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Revolution #454 August 30, 2016
August 30, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Police: Enforcers of oppression and madness [00:18:24- 00:30:10] - From Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About, a film of a talk by Bob Avakian
An op-ed piece in the New York Times by Joseph Crystal, a former Baltimore cop, describes what he characterizes as the “attitudes and practices” of the police in Baltimore. (“When Police Are Poor Role Models for One Another,” August 15, 2016). This piece, and a Department of Justice (DOJ) report on the Baltimore police that Crystal refers to, reveal some of the reality of a city terrorized by cops who systematically and illegally degrade and brutalize Black people. And what is revealed in the DOJ report about Baltimore is also true of every major police department in America. (For background on what was exposed in the DOJ report, why it came out in the first place, and what it was intended to accomplish, see “A Summer of Police Terror... Why? And What Can Be Done to STOP It?”)
In this short op-ed piece, the pervasiveness of police supervisors insisting on and enforcing wanton police abuse comes through. Crystal says it broke his heart that a cop who witnessed police planting drugs on someone “was scared to report it, fearing retaliation.” And through understatement, Crystal points to what “retaliation” means in a police department: “It is hard to speak up against colleagues anywhere, but in law enforcement there are more serious concerns, like your safety.” The implication is clear: when cops plant drugs on people, any cop who even thinks about reporting that has to fear for their life, and is going to keep their mouth shut. Think about how this violently enforced policy of planting of drugs on people fits into the larger picture of a society where the prisons are filled past overflowing with victims of a so-called “war on drugs.”
Freddie Gray, murdered by Baltimore police in 2015.
Crystal writes of telling a Baltimore detective who made an illegal, unconstitutional arrest—based on a search without probable cause—that this would not stand up in court. And he describes what happened next: “A sergeant pulled me aside and said I needed to mind my business. ‘We don’t care about what happens in court,’ he told me. ‘We just care about getting the arrest.’”
Crystal invokes an incident where a cop shot a man in the groin who was already down and helpless. Again, the one cop who considered complaining was silenced by threats from other police.
Crystal describes an incident in the DOJ report where a Justice Department investigator went on patrol with a sergeant. The sergeant saw a group of young Black men on a street corner and told a cop to order them to leave. The cop said he had no reason to do so. “Make something up,” the sergeant replied. And Crystal writes, “That the sergeant would do this in front of a federal official investigating civil rights violations may be astounding, but it demonstrated his mind-set. He didn’t think he was doing anything wrong. He must have been in the department for years and had probably been taught to take such action by his field training officer, and even the department’s commanders. It was learned behavior, part of a culture rooted in an ‘us versus them’ mentality.”
According to a lawsuit Joseph Crystal brought against the city of Baltimore, he himself was driven out of the Baltimore Police Department by threats for attempting to blow the whistle on police abuse.
Crystal paints a picture of all-pervasive, egregious, undisguised, illegal harassment and violence against Black people, and a culture where this is not just condoned, but enforced within the police department.
But then, Crystal poses the root of the problem this way:
The drug trade is so insidious in some neighborhoods of Baltimore that when I was a detective there I sometimes had to arrest children for selling narcotics. Sad as that was, a drug counselor told me, they learned to do it from the people around them.
Police officers learn egregious behavior from those around them, too, I thought, when I read the Department of Justice report issued last Wednesday about the Baltimore Police Department’s systematic abuse of black citizens and violation of their rights.
This is all wrong. This is twisting reality in a way that, regardless of intent, legitimizes and justifies the very outrages Crystal exposes, and so many more he does not.
Children in the inner cities may learn desperate means to survive from others around them. But why are they confronted with the need to turn to desperate means of survival in the first place? The “choices” they face are a product of this system, they are dictated by this system, and they are enforced by the system’s police.
Walk through the Gilmor Homes, the project where Freddie Gray was murdered by Baltimore police. You will meet people without a change of clothes, without a cell phone, without a chance in hell of getting to a grocery store. This killing inequality and oppression is expressed in the fact that life expectancy in the neighborhoods around Gilmor Homes is 20 years lower than in suburban Roland Park, less than five miles away.
And under these circumstances, in seeking a way to survive—and absent getting with revolutionary role models who are about overthrowing all this at the soonest possible time, and emancipating all humanity—people’s outlook is going to be overall shaped by the dog-eat-dog mentality and “morality” generated and enshrined by capitalism.
If the youth in these communities are driven to desperate means to survive, that is not fundamentally a product of bad influences or bad choices. It is a product of a system that has no decent “choices” for them. (The preceding discussion of “choices” draws on “On Choices...And Radical Changes” by Bob Avakian, as well as “More on Choices...And Radical Changes by Bob Avakian.” Readers are strongly encouraged to dig into and share those pieces).
Those who rule this system remember how in the 1960s, uprisings by, and the influence of, a revolutionary movement among Black people shook society to the core. The uprisings and spirit of revolution inspired millions from all walks of life who were in rebellion against the powers that be. The system responded with violent repression. But at the same time, some doors were opened a bit for Black people to enter into different professions and endeavors. Those openings have been under assault ever since. And it remains the case that any Black person, regardless of what they’ve accomplished by the system’s own standards, is subject to racial profiling, “driving while Black” stops and worse.
But today, as a result of the traumatic and anarchic nature of capitalism-imperialism, factory jobs that were the basis for survival in cities from Baltimore to Oakland, Detroit to Atlanta, are gone. They have been moved to places where capitalists can exploit people even more viciously in dog-eat-dog competition for profit. Other jobs have moved to suburbs essentially off-limits to Black people. Today, conditions for millions of Black and Brown people are worse then they were back in the ’60s.
Those in power see the seething anger in the inner cities as potentially explosive and threatening to their whole setup. And the only real answer they have is violent repression.
