the possibility of socialist sustainable development was put forward; this was another angle where people were introduced to the CNSRNA.
There were many interesting author events at the Lit Fest and we went to several in the course of the weekend, where we passed out palm cards for the Dialogue, and one or two people went inside to listen and engage. Where we had the opportunity, we spoke up during Q&A, connecting with things the panelists were discussing and promoting the Dialogue. At the Tavis Smiley event, which was one of the largest, we had three people outside with the huge banner on Stop Murder by Police and the call to action on October 24, and we made sure that everyone got a Dialogue palm card. This created a scene, and we made three important contacts. Of note is that the struggle to end police murder was referenced at almost every panel we went to—OK, we gravitated to many of the progressive ones, but clearly there is a marked change in the terrain compared with past years.
We thought this Lit Fest was a great opportunity to promote the RCP Publications fund/sustainer drive, and we made some advances in putting the role of RCP Publications (Revolution newspaper, revcom.us, BAsics, etc.) in front of many people and challenging those who were attracted to this to donate money. People were interested that the paper goes to prisoners and how it goes out to basic people, and gave on that basis. Some raised the usual objections to communism, and we pointed out the special issue, You Don’t Know What You Think You “Know” About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future, and sold several. Some people looked at the display and put money in the donation box, some gave an extra donation for the Stop Murder by Police poster (more than the $5 donation requested). On Sunday, we displayed a large banner of this poster, which attracted a lot of people and led to discussions about the importance of RCP Publications in bringing forward a solution—revolution. And off of this, people donated to support the newspaper/website. We raised $103 for the RCP Publications fund drive.
There are some important things to learn from how we approached preparing for this effort. Overall, Revolution Books is developing a certain rhythm of reaching out to people who’ve indicated an interest in the store and we have begun to systematize outreach to contacts. This lays a stronger foundation for drawing forward more support from people, in lots of forms. For example, a retired environmental activist who came to the Dialogue premiere at the end of March and was inspired by the film, contacted RB a few days after the Fest, saying she has a lot of books she wants to donate; she also came and participated actively in the author event on the environment, and reported positively about it on her Facebook page.
Our preparation of the flyer and displays were important to making the booth attractive; we planned well in advance and the logistics went much more smoothly than the last two years at this Fest. We passed out about 2,500 flyers for Revolution Books at the Fest. A lot of material was sold and RB came out with $500 net income after all the expenses. We met about 15 people who were interested in being contacted.
At this Fest, the people are not typical mainstream middle strata: they tend (obviously) to be book lovers, and many are intellectuals, people who work with ideas. One of the newer volunteers at the booth was able to use this fact in her agitation: when people didn’t stop at the table or even stop to take an RB flyer, she told them: “You are here at the Lit Fest because you appreciate critical thinking, so why aren’t you opening your mind to Revolution Books, which is a center for critical thinking!” Overall what rose to the surface in our outreach and discussions was a yearning among a section of middle strata people who attended the Lit Fest to see a better world come into being, and an openness to BA and the solution he opens up. These people, not the majority at the Fest of course, but in sizeable numbers, have been paying attention and think the world is a horror, and are considering what it will take to make profound change happen. The outreach we did was crucial to bringing some of these people to want to be more involved into the movement for revolution, and now we have to consolidate that by reaching out to these contacts.
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Nine people massacred in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal in Charleston, South Carolina...because they were Black. While they were praying. By a cold-blooded white supremacist, after they’d opened their doors to him.... You’re reeling, kicked in the heart.
The Charleston massacre was part of a long, gruesome history of white-supremacist violence against Black people in America. A very AMERICAN crime.
Murdering Black people in church and violent attacks on Black churches is not ancient history. It is not a history confined to the Confederacy (although the oppression of Black people is deeply rooted in slavery and the first Jim Crow). It is not isolated from but is part of a whole gruesome history of lynching, KKK terror and murder, police killing, mass incarceration, and all-around oppression.
And attacks on Black churches are part of the modern-day terror Black people are subjected to every day from violent racists in, and out of, police uniforms.
Every day? Yes, every day. Police kill unarmed Black and Brown people about once a day in America. And in the week after the Charleston massacre, four Black churches in the South were set on fire—in three cases authorities have said the fires were set by arsonists.
Here, we can only briefly touch on and point to a few of the countless instances of violence this system has carried out against Black people from the time they were kidnapped in Africa and brought here as slaves, until today. For a basic understand of this history, see The Oppression of Black People, The Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need.
Between 10 and 15 million Africans were violently forced into slavery between 1500 and 1900, many of them destined for the “land of the free,” the United States—on land violently seized from the Native Americans.
Black slaves were worked mercilessly to build up much of the foundation of the great wealth and power that is the United States. Academics estimate that least 2 million Africans—10 to 15 percent—died during the infamous "Middle Passage" across the Atlantic Ocean—thrown overboard because they were sick, weak, or died in the hellish conditions on slave ships. Another 15 to 30 percent died during the march to or confinement along the west African coast. Altogether, for every 100 slaves who reached the New World, another 40 died in Africa or during the Middle Passage.
And slavery was enforced with unrestrained violence. Slaves had no rights. Those who ran away were whipped and tortured to terrorize others.
When the Civil War broke out, some 200,000 Black soldiers fought to end slavery, with 40,000 of them dying.
Outright slavery, which was enforced with legalized, unrestrained violence, ended 150 years ago with the defeat of South. But did violent atrocities against Black people stop? Hell no.
During the ten years or so known as Reconstruction after the Civil War, the U.S. government stationed troops in the South to prevent wholesale slaughters of Black people, and poor whites, who were striving to gain land and exercise political rights promised to them. In 1877 those troops were pulled out of the South (many sent to massacre Native Americans). The Ku Klux Klan, armed white supremacist terrorists, who had been kept somewhat in check during Reconstruction, was allowed to carry out bloody massacres of Blacks and their supporters. The Supreme Court legalized these massacres in the 1875 Cruikshank decision—which upheld the state of Louisiana’s decision to not prosecute the white perpetrators of the massacre of over 100 Black and white supporters of Reconstruction in Colfax, Louisiana.
What followed were decades of unchecked violence by the Klan in the South, working closely with, and in most places essentially identical to, the local police and sheriffs. Every city, every town, had places where the bodies of Black people could be found after a night of Klan terror.
These were decades of outright massacres, massacres most people have never heard about. In 1876, seven Black people were massacred and the entire town where they lived—Hamburg, South Carolina—was looted. In 1887 at least 35, but probably closer to 300, Black sugar-cane workers were slaughtered in Thibodaux, Louisiana after they had gone on strike. In 1923, eight Black residents of Rosewood, Florida were massacred and the entire population of about 350 was driven from their homes.
One of the most horrific massacres against African-Americans took place in 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. After a rumor swept through town that a young Black man had insulted a white woman, a mob of whites gathered to lynch the alleged perpetrator. Organized militant forces in the Black community stepped forward to defend him. All the hateful forces of white supremacy in the area—including the police and National Guard—responded to that resistance with two feverish days of murder and fire. The dead of Tulsa's Black community lay stacked in piles. And the central Black business district of North Tulsa was totally burned out. An estimated 300 were slaughtered and another 800 wounded. A reporter wrote, "Corpses stacked like cordwood on street corners, photographed for keepsakes. Corpses piled in the backs of wagons, dump trucks, and along railroad sidings. Corpses buried in an underground tunnel downtown, where one caller said 123 blacks had been clubbed to death. Corpses left to rot for days in a park under the blistering Oklahoma sun. Corpses dumped in the Arkansas River and allowed to float away." (New York Times, December 19, 1999)
The Tulsa Massacre, 1921: One of the most horrific massacres of all took place in 1921 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. For decades, Black people fleeing the horrors of the plantation South had found their way west to North Tulsa and forged a new community of 15,000—together with black Seminoles who had arrived in Oklahoma a century earlier. This new community was called the Greenwood district, or "Little Africa"—one of the most successful and wealthiest Black communities in the U.S. Most of the people in this Black community were wage workers—often crossing the railroad tracks into South Tulsa for the worst jobs and domestic work. At the same time, the rigid segregation of Tulsa meant that "Little Africa" created its own business district along Greenwood Avenue, now known as the Black Wall Street. There were Black-owned movie theaters, a newspaper, jewelry stores, 15 doctors, three law offices, a school, three grocery stores, many restaurants, churches, and a Black-owned bus line.
But the Tulsa Tribune and white racists of South Tulsa just called it "N*ggertown." After a rumor swept through town that a young Black man had insulted a white woman, a mob of whites gathered to lynch the alleged perpetrator. Organized militant forces in the Black community stepped forward to defend him. All the hateful forces of white supremacy in the area—including the police and National Guard—responded to that resistance with two feverish days of murder and fire. The dead of Tulsa's Black community lay stacked in piles. And the central Black business district of North Tulsa was totally burned out. An estimated 300 were slaughtered and another 800 wounded.
Reporter Brent Staples describes the aftermath: "Corpses stacked like cordwood on street corners, photographed for keepsakes. Corpses piled in the backs of wagons, dump trucks, and along railroad sidings. Corpses buried in an underground tunnel downtown, where one caller said 123 blacks had been clubbed to death. Corpses left to rot for days in a park under the blistering Oklahoma sun. Corpses dumped in the Arkansas River and allowed to float away." (New York Times, December 19, 1999)
Between 1877 and 1950 at least 3,959 Black people were lynched in 12 Southern states. American values? Lynchings were turned into public celebrations, family gatherings, picnics—and commemorated with postcards. Often, just lynching Black people wasn't enough for these white citizens, these guardians of American values: Victims were mutilated, body parts cut off as souvenirs, sometimes their bodies burned—dead or alive. One historian wrote, "It is doubtful that any Black male growing up in the rural South in the period 1900 to 1940 was not traumatized by a fear of being lynched."
These were the lynching decades. Black people, young or old, lynched at any time, for any reason, or for no reason at all—and with no consequences for the white lyncher and lynch mobs. Between 1877 and 1950 at least 3,959 Black people were lynched in 12 Southern states.
American values? Lynchings were turned into public celebrations, family gatherings, picnics—and commemorated with postcards. Often, just lynching Black people wasn’t enough for these white citizens, these guardians of American values: Victims were mutilated, body parts cut off as souvenirs, sometimes their bodies burned—dead or alive. One historian wrote, “It is doubtful that any Black male growing up in the rural South in the period 1900 to 1940 was not traumatized by a fear of being lynched.”
