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Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
by Sunsara Taylor | July 3, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The controversy began even before we set up. As we pulled on bloodstained pants to represent the countless women who have died for lack of legal abortions and unpacked our bright orange “Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!” signs, an older Black man began screaming that we were “murderers.” In moments we were thick into debate in front of a growing crowd, with people joining in on both sides. As the man condemned women for having sex if they don't want babies, I broke down the science behind the fact that fetuses are not babies, abortion is not murder and women are not incubators. I flipped the script on him by making clear that the real crime is forcing women to have children against their will, that is a form of enslavement.
We were at Union Square in New York City on July 1, as part of nationwide protests being held in Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Houston, Cleveland, Maui, and DC. The day had been chosen because it was when three fascist anti-abortion laws had been scheduled to go into effect – one which would close 10 more abortion clinics in Texas (in addition to more than 20 which have recently been closed), one which would have closed 2 of the 6 clinics in Tennessee, and one which would have criminalized the most common abortion procedure used after 12 weeks of pregnancy in Kansas. As it turned out, all of these laws were temporarily blocked by judges, but the protest was still essential because the emergency facing women's right to abortion is still extreme and intensifying.
As our argument escalated, a young South Asian couple agreed to hold pictures of women who died for lack of safe, legal abortions. A young Black man joined us in putting on a pair of bloodstained pants, taking a big stack of fliers, and handing them out to others who stopped. A young white couple did the same.
Soon, two young emcees called the rally to order. Huge enlargements of the faces of women who have died from illegal abortions were laid out, along with signs and banners reading “Abortion On Demand and Without Apology.” Volunteers were directed to put on the bloody pants and stand shoulder-to-shoulder holding smaller images of the women. The emcees read the stories of the women whose faces were being held, and laid out the emergency confronting abortion rights: six states have only one abortion clinic left; 330 laws have been introduced already this year to further restrict abortion, and more than 50 of those laws already have been passed; eight abortion doctors and workers have been murdered; dozens and dozens of clinics have been forced to close. They broke down how the fight over abortion has never been about babies, it has always been about controlling women. Denying abortion and birth control to women reduces them to breeders, forecloses women's lives and dreams, and turns what should be a beautiful thing – having a child when one truly wants one – into a dehumanizing nightmare.
Photos: Bud Korotzer
The crowd swelled. The number of people stepping forward to put on the bloody pants and join the protest/living installation also grew. Who were these people stepping forward?
One was a young man from the Dominican Republic who had just been walking through the park when he stopped to stare at the display. He told me the story of a dear friend back home who discovered a growth in her foot early in her first pregnancy. Because the Dominican Republic is so deeply opposed to abortion, doctors refused to even give her the necessary x-rays and other tests to find out what was wrong, claiming they might put the fetus at risk. When she was finally able to get the tests after giving birth, the doctors found that she had a very advanced cancer. It was too far along and she died, leaving behind a grieving family, friends, and a child with no mother. The young man teared up as he spoke. Without hesitation, he pulled on a pair of the bloody pants and went to represent for all the women like his friend.
Two were an older white couple who also had just been passing through. The woman said she remembered when abortion was illegal and asked how she could sign up. About ten minutes later, I noticed that both she and her husband were now standing in the line-up with posters and that he had decided to pull on a pair of the bloody pants.
Quite a few were LGBT who had heard about the protest at the Dyke March and Pride Parade over the weekend where Stop Patriarchy had organized a boisterous contingent. A Latina lesbian wore a home-made shirt that read, “I had two abortions and God was cool with it.” She wore the bloody pants and later, during the speak-out, stepped forward to share her story. “It's time to come out of all the closets,” she insisted, clarifying that she hadn't even realized she had been in the closet about her abortions, about how much shame is put on women, until recently.
A young Puerto Rican woman had met Stop Patriarchy about ten days before during the outreach of Take Patriarchy by Storm (a summer of bold pop-up protests, dramatic street theater, and mobilizing people to fight against patriarchy in all its forms). She had already started running with the group, coming out to hear my speech last week, joining the outreach up in Harlem, and then spending hours the day before helping spray-paint almost 100 pairs of bloody pants. She surprised everyone, including herself, by stepping to the microphone during the speak-out to tell the world that she had an abortion when she was 12 years old and she had no regrets. She just graduated high school and never would have been able to do that with a baby. She was shaking when she was done, but the crowd gave her enormous applause.
A white woman from Virginia had been in town and learned about this protest at the Dyke March. She slept in her car in order to stick around for it and was so happy that she had. After the protest we strategized about how to bring this fight back to where she is from. She was especially excited about the plans for a major student day against patriarchy in the fall and thought she could get some of her “hippie friends” to take part.
A young white trans woman silently held the main banner for hours. When we opened the mic up, she shared the story of a female friend whose abusive boyfriend pressured her to have the baby when she had initially wanted an abortion. The abuse stopped during the pregnancy, but resumed almost immediately after the baby was born. Now, with the baby, she was doubly trapped. Depressed, terrified, and seeing no way out, his friend killed herself.
A Black youth from the projects in Harlem who works with the Revolution Club at first felt awkward putting on the bloody pants and instead stood on the sidelines handing out fliers. He was talking to a group of young Black men when he noticed how many others were putting on the pants and decided, finally, to join in. Once he did, without being asked, first one and then another and then another of the young Black men he'd been talking with stepped forward to do the same.
A young Black woman had changed her plans to be at the protest and wore a look of defiance and intense seriousness throughout the time she stood wearing the bloody pants. She had gotten an abortion when she was a homeless teenager living in her car. She said she couldn't even imagine what her life would've been like if she'd been forced to have a child at that time.
Story after story, these experiences poured out. Some were shared on the mic, others in private. Many were matter-of-fact, no drama stories about needing an abortion and getting one without shame or regret. A shocking number were stories that concentrated the extreme oppression this country is built on and enforces, against women in so many different ways as well as against Black people, immigrants, and against those for whom survival is an everyday struggle, like the stories that included domestic abuse, intense poverty, and mountains of religious shame.
Probably the biggest reaction by those who saw the protest and even among those who joined in was complete surprise at how serious the attacks on abortion are. People just don't know how difficult it is for women in so much of this country to get an abortion, they don't know that laws are being passed constantly to make this even harder and they don't recognize how much shame is put on women. Some folks cursed at us, called us murderers, or pointedly refused to take the fliers. But throughout the protest, hundreds stopped and listened. The majority voiced their support in some way. Some were less clear about abortion, but many of these folks stayed and heard the stories and speeches. There was a tremendous amount of learning going on and a lot of thinking being changed in very important ways.
The other big change going on was that the broad sentiment of support for women's reproductive freedom and against all forms of women's enslavement was being drawn to the surface and given organized expression right on the spot. The power of the truth being spoken and the visual manifestation of people fighting this oppression forced people to take notice. It provoked them to listen and to consider things anew. It also inspired them and modeled something different and very attractive. Also very key: there was a meaningful way for people to step forward right on the spot and be part of this force. There were 100 pairs of bloody pants to put on, signs to take up, and stacks of fliers to pass out. There was a mic open to share their stories. And there was a whole core of people with Stop Patriarchy and the Revolution Club who had a plan and were oriented towards involving and organizing people into this movement on the spot. This was extremely important.
Sunsara Taylor. Photo: revcom.us
During my speech, I tore into the lie that we live in a country of “freedom,” including for women. Pervasive violence and degradation confronts women in every aspect of their lives and no one should put up with it. I connected the fight for women's liberation to the fight to end all oppression – police murder, environmental destruction, wars for empire, and more – and to the need for an actual revolution. I called on people to get into this revolution and into the leadership of Bob Avakian who has insisted for decades that, “You cannot break all the chains except one,” that the fight for women's liberation is indispensable to the fight to end all oppression. And I called on people to join in with the movement to end patriarchy right now and all summer, to strengthen the organized force of people standing up to turn the tide in the war on women now.
Left: Fran Luck, host of Joy of Resistance MultiCultural Feminist Radio. Right: Nellie Bailey, of the Harlem Tenants Council. Below left: Carl Dix, of the Revolutionary Communist Party. Photos: revcom.us; Photo below right: Special to revcom.us
Fran Luck, host of Joy of Resistance MultiCultural Feminist Radio, gave deep appreciation to Stop Patriarchy during her speech and then highlighted the case of Purvi Patel, a woman who is now serving a 20-year prison sentence in Indiana for the “crime” of allegedly inducing her own abortion. Nellie Bailey, of the Harlem Tenants Council, connected the fight for abortion rights up with the fight against police murder. She took on in particular the poisonous anti-abortion billboards that had spread the lie that, “The most dangerous place for a black baby is in his mother's womb,” counter-posing that in reality the most dangerous place for a Black child was in the “womb of America” where they constantly get gunned down by police. Carl Dix, of the Revolutionary Communist Party, also spoke, emphasizing that the fight for women's liberation is everyone's fight, bringing alive the need to get organized for revolution, and urging everyone to join in the major mobilizations planned for the fall against police terror.
At the end, we called on everyone who had gathered to listen to step forward and join those wearing the bloody pants on the steps. Organizers announced upcoming plans to be out all summer, shaking things up and challenging women's oppression throughout the city and across the country. They invited people to join them in Mississippi during the first week of August where only one abortion clinic remains in the entire state. Then, together, we lifted up the huge enlargements of the faces of women who had died from illegal abortions and threw our fists in the air. In unison we pledged to build this fight going forward, to never be silent, to refuse to put up with any form of women's enslavement--and we called on everyone to sign up to stay connected to StopPatriarchy.org.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
July 1 Protests Around the Country:
Updated July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
New York, Union Square, July 1. Photo: special to revcom.us
On July 1, around the country, people—women and men—took defiant and dramatic actions to oppose attacks on the right to abortion. At Union Square in NYC, dozens of people donned blood-stained white pants and carried signs of women who died because abortion was illegal or unobtainable. They told their stories. They challenged the crowd—shaking people up and signing up new activists in Stop Patriarchy. Other actions took place in Cleveland—including at St. John's Cathedral; the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, and elsewhere.
From a member of the Revolution Club:
Gerri Santoro. Rosie Jimenez. Pauline Shirley. Clara Duvall. Becky Bell. Savita Halapanavar... These are the names of REAL WOMEN, real human beings whose faces folks in New York City and across the country held on July 1 as a part of #RaiseHell J1, a day of mass political resistance to the onslaught of attacks on abortion rights! Folks lined the steps of Union Square, men, women, transpeople, wearing faux-bloody pants, and held high the coat-hangers, to represent the thousands of women who died when abortion was illegal, and what it means when abortion is illegal: women die, or their lives are foreclosed!
Why July 1? Many people who stood with us had no idea how grave the abortion rights emergency has become in the United States. Many people were shocked to hear that 6 states have only 1 abortion clinic left, 332 abortion restrictions have been proposed already this year, 50 of those bills have been codified into law. Many people did not know about these fascist women-hating laws in Kansas and Tennessee that were scheduled to go into effect on July 1. (These laws were temporarily blocked by judges, but they have not yet been thrown out and resistance is still urgently needed!)
People, especially young people, could have seen this display and could have simply taken from it that the attacks on abortion, the days of the coat-hanger, were a thing of the past. BUT Stop Patriarchy made the connection over and over again throughout the protest and program, repeated by many of the speakers in different ways, that these bloody pants are a representation of the FUTURE being laid out for women in this country. BUT things don’t have to be this way AND we shouldn’t idly stand by and watch as these laws slam women back into the dark ages, relegated to the home, but that we should REFUSE to accept this future and FIGHT BACK against these morally bankrupt laws (and the ideology fueling these laws).
As women’s stories rung out, Gerri’s and Rosie’s and Pauline's and all of the rest. As people chanted with us “Fetuses are NOT babies. Abortion is NOT Murder. Women are NOT incubators,” more and more people were transformed from being folks who idly stood by, and into freedom fighters—folks listening and absorbing soon rushed to the steps and asked for a pair of pants. I recall watching a young man stand for a long period of time with a look of rage and determination—bestowed upon him a great, and amazing responsibility—to fight for the lives of women. Men wearing bloody pants who traversed the crowd, handing out flyers, passing the bucket to collect funds, inspired other men to join in this bold, uncompromising resistance. This was a sliver of a culture of resistance we need to be sparked, and today we saw the seeds of a movement that will not stop until women are treated as full human beings burst through the pavement of silence.
From a reader:
Seattle, July 1. Photos: Eino Sierpe
We RAISED HELLA HELL in Seattle on J1! About a dozen of us took the street during rush hour traffic and caught most people around the main shopping area completely by surprise, startled to see this group of women in white “bloody” pants and holding signs about abortion rights, and signs of women that have died when abortion is illegal. Everyone seemed to understand right away that we were pro-abortion rights, but many were confused about why we would be blocking traffic. “Wait, you have abortion rights already!” This just makes clear the urgency of protest, resistance, and changing this patriarchal culture in all cities across this country, including sounding the alarm about how serious the assault on abortion rights has become, and how much inequality and oppression still exists for women. The longer we stood firm, the more that some people seemed won over and woken up to the abortion rights emergency. At one point one of us did a mic check to tell the stories of the women that died from illegal abortion, or lack of abortion access. She ended the stories with the story of Purvi Patel, who is serving 20 years in Indiana for what was a stillbirth...and that happened within this year! You could tell that the stories had an impact on people, and it's clear that it would make a difference if many more people heard these stories!
The scene was chaotic, and part of the chaos was the police, who used their loudspeaker system on their SUV to tell us repeatedly to disperse, and then bike cops had us surrounded on both sides. We continued to stand firm, for the women who died and never had a chance to speak out, and for the hearts and minds of the hundreds of people lining the sidewalk watching what was happening with the scene we created. Seven of us were eventually arrested, and went proudly to jail, knowing that what we had done was righteous and just, and up in the face of a juggernaut of laws and restrictions that will kill women, and foreclose women's lives.
On July 1st, 40 or more protesters in Los Angeles answered the call from StopPatriarchy.org to “Take Patriarchy By Storm” by protesting and rallying in front the “Avenues Pregnancy Clinic”—a right-wing religious anti-abortion center posing as a women's health clinic, located across the street from Los Angeles City College. For two hours the demonstrators—organized by Stop Patriarchy and joined by the Los Angeles Revolution Club and the Feminist Majority Foundation, and largely made up of students from several L.A. campuses—held a spirited, determined, and raucous protest, calling on people to defend a woman’s right to abortion, and sounding the alarm at the emergency situation faced by women all over the country as laws passed by a growing number of state governments are effectively closing off a woman’s right to abortion.
This fake clinic did not open the day of the protest; but they sent several young people to hold signs and pass out a flyer attacking Stop Patriarchy. They also sent an organizer from “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust” who tried to bring a slick version of their message to passersby; and then called on the police to arrest the demonstrators. But the size and spirit of this demonstration had the day; bringing their message out to people on the street and to the drivers on busy Vermont Avenue with banners and signs, chants and a rally, a march that took over part of Vermont for several blocks, and a die-in that shut down the busy intersection at Santa Monica Blvd!
The demonstrators chanted “Pro-life, your name’s a lie; you don’t care if women die,” and “Without the right to choose, women can’t be free; abortion on demand and without apology.” “Abortion on Demand and Without Apology” was also the slogan on the main banner, along with another banner that read: “Women Are Not Bitches, Ho’s, Incubators, Punching Bags, Sex Objects, or Breeders! Women Are Full Human Beings!” There were many placards with the faces of women who lost their lives trying to terminate a pregnancy when abortion was illegal. There was also a poster with the picture of Dr. George Tiller, one of the few doctors who provided 3rd trimester abortions, who was assassinated by a Christian fascist while in church. Stop Patriarchy organized a number of women to dress in white with bloodstains down between their legs, and carrying coat hangers, symbolizing the awful reality that “when abortion is outlawed, women die.”
From the bullhorn the organizers exposed the nationwide emergency in the rapid disappearance of abortion clinics; and the importance of Stop Patriarchy’s summer campaign to “Take Patriarchy by Storm.” They did “mic checks” with everyone taking part, and at one point the speaker read aloud the text of the powerful centerfold from Revolution newspaper that explains the science behind what abortion actually is, and why it is not murder.
During the open mike Carol Downer spoke to the protesters. An immigration lawyer, author, activist, and founder and member of the Board of Directors of the Feminist Women’s Health Centers of California, she has been an activist in the fight for women’s access to abortion for over 40 years. When the reactionaries found out that Carol was there they were heard saying “that's her, that's her, that's the abortionist!” When Carol finished speaking the demonstrators chanted: “Abortion providers are heroes!”
This right-wing religious anti-abortion center posing as a women's health clinic did not open the day of the protest; but they sent several young people to hold signs and pass out a flyer attacking Stop Patriarchy.
Nancy Aragon, West Coast National Campus Organizer for Feminist Majority Foundation (FMF) also spoke. She had been instrumental in mobilizing students from the FMF groups on several campuses to take part. FMF has launched a nationwide campaign to organize student groups on the campuses to “adopt a clinic”—to defend abortion clinics that are under attack by anti-abortion reactionaries. And they are also organizing campus chapters to locate and protest these kinds of fake clinics that are targeting and preying on the masses of women.
She told Revolution that she was there “because we are sick and tired of federally funded locations that serve as fake clinics that are threatening lives, and we want to spread awareness and support all these grass roots organizations doing this work.” She said there are over 100 such fake clinics in Los Angeles alone, and they receive federal funds to carry out their Christian-fascist anti-abortion crusade. They specifically target communities that have college students, and also women of color and low income communities, where women are vulnerable, and don’t know they have choices.
At one point the demonstration boldly took over one lane of Vermont Blvd., and marched several blocks up the street. Many drivers honked their horns in support. At the intersection with Santa Monica Blvd. five protesters fell to the street in a die-in, each one holding over them a placard with the picture of a woman who had died as a result of an unsafe abortion. For about ten minutes the intersection was shut down. Some of the drivers were furious; but several women drivers who’d had to wait, when they were finally able to pass, gave visible signs of support and smiled!
The whole demonstration posed for photos at the end, and cheered! It was that kind of day; something very new, inspired, and determined had just come together. There was a collective enthusiasm at what had been accomplished, and a sense that much more was possible. And nearly everyone left with a copy of the sampler edition of “Break ALL the Chains!: Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution.”
Afterwards, many of the demonstrators headed to Revolution Books, just a short distance by train. When they got on the train they chanted, passed out literature, and continued the demonstration! They then marched the three blocks from the train to the bookstore. The Stop Patriarchy organizers gave a talk for those who were brand new to the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy about these demands, and the upcoming plans for the summer, including going to Mississippi in August. Those able to stay watched the “What Ifs” segment of the Dialogue between BA and Cornel West, and talked about BA's new synthesis and the possibilities for revolution.
It was a great day in Cleveland! We took this patriarchal shit head on! With just a couple days notice, about 10 of us responded to the call from Stop Patriarchy to PROTEST and challenge others: Will you stand up against the massive assaults on abortion rights in Texas, Kansas, Tennessee, and nationwide? Even with relatively small numbers, we REALLY stood up!
We started at St. John's Cathedral downtown at noon. This is the main Catholic Diocese in Cleveland, and we've protested there before, to take on their doctrine against abortion, birth control, and many of the other horrors they uphold for women.
We created a dramatic scene, with some of us wearing bloody white pants, Abortion on Demand and Without Apology signs, large posters of women who have died when abortion was illegal, and more. Hundreds of people on foot and in cars were confronted by our bold signs, our stickers, our words and chants, and our fliers.
Early on in the protest, a few us decided to go right into the noon mass in the Church! Even though we only got to the back pews, the whole congregation turned around, hearing our chants echoing through the Cathedral and seeing our bloody pants. "When abortion is illegal, women die!" "Not the Church, not the State, Women will decide their Fate!" Pretty quickly, we were pushed out of the church (including by at least one cop), but the point had been made! Meanwhile outside, there were lots of discussions, debates, and support.
There was lots of support among women, both in response to abortion rights, but also to the stickers and signs we had of "women are not bitches, 'hos, incubators, punching bags, sex objects, or breeders! Women are full human beings!" One older man talked about when his girlfriend was young, his mother had to drive her to New York to get an abortion, and couldn't tell the young woman's father about it. Hundreds of fliers got out and 6 people signed up for e-subs to Revolution newspaper.
Some of the younger white women really tried to avoid the whole thing, and we know that some sections of people have a better understanding of why abortion rights matter so much than other sections of people...but MOST people don't know the depth and scope of the national assaults on abortion rights. Some people initially walked by, but then when they heard the agitation from a woman in Stop Patriarchy, came back in support! There was also lots of deep antagonism. One guy said "I will kill you." Another guy agitated at us for about a half hour, saying nonsense like, "You just gotta keep your legs closed" and "Procreation, not recreation."
With all of this, there was a real ripple effect, of the bloody pants, the signs, the arguments, and It was almost like a living theater piece, including lots of chaos. It was the kind of scene that needs to happen much more!!
Then it was time to march and our next stop was just a couple blocks away. There is an "Abortion Alternative" center, or "crisis pregnancy center" inside a huge bank building downtown. So we marched there, and all of a sudden, 4 cop cars pulled up and viciously went after the young woman from Stop Patriarchy!
The main cop had been in the church when the woman from Stop Patriarchy went in, and it seems he was still pissed! He kept threatening her and threatening all the protesters who actively surrounded the cop to prevent him from harming or arresting her. This happened right in front of the big bank building where the "Abortion Alternatives" office is. So as soon as the cops finally left us alone, we had a die-in right in front of the bank building with the woman from Stop Patriarchy on the bullhorn, telling people about this phony abortion counselling center. In the midst of this, a young couple from Minneapolis came right up, took stickers, and offered their support. Other people at the various outdoor eateries downtown had also come up to us during the course of the protest to show their support. And one middle aged white man who works in the bank building came out to stand with us!
Some of us are getting together tomorrow to make plans for weekly protests in Cleveland as part of Taking Patriarchy by Storm! TBA soon, so check back for info, and join us in the streets!
Archdiocese of San Francisco, July 1. (Photo: StopPatriarchy)
On July 1, a group gathered at the office of the Archdiocese in San Francisco. This is the home office of Archbishop Cordileone, who has spent the last two decades working to fundraise, legislate, and indoctrinate against women's right to abortion, and the right to same sex marriage. Most recently, Cordileone has required that all teachers at Catholic schools in San Francisco sign a "Morals Clause" that denounces a whole list of activities -- including birth control, abortion, pre-marital sex, and homosexuality -- as "grave evils."
We stood at the front of the office of the Archdiocese with the faces of women who died from illegal abortions before 1973 and loudly read out the stories of their unnecessary deaths. Several people participated in this reading, and condemned the Archdiocese saying "Their blood is on your hands!" and "THIS is the project you are working on!" Then protestors took bloody coathangers and a banner reading "Forced Motherhood is Female Enslavement" and marched through the intersection at Geary and Gough, to the honks of many supportive cars, as we chanted "Break ALL the chains!" and "Abortion on demand and without apology!" In front of St Mary's Cathedral (just across the street), where Cordileone was installed as Archbishop, protesters chanted, "This church hates women!"
When we returned to the office, people were riled up, and we had a short speak out. Women told stories of unnecessary hardship caused by the "cult of motherhood" and male entitlement, some of the trappings of patriarchy. One woman declared that she didn't tell anyone she had an abortion for 20 years, she was so convinced it was a shameful act, and that she carried that shame with her for those decades. On this day she said, "That [abortion] was the right thing to do!" and stood by her choice, as others stood with her, in the face of this institution that promotes all that shame.