People in Gilmor Homes heard Freddie Gray’s screams of pain a block away as police folded him up like a pretzel on their way to murdering him. Message delivered to the oppressed that anyone, anytime, who steps out of line, or does nothing at all, has a target on their back. That is police doing their job in the United States.
Despite everything he himself reveals about the “attitudes and practices” of one of the largest police forces in the United States, Crystal claims “most of the officers are good.”
No. The overwhelming majority of cops are PIGS and consciously so.
Here’s an excerpt from how the Black Panther Party once defined a pig:
What is a pig? A low natured beast that has no regard for law, justice, or the rights of people: ...a foul, depraved traducer, usually found masquerading as the victim of an unprovoked attack.
If you’re a cop in America, you’re a PIG. That’s not just a curse. And it’s not a “choice” you make—or not make—once you become a cop. It is a scientific fact. And despite his intent, Crystal’s own piece makes clear that anyone who does not go along with participating in, fostering, and covering up piggery is threatened or worse.
Being a pig, acting like a pig, and relishing the “opportunity” to be a pig are job requirements for being part of police forces that terrorize the inner cities of the U.S. like an occupying army, in order to keep people down. Police do this as part of doing their job as violent enforcers of a system: capitalism-imperialism, a global system of exploitation and oppression. Adopting the mentality of a sadistic, depraved murderer is a perfect fit for that job. If that wasn’t the case, why is that “culture” promoted, enforced, and rewarded in every police department?
How are you going to change that “culture” when you are talking about an oppressive occupying army whose job it is to lock down, terrorize, and attempt to crush the spirit of an oppressed people?
And why would you want to try?
Here’s what Bob Avakian said in 2002, responding to the murder by police of the unarmed and unconscious young woman Tyisha Miller in Riverside, California:
If you can’t handle this situation differently than this, then get the fuck out of the way. Not only out of the way of this situation, but get off the earth. Get out of the way of the masses of people. Because, you know, we could have handled this situation any number of ways that would have resulted in a much better outcome. And frankly, if we had state power and we were faced with a similar situation, we would sooner have one of our own people’s police killed than go wantonly murder one of the masses. That’s what you’re supposed to do if you’re actually trying to be a servant of the people. You go there and you put your own life on the line, rather than just wantonly murder one of the people. Fuck all this “serve and protect” bullshit! If they were there to serve and protect, they would have found any way but the way they did it to handle this scene. They could have and would have found a solution that was much better than this. This is the way the proletariat, when it’s been in power has handled—and would again handle—this kind of thing, valuing the lives of the masses of people. As opposed to the bourgeoisie in power, where the role of their police is to terrorize the masses, including wantonly murdering them, murdering them without provocation, without necessity, because exactly the more arbitrary the terror is, the more broadly it affects the masses. And that’s one of the reasons why they like to engage in, and have as one of their main functions to engage in, wanton and arbitrary terror against the masses of people.
Revolution #454 August 30, 2016
August 30, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Two-hundred ninety-six dead is a horrendous number. That’s the number of women who died in the state of Texas from 2007 through 2010 before, during, or after childbirth from causes related to their pregnancies. But bad as that number is, a new study has found that the rate of pregnancy-related deaths (maternal mortality) in Texas had doubled by 2012. So from 2011 through 2014, the number of maternal deaths jumped to 537.
If Texas were a country, it would have the highest rate of pregnancy-related deaths in the developed world!
The study, “Recent Increases in the U.S. Maternal Mortality Rate,” by researchers from the Maryland, Boston, and Stanford universities, which will be published in the September issue of the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, also found that across the U.S. the rate of maternal mortality was higher than previously known and rose 27 percent between 2000 and 2014.
Maternal care is basic to healthcare, affecting the lives of millions and millions of pregnant women and mothers, and all humanity’s children. And what makes this rising death toll so outrageous is that it’s utterly unnecessary.
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines maternal mortality as a woman’s death from pregnancy-related causes—while pregnant or within 42 days of terminating her pregnancy. Three-quarters of such deaths are caused by severe bleeding, infections, high blood pressure, complications from delivery, and unsafe abortions. WHO states, “Most maternal deaths are preventable, as the health-care solutions to prevent or manage complications are well known.”1 Yet maternal deaths are rising in the U.S., and spiking in Texas. (The toll of pregnancy-related maternal deaths is much more devastating in the vast areas of the world distorted and impoverished by the workings of global imperialism.)2
This is a society awash in statistics—stock market valuations, baseball batting averages, what’s “trending” online, and yes, infant mortality. But collecting data on maternal mortality, vital to women’s and children’s health, has been crippled and ignored, and the government hasn’t published pregnancy-related death statistics since 2007 (all of which prompted this new study). This is another glaring example of how patriarchy runs through every nook and cranny of this society, and how this system considers women as sex objects and breeders whose lives are expendable.
The new study didn’t evaluate the causes for Texas’ sudden jump in maternal mortality, but noted such leaps are usually associated with “war, natural disaster, or severe economic upheaval.”
There is a different kind of a war going on now across the U.S. and especially intensely in Texas—a many-sided war against women, one that’s hitting Black women particularly hard.
The leap in pregnancy-related deaths in Texas began in 2011 as the Republican dominated state government slashed the budget for reproductive healthcare by two-thirds, cutting it from $111.5 million to roughly $38 million. This forced some 80 family planning clinics to shut down across the state. The clinics left open could only provide services, such as low-cost or free birth control, cancer screenings, well-woman exams, to half as many women as before the cuts.
In 2011, Texas also blocked Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving state funds to provide poor women with preventive healthcare, cutting off tens of thousands more women from contraception, cancer screenings and other services.
In August 2014, the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride 2014: Ground Zero Texas, initiated by Stop Patriarchy, traveled through Texas because of the abortion emergency there that threatened to close all but six abortion clinics that were left. These courageous fighters faced down threats, arrests and brutality to boldly put forward their stand of Abortion on Demand Without Apology!