In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till visited Mississippi from his home in Chicago. For whistling at a white woman, he was taken by white people in the dead of night, shot and beaten beyond recognition. His murderers were acquitted in an hour by an all-white jury. President Dwight D. Eisenhower never said a word, and refused to answer a plea from Emmett Till’s mother. (See "Emmett Till and Lynchings, Past and Present")
One of the big lies the rulers tell about the history of this country is that the federal government, including the FBI, supported the civil rights movement against Southern segregationist state governments, and that the violent atrocities committed against the people and civil rights workers were the acts of the KKK and individual white racists. In reality, the FBI often collaborated with the KKK and was more concerned about communists and radicals in the civil rights movement than racist murders.
For example, during the 1960s, the FBI spied extensively on Martin Luther King Jr. It has also been revealed that the FBI had three times as many pages—1,000—in its files on Viola Liuzzo, a white civil rights worker murdered by the KKK, than on the KKK itself! Not only that, an FBI informant was in the car with Liuzzo’s murderers.
On September 15, 1963, in Birmingham, Alabama, KKK assassins placed a bomb in the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, a center for the civil rights struggle then raging, murdering four young girls and injuring 20 people. But because the FBI suppressed the information they had on the four Klan killers, none were initially arrested, and then none were convicted for 14 years. The last of the killers was only convicted after nearly 40 years!
Then there is the whole history of COINTELPRO and the FBI’s aggressive efforts to smear, sabotage and destroy the Black Panther Party and other organizations in the Black liberation struggle.
None of this was “inexplicable” or contrary to “American values.” There’s a logic in FBI-KKK collaboration, and overall efforts by the state to suppress struggle again Black oppression, rooted in what America is all about: maintaining white supremacy, a pillar of capitalist society and rule—by terrorizing Black people and ignoring the violent crimes of those who enforce it.
Government officials and mainstream pundits tell us that things are different now, that the oppression of Black people is largely a residue of the past that must now be “overcome.” That’s a lie: the forms of the oppression of Black people have just changed. Now it’s the “New Jim Crow” and the whole system of mass incarceration and police murder and terror.
One thing that has changed is that today, white-supremacist violence is mainly carried out by police who murder hundreds of people every year, disproportionately Black and Latino people.
Over the past decades, thousands of people, mainly Black or Brown, have been murdered by police. This year alone, at least 385 people have been shot and killed by police nationwide through May—nearly 2.6 people every day, disproportionately Black and other people of color. At this pace, the police will have shot and killed nearly 1,000 people by the end of the year.
And at the same time, “unofficial” violence is part of the mosaic of a reign of terror against Black people. In 1998 James Byrd Jr., a 49-year-old Black man, was walking home from a family gathering in Jasper, Texas. Three white men offered him a ride. He took it. They turned out to be Ku Klux Klan supporters. They beat Byrd senseless, then chained him to their pickup truck and then dragged him through the rural Texas town until chewed up body parts were strewn for miles. And yes, this was 1998, not 1898.
Trayvon Martin was killed by a white racist vigilante in Sanford, Florida in 2012. His murderer got a pat on the back from the system and went free. In early April 2012, two white men drove a pickup through the predominantly Black neighborhood of Northgate in northern Tulsa, in the middle of the night and began shooting at people. William Allen, Bobby Clark, and Donna (Dannaer) Fields were killed in the rampage, and two others were wounded. A white racist murdered Jordan Davis in Jacksonville, Florida later that year because he felt Jordan Davis was playing his music too loud in his car.
Because Black churches have been the one cohering element of many Black communities historically, and because at times some have been centers of protest, they have been a particular target of white supremacist violence.
The 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was a defining event in America. The church served as a center of the city’s African American community and was used as a meeting place for the civil rights movement. And that massacre took place amidst a wave of bombings targeting Black people—a wave of terror so pervasive in Birmingham that Black people (and others) referred to the city as “Bombingham.” Photo: AP
In slave days, the slave masters decreed that Black slaves could only gather in church. The oppressors had their own logic for this, and a message they wanted to preach—invoking the Bible to justify slavery. In the history of Black people in America, the church has been seen as one place of refuge from the daily, hourly terror and threats of violence and death at the hands of authorities of violent white racists.
And there were times when churches were places where resistance and even rebellions were launched and led from. Denmark Vesey planned and organized a slave rebellion at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal in 1822. Vesey was hung and the church was shut down.
Because Black churches have been the one cohering element of many Black communities historically, and because at times some have been centers of protest, they have been a particular target of white supremacist violence.
The 1963 bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, was a defining event in America. The church served as a center of the city’s African American community and was used as a meeting place for the civil rights movement. And that massacre took place amidst a wave of bombings targeting Black people—a wave of terror so pervasive in Birmingham that Black people (and others) referred to the city as “Bombingham” (see “From "Bombingham" and Selma to 2015: Interview with a veteran revolutionary”).
There have been waves of violent attacks on Black churches through the decades. In the first half of 1996, for example, 27 Black churches were burned down in the rural South, robbing the Black communities of places to congregate, to socialize, to feel safe and seek refuge, and creating a generalized state of terror.
According to The Huffington Post, at least 91 churches have been violently attacked since 1956. Between 1995 and 1996, more than 30 Black churches were burned, prompting Congress to enact the Church Arson Prevention Act. One of these churches was the Inner City Church in Knoxville, Tenn.—someone threw 18 Molotov cocktails into the church and wrote racial slurs on the walls, including “White is right,” according to the Los Angeles Times.
Bombs, shootings, fires, cross-burnings, defacing—all aimed at Black churches. Think about it: there’s a message being sent—if Black people aren’t safe in church they aren’t safe anywhere. An important institution in the Black community is being targeted and in some cases destroyed. It’s a statement that in the eyes of these white supremacists, Black people have no legitimate place in U.S. society—and never will. In short, there’s a genocidal logic here—a logic that’s been at AMERICA’s core since the first slaves were brought to Virginia in 1619, a logic enshrined when the United States was founded in 1776, and it continues to this day.
So don’t fucking tell us that the Charleston massacre isn’t AMERICA. It’s nothing but.
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editors’ note: Mumia Abu-Jamal, one of the most well known political prisoners in the U.S., has been unjustly imprisoned in Pennsylvania for nearly 35 years. A well-known revolutionary journalist and former Black Panther, he was tried, convicted, and given the death penalty for the murder of a cop—in a trial that was a complete travesty of justice. He was denied the right to serve as his own attorney, barred from the courtroom for half the trial with an overwhelmingly white jury; the prosecution claimed Mumia had confessed, which was a lie. Mumia spent a quarter of a century in solitary confinement on death row until courts overturned his death sentence while affirming his conviction, leaving him to face the prospect of life in prison without parole. There has been an international movement to free Mumia and throughout all this, Mumia has continued to denounce the crimes against humanity perpetrated by this system in both audio and written commentaries.
A young white man, barely at the age of his majority, walks into Charleston's most storied Black church and, before he leaves, a new history is written.
Attending a Wednesday night Bible study, he sits for nearly an hour, but his mind isn't on the life of Jesus nor his disciples. It's on murder, mass murder. When the door shuts behind him, nine Black souls, elders mostly, had been slain, Bibles in hand.
The man, or boy more than man, really, hadn't come to learn about religion, for he had a belief, white supremacy, or the profound hatred of Black people.
White supremacy is the mother's milk of Charleston, of South Carolina, of the South, of America. For surely as slavery funded and built America, the underlying principle was the devaluation, exploitation, and oppression of Black life. It's the only thing that makes the church massacre in Charleston even remotely intelligible.
Nine Black people were sacrificed to the blind idol of white supremacy for the same reason that thousands of Black men and women were lynched on American elms and pines: as sacrifices to an idea, to perpetuate a system of economic injustice.
Dylann Roof, the 21 year old accused of this massacre, had no friends to speak of, no place to stay other than an associate's couch, no job, and a tenuous relationship with his parents. Isolated, alienated, alone in the world, his sole remaining possession was his whiteness, the only thing that gave his existence meaning. That was the energy that fueled the massacre in Charleston, South Carolina.
It now sits like an incubus in the American soul, seething hatred and fear, waiting for more Black lives to consume.
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
Updated June 27, 2015, 5 pm | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Editor’s note: A diverse crew of people including revolutionaries and activists in the Stop Mass Incarceration Network from Atlanta are in Charleston, South Carolina – marching with people, getting out Carl Dix’ Statement “Outrage in Charleston—This IS America” and learning from people. The following are reports from a member of the Revolution Club who is part of this crew.
There is much more to be said than I can fit in to this article, but hopefully I can give you a sense of the importance of what revolutionaries are doing on the ground here in Charleston, along with a snapshot of the city of Charleston itself from the view of some of the people we’ve met over the past week. As we continue to listen to, transcribe and share some of the interviews we’ve done over the past several days, hopefully it will illuminate how people are responding not only to the tragedy itself, but the burning questions around the society we live in and the question of revolution.
Today was a very heavy day. I am sure that many of you reading this watched the funeral service of Senator Pinckney on TV and heard Obama’s eulogy (which I will not get into in this report). The team of revolutionaries that is here in Charleston spent the day on the corner of the park near the arena where the funeral was held. We stood near a group of drummers and a church group passing out bottles of water to the seemingly endless line waiting in the near 100 degree heat to enter the service. Despite the obvious sadness that enveloped the senseless killings that led to the funeral, the mood of the people was upbeat. People were mourning, but also attempting to show strength in the face of such a horror.
The road filled with people trying to enter the service. Another correspondent and I walked up and down the line of people, interviewing them to get their thoughts broadly, as well as their thoughts on what this tragedy exposes about America. The crowd represented a large cross section of people and their responses represented that as well. We talked to several young women, who are students at the University. They were not very aware of the reality that faces Black people in Charleston and the United States, but they were standing outside the church when the shooting happened, and they were very affected by it. We talked with a local filmmaker and local liberal radio host. We met a poet who was close to one of the victims, who was a librarian. We also met back up with Mike, who we met on our first day in downtown Charleston. He got a copy of BAsics. Two Ferguson freedom fighters who work with the Stop Mass Incarceration Network came all the way from Ferguson to attend the funeral and show their support to the people in Charleston.
While I talked with people, our team got over a thousand copies of Carl Dix’s statement, "Outrage in Charleston—This IS America!" into the hands of people attending the service. The crowd, which consisted of mostly older Black men and women, many whom were pastors themselves, eyed the sign we carried with the title of CD’s statement and a quote from the statement:
WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?... there is no middle ground in this struggle...If you have an ounce of humanity, you must add your voice to those demanding hat horrors like these STOP! Right Now!