After the speak out, we planted gravestones for those who died from illegal abortions, and declared the office of the Archdiocese a graveyard for women.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
July 1, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On the evening of June 30, at the Unitarian Church of All Souls in New York City, 150 people came together with Carl Dix and Cornel West, with family members of people murdered by police, with student and religious activists, and with each other, to launch #RiseUpOctober: Stopping Police Terror: Which Side Are You On?
In a climate charged with the spirit of the uprising against police murder in Ferguson, Missouri, outrage over the murder of Eric Garner in New York City, in the wake of the rebellion that erupted after the murder of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, and now pain and anger at the massacre in Charleston—there was a mood of determination to STOP police terror.
The meeting was greeted by Mario Hardy of All Souls Unitarian Church. It was MC’d by long time fighter against police brutality, Sister Shirley.
Carl Dix opened things up with a vision and plan for three days of action—October 22, 23, and coming together for a massive march in NYC on October 24:
“We have to mobilize a huge march in the streets of New York in October. We have to do this because Black people continue to be targeted by racist killers in and out of uniform and this must STOP. Charleston—nine people massacred in a church during a Bible study session by a killer who spouted white supremacist lies as he murdered them. And because the whole system works to exonerate killer cops when they murder Black and Latino people and that must also stop.
“Now when that massacre went down in Charleston, that killer was no crazy lone wolf. The rage that drove him was nurtured by the white supremacy that has coursed through the veins of America since the first Africans were dragged to these shores in slave chains. The same white supremacy nurtures the climate in which cops feel justified in exchanging racist messages on social media and then going out to brutalize and murder Black and Latino people. Charleston concentrates the slow genocide targeting Black people in this country.
“This talk about forgiving and coming together is aimed at helping the system keep things under control. The New York Times explained why they moved on removing the Confederate flag when they said: ‘...if nothing happened, boycotts and other ugliness’ could follow.’ By ugliness they meant people taking their rage to the streets, which is ugly to the rulers of this country, but beautiful to those of us who want to STOP racist attacks! Reconciling with this falls into a ruling class trap that aims to smother our righteous rage. You can't end oppression by forgiving and reconciling with your oppressors. The system tells us it's wrong to hate. No, it's right to hate oppression. It's right to be enraged by racist attacks. We should hate them so much that our rage moves us to act to STOP them. You can't start healing until you diagnose the disease and root it out. The disease is white supremacy rooted in capitalism/imperialism, and it is not time to come together and heal with people who continue to preside over white supremacist attacks on Black and Latino people.
“We have to draw a huge dividing line in society over these outrages and challenge people with the question: Which side are you on? There is no room for neutrality here. There is no middle ground. You are either standing with the people who are acting to STOP these attacks or you are OK with racists in and out of uniform murdering Black people. We have to turn society upside down over this by mobilizing a huge march in New York City to STOP police terror.
“I know people have marched and done vigils around Charleston and before that around the intensified wave of police murders. That's good and needs to continue. It's good that people have acted around the Confederate flag. And there's a national march called for Charleston on July 4th, where we have to make sure that the Call for October 24 resonates there.
“But we have to take things much higher! The cops aren't holding back. In LA and Baltimore and around the country, cops shot unarmed Black men in the days after Charleston. Police in Oklahoma shot a Black man and when he said, "I can't breathe," they replied, 'F... your breath!' We have to go beyond responding every time racists in or out of uniform target Black people. We have to take our resistance higher. We have to go on a mission to bring thousands and thousands of people into the streets of New York City on October 22-24.
“This will be three days of determined resistance. Powerful demonstrations in cities across the country on October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. The many lives stolen by killer cops and the system that backs them up will be featured in these outpourings, bringing to life the devastation murder by police inflicts on so many people. This will be followed by a non-violent direct action in New York City that involves well-known people and targets an institution that concentrates the slow genocide of police terror and mass incarceration. And on October 24, thousands and thousands of peole will descend on New York City to deliver a message that police terror must STOP, shutting it down by the sheer weight of our numbers.
Cornel West saluted the new generation: “The Ice Age is beginning to melt. Folks been scared, intimidated, and afraid, either bought off or co-opted. It’s a new day now. And it’s especially the younger generation that has broken the back of fear.“
Before surveying important events in the coming months and the distinct role of October 24th, Cornel West spoke to his perspective on Charleston:
Cornel West. Photo: Special to revcom.us.
“See what happened the other day in Charleston—when I look at Charleston I see Denmark Vesey. Mother Emanuel—he was the founder of that church. I look on the vanilla side of that town and who do I see? Angelina Grimké. You all know Angelina Grimké, right? One of the great freedom fighters, whose father was a slave holder. Her sister Sarah—they had to leave South Carolina—and she married a brother named Theodore Weld, and they wrote a classic in 1838 called Slavery As It Is that laid out slavery not as some form of subordination in the abstract. They described the labor as a species of torture. They described it as legalized terrorism. That’s what it is!
“Don’t let American corporate media tell you that some talk about terrorism began in 2001. No it started in 1492 against indigenous people. In 1619 against Black people! America always got a history of legalized terrorism and torture. That’s what Angelina was laying bare. Angelina came from the ruling class. She committed class suicide because she fell in love with everyday people. And she fell in love with a hated people—Black people. That’s one of the great contributions that we Black people have made to the world. Being so intensely hated, and yet teach the world so much about love.
“And it is true, my brother, about forgiveness. Premature forgiveness is twisted effort at sympathy. It is a pathological form of empathy. But what it also does—and this is where I think we might disagree, we don’t have time for another seminar at the moment—I start with John Coltrane Love Supreme. I’m a Jesus-loving free Black man, so I got Black church in me. But the Love Supreme simply says, when you are hated so, you say what Emmett Till’s mother said in Chicago, in August 1955. Her baby was in the coffin. They said, 'What you gonna say Mama Till?' She said, 'I don’t have a minute to hate. I will pursue justice for the rest of my life.' So you keep the love, but you got to have fighting. The problem of Charleston was, when someone takes your grandfather, and the next day you forgive them, it can’t be real forgiveness. It can’t be genuine. It can’t be authentic. You got to work it through. You got to work it out. Mourn and grieve but at the same time, emerge as a fighter! Emerge swinging. But you got to have love at the center of the swinging. That’s the key.”
After Carl Dix and Cornel West spoke, family members of victims of police murder spoke—Nicholas Heyward Sr., father of Nicholas Heyward Jr. killed by the NYPD in 1994; Juanita Young, mother of Malcolm Ferguson, killed by the NYPD in 2000; and Joshua Lopez, nephew of John Collado, killed by police in 2011. Other endorsers of October 24 who spoke included Nkosi Anderson from Union Theological Seminary; long-time activist Nellie Bailey; Mo Tyler from Students Against Police Brutality.
People spoke, and came to the meeting from many perspectives, but all with passion, determination and urgency to STOP police terror—passion and energy that got translated on the spot into organizing teams to plan outreach, operations (fundraising and setting up an organizing office), and organizing a stolen lives tribunal on July 11.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Acting on the urgent need to STOP police killing of unarmed people, 150 people met June 30 to plan #RiseUpOctober as a major manifestation brought by a new, wide coalition against police terror this fall in New York City. Leading up to three days of action over October 22-24, work over the next months will draw a huge dividing line in society over these outrages and challenge people with the question: Which side are you on?
The Call Rise Up October 24 to STOP Police Terror—signed by families of people killed by police, people from the arts, the faith community and activist movements—is for actions which are “resistance-based, uncompromising in spirit and, at the same time, pluralistic and diverse, involving thousands and thousands of people, reaching into every corner of this society and powerfully impacting the whole world.”
Talks by Stop Mass Incarceration Network co-initiators Carl Dix, of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and Dr. Cornel West, writer and teacher at Union Theological Seminary, made a powerful case for why this societal dividing line must be drawn. Carl gave shape to the three days of actions in October: 1) powerful protests on Thursday, October 22, the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation, which focus on those lives stolen by brutal, murdering cops; 2) a major non-violent direct action in New York City on Friday, October 23; and 3) a massive gathering in NYC on Saturday October 24, with thousands and thousands of people descending on the city and joining with thousands and thousands of people from NYC “shutting it down by the sheer weight of our numbers.”
Cornel spoke to why people from different backgrounds and different political and religious perspectives must come together to act to stop the horrors being inflicted on Black people by police and by white supremacists who aren’t in uniform.
New York City Meeting Launches #RiseUpOctober, with A Vision and Plan for October 22, 23, and 24.
Initiators of the Call for October also spoke to why they are a part of mobilizing for this effort (see videos at right). Nicholas Heyward, Sr., Juanita Young and Joshua Lopez, all of whom lost family members murdered by NYPD, spoke about why a strong, national, united response against police murder is so urgent. Nellie Bailey, tenant organizer and radio host at WBAI and WHCR, spoke on why the system won’t solve this problem without mass resistance. Nkosi Anderson, a graduate student at Union Theological Seminary, drew on the writing of W.E.B. DuBois in calling for people of conscience, including religious leaders, to step up in this fight. Mojique Tyler of Students Against Police Brutality spoke about what’s new on the scene: a movement involving many, many young people in acting to stop these outrages.
Almost $1,000 was raised to seed the coalition effort. People quickly broke into teams to work on outreach, operations, and the July 11 People’s Tribunal on Police Brutality.
Plans made at the meeting to involve hundreds of thousands of people include:
We urge all interested, at whatever level of experience, commitment or skill, to volunteer on #RiseUpOctober. Contact email@example.com or call 646.709.1961.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
by Orpheus Reed | July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
For many years, scientists and environmental groups have studied and tracked the decline of populations of wild species, as well as documenting the actual elimination, or extinction of species.
This decline has increased dramatically over the last hundred years or so. It is seen across many kinds of species we may know—elephants, lions, apes, tigers, many species of amphibians, birds, many types of fish, polar bears, etc. It’s also happening with many other kinds of species we don’t see or know—including invertebrates, plants, even microorganisms. The decline of populations of organisms in a species is very much tied to making that species vulnerable to going out of existence in the wild. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) for example has assessed 77,340 species worldwide and says 22,784—more than one-quarter—are threatened with extinction.
Extinction is known from the fossil record. It’s estimated that more than 90 percent of all species that have ever existed on the planet are now extinct. So extinction over really long periods of time is normal and happens constantly throughout the Earth’s history. Extinction in more modern times is known from the written records of human history—particularly over the last 500 years or so.
Among scientists, there has been debate and now a growing agreement that today, the Earth is experiencing an increase in species extinction far above normal, or “background,” rates of extinction. Now, vast declines of populations of organisms, and even in some cases their actual extinction, is being observed more or less in front of our eyes, in other words, taking place over decades, and in some cases even shorter periods. The Caribbean monk seal, the passenger pigeon, the Tasmanian tiger—are just some of hundreds of species driven to extinction over the last hundred years or so.
Many scientists have warned that this current level of extinction is a crisis, and that we are approaching, or already in, the “sixth mass extinction” in Earth’s history.
A mass extinction is one that causes a big increase in the death of species of various types (what biologists call higher “taxa”—or biological units higher than the species unit) over more than one geographical area during a relatively short period of “geologic time.” A short period of geologic time means not years or even hundreds of years, but short compared to the 4.6 billion year history of the Earth.
The previous five mass extinctions have been caused by natural phenomena, such as the asteroid strike now thought to have triggered the extinction of dinosaurs and much other life 65 million years ago. This was the last mass extinction event. The previous mass extinctions killed off huge percentages of life, ranging from maybe a quarter of all life to as high as 90 percent in the Permian extinction. (See National Geographic’s “Mass Extinctions: What Causes Animal Die-Offs?”) The current sixth mass extinction event is not due to natural causes—it is being caused by human activity. As such, it is not necessary, and it could be stopped. It is also not the result of “human nature.” It is primarily driven today by the way human society is organized under capitalism, and the corresponding social relations, ideology, and culture of this system. The predations of modern capitalism and its relentless hunt for profitability through vicious competition and endless wasteful economic “growth,” its fostering of consumerism, its ethic of “getting ahead” and the truly miserable dog-eat-dog conditions of survival for vast sections of humanity capitalism-imperialism creates are killing off life and threatening extinctions at an extremely rapid rate.
A new study published this June in Science Advances, “Accelerated modern human-induced species losses: Entering the sixth mass extinction,” provides further evidence that we have likely entered a period of a sixth mass extinction caused by human destruction. This is a very big deal with huge ramifications for the continued existence of the vast diversity and beauty of the natural world, and for humanity’s continued survival.
Ecosystems are complex webs of interacting, interrelating, and interdependent life. Extinction of species, and destruction of habitat, along with many other forms of environmental destruction, can cause ecosystems to unravel in unpredictable ways as species that rely on each other are degraded or eliminated. And this can snowball. Adding up a series of ecosystem collapses globally can cause the world ecosystem to unravel or collapse. This is what is already beginning to occur and it’s accelerating. (See “Signs of an Accelerating, Out-of-Control Environmental Emergency,” at right.)
In comments to the press, the authors of the study very importantly made the point that the existence of diverse species and ecosystems and the “ecosystem services” they provide to humanity, (providing of food and clean water, nutrient cycling and crop pollination, control of climate and disease, and social appreciation of their beauty and diversity, etc.), are all threatened by the sixth extinction. Lead author Gerardo Ceballos warned humanity’s existence is at stake, saying, “If it is allowed to continue, life would take millions of years to recover, and our species itself would disappear early on.”
As we pointed out in the special issue of Revolution on the environment, the environmental emergency has many interacting dimensions. When the destruction is traced to its cause, what jumps out is the workings of a whole capitalist system driven by laws of competition and profit-making. How so?
The leading causes of species extinction today are destruction of natural habitat, introduction of invasive species, overharvesting of species, and climate change.
We can’t go into the immense and awful picture of this in great detail, but to touch briefly on some important examples:
The oceans are being acidified and warmed from climate change caused by the fossil fuel energy foundation of capitalism. Coral reefs that are home to amazing swaths of marine life are being degraded and in some cases destroyed. The future existence of these reefs is in question. Huge populations of fish life are unsustainably overharvested, scooped up by giant trawling nets. This method is horribly destructive, but it’s quick and highly profitable. Big fishing interests are competing over who will grab up these “resources” first and in largest amounts. Huge quantities of fish as well as marine mammals and animals like sea turtles are killed and discarded as “bycatch.”
There are rules and regulations supposedly established to protect marine mammals in the oceans. But all the capitalist powers and corporations are continually driven to undermine these rules. Seismic blasting and ship traffic can devastate whales’ communication, cause them to go deaf, and disrupt their migration patterns. Oil spills wipe out marine life. But all these big interests are driven to find and exploit new sources of fossil fuels— a source of tremendous profitability, domination of economic life, and strategic power. So rules protecting marine life are continually pushed aside.
Migrations and disruptions of marine life are already underway as a result of climate change, warming oceans, and other factors. The same is occurring on land as well. It is as if our planet and its vast array of life is being grabbed like a snow globe and viciously shaken in a deadly experiment; no one knows how it will exactly play out.
A key form of habitat destruction is deforestation. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) estimates that 46,000 to 58,000 square miles of forest are lost each year. Deforestation happens through fires, clear-cutting for agriculture, timber production, expansion of ranching, and development, and increasingly, degradation of forests through climate change. The current drought in California—at least partially a result of, or at least made worse by, climate change—has caused an estimated 12 million trees to die.
In the Amazon, forests are mowed down for cattle ranches, growing soybeans, and other development. Some species are already gone. A 2012 study said that five times more species than those already eliminated will inevitably go extinct because so much habitat has already been wiped out or degraded. The Amazon rainforest has historically contained some of the richest diversity on the planet. Now, various kinds of monkeys, birds, otters, and other species have been forced into smaller and smaller patches of land while trees and plants are also uprooted. This rainforest of immense beauty and a key source of regulation of climate, continues to be maddeningly, sickeningly cut down for profit. This is driven by the intensive competition among all the big powers and companies to turn nature into commodities before the others can. The vast ecological destruction this causes, the end of species, is just an externality to the cost/benefit analysis of capitalism.
In recent years the rate of destruction in the Amazon has gone down, but it still continues and could ramp up again. Faced with financial problems, there has been talk by the Brazilian government of a “rapid development program” that would construct 20 new hydroelectric power plants.
In Indonesia, some of the world’s greatest forests have been eliminated by burning off and clearing land for palm oil production and illegal logging. Endangered species like forest elephants, rare tigers and rhinoceros are being driven to extinction. This destruction, and that in the Amazon, Africa, Asia and elsewhere— is tied up with the interests of large capitalist agribusinesses, timber and mining companies, etc. In many cases it is financed and guided by international imperialist financial institutions, banks, and governments. In the case of Indonesia, U.S. backing of brutal military dictatorships has fostered indescribable horrors for the people and nature. (See “The Plunder of Rainforests of Indonesia and Malaysia”)
The destruction of forest habitat is also a genocidal attack on indigenous peoples and cultures. In March 2014, the Palangka Raya Declaration from forest communities in Kalimantan, Indonesia, said international negotiations on stopping deforestation were failing. Their declaration says: “The situation facing us and the planet is dire. The global deforestation crisis continues and recent scientific reviews show that forest loss is even accelerating, especially in tropical forest countries. This destruction does not just imperil the planet through climate change, loss of biodiversity and loss of ecosystem functions, it undermines our daily lives, our cultures, our own livelihoods and economies and sets in jeopardy all our futures.”
Destruction of habitat is continuing, relentless and pervasive, under capitalism. It restlessly and continually pushes out for new growth and development—new big box stores, housing developments, new industrial, power, and agricultural projects—without any long-term plan or based on any recognition of the limits of the natural world.
What is driving this process is not simply greed or “the corporations.” The destruction of habitat, the ravaging of the seas and their life, the threat to the whole planet and its people by climate change, are embedded in the essential dynamics of the capitalist system.
On the one hand, all of these capitalist powers and interests are highly organized to carry out their harvesting and production. But all of these interests are privately owned and in intense competition with each other to expand and grab up what they can as fast as they can and turn it into profit. They are in kill or be killed competition with all the others who are doing the same thing. There is a deep underlying contradiction between the highly globalized and organized character of the forces of production, and the completely irrational and unsustainable way this is all carried out because these interests are all owned privately and driven by competition. This sharp, embedded contradiction between the organized forces of production and the anarchic way this process must be carried out under capitalism is the essential force driving the plunder and destruction of the natural world. (See “On the ‘Driving Force of Anarchy’ and the Dynamics of Change. A Sharp Debate and Urgent Polemic: The Struggle for a Radically Different World and the Struggle for a Scientific Approach to Reality” by Raymond Lotta)
The destruction of habitat and species, and all else threatened by the sixth extinction, must be stopped and turned around. It is not yet too late to put an end to this whole trajectory and save world ecosystems and much of the planet’s biodiversity, But, a dramatic struggle starting now, and fundamentally revolutionary transformations, are required.
There is a way out. In contrast to capitalism, socialism moving toward communism could stop this destruction and move to protect ecosystems and people, and take steps to allow the natural world to recover and again flourish. Socialism does not have embedded in its essential makeup laws requiring it to treat nature as nothing but a thing, a “resource” or “prize” to be gutted and churned into production for profit. This would not be easy or magical. Much destruction of species and the natural environment has already been set loose and guaranteed by this destructive system. But the longer this continues, the worse it will get, even catastrophically so. Hard choices and transformations would face the new society requiring sacrifice and struggle. But there is a way out to protect both humanity and nature through revolution. The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) makes protection of the environment a central point of economic life. A new socialist society guided by this would plan sustainable economic development to meet the needs of the masses of humanity from the viewpoint of humanity acting as caretakers of the planet.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From the Revolution Club, Chicago:
As the young man pulled up a Chicago Tribune article on his phone, he pointed to the white police officer in the photo and told us, “He said ‘die motherfucker'” as he shot Nunu by the alley on Chicago's south side. Nunu was this young man's friend. He told us Nunu had his hands in the air when the cop began firing. This conversation was on Saturday morning, June 20, only hours after Nunu was shot. There was a woman, who has seven kids, with us. She has lived in the area for many years, and she characterized the situation there as a "war" and described how the police are always on the youth, day in and day out. Only blocks away the police had murdered another youth, Jeffrey Kemp, known as JJ, in April.
The next day we were out in the neighborhood “bringing BA to what could potentially be a long hot summer.” We set up a table, taped up a local Stolen Lives banner and the centerfold poster about the film REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN. We played audios of BA speaking over the sound system, mostly the clip “What if....” from the film mentioned above. And we did agitation about the police shooting of Nunu and the events in Charleston, the history of the oppression of Black people, how there is a way out of all this through revolution and “if you are serious about revolution, you need to seriously get into BA...” One man who had seen us there before joined us in getting out materials, in particular the palm card for the film Revolution and Religion film and Carl Dix’s statement “Outrage in Charleston—This IS America.”
NO MORE POLICE BRUTALITY at JJs Funeral
Video from JJ's (Jeffery Kemp's) funeral when mourners forced police to back off from harassing them with whistles and outrage. JJ was shot in the back and murdered by police in Chicago, April 17 at age 18.
Many people told us they had heard the gun shots the day before when the police shot Nunu. An older man in the neighborhood told us that he had heard the same cops who did the shooting during the day on Saturday, telling the youth on the corner, “One of you is going to die tonight.” Another youth hung around quietly for awhile and then pointed to one of the pictures on the banner of people killed by the police, saying that was his friend and he started to tear up when he said he hadn’t been able to go to the funeral because he was in jail at the time.
Nunu remained alive for several days after he was shot as emergency surgery was done. He took bullets in the stomach and the groin. On Tuesday he was declared brain dead. Family members, together with others in the community and the Revolution Club, called a “Justice for Nunu” protest for Wednesday, June 24, at 6 pm.
Tuesday night the Revolution Club discussed the article “In the Wake of the Charleston Massacre: Get Organized for an Actual Revolution!” posted at revcom.us and, among other topics, talked about what we should be doing at the protest on the next day. On Wednesday before the protest, the Revolution Club and some friends gathered nearby and boldly marched into the rally, carrying the local Stolen Lives banner and chanting: “Indict, Convict Send the Killer Cop to Jail, the Whole Damn System Is Guilty as Hell” and “This is the Rev Club, Get with the Rev Club.” There were 11 of us in all—this caused quite a scene.
At the rally’s height there were about 200 people. Overwhelmingly, it was people from the neighborhood, mostly young but there was an important section of older people from the community—including “OGs” who played a significant role in the evening. There was also a number of community-based social forces with various views and agendas but united in the demand of Justice for Nunu. And there were tons of police all over the area.
June 24 rally and protest against the police murder of Alfontish "Nunu" Cockerham. Photo: special to revcom.us
After a the short rally it was decided to march to the police station the killer cop had come out of—about two miles away and through conflicting gang territories. The march stepped into the street with the Stolen Lives banner in the lead. There were lots of police SUVs and cars and pigs on foot as well around, but they did not stop us from being in the street. The crowd went down to about 150 after we marched across the street that is a major gang territorial divide.
The march kicked off with a youth initiating the chant “When I say 'Fuck 12' you say 'All Day'—Fuck 12! All Day! Fuck 12! All Day!” This was very popular with the youth. In the streets of Chicago “Fuck 12” is an increasingly widespread substitute for “Fuck the Police.” The Rev Club kicked off the chant “Indict Convict Send the Killer Cops to Jail, the Whole Damn System Is Guilty as Hell” and "Nunu Did Not Have to Die, We All Know the Reason Why—The Whole Damn System Is Guilty as Hell.” People really raised the volume on “The Whole Damn System Is Guilty as Hell!”