Those budget cuts were not driven primarily by financial concerns; they went hand-in-hand with an all-out assault on abortion access. Texas had enacted a whole series of anti-abortion laws that cut the number of abortion clinics from 46 in 2011 to fewer than 25 in 2014. (See, “Why Texas is Ground Zero of the Abortion Rights Emergency,” June 30, 2014.)
Some abortion providers offer other forms of health care. So these cuts in family planning funding, aid to poor women, and attacks on abortion meant that tens of thousands in Texas, especially poor and oppressed people and those in rural areas, no longer had ready access to basic healthcare and prenatal care. This made it very difficult for many women to get contraception to prevent unplanned pregnancies or for pregnant women to monitor their own health, and the health of their fetuses.
One of the study’s authors, Dr. Marian F. MacDorman of the Maryland Population Research Center at the University of Maryland, told Revolution/revcom.us that “Planned Parenthood offers a lot of just really basic introductory healthcare. This is the first place people would go to get a pregnancy test, to get a referral for prenatal care, or for whatever they need. And if that place is not available then it might lead to delays in getting the pregnancy test, getting into prenatal care. And we all know that early prenatal care is supposed to be healthy for women, and pregnant women.”
No doubt other factors, demanding further study, have contributed to Texas’s leap in pregnancy-related deaths. One is the intensifying oppression of Black people, which exacts a terrible toll on Black women who become pregnant. “Certainly in the United States in general and also in Texas specifically, the maternal mortality rate for African-American women is more than twice as high as for white women. So that’s one thing that’s really bad.” Dr. MacDorman said.
A new study by a Texas-sponsored taskforce, released on August 25, found that in 2011 and 2012, while Black mothers accounted for only 11.4 percent of Texas births, they accounted for 28.8 percent of pregnancy-related deaths. In other words, being a Black woman in Texas meant you were nearly three times more likely to die as a result of pregnancy than other women!
Added to these and other horrors, likely driving the rise in maternal mortality, there are more people in Texas without health insurance than in any other state.
In 2013, Texas restored funding for family planning. But some healthcare providers had closed their doors, and those who survived the 2011 cuts are struggling to restore services to their pre-2011 levels.
The leap in maternal mortality in Texas and its rise across the U.S. is taking place at a time when women’s role in society has undergone significant transformations—and is being very sharply contested in many different ways all across the globe. In the U.S. in particular, the evolving demands of global capitalism-imperialism, the political and cultural upheavals of the 1960s, and other factors have led to big changes since the 1950s. Women’s participation in the workforce, universities, and the professions has skyrocketed. Sexual mores and identifications have changed dramatically. The traditional, male-dominated nuclear family is being challenged, shaken, and in some situations fractured.
Patriarchy, the nuclear family, and the oppression of women have been woven into the foundation of American capitalism and society from their beginning. So today, in the face of the tidal forces tearing at this traditional order, powerful ruling forces are fighting very viciously to keep women “in their place,” and maintain this reactionary patriarchal order.
They’re doing so by waging an ideological, political, legal, and economic war on women, whose leading edge now is ending abortion and denying women one of their most basic rights—to control their own bodies and reproduction. Texas is a base area of these extreme-right wing, Christian fascist forces and ground zero in this war on women.
It is not hyperbole to say that some of the women who died in Texas from pregnancy-related causes were casualties in that war on women.
The revolutionary leader Bob Avakian (BA) has written that this very sharp contradiction will be resolved in one of two ways:
The whole question of the position and role of women in society is more and more acutely posing itself in today’s extreme circumstances...It is not conceivable that all this will find any resolution other than in the most radical terms....The question yet to be determined is: will it be a radical reactionary or a radical revolutionary resolution, will it mean the reinforcing of the chains of enslavement or the shattering of the most decisive links in those chains and the opening up of the possibility of realizing the complete elimination of all forms of such enslavement?
—Originally published 1985, Cited in A Declaration: For Women's Liberation And The Emancipation Of All Humanity, a special issue of Revolution, #158, March 8, 2009
That “revolutionary resolution” is urgently needed and a serious possibility. Such a revolution will only be made if the fury of women is unleashed as a mighty force for revolution. And that revolution will only be worth making if it’s aimed at totally uprooting patriarchy and all forms of women’s oppression as part of emancipating all humanity.
To dig into the strategy for revolution brought forward by BA and his leadership of the movement for an actual revolution, click here.
To see how a genuine revolutionary state, based on the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America written by BA, would deal with the emancipation of women, peoples’ healthcare, and transforming the world overall, click here.
1. See World Health Organization, Maternal mortality ratio (per 100 000 live births) and Maternal mortality, November 2015
2. The workings of global capitalist-imperialism make the situation for mothers and children even worse in the vast areas of the world it oppresses and impoverishes. “Complications during pregnancy and childbirth are a leading cause of death and disability among women of reproductive age in developing countries,” WHO reports. “Approximately 2.7 million newborn babies die every year, and an additional 2.6 million are stillborn...By the end of 2015, roughly 303,000 women will have died during and following pregnancy and childbirth. Almost all of these deaths occurred in low-resource settings, and most could have been prevented.” The organization sums up, “Every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth... 99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.”
Revolution #454 August 30, 2016
Editors' note: The following is an excerpt from the new work by Bob Avakian, THE NEW COMMUNISM: The science, the strategy, the leadership for an actual revolution, and a radically new society on the road to real emancipation. In addition to excerpts already posted on revcom.us, we will be running further excerpts from time to time on both revcom.us and in Revolution newspaper. These excerpts should serve as encouragement and inspiration for people to get into the work as a whole, which is available as a book from Insight Press. A prepublication copy is available on line at revcom.us.