People were happy to see us there and we often found ourselves struggling to hand flyers to the number of people reaching for them as they passed. Many also received palm cards of the dialogue on Revolution and Religion with Cornel West and Bob Avakian.
We’ve learned a lot about Charleston from the people we’ve met in the past week, much more than I will attempt to get into here. The first quote (for good reason) in BAsics is “There would be no United States as we know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth.” Charleston bolsters that fact at every turn. Literally, the signs of slavery and the oppression of Black people historically and today are at every turn, from the numerous streets named after slave owners and Confederate generals to the statues and memorials of dead racists like John C. Calhoun that peers over the city.
A museum has been created in the building that once existed as a slave market (see picture) serves as a stark reminder of the horrors that took place in that building and throughout the South. Charleston served as the main port for the trans-Atlantic slave trade, an estimated 40 percent of the total 400,000 Africans transported and sold as slaves into North America came through its port. In 1808, after the abolition of the transatlantic slave trade, Charleston still remained a major trading port for domestic slaves. As you walk through downtown Charleston, many of the hotels, legal offices, and shops that exist today were once part of the dozens of slave markets just in the small downtown area. A young artist who we met showed us the slave tags (slaves would often be loaned to perform skilled labor on other plantation and the copper or iron tags worn around their necks were used to identify to whom they belonged) that he found inches under the dirt in his backyard....the reminders are literally everywhere.
In the short time that we have been in Charleston, we’ve put the revolution out to thousands of people, and in the process we have met a number of people that are seriously interested in getting deeper into BA and the movement for revolution that he is leading. Some of the people who we have met bought BAsics or the BA Speaks: Revolution Nothing—Less DVD, or have invited us into their homes to watch clips from RNL and Cornel and BA’s dialogue. They range from a young homeless man who is a deep political thinker and organizer to a middle class white woman with two children who has already started reading the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). The range also includes a young white artist who considers himself an anarcho-socialist. It includes a Black carpenter in his 30s who just finished a 13-year prison sentence.
Like BA recently said, “There is the potential for something of unprecedented beauty to arise out of unspeakable ugliness...” These people are just a tiny sliver of people who could potentially be brought forward right now to play “a crucial role in putting an end, at long last, to this system.” This is true everywhere, not just in Charleston—the responsibility is on all of us to step up and into this movement for revolution. The potential to see beauty rise out of this darkness is real.
6/24/15 5pm EDT
Greetings again from Charleston, SC. As I write part of our team is heading through back to downtown Charleston to Emanuel AME Church where they will deliver a sign with BA’s "ThreeStrikes" quote to the outside memorial. (Tomorrow the Church will be having a viewing for Senator Clementa Pinckney, the Church’s pastor, who was murdered along with eight members of the Church by white supremacist Dylann Roof.) The team is also delivering the poster to the empty fenced-in field where Walter Scott was murdered. Currently, there is nothing there to remind people of the murder that took place in the grass just a few weeks ago. We thought "ThreeStrikes"would be a fitting reminder and call to action.
Yesterday, we traveled 1.5 hours outside of Charleston to the state’s capital, Columbia. The State House (where Senator Pinckney’s memorial is taking place today) has a fenced-in, padlocked Confederate flag memorial on one side and towering statue of the dead racist Senator Strom Thurmond on the other. South Carolina’s State House has been a place of controversy for years, but this week calls demanding the removal of the Confederate flag flying outside its doors have gained national attention. Civil rights activists have demanded the removal of the flag for years—it was put on top of the Capitol in 1961 to mark the 100th anniversary of the Confederate shelling of Ft. Sumter, which began the Civil War and later moved from atop the Capitol to a prominent flag pole in front of the building. But hardly any ruling class representatives in the state and federal government called for its removal. It took the massacre of nine Black churchgoers at the hands of a white-supremacist vigilante for these hypocrites to make a sound about the racist rag. Even now, with an outpouring of support from citizens, major corporations, and Democratic and Republican politicians, they are only “opening debate” on the removal of the flag, which due to a law passed in 2000, requires a 2/3 majority vote to do ANYTHING to the flag. Astoundingly, the law and the padlocks holding the Confederate flag to the pole prevent it from being flown half-mast like the other flags at the Capitol. Even today, as Senator Pinckney’s dead body lies in state, the white supremacist emblem flies full mast above his casket.
(Engraved on the Confederate flag memorial is a quote from William Henry Trescot, who was a U.S. Assistant Secretary of State before the Civil War, was a colonel in the Confederate Army during the Civil War, and then was a U.S. diplomat after the Civil War: “Let the stranger, who in future times reads this inscription, recognize that these were men whom power could not corrupt, whom death could not terrify, whom defeat could not dishonor, and let their virtues plead for just judgement of the cause in which they perished... Let the South Carolinian of another generation remember that the state taught them how to live and how to die, and that from her broken fortunes she has preserved for her children the priceless treasures of her memories, teaching all who may claim the same birthright that truth, courage and patriotism endure forever.”)
Yesterday, South Carolina lawmakers met to decide whether or not to open debate on taking down the flag, and we joined with protesters outside demanding the flag’s immediate removal. The crowd of several hundred, both Black and white, listened to a number of speeches from politicians, civil rights activists, religious leaders calling for the flags removal. We entered the demonstration with a 3' x 5' sign that read: A Statement by Carl Dix, Outrage in Charleston—This IS America! "WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?...there is no middle ground in this struggle...If you have an ounce of humanity, you must add your voice to those demanding that horrors like these STOP! Right Now!" We also carried signs with BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less!
Activists wearing the "BA Speaks REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!" T-shirts and carrying a banner with Carl Dix' statement "Outrage in Charleston—This IS America!" stepped up to agitate and ridicule two racists who were defending the Confederate flag. Photo: special to revcom.us.
As we entered the crowd, we could hear a few people chanting angrily, “TAKE IT DOWN! TAKE IT DOWN!” We followed the chants to the Confederate memorial, where police surrounded a middle-aged Black woman yelling bitterly at two white men in denim biker vests (the bike club on their vests was Brothers Forever) holding signs defending the Confederate flag. One of these fools kept repeating, “That boy that shot those people was crazy. It had nothing to do with the flag. The flag is being stereotyped. It represents our heritage...there’s nothing racist about it.” He babbled on about his “daddy and granddaddy’s legacy” and a bunch of other dumb shit. Reactions to these pro-Confederacy idiots varied—a few (of course this was focused on by the mainstream media) hugged him and told him they loved him and it was his right to speak freely, but most denounced them passionately.
Two of us stepped behind the racists with our banner. One person held a Stop Mass Incarceration Network sign with a crosshair, representing how Black and Latino people are targeted by the police and the system, and the phrase NO MORE! We also made signs with arrows pointing to the pro-flag racists that said, Racist Flag—Racist Fools! The crowd and media were drawn to our signs and our boldness denouncing the racists. Many people snapped pictures of us and many posed in front of us while others snapped pictures. As the official rally ended and a crowd gathered around us, I started agitating about what the Confederate flag and how the “heritage” it represents is all about by paraphrasing BA who sums it up like this [in "RESISTANCE, REVOLUTION, AND WHAT SHOULD — AND SHOULD NOT — BE SUPPORTED"]:
A lot of these white people in the South say, “well, that flag doesn’t stand for slavery and oppression, that just stands for Southern heritage.” Well, what is your fucking heritage? Your heritage is inseparable from and is founded on slavery and oppression and the Ku Klux Klan. That is your Southern heritage. There could be no South and no Southern heritage without it.
Banner carried at protest, Columbia, South Carolina June 23, 2015. Photo: special to revcom.us.
I also spoke about how we need to draw the line and ask people “which side are you on?” and how important it is that the people of South Carolina are standing up against the legacy of white supremacy and how resistance can transform people. I spoke to how we are building a movement for revolution and how that is what is needed to uproot white supremacy and get to a world without all the horrors of white supremacy. We told the crowd that we are serious about doing this and there is the strategy and leadership to make a revolution worth making. We guided people to check out Bob Avakian, the revcom.us website and Revolution newspaper. People clapped and many went directly to one of the paper sellers to get a copy of Revolution.
We met a lot of interesting people in Columbia. We talked to two young women from local universities who had braved the 100-degree heat for four days protesting the flag. One of the women had only one kidney, but refused to let this impede her from fighting to take down the flag. We met a guy with a radio show that wants to interview us on his show; he told us about a Confederate museum inside the Capitol building that celebrates the Confederacy rather than provides an objective history. A radical from the 1960s recalled the time he spent in prison for burning the Confederate flag decades ago.
One thing that we are noticing is that despite a number of different voices speaking out in Charleston and Columbia, the message is being tightly controlled by the powers that be. The official narrative is “unity and forgiveness” and little outside of that narrative is being given voice. (It is also worth noting the unconstitutional 60-day prohibition passed by the Charleston City Council banning protesters from being within 300 feet of a funeral. This comes as the Christian fundamentalist Westboro Baptist Church has floated the possibility of protesting Senator Pinckney’s funeral on Friday. However, Charleston’s police chief has insisted that this ordinance is focusing on “several groups,” not just Westboro.) Of course, the silencing of voices of resistance is not surprising and underscores the importance of revolutionaries being here at this moment.
At this time we are preparing to do showings from the DVDs of BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less and REVOLUTION AND RELIGION—The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion: A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN.
Stay tuned for updates on these exciting developments and voices from the people.
After the morning services at AME, our crew has been out in the projects near the church talking to people about Carl Dix' statement “This IS America.” And in the evening, we joined up with #unitychaincharleston—a human chain of thousands of people stretching across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge.
We spent a little time in the projects near the AME Church. Things are rough there. People see death a lot, for all kinds of things. A lot of it looks like people fucking each other over, “old school beefs” and we got into it with people about the big picture of oppression, and how the system puts people in a position where they lash out at each other.
Thousands form a human chain across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge that separates downtown Charleston (where the AME Church is located) from the almost all-white suburb of Mt. Pleasant. Photo: Twitter
Revolution Club on the Arthur Ravenel Bridge at Unity Chain Charleston. Photo: special to revcom.us
Then, in the evening, we were part of what was called Unity Chain Charleston—a human chain of thousands, holding hands, across the Arthur Ravenel Bridge that separates downtown Charleston (where the AME Church is located) from the almost all-white suburb of Mt. Pleasant. The mission was to show “solidarity and support for those who senselessly died in the AME Church.”