Things got really intense when we crossed the dividing line and entered another gang’s turf. Clumps of youth from this other set possed up on the other side of the street and were yelling at the marchers, “fuck Nunu.” Small groups of young men and women tore off from the march toward youth from other set as various organizers followed them, getting between the youth of the different sets and stopping the fighting, agitating about what this march was for and bringing the youth back in to it. Here the OGs played a very important role. Rev Club members were among those agitating to youth who were looking to get into it with other sets.
The police swarmed even more. This intense struggle over what some of the youth marching were going to do took place three times during the march. At one point the police had a very busy north/south intersection blocked with at least one officer in a flak jacket brandishing a military style automatic rifle holding back traffic.
We marched a long way and ended at the Third District police station. This, too, was wild scene. There were lots of police, and at one point an older man was in the street agitating about how the police “do us,” pointing his finger at a white shirt—a higher ranking cop. The commander was looking at him, and the man kept saying, “I am talking about you, yes I am talking about you!” Anger against the police was erupting from young and old alike.
There was concern about how we would get back. Some of the young men said they had rides but in the end the bulk of the group marched back chanting. There were no disruptions on the way back.
The march ended back where it started with a rally/speak out during which a lot of contending views were put out. A member of the Revolution Club initiated the speak out with a very powerful statement in the language of the youth, telling how the gangs had united in Ferguson and calling on the youth to take up that example to make this struggle against police murder as powerful as possible. Some of the older people were putting forward the need to vote, the need for Black-owned businesses. Family members expressed their grief and rage and demanded justice. A number of people from the Rev Club spoke talking about how we need to bring down capitalism/imperialism and make revolution. One thing we could have done better would have been to directly compare and contrast what we were talking about to the other programs, and call for people to get with the revolution on the spot. As the rally ended, people discussed how in Ferguson people had continued to protest for Mike Brown, so a next protest was set for Thursday.
There was a lot of hanging out and talking with people in the crowd afterwards. Some of the Rev Club members had copies of BAsics out and were showing different sections to people. At least one copy of BAsics went to a young man who was going to “get up with us” the next day.
After the protest the Revolution Club and friends sat down to eat and sum up. One thing that we saw from the way various members of the Rev Club were agitating was that we needed to be clearer on the question of just what a revolution is. We read and discussed BAsics 3:3 over dinner. We also struggled over how elections are a trap with some of the friends of the Rev Club who had joined us. Something we didn’t discuss and really need to break through on was the point in the “Get Organized for an Actual Revolution!” article about giving people a way to “run with and represent for the revolution” on the spot and bringing people into working with the revolution “in real time.”
June 26 the Revolution Club and others gathered and marched in protest of the murder of Alfontish Cockerham. Photo: special to revcom.us
Thursday there was a small crowd as members of the Revolution Club gathered at the corner where Nunu was murdered. One of Nunu’s relatives came up and thanked us for being there. He had been out the night before. We rallied and chanted. A member of the Rev Club did some sharp agitation, including talking about BA and reading BAsics 1:4 on the role of the police. The Rev Club distributed whistles and explained to people about blowing the whistle on police brutality. Some of Nunu’s relatives proposed that we do a short march.
While this march was smaller than the night before, it was very loud as everyone was blowing whistles. There were lots of police cars but they didn’t disturb us. We did not cross into the other gang’s territory this time. The crowd was about 50 people. The Rev Club was clearly providing the leadership and people were asking more what we were all about. Small clumps of us engaged people about this as things were winding down.
Members of the Rev Club have been in the area almost every day. We are getting to know people, especially the youth, and they are getting to know us and what we are about. We are especially working to challenge the youth in the gangs to get out of that and get into the revolution. Our proclamation has been getting out widely it is starting to get posted on walls.
We plan to make ourselves even more accessible in the neighborhood, hanging in the area as we make plans for the next action, playing parts of different DVDs and talks from BA, and digging in to those things and key quotes in BAsics with people. There is a solution to all the outrages confronting people. And if you are serious about revolution, you need to seriously get into BA.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
Updated July 8, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On the weekend of July 4-5, crews of people in different cities across the country responded to a call posted at revcom.us (“A Bold Initiative for the July 4 Weekend”) for mass outings to spread the word about Bob Avakian (BA) and his leadership, and to raise funds for the BA Everywhere campaign. On this page are some initial pictures and brief reports that we’ve received.
Revolution Club members and other revolutionaries and folks who wanted to join us went out in a park in Harlem. Right off the bat, as the crew stepped off chanting “We are the RevComs, the Mighty, Mighty Revcoms” and “What’s the Problem? The Whole Damn System! What’s the Solution? Revolution!” controversy and interest got stirred up. In one very contentious group, we went back and forth for a few minutes and then told folks they had to hear BA speak—if you haven’t heard BA, you don’t know anything about what is possible and how to go about it. By this time several folks were very intrigued and watched carefully part of the Q&A from the film REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion; A Dialogue Between CORNEL WEST & BOB AVAKIAN and by the end of the clip, everyone recognized in BA someone serious about understanding this system and getting rid of it. The person who started out the most vociferously arguing that he didn’t need to know about any of this, apologized for being disruptive and wanted to know how to be connected. Some people cleaned out their pockets to donate. This was just a beginning...as it began to rain, the group headed underground onto the trains.
A group of revolutionaries went out in the community on July 4 to take out palm cards with the new quote from Bob Avakian and the cards promoting the Revolution and Religion Dialogue between Cornel West and BA, raising funds for BA Everywhere, and inviting people to a BBQ later that day. Thousands of palm cards and many copies of Revolution were distributed.
Many people stopped and watched sections of the Revolution and Religion DVD. The Revolution Club marched through the community. A Black man who saw sections from the DVD said, “Damn, I hadn’t thought a future like this was possible before.” A Guatemalan woman who discussed the new quote from BA said: “Black people have been treated like slaves under this system—living through the terrible things that were done to them. It will be a beautiful thing if revolution can happen and humanity can be liberated.”
On Friday afternoon, Revolution Club members and RCP supporters went out to busy intersections in a Black community to get out palm cards for the new BA quote and Cornel West-Bob Avakian Dialogue on Religion and Revolution. There was a truck to show clips from the Dialogue DVD. That night a Club member got out the word about BA to a reggae concert, attended mostly by white youth. On Saturday, we went to a big park where a multinational crowd, mostly Black and Latino, come to see fireworks. We went to people as they were grilling, and did 14 showings of excerpts from the Dialogue. Many people said they wanted to go online to watch the whole film. We got out about 650 of the two palm cards.
On July 4, revolutionaries went to the West Baltimore area where police grabbed Freddie Gray and eventually killed him. We invited people to the screening next day at the Ethical Society of the Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian on Religion and Revolution, and we showed the trailer and an excerpt from the film on a tablet to people on their stoops. The card with BA’s new statement was gotten out to a number of people and read out loud. A recurring question came up: yes, Black people need to play a crucial role, but are we out here by ourselves? How about white people? This brought us back to the importance of coming to the showing on Sunday to hear how this and other questions are addressed.
A team went to the July 4 celebration at Centennial Olympic Park in Downtown Atlanta and got out the new BA quote palm cards along with cards of the Dialogue between BA and CW, and copies of the Revolution newspaper. There were tens of thousands heading to the fireworks along with a gigantic crowd of people from around the world passing in the opposite direction to an International Alcoholics Anonymous convention that apparently had 110,000 attendees. The atmosphere was challenging as we shared a corner near some Christian-fascists and not-fascist horn players. We connected with some interested people and got out palm cards to hundreds.
On July 4, a crew of revolutionaries went to the three-day Grateful Dead "Fare Thee Well" concerts, celebrating 50 years of the Dead. The event had a massive tailgate party in the parking lot of Soldier Field stadium where the concert was. We were there to introduce people to Bob Avakian, raise big bucks for the campaign, get lots of people to get revcom.us e-subs, and popularize the Revolution and Religion Dialogue film. We figured this would be a great opportunity for the BA Everywhere campaign to reach out to people all across the country and we were right. We met people from Baltimore, Virginia, Philadelphia, Colorado, Georgia and many more places. The crowd was tens of thousands strong with three generations of overwhelmingly white and tie-dye wearing Dead Heads. We mainly handed out the palm cards through the crush of people that jammed around the table all day. We were reaching out to people with “We Need an Actual Revolution”. We found a very friendly crowd open to checking out who BA is, what is this revolution we’re talking about and what exactly is the strategy for revolution that we were talking about. We also found that the Stolen Lives poster had an immediate effect on people, as some stopped to read it as soon as we put the poster up as we set up.
Chicago Revolution Club in park July 4
From Chicago Revolution Club:
The Revolution Club was out on the south side. From Friday through Sunday we were rolling with a van that had a large screen TV that played the trailer and clips from the Dialogue between Cornel West and Bob Avakian, starting Friday night at a fundraising picnic for funeral expenses for Nunu, young Black man killed by the police.
Saturday, Revolution Club members (and new recruits) discussed the piece on revcom.us, “Going into July 4 Weekend: Thoughts on Role and Vision of Revolution Clubs.” We went to a park nearby and practiced marching with the call and response “Everywhere we go/people want to know/We are the Revcoms/Mighty, Mighty Revcoms.” A crew of shorties joined us and learned the chant and marched alongside. We talked to them and their parents about BA and got them palm cards with the new quote by BA and the Dialogue and Revolution newspaper. Organized and oriented, we continued the day/evening marching into parks and introducing many people to BA through the palm cards and placards we were carrying and Revolution newspaper. At a small neighborhood park we go to regularly, people made plans to donate larger sums later in the week as younger people joined in the chanting.
At a larger park where many families were barbequing, we marched around the park doing the call and response. Many people got with the spirit, some joined in the chant and/or threw up their fists. The “Women are not bitches, ho’s, etc...” chant particularly captured the attention of groups of young women who wanted to know more about the revolution. We stopped at points to read the Fredrick Douglass quote on July 4 and the new BA quote. There was a dialectic between speaking to the outrages of the system and the kind of world we could have and the point on the card, “What We Need is an Actual Revolution and if you are Serious about Revolution you have to Get Seriously into BA.”
Sunday, the Revolution Club and friends pic-nicked at a south side beach, introducing many people to BA, getting out palm cards and Revolution newspaper, and had people coming over to watch the trailer and clips from the Dialogue.
Over the July 4 weekend, teams of revolutionary communists and masses went out to take out and raise money in different parts of the city. We raised $128 on the streets and have over $50 in pledges to be collected this week. On one afternoon, we drove around a Black neighborhood where many are familiar with BA, playing clips from the film BA Speaks: Revolution—Nothing Less! and getting out to people who were out in the streets. One pastor said that after what happened in Charleston, he feels that now is the time for people to get serious,and act and they need to hear what BA is saying. He took a bunch of cards to take to his church and said that he was going to ask people to make donations. A young man took a penny jar to take around the neighborhood as he got out palm cards.
On Saturday, we went out to a park where there were a lot of family gatherings and barbeques. One person on our team sold bottles of water as we went from grouping to grouping collecting donations and getting out palm cards and newspapers. Later, we setup a revolution corner outside the citywide 4th of July celebration with a display of "Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution" and the back page of Revolution with the new quote from BA. An agitator contrasted the quote from BA with the ugly celebration of America and challenged people to get with BA and donate. At one point, some youth gathered around a stolen lives poster and began chanting "fuck the police" and asked us, are you talking about a real revolution? People started gathering around the corner, and some started debating – is the problem racism, or is it the system. The youth who were chanting took a bunch of cards to get out to others, and then later came back when cops started surrounding the corner, because they said they wanted to defend the revolutionaries. The next day we went out to a large church in a Black community and got the palm cards out to people going in. Several people came out later with money in hand and donated. One young woman said that she was so glad that she got to read the palm card with BA's new quote because it gave her hope.
As part of getting out BA Everywhere and raising funds on July Fourth, we went to a couple parks in inner city. We had a big placard with Bob Avakian's (BA) "There is the potential for something of unprecedented beauty to arise..." statement on it, and also flyers with this statement and Frederick Douglas's "What to the slave is your Fourth of July?" These parks are small but they were crowded. The majority hanging out were Black, but also many white, Latino, and Native people. We got out a couple hundred of the flyers with the new statement by BA. We got a good amount of attention, possibly due to our "Revolution—Nothing Less" t-shirts and the posters we had been putting up in the area. Several people took stacks of the flyers to distribute at their housing. We also got out the latest issue of Revolution newspaper, and at one point there were half a dozen folks sitting in the shade reading the paper.
Revolution #394 July 6, 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 #394 July 6, 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 #394 July 6, 2015
July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The following are quotes from Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, including from the book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian available in print or as a free E-book
"What people think is part of objective reality, but objective reality is not determined by what people think."
"There is a place where epistemology and morality meet. There is a place where you have to stand and say: It is not acceptable to refuse to look at something—or to refuse to believe something—because it makes you uncomfortable. And: It is not acceptable to believe something just because it makes you feel comfortable."
"There is no App for critical thinking."
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the
Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
"For humanity to advance beyond a state in which ‘might makes right’—and where things ultimately come down to raw power relations—will require, as a fundamental element in this advance, an approach to understanding things (an epistemology) which recognizes that reality and truth are objective and do not vary in accordance with, nor depend on, different ‘narratives’ and how much ‘authority’ an idea (or ‘narrative’) may have behind it, or how much power and force can be wielded on behalf of any particular idea or ‘narrative,’ at any given point."
For people reading this who are new to the revolution and new to revcom.us, if you want to see why this is true, go directly to the source. Take the time to watch the new film of the incredible Dialogue between Bob Avakian and Cornel West in November 2014, REVOLUTION AND RELIGION: The Fight for Emancipation and the Role of Religion. Check out two other key works—REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian—and go to the section at revcom.us on Bob Avakian to see what BA and his work and leadership are all about.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On June 26, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled by a vote of 5-4 that “...same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry in all States. It follows that the Court also must hold—and it now does hold—that there is no lawful basis for a State to refuse to recognize a lawful same-sex marriage performed in another State on the ground of its same-sex character.”
This sweeping ruling took effect immediately. It was celebrated at Gay Pride events across the country. In states where same sex marriage had not been legal, couples lined up at county clerks’ offices to wed. As we said in Revolution last week, “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!”
This ruling marked a significant shift in U.S. law. Less than 20 years ago, in 1996, Democratic president Bill Clinton signed into law the infamous Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). That hateful piece of legislation had ruled that “the word ‘marriage’ means only a legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife, and the word ‘spouse’ refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife.” It also said that no government entity could be required to “give effect to any public act ... respecting a relationship between persons of the same sex that is treated as a marriage under the laws of (another government entity).”
The Supreme Court is often portrayed as a detached body of legal scholars whose rulings are based solely on interpretations of the law, especially as expressed in the U.S. Constitution. It is supposedly immune from political pressures and not subject to considering developments in a constantly changing society. Nothing could be further from the truth. For example, for generations the Supreme Court held that slavery was constitutional. And then, for generations, overt discrimination—the original Jim Crow—was upheld by Supreme Court rulings that “separate but equal” was legal. Changes in how the Court interprets the Constitution are very much driven by political factors.
The Supreme Court is a body of the U.S. ruling class that, as Bob Avakian (BA) puts it, provides interpretations of the law which “...will fundamentally reflect and serve the prevailing social relations (and, above all, the production relations) and the interests and needs of the ruling class, interpretations which may change with changes in the particular ways those relations find expression and are understood by various representatives of the ruling class—always, however, within the basic framework of this system of exploitation and its underlying dynamics.”
In this case, there were very sharp, very nasty divisions on the Court over exactly how to “serve the prevailing social relations” of exploitation and oppression that define the United States.
The connection between these sharp, hostile differences on the Court, and larger conflicts within the ruling class and in society are beyond the scope of this article—for background, see The Coming Civil War and Repolarization for Revolution in the Present Era, by Bob Avakian, and excerpts from Preaching from a Pulpit of Bones―We Need Morality But Not Traditional Morality, also by Bob Avakian.
The divergent positions on the Court reflect extreme fissures in U.S. society and thinking among the powers-that-be on how to shore up and perpetuate this system. You can see that in their arguments.
The Supreme Court’s majority ruling on same sex marriage, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, drew extensively on previous legal rulings of the Supreme Court and other federal and state courts, and also made wide ranging references to the historical evolution of the institution of marriage. It cited thinking on marriage and its relation to the larger society from various political theorists from the ancient world to modern society.
Kennedy wrote, “[T]he marriage laws enforced by the respondents [states that ban same-sex marriage] are in essence unequal: same-sex couples are denied all the benefits afforded to opposite-sex couples and are barred from exercising a fundamental right.”
But the heart of the ruling, and the anxiety of the five Justices who ruled in favor of same sex marriage, centered around a concern they expressed thus: “this Court’s cases and the Nation’s traditions make clear that marriage is a keystone to the Nation’s social order.”
Marriage is a social institution that has changed and developed repeatedly as the society it is part of changes. The development and change in the forms of marriage was in fact noted by the justices who voted to uphold same sex marriage—and denied by the four who opposed it. For example, Samuel Alito said in his dissent that “for millennia, marriage was inextricably linked to the one thing only an opposite sex couple can do: procreate.”
The reality is that since its institutionalization in the earliest stages of class society—divided into slave masters and slaves, landowners and peasants, and today those who own the vast productive forces in society and those who they exploit—marriage has been an institution that ensured an orderly transfer of property from a man to his heirs and the orderly maintenance of oppressive social orders that enshrined individual ownership of slaves, women, and property. Forms of marriage have evolved to promote and strengthen systems of oppression as they have evolved (for example, the Bible upholds men having dozens of wives).
The five justices who voted to uphold and extend same sex marriage took note of this. They pointed out that two practices that had been considered essential to the institution of marriage as it developed in Western countries including the U.S.—arranged marriage and coverture—no longer exist. (Coverture is a legal doctrine in which a married woman does not have any legal existence apart from her husband. The last legal vestiges of couverture in the United States did not end until Louisiana struck down its “Head and Master” law in 1979, and in 1980 the Supreme Court declared male-dominated couverture illegal).
The justices point was that the elimination of customs that had been closely associated with marriage had strengthened, not undermined, both the institution of marriage and the capitalist society in which it was situated. They took note of the significant changes within this society in recent decades regarding LGBT people, and in its various educational, political, military, legal, and other institutions.
The other justices, led by the fascist Antonin Scalia, who described this ruling as a “judicial Putsch” (coup), furiously insisted in their dissents that the country must be cohered by forcefully imposing “traditional marriage”—male domination, patriarchy, a woman’s subordination first to her father, then to her husband, and always, always, marriage only between a man and a woman.
There were two themes to their outrage and dissent. One was that the Supreme Court was legislating law, not interpreting the Constitution. Chief Justice Roberts, wrote that “[T]his Court is not a legislature. Whether same-sex marriage is a good idea should be of no concern to us. Under the Constitution, Justices have power to say what the law is, not what it should be.”
As noted, the majority justices pointed to previous marriage laws that were ruled unconstitutional as society evolved. And there is the precedent of Loving vs. Virginia, where the Supreme Court ruled in 1967 (as late as that!) that laws banning marriage between Black and white people were unconstitutional.
The more essential argument from the—let’s tell it like it is—fascists on the Court was that ending one form of persecution and discrimination in law was taking away the religious rights of those who oppose gay marriage on religious grounds.
Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the ruling “creates serious questions about religious liberty. Many good and decent people oppose same-sex marriage as a tenet of faith, and their freedom to exercise religion is—unlike the right imagined by the majority— actually spelled out in the Constitution.”
Alito wrote: “By imposing its own views on the entire country, the majority facilitates the marginalization of the many Americans who have traditional ideas.”
In other words, the ruling might impinge on people’s right to discriminate and, further, that people who are prejudiced against LGBT people might feel marginalized.
Throughout Alito’s furious objections (and those of his fascist colleagues) runs a hardly disguised theocratic thread—that the morality and laws of the Bible should trump the Constitution or law. He even complained that the Court had too many people from New York City, and that it’s rulings were of questionable legitimacy since “Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans)” was on the Court—as if the role of Supreme Court justices is to base rulings on fundamentalist religious beliefs, not law. And in the nastiness of his attacks on the majority and invocation of formulations like saying with this ruling the Supreme Court “move[s] one step closer to being reminded of our impotence,” Alito threw raw meat to sections of society who are being whipped up and mobilized to defend reactionary “traditional values” of all kinds.
Clarence Thomas’ dissent claimed, “In our society, marriage is not simply a governmental institution; it is a religious institution as well.” And, “It appears all but inevitable that the two will come into conflict, particularly as individuals and churches are confronted with demands to participate in and endorse civil marriages between same-sex couples.”
And follow the logic of the logic. People should be free to practice their religion―this is something guaranteed in the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). But that's different than saying no laws can protect people if doing so offends the beliefs of religious fundamentalists. That would mean that the law of the land cannot prevent parents from murdering their children for talking back to them (Exodus 21). Or, that society cannot ban killing LGBT people because Christian and Jewish fundamentalists who take the Bible as the literal and unalterable word of “God” might believe that “If a man lies with a male as one lies with a woman, the two of them have done an abhorrent thing; they shall be put to death” (Leviticus 20:13)
The logic of the dissents is ominous, and the impact was to unleash a rash of defiant protests including by almost all the major Republican candidates for president and state and local officials particularly in the South.
Texas Senator Ted Cruz said the same-sex marriage ruling “undermined the fundamental legitimacy of the United States Supreme Court.” He and another leading candidate for president—Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker—called for a constitutional amendment that would allow states to define marriage. The governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, sent agencies a memo denouncing “religious coercion,” citing the Texas Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and saying that no action should be taken against any official “on account of the person’s act or refusal to act that is substantially motivated by sincere religious belief.” The state’s attorney general, Ken Paxton, 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.”
Some of these local officials have backed off refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples but even this basic right is tenuous at this writing.
The Supreme Court’s majority, in response to seismic changes in society, in attitudes, and decades of courageous protest from the Stonewall Rebellion to ACT UP and beyond, moved to legalize same sex marriage on the basis that doing so would contribute to social cohesion of the imperialist nation at a time when much of the social fabric is fraying.
Yet and still, as we pointed out last week in Revolution, “[I]t 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.”
Both the ruling class forces represented by the majority ruling, and those represented by the fascists on the Supreme Court, are starting from how best to re-cohere a society built on genocide and slavery, and permeated through and through by oppression of every kind. Both factions are about reinforcing, not shattering, traditions chains. But revolution does provide a way out of millennia of inherited oppressive traditions, including the patriarchal foundation for marriage, and a way to organize society in the interests of the vast majority, and ultimately all humanity.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Donald Trump kicked off his presidential campaign with a vicious attack on immigrants—saying of Mexicans coming to the United States: “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”
There are three things to say in response:
Millions and millions of undocumented immigrants live in the shadows of this society, viciously (and criminally) super-exploited in dangerous and unhealthy construction and agriculture, the source of a huge section of the vast wealth of the rulers of the U.S. They care for Americans and clean their homes without protection of minimum wage laws or any rights. Undocumented immigrants are not criminals, they are criminalized.
“Rapists?” Donald Trump has repeatedly stuck to this lie even after a number of reporters pointed out that the article he cites as proof of his claim says nothing about immigrants raping people, but reported that immigrant women are often victims of rape on their way to the United States!
And there is a bigger lie at the bottom of Donald Trump’s attack on immigrants—turning upside down the reality of who is fucking over whom in this world. Bob Avakian speaks to reactionary fools spouting this kind of bullshit in BAsics: 1:14
Now I can just hear these reactionary fools saying, “Well, Bob, answer me this. If this country is so terrible, why do people come here from all over the world? Why are so many people trying to get in, not get out?”...Why? I’ll tell you why. Because you have fucked up the rest of the world even worse than what you have done in this country. You have made it impossible for many people to live in their own countries as part of gaining your riches and power.