This excerpt comes from the section titled "IV. The Leadership We Need."
The fact is that, where most people are at now, is not where people need to be. Where most people are at is shaped and conditioned by how this society, how this system, is working on them. So if we want to lead people where things need to go, there’s gonna be that tension, that contradiction, that we have to be out in front, fighting with people that this is where they need to go, while many things are pulling on them another way and you stand out as being different. But being different in that way is very good and very important, as long as you work and struggle to bring more people forward along the same path. Being radically different than the rest of society is what we need to be—including being radically different than the so-called “movement,” because that “movement” isn’t about anything that’s going to lead to what people really need, and in many ways is actually working against that. That’s not true for all of it; but, in terms of the organized “movement,” it’s true for a lot of it.
I was thinking about this in these terms: Which “M” should we base ourselves on—the “movement” or materialism, dialectical materialism? We need to base ourselves on materialism, dialectical materialism, what the application of that shows to be the fundamental need—not where most people are at, at a given point, but what a scientific dialectical materialist analysis shows us is the need and the basis for transforming things. Earlier, in talking about revolutionary defeatism, I noted that I was struck by the fact that, in hearing reports and in reading things that people have written, on the basis of reading the Interview with Ardea Skybreak, as far as I know, no one commented on the section in that Interview where she speaks passionately about hating the national anthem, hating the Pledge of Allegiance, hating the flag and people saluting the flag. I expected that a lot of people would say, “Wow, me, too—I’m really glad to hear somebody say that!” And the fact that this didn’t happen—that people commented about a lot of things that struck them in that Interview, things they learned a lot from, but there was a glaring lack of commenting on, expressing agreement with, this part of the Interview—raised the question, particularly in terms of revolutionary defeatism: Is this another case where people don’t want to be standing out? Do people not want to be out there, opposing this “thank you for your service,” and hand over your heart, saluting the flag?
Skybreak points out: It’s terrible, you go to a sporting event, or some other event, and they play the national anthem, and these basic youth—not all of them, but way too many of them—stand up and put their hand over their heart. Maybe they even join in singing about “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” For god’s sake (if you’ll pardon the expression), here’s this system that’s crushing them, has enslaved them, exploited them, oppressed them and people all over the world, and they’ve got their hand over their heart, singing along about “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” And we don’t hate that? We don’t see what a terrible thing that is, how much harm that’s doing to the masses of people, that they’re told that this is the way to be respectable and make your way in the world and you should be loyal and patriotic toward your country that’s brutally oppressing you and people all over the world? We don’t think we should stand up against that? I’ll tell you one thing: If even a couple of people went to an event like that, sat among basic masses of people and called that shit out when it started to happen, a lot of good things would get turned loose: a lot of good struggle and a lot of sentiments that are just barely beneath the surface. More than a few people would say, “Yeah, what the hell am I doing, anyway?” We have the responsibility to do this.
Introduction and Orientation
Foolish Victims of Deceit, and Self-Deceit
Part I. Method and Approach, Communism as a Science
Materialism vs. Idealism
Through Which Mode of Production
The Basic Contradictions and Dynamics of Capitalism
The New Synthesis of Communism
The Basis for Revolution
Epistemology and Morality, Objective Truth and Relativist Nonsense
Self and a “Consumerist” Approach to Ideas
What Is Your Life Going to Be About?—Raising People’s Sights
Part II. Socialism and the Advance to Communism:
A Radically Different Way the World Could Be, A Road to Real Emancipation
The “4 Alls”
Beyond the Narrow Horizon of Bourgeois Right
Socialism as an Economic System and a Political System—And a Transition to Communism
Abundance, Revolution, and the Advance to Communism—A Dialectical Materialist Understanding
The Importance of the “Parachute Point”—Even Now, and Even More With An Actual Revolution
The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America—
Solid Core with a Lot of Elasticity on the Basis of the Solid Core
Emancipators of Humanity
Part III. The Strategic Approach to An Actual Revolution
One Overall Strategic Approach
Hastening While Awaiting
Forces For Revolution
Separation of the Communist Movement from the Labor Movement, Driving Forces for Revolution
National Liberation and Proletarian Revolution
The Strategic Importance of the Struggle for the Emancipation of Women
The United Front under the Leadership of the Proletariat
Youth, Students and the Intelligentsia
Struggling Against Petit Bourgeois Modes of Thinking, While Maintaining the Correct Strategic Orientation
The “Two Maximizings”
The “5 Stops”
The Two Mainstays
Returning to "On the Possibility of Revolution"
Internationalism and an International Dimension
Internationalism—Bringing Forward Another Way
Popularizing the Strategy
Part IV. The Leadership We Need
The Decisive Role of Leadership
A Leading Core of Intellectuals—and the Contradictions Bound Up with This
Another Kind of “Pyramid”
The Cultural Revolution Within the RCP
The Need for Communists to Be Communists
A Fundamentally Antagonistic Relation—and the Crucial Implications of That
Strengthening the Party—Qualitatively as well as Quantitatively
Forms of Revolutionary Organization, and the “Ohio”
Statesmen, and Strategic Commanders
Methods of Leadership, the Science and the “Art” of Leadership
Working Back from “On the Possibility”—
Another Application of “Solid Core with a Lot of Elasticity on the Basis of the Solid Core”
The New Synthesis of Communism:
Fundamental Orientation, Method and Approach,
and Core Elements—An Outline
by Bob Avakian
Framework and Guidelines for Study and Discussion
Selected List of Works Cited
About the Author
Revolution #454 August 30, 2016
August 30, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
The best way to support Colin Kaepernick's courageous action is to duplicate it, wherever and whenever you can, and struggle with others to do so.
In this regard, we are publishing something very relevant as this week's excerpt from THE NEW COMMUNISM by Bob Avakian.