Thousands of people turned out and linked hands over the span of the two-and-a-half mile bridge, and at times the human chain was four people thick. This event was blessed by the authorities and not an expression of outrage for the most part but at the same time it was heartening to see a lot of people, including large numbers of white people out. And many were outraged.
I talked to a local activist who had been protesting after Eric Garner was killed and he commented on how different the response was compared to protests against police killing Black people. He thought that “maybe a lot of white people were on the fence about Walter Scott, but now they can’t stand on the sidelines.” I asked him about how the media is giving voice to a lot of forgiveness but not a lot of outrage. He told me that hundreds of thousands of people have signed an online petition to take down the Confederate flag at the state capitol. Not surprisingly, a number of the activists saw electoral politics as the way to address things, even as when you got them talking about how awful things are, the very outrages they were angry about are far beyond what any candidate for office is talking about or could actually change. Like mass incarceration of Black people because they can’t pay fines and child support, or Walter Scott who was murdered by police for running from them. We strongly encouraged them to check out and get involved with Stop Mass Incarceration Network.
We were there with our Revolution Club banner and that was an attraction for some. A young woman who came up to check us out said she came out because she was “just completely tired about being complacent, seeing all the things around me that make me angry.” That the murders at the church were “a big wakeup call” for her. When I told her I was going to make clear to readers she was white, she objected “that shouldn’t matter!” I agreed, but said it was important for our readers to know there were white people in Charleston stepping out to be part of these protests. Jennifer saw us with our banner on the bridge, and went to revcom.us on her phone on the spot. By the time we talked to her she had started reading the Constitution for a New Socialist Republic in North America there! She had all kinds of things on her mind about what revolution needs to be like, and what “true communism” should be like. I asked her what attracted her to that. She said “I don’t know how to answer that because if you’re paying attention at all, if you’ve got any kind of empathy at all, you’re gonna see this.”
Sunday Morning 6/21 at the Emanuel AME Church
This morning we were among the overflow crowd outside the Emanuel AME Church during the service. The eyes of the world were here, and we were among hundreds who couldn’t fit into the church.
Emanuel AME Church is a church with a tremendous historical connection to the struggle of Black people against slavery and segregation, including that one of its founders, Denmark Vesey, tried to organize a slave revolt, for which he was hung in 1822. That, by all reports, is in part why a white supremacist targeted the church for a massacre.
Today, the neighborhood is overwhelmingly gentrified and—outside of some remaining projects in the neighborhood—the Black residents have overwhelmingly been driven out. The neighboring churches, in this segregated city, are white. The leadership of many of these churches encouraged their congregations to join with the congregation at Emanuel AME Church this morning. While the crowd inside the church was mainly Black, those outside from neighboring congregations were overwhelmingly white. And this gave us a chance to connect Carl Dix' statement “Outrage in Charleston—This IS America!" with hundreds of overwhelmingly white people who came on the basis of their ministers encouraging them to be here on the basis of healing.
Not surprisingly, there was a mixed and polarized response to Carl Dix’ statement. There were people who liked it—the whole thing—from what he says about the role of police and more. Other white people were angry with us about being there—insisting that “This is about forgiveness, why are you all spreading hate?” So some of these well-intentioned white people who came felt sympathy for people dying, and were OK with joining with Black people who were forgiving and mourning, but not so OK with joining with outrage.
A white woman brought her Confederate flag to the services for the victims of the racist murder at the Emanuel AME Church. The flag had been passed down through generations in her family and had been on the wall of her kitchen. She said she didn’t want it on her wall any more. A group of white children with scissors ceremonially cut it up. Photo: Special to revcom.us
One of the most interesting and in some ways inspiring things that took place was this: One older white woman from a different church congregation brought her Confederate flag from her house. This flag had been passed down through generations in her family and had been on the wall of her kitchen. She brought it to the church and said she didn’t want it on her wall any more. A group of white children with scissors ceremonially cut it up.
We weren’t the only ones challenging the terms of 'healing'—before the disease is cured. One sister came with her sign “Enough is Enough" on one side and on the other "White Jesus isn't Coming Back.” She, too, was the focus of controversy. I talked to her about why she was making this statement here. She said, “They are continuing to mask the underlying hate.”
She said “Black people make 13% of this country, but we are the highest rate of incarceration and death. We are killing each other—because what do we do with the hate? This Kum Bah Yah ain't working for everyone. That white boy was angry, what do we do? I’m not saying go out here and kill anyone, I don’t condone hate to that measure, but we have to be able to express that anger.”
I asked about her sign. She told me, “The Christian mindset is what I have a problem with. Pray to who you want, but don’t be delusional. The Bible has contradictions—it says an eye for an eye. The Bible was written by man. Whose education are we speaking? Our own language? Or what was taught to us. They are trying to condition us to submit.”
With her too, the responses were polarized. She told me she was focused on “those who are struggling in the economy, who have no hope, this next generation, they are the ones who can make change.” As far as the response she was getting? “Everyone coming to me with anger is 23, 24 and younger. Out here, they are trying to cover the anger. This country has been built on Black backs. I’ve been told they have pushed Black people out of this community. We are angry at this gunman, but he ain’t by himself. It would be stupid to think this is just one man with a gun!”
Coming... more, including voices from the community.
Saturday 6/20—Arriving in Charleston:
The sun is beaming on a crowd of hundreds of people lining the street in front of a towering white church. A small group sings an old spiritual in the one-hundred-degree heat. A group of young and old people marching silently, stop briefly to place flowers in front of an old wooden cross that is already surrounded by hundreds of flowers, wreaths, and balloons. Engraved in the wall above the arching entrance of the church is Emanuel AME Church.
The eyes of the world are on Mother Emanuel where just days ago, Dylann Roof, motivated by the white supremacy engrained in and nurtured by this system, carried out a massacre of nine Black churchgoers during a Bible study. This horror is a wound that rests on top of multiple scars that white supremacy has inflicted just on this church over decades.
Many of the people outside the church are holding a sheet of paper with the headline: “Outrage in Charleston—This IS America!”, a statement by Carl Dix. A team of revolutionaries and others are on the ground here in Charleston, South Carolina distributing Carl’s statement, connecting people with the movement for revolution, and seeking to learn more about how people are understanding this tragedy. Below are some initial impressions of the mood of the people and a brief description of some of the things that have unfolded in the few hours we have spent on the ground here in Charleston. More to come soon!
We arrived in Charleston on Saturday and joined a gathering of around 200 in the park near Mother Emmanuel as they spoke and prepared for a Black Lives Matter march by the church and continuing to the The Confederate Museum. On the same day, in another part of the state, at the state capitol in Columbia, there was a protest of hundreds demanding take down that Confederate flag—the flag of slavery. There’s much more to say about that flag and the whole celebration of the Confederacy that pervades the area.
The crowd was young and old, multinational and surprisingly mostly white. An older white man from the South Carolina Progressive Network spoke on the bullhorn at the gathering detailing the whole history of racist terror in Charleston and told the white people in the park, “It is not enough to be white with good intentions. You have to act on those intentions.” He also mentioned a hashtag that many of the organizers used for the event and one that angered some of the racists in town, #VeseyTaughtUs (Denmark Vesey who was hung in 1822, along with 35 other Black people, for planning a slave uprising).
On the march we met a guy named Mike. After talking to Mike (an Atlanta native who moved to Charleston—he told us a lot about life here in Charleston which I will share later), I asked Mike where people hang out and he told us to come with him. He took us to several blocks to East Charleston, a Black neighborhood on the edge of the tourist filled downtown.
At a grocery store outside East Charleston we met a woman whose cousin was murdered inside the church. She took Carl’s statement and thanked us for coming to support the people in Charleston. At the same store we met a couple. The husband was a longshoreman. There is a whole history in Charleston of struggle by the longshoremen who work on the docks. He bought a copy of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, a copy of Revolution, and the Bob Avakian (BA) Timeline.
At 10AM, all of the churches in downtown Charleston rang their bells in solidarity with Mother Emmanuel. Afterwards, we are heading to some neighboring projects to spread revolution and talk with the people (so much more to come).
GOTTA GO! More to come.
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
In the Wake of the Charleston Massacre:
June 22, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
We definitely support the call issued by Carl Dix and others to manifest strongly against the madness of the Charleston massacre, to build resistance to this true horror and to the whole host of other outrages and horrors that it concentrates. This is not the time for “reconciliation” with oppressors and oppression; this is the time for STANDING UP, powerfully. A major response is most definitely called for, and revolutionaries—along with all people who hate oppression and hunger for justice—cannot wait for “others” to do this! This is a time when the question, WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?, must ring out and challenge every single person who lives in this rotten-ass, stone-to-the-bone racist society.
To make these manifestations strong, they must be ORGANIZED. And they must be organized in a way that brings forward and orients, trains, and organizes people into the forces for revolution.
What, concretely, does this mean right now? First of all, we are organizing people. People are the most important thing in revolution, there is no revolution without people being brought forward and organized. Right now, people are full of thinking, even as they are searching for answers. The Charleston Massacre has struck deep inside of people, and we need to go there with them, exploring the whole reality together with them, working with (and struggling for) the scientific method and approach, and in the course of that not only coming up with creative ideas on how to build resistance as powerfully as possible and where and how to reach out, but getting a deeper understanding of reality.
Second, we are organizing people into a powerful machine to make revolution. We have to figure out, together with the people we are organizing, not only how to reach out as widely as possible to “make things happen,” but how to make the strongest possible impact on the resistance that DOES happen. The ways have to be found, as hundreds or thousands are gathering and resisting, to increase the attractive force of the movement for revolution right on the spot. This means very boldly “stepping out” in ways that let people know who we are and what we are all about, and that calls on them and gives them ways very directly to “run with” and be part of representing for (wearing T-shirts, etc.) the revolution. This will set off a whole process of strengthening the backbone of things overall, attracting more people to the revolution as they see it in action, further strengthening the struggle, and so on, in a positive dynamic.
Third, we need to follow up with people on the spot and in real-time, immediately. All this week there should be chances for people to come together to get into the revolution and get into BA in particular, talking about WHY we need a revolution, WHAT such a revolution would be aiming for, and HOW such a revolution could be made. There’s a lot of ways to begin. You could read over some key quotes in BAsics, like 1:1, 1:2, 3:1, 3:3, 3:15, and 3:19, and discuss one or more of them. You could listen together to the talk “Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy,” especially the first parts of it. You could watch, and then discuss together, the opening sections of any of the films of BA. Of course, this doesn’t have to wait for, and definitely shouldn’t be confined to, special sessions either—you meet someone in the street, or directly after a manifestation of resistance, and you sit down for coffee—whatever, this should be an all-the-time thing. And it should be interlinked with figuring out new plans to take the struggle further. But the point is that people NEED this, as a critical link in the whole process of “fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution.”