Donald Trump’s racist rant is a call to arms—figuratively and damn near literally—to the vicious, violent immigrant-hating forces who “go hunting” for human beings on the Mexican border, and who mobbed and terrorized a bus with undocumented children and their parents seeking asylum in the U.S. in Central California. And there have been eruptions of anti-immigrant terror around the country.
And there is an object lesson here in the role of the election process under this system. The powers-that-be, through their control of the mass media and ability to define what is a “legitimate” or “serious” issue for debate, use elections to frame how and what people think, and then recycle that as “the will of the people.”
So even as many (but not all!) mass media outlets have been critical of Donald Trump’s comments, they have all blasted them out throughout society, repeated them over and over, defined them as a “popular” view (as defined by their polls), and established this vicious, xenophobic outlook as a legitimate part of political discourse. And in the process, posing the “choice” between Trump’s obscene vicious attacks on the one hand, and maintaining and ratcheting up attacks on immigrants with rhetoric to the “left” of Trump on the other.
That’s not a process any conscious, caring human should look to for any kind of positive change.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Seattle, July 1. (All photos: Stop Patriarchy)
From a reader:
In Seattle we took the street on July 1st, a national day of action called for by Stop Patriarchy. We raised hell and shut down business as usual! We kicked it off with a short rally and speak-out, and then we took the street. We wore “bloody” white pants, held posters with the images of women who have died from lack of abortion, and posters that said “Abortion on Demand & Without Apology.” Hundreds of people looked on as we stood in a crosswalk of a major intersection in the middle of rush hour traffic.
We chanted and agitated to let people know that there is a national assault on abortion rights, and how when abortion is illegal or not easily accessible, then women die, or they are forced into motherhood against their will. It is already the case in areas in the U.S., especially in the Deep South, that women have less legal rights than a fetus, and women are seeking out dangerous and sometimes deadly methods of terminating unwanted pregnancy because they cannot access safe, legal abortions. This is intolerable! This is unacceptable!
Seven of us were arrested, after being out in the street for about an hour, and after the cops had already surrounded us and re-routed traffic. While they were arresting us, one of us agitated about the illegitimacy of the cops, and how they could arrest us for protesting, but they get away with murdering Black people all the time.
Our action unleashed a chaotic scene, but as we stood firm over the next hour and refused to back down, people on the sidelines seemed to get more clear on what the terms were and chose sides. There was a mix of individuals and pockets of people who were cheering and eventually joined in the chanting. There was woman-hating hostility. And there was a lot of confusion and “calm down, women” sentiment from those who didn’t see why they should care as long as abortion is legal for them in their state. Everyone seemed jolted by the unfamiliar sight of a relatively small group of women boldly and graphically protesting for women’s liberation in the middle of the street, blocking hundreds of cars and buses with horns blaring.
We intended to wake people up to the abortion rights emergency, and it was clear from the polarized responses of drivers and bystanders that MOST people have NO IDEA how much this right has already been stripped away. There was anger from some, some people even getting out of their cars to confront us in a direct way and tell us to move, some saying that they were pro-choice, but thought we were wrong to take the street the way we did. One man droned on saying “Abortion is murder. You’re all a bunch of whores.” Another wove through the crowd, yelling at us: “Abortion is legal, abortion is legal,” attempting to downplay the emergency and to therefore argue that we were acting in too extreme of a fashion. Some raised the idea that Seattle is just fine about abortion rights and access, that because this city is more progressive or enlightened, we have nothing to worry about.
These notions are wrong and harmful, and further underscore the necessity to forge ahead with this kind of resistance! First of all, Seattle and all other areas that people consider to be more progressive actually are under assault. At abortion clinics in Seattle, the anti’s come to harass women going into abortion clinics—calling them murderers and making them feel ashamed and isolated—and terrorize clinic staff. Then there are fake clinics posing sham “alternatives” to abortion, which is to say they will try to convince women that they shouldn’t get an abortion. The anti-abortion movement has also made big strides in switching the terms of this battle to be about “babies” and the “murder of babies” to the point where even those that call themselves pro-choice think of abortion as tragic or as if it is “justifiable homicide.” This logic is deadly wrong! The battle around abortion has never been about “babies” it has always been about patriarchal control over women, and abortion is NOT murder! Fetuses are NOT babies, abortion is NOT murder, and women are NOT incubators! It really is the case that tens of thousands of women around the world DIE every year without access to abortion care. Abortion is positive and liberating; and preserves the lives and dreams of actual human beings—women! While the anti-abortion movement hasn’t yet been able to gain as much legal ground here, they have gained plenty of ground in shaping the ideas that people have about abortion. They've also gained ground in underhanded and quiet attacks on access to abortion care. Swedish Hospital in Seattle is now owned by Providence, which means it is now Catholic-owned and operated, and doctors there are NOT allowed to provide abortion. In fact, there has been a whole religious-based takeover of secular hospitals, and more than 50 percent of Washington’s health care facilities have been merged into Catholic-based health care.
Besides all this, why should anyone, after you have heard the stories of what has happened to women without abortion access, want to see any woman anywhere forced into motherhood or take their lives into their own hands to terminate a pregnancy, possibly to die? NO ONE should sit by while this horrific future is further codified into law, and while people’s ideas of abortion become more skewed by the antis continuing to hold the moral high ground on this question. NO, we are the ones with right on our side, we will fight to reclaim the moral high ground, and we are taking on the responsibility to fight to change all of this! So...YES, WE WILL RAISE HELL HERE IN SEATTLE TOO! Because it MATTERS.
Then there were other very positive responses from people. A woman we met at the Pride event here came out and held a sign the entire time. A Black lawyer who was stuck in traffic got out of her car and came up to us to thank us, and to offer legal support. Another woman walked down the line, touched all of us on the shoulder and thanked us for what we were doing. A man who had just gotten off work videotaped almost the entire action, and while he expressed confusion at first as to why we were out there, after interviewing one of us, you could tell he understood more and was supportive.
We were continually calling on people to join us. One woman, who we now know much better because she ended up going to jail with us, was on her way to exchange a pair of pants at J. Crew. When she saw what we were doing, she thought to herself, I donate money, but I’m really not doing enough. She looked up the Stop Patriarchy website on her phone, and after getting a general sense of what we were about, stepped into the street to join us. She was on the end and the first to get arrested. Another woman who has been active around the struggle to stop police brutality and murder, and has engaged the question and possibility of revolution and building a movement for revolution, joined us in the street. She wasn’t sure she wanted to get arrested, but when it came down to it, she continued to stand with us. A few women from the Black Student Union at one of the high schools chanted with us from the sidewalk, and raised their fists.
One woman came late with a friend, but was completely jazzed to see this defiant action, and at one point she even tried to get past the cops that were surrounding us to get a close-up photo of us to post on social media. She had come to see the film of the talk Sunsara Taylor gave recently, and felt tremendously inspired by it. She definitely was not the only one who felt very inspired after watching the talk, and because we know what an impact that can have on people, we planned another showing of the film for Monday, July 6, 7 pm, at Revolution Books Seattle. We also are planning to take out the war on women display on Wednesday July 8.
On July 1 in Seattle, hundreds of people stood watching, many people took flyers with information about why we were there and upcoming events we have planned; some people signed up with us. And the challenge of what people will do in this moment was raised. It’s not enough that the laws set to go into effect were granted temporary stays: We need to defeat those laws, and create a situation where the whole abortion rights emergency direction of things is reversed, and where women can get abortion on demand and without apology! The courts, including the Supreme Court, need to know that there is a force that will NOT be silent in the face of unprecedented legal assaults on abortion rights. In fact, we will be defiant, in the streets, loudly and unapologetically calling out patriarchy. They need to know that we will fight to change the culture and the ideas people have about the social role of women, and that we will call on people to join this fight, and spread this movement with us!
We’ll be in the streets this summer in Seattle, Taking Patriarchy by Storm! Join us!
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
by Sunsara Taylor | June 29, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Three horrendous anti-abortion laws that were set to go into effect in three different states on July 1st have been temporarily blocked by three different courts. This is a positive development, but it is not a time to breathe a sigh of relief. These rulings are only temporary. The fight over abortion continues to heat up. It is likely that a challenge to one or more of these restrictions will soon be taken up by the Supreme Court, a court which has been increasingly hostile to abortion rights in recent years and whose ruling would have enormous repercussions for decades to come.
New York City
6pm - Union Square
Speak-out & Die-in
5pm - Westlake Park
Protest "Hollywood Women's Center"
12 noon - 862 N Vermont Ave
Protest - 1pm
Archdiocese of San Francisco
1 Peter Yorke Way
Protest. Gather at 4:30
Congress & San Jacinto in Downtown Houston
Noon, Protest at St. John's Cathedral
E. 9th & Superior
March through downtown to other sites that
represent the oppression of women!
Already, the right to abortion is more embattled than at any time since it became legal more than forty years ago. For women living in large parts of this country, it is already out of meaningful reach. Six states have only one abortion clinic left. And those behind this relentless assault on abortion—and birth control!—are not letting up. Now is the time to step up our fight to reverse the tide of abortion clinic closures, shame heaped on women, and medically unnecessary obstacles put in the way of women seeking to terminate unwanted pregnancies.
In order to get a sense of how far the right to abortion has been restricted, it is important to consider how extreme the laws are that were set to go into effect on Wednesday, July 1st:
It is a very good thing that these laws will not—as of now—be going into effect on July 1st. But think about what it means that these kinds of draconian laws could have been passed in the first place! Think what it means that more than 50 laws restricting abortion have been passed already this year. And think about the fact that all this comes after several years of record restrictions on abortion, record numbers of abortion clinic closures, continuing violence and terror inflicted on abortion doctors and clinics, and unprecedented attacks on birth control.
It is important to note that the temporary block on the closure of ten more abortion clinics in Texas came from the Supreme Court in a deeply divided decision (5 to 4). This indicates that it is very possible (perhaps likely) that the Supreme Court will hear the appeal that has been filed by women's clinics attempting to get this law thrown out. While no one can say for sure what the court would decide, one thing we do know is that in recent years the Supreme Court has becoming increasingly hostile to women's right to abortion and increasingly lenient in the amount of restrictions to women's right to abortion that they will allow.
Right now, as these horrific restrictions on women's most fundamental rights are being hammered into place by fascist law-makers and toyed with by increasingly hostile courts, it is more urgent than ever that everyone who does not want to see women forced to have children against their will step up the fight out in the streets to demand ABORTION ON DEMAND AND WITHOUT APOLOGY!
On July 1st, the day that these restrictions were scheduled to go into effect, join with StopPatriarchy.org in the streets of New York, Houston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Seattle, Cleveland and wherever you are. Take to the streets and bring everyone you know to stand up and show the world that we will not sit back as women's fundamental rights are stripped away. Seize the moment now to build this fight, drawing together hundreds around the country and soon thousands. Get people organized into this movement because we know the fight is far from over. It is more critical than ever.
Fetuses are NOT babies. Abortion is NOT murder. Women are NOT incubators.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
July 4, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
An all-out assault on women's right to abortion is leaving 600-mile stretches between abortion clinics, and banning abortions at earlier and earlier points in the pregnancy. Why does it matter whether or not women have the right to abortion? Sunsara Taylor brings a true picture of what it means to be living through a war on women, where all this comes from, and why the domination of women by men is not human nature. She brings alive how a real revolution can liberate women and what must be done today to build the fight for real and lasting emancipation.
Sunsara Taylor is a writer for Revolution newspaper (revcom.us) and key initiator of "End Pornography & Patriarchy: the Enslavement and Degradation of Women (StopPatriarchy.org)
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
For three days—Friday, July 10 through Sunday, July 12—join Stop Patriarchy in taking the movement for the full liberation of women into communities of the oppressed across the country. For three concentrated days, take the stickers and signs that "Women are NOT bitches, hos, punching bags, sex objects, or breeders. Women are FULL HUMAN BEINGS!" into these communities, set up the War on Women Display, and conduct dramatic street theater about the importance of abortion rights which are now under unprecedented attack. Draw forward the suppressed anger—and mobilize the participation, both on the spot and in an ongoing way—of people who are all too often completely ignored and cast aside. Put the truth boldly to people everywhere: the full liberation of women is something that everyone who hates oppression of any kind needs to fight for.
Take pictures and record video testimony of people who step forward. Write up and share what you learn, experiences to popularize, and challenges you might confront with us at: StopPatriarchy@gmail.com.
Join Stop Patriarchy from July 31–August 9 in Jackson, Mississippi.
The Deep South is where the battle around abortion rights is most acute, and where lack of access disproportionately affects Black and poverty-stricken women. In the entire state of Mississippi, there is only one abortion clinic left! This clinic is a last refuge for women for hundreds of miles throughout the state who find themselves pregnant but do not want to have a child. It is also the target of unrelenting Christian fascist harassment, legal attacks, and threats of closure. It is currently only able to stay open because of a temporary court order which is blocking a law that would close it down. Stop Patriarchy is calling on people from across the country and from various organizations to join them in a 10 day mobilization to Jackson, Mississippi. We will boldly take out the full mission of Stop Patriarchy throughout the city of Jackson, stirring and drawing new people into the fight against all forms of female enslavement. And we will join with organizers in the area to build support for the last clinic in the state, the Jackson Women's Health Organization, and to build support for Abortion On Demand and Without Apology!
It is immoral to abandon the women of Mississippi as their last abortion clinic is under severe attack. And it is delusional to think that the attacks going down in Mississippi are somehow "separate" from what will soon confront women everywhere if they are not stopped. Do not miss this opportunity to step to the front lines of the national fight to defeat the war on women. And do not miss this opportunity to work together with others from across the country to stand up against all forms of women's oppression and gain valuable understanding and experience to take this fight forward when you return to different parts of the country.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
Reflections on June 30 Meeting to Stop Police Terror
July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
I went to the June 30 meeting in New York City to plan a massive political manifestation this October 22-24 against police terror and murder. I haven’t stopped thinking about it since, and wanted to share a few thoughts on the challenge this poses.
Carl Dix (Photo: Special to revcom.us)
Over 150 people there heard the speakers lay out their different analyses and come together to emphasize that this had to be something on a much higher and broader level than what’s been seen up to now. The plan—mobilizing tens of thousands for three days of action, including both “shutting shit down” on a whole other scale and bringing in many more in support of that—is nothing short of audacious. I go back a long way and have some sense of history, and I can’t recall anything comparable being called around THIS particular outrage.
I came away from the event sparked by what I had heard and the people I had encountered. I have been wrangling with what it would take to really do that and seeing pathways to realize that potential. I think we’re all going to have to think in new ways, and I’m offering these beginning reflections to help further all that.
Over the past year, people have begun to move against the outrage of police terror and murder in a way not seen for decades. A movement is taking shape, with many different ideas out there. Major questions are being raised to millions about “What kind of society is this? Why do these things keep happening?” People have been attracted to this—this is becoming a magnetic pole in society. But, measured against the need to really uproot this whole genocidal program (not to mention against the need for a whole new and radically better system aimed at uprooting ALL oppression), all this is still just beginning.
And the system has definitely dug in to fight back against this. Heavy charges have been brought against people for simple acts of non-violent resistance. The police—both as a political force and then in what they have done “on the job”—have hit back, and they’ve been down-the-line supported by the right-wing politicians. The millions in the grip of the sick white racism at the core of this country’s culture have been mobilized to react—we’re only just beginning to see this, and almost certainly this will get even uglier. The liberals like Obama and New York mayor de Blasio promise reforms out of one side of their mouths but then they actually back up the police out of the other AND in what they actually do—remember Obama insulting those who righteously stood up in Baltimore as “thugs,” and his Justice Department backing the pigs in every case of abuse that came to the Supreme Court. (See “The REAL Record of the Holder Department of IN-Justice: Supporting Police Violence in EVERY CASE Before the Supreme Court.”)
The point is, the battle has been joined. But joining the battle is not winning it. And even in the midst of this beginning rumbling, far too many still stand on the sidelines.
Cornel West (Photo: Special to revcom.us)
That’s got to stop. October 22-24 has got to take this ferment to another level—another level of breadth and another level of determination. These three days taken together must include people putting themselves on the line for this, as well as many thousands more out there in support of them, in such a way that it politically stops this country in its tracks and changes the terms and direction of society. It must call out to the world that there is a force in the U.S. that simply will NOT tolerate this... that this force is growing... and that “change is gonna come.” These days must put the rulers of this country back on their heels and give heart and a whole other level of initiative to the people.
You definitely had the sense from ALL the speakers that THIS MUST STOP. There was a critique of this whole society and the people who represent for it from a lot of the speakers—critiques both blistering and deep. Some put forward revolution, though they had different ideas of what this meant. But all pointed to those bold three days in October as a critical watershed, with October 24 as the massively powerful capstone to it.
Nicholas Heyward Sr. (Photo: Special to revcom.us)
Family members of peoplel murdered by police. Juanita Young (at mic), Nicholas Heyward Sr (center) and Joshua Lopez (left). (Photo: Special to revcom.us)
I was powerfully struck—once again—by the parents and relatives of the police murder victims who spoke. Nicholas Heyward Sr. spoke powerfully of how he lost his 13-year-old son, Nicholas Jr., to the bullets of a trigger-happy cop, and how he has been fighting for justice for the 20 years since then, and has not seen justice yet—either in his son’s case, or in the others he has fought. Juanita Young spoke movingly of her son, Malcolm Ferguson, cut down for nothing as he was just entering into his adulthood. No chance, she said, to have children... to live his life. And other relatives of police murder victims also added their voices from the front, or through messages to the meeting.
I thought about this as the evening unfolded. How many more scores of Nicholas Juniors and Malcolms would there be before October dawned? How many more lives were to be stolen? How could this be allowed to continue?
And how many more thousands of young people like Kalief Browder would be fed into the meat grinder? Kalief was the young man being held before trial and tortured with solitary confinement at Rikers Island prison for over two years, and finally driven to suicide just a few weeks ago. Outrageous! How many more young people, whose lives and spirits would be broken, in one way or another, from the very conscious policy of mass incarceration? How many millions have already been ground up... and how many millions more will be fed into it, until we stop it?
That is the reality of this, and these, and nothing less, are the stakes of this. Viewed that way, there is no time to lose.
After the speakers, we broke into work teams. I went to the outreach team, which had at least 50 or 60 people at it. Person after person got up, putting out ideas and offering resources. This vision of something really massive and resistant in October had struck a chord with them, and they wanted to make it happen. One person spoke from a union; a young woman talked about the transsexual community and forces there doing work on this; a young guy talked about the different neighborhoods to go to, and the need to get on the subways to reach people. Another woman thought she could get a room in her church for the initiative, and also made plans to get out to artists; an artist responded with what he was doing among immigrant communities. Yet another person talked about tenant organizations in the South Bronx, as well as religious networks he was part of, and got an answering call from another tenant organizer in the same workshop. There was a real spirit in there of “let’s make this happen.”
People from the Revolution Club put out ideas and plans on where to reach out with this and talked about the need for people to get into the scientific and revolutionary answers being put forward by Bob Avakian—and they also called on-the-spot for a militant confrontational action the next week. This spirit and practice—both digging into why this happens and the need for revolution and at the same time getting directly out to the people hit hardest by this and calling people into action against it—brings something essential and irreplaceable to the table for October.
Some people made a point of saying that while they appreciated the speakers, they themselves were NOT revolutionaries, and that we would all have to reach out far more broadly than the people in the room to really do this. This was said in a mainly good spirit—you got the sense that the people who came by and large REALLY wanted to find a way to fight and to make this happen, and wanted this to be as broad as possible. There was a real earnest spirit to the wrangling. And it seemed to be pretty much understood by everyone that we’re going to need a lot more people of all kinds of views taking this up, and soon, to have the stop-in-your-tracks, change-how-you-think-and-what-you’re-doing, make-the-rulers-jump-back impact so urgently needed.
As people went around the room, putting out different ideas and offering different kinds of resources to this effort, I thought to myself that this movement was going to have to be really good at ORGANIZING. Getting people’s ideas onto the floor and recording their names and ways to contact them is just a beginning. People’s efforts and ideas need to be drawn on and sifted, cross-fertilized and knit together into something very powerful—and not in two or four weeks, but now. In fact, we have to be not only ready but aiming, right on the spot, to draw people into things—whether people from this broad movement are flyering or mounting some kind of resistance to police terror, either planned or spontaneous. They then in turn become part of things then and there, and work to draw in others. That has to be much more the “style,” or the “signature,” of this movement.
There have to be simple ways for everyone to take a hand, and to communicate their ideas. Again, there simply cannot be a situation where people are made to wait “until someone gets back to them”—things are too urgent, people’s ideas and enthusiasm at this meeting were too alive, and no effort or positive impulse can be squandered or left on the vine.
Revolutionaries need to strategize with people as they organize. This doesn’t mean just figuring out who to reach or what to do to get an immediate task done. It involves constantly going back with people to why these actions in October are so crucial. That means going back to just how horrible and built-into-the-system, how illegitimate and unnecessary these police murders and terror and this regime of mass incarceration are, and why these happen... how this is linked to the other outrages that distort and mutilate and make an early and often horrific end to people’s lives, here and around the world... why the fundamental interests of most people don’t lie in maintaining this and how this could be ended through revolution... Revolutionaries should be frank on how we are building this to contribute to putting an end to this forever, through revolution, even as we know—and in fact work for—the broadest number of people to get out there to seriously fight this NOW. To paraphrase BA, the fact that we see how utterly unnecessary this is, how it is kept in effect by a reactionary system which has long since outlived its time, and how crucial it is that people stand up now as part of building up the strength to get rid of it... that makes us burn all the hotter.
All this—done in a lively and scientific way, engaging with people’s ideas—should actually lead to more creativity, more people drawn in to take a part, and more drive and efficiency (and less wasted effort). This is part of leadership.
This also means seeking out people and groups who are doing things around this—whatever they are doing, so long as they view their efforts as directed at stopping police terror and abuse and murder. That should be the dividing line when we pose the question: “Which Side Are You On?” There can be and needs to be all kinds of views about what kinds of changes are needed in society and how to go about them and how to view the police themselves. We can and certainly should talk frankly, and struggle about, larger questions as we work together (and we can and certainly will wrangle out differences over HOW to best mount these days of action). We can talk with some of the leaders at the same time as we reach out to the people in these groups. And we can’t take “no” for an answer—there is too much at stake here, for millions, and we have to keep going back to that. The point is this: everyone must get together to end police terror and this means uniting the broadest number of people around that, even as we bring forward our full understanding.
I thought to myself: this is NOT going to be—it can’t be—business-as-usual in late October... This is going to be, and it has got to be, some whole other thing. Too much is at stake. And if that is to be so, it sure can’t be business-as-usual building it. We’ve got to take the best of everything we know, and then we’ve got to learn a whole lot more. The basis is there—there is a NEED for it in society—and there are growing numbers of people searching for a way to act effectively on it. WE have to be up for this.
Revolution #394 July 6, 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 #394 July 6, 2015
From The Michael Slate Show:
July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Jordan Davis, a high school junior, was sitting with three friends in a car in a gas station parking lot in Jacksonville, Florida, when Michael Dunn, a white man, approached the car complaining of loud music. There was an argument. Dunn pulled out a gun and fired ten shots, two of them hitting Jordan and killing him. In February 2014, Dunn was convicted of secondary charges, but the jury reached no decision on the charge of murder and a mistrial was declared. In a retrial later that year, Dunn was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison.