Revolution #454 August 30, 2016
August 25, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
On the eve of the major release of a new film, The Birth of a Nation, which chronicles the heroic slave rebellion of Nat Turner, a huge controversy has broken out over 17-year-old allegations of sexual assault directed against the film's writer, director and star, Nate Parker. Despite the fact that Nate Parker was tried and found not guilty, growing numbers of commentators, including many prominent Black and feminist voices, are publicly insisting that they will not go see this film because of these allegations. This controversy threatens to imperil this film's reach and impact, even before it is released. This is very bad.
This film needs to be seen. Everyone in America—and many beyond—must confront both the horrors and integral role of slavery to this country. They also need to learn the heroism and story of Nat Turner, a man who led one of the most powerful and righteous uprisings against slavery in this country's history. It is extremely rare that a film like this gets made. Even rarer that it gets picked up and promoted as a major Hollywood release. Everyone who cares about liberation, and everyone who wants a culture and atmosphere where radical ideas and art can flourish, should fiercely oppose what is being done to bury this film in controversy and destroy Nate Parker and his co-writer, Jean Celestin. I have not yet seen this film, but any film dealing with such a topic must be seen, and must be judged on its content—not the artist.
This does not mean that we should dismiss or downplay the horror of rape. As I have written much about, rape is a horrific crime. It not only shatters the lives of the women who are its victims, the constant threat of rape is a weapon through which all women are terrorized. It is a key tool enforcing the all-around oppression and patriarchal domination of all women in every part of the world. All of this is something that everyone should fight against, urgently and with great passion.
But re-prosecuting and convicting Nate Parker in the “court of public opinion” 17 years after he was tried and found not guilty of rape is very wrong. It will not help to liberate women—or anyone else. In fact, it works against doing so.
It is the case both that throughout history women have been silenced if they dare speak out about having been raped AND that throughout the history of the U.S., the accusation of rape against Black men in particular has been used as a license to kill. So is there no way to sort this out? There is, but only in the context of the search for the truth and the struggle to break ALL traditions chains.
As stated in a very important piece laying out important questions of principle and method in the wake of accusations against Bill Cosby,
“[I]t is very important to fight to, first of all, create the kind of atmosphere in society overall and in different institutions and parts of society, that make it much more difficult for rape and sexual assault to be carried out, and that encourage and support women in resisting this and in coming forward to raise this and seek justice when it does happen, while at the same time insisting on a consistent approach of proceeding in relation to accusations of rape and sexual assault, and accusations of crimes and wrongdoing in general, through a process that relies on a scientific method and approach and where the kind of 'trial by media' and 'media tyranny' that is so commonplace these days, and the very poisonous atmosphere this creates and reinforces, will be firmly rejected and denounced.”
Make no mistake: what is being done against Nate Parker and The Birth of a Nation is nothing more than a Trial-by-Media and Trial-by-Social-Media. It’s a trial by the culture of “gotcha,” by what amounts to hearsay—with absolutely no criteria of truth. It’s a trial by what the “mob” is led to think which, by the way, in a class-divided, patriarchal, white-supremacist society will inevitably end up targeting and scapegoating the most oppressed. Do people really need to be reminded of “I heard the Black boy whistled at the white women” or “that loose woman was asking for it,” to see where this will lead—and has led time and again.
Even when not directed against the oppressed, this approach is wrong anyway. It works against the scientific search for the truth, which is essential to the process of real liberation and which is an essential part of any truly just and vibrant society.
Even if Nate Parker had been found guilty of rape 17 years ago—which he was not—it would be necessary to ask: Why is this being resurrected now, so many years after the fact on the eve of this film's release?
The accusation—and acquittal—has been known for years and there are no new developments. The only thing new is that a major publication decided to whip up a storm cloud of controversy around it on the eve of the release of this new film—including by digging up and revealing that the woman involved committed suicide four years ago. In fact, some members of the woman's family have made the important point that they “are dubious of the underlying motivations that bring this to present light after 17 years, and we will not take part in stoking its coals.”
At every step along the way, people in powerful institutions made decisions to manufacture this controversy where none had existed. Someone had to decide to run a major piece in Variety suggesting (i.e., prodding) that this “controversy” might engulf the film. They had to decide to follow this up with details of a tragic suicide they had no interest in reporting on for four years. Others had to decide to put this “new controversy” on the home page—for three days—of the New York Times and then many other publications. People had to pick through trial transcripts and take things out of context. And on it has gone.
It is NOT a conspiracy theory to think, when something is suddenly made into such a big deal, that powerful forces were either behind it or got behind it. Rather, recognizing all this is part of applying a scientific method in a society in which some social groups have more power than others and are able to use that power, when it suits their purposes, to bring down certain individuals or works of art or scholarship.
This manufactured “controversy” is already working to turn people away from seeing this film. To impact how the film company and others will decide to promote it—already, the American Film Institute has postponed a major screening. To stop discussion of slavery, but also to stop support of those who rose against this and whether they should be supported—which in the case of Nat Turner is not without controversy, much as the people who rose up recently in urban rebellions in Milwaukee, Baltimore, and elsewhere against police murder are not without controversy. To prevent this from connecting with the tinderbox of anger seething in the ghettoes and prisons.
Frontally attacking this film for its actual content would almost certainly catapult it into even greater prominence. So much better for the oppressors to have a “left” cover—a seemingly “radical” reason—for this film to be buried.
While it seems this was set in motion by very powerful, perhaps ruling-class, forces, others have been taken in and taken it up. Whatever their intents, these people are allowing their legitimate outrage at the widespread culture of rape and patriarchy to be a cover for attacking a film which does not promote rape, but—in fact—makes a powerful contribution to the fight against oppression.
Nate Parker was put on trial and found not guilty. This matters!
It should not even be necessary to point out that it matters that Nate Parker was found not guilty. Unfortunately, it is.