Finally, and just to re-emphasize, all this has to be in “real-time”—the same intense conditions that give rise to the many fronts that must be fought on and the “thousand deeds to be done” also make people’s thinking very fluid right now, and means that people can be won to a whole process of changing the world and changing their thinking, entering where they are and moving, at whatever pace, through a whole process. But they cannot—and need not—be asked to wait while someone “gets back to them.”
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
In the Wake of the Charleston Massacre:
June 22, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
WHY do outrages and horrors like the Charleston Massacre—as well as the ongoing drumbeat of murders by the police and all the other horrible oppression of Black people—go on? What makes these racists—in or out of uniform—feel that they have the right and the so-called duty to kill Black people, for no reason at all besides their Blackness? And why do these outrages not only continue, but intensify? Why, after all these years, do people not only cling to openly and outrageously racist symbols of slavery like the Confederate flag—but this is supported by powerful people in the ruling class of this country?
What is the root of the problem? How long must this go on? Can this be solved by reform—by “realizing the ideals of America”—or do we need an actual revolution? And if we do need a revolution, then what kind of revolution is needed to put an end to the problem? What would this revolution do? And how could such a revolution be made?
There is nobody who has done the work on these questions as deeply, all-sidedly, and scientifically as Bob Avakian (BA), as part of his all-round body of work going into all the questions of the revolution. If any of these questions come to your mind—if you care at all about thinking through what REALLY needs to be done—then it’s critical that you get into and engage the work he’s done.
You can begin with BAsics, the revolutionary handbook of quotations from BA. Or you can start with any of the filmed speeches of BA (BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!; REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN; Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About)—all of which get very deeply into this. You can listen to the talk “Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy,” which shows how deeply embedded this oppression is in the economic relations, the political system, and the cultural mindset and psychology of America—and how neither this oppression, nor any other form of oppression, can be ended within the confines of American democracy. You can read this work as well in pamphlet form. You can listen to the radio interview Cornel West did with Bob Avakian. There is the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America, which lays out in detail how the revolution can and will solve this. There is also the Party’s statement on the whole history of the oppression of Black people and the struggle against that oppression, rooted in the framework developed by BA. Of great immediate relevance, BA has also done a tremendous amount of work on how the current polarization in the U.S.—where the fascists and racists have initiative, where people with better inclinations are passive and confused—could be reversed into one favorable for actually making revolution to do away with ALL oppression (see, for instance, “The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution,” and “Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution”). There is all the work that has been done on revolutionary strategy, also in this framework—this includes the Party’s statement “On the Strategy for Revolution,” and the work “On the Possibility of Revolution,” which lays out the basic strategic conception and approach for actually winning an all-out struggle for power, at a time when there is a revolutionary crisis and a revolutionary people numbering in the millions and millions.
These works form an important part of BA’s whole body of work—his new synthesis of communism which covers, among other things, the scientific method for understanding and changing the world; internationalism; the strategic approach to revolution; and building the new society.
This theory lights the way out of the darkness. Find out about it; get into it; take it up.
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
Updated August 10, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
As people send their donations and pledge as sustainers, they are sending notes to challenge others to do the same. Here are some of the comments:
The comment below was accompanied by a $100 donation:
Thank you for all you do. We are not in a position to become a sustaining member at this time, but at least we can contribute something to this all important effort to remove the chains of slavery.
from Wisconsin readers
We can’t be behind, we gotta be the vanguard. If we don’t have the resources, in terms of the newspaper and the website, it will deviate the direction of the movement for revolution. Because we gotta win the argument with the masses, so that they see that this is the group, the RCP and BA, that they should follow. When you got a solid purpose—and our, the Party’s theory and understanding of revolution, you have to get it out there, because there are a lot of reformers that sound like revolution but they have their doubts are not really for revolution.
Reader in San Francisco Bay Area
I hope this donation goes at least in part to support the work of Carl Dix and Sunsara Taylor. Mr. Dix is doing outstanding work concerning mass incarceration and Ms Taylor is doing excellent work with her StopPatriarchy organization and writing for the paper. Both deserve as wide a venue as possible to promote their ideas and efforts and I hope Revolution news provides every opportunity for this to happen.
—From a reader who is sustaining for $10/month
As a high school student, I decided to make a donation because I came to the realization that we need more bookstores like Revolution Books. If it was not for the couple months I volunteered and attended events, I would not have thought change and revolution was possible. And thanks to the organization, I am beginning to make sense of things at my own pace, and bringing others with me throughout the process.
—Black woman from Harlem who just graduated from high school, about to start college, who’s going to donate $5 a month to revcom.us and $5 a month to NYC Revolution Books
"To strengthen RCP Publications I recently became a sustainer. I am contributing $50 a month. I think RCP Publications is important because it does something nobody else is doing at the present. It is giving humanity a scientific way out of the horrible situation that we are stuck in. When I first started reading Revolution and BA over a decade ago I was afraid of what was being said. The idea of getting rid of this society was something I never thought about in a real non idealistic way. The paper and Bob Avakian brought this to life. When I read the paper the first time years ago I became frightened by its radical vision and I stopped reading the paper after a few issues. However, within a year I had renewed my subscription and have not missed a paper for many years. I read and re-read all the works of BA. The idea of a communist revolution is real to me and is needed for all. That is part of the reason that I am and others should consider sustaining RCP Publications."
—From a high school teacher in the Midwest
"People need this newspaper because they are kept so ignorant and believe in the system and the Democratic Party, but also they need the leadership of Bob Avakian, because it isn't just needing to rebel, we need a whole different world and that is possible. We don't want a situation like in Egypt, where people rebelled and even drove out a dictator, but what did they get—another dictator!"
–From a supporter on a fixed income who donated and will sustain at $5 a month
“I donated $20 and will sustain at $5/month because there are people on the front lines catching hell. People like in Ferguson, Baltimore, and Chicago. We have to reinforce them and support them, either giving what I can or spreading the word and the newspaper.”
“If you want to know about the world, and get connected; if you want to stand up and fight back against what is being done to people, go to this Party, take up this Party’s newspaper. If you want revolution, we have a strategy for revolution. This newspaper is a key component of this strategy. The newspaper is the voice of the RCP and provides the foundation and guideline for the whole process for revolution, especially through publishing the works of Bob Avakian through articles. This paper exposes and expresses why things are the way they are, it does not have to be this way. The newspaper is the guideline so thousands of people can stay connected and learn. I am donating $10/month and also collected $20 from a friend and am letting others know about the website, especially to watch the Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian.”
―an Iranian supporter of the RCP who lives in the U.S.
“I will support the courage of RCP as a donator and sustainer. Why? Because of the commitment of BA and what I’ve come to know is the only way out of capitalism in all its forms. I’ll donate $5 to $10 a month to sustain RCP Publications.”
—a devoted reader on a fixed income
“There is so much injustice and suffering going on in this capitalist-imperialist country and around the world, and I believe RCP Publications and Bob Avakian’s leadership need to be widely promoted in order to prepare the people to fight and bring about a much better society and world through revolution. I am giving $20 to the RCP Publications fund drive. I encourage whoever is yearning for a better world to do away with all this suffering, to contribute in any way, whatever you can. And if you can, SUSTAIN the work—consistently apply the method of analyzing and changing the world, and consistently give money to the revolution. It is hard work, but it must be done and we can do it if we apply the revolutionary method and not take it for granted. We sometimes get complacent, but we can and need to change, and we can all contribute so much more to emancipate humanity!”
—an Iranian supporter of the revolution who lives in the U.S.
“This is a time when a revolutionary crisis can make a big leap. In Ferguson and Baltimore, people are fed up and are open to see what revolutionary forces are saying. The system has this big contradiction: They can’t give up on the oppression of Black people that makes people resist; yet they can’t allow them to rise up without repressing them; but they can’t keep repressing them without them rising up. It is a big contradiction for them.”
“With the work of the revolutionaries and the newspaper, the system is more and more exposed. The activities of the Party need to increase to bring the truth to people. On the TV they only show the looting and not what causes it. They try to portray brave and courageous people as ‘thugs.’ We need to expose the whole system is the problem, no matter who is president―the police are instruments of repression, and these crises can lead to something else—a revolutionary situation.”
Why I am Supporting RCP Publications Fund Drive—And Pledge to Do More
“I am a regular sustainer to revcom.us/Revolution newspaper, but I see the need to increase my donation to support the call to put RCP Publications on higher ground so that more people can learn about it. I want to support it, so they can carry out the work of helping to build even further the movement for revolution and introduce Bob Avakian, leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA to even more people, not just here in the U.S., but to millions and millions of people around the world. That revolution and communism is not ONLY desirable, but eminently possible!
“What have I learned from revcom.us/Revolution newspaper? I am learning and struggling to view things on a scientific basis and go on the basis of reality and not what seems to be ‘practical’ or the easy way out.
“One of the things that revcom.us/Revolution newspaper has been very good at is pointing out various proposals that different people have made in response to the current epidemic of police murder and brutality. For example, there are people who suggest that waiting for the IN-justice Department to do an investigation is helpful.
“Nothing could be further from the truth—for months Mike Brown’s family and many other people waited for the IN-Justice Department’s report on Ferguson—and when it came out, it was a slap in their faces and pouring salt on their wounds! The report did expose some of the vicious methods used to exploit people—like jailing them if they did not have the money to pay fines from traffic tickets piling up, but otherwise, Eric Holder and others in the ruling class just gave the murdering cops a pass and a free ride, and said that they couldn’t find any basis to indict Darren Wilson for Mike Brown’s murder. This was a dead end that the system wants people to get into—to stop struggling and rely on this criminal system which is incapable of doing anything halfway decent for any human being on this planet.
“There wouldn’t have been ANY IN-Justice Department report on Ferguson if it wasn’t for the fact that the people of Ferguson stood up, rebelled, defied the system and decided that the murder of Mike Brown and everything else is intolerable.
“You DO NOT have to agree with all or even some of what revcom.us/Revolution newspaper is about in order to engage with it. What IS required is that you have the questions and curiosity as to what is going on in the world and what to do about it.
“I am going to double what I currently am donating, even though that would be a financial sacrifice due to my current situation. I am also challenging other people to step up and donate to revcom.us/Revolution newspaper and donate what they can.