Ron Davis, Jordan’s father, and Marc Silver, director of the film 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets about the murder of Jordan Davis, were interviewed on The Michael Slate Show on June 26.
Michael Slate: I was deeply impacted by the film [3½ Minutes], I was deeply impacted by what I read about what you’ve been doing, what you said—so I wanted to ask you this: You’ve spoken to how Jordan’s humanity was stolen in different ways with this whole thing. People gotta understand that Jordan Davis was a high school kid. He was a young teenager who liked music, who liked life and he was full of hope, goals, ideas, and he was gunned down because of the color of his skin and the fact that he wasn’t gonna bow down and say, “yes, sir” to somebody.
Ron Davis: Yes, and I taught him not to bow down and say “yes, sir” to somebody. What happened to Trayvon Martin, me and Jordan, we talked about that. Jordan couldn’t understand why someone would take upon themselves to kill this kid for basically going to the store and buying Skittles and iced tea and just minding his own business and walking home. And so we had again that conversation with Jordan about there are people in the world—there are people in the world, they’re not just white people, you know, they’re white supremacists. There’s a difference. And people have to realize that there are people who want to go back to what they consider “the good ole days” of the Confederacy. You have a lot of people who still have grandsons that they’ve taught this hate speech to. And so I told Jordan that even though he looked like Trayvon, he has to be equipped mentally to handle these things that are out there that’s facing him as a child. He put on a brown hoodie, you know, and they have a picture of him with that brown hoodie. And this young man, I’m proud that he fought back verbally, you know. He respected Michael Dunn enough not to get out the car and try to cause harm to Michael Dunn. That’s one thing that Michael Dunn cannot lie about. Jordan never harmed a hair on his head, never scratched his car; he never did anything physically to Michael Dunn. So Michael Dunn, like the prosecutor said, he DECIDED to kill Jordan. He didn’t have to kill Jordan. But I’m proud of my son. I’m proud of the legacy that we’re going to leave.
Ron Davis. Photo: ftw
Michael Slate: Let me ask you this, because as I started to say, Jordan’s humanity was stolen in a lot of ways, both through the murder, but also in the courtroom, the whole process... In the courtroom, they wouldn’t let you show pictures of Jordan.
Ron Davis: Right...
Michael Slate: They wouldn’t let you show pictures of him interacting with his family. They wouldn’t let you show any of that stuff. But they also did something which I thought was extremely important. When they looked at him (Jordan) they almost painted—and you were allowed to see Dunn, the killer, as a human—you weren’t allowed to see Jordan as anything but a one-dimensional character whose face was simply a driver’s license ID.
Ron Davis: That’s right.
Michael Slate: You have spent a lot of time talking about the humanity of Jordan. Tell us what Jordan was like.
Ron Davis: Jordan, even as a small child, when he was in a car seat, me and Lucy remember the days when we would put on our music and drive into Atlanta proper and, you know, he would just listen to the music, no big thing. You know, he’s in his car seat in the back. But all of a sudden one day, I put on James Brown. Oh my goodness! I put on James Brown and he just started dancin’ and dancin’ and and dancin’ and we said, well maybe it was him just getting ready, you know, to dance. So maybe if we put on another song of somebody else, maybe he’ll still dance. So we put on another song and he stopped dancing. And we said this kid loves James Brown.
It was incredible. And I remember the first time we had snowfall in Georgia and I put little Jordan’s snowsuit on, took him outside and he looked at it like it was ice cream. So he picked it up, put it in his mouth and it tasted good. And he smiled and he laughed, but then all of a sudden he forgot that snow was on his hands and it started getting cold and that smile turned into a frown and I had to put his hands in my mouth to warm his hands up. You know, these things as a parent that you see, these children growing up.
Jordan liked to roller skate inside, you know, indoor roller skating. He loved to swim, he was a great swimmer. I’m a scuba diver, I’m a registered diver. And what we used to do in Jacksonville is go out to the waves right near the pier, and you’ll see it in this film. You’ll see a pier in Jacksonville. We used to go right out there. And we had a game called, you know, “Jump the Waves.” Every time the waves come you turn your back and jump as many as you can before you get knocked down. He won a lot of times. Even though I was taller than him, he still won a lot of times. So, you know, that’s a special place in that film and that’s a special place in our hearts.
Ah, my father, that was the last place he came to go to the beach. My father got sick with bone cancer. He hadn’t seen the beach in almost 20 years. When he came to live with me the last six months of his life, he asked me to take him to the beach and I took him to that same spot. So that’s a very special spot for me. It’s like three generations right there in that spot.
Michael Slate: I was very moved by the statement you made to the court after the trial was over. I want to touch on that because people don’t get the chance to actually hear what the impact is of having a child murdered, whether it’s by the police or a vigilante, having a child’s life stolen. I want you to tell people what that’s like.
Ron Davis: [Pause] The first time as a parent you get “that call,” you never forget the call. Leland, who’s Jordan’s best friend, felt blood on his hands. And Leland screamed out and called his mother on the cell phone. He was crying and screaming to his mother, and his mother called me. And that’s why—any friend Jordan ever had, I always had the phone number of their parents. I always tell parents, make sure who your kids hang out with and make sure you have their phone numbers in case of emergency. Thank God she had my number. She called me at work and told me to rush down to the hospital. The thing that a parent doesn’t know is—you hear that your son or daughter has been shot, but you don’t know if they survived. Thirty minutes of driving to the hospital, not knowing whether he was dead or alive. I never forgot that.
And when you got to the hospital, it took an hour for them to verify that it was Jordan that they had. The one thing that I tell people is that one of the worst periods of time in my life is sitting in my car when I got home from the hospital because nobody else knew but me in my family that Jordan was killed. I have to pull into the driveway and go into the house and tell my wife that her stepson is dead. Then I have to call Lucy, his mother, that her son, her only son, is dead. And I sat in that car for probably about 20 minutes, I believe, and everything was quiet. It was deathly silent. Nobody was around. There were no cars, nothing. It was just like going into a tunnel. And I had to tell these two ladies we lost Jordan. I would tell any parent out there never, ever try to take your mind to even imagine losing a child, because your brain would stop you from going that far. You can never imagine that pain of losing a child.
Michael Slate: And you still have that pain today, from what I read, in terms of even having the watch that Jordan used to have, things like that. You still have that and that’s important for people to understand, because this stuff doesn’t leave you.
Ron Davis, holding Jordan Davis' driver's license.
Ron Davis: Right. And it took me two years petitioning the court to get Jordan’s ID. I have Jordan’s ID right now in my pocket. And it took two years, because everything is evidence and everything could be overturned on appeal. So you have to also fight the court system to get that back from them, just a piece of Jordan, his last moments on Earth. I wanted his ID because it was with him when he took his last breath, and I finally got that from the court. And another thing about court is this: it’s not a trial about Jordan Davis, it’s a trial of Michael Dunn. Jordan Davis and his family doesn’t have any rights in that courtroom. You have to fight for every right that you get, so much so that the defense attorney had the nerve to put me on the witness list just to shut my mouth so I couldn’t talk to the press. He called me as a witness and the respectful thing to do is tell the prosecutor ahead of time the witnesses that you’re going to call next so you can prepare. They didn’t do that. The defense attorney decided one day, “Let’s just grab Mr. Davis and all of his grief and drag him up to this.” You don’t see it in the film, but they actually called me in the first trial to the stand—and I wasn’t even there—just to harass me as a father, and hopefully that I’ll say something to incriminate myself, and I wasn’t even there.
Michael Slate: You know, you’ve talked about going to Charleston, South Carolina, recently. And one of the things that I read that you said was, you talked about Charleston and you shared a lot with the people there; the fact that the white vigilantes did this, the same thing that was done to Jordan. But you also spoke about the commonalities of facing up to white supremacy that underlies these murders. Can you talk about that a little?
Ron Davis: When I do the Q & A’s and the film and I go across this country and I tell the audiences that I have that people that are not of color, they have also to fight against white supremacy. These are the people who are trying to tear the fabric of this nation apart. They want the good old days, the Confederate flag, what that means to them. They try to lie and say it’s about heritage. It’s not about heritage. It’s about enslaving a people, a race of people, for monetary gain. They built their whole lives and their bank accounts on the back of the slaves and they want to continue that. That’s what it’s all about. And that’s why when we had the Civil War, it was about slavery. They try to lie and say it was about everything else under the sun, but the main thing it was about was because the Southern states still wanted to have slavery and they have not gotten over that yet.
So I went to Charleston, South Carolina. Two days ago I came back from Charleston. And when I was there I called Walter Scott’s father, Walter Scott, Sr. His son was killed by getting shot in the back by a policeman. The policeman tried to put a Taser next to the body, but another policeman saw him and told him not to do that. This was all caught on videotape. This is happening in the South and happening in states across this nation. The police are using their powers not to protect and to serve but to discriminate against people of color. That’s why we need to focus on what happened in Charleston. These people forgave the shooter. That just shows you that African-Americans, over the course of decades, have been given so many injustices that have been done to them. The Tuskegee experiment in Alabama, where you were giving people of color syphilis on purpose. You know, so many things they have done to us, and we keep forgiving and forgiving. There’s going to be a point where we’re gonna stop forgiving. The white supremacists want us to come to that and have a race war. But people out there, I tell you, I think there are much more good people in this world than there are bad people.
Michael Slate: One of the things that you faced up to in particular, in relation to what happened to Jordan Davis, to your son, you talked about the way that you warned actually Walter Scott’s parents to about this, you talked about the way that there’s always an attempt to victimize the victim. And you said, “Don’t victimize the victim!” I want you to talk about that, because that’s what they did with this thing about, “Oh, it’s this kid that listened to loud rap.” They were probably trying to paint this picture of whatever, you know, “gangster rapper,” whatever, when they were talking about Jordan. You talked about, “don’t victimize the victim,” because that’s something that’s very important in terms of all this other stuff that you’ve been talking about.
Ron Davis: Right. And that’s why it’s unique, because, you know, when you have the Trayvon [case], they try to say marijuana. When you had the Eric Garner, we had loose cigarettes. We had this other Walter Scott, well, he was running away from cops, he was trying to get his Taser. It’s always an excuse, but do any of those things come to murder? Do any of those things amount to having to lose a life?
And this is what I’m talking about with Jordan. They couldn’t victimize Jordan because of the fact that Jordan didn’t have marijuana in his system. Jordan didn’t have alcohol in his system. Jordan wasn’t a gangster rapper. Jordan went to school. Jordan’s never been arrested. Jordan’s never been to prison. You know, Michael Dunn actually picked the wrong group of kids to do this to, because Jordan wasn’t all those things. I think America saw a kid and said, “You know what? That could have been my child.” That could have been my child, because Jordan was all these things that America say you have to be, you have to be that way.
Michael Slate: You’ve also had some ongoing contact with Trayvon Martin’s dad and with the parents and families of other people killed by the police. That’s one of the things that I think is really important about what you’re doing with your life now. But they do this thing where they always make it seem like even though you can testify to what Jordan was about, they do this thing where they basically end up saying, “Well, yeah, but you don’t know what he was like. He did call that man names.” Or that Trayvon, “What was he doing walking out there?” C’mon! But it’s always that thing about victimizing the victim, where somehow they try to twist it where they make it seem it’s the victim’s fault.
Ron Davis: Everything that has been happening across this nation, you have to realize that these killings, no matter whether it’s from a citizen or law enforcement, the person that’s the victim is unarmed. Why is that all the time? When is the last time you heard a national story where one of these victims was armed? Never! You know, Rekia Boyd, unarmed girl got shot in the face by a shotgun. Unarmed. Tamir Rice. Unarmed.
Michael Slate: A 12-year-old kid.
Ron Davis: A 12-year-old kid. John Crawford goes into Walmart. Guess what? Walmart sells guns. You can’t pick up a gun where they sell guns? Unarmed. He’s armed with a BB gun, you know. So all these were cases of unarmed kids. So I think there is murderous intent. There are people who are with some of these organizations that are white supremacist organizations that we found out that they’re in law enforcement. And so it’s not the blue shield any more. I think the good policemen should go ahead and pull down that blue wall and start telling on the policemen that are doing wrong. And that’s what’s breaking our country up.
Michael Slate: You know what I’ve learned over the years? One thing, the police are here not to serve the people at all; that’s not their job. They’re here to protect the system, particularly the capitalist system. They’re here to protect the system. There’s almost 400 hundred years of the most barbaric oppression against Black people. Even if a cop wants to look and say, “Hey, this is wrong,” the choice he has is to leave or become part of the machine that’s doing all of this. That’s the thing, because you’re never going to change the police. They’re not sort of misguided. They’re beasts.
Ron Davis: Well, they’re part of mass incarceration. We fight against mass incarceration. Also, with all these private prisons—and now if you look at CCA [Corrections Corporation of America], they’re on the stock exchange, where they’re making money hand over fist. And that’s why I tell them look at the 13th and 14th Amendments, when they said we abolished slavery, except in the event it’s in the form of punishment. That’s why they still have ongoing slavery—2.2 million people incarcerated and most of them, 67 percent, are people of color.
Michael Slate: Ron, on that note, we’re gonna have to wrap this up, but I want to thank you so much, man. I want to tell you that you have a lot of people, myself included, people listening to this, standing with you, man. We will be there—it’s not a question of we’ll have your back, we gotta be there on the front lines with you.
Ron Davis: Well, make sure you look at our website, which is, walkwithjordan.org. That’s our website. Go on that website and keep up with us and also see our film, 3½ Minutes, Ten Bullets. It’s out at your local theater. Please look at it.
Michael Slate: How did you come to this story? There is a lot going on around this subject of police murder and whatnot. But you were drawn to this story. What brought you there?
Marc Silver: Well, we actually first met Jordan’s parents a couple of weeks before the George Zimmerman verdict. And at that point we spent a week with them in Jacksonville, where the shooting happened, where Jordan’s dad lived, and Atlanta, where Jordan’s mum lived. We spent a week together. We talked about what happened to Jordan, and then specifically what happened during these three and a half minutes when the two cars pulled up next to each other. At that point the reason we kind of zoomed in on this particular family and this particular story was because we saw what happened in that three and a half minutes as a kind of perfect storm of racial profiling, access to guns, and then laws that give people the confidence to use those guns.
As the film evolved and the edit evolved, suddenly all these other cases happened: Ferguson happened, and, as you know, many other shootings happened. And suddenly, that three and a half minutes wasn’t just about what happened to Jordan Davis, but it became metaphorical for what happened in all these other cases. What the film then spoke to was what was common about all these things.
Michael Slate: Let’s talk about that a little, because one of the things that strikes me is you have so many people killed by the police, so many people, particularly young Black people, murdered by the police. You think about this, and this story also brings out something that happens, as well, and probably even more frequently than most of us know. And there’s a tie between the kind of society that would condone the police murder of Black people, and a society that would condone and even enshrine laws that allow the outright murder of Black youth, Black people.
Marc Silver: Yeah. And I think for us—I can understand the sort of pundits that don’t want to make the connection or actively want to express that there aren’t connections between all of these things. But for us, I think the DNA, if you like, that was the same in all of these cases is why predominantly white men are fearful of Black men. Like, where did that come from? And particularly in Michael Dunn, where, I believe that he believed that he saw a gun. Now, clearly there wasn’t a gun. The police never found a gun. There was never any evidence that there was a gun. And I think that question of how is it that somebody like Michael Dunn can be so conditioned to think that he saw a gun like that. I think that’s a question that isn’t just for citizens, but of course is also for police in many of these cases.
Michael Slate: We’re going to come back to that in a minute, because I did want to start first with the way you told the story, which you’ve just been hinting at. You let both of these people just unroll. You allowed them to actually have the space to tell these stories. You had Michael Dunn, the killer, who got up, and he told his story. And then you had the story of Jordan Davis, who he was. And that had to be told through friends and family. I have to tell you, my first inclination would have been: Michael Dunn, racist killer. Jordan Davis, innocent youth. Now, there’s truth to that. But you didn’t just sort of heavy-hammer it on people. You allowed it to unfold. And that was a really powerful way. Why did you decide to do that?
Marc Silver: Well, I thought it was really important for as long as possible during the film for the audience to almost feel like they were members of the jury, that the information that the audience would receive during the film would be the same as what the jury received. And in that way, I think, it gives an audience a greater chance, or opportunity, to actually reflect on, if you like, their own biases. Like, could they actually see anything of themselves in Michael Dunn? And I thought rather than make him this kind of bogeyman character from the outset, there was more value for audiences when it comes to considering their own potential—whether conscious or subconscious—biases. A lot of people have said that, in a very strange way, they felt some form of empathy for Michael Dunn at points in that film. Obviously as we learn more about him, his racist views become more overt during the film, and that empathy very quickly disappears. But I think there’s great value in this idea that I believe that some audience members would, at the very least, have some feeling of connection or understanding about this idea that Michael Dunn felt fearful when he pulled up next to this car with four Black youths playing loud hip-hop. And I think the way we constructed the film allows people to question whether they would have felt that fear, and then subsequently question why is it that they feel that fear.
Michael Slate: Then it draws them in. As things turn around and you listen to—a brilliant move, that thing about the phone calls. That was incredible. I want you to talk about that, because that actually allowed him to basically lay out all of his ugly crap.
Marc Silver: Yeah, it was very interesting, because we couldn’t get access to Michael Dunn, in terms of an interview with him or his family. They didn’t want to be in the film. But we did have a kind of variety of other jigsaw puzzle pieces, so to speak. So one of them was the initial police interview that was done with Michael Dunn about 24 hours after the shooting. And because in the state of Florida, we were able to access Michael Dunn’s phone calls from prison, which are all recorded, to his fiancée Rhonda Rouer. We started listening to these phone calls, and, again, they were hugely revealing in the sense that Michael Dunn never believed that he did anything wrong. And he frequently expressed this in these phone calls. So perhaps, actually, it worked well for the film that we weren’t able to directly interview him. In a way we got something that was much more honest by hearing these phone calls between him and his fiancée about how he felt there was a major wrongdoing in that he was even being charged with this crime, because he so firmly believed it was a case of self-defense.
Michael Slate: What becomes clear in that whole series of telephone calls, he allows all this. He just flowers, in a certain sense. You really see the internalizing of all this racist stuff that’s in there. The idea that he even talks about “good citizens” and he talks about the idea that basically if he hadn’t killed Jordan Davis, then maybe Jordan Davis would have gone out and killed somebody else right after that. You’re watching it and you’re thinking, “What the hell?”
Marc Silver: Incredible. Yeah, he believes, I think, that he saved other people’s lives by killing Jordan Davis. There’s another incredible line by him, which, when you’re in the cinema, you always hear a gasp from the audience, that he compares himself to a rape victim who is being blamed because she was wearing a skimpy short skirt or something. But what I found most interesting about those types of comments was the way that Michael Dunn almost became a metaphor for parts of America being blind to their own racism. That’s why I felt that Michael Dunn was such a powerful character in the film. Obviously what’s on the surface as he’s giving testimony and all of his phone calls and his initial police interview, but much more deeply, I think he came to represent something much more powerful.
Michael Slate: A lot of people talk about this. And you made the point that race itself was not allowed to be in the courtroom. It was present in the courtroom anyway, but it was also present in the streets. But there was a thing that was going on as well, which was really very heavy. You have this whole thing of the description, especially by white people, as the “loud music trial” or “the thug music trial.” But it was all about some kid who played his music too loud and that’ll teach him—and it deserves death. And that strikes deep in your heart, because you’re thinking, what the hell is this?
Marc Silver: Yeah. There’s a scene in the film where we hear voices from people in Jacksonville who are calling into a radio chat show and someone actually says that, “Why was this even called the ‘loud music trial’? Why wasn’t it called the 21st century lynching trial?”
Michael Slate: Exactly!
Marc Silver: Powerful words. And this idea that race wasn’t allowed to be discussed in the courtroom, so that was in some pretrial hearings, the defense lawyer had basically said that because Michael Dunn wasn’t charged with any hate crime, because he wasn’t heard using any words of hatred when it came to race, that race was not allowed to be discussed in the courtroom. And on top of that, Jordan Davis was not allowed to be called a victim during the trial, because by calling him a victim, it would have implied that Michael Dunn had done something wrong, and that would have altered the jury’s mind. Obviously, as I realized that there was this massive juxtaposition between how the case was discussed inside the courthouse, where there was no mention of race, and then on the streets outside and on the airwaves of Jacksonville, everyone obviously was perceiving this as this never would have happened if this was a car full of four white teenagers that Michael Dunn had pulled up next to.
Michael Slate: And that challenge to people who were following the trial, who were actually looking at it, and the challenge to people who view your film now, in terms of even the television coverage from inside the courtroom, which again was also astounding, and really refreshing—and important because it allowed that to unfold. You had to deal with that thing of Dunn’s sense of entitlement and his claim to be “a fine upstanding American.” He says, “Hey, I’ve got a good life. I live on the beach. I’m an engineer.” And on the other hand, this Black kid, whose story is only really told, and it’s told very powerfully, by the testimony of his friends, both in the courtroom and outside, and his mom and dad. And they’re the people that are just laying their hearts out and saying, wait a minute, we’re human. And it was those two poles: No, they’re animals that deserve to be penned up and killed if they threaten us, and then, no, we’re human. Very powerfully posed.
Marc Silver: I think that it’s very important in films that are about inequality and human rights that we try to decrease the differences between people and try and break down these constructions of otherness and race so that we can see each other just simply as human beings. And Ron and Lucy, Jordan’s parents, that’s how they wanted to bring Jordan up, and how they did bring Jordan up. And I think in the way that they speak since his murder, they’re almost still parenting Jordan in his absence. And I think one of the things we tried to do was, how do you show who Jordan was, given that obviously we never got to meet him? And you get to learn who Jordan was in his absence through understanding who his parents really are, who his friends were who were in the car with him, and also his girlfriend, who happened to see him that night for the very last time. And through meeting all these other people who obviously surrounded Jordan when he was alive, you get to realize that the impression you get of Jordan from Michael Dunn couldn’t be further from the truth.
Michael Slate: And what they learned, too, what all his friends learned, for instance. Who was that young man talking about the loud music question? He said "they called it 'thug music,' and that’s simply another word for calling me an N_____." These days, it’s acceptable to do that.
Marc Silver: Yeah, absolutely. I loved hanging out with his friends, because they just told it as it was. There was nothing academic. We didn’t speak to any specialists on race or anything like this. We just spoke to 17-year-old boys who understood that there was a certain sector, if you like, of society, that felt that they should be presented in a certain way, and they were having none of that. Even when Michael Dunn, on the witness stand, claimed that he never used the word “thug music,” and he called it “rap crap,” one of these boys just ripped that apart and just said, “Rap crap. He made that up when he was in prison, because he knows now ‘thug music’ has certain connotations.”
Michael Slate: Marc, your heart had to break at the outcome of the first trial, where there was a partial mistrial. And you’re looking at and you’re thinking, how did this happen? But then I realized, one of the things that you’ve done in there is that through your camera and the focusing on the trial, and the way you said you wanted the audience to actually be jurors, you also had to deal with the fact that you painted a picture of an entire society that’s built around this, and that allows it and accepts it. It accepts this kind of judgment, accepts this kind of view of Blacks and other people of color.
Marc Silver: Yeah, you’re absolutely right. I was just thinking while you were saying that, I remember being in Jacksonville and thinking a lot about The Wire, and how the different series of The Wire looked at a different structural element, the media, or education, or race, and how when all of those things come together, we start to understand maybe like a wider perspective on things.