Too many people are making the very sloppy—and extremely harmful—argument that, because most rapes go unreported and even fewer result in conviction, it follows that Nate Parker must have gotten away with rape. This is wrong. Statistics that men often get away with rape are NOT the same as evidence that a particular man got away with rape.
Others have argued that a woman's accusations should be believed “because there is nothing at all to be gained by going public with a rape accusation.” This is wrong. There are more than a few instances where accusations of rape have been completely fabricated. There have also been many instances where convictions in rape cases have resulted from powerful ruling class interests that have nothing to do with evidence of criminal behavior. And there are times when even sincerely held memories and perceptions of a person turn out not to be true.
In order to sort out the guilt or innocence of a particular person in a particular case, the facts and evidence of that case must be thoroughly examined, sifted through and a verdict rendered. This was done. Nate Parker sat on trial, and when all the evidence was sifted through he was found not guilty of any criminal act. This matters.
Some have argued that it is “alarming that Black men have been so quick to suddenly cite the court system” when it is this same court system that lets killer cops walk free.
This argument is also wrong. In thinking this through and writing the following, I have drawn deeply on and paraphrased the article I previously referred to on the Bill Cosby controversy.
Police who murder Black people are part of the apparatus of capitalist state power. The “prosecutor” is also part of the apparatus of this state power. And there has been, over a whole long period of time, a very clear pattern where murders by police are almost always declared “justifiable.” In light of this, there is a sound scientific basis for believing that the regular procedures of the legal system are very unlikely to result in a just outcome. It is correct to believe that any investigation and legal procedures involved will very likely be fundamentally tainted in a way to result in no indictment or, in the very rare cases of indictment, no conviction.
But that is very different from a situation involving an individual—even an individual with considerable wealth and influence—who is not part of the apparatus of state power.
There are, of course, cases where a thorough review and analysis of the evidence and a trial make it legitimate to conclude that an incorrect verdict was reached. I do not claim to have sifted through all of this in order to draw a scientific conclusion as to the veracity of this verdict. But I have sifted through enough of it to know that those declaring that Nate Parker is “definitely guilty” and that the verdict was wrong are not doing so on anything close to a sound, scientific basis.*
Truth cannot be determined based on who will be served by it, by how it makes you feel or your personal experience, and certainly not by how many people are saying it. Truth must be drawn from evidence. This is important not just for sorting this particular high stakes controversy. This has to do with fundamental questions of what kind of world we want to live in and how we fight to get there.
We need a world without the grotesque division into exploiters and exploited, without the rampant violence against women and degrading patriarchy, without the ongoing bloody terror against and oppression of Black people, and without all the many other crimes of the system of capitalism-imperialism that rules over us. We need a world without this dog-eat-dog system, a world where people have gotten beyond thinking and calculating every social exchange in terms of competing interests of individuals and groups, but instead proceed from the larger interests of all humanity. To get to this world will require an actual revolution—and this requires a scientific approach.
Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party, has written that:
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. (BAsics 4:10)
Again, what we have seen is a media and Twitterverse witch-hunt. Everything Nate Parker has said for nearly two decades—including illegally recorded phone calls—has been pored over. Unable to find anything clearly incriminating, writers have instead insisted that statements expressing patriarchal views (towards gay men or towards women) are “proof” of his guilt. Witness testimony has been taken out of context. Allegations—which are just that, allegations (they never were litigated)—by the woman that she was harassed and stalked are being treated as undisputed fact. Almost entirely ignored in this media frenzy has been the evidence of police law-breaking and intimidation, and prosecution's collusion with this, in the pursuit of locking Parker and Celestin up.**
To quote again from the piece about accusations leveled against Cosby:
“What we see in the way these media operate in situations such as this—a process that hardly involves even a pretense, let alone any real substance, of due process, which in fact such mass media are not designed or constituted to create—is a one-sided 'trial by media' and a 'media tyranny' where, once a person has been targeted, there is no real basis or possibility for them to defend themselves in any meaningful way—where denials are treated as evasions and yet more occasion for going after the person—and all this works, in very harmful ways, to create and reinforce the kind of culture and atmosphere that no decent human being should want.”
Some have implied that if it's necessary for us all to continue to confront the history of slavery, it is hypocritical for Nate Parker to refuse to “relive that period of my life every time I go under the microscope."
This is wrong.
America is a nation. It is founded on genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of millions of Africans and their descendants, the theft of half of Mexico. It did this through military devastation, lynch mobs, and terror. It has stretched its tentacles of exploitation and militarized murder to every corner of this planet. This is global, it’s systemic and it’s ongoing. America cannot be redeemed, it is the problem. Its true nature must be confronted, and it must be overthrown.
Nate Parker is an individual. He was 19 years old at the time of this incident. While, by all accounts, he behaved in ways that were dehumanizing and degrading to the young woman involved, he did not create the culture of rape and sexual predation which, undoubtedly, shaped his behavior. So, while it is important that Parker—like every other man who has oppressed and degraded women—confront the harm of this behavior, he must also be allowed to grow and to contribute to the world.
Think of the millions of people who have ended up in U.S. prisons not only because of injustice in the criminal system but also because of the way the dominant institutions and culture conditions people to prey upon each other. People who do wrong need to confront this and change. Most of all they need break out of this system's ways of thinking, transform themselves, and become part of putting an end to the system that is the source of the problem. This needs to not only be allowed, but encouraged.
In contrast, revenge—insisting that people can never rise above their lowest point—works against this. It can only contribute to further locking the horrors of this world into place.
What should be said about Nate Parker? He has maintained his innocence of the charges (which he has legitimate right to do), he has been vindicated in court, and at the same time he seems to have confronted elements of his behavior and values that were reactionary and wrong. He has also indicated that he wants to continue to learn and transform more. He should be allowed to do that and, in fact, he should NOT be put “under a microscope,” to use his words.