“Without money, RCP Publications would be unable to do the important work that it needs to do. If you don’t have money—have bake sales or flea markets to raise money for this precious newspaper, and commit to being a regular sustainer. If you have funds, dig deep and give a large one time donation and become a sustainer on a regular basis.”
June 4, 2015
“Why I Sustain?
“I’ve been a sustainer for a number of years. I sustain because the RCP and the newspaper Revolution/revcom.us is the only thing going in the world today. When I was young I had high hopes for Mao’s China but that revolution got turned back by a capitalist line. I had high hopes with the revolutions in Peru and Nepal until a capitalist, status quo line turned those revolutions around, too.
“Other than the RCP and what’s left of the RIM [Revolutionary Internationalist Movement] all the other lines in the world represent capitalism, feudalism, slavery or barbarism. No, things aren’t going to get better by ‘falling apart.’ This kind of anarchism is no solution. The world needs to see that right here, in ‘the belly of the beast,’ in Babylon itself there are those who can see beyond the horror and have a plan and strategy to achieve a much better world for us human beings.
“So, to all those whom I’ve heard say, ‘tell me when you’re having the revolution and I’ll be there,’ well the time is now. Give some money and be a part of it. It’s the least you can do. Get some literature and spread the word, that’s something you can do also.”
I became a monthly sustainer for RCP Publications because I want to see copies of BAsics in Hebrew, Arabic, Farsi, Korean, and any other language you can think of. I want to see the works of Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism reach all corners of the earth and all sections of society so the oppressed everywhere know there is a way out of the horrors this system subjects people to and that way out is Revolution. I also want to help people connect up with the Revcom website and revolution newspaper so they know that there is a party with the strategy and leadership that makes an actual revolution in this country possible.
—From a student/unemployed member of the Revolution Club
and a new sustainer for RCP Pubs
I am subscribing as a monthly sustainer for $10.00 per month. I wished I could do more, but is what the current pocket can bear. I have selected 5 organizations to assist in their efforts for a very different world, and as a Socialist, Communism of course is a long term goal...
Thank you for all your work.
"I just want to say what inspired me most was the way the RCP threw itself into the mix in Ferguson, NY City and Baltimore, seriously determined to raise the level of understanding and resistance—and provide leadership. I said to myself these people are serious about making revolution and not just paying lip service to it. I was seeing RCP banners and t-shirts on news sources other than revcom."
—From a reader who made a substantial donation
and doubled his sustainer commitment
"I donate because an Actual Revolution is the only sane and logical way forward for humanity and the planet! And even though I may be separated from the high energy areas of the country, I get a rush thinking about the youth, with the Revolution Newspaper in their hands for the first time, kinda like a modern day singing telegram for the oppressed!"
—From a reader on a fixed income in a very small town
“I want to support the courage of others trying to change the world—hopefully for a better future for others to come. People are risking the most valuable thing they have, which is their life, for a good cause, and that is admirable.”
—A woman who grew up in a country dominated by U.S. imperialism and
who is pledging $25/month to sustain RCP Publications.
"I am donating a $100 towards the fund raising, in addition to my monthly sustainer for Revolution newspaper. I am donating this amount because I feel at this critical juncture people need to connect with the leader of revolution, Bob Avakian, to really put an end to police brutality and murder of unarmed black and brown youth, and all the other horrors of this System; and build a far better world. For this purpose a lot of funds are required to upgrade Revolution newspaper, distribute revolutionary literature, videos, books and other works of BA, so that people can learn about his vision and strategy for revolution and become part of the movement for revolution for emancipation of humanity."
—A reader in Texas
“I urge everyone to help raise funds and donate to help put RCP Publications on a higher ground:
Because black, brown and poor are being murdered by the police in the 'Land of the free.'
Because the capitalist imperialists are committing crimes against the planet and humanity.
Because women are denied their basic rights in different forms, being raped and sold to sex slavery.
Because millions are homeless, refugees and crying out for change, as they are caught between two outmoded reactionary forces of capitalist imperialists and backward Islamists fundamentalists who seem to many as the only alternative!
Because the science, theory and the leadership is there to end all of this and prepare the masses for an actual revolution, but there is a huge gap that can be fulfilled by putting the idea and leadership out there.”
—A reader in Texas
At the present time, RCP Publications cannot accept any contributions or gifts from readers who reside outside the borders of the United States.
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following letter from a reader is translated from the Spanish original.
I have taken up the challenge of increasing my monthly support for Revolution newspaper.
I would like to see all of BA’s works reach into every corner of this planet.
BA Everywhere—how much difference could it make?
I am a migrant from Mexico, from a town way up deep in the mountains of Mexico, where it is very rare to be able to access the Internet. One day I received a call from a friend who is in charge of the town library, a place attended by teachers, high school students, college students and grade school kids. I talked to my friend about whether it might be possible for me to send some books for the shelves. He told me that would be no problem. Enthusiastically I went to the bookstore and happily bought some of BA’s works, the DVD [the Revolution talk: Revolution: Why It’s Necessary, Why It’s Possible, What It’s All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian], BAsics and others, and sent them off. The following month, I asked my friend what happened to the books, and he told me that a teacher picked up one and some students got Away With All Gods! OK, I said, ask them what they thought about it, and for them to write up what they thought about them whenever they return the books. My friend asked for their opinions. The teacher liked it and he gave him a card for revcom.us. But the students wrote up some of their thoughts, and all wrote about how they felt about the book Away With All Gods! (that they had never seen anything like it anywhere else, and that it was true that the powers-that-be use religion to keep us from fighting against them).
Youth who are seeking solutions to this monstrous and bestial system that we live in. This is a reminder of the importance of RCP Publications. BA’s works need to be accessible in every corner of the planet.
If you really want to change the world, put an end to exploitation, oppression and the contamination of the planet, to rescue the planet from the clutches of this system, BA has advanced the science of Communism; only communist revolution can change all the oppression and exploitation.
Together we all can make it possible that BA is everywhere. A better world is possible.
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
From a reader:
June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
There has been a nationwide focus on the police in the cities of this country murdering Blacks and Latinos and walking free. I wanted to write on an aspect of these murders by police that many people may not be that aware of—the killing fields along the border that are patrolled by the border cops who are murdering immigrants and people in Mexico, and how those pigs are walking free today.
A poster of José Antonio Elena Rodríguez hangs next to a makeshift memorial in Nogales, Mexico, where he was gunned down through the border fence by U.S. Border Patrol, October 2012. Photo: AP
The Los Angeles Times reported recently that a Border Patrol investigation into 67 shooting incidents that killed 19 people “absolved agents of criminal misconduct in all but three cases, which are still pending.” (“Border Patrol absolves itself in dozens of cases of lethal force,” by Brian Bennett, June 15, 2015)
In the past 10 years, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has killed nearly 50 people, most of them unarmed. Further, not a single one of these murdering agents has been indicted for a crime in any of these incidents.
These murders include killing people who were allegedly throwing rocks... driving in their vehicles... tortured to death as they were being deported... shot in the back after being stopped for “driving with a suspicious load”... beaten to death while in detention... shot and killed as they came out of a house... shot in the back as they were running back to Mexico... and gunned down while sitting in a wheelchair.
I became enraged when I began to discover the facts in these killings that are nothing but murder.
In October 2012, José Antonio Elena Rodríguez, a 16-year-old Mexican citizen, was gunned down through the border fence as he was walking in a street in Nogales, Mexico, a few blocks from his grandmother’s house. He was shot 10 times, with eight bullets hitting him when he lay on the ground, and most of them were in his back. The murdering pigs, who were on the Arizona side of the fence, claim that some youths were throwing rocks at them—so they opened fire on José Antonio.
The exact same thing happened to Sergio Adrian Hernandez-Guereca, a 15-year-old Mexican citizen, who was murdered by a Border Patrol cop who claimed that some youths threw rocks from the Mexican side of the international bridge in El Paso, Texas. The cop shot across the border from the U.S. side when he murdered Sergio Adrian.
Then there was Juan Pablo Perez Santillán, a 30-year-old Mexican citizen, who was shot and murdered while standing on the banks of the Rio Grande River near Matamoros, Mexico—again, for allegedly throwing rocks. Witnesses to the killing in Mexico say that Juan Pablo was unarmed.
Guillermo Arévalo Pedroza, a 36-year-old Mexican, was shot and killed by Border Patrol while at a barbeque with his wife and daughters. Yet again these pigs claimed that rocks were thrown at them. But a video of the shooting didn’t show any rock throwing. Guillermo died in his nine-year-old daughter’s arms.
It goes on and on and on. Ramses Barron Torres was shot and murdered on January 5, 2011, in Nogales, Mexico—the murdering border cop alleged that Ramses threw rocks at him. The Southern Border Communities Coalition reported, “Witnesses deny he threw rocks. DOJ [U.S. Department of In-justice] stated in their press release closing their investigation that they reviewed surveillance videos, but videos have not been released publicly.” (See “39 Killed by Customs and Border Protection.”)
In 2012 alone, the border police opened fire in 22 separate incidents on alleged rock throwers, most of them youths and most of them on the Mexico side of the border. Let’s give this a new name, RTWBM (rock throwing while being Mexican), which results in a U.S. execution. How outrageous is this? U.S. border pigs shooting across the U.S.-Mexican border murdering teenagers! These are OUR youth, and murdering our youth no matter where they are in the world has to end. As Bob Avakian says:
No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that. (BAsics 1:13)
The investigation into these killings was prompted when the Washington bureau of the Los Angeles Times discovered a report that criticized the Border Patrol’s use of deadly force. The report, done by the Police Executive Review Forum, states that “Border Patrol agents have deliberately stepped in the path of cars apparently to justify shooting at the drivers and have fired in frustration at people throwing rocks from the Mexican side of the border.” (“Border Patrol’s use of deadly force criticized in report,” by Brian Bennett, Los Angeles Times, February 27, 2014)
The Times reported that “U.S. Customs and Border Protection, which had commissioned the review, has tried to prevent the scathing 21-page report from coming to light,” and that the “House and Senate oversight committees requested copies last fall but received only a summary that omitted the most controversial findings...” Further, the border agency rejected any restrictions that were suggested in the report on their agents in shooting at rock throwers or people’s cars.
All these murderers are walking free and have not been charged, even in cases, according to the Times, where “evidence of criminal misconduct was presented”—including the case of Carlos Lamadrid, a 19-year-old U.S. citizen, who was shot three times in the back, murdered by the Border Patrol as he was climbing the border fence to go from the U.S. into Mexico.