But in many ways, yeah, when the first verdict was declared, the tragedy is that standing there in the courtroom when that happened, I’d like to think I couldn’t understand how that actually happened, but the tragedy was I could understand, because the system inside the courthouse was set up in such a way that if race isn’t allowed to be discussed, that’s one thing. But watching the defense lawyer and the prosecution do their thing over a couple of weeks in court, I realized that actually, it was very ironic. The Seal of Florida was above the judge’s head, and it says, “In God We Trust” on the Seal of Florida. And I looked at that at times, and I’m watching the defense and the prosecution express themselves, and I thought, you know, I’m not so sure this is about In God We Trust, rather than it might actually be “who tells a better story in this courtroom is going to be the winner.”
And watching the defense lawyer, I can absolutely understand, he was so good. All he had to do was sow enough reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury that of course it was going to lead to a mistrial. And I think he was extremely successful. He didn’t succeed in the sense that Michael Dunn was found not guilty, but I think given the circumstances, he totally did the best job he possibly could, and sowed enough reasonable doubt in that jury’s mind that it led to a mistrial. When you start understanding a system in that way, yeah, I was tragically not surprised that that was the verdict.
Michael Slate: Yeah, it’s an important point. And it fits with this thing I was just thinking about, because there’s this element of how you also revealed through the contrast and the interplay of both sides with what was going on, you revealed the nature of the entire society. I was telling you a little earlier about the Border Patrol being exonerated from all these shootings on the border of totally innocent people, kids throwing rocks, and it was OK to do that. And the same thing that actually happens here, you see this in the trial. It was not that far removed from the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin, this whole idea that this is the right of the good citizens to stand up and just have to hold on and do what they can to keep things under control. And it reminds you, seriously, that there are too many “good Germans” in this country who refuse to stand up and recognize what’s going on or say anything. There is, society-wide, a kind of fashioning of a foundation for this kind of fascistic wing in society.
Marc Silver: Sure. And it’s branded as democracy and freedom. It’s like fascism with a smile sometimes. Once you start looking at all of these elements, you understand that this kind of brand identity of post-racial America is clearly not the case.
Michael Slate: The idea of Stand Your Ground, which was another really important element in the film, and in the case, the idea that they didn’t have to prove anything other than he believed all this—and he did believe all this. He believed everything he had conjured up, which doesn’t say what he did was right or excusable, but when you look at the system, that says that’s enough to get an innocent verdict.
Marc Silver: Yeah. And obviously that prompts a question about how is it that people are conditioned to get to a point in their lives where they are capable of believing that? And I think that is the bigger question of the film, and why the film connects to all of these other shootings that have occurred.
Michael Slate: And it’s heavy, because you’re sitting there watching this and you’re thinking, he actually believes this, and there’s an entire society that believes this. After Trayvon Martin, after the verdict in the Zimmerman case and the murder of Trayvon was completely whitewashed and allowed, and then the string of murders happens. And then you have Jordan Davis, and the trial goes on. You have Ferguson erupt. You have Eric Garner in New York, who’s just standing there screaming, “I can’t breathe” as cops are filmed strangling him. And you think of all these people saying, I believed he was going to hurt me. I believed he was armed. I believed this, I believed that. And it’s not just justifying individual acts, it’s justifying the whole view.
Marc Silver: It’s funny, when you speak about the whole view, there were points in the edit, I remember with the editor about halfway through the edit, where I suddenly realized that, you’re right, the film is a metaphor for much bigger things. We were talking about weapons of mass destruction, and this idea that Michael Dunn’s lawyer was criticizing the police for not doing a good enough job by not being able to find the gun. And there was a moment when I thought about weapons of mass destruction and the fact that it’s almost the same kind of thinking at the individual level of what Michael Dunn said about essentially fearing the other and shooting in self-defense, in a preemptive strike so he wouldn’t have got hurt himself, was not so dissimilar to going to look for weapons that don’t exist in another country, shooting in self-defense and being scared of these other people that we don’t understand.
I understand that that’s a metaphorical leap, so to speak, but in my heart, I feel there are connections between Michael Dunn as an individual, and we could take it all the way up to U.S. foreign policy. And I think that’s very interesting when you can make a film about essentially what happened to one family, in a very kind of micro-forensic way, as it is, as we follow this trial, but actually in your heart, you start feeling that this is connected to much bigger things.
Michael Slate: They actually do—they have this sense of entitlement that the world is theirs to conquer and hold onto, when you think about the imperialists that run this society and try to rule the world—and pretty much have ruled the world for a long period of time. They have no problem going and overthrowing governments, drones taking people out all the time, all these kinds of things happening, because they view it as their world, and what they say goes, and there’s “us and them.” And it’s a very heavy thing, because that’s what the foundation for what happened to Jordan Davis was.
Marc Silver: Yeah, absolutely. And I guess that’s what I’m trying to highlight or bring attention to, or inspire people to just look at that kind of construct from a slightly different perspective or angle.
Michael Slate: What did you think when the verdict came in of not guilty, and then there was a retrial a short while later, and the verdict came in as guilty? And you’re looking at this guy, and you could see Michael Dunn was stunned. He’s going to spend the rest of his life in prison. You had to wonder, what really changed? I don’t get the sense that it was so much what changed in the courtroom as what was going on outside. What do you think of that?
Marc Silver: Two things. Ferguson happened in between those two trials. I’d like to think that perhaps the second jury had been affected by what happened in Ferguson, and actually did think that Black lives do matter and that had shifted their perspective, that they sat through that trial and they came to the conclusion that clearly he was 100 percent guilty. Unfortunately, that perspective is slightly warped by the fact that in the second trial, Michael Dunn didn’t have the same defense lawyer. And I think that perhaps the second defense lawyer was maybe not as good as the first defense lawyer, and that second lawyer wasn’t able to sow as much reasonable doubt as the first lawyer had. But obviously I prefer to think that maybe that second jury, their views were more evolved than the first jury.
Michael Slate: Jordan Davis’s dad, Ron Davis, said that Trayvon Martin’s father called him and left him a message that said, I want to welcome you to a club that none of us are happy to belong to. Let’s talk about that a little bit.
Marc Silver: It’s a very powerful moment in the film. And actually, even when Jordan was alive, when he saw Trayvon’s picture on the news, he turned round to his father and said how similar he felt he looked to Trayvon, and obviously how prophetic that turned out to be. And since this happened to Ron, Ron has subsequently gone to other families and welcomed them into this club that no parent wants to be a part of. And again, of course, this is a massive thing that I would imagine that most, if not all, Black parents have to have this kind of conversation with their children at the moment. And even if they’re not having the conversation with their children, their children are seeing representations of themselves on the news and seeing how dangerous it is at the moment to literally be Black, and that’s a massive conversation that America should be having with itself.
Michael Slate: Absolutely. And I’d add just one thing, because I think it’s extremely important what you just said, that whole point that we were talking about earlier, about people thinking it was OK to tolerate this stuff, and how that has to stop. When the film premiered at Sundance, and I know you were nervous about how it was going to be received. But then when it was over and [there was] a standing ovation, and then you had Ron Davis come up, it was a large enough theater, and it ran through your body. There wasn’t one person in the house sitting there going, “meh.” Everyone was really taken by this. And then Ron Davis gets up and he starts agitating about how this can no longer be tolerated, and he calls on people to put their hands up, if you’re going to stand with him, if you’re going to be out there fighting to end this, if you’re not going to tolerate this any more. And there wasn’t one person that didn’t put their hand up in that house. I thought that was a really moving moment. It seems that there is this kind of movement that’s started to grow, and I was wondering what you thought about that.
Marc Silver: I will likely never forget that moment. Also, it’s very important because of the type of people that were in that audience. I think Ron mentioned recently to me that he was on a march in New York City, where about 60-70 percent of the people on a Black Lives Matter march were white. And again, I think this is a film for white audiences to understand or be invited to reflect upon their own biases. Because this isn’t just going to change by Black people saying that Black lives matter. It’s actually white people that have to understand their own implicit biases and racism, conscious racism and subconscious racism, in themselves, let alone how that manifests throughout the whole system.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
July 3, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
From a reader:
Things in Baltimore have been deceptively “quiet” over the past two months since the powerful uprising on April 27 and its aftermath. But just beneath the surface, various forces are in motion and in conflict, and the developing situation could spark new eruptions of struggle.
On May 1, Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced that six of the cops who brutally killed Freddie Gray would be prosecuted. Over and over again, we’ve seen prosecutors across the U.S. refuse to put killer cops on trial, even when medical examiners rule that a Black man’s death at the hands of police was “homicide.” So why did Mosby come down with those indictments? Carl Dix pointed out what was behind that: “This is not their system working. This is their system showing its fear of you. They saw you stand up. They saw you saying ‘not this time.’ They hear you saying ‘no more.’ So they said, ‘Well, maybe we should indict and maybe they’ll go home and maybe they’ll forget about it.’”(“Statement of Carl Dix on Uprising in Baltimore”), Mosby’s office essentially confirmed this recently: “By charging six police officers in the arrest and death of Freddie Gray, State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby restored order to Baltimore ‘before the entire city became an armed camp or was burned to the ground,’ her office argues in a new court filing.” (Baltimore Sun, June 24, 2015)
July 2 was supposed to have been the date that the six cops would appear in court, hear their charges formally presented, and enter their plea. But there was the prospect that this would be a lightning rod for the police, who would be rallying their supporters, including many who make no secret of their hatred for Black people, AND those who would want to confront them and carry forward the fight to indict, convict and send the killer cops to jail. Powerful forces have been working to chill things out in Baltimore this summer, and such a confrontation could have instead inflamed the righteous anger of the people. So a highly unusual step was arranged for the cops to receive the charges and present their pleas privately through their lawyers a week earlier.
When it was announced that there would be no public court appearance by the cops, it was also revealed that their trial is to start on October 13, with a judge to hear and decide pre-trial motions on September 2. Among the motions is one to change the location of the trial away from Baltimore. If that motion is granted, it could have enormous repercussions. Back in 1992, in the highly publicized case where the vicious police beating of Rodney King in Los Angeles was captured on video and seen by millions, the trial of the cops was moved out of Los Angeles to an almost all-white suburb of Simi Valley, where the jury acquitted the cops of all charges.
Powerful forces are pushing to have the trial of these cops moved out of Baltimore with the same objective of finding a judge and jury who would acquit the cops of all serious charges. People need to be prepared and mobilized to act in the face of such an outrage.
Clearly, those in power anticipate that the cops could well be let off or given a mere slap on the wrist and are preparing for that. Reflecting that, on July 1, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced that Baltimore police will be equipped with new riot gear, saying, “Specifically, I want to make sure our officers are prepared should there be additional unrest following the verdicts in the Freddie Gray case.” (Baltimore Sun, July 1, 2015)
On the same day, police arrested Raymond Carter, claiming he set fire to the West Baltimore CVS store in the middle of the uprising on April 27. Nobody should accept as truth what the police and government officials claim about anybody’s role in the uprising. In announcing the arrest, Baltimore Police Commissioner Anthony Batts slandered this young man, saying, “He is a criminal that took advantage of our city when we were most vulnerable.” This is part of the efforts to portray those people who were part of the uprising as “criminals” (or “thugs,” as Obama said). In fact, what happened in Baltimore was a powerful and beautiful uprising involving thousands of people standing together in courage, defying physical and legal dangers. The people were out there to make it unmistakably clear that there MUST be justice.
Batts’ “post-riot task force” has gone through thousands of hours of videotape and other surveillance data, and 12 adults and seven juveniles have been arrested so far. Batts promised more: “For those who have destroyed our stores, who have thrown rocks at our officers, we’re coming.” This demands a strong response from everyone who wants to see justice for Freddie Gray and the killer cops convicted and sent to jail: ALL those arrested for participating in the uprising need to be defended. We cannot allow the police or anyone else to divide those who came together in the uprising, targeting some as “thugs” and “criminals.” Fighting against murder by police is not a crime. There must be AMNESTY for ALL protesters against police terror.
As revcom.us said in May, after the uprising, there are very high stakes in what happens in Baltimore.
[T]here are even higher stakes for the oppressed and those who hate oppression, and for the revolutionaries leading the fight against that oppression. High stakes in mobilizing people to fight through and win this battle... and far higher stakes in bringing to people the word that there IS a solution to this, that revolution is possible, and that emancipation from this madness can be achieved, and in organizing people to carry forward that revolution. Will this opening be seized to bring forward the work that Bob Avakian has done on this very question, and the leadership that he has provided? Will those who ARE stepping forward to this be organized in a way that can lead to an ACTUAL revolution? Will this be done in a way that enables people to go up against all the repression that will be brought down on them as they do so? And, in that context, will the struggle for justice be fought through in such a way that it is NOT derailed, but instead strikes real blows against the ability of the powers to keep on hammering down on people, and at the same time leads people further toward revolution and emancipation? (“High Stakes in Baltimore“)
The stakes are still high, and we must mobilize people to carry forward this battle in this way, because our future depends on it.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
Sociologist Alice Goffman Pilloried for Her Pioneering Research
by Raymond Lotta | July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Alice Goffman is a young white sociologist who teaches at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her 2014 book On the Run: Fugitive Life in an American City is a vivid study of a Black neighborhood in Philadelphia where “police helicopters circle overhead, police cameras monitor passers-by, and police routinely stop, search, and arrest people in the streets.” Goffman shows how police profiling, beatings, harassment, and tracking of residents have created “communities of suspects and fugitives”—where huge numbers of young Black men are, literally, “on the run” from police and legal authority.
The New York Times chose On the Run as one of the 100 Notable Books of 2014. Cornel West described it as “the best treatment I know of the wretched underside of neo-liberal capitalist America.” Goffman has spoken at universities, and a prominently featured online talk has attracted over 940,000 views. An interview with Goffman can be read here.
Let it be said clearly: Alice Goffman has done a great service in bringing to light and to broader public attention the misery, horror, and heartbreak of African-American community life in an era of mass incarceration and police terror. Her reporting has humanized, and expressed deep empathy for, young Black men whom the system has demonized as “thugs”—while presenting a damning portrait of the police and the courts.
But there is a battle over this book. In the last few months, a series of vindictive critiques has attempted to discredit Goffman. Her professional ethics and research methods have been impugned on the Internet. Accusations of academic fraud hang in the air, and Goffman’s academic reputation and career are threatened. Things took a disturbing and ominous turn with the publication of an article in the May 27 issue of the New Republic titled “Did This Acclaimed Sociologist Drive the Getaway Car in a Murder Plot?”
This is more than an academic debate. Certain forces in and outside of academia are making allegations of professional misconduct to take down a scholar who has revealed uncomfortable truths about American society.
We have seen attempts in recent years to hound, discredit, and quash scholars who have written radical critiques of U.S. history... who have spoken out against the U.S. role in the world and U.S. war crimes... who have condemned Zionism. There is an ongoing fight to defend dissent and critical thinking in the university—and in society.
The attacks on Alice Goffman and her work are coming not just at any time but in the wake of Ferguson and Baltimore... when the cry “Black lives matter!” reverberates with political and moral urgency... and as society is being split open over the question of whether police terror must be stopped.
Let it be said clearly: The efforts to discredit Alice Goffman represent a serious assault on critical thinking at a critical time in U.S. society. She must be defended.
On the Run is based on a doctoral dissertation Goffman wrote at Princeton University. Earlier, from 2002 until 2007, she had conducted fieldwork in a poor, mostly Black neighborhood in West Philadelphia to which she gave the fictional name “6th Street.” It is a neighborhood that has, as is so typical of the inner-city over the last 40 years, seen jobs vanish with de-industrialization and the global outsourcing of production. 6th Street is a place where young Black men have few opportunities for legal employment, and where many can only survive through the underground and illegal drug economy.
Goffman had originally set out to focus on ghetto residents charged with felonies, hauled off to jail, and then released—who become second-class citizens, as described in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness. She wanted to trace the effects on the social fabric of the entire community.
But as Goffman carried out her research, she came in contact with a population of non-felons—people with low-level warrants for unpaid court fees, failure to make child support, traffic fines, etc.—who are terrorized by, and terrified of, the police. They are routinely stopped and searched. Minor offenses that might go unpunished in white and middle-class neighborhoods lead to arrests—and nearly half of those taken into custody in “6th Street” are for technical violations like drinking while on probation. Arrests for possession of drugs result in criminal records that bar people from jobs.
Goffman saw a situation in which young Black men in particular spend an inordinate amount of time at court or probation hearings that grind away at their lives. Meanwhile, court fees and fines snowball. But without jobs, it is impossible to clear this debt. So people skip court dates, and often turn to criminal activity (!) to pay off fees and fines.
Alice Goffman: How we're priming some kids for college — and others for prison
Goffman began to put together a picture and synthesized an understanding of a growing “fugitive” sub-class that, in her words, is “arrestable on sight.” The police hunt these “fugitives” down. They go after friends and loved ones of those whom they suspect of shielding fugitives: raiding homes, pressuring women to inform on male partners or family members—or to cooperate in some fashion—and often charging the uncooperative with minor or contrived offenses.
Goffman conveys the personal and emotional toll of being “on the run.” She tells, movingly, of young men with legal problems who cannot attend the births of their children at hospitals, or who avoid the funerals of their friends (or go at great risk), because the police are watching. She tells, shockingly, of hospital janitors who commandeer medical supplies to fix the broken arms of those fearing arrest in hospitals.
This is vital research.
Goffman’s approach was to immerse herself in the lives of her subjects. Among social scientists, her methods of research and inquiry are called “participation observation.” The researcher gets to know a social world qualitatively from within.
What made Goffman’s fieldwork difficult and risky was that she was studying an area of social life—the Black community—that the system views and treats as criminal through and through. (In one police raid that Goffman documents, she herself was handcuffed.)
To carry out her study, Goffman had to win the trust of individuals in a community under constant police surveillance. And exactly because young Black men have been criminalized and because illegal activity is so much a part of the oppressed and impoverished state of the Black community, she had to take certain measures to protect the identities of her subjects, who could be incriminated by her descriptions. So she changed and scrambled various details of what she was chronicling.
There are times when important intellectual work interacts with the larger political, social, and ideological terrain in an impactful way. The New Jim Crow is one such book. And On the Run has contributed further understanding of the ways that the system criminalizes young Black people—and the kinds of conditions that underlie the outrage and outpourings against police murder and terror of the last year. Goffman has observed, “The stuff I’m saying—it looks a lot like what people have been reporting from Ferguson, from New York, from Baltimore.” And she has spoken out against the police acting like an occupying force in the Black community.
Goffman’s work has been welcomed in many quarters. It has also been targeted for attack. There are forces that view Goffman’s work, and the significant public hearing it has gotten, as toxic. Various “critiques” have set out to discredit Goffman and, by implication, the mounting social indictment of police murder and terror. These attacks have focused on the veracity of her scholarship and her professional ethics.
A secondary line of attack—by way of "identity politics"—has been to rule Goffman's work out of order simply because she is white: "how dare a white person go into the Black community and conduct such research and analysis." This is as petty as it is poisonous. Here a crucial story needs to be told, and Goffman has done major work. Are her findings right or wrong? They are right. Does her truth telling about a savage injustice need to be heard? Yes, yes, yes.
The takedown efforts against On the Run began with an unsigned and highly vitriolic critique that was emailed to hundreds of sociologists—including to members of the sociology departments at the University of Pennsylvania and Princeton, where Goffman had earned her degrees, and the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she now teaches. Goffman was accused of lying about where she resided in Philadelphia, of botching up the ages of some of her subjects, of inconsistencies in the number of funerals she said she attended, and so forth. The author of the critique called for an investigation of professional misconduct.
Now, there is a standard of transparency in research requiring that experimental or research data be made available for inspection. But given the sensitivity of the subject Goffman was studying, that standard is not applicable as would normally be the case. Further, the allegations against Goffman, and the demand that she provide all her data, have put her in a difficult position. As she explained, “I don’t want to call attention to a document [the critique] that possibly identifies people in the book in a way that I had worked hard not to do.”
Indeed, to protect her research subjects (including against potential criminal prosecution), she destroyed pertinent files on her hard drive. This disclosure was pounced upon by detractors as evidence of irresponsible scholarship. Utter nonsense. As we will see, Goffman conducted scrupulous research that had oversight and review.
One factual claim in particular that has been sharply contested by Goffman’s critics is her account of police monitoring of a Philadelphia hospital. The detractors say there is no evidence of police officers checking on visitors to hospitals and running names through criminal databases in order to make arrests. The implication is a) the police do not mistreat people in the way that Goffman says she is documenting; and b) she is guilty of fabrication.
Goffman’s academic advisor at Penn, the noted sociologist Elijah Anderson, saw Goffman’s actual field notes. He also conducted interviews with two of her subjects. He has vouched for what she observed in hospitals. Goffman’s dissertation advisor at Princeton, Michael Duneier, met her on a weekly basis about some of her findings and also examined field notes. He too conducted independent interviews with some of the people Goffman interviewed and profiled, including a warrant officer of the Philadelphia Police Department. Duneier stands by Goffman’s research.
Philly Magazine researched the matter and concluded, “It is verifiable [that] people in the U.S. have been arrested at hospitals, even ones for children.” Of course, the bigger question is, what kind of society turns hospitals, which are supposed to be safe spaces, into zones of fear?
In the face of the various charges leveled against On the Run, the University of Wisconsin at Madison convened a panel to review the claims of misconduct. It found them “to be without merit.”
But no sooner had this inquiry been closed than another and highly dangerous accusation was hurled at Goffman. Steven Lubet, a law professor at Northwestern University, published an article that was subsequently excerpted in the New Republic and recklessly headlined, “Did This Acclaimed Sociologist Drive the Getaway Car in a Murder Plot?” Goffman was now declared to be a criminal accomplice!
Here is the back-story. Goffman’s research focused on two young men, Chuck and Mike (fictional names). She became close to and hung with them, and got to know others in their circles and in the neighborhood. Chuck had been trying to maintain a truce of sorts between his friends and a rival gang. Sadly, he was shot and killed. Chuck’s friends and others in the neighborhood began calling for payback. But Goffman has explained that this talk of retribution was just that: talk.
In the weeks following Chuck’s death, as Goffman further explained, his friends would drive around, “ostensibly looking for Chuck’s killer. But these drives, like the talk of the residents, also came to nothing. This was so because it was common knowledge that Chuck’s killer had fled right after the shooting...the drives seemed to satisfy the feelings of anger and pain...”
One night when no one else would join Mike, Goffman drove with him. Steven Lubet has seized on this incident. In his New Republic takedown piece against Goffman, he alleges with prosecutorial zeal that under Pennsylvania law, Goffman “agreed to aid another person ‘in the planning or commission’ of a crime—in this case murder.” Say what?
Goffman has answered this incredibly unethical and sensationalistic accusation (and, to be clear, no charges have been filed against her). She has explained that while she felt ambivalent about going on the ride—she knew that these rides were not about carrying out acts of violence. They were cathartic. People were working out their anger and grief. The rides were a form of mourning.
Jack Katz, a sociologist at UCLA, has written in defense of Goffman. He has also spoken to some of the high stakes, for social science and for society, bound up with this kind of fieldwork, and with Goffman’s study in particular:
The line between bravado and committed intent is handled as a binary in the law; but the messiness of that distinction is the very crux of a “badass” way of life.... As a citizen, as well as in my career as a sociologist, I’m concerned about interventions in this discussion [of Goffman’s work] that might embrace the flexibility of “conspiracy” and aiding and abetting laws to shut down descriptions of social life that many readers will take as resources for criticizing the government. (Washington Post, emphasis added)
The ferocity of the attack on On the Run must be understood in the context of the growing awareness of and resistance to the epidemic of police brutality and murder against Black and Latino people. A new generation is rising up with a new spirit of defiance. Alice Goffman’s study provides important and timely insights into some of the conditions underlying the just anger, the fury, and the rebellion. And it is indeed a “resource for criticizing the government.”