All those who have been caught up in or confused by these attacks should stop allowing themselves to be played by larger forces inimical to the people’s interests. And those who have gone further than that, being whipped up by and getting into revenge, you need to think long and hard about who that serves and what values that reflects and how ugly that really is—and what kind of society you want to live in.
In conclusion, this film must be seen and then debated and judged on its merits. The efforts to prevent this from happening must be defeated. And people need to learn how to see through these destructive attacks.
* I read all the closing arguments, read the main witness testimony people are claiming “seals the guilt” [it doesn’t], read Parker’s and Celestin’s statements read into the trial record, read the testimony of the accuser, read the lawsuit—filed a couple years later—by the Women’s Law Project against Penn State, read all available excerpts of the illegally recorded phone calls made of Nate Parker back then, and read everything I could find about why the conviction of Celestin was thrown out [reportedly because his attorney failed to object to the admission of hearsay evidence and to the admission of evidence obtained through an illegal phone recording] as well as why a retrial did not go forward. As this article was being posted I became aware of this Statement by four former Penn State Alumni who supported Parker then and support him now, which is worth reading, even as I have not been able to verify all that they say. [back]
** According to testimony in the trial transcript, police assisted the accuser in illegally recording a phone call of Nate Parker, a felony which carries a seven-year prison sentence; the same District Attorney who wrote the criminal charges against Parker and Celestin assured the officers who broke the law that they would not be prosecuted; and the judge allowed this illegally procured “evidence” to be admitted to the trial. Detective Chris Weaver, the main officer who investigated the case, admitted in court to threatening a key witness, and other accusations were made against him in court that he intimidated at least one other witness and the defendants (all of whom were Black). [back]
Revolution #454 August 30, 2016
August 30, 2016 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
Bob Avakian recently wrote that one of three things that has "to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better: People have to fully confront the actual history of this country and its role in the world up to today, and the terrible consequences of this." (See "3 Things that have to happen in order for there to be real and lasting change for the better.")
In that light, and in that spirit, "American Crime" is a regular feature of revcom.us. Each installment will focus on one of the 100 worst crimes committed by the U.S. rulers—out of countless bloody crimes they have carried out against people around the world, from the founding of the U.S. to the present day.
Above: A massacre of Mexican civilians in a cave at Agua Nueva by American cavalry. One eyewitness wrote: "...The cave was full of volunteers, yelling like fiends, while on the rocky floor lay over twenty Mexicans, dead and dying in pools of blood, while women and children were clinging to the knees of the murderers and shrieking for mercy..."
Above (click map to enlarge): After the 1846 formal annexation of the slave-holding "Republic of Texas", U.S. armies invaded deep into Mexican territory from one end to the other. One half of Mexico was taken by the U.S. in the 1848 Treaty of Guadelupe Hidalgo that ended the war. Hundreds of thousands of Mexicans living in the stolen land were then subjected to conditions of poverty, exploitation and discrimination, which continues today.
The campaign for U.S. President in 1848 took place in the context of the predatory war by the U.S. against Mexico. The two major candidates vying for the nomination of the Whig Party were General Winfield Scott and General Zachary Taylor, both "heroes" who led assaults against Mexican cities and troops. The political cartoon above from 1848 depicts "the only qualification for a Whig president" to be how many people he murdered. (Image: Library of Congress)
THE CRIME: In the spring of 1846, U.S. President James Polk sent General Zachary Taylor and several thousand U.S. troops into what had been—before slave-holding settlers from the U.S. declared it an independent "Republic of Texas" in 1836—Mexican territory between the Nueces and Rio Grande Rivers, near the Gulf of Mexico, with the goal of provoking a war. When Taylor's troops arrived at the Mexican town of Matamoros on the Rio Grande and began menacing maneuvers, they were attacked by a force of Mexicans, just as Polk and his cabinet believed they would be. President Polk wasted no time in declaring Mexico guilty of aggression against the U.S.
On May 13, 1846, the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly to declare war on Mexico. And so began a war that resulted in the loss of tens of thousands of lives and the theft by the U.S. of more than half of Mexico's land.
After war was declared, General Taylor occupied Matamoros and U.S. soldiers carried out atrocities. When Taylor's army arrived in Monterrey, Mexico, west of Matamoros, a U.S. newspaper wrote: "As at Matamoros, murder, robbery, and rape were committed [by volunteer units of the U.S. Army that were closely tied to the slave-owning class in the U.S.] in the broad light of day, and as if desirous to signalize themselves at Monterrey by some new act of atrocity, they burned many of the thatched huts of the poor peasants. It is thought that one hundred of the inhabitants were murdered in cold blood, and one ... was shot to death at noon in the main street of the city."
U.S. reporters traveling with U.S. troops rarely wrote of these events, but some letters sent home by soldiers did. One Illinois army officer described a massacre by Arkansas volunteers. After one volunteer was killed by Mexicans in retribution for a raid on a ranch in Agua Nueva, where Arkansas volunteers robbed and raped the inhabitants, the Arkansas cavalry retaliated. They rounded up Mexican residents and herded them into a cave. The letter quoted a soldier who witnessed what happened:
The cave was full of volunteers, yelling like fiends, while on the rocky floor lay over twenty Mexicans, dead and dying in pools of blood, while women and children were clinging to the knees of the murderers and shrieking for mercy.
Shortly after war was declared, U.S. naval ships occupied the California port cities of San Pedro; Monterey, the Mexican capital of California; and Yerba Buena (later San Francisco). Other parts of California were also seized by U.S. forces. Mexican control of California ended.