BORDER AGENTS GETTING AWAY WITH MURDER OF LATINO AND MEXICAN PEOPLE MUST STOP! And it will take us standing up and saying NO MORE to these horrors to stop it!
INDICT, CONVICT, AND JAIL THE MURDERERS OF THE PEOPLE ALONG THE BORDER!
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
U.S. "Solution" to the "Immigration Problem":
June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Carolina said her 15-year-old daughter was the victim of severe sexual assault in Honduras when she was 9. “My daughter tells me she can’t bear being locked up anymore,” said Carolina, who has been detained with her daughter for three months. “She told me she wanted to take her own life.”
―“US: Trauma in Family Immigration Detention,” Human Rights Watch, May 15, 2015
Until a year ago, the U.S. government had fewer than 100 beds across the country for detention of immigrant women with children. Either they were quickly sent back to the hell they had fled, or released to husbands or other family members in this country, or to shelters provided by immigrant rights organizations and churches, while awaiting their court-ordered fate.
Bob Avakian, "Why do people come here from all over the world?"
But then tens of thousands of people—including many children traveling alone—fleeing the crises of violence and poverty in U.S.-dominated Central American countries began arriving at the U.S. border. And the rulers of this system saw a different crisis forming at the border—a “danger” that people desperately trying to escape the “made in USA” hell in their own countries would get the idea that they might find a “safe harbor” in this imperialist citadel, and encourage others to follow them. The rulers felt it necessary to deliver a different message—to make it clear that the people from Central America did not belong here, and would find no help or safety here. So the U.S. government implemented a “no release” policy, saying that it was denying release of families from detention specifically, according to Human Rights Watch, to “deter migrants from coming to the U.S.”
The Obama administration instituted “an aggressive deterrence strategy” targeting Central American border crossers, including people seeking official political asylum. First, many new judges were assigned to fast-track hearings to speed up the deportation process. But the lack of pro bono lawyers (lawyers who work for no fee) meant that many children had to argue their appeal for asylum without a lawyer.
Anyone who had been previously deported could not gain release from custody prior to their deportation—a policy that refuses to even consider the likelihood that to desperately relive the dangerous experience of getting to the border could well mean people were escaping a terrible fate in their home country. And even those who had been found to have a credible fear of danger to their lives if they were forced to return were still required to pay a high bail that meant, in practice, they would remain in prison indefinitely.
In order to carry out this draconian enforcement and imprisonment, the U.S. contracted two companies in the business of running prisons for profit to quickly build two huge prisons in Texas. The Texas “detention centers” are in Dilley and Karnes—both outside San Antonio—and another is in Pennsylvania. As of June 12, 2015, Dilley alone held 1,735 individuals, about 1,000 of them children.
According to Clara Long, a Human Rights Watch (HRW) researcher, the result has been widespread trauma, depression, and suicidal thoughts:
The Obama administration has now kept traumatized children and their mothers locked up for nearly a year. They have no idea when they will be released, and they are terrified to be deported back to places where they could be killed, raped, or otherwise harmed.... Indefinite detention takes an especially damaging psychological toll on those who had been forced to flee their homes. Children are asking their mothers, “When will we be able to leave?” and these mothers have no reply. (HRW, May 15, 2015)
We’re talking about women like “Carolina” (described at the start of this article) rescuing a daughter after a brutal sexual assault; or like “Beatriz,” whose 11-year-old son was threatened with forced recruitment by gangs in Honduras; or like “Melinda,” whose sister-in-law was murdered by gang members in Guatemala, and now suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “Estrella,” her four-year-old daughter, has now spent 20 percent of her life behind bars. In that time, she’s been hospitalized with acute bronchitis and also suffered acute pharyngitis (sore throat), ear aches, fevers, diarrhea, and vomiting.
In May of this year, a 19-year-old woman with a four-year-old son was found crying and bleeding in a bathroom at the Karnes County “residential center” in Texas. After seven months of imprisonment, with no idea if or when she would get out, she had just slit her wrist in an attempt to kill herself. She received medical treatment, her son was taken away from her, and she was put on suicide watch for several days.
You can find a photo of her partially healed wrist on the Internet; it was taken—in Honduras—two weeks after she tried to kill herself. Yes—less than a week after she’d been found and given medical treatment, she was deported. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) assured the public the injury was minor, and she was treated well. And we are assured that “ICE takes the health, safety, and welfare of those in our care very seriously.” (“Congressional delegation will visit family detention center where teen mom cut wrist,” Franco Ordonez, mcclatchydc.com, June 22, 2015)
In Dilley detention center in South Texas, the brand-new and largest of the three prisons for immigrant mothers with children in the country, a woman described how her daughter deteriorated mentally and physically after three months living in a cell—which ICE calls a “private room.” According to a Guardian report,“She watched her child’s physical and mental health decline. The child’s skin allergies worsened, she stopped eating and she kept pleading to leave. ‘She didn’t want to be there. She was always crying,’ said [the mother].” (“‘Soul-destroying’: one migrant mother’s story of life at Dilley detention center,” May 22, 2015)
The mother said that when she went to ICE for help, “They told me, ‘You can’t come here trying to guilt trip us about your daughter’s illness, she’s not really ill.’ And they said they wouldn’t let us out unless we could pay the bond.” She needed to come up with $5,000—but she had no money by that point. To get here from Honduras she had to ride “La Bestia,” the massive locomotive that travels across Mexico, back and forth from Central America, carrying on top hundreds of asylum seekers hoping to make it to the U.S.-Mexico border. The “help” that the Mexican government is now providing the U.S. to stop immigrants crossing Mexico translates on the ground to the $400 cost for “greasing the palms” of Mexican immigration officers. And then, to cross the Rio Grande on an inflatable raft, another $800 is needed to pay a Mexican drug syndicate.
It was at this point that this young mother attempted to take her own life, thinking it would be better for her daughter in the long run if she were dead. “I knew then we were never going to get out; that my daughter was going to fade away in Dilley. I became wrapped up in my own world. I thought we would be locked up in there forever.” Her attorney said hundreds of mothers and children being held in detention are going through this same kind of torture: “[W]hen these women learn that they and their young children will be kept in captivity indefinitely, that extinguishes all hope. When they think their kids are going to be subjected to being locked-up long term, that’s soul destroying.”
There have been mounting political protests, both outside the detention centers and by the imprisoned mothers. People have converged for protests at Dilley and Karnes, and in major cities around the country. Open letters to Obama by scholars and the general public are circulating widely. And, courageously, mothers have held hunger strikes inside both Texas prisons. ICE then retaliated against the hunger strikers by putting the organizers in solitary confinement, until a lawsuit by RAICES, an immigrant legal advocacy group based in San Antonio, forced them to back off. A petition already signed by over 100,000 people is demanding these prisons be shut down.
But in the face of mounting outrage, demands for the immediate release of these immigrants, and two district court rulings against the detention of children, ICE has been carrying out a process of empty promises of change, and resistance to every legal ruling against it. In February and April of this year, district courts found, first, that the use of detention of children to deter immigration is illegal; and second, that the family detention system violates a decades-old agreement that the U.S. government must favor release of migrant children to their families.
It is, in fact, a violation of international law to use detention for minors as anything other than a measure of last resort. ICE was given 30 days to implement changes to bring its procedures in line with child protection laws, or be forced to close all three prisons. The series of changes ICE announced in response were described by the American Immigration Lawyers Association as “almost meaningless” and “lipstick on a pig.”
After a delegation of eight Democratic congressmen finally went to see the conditions at Dilley and Karnes on June 20, and the next day wrote a letter to ICE calling on the immigrant prisons to be closed, ICE did its own tour and released a statement: “Family residential centers are an important part of the U.S. government’s comprehensive response to the increased number of undocumented families arriving at our borders ... an effective and humane alternative for maintaining family unity....” ICE is now promising to allow mothers who have shown they have a credible fear of persecution if returned to their homeland to be released from detention. That can take months, and ICE hasn’t said it will lower or drop the bail requirement in the meantime. There is also no agreement that ICE will stop holding families where the parent has already been deported once before—even if they could qualify for asylum.
To this system, the human toll resulting from its destruction of the living conditions in countries it has dominated and brutally exploited throughout the world does not—and cannot—matter. The world today is witnessing millions and millions of people risking their lives, and losing their lives, in desperate attempts to escape what this capitalist-imperialist system has done to the countries of the Third World in its expand-or-die drive to exploit people worldwide. Their system has no answer to what it is doing to the people and the planet. The revolution does.
How will the kind of humanitarian crisis that began last June at the Texas border be handled after this system of capitalism-imperialism is finally defeated, dismantled, and replaced by the New Socialist Republic in North America—with a government truly dedicated to overcoming all of the inequalities, and all the other scars of this horrific system, with our sights set on the emancipation of humanity?
Confronted with tens of thousands of unaccompanied minors and an equal number of mothers with young children escaping the unlivable conditions that the former rulers of this imperialist monster had created and enforced on the “Northern Triangle” region of Central America—Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador—the new revolutionary state will immediately call on people broadly, all those in a position to help, to reach out and provide loving comfort, food, and shelter for them, while working as fast as possible to help them reconnect with their family members in this country. At the same time, as our internationalist responsibility, we will be contributing to transforming the conditions that imperialist domination had wrought on their countries, and the millions and millions of people still there.
Now compare that with the disgusting crimes the Obama administration has committed, representing the ruling class in this country, against the asylum seekers. If it doesn’t sicken you, and make you even more determined to put an end to this foul system as soon as possible, better check your pulse.
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
From a reader:
June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
My son was 21 when he got murdered in Baltimore County [in March 2014]. He just got out of the rehab for alcohol and was in his 8th day of extensive outpatient treatment for alcohol and depression when he got shot. His therapist called him Tuesday to see why he didn’t come in Monday or Tuesday. He told her he relapsed over the weekend and wanted to go to sleep and never wake up, he wanted to die. And then the phone went dead. She called 911 to report a suicidal man.
The police came out and ended up surrounding the house because he was seen out back with a rifle (collectors) then he put that in the house and came out with a knife. He walked down the middle of the road about 70 feet away and there were cops following him, too. He stopped and cut his arm and continued walking. They told him to drop it and he didn’t. They got into position at the corner and when he was approx. 8 feet away, they shot him. The first cop to shoot had a 12 gauge double ought buck and he shot him twice, one in each thigh. Then two more cops shot him with their .40 cal. six shots to the chest area and two in the back. He got shot 10x’s but he had over 13 holes because some exited his body. They kept shooting even as he was going down. They said he charged to make it justified but we had people who said he never raised the knife not one time and that the cops were lying. There were over 33 cops there and the house was red flagged because crisis was there for my son before when he reached out for help and some of the cops there knew him from before. They knew he was suicidal, they didn’t have to kill him. Now because of their report we are having a hard time in getting a lawyer.