The attempts to discredit Goffman come at a time when the question of stopping police terror is growing in urgency, and as a line is being drawn in society: which side are you on?
Alice Goffman has righteously stood by her work. Anyone who wants the truth of police terror to be told, and anyone who values dissent and critical thinking, should stand with her.
Revolution #394 July 6, 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 #394 July 6, 2015
July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On July 3, the 47-member United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted 41-to-1 in favor of approving the recent Report of the Independent Commission of Inquiry on the 2014 Gaza Conflict—a special Commission of Inquiry on the Gaza Conflict—the 51-day military onslaught by Israel against the 1.8 million Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip in July and August of 2014.
In the face of massive evidence compiled by the commission detailing—overwhelmingly—war crimes and human rights abuses by Israel against Palestinians during the 2014 assault (along with a much smaller number of crimes carried out by Palestinian forces—many of them against other Palestinians), only one country dared to vote “no” on the report. This country was the United States. The U.S. consistently backed the Israeli attacks on Gaza and even re-supplied armaments to Israel in the midst of the war.
An area of Gaza City destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in August, 2014. Photo: AP
For its part, Israel refused to cooperate with the commission. “The commission repeatedly requested Israel to cooperate, including by granting it access to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. Regrettably, Israel did not respond to these requests.” Israel made it impossible for UN investigators to enter Gaza and obstructed the work of the commission as much as it could. Egypt, as well, prevented the commission from entering Gaza through its border crossing.
The commission did have the cooperation of the Palestinian Authority, based in the West Bank. It was also able to gather evidence and testimony through the already existing UN agencies on the ground in Gaza. Hamas, the Islamic fundamentalist group that governs Gaza, did very little by way of cooperation.
The report was immediately condemned by Israel. Prime Minister Netanyahu said “The report is biased. The commission that wrote it is under a committee that does everything but protect human rights.” Pro-Israel groups in the United States unleashed a great deal of venom against the “shame” of the “yes” vote and the report as a whole.
In detailing the destruction carried out by Israeli forces in the course of the war, the report says: “In Gaza, in particular, the scale of the devastation was unprecedented. The death toll alone speaks volumes: 2,251 Palestinians were killed, including 1,462 Palestinian civilians, of whom 299 women and 551 children; and 11,231 Palestinians, including 3,540 women and 3,436 children, were injured... of whom 10 per cent suffered permanent disability as a result.” The report also goes into the highly repressive clampdown carried out by Israel against Palestinians in the West Bank and East Jerusalem during its assault on Gaza.
On the other side, the UN reports “The death of six civilians in Israel and 67 soldiers and the injury of up to 1,600 others.”
These are a few selected examples found in the report:
Targeted air strikes on residential and other buildings
“The IDF carried out more than 6,000 airstrikes in Gaza during the 2014 Operation, from the first day throughout the Operation. These included targeted attacks on residential and other buildings. As a result, according to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), during the 2014 hostilities, 142 Palestinian families had three or more members killed in the same incident owing to the destruction of residential buildings, for a total of 742 fatalities. An even higher figure is reported by some non-governmental organizations, which speak of 1066 people, including 370 children and 241 women, killed inside their homes. In addition, IDF air strikes destroyed—in whole or in part—a significant number of houses.”
There are dozens of excerpts of testimonies from civilian residents of Gaza who talk about what they experienced during the Israeli attacks.
Here are just a couple of statements by survivors of Israeli airstrikes:
“I was staying on the first floor and I was the only survivor from the first floor. When the attack took place, I was knocked out. I woke up at about 6 or so, in the hospital, and I later learnt that my sister, my mother and my children had all died. Even many of my relatives on the second floor had died. We all died that day, even those who survived.”
“A minute later [...] the dust had settled and I saw my family all ripped to pieces. My family included my brothers, my wife and my children. Some were dead and others wounded. It was a very difficult thing to see. The majority of those who fell were women and children.”
The Israeli forces began their ground invasion in Gaza on July 17. What this meant in the real world was a horrific blitzkrieg. The attack on one neighborhood in Gaza in particular, Shuja’iya, is a case in point. The report notes that “Shuja’iya is also one of the most densely populated neighbourhoods in Gaza with a population of 92,000 concentrated in an area of around 6 km² [6 square kilometers, or 2.32 square miles].” According to the UN report, Israel fired at least 600 artillery shells into Shuja’iya in less than an hour and dropped over 100 one-ton bombs in a short period of time.
The report also states that Shuja’iya was almost totally leveled by the Israeli army, with 100% of the buildings being destroyed in major parts of the neighborhood. By the UN’s own conservative estimate, “55 civilians, including 19 children and 14 women, were killed on 19 and 20 July in Shuja’iya as a result of the IDF’s actions.” [IDF is the official acronym for the Israeli military—”Israel Defense Forces”.]
There is damning testimony from Israeli soldiers. One, who took part in the assault on Shuja’iya testified: “A row of tanks go in, they spread out wide, get into position, identify ‘suspicious spots’, fire as required. The rules of engagement were very, very lax. [...] There was no such thing as requesting authorization. Just fire.”
The other quote is from a top Israeli officer at the time, the head of the “Doctrine Desk” at the Infantry Corps HQ: “We don’t want to confuse the troops, and that’s the story. When I teach people to fight in a war, the civilian population is not supposed to be there, and if it is, I persuade it to keep away. In peacetime security, soldiers stand facing a civilian population, but in wartime, there is no civilian population, just an enemy.”
The report also describes the assault on the city of Rafah, on Gaza’s southern-most border with Egypt. “Rafah was basically turned into a closed military zone. According to media accounts, the IDF fired over 1000 shells against Rafah within three hours and dropped at least 40 bombs. Tanks and bulldozers demolished dozens of homes. Inhabitants came under intense attacks in their homes and in the streets. Witnesses reported to the commission that dozens of homes were destroyed by IDF bulldozers. Ambulances and private vehicles trying to evacuate civilians from the fighting were also hit. As a result of the operation, virtually every person or building in Rafah became a potential military target. Families gave accounts of dividing their children into separate groups before fleeing their homes, in the hope that only one group might be fired on and the others would survive.”
Attacks on schools that were being used as shelters for people fleeing Israeli attacks
The UN report details how Israel targeted supposedly safe havens run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in Gaza. Many of these were school buildings. “Owing to the insecurity resulting from airstrikes and ground operations throughout the Gaza Strip and following IDF instructions to evacuate, about 300,000 people moved to 85 UNRWA schools serving as Designated Emergency Shelters (DES) during Operation Protective Edge. According to reports reviewed by the commission, shelters were attacked seven times. The commission examined three incidents: the Beit Hanoun Co-educational A and D School (Beit Hanoun School) and Jabalia Elementary Girls A and B School (Jabalia School), which were directly hit, while in the case of the Rafah Preparatory Boys A School (Rafah School), a target next to it was struck by a precision guided missile. All the incidents resulted in deaths in the shelters—in total between 44 and 47 people died, including 14 children and 4 women. The number of people injured in these incidents has not been firmly established, but amounts to at least 200.”
So-called “warnings” to civilians of impending Israeli attacks
During and after its 2014 war on Gaza, Israel boasted that it took pains to warn civilians of imminent airstrikes and ground assaults. Israel claims it dropped so-called “roof-knock” non-explosive projectiles on the roofs of residential building to warn the residents. They also claim to have made calls to cell phones with pre-recorded messages telling people to immediately evacuate a targeted area and also dropped leaflets by air.
The UN report quotes a Palestinian named Talal who described the attack on the building where he, his family, and several other families lived: “Talal confirmed that 11 people died as a result of the attack, and that rescuers did not arrive on the site until several hours later. The building was completely destroyed and it was extremely difficult to pull out the bodies. He added that they had not received any leaflets, calls or phone messages warning them about the imminent attack. The only thing that could have been a warning was the missile that hit their roof, which he had not noticed until his brother had called him, but to the witness it was never clear whether the projectile was a so-called roof-knock. According to Talal, even if it was a warning, it would have given them too little time to leave.” In the documented cases in which people actually did receive warning messages on their cell phones, people were given only around 10 minutes to get out. Imagine trying to collect your most vital belongings, your children, your elderly parents, your disabled relatives, in that amount of time and survive a bombing attack.
A Gazan from the village of Khuza’a that was also destroyed in the Israeli attack stated that: “Yes, we had received warnings through leaflets that were dropped from the air. The warning was issued on that same morning, but the attacks also started on that same day so it was a difficult choice as we feared the idea of fleeing while the attacks were taking place.”
Attacks on civilians fleeing areas of military action
From the UN Report: “The commission learned that, on 23 July, civilians holding a white flag and attempting to leave Khuza’a were confronted by a group of IDF soldiers who allegedly prohibited them from exiting the village, and reportedly opened fire on them.” A resident of Khuza’a testified that: “We moved very slowly towards a line of IDF soldiers who were waiting for us and preparing for confrontation. When we approached the soldiers, those of us who were in the front lines started calling on the soldiers telling them, ‘We are civilians, please don’t shoot.’ When we were at 5 or 10 meters from the soldiers, they confronted us and told us, ‘Return to your homes, we warned you to leave days ago. Why did you not leave?’ They did not allow anyone to leave, not even the women and children standing in front of them who obviously did not represent any threat to them. When people refused to turn around, they started using sound bombs and tightening their line. After that, we started retreating and when we were about 100 or 200 meters away, they suddenly started firing at us.”
The report of the UN commission condemns actions of Palestinian armed groups active in Gaza for “...the inherently indiscriminate nature of most of the projectiles directed towards Israel by these groups and to the targeting of civilians, which violate international humanitarian law and may amount to a war crime.” These reported violations of laws against war crimes are obviously dwarfed by the horrific and massive death, devastation, and terror reigned down on Gaza by Israel: 2,251 Palestinians killed, including 1,462 civilians, including 551 children. This compared to six Israeli civilians reported killed and sixty-one Israel troops killed while carrying out massive war crimes against the Palestinians.
The report also criticizes reported violations of human rights committed by armed Palestinian groups (including Hamas, various Jihadist groups, and secular nationalist groups) against other Palestinians.
But overwhelmingly, the report of the commission gathers and presents horrific evidence that Israel carried out terrible and massive war crimes in Gaza.
If it were to be judged solely on the basis of this 51-day slaughter, the state of Israel would justly be condemned as a viciously criminal terrorist state. But the fact is that this war is part-and-parcel of the war against the Palestinian people that the state of Israel has been carrying out since its founding in 1948. It is a settler-colonial state founded with the active approval of imperialist powers that has been an enforcer of imperialist domination in the Middle East as a whole, built on ethnic cleansing, and genocide.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
July 5, 2015
July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Bringing Foward Another Way is an edited version of a talk by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, to a group of Party supporters, in 2006. It is must reading for a serious understanding of what the U.S. "war on terror" is really about and how to bring forward a positive force in the world in opposition to both Western imperialism and Islamic Jihad.Download PDF
Negotiations between Iran and the U.S. and other world powers placing limits on Iran’s nuclear technology are, reportedly, at an important crossroads. According to news reports, Tuesday, July 7, is the target date for wrapping up a deal. So a major agreement could be signed this week. The failure to sign an agreement or the breakdown of the negotiations could also be a major development. These negotiations focus on Iran’s nuclear program, but there is also a major political and strategic dimension for the U.S., Iran, the region, and the world.
Revolution will be closely following these developments, and reporting on them. In the meantime, these two recent Revolution articles remain relevant background analysis:
We also want to continue to direct readers’ attention to Bob Avakian’s Bringing Forward Another Way, which provides an essential framework for understanding the overall situation in the Middle East and beyond—including the U.S.-Iran clash—and the need to act to transform it.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
From A World to Win News Service:
July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
29 June 2015. A World to Win News Service. Yemen is being devastated by a civil war that has become all the more murderous with foreign intervention. Saudi Arabia, especially, acting at the head of a coalition of Arab states and with support and military equipment from the U.S., is fighting to maintain its domination over Yemen as viciously as if the future of the House of Saud itself were at stake—which it could be. Yemen is very poor, populous, historically republican and politically turbulent. In other words, it could be a threat to the stability of the network of oil monarchies that rule over the well-off, sparse native population of the other Gulf countries.
Of Yemen’s two main cities, one, the strategic port city Aden, in the south-west, has been split in two. Refugees have crowded into the western half under the control of the old Saudi-backed regime, not necessarily because they support it but because that is the place to escape Saudi bombardment. The streets are filled with corpses and rubbish; there is no drinkable water and little food, fuel or medications. The capital, Sana'a, in the centre west, considered one of the world’s most beautiful ancient cities, is in the hands of the Houthi rebels but subject to constant Saudi air raids. Homes and other buildings in the Houthi heartland in the province of Saada in the north, near the Saudi border, are being systematically reduced to rubble.
Meanwhile, the U.S., in addition to supporting the old regime, is also militarily active in the less populated south-east of the country, carrying out drone and other attacks aimed at Al Qaeda—which, ironically, benefits from the attacks on the Houthis—and killing civilians by the score there as well.
The Saudi-led coalition air strikes have killed 2,600 people and left another 10,000 injured. The U.S. is providing targeting “advice”. About a million people have fled their homes, according to the UN, which says that three quarters of country’s population are on the verge of starvation because a naval blockade is keeping out the food and fuel imports the country depends on. This is another aspect of a military strategy designed to punish and terrorize the population. Diseases like dengue fever and malaria have begun to spread. Many people have begun to flee Yemen altogether for northern Somalia and Djibouti—and Europe, joining the millions of refugees driven from their homelands as their countries are crushed or ripped apart.
The Arab Spring came to Yemen on 27 January 2011, when thousands of students and other protesters began demonstrating in Sanaa. The initial demands were against unemployment, increasing poverty and corruption as well as plans to modify Yemen’s constitution to allow Ali Abdullah Saleh, president for more than 30 years, to continue to govern, or for his son to replace him. Soon demonstrators were calling for Saleh to follow Ben Ali and Mubarak and resign.
In Tunisia the old state was left intact and the old regime was able to make a comeback, and this was even more obviously the case in Egypt, with Saudi and U.S. manoeuvring behind the scenes, but Yemen never even experienced the illusion of a revolution. In November 2011 the Gulf Cooperation Council brokered a deal in which Saleh transferred power to his vice-president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, in exchange for immunity from prosecution for himself and his family.
Some 80% of the people in Yemen are in desperate need of basic necessities due to long-term extreme poverty drastically worsened by Saudi Arabian attacks and fighting among other reactionary forces. Above: People getting drinking water from the UN in the streets of Sana'a. Photo: YouTube/United Nation
Of course, while the decisions were made in Riyadh and Washington, these manoeuvres had to be presented as the will of the Yemeni people. In the February 2012 presidential election, Hadi, the only candidate, won 99.8 percent of the vote. As in Tunisia and Egypt, where elections also worked against the popular revolt, as a result of this deal, “Yemen’s elite remained largely unchanged, with the same families and tribal groups controlling the country’s resources, patronage networks and political structures.” (Adam Hanieh, Lineages of Revolt, Haymarket Books, 2013) But unlike Tunisia and Egypt, the end of Saleh’s rule did little to dampen the revolt.
U.S. President Barack Obama called Yemen a model for peaceful transition in the Middle East. But by August 2014 the regime was again beginning to shake. There were several weeks of anti-government protests triggered by an extremely unpopular rise in fuel prices. This time, the Houthis, a tribal group from the north in revolt against the central government for the last decade, became heavily involved. They swept into Sanaa in September 2014. By early 2015, Hadi resigned and the Houthis were in charge of the government.
In late March 2015 a Saudi-led coalition began bombing Houthi positions. Fighter jets from Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain were taking part in the operation. Somalia made its airspace, territorial waters and military bases available for the coalition to use. The United States provided intelligence and logistical support, including search-and-rescue for downed coalition pilots. It also accelerated the sale of weapons to coalition states. These include cluster bombs, banned by most countries because they are designed to kill and maim people over a broad area rather than destroy particular targets. These munitions have killed hundreds and wounded many thousands of ordinary Yemenis as they hit schools, residential buildings, health facilities, mosques, petrol stations and other civilian targets. (See the New York Times chart at http://nyti.ms/1D2Kh9K)
Saudi Arabia called for ground troops from Pakistan, a country whose military has long been allied with the U.S. and increasingly beholden to Saudi money. The Pakistani parliament voted to maintain neutrality, but the country agreed to provide warships to help the coalition anyway.
Many analysts and media tend to point to the Sunni-Shia religious conflict to explain the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, referring to the anti-Houthi coalition members as “Sunni Arab states”. But control of Yemen has always been an important issue for Saudi Arabia in its own right. Just two years after founding Saudi Arabia, Ibn Saud, its first monarch, fought a brief war with Yemen in 1934. Details of the conflict are not particularly relevant today but its result was the Treaty of Ta’if which for the first time formally demarcated part of the border between the two countries. Since then Saudi Arabia has continually interfered in Yemen in various ways, from supporting royalist groups in the Yemen civil war in 1962-1970, to punishing Yemen for opposing the U.S.’s first invasion of Iraq (1990-91).
Using both official and unofficial “aid” (in the form of bribes to tribal leaders), the border question and the promotion of the Wahhabi brand of Salafism (Sunni fundamentalism) associated with the Saudi throne, Saudi Arabia has constantly tried to control Yemen as much as possible in order to prevent it from becoming a threat to its own stability. The increasing Salafist Islamisation of the country under Saleh and the Saudis beginning in the mid-1980s drove women out of markets and other public places and forced them to cover themselves almost entirely, along with other religious restrictions imposed on a society that had long been relatively tolerant, both in relations between religions (the majority Sunnis, Shias, Jews and others) and the relation between religion and public life.
The Houthi movement, also known as Ansar Allah (Partisans of God), says it does not aim to take over the country permanently or make their minority beliefs, the Zaydist variant of Shiaism, a state religion. In fact, not all Houthi tribes are Zaydi. But religion is a major factor, including in the cohesion of the Houthi project to end the exclusion of the Houthi tribal elites from the central power structure get their “piece of the pie” denied to them by the Saleh regime.
Iran’s geopolitical interests in working to thwart Saudi aims coincide with the Sunni-Shia divisions. But if this civil war has tended to follow religious lines it is not because it has been fuelled by ancient enmities between people of different religions who just can’t get along in Yemen, or even the Shia-Sunni conflict internationally. Actually, Saudi Arabia has followed its interests across religious lines in the past. During Yemen’s civil war (1962-1970), the Saudis, in alliance with the king of Jordan and the Shah of majority-Shia Iran, supported Shia royalists against the mostly-Sunni republican rebellion.
At least part of what has made religion a factor is the growing power and aggressive intolerance of Islamic fundamentalism in general, and the intertwining of this element with the geopolitical interests of Saudi Arabia and the U.S, and secondarily those of Iran. These interests are in sharp and growing opposition to those of Yemen’s people.
Yemen’s economy is built around a small elite drawn from the military, tribes, political class and private sector. The patronage system is built on rents from oil exports and access to the newly liberalized economy. Around 10 key families and business groups with close ties to the ex-president control more than 80 per cent of imports, manufacturing, processing, banking, telecommunications and the transport of goods. Most of the people work on the land—where depletion of water reserves has become a barrier to agriculture—or as labourers in Yemen and other Gulf countries.
Further increasing the people’s misery is the way that the status quo is conjoined with the country’s very important geopolitical situation: the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, located between Yemen on the Arabian Peninsula, and Djibouti and Eritrea in the Horn of Africa, and connects the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden. Most exports from the Persian Gulf that transit the Suez Canal and the pipeline under the Mediterranean also pass through Bab-el-Mandeb. It is a strategic link between the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
The Saudis exaggerate Iran’s role in Yemen to legitimize its intervention in Yemen. In fact Iranian support for the Houthis is not a leading factor in Yemen’s chaos. Iranian support for the Houthis is recent, and the naval blockade restricts their ability to supply arms. Iran seems to want to use its influence with the Houthis as a card in its negotiations with the West.
Saudi Arabia’s war on Yemen would not be possible without the support of the U.S. Washington is extremely concerned about control of the straits through which much Middle Eastern oil flows. It is also worried about the possible dangers of Sunni fundamentalism in the region. Up until now, the U.S. has considered the main threat to its interests to be represented by Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, concentrated in Yemen’s sparsely populated south-east and the target of U.S. drone attacks but not Saudi-led air strikes.
Just as the Houthis seek to form a broad coalition on any basis possible against the Saudis and their current puppet, including with old regime military units and now even, paradoxically, Saleh himself, Saudi Arabia seems happy to let Al-Qaeda flourish as long as it targets the Houthis. Now Daesh (Islamic State) has made a dramatic entrance into this scene with car bombs and other attacks in Sanaa signalling their goal of wiping out the “Houthi apostates”. It seems that there is support for Daesh among the Saudi elite, but Daesh’s project for a caliphate is risky for the monarchy.
Saudi Arabia, a site of capital accumulation in its own right and no longer just an appendage of the U.S. and the UK, has every interest in maintaining Yemen’s unjust economic and social system and political structures. In turn, Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are both pillars of the political, social and economic order imperialism has imposed on the Arab world, and sources of disruption to this order. All these factors powerfully intersect with religion, including the rise of fundamentalism on a regional and even global scale.
Therefore the U.S.’s position is complex: whereas it backs Saudi Arabia in this war, its aims are not identical, and it is intervening independently of the Saudis, Qatar (where a U.S. Naval fleet is based) and their coalition.
Many of Yemen’s youth, in a country where half the population is under 20, know there is no future for them in the system. Saudi Arabia knows that. Iran and the U.S. know it too. That’s why Yemen has become a focus of crisis, a continuing source of upheaval in the Gulf and the Middle East as whole, a region that is becoming more and more explosive.
A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
From a reader:
July 6, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Dear Revolution newspaper/revcom.us,
I’m writing because I really feel that Revolution newspaper/revcom.us has a critical role to play with the pope’s upcoming U.S. visit. His visit requires a major social intervention. This really is a time to “Fight the Power, and Transform the People for Revolution.” Below are just some initial thoughts. The pope is visiting the U.S. in September and will be in Washington, DC, New York (Mass at Madison Square Garden), and Philadelphia (Mass on the parkway). We are talking tons of people flocking to see him, easily more than a million.
His visit has been framed around visits to target groups such as “the poor” and “immigrants.” The oppressed will be gathered as part of a show where some “lucky enough” will be graced by his presence. In Philadelphia, he will visit a prison and speak with those incarcerated, and in East Harlem, New York City, he will visit a Catholic school. There is special attention on his visit to immigrant populations, mainly Latino. Obviously he will address Congress, meet with Obama, stop by the UN, etc. For those who truly care about really getting all of humanity free, who do not wish to see women slammed back to the Dark Ages, who value the lives of people who are LGBTQ, who care about science and critical thinking, we can’t ignore this visit!
The eyes of the world will be watching this visit and people will travel far and wide to be there. Those who aren’t there will be tuning in. As Revolution newspaper has exposed, this pope successfully re-branded not only himself but the Catholic Church, too. Many people see this pope as “much better,” “gentler,” or “more just,” and therefore good. They point to his recent remarks about climate change as an example. As Revolution newspaper previously wrote, “With substance-free but carefully crafted gestures like wearing different clothes, moving to a different house, and occasionally expressing concern about income inequality and saying that he really, really cares about some of the people who his church nevertheless continues to oppress, Francis has miraculously revived the Roman Catholic brand. Talk about resurrection!” He has been, in many ways, the Obama for the Catholic Church. His church and his actions contribute to an overwhelming amount of worldwide oppression and needless suffering. At the end of the day, he has not and will not do away with any core practices, rules, and beliefs. He has not and will not stop: preventing abortion and birth control, protecting priests and others who rape and exploit children and women, condemning LGBTQ people, fostering ignorance and ordained bigotry, and overall acceptance of intolerable conditions because it is god’s will.