As Taylor's army occupied the north, U.S. warships entered the port of the Gulf coast city of Veracruz in the south and laid siege to it, pummeling Veracruz for four days with 468,000 pounds of "shell and shot" until much of the city was in ruins. After this, General Winfield Scott's army landed and seized Veracruz, and then proceeded inland to Mexico City.
Scott's army entered Mexico City, the capital of Mexico, in September 1847. On February 2, 1848, the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo was signed, ending the war. The U.S. grabbed millions of square miles of Mexico encompassing the states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and parts of Utah, Nevada, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Colorado. Mexico suffered the crippling loss of 55 percent of its land and many Mexicans ended up on the U.S. side of the border where they faced humiliation, the theft of their land, and racist oppression.
THE CRIMINALS: Before running for president, James Polk, born to a wealthy slave-owning family and a slave owner himself, was a little-known politician. But he was backed in his bid for office by former president Andrew Jackson, a notorious slaver and butcher of Native American peoples, and an advocate for the expansion of slavery. Polk won the presidential election in 1844 and enthusiastically took up the cause of territorial expansion. The Polks brought their slaves to work in the White House.
General Taylor, sent to the Rio Grande valley to provoke war with Mexico, was also a slave owner who built up his military credentials in the wars of ethnic cleansing against the Black Hawk and Seminole native peoples.
General Scott oversaw the 1838 expulsion of 14,000 Cherokee from their lands in Georgia and other southeastern states, and their forced march to Oklahoma—the infamous "Trail of Tears" during which 4,000 Native people died of illness, starvation, and exposure.
Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and Stonewall Jackson were all U.S. military officers in the Mexican war, and were later major figures fighting for slavery and the Confederacy in the U.S. Civil War. And officers who ended up playing key roles in the U.S. Civil War on the side of the North were also officers in the U.S. army that invaded Mexico, including Ulysses S. Grant and George McClellan. As befit an army of slave owners, exploiters, and oppressors, the officers of the U.S. army all had servants, mostly Black people. Officers from the slave states, and even some from the "free" states, had slaves with them to do their bidding.
U.S. newspapers mainly lauded the war as a great, noble affair demonstrating U.S. superiority and the racial superiority of white Americans. They failed to report on the crimes carried out by U.S. troops. But there were abolitionists (anti-slavery groups) that opposed the war. One abolitionist paper, the Ashtabula Sentinel of Ohio, wrote, not "a hundredth part of the crimes committed by our troops are published, or ever come to the knowledge of our people."
THE ALIBI: President Polk falsely claimed that Mexico was the real aggressor. After he had sent troops to Mexican territory to provoke a conflict, Polk boldly lied, "After reiterated menaces, Mexico has passed the boundary of the United States, has invaded our territory and shed American blood upon the American soil." The New Orleans Bulletin wrote in a tone somewhat typical of the time, "The United States have borne more insult, abuse, insolence and injury, from Mexico, than one nation ever before endured from another.... They are left no alternative but to extort by arms, the respect and justice which Mexico refuses, to any treatment less harsh."
Major political figures, intellectuals, and U.S. media of the day promoted the concept of "Manifest Destiny," the idea that white Europeans were ordained by God to dominate the American continent and lord it over the "lesser races." Newspapers relentlessly portrayed Mexicans in ugly and racist ways. Journalists traveling with U.S. troops were quick to condemn Mexico's system of debt peonage but almost never mentioned the servants and slaves of U.S. officers unless, as often happened, they deserted to Mexico.
THE REAL MOTIVE: The war of conquest of Mexican land was the culmination of a decades-long effort to open up territory for the expansion of the slave system. White settlers seeking to expand slavery moved into Texas beginning in the 1820s. Mexico abolished slavery in 1829-30, and slave owners in Texas revolted and, in 1836, declared independence for the "Republic of Texas" in the Mexican province of Tejas. In 1845, the U.S. government formally annexed Texas, making it part of the United States.
The 1845 seizure and annexation of Texas from Mexico's poorly defended and lightly populated northern territories whetted the appetite of powerful groups of U.S. slave holders and capitalists hungry to grab the land, riches, and the strategic position of Mexico's northern territories.
Powerful ruling groups supported the war against Mexico. They represented rival and exploitive modes of producing wealth. One mode was slavery, and the other was capitalism. The slave-owning class looked to Mexican lands to expand slavery and bring in new slave states to increase their political power. The capitalists eyed Mexican territory for its mineral resources and land. They also wanted West Coast ports for the great advantages it would give merchant capitalists in trade competition with England and France over China.
(In contrast to this, it is inspiring that during the war, between 175 and several hundred largely European immigrant soldiers deserted the U.S. Army and fought on Mexico's side. Called the Saint Patrick's Battalion, they're still honored in Mexico. By 1848 most had been captured and tried by the U.S. military. Some 50 were executed over several days—collectively the largest mass execution in U.S. history.)
REPEAT OFFENDERS: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) between Mexico and the U.S. ended the war. It promised constitutional rights to Mexicans in the Southwest of what was now U.S. territory, declaring they "shall be maintained and protected in the free enjoyment of their liberty and property." This treaty and a protocol guaranteed the Mexican people their land grants, language, and civil rights. In reality, the U.S. immediately began a process of seizing millions of acres of land that had been legally guaranteed to Mexican people, ultimately forcing hundreds of thousands into desperate conditions of poverty and exploitation, and subjecting them to outrageous discrimination by treating them as "foreigners" on the land that the U.S. had seized.
Amy S. Greenberg, A Wicked War: Polk, Clay, Lincoln, and the 1846 U.S. Invasion of Mexico (Alfred A. Knopf, 2012)
Norman A. Graebner, Empire on the Pacific: A Study in American Continental Expansion(Regina Books 1983)
Juan Gonzales, Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America (Viking Penguin 2000)
"Mexican Independence from Spain, and the U.S.-Mexican War," Revolution/revcom.us, May 20, 2007
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