If there is anything you can do or if there is something you can tell me, I would greatly appreciate it. We have a 150 page police report, autopsy and toxicology. They took our son so now we want justice. They robbed his life and he had the right to live and get help just like they have the right to go home unhurt after their shift.
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader
It was a horrific scene all-too-familiar in America.
1 a.m.—June 25, Owings Mills, Maryland. A 10-year-old child calls her grandmother amidst the screams of her mother, being beaten again by her father, Spencer Lee McCain. It has been reported that this was at least the 17th time her mother had been beaten.
This is scene that goes on all across the country as men trained to view women as no more than punching bags or their own personal property carry out brutality against wives or girl friends. This is totally unacceptable. And a sharp example of why a thorough, all-the-way revolution is urgently needed. (I urge everyone to check out and regularly keep up with the End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women section of revcom.us)
But things got even worse after her grandmother compounded the problem by calling the police. Baltimore County cops busted down the door and fired at least 19 shots, murdering McCain. The cops claim that they believed that McCain was armed because he was in a "defensive position." Yet they now admit that no weapon was found on the scene.
At a gathering the next evening, Tawanda Jones, whose brother Tyrone West was brutally killed by Baltimore City police in 2013, called it out. She said she didn’t care how many times the police say they had gone to that apartment before—who/what gives them the right to be "judge, jury and executioners"?
Spencer Lee McCain was Black. As a newly created Washington Post database of the over 400 people already killed by police in 2015 documents, when it came to those murdered by police who were unarmed, two-thirds were Black or Latino. And further, "About half of the time, police were responding to people seeking help with domestic disturbances and other complex social situations." (See "Police ARE Killing Black People at An Alarming Rate.")
What kind of system is it that responds to calls for help in family situations with guns blazing? The pattern just described points to one conclusion: The role of the police is NOT to serve and protect the people, but to enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression that the system has cast people in.
Revolution #393 June 29, 2015
by Li Onesto | June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
In 2011, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York filed a class-action lawsuit against New York City on behalf of prisoners at the city’s Rikers Island jail, alleging, “unnecessary and excessive force inflicted upon inmates.” The suit cited multiple incidents of officers brutally beating people and especially abusive treatment of the mentally ill at Rikers, which is the second-largest jail system in this country.
On Tuesday, June 23, it was announced that the city had come to an agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in this suit. The settlement includes the appointment of a federal monitor to oversee the jail complex, an “expansive policy” on the use of force by guards against inmates, and the installation of thousands of surveillance cameras.
First off, we have to ask, why should anyone think that such “reforms” are going to do anything to stop the horrific crimes being carried out against prisoners in Rikers?
This will be the sixth settlement with the Department of Correction (DOC) over these kinds of problems at Rikers since 1990. The previous five class-action lawsuits also came with promises of revised “use-of-force policies,” the installation of video cameras in certain areas and strengthening internal investigations. But the rampant abuse at Rikers has only continued, if not gotten worse.
And, looking at similar “reforms” to police departments around the country, we should point out that “federal oversight” hasn’t done anything to put a stop to the epidemic of police murder of Black and Latino people. There have been body cameras and videos of murder by police, like in the Eric Garner case, but cops still aren’t indicted and sent to prison. And “use of force guidelines” have not prevented cops from killing unarmed Black youth like Freddie Gray and 12-year-old Tamir Rice.
But more fundamentally, the systematic brutality and abuse going on at Rikers is what’s going on in prisons all over this country. It is part and parcel of mass incarceration in the USA, serving an essential function for this system of repression and control.
Rikers sits on an island in the East River, right next to Manhattan. It is a 10-jail facility that has an average of 14,000 inmates a night. Most people have not known about the horrors happening only miles from New York City’s skyscrapers. But in recent years, there have been searing exposures of the crimes being committed against prisoners by guards at Rikers. Articles in major media such as The New York Times, the Associated Press and The New Yorker have documented the systematic and widespread brutality, lack of medical care, deaths due to neglect, and torturous use of solitary confinement at Rikers. And the news has covered terrible deaths of prisoners due to beatings, medical neglect, and conditions that lead people to commit suicide.
In 2014, The New York Times reported that use of force by guards at Rikers had gone up nearly 90 percent over the previous five years, even as the jail’s population had declined. In the first six months of 2014, guards at Rikers used force on inmates 1,927 times—an increase of more than one-third compared with the same period last year (according to the Correction Department’s own data).
Rikers is supposed to be a place for people who are waiting for a trial (and still presumed innocent) and those who have been given less than a year’s sentence. But in reality, Rikers is a hellhole where thousands of people have ended up “waiting for their day in court” while being subjected to brutality and torture, and denied medical and mental health care.
There are 14,000 people imprisoned on Rikers Island. 85% of them have not had a trial or been convicted of a crime. 40% suffer from diagnosed mental illness. Hundreds of them are teenagers.
As of last March, it was reported that 400 people had been at Riker’s for at least two years without being convicted; half a dozen had been there for 6 years without being convicted of any crime. Some 1,400 people had been waiting at least a year to have their cases settled, some of them arrested for crimes that wouldn’t even have sentences for that long if they were found guilty. [The city now says it resolved 42% of these cases in the last two months.]
At Rikers, the standard “treatment” for prisoners with mental illness is brutal beatings, pepper spray, and solitary confinement.
Inmates with mental disorders make up nearly 40 percent of the 11,000 prisoners at Rikers and suffered more than three-quarters of the injuries. In 2014, The New York Times reported that its four month investigation of Rikers found that brutal attacks by Rikers guards—particularly on those with mental health issues—were common occurrences. Over one 11-month period in 2013, 129 prisoners suffered “serious injuries,” including fractures, wounds requiring stitches and head injuries, in altercations with the jail’s staff members. And 77 percent of those seriously injured had been diagnosed with a mental illness.
Health department staff members interviewed 80 of 129 prisoners after they were injured, and in 80 percent of the cases, the inmates reported being beaten after they were handcuffed. In five of the 129 cases, the beatings followed suicide attempts.
The crisis of the mentally ill on Rikers was highlighted in 2013 when a Black prisoner, Jerome Murdough, a former Marine, died of hyperthermia while on psychotropic drugs, locked inside a cell where the temperature was 101 degrees. Murdough had been homeless when he was arrested for trespassing.
In August of 2014, the U.S. attorney for Manhattan released a 79-page report on the “deep-seated culture of violence” at Rikers, resulting in a “staggering” number of injuries, where “adolescents are at a constant risk of physical harm.” The report also documented “excessive” use of solitary confinement of youth, especially youth with mental illness. The report said that on a single day (October 30, 2012) over 43 percent of the 705 adolescent males at Rikers had been subjected to violence by staff on at least one occasion during their time there.
And now we have the heartbreaking and infuriating story of Kalief Browder, who took his own life on June 6—-driven to do this by the years of torture and brutality he was subjected to during his three years at Rikers. He was only 16-years-old when he ended up at Rikers, accused of stealing a backpack ! He was held in solitary confinement for two years and repeatedly beaten by prison guards and other inmates. He refused to plead guilty, insisting on his innocence. Finally, the charges were dropped and Kalief was released, but he was unable to escape the damage of the years of years of torture and abuse.
At Rikers, almost half of all teenage inmates have been diagnosed with mental illnesses and nearly three-quarters of the youth in solitary confinement are mentally ill.
Rikers inmates in solitary confinement are seven times more likely to hurt or mutilate themselves than those in the general population, according to the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. The U.S. Department of Justice found in 2009 that half of juvenile suicides behind bars happened while young people were in solitary confinement.
Solitary confinement at Rikers is officially called “punitive segregation,” and officials say this is only for the most dangerous prisoners. But in fact, 16- and 17-year-olds can be sent to “the bing” for horseplay and “noisy behavior” or if they “annoy” staff members. Youth with “unauthorized amounts” of clothing or art supplies can go to solitary, too.
Only the U.S., Somalia and South Sudan have declined to ratify the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits juvenile solitary confinement as a matter of international law.
Rikers is now supposed to end solitary confinement for 18 to 21-year-old inmates by 2016, “provided that sufficient resources are made available to the Department for necessary staffing and implementation of necessary alternative programming.” And guards are not supposed to put 16 and 17-year-olds suffering from “serious mental illness,” in isolation. But as it now stands, the brutality of solitary confinement at Rikers, including for adolescents, continues. And prison guards can get around rules by using different names for what is in fact, solitary confinement—calling it instead, “punitive segregation,” “disciplinary segregation, “protective segregation”, or even “reflection time.” It’s like when the U.S. carries out torture and calls it “enhanced interrogation.”
The settlement includes new “reforms” that supposedly address the safety and supervision of teenage prisoners. But what’s really needed is a new rule saying that NO minors will be imprisoned at Rikers, period—let alone subjecting them to the torture of solitary confinement.
Prisoners at Rikers also die because they are denied medical care.
The Associated Press reported last year that over the last five years, poor medical care at Rikers had helped precipitate the death of at least 15 prisoners.
In 2014, Bradley Ballard, 39, a schizophrenic prisoner died after being left alone in his cell for seven days. He was denied some of his medications for diabetes and mental health issues and his toilet was clogged and overflowing. He was found naked, covered in feces, with his genitals swollen and badly infected. He was taken to the hospital, but died hours later.
Andy Henriquez was brought to Rikers when he was only 16. After three years, he was still waiting for trial and was put in solitary confinement. He had been complaining of chest pains for months, but none of the guards took him seriously. On April 7, 2013, he called out for help, but the guards did nothing. Other prisoners who shouted out in alarm were also ignored. Andy Henriquez died from a tear in his aorta.
The so-called “reforms” are in response to widespread exposure of the horrendous murder and torture of prisoners that is going on in Rikers. But whatever changes the City of New York now agrees to, and whatever “federal oversight” goes on, is NOT going to really address what fundamentally gives rise to all these crimes against prisoners that have been taking place at Rikers. This is not about expanding guidelines for use of force, “video cameras,” “accountability,” and “better training.” This is about a system that needs mass incarceration because there is a whole section in society, of millions and millions of Black and Latino people for whom it has no use and no future. This system needs to control and contain this volatile force in society and uses its police, its IN-justice court system, and its prisons to do this. And the crimes being carried out at Rikers are part of this.
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