For a more recent example, just weeks ago, he spoke at a huge March for Life gathering in Peru. In fact, his visit to the U.S. was prompted by his invitation to the World Meeting of Families. His more inclusive attitudes are confused with progress and not seen as responding to the necessity of being a better recruitment/retention tool. People need to get real about what the pope represents and what he doesn’t, who/what he serves and who/what he doesn’t, and we have to help people see that.
The core of the pope’s visit is the World Meeting of Families. What is that? It “seeks to strengthen the bonds between families and to witness to the crucial importance of marriage and the family to all of society.” It is all tradition’s chains and then some, with some fancy window dressing but still anti-women, pro-traditional marriage, anti-divorce, pro-Dark Ages morality and thoroughly anti-abortion, complete with session titles like: “The Special Place of Women in the Family, the Church, and the World,” and “One Ring to Rule Them All: The Covenant of Marriage.”
This truly is a time to “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution.”
Basic Details (his full schedule was just announced):
These are just initial ideas and obviously bolder actions are needed as well.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
July 3, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Revolution/revcom.us interviewed people taking part in the July 1 rally for abortion rights at Union Square in New York City. Here are some excerpts.
Young Puerto Rican woman who recently hooked up with Stop Patriarchy:
Union Square, July 1. Photo: revcom.us
Woman: I had an abortion when I was 12 years old. My mom knows about it but the rest of my family doesn't know. Because the society that we live in says it's wrong, and the way I was raised says it's wrong. And when I had my abortion I cried for days. I was told I killed my baby. And now this reality that I'm seeing here, it's teaching me that it's perfectly fine. All the suffering that I did, there's no need for that. Because it's my right. It's teaching me a lot. I'm actually learning about the Revolution Club, and I wanna get involved, because the system is really fucked up. I left my house when I was 16 years old. I've been living by myself since then. I'm 20. I try to get help but everywhere they tell me, go live with your moms. But they don't really know what's going on. The United States is supposed to be the "American Dream," but there's no dream here at all. Like I said, I've worked since I was 16, I clean house and all that. And when you get home there's no one to help you. Still struggling, still working, I have three jobs.
Revolution: What's your background?
Woman: My family's Puerto Rican. I grew up Catholic, participating in the church, six days a week, with my grandmother. It's really fucked up that they're teaching you since you're a baby...my first toy was a doll, the first toy I had was a baby. So they're teaching you since you're a girl that you need to have babies and take care of them, that's what you have to do. If I would have kept my baby, my baby would've been eight, no house, nowhere to live, nowhere to go...
Revolution: So you were at last night's meeting for #RiseUpOctober against murder and brutality by police, and you're here now. How do you see the connection between the two?
Woman: It's the same thing. We're fighting for women's rights, and for everybody's rights, so we could have a better society. So we don't have to starve while others have enough...
Revolution: Before you met up with Stop Patriarchy, were you aware of how much danger abortion rights were in?
Woman: No. I just thought it was fine because we live in New York and I got my abortion in New York, it was fine. I had no idea it was closing down or anything. That's why I'm with Stop Patriarchy. I want everybody to have the right that I had. I don't think it's fair that you have to have a baby when you become pregnant. There's a lot of reasons that a woman gets pregnant. And she should be able to choose whether to have a baby or not. That's what I think.
Young Black woman:
Woman: It's very liberating to be in an environment where there are a lot of women who have dealt with abortion or are speaking up about it. I've had an abortion before. I was 17, homeless, in college. I knew for a fact that I wouldn't be able to take care of a kid. And just having that option, it meant life to me at that moment. Because I didn't think that without parents...I was a ward of the state at that time...so without parents, without a stable boyfriend, I just knew that if I had a child at that moment, I probably would've continued the cycle that my mom brought me, my brother and my sister into. She wasn't able to take care of us and had to put us in foster care. So yeah, I don't regret having had an abortion either. And I think women definitely should have the option, a choice to be able to make a decision whether or not they want to have a child, to bring children into an environment where they're not wanted or they can't be taken care of. Because another thing that's important to realize is that there are a lot of people with mental issues because they grew up in households where they weren't wanted or grew up in environments where they weren't able to be taken care of. So I just think it's very important if we're gonna stop the cycle of people with mental illness, homelessness, all of that stuff, to have an option and not taking that away from people. Because I think we will have more people that will be on the streets, or taking their lives—like some of the stories that we heard today—so having a choice is very important, for sure.
Revolution: You were also at the launch meeting for #RiseUpOctober yesterday. How do you see the connection between the fight against murder by police and the fight for the right to abortion?
Woman: Yeah, just people being free to live their lives. Police feel like they have the right to take lives just because of their authority. And that's the same with this— I feel like the government or whoever else decides that women should not be able to have abortions, you're putting people's lives in the hands of other people and not your own. So I guess that's a connection in a way.
White woman in her 20s with National Women's Liberation, a feminist group:
I'm from South Dakota, one of the first states to violently, really violently, push back on allowing women abortions, so this feels especially visceral and close to home, literally, for me. So that's part of why I'm here. Because I always thought in high school if I got pregnant I wouldn't be able to get an abortion in South Dakota. And now that's actually a reality for a lot of people. So that's the main reason why I'm here... I'm a preschool teacher and I see the way that having a child, it just... I don't want to say ruins your life, I mean I'm a preschool teacher and I don't want to say that. But your life is totally different. It's not inconvenience, not a lifestyle change. It's your whole life gone. So it's really important for women to be able to do what they want to do.
White guy, about 30, who was part of the rally, wearing bloody pants:
I came for the rally, because I've been involved for about a week and a half, two weeks. I saw them [Stop Patriarchy] at Brooklyn Pride. It's a strong women's movement, and it's a strong issue. Because it's not just limited to women, not limited to gays, limited to Black people, limited to everything. People need to wake up and realize that. It IS a human rights issue, not just Black or white or gay or straight, whatever it may be.
Latina in her 20s who was passing by and stopped for the rally:
Woman: The Supreme Court has already ruled that getting an abortion is legal. And just the state of Texas right now, it's atrocious... illegalizing abortion. It leads to more deaths, that's why you guys are here. And again, it's our bodies, our choice. It's between us and our healthcare providers. No one should tell me how to plan my future. I'll do it when I'm ready, on my own terms. Keep religion out of it. Also, very politicized. Look at it from an actual medical standpoint. It's absolutely upsetting and disgusting that right wing states are looking to basically close abortion clinics.
Revolution: What do you think of the "without apology" part of it?
Woman: Why would you have to apologize to anyone? You're in control of your own body, your own future. You should be able to plan your own future on your own terms. Why would you have to apologize?... And women who seek abortions, the majority are low income. They need access to this. And now the right-wing is saying "save Black babies." But why don't you try to save them once they're born? And why don't you try to provide more welfare programs for these single mothers, these children?
Savita Halappanavar's picture was among the photos of women who died from lack of abortion care being held up at the rally.
Older woman from Switzerland, who had lived in Ireland for a while:
I was walking by and recognized the woman who died in Ireland and it made me cry. Ireland has the right to gay marriage, but not to abortion. This woman begged for an abortion and they wouldn't give it to her. This was horrible. I didn't know they were taking this right away. I have my own story about this—I had to pay a lot of money for it in Switzerland. And while it was legal, all the time afterwards whenever I was having trouble with money or other problems and I felt sad, people would tell me I was sad or depressed because I had an abortion. Whenever something is bad in your life and you feel bad, they said it was because of my abortion.
Latina high school student who joined the rally on the spot:
Revolution: How much were you aware of the attacks on abortion rights?
Student: I wasn't really aware. I always knew it was a problem, but I never knew just how severe people felt about this. Because I feel like it's an individual right, I think every woman should be able to have it, and every woman should not have to apologize for doing it. It's a health issue. It's something you do to take care of yourself. It's nothing to be ashamed of. And I really do appreciate this kind of stuff [the demo]. Bringing out awareness. A message like this really needs to be put out there.
Revolution: What about with your friends and family--what do they think about abortion?
Student: My mother, she is very strict. But she never put me down. If I ever talked to her about abortion, she always told me that if I ever felt like it was something that I wanted to do, then I should do it, and nobody else should tell me otherwise. Because it's my body. And especially if the child was placed inside of me through a violent act, then I have every right to have an abortion, or anybody has a right to an abortion. And it's not something you should be ashamed of. It's something that you just should have a right to do it. No questions asked. You go into a clinic and ask for one, and you wouldn't get a stare, you won't get, I don't know, some sort of attitude about it. It should be something that's just given to you.
Revolution: What about among your high school friends?
Student: I'm not gonna lie, there's a lot of people who are pregnant in my high school. But I do know a few who've had an abortion. And I've talked to them about it, and they've said that they don't regret it. Of course they felt bad, felt like they were killing something. But I told them, you should never feel like some sort of "murderer," like it's your fault. Because it's not your fault. If you wanted to do it, you should do it. It's not something that you should be put down on, not something you should be bashed about. It's just something that everyone should have a right to have.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
Editors' note: Posted below is an important document by Bob Avakian. It is also an important companion to Science and Revolution: On the Importance of Science and the Application of Science to Society, the New Synthesis of Communism and the Leadership of Bob Avakian, An Interview with Ardea Skybreak, which our readers should continue to study and to use and popularize broadly.
Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The new synthesis is, in a real sense, a “work in progress,” as I am still actively applying myself to leading and to learning, from many sources, and hopefully this new synthesis will continue to be further developed and enriched as a result of ongoing work in the theoretical realm in dialectical relation with further developments in the world and in particular the further advance of a revolutionary struggle whose ultimate aim is a communist world. But it is correct to say that, as a result of work I have carried out, over a number of decades, summing up the experience of the communist revolution and socialist states and drawing from many diverse spheres of human activity and thought, there is already a further, qualitative development in the science of communism that is embodied in the fundamental orientation, method and approach, and the core elements, of the new synthesis. Because of the importance of what this represents—and the importance of presenting this in a form that is both concise and concentrated, as well as an accurate rendering, to serve as a basic grounding and guideline and to encourage and facilitate further engagement with the new synthesis—I have written the following outline. As with the new synthesis itself, this outline is not something final but a reflection of what has been brought forward up to this point, and the qualitative leap this represents, even as this is a process that is ongoing; it provides a basic indication of the essential method and approach, and other important components, of the new synthesis. In what follows, the different dimensions where communism has been further developed through this new synthesis are indicated, followed by some of the key sources where these points are spoken to (in some cases works by others, which speak to important aspects of the new synthesis, are cited; but where no authorship is indicated, the reference is to a work of mine).
The statement of mine—on the relation between necessity and accident, and between underlying material conditions and conscious human activity—which is cited by Ardea Skybreak in Of Primeval Steps and Future Leaps, and discussed in the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!
“Ajith—A Portrait of the Residue of the Past,” by Ishak Baran and K.J.A., in Demarcations #4
Science and Revolution: On the Importance of Science and the Application of Science to Society, the New Synthesis of Communism and the Leadership of Bob Avakian, An Interview with Ardea Skybreak, available at revcom.us
Away With All Gods!—Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World, especially Part Four
In the relation between being scientific and being partisan, being consistently scientific is principal, and the basis for being, correctly and fully, partisan to the proletarian revolution and its goal of communism.
Against reification—the mistaken concept that the oppressed, because of their exploited condition and place in society, have a “special purchase on the truth,” and in particular a special ability to understand the dynamics of society and its transformation. Against religiosity/religious tendencies in communism.
Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy
“‘Crises in Physics,’ Crises in Philosophy and Politics,” in Demarcations #1
“On the ‘Driving Force of Anarchy’ and the Dynamics of Change,” by Raymond Lotta in Demarcations #3
“Can This System Do Away With, or Do Without, The Oppression of Women?—A Fundamental Question, a Scientific Approach to the Answer,” in the compendium Break ALL the Chains!—Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution
A further development of Marx’s profound insight that the advance to communism involves society, and the people who make up society, moving “beyond the narrow horizon of bourgeois right,” in their material conditions and in their thinking, and his critical understanding that right can never be higher than the economic structure of society, and the culture conditioned thereby.
Democracy: Can’t We Do Better Than That?
Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy
The communist revolution is not about revenge, or “the last shall be first, and the first shall be last,” but is about emancipating humanity, ending all exploitation and oppression throughout the world.
“Communism or Nationalism?,” a polemic by the OCR, Mexico, in Demarcations #4
Unresolved Contradictions, Driving Forces for Revolution, Part 2 and Part 3;
“You Don’t Know What You Think You ‘Know’ About... The Communist Revolution and the REAL Path to Emancipation: Its History and Our Future,” An Interview with Raymond Lotta, Revolution #323, November 24, 2013)
—in terms of heightened emphasis on putting the problems of the revolution before the masses, but also on how communist consciousness must be “brought from outside” the direct experience and struggle of the masses, the importance of the ideological realm, and transforming the thinking of the people; and on the need to “push on” objective developments, a further development of a core element in What Is To Be Done? Hastening while awaiting—acting to transform the objective situation to the maximum degree possible at any given time, while being tense to new, and perhaps unforeseen (or even unforeseeable), events and how other class/social forces are themselves “working on” the objective contradictions from their own point of view and in line with how their representatives perceive their interests.
The first six paragraphs of Part 2 of “Making Revolution and Emancipating Humanity”
Mao emphasized the dialectical relation between matter and consciousness, and stressed the need to be oriented to be prepared for unexpected developments; but precisely this kind of orientation, understanding, method and approach is synthesized—in a fuller, higher and more concentrated way—in the new synthesis. (This informs “Some Principles for Building a Movement for Revolution” and the statement “On the Strategy for Revolution,” by the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA.)
Analysis of the bedrock base and driving force for revolution, and the broader united front under the leadership of the proletariat.
“On the Possibility of Revolution,” by the Revolutionary Communist Party
Recognition of the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the leadership of a communist vanguard, during the socialist transition to communism, and at the same time a heightened emphasis on the importance of dissent and ferment, politically, intellectually, culturally, on the foundation of and as a key part of exercising the dictatorship of the proletariat and carrying forward the transition toward communism, and, with the achievement of communism, the abolition of dictatorship of any kind.
Observations on Art and Culture, Science and Philosophy
“Alain Badiou’s ‘Politics of Emancipation’: A Communism Locked Within the Confines of the Bourgeois World,” by Raymond Lotta, Nayi Duniya, and K.J.A., in Demarcations #1
Constitution, Law, and Rights—in capitalist society and in the future socialist society, Selections from the writings of Bob Avakian and excerpts from the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA)
What is most fundamental and essential in the new synthesis is the further development and synthesis of communism as a scientific method and approach, and the more consistent application of this scientific method and approach to reality in general and in particular the revolutionary struggle to overturn and uproot all systems and relations of exploitation and oppression and advance to a communist world. This method and approach underlies and informs all the core elements and essential components of this new synthesis.
Revolution #394 July 6, 2015
Of Liberation and Love
by Lenny Wolff | July 8, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
There’s a lot of confusion around and about these days about forgiveness, oppression, and how you preserve your humanity in the face of inhumanity—quite a bit of it spread by Obama and amplified in the media echo chamber. So let’s try to take this apart.
To get right to it: Should the oppressed be told to forgive their oppressors and the enforcers of their oppression?
No. First of all, the oppressed should be inspired and organized to fight against their oppression and led to overthrow their oppressors and root out the source of their oppression.
Let’s take an example that’s once again back in the news with the struggle to get rid of that white supremacist Confederate rag: slavery, the Civil War that was fought to end it, and its ongoing effect down to today.
Should enslaved people have been told—as they were by the spreaders of Christianity—to forgive their slave owners? Again, no. They should have organized to rebel against and try to overthrow slavery—as they tried in over 200 instances before the outbreak of the Civil War.
When the Civil War was at last fought and slavery finally WAS overthrown, what needed to happen next? First, you needed a state power that would have actually divided up the land that those former slaves had developed and worked for centuries and made sure that they had the means to farm that land. You needed a state power that would have ensured political rights, education, and other basic needs of those former slaves. And to do that, that new state power would have had to prevent those like the South's top General, Robert E. Lee, and the other leading monsters (and I don’t care how pious or genteel they thought they were, these people were monsters) from ever again raising their hands against the masses.
Remember, we’re talking about people who politically and militarily led a war to defend a whole system that had enslaved millions for generations and who killed hundreds of thousands in the process. They needed to be imprisoned for as long as just and necessary for their crimes and all of them should have been deprived of most political rights once freed—until the masses of former slaves and all other people desiring justice and freedom could be sure that these oppressors would not try to restore their “lost Paradise.”
But is this what happened? No, it is not. Very, very few of the leading criminals ever did a day of time in prison. After a relatively short period of time, the Union troops were first pulled back and then withdrawn, and the former slave owners were basically given a free hand to organize terror against the former slaves and others on the side of freedom. They took back from the former slaves what land had been freed, and they restored a form of feudal bondage very similar to slavery. They enforced this with the police and courts they once again controlled and the terror of the lynch mob—and they did so without a single ounce of the supposed mercy and forgiveness they so love to preach to the oppressed about. For over 150 years Black people paid very dearly in every dimension for this, and Black people are still paying dearly today.
And the idea of “forgiveness” played a big role in justifying and smoothing the way for this betrayal. Today we’re told that Obama’s eulogy in South Carolina was comparable to Lincoln’s second inaugural speech toward the end of the Civil War—as if that’s a good thing!* Lincoln is sanctified by today’s rulers for calling on the victorious North to proceed “with malice toward none and charity for all.” And Grant, the main Union general, is praised for allowing Lee, the commander of the slaveholder armies, to keep his sword.
No! Those were exactly the WRONG things to say. These words and gestures of forgiveness ideologically disarmed the former slaves and the other freedom fighters—to pave the way for and go along with the physical disarming of the slaves that occurred. And now, after that betrayal, we’ve had 150 years of white supremacy in other killing forms.
So forgiveness for oppressors and enforcers of oppression? No.
What about love? We should certainly love the masses. We should certainly love and cherish all those who give their lives to the cause of emancipation. And we should strive to approach every honest person with a generous spirit and open heart. The criticisms we make of people should be grounded in a belief in their capacity to transform their thinking and action.
But why in the world should we love the oppressors? Really—why? Yes, we should struggle with people who get caught up in movements that demonize and oppress people or who defend petty forms of privilege and carry out vicious acts against the people or other individuals. We should sharply get them to see how fucked-up what they’re doing is, and to fight with them to change. And yes, we should welcome it when such people break with the outlook of the oppressor and genuinely and truly transform and come over to the side of the people. But love them while they’re still carrying out their nasty shit? I don’t think so.
More to the point: if your love for the masses and emancipation is genuine, then you will fight like hell to make sure that the power for which those masses sacrifice will not be given back to the oppressors once achieved—even as you fight like hell to make sure that that power continues to serve the cause of emancipation.
After the Civil War, after only a few years, the Union troops were withdrawn from the South, and the former slave owners were basically given a free hand to organize terror against the former slaves and others on the side of freedom. They took back from the slaves what land had been freed, and they restored a form of feudal bondage very similar to slavery. They enforced this with the police and courts they once again controlled and the terror of the lynch mob—and they did so without a single ounce of the supposed mercy and forgiveness they so love to preach to the oppressed about. For over 150 years Black people paid very dearly in every dimension for this, and Black people are still paying dearly today. Here, a homeless tenant farmer, Rubin Stacy, was lynched in Florida, 1935.
These ideas—loving and forgiving your oppressor—are of course basic tenets of the Christian religion. And some people, it is true, draw inspiration from this religion to fight back against oppression, and we definitely unite with them in that fight. But ask yourself: WHY did the Roman emperor finally decide to make Christianity the official religion of the state? Why did the pillagers and enslavers of Europe bring the Christian Bible with them, along with the guns they used and the whiskey they peddled? Why does Obama—who is nothing but the instrument of a rotted-out system that kills thousands and grinds away billions day by day around the world—why does he “find his eloquence” when it comes time to preach the virtue of forgiveness to those whose oppression he presides over? This is a religion and a moral code that for centuries has been used by the powerful to enshrine submission and obedience to oppression and all forms of slavery as holy.
This leads to another point of morality. Some people say that fighting back—especially fighting back with force—robs you of your humanity. Bob Avakian (BA) speaks to this point in the “Revolution” talk in a very telling way: Does someone using force to prevent a rape somehow lose their humanity? Does someone using force to stop a lynching or a massacre lose their humanity?
Or take this example. Denmark Vesey actually organized the slave rebellion in Charleston which was betrayed and crushed in the early 1800s. (Obama obliquely refers to this as “working against slavery,” but seems to be unable to pronounce Vesey’s name or the word “rebellion.”) Did Denmark Vesey—who had already purchased his freedom and was no longer a slave—did he lose his humanity when he gave his life to organize a revolt against slavery? If he had had to kill those defending slavery in the course of doing this—as he knew he almost certainly would—would he have then lost his humanity? The question should answer itself.
And let’s turn the question around. What about those who witness a rape and do nothing, or just preach at the rapist? What happens to their humanity? What about all the white people who disapproved of the lynchings that followed the betrayal of Black people after the Civil War, but did nothing and even said nothing—what happened to their humanity? And what about those today who do nothing about the horrific mass incarceration and genocide—where is their humanity?
Does this mean that people should just go off, and engage in revenge? Absolutely not. Revenge lowers you to the level of the oppressor and robs you of your humanity. Any revolution that is truly about human emancipation should not be about revenge and in fact the leadership of the revolution will have to struggle against any tendencies in that direction. This is a critical point that has been emphasized by Bob Avakian.
In fact, the revolution we need today—the revolution which is possible today—goes far beyond what people conceived of as emancipation in the Civil War. The communist revolution aims at nothing less than the abolition of ALL forms of exploitation and oppression... all the class distinctions between people and the oppressive relations between people that flow out of and/or reinforce those... and all the modes of thinking that reflect and reinforce exploitation and oppression. This revolution has been defended and reconceived by Bob Avakian—and his body of work and method and approach, and the movement for revolution which he leads, grapples with the moral dimension on a much deeper level than has previously been the case. To get a sense of this, you can start with the fifth chapter of BAsics, which focuses on morality. And you can read the following, which closes the chapter and with which I’ll end this essay.
In the final analysis, as Engels once expressed it, the proletariat must win its emancipation on the battlefield. But there is not only the question of winning in this sense but of how we win in the largest sense. One of the significant if perhaps subtle and often little-noticed ways in which the enemy, even in defeat, seeks to exact revenge on the revolution and sow the seed of its future undoing is in what he would force the revolutionaries to become in order to defeat him. It will come to this: we will have to face him in the trenches and defeat him amidst terrible destruction but we must not in the process annihilate the fundamental difference between the enemy and ourselves. Here the example of Marx is illuminating: he repeatedly fought at close quarters with the ideologists and apologists of the bourgeoisie but he never fought them on their terms or with their outlook; with Marx his method is as exhilarating as his goal is inspiring. We must be able to maintain our firmness of principles but at the same time our flexibility, our materialism and our dialectics, our realism and our romanticism, our solemn sense of purpose and our sense of humor. (BAsics 5:24)
* By the way, let’s be clear on Lincoln. His aim in fighting the Civil War was not to end slavery but to “preserve the Union,” as he himself stated very clearly on more than one occasion. That is, he mainly fought the war to preserve the U.S. as a powerful capitalist nation. He only moved to end slavery when it became clear that he could not win the war without doing that. [back]