25 Years of Revolutionary Reporting

The Story, the Moment, Voices of the Oppressed

Revolutionary Worker #1238, May 1, 2004, posted at http://rwor.org

For 25 years RW reporters have been going deep among the people, throughout the United States and around the world--providing readers with on-the-scene coverage of breaking news, exclusive interviews, hidden stories, and the voice of the voiceless. The following excerpts are from some of the many exclusive stories filed by RW correspondents:

Reporter's Notebook from Atenco, Mexico: Real Women Have Machetes

by Luciente and the Atenco Project Writing Group RW #1178, December 8, 2002

Justina--a housewife devoted to her children and her home--said that on October 22, 2001, she felt a rage so strong that it was almost impossible to express it. That was the day that Mexico's Fox government issued a decree declaring that the land worked by the campesinos of Atenco would be expropriated so that a new airport could be built. Many women said that before they became active in the struggle they were mujeres agachadas -- women with their heads bowed down. They followed the same routine every day: buy food, cook the food, wash the dishes, wash clothes, clean the house, cook again, wash again, etc., etc., etc. They rarely saw beyond their front door-- not because they didn't care, but because it "wasn't their place." All this changed when they learned about the government's plans to expropriate their land. A flame was ignited in the hearts of the women of Atenco. They learned to be selfless and to dedicate their life to the struggle. The women described this change as "el día que naci "--"the day I was born."

Shockwaves: Report from the L.A. Rebellion

by Michael Slate RW #657, May 24, 1992

More important than the physical evidence of the uprising, you can see how alive the rebellion still is in the people themselves. You can see it clearly in how quick they are to smile and laugh and how their eyes dance when they talk about those few days of freedom. And you can see it in the way the oppressed brothers and sisters carry themselves these days--in a way, they have changed forever. As we rode through these neighborhoods just trying to get an overview of the situation and gathering up some initial impressions, the words of a brother I had met just a few hours after arriving in the city rang in my head. As we sat talking about the rebellion this brother, a Black man in his 30s, talked about how he saw the uprising. "When you go out and see the communities I want you to remember what I say. They all talking about how could we just go and destroy the communities we live in. Well, to me it's more like these are the communities we are dying in and that's why we need to destroy them. And I'll tell you one thing, something happened to me after this riot that I didn't ever think was going to happen. For the very first time in all my 38 years of life I went into a store and someone said, `Good morning, sir, can I help you?"

Iraq Journal: Hunger in the Fertile Crescent

by Larry Everest RW #617, August 11, 1991

At the Children's Welfare Hospital in Baghdad, Satenya Naser is trying to comfort her emaciated, year-and-a-half old son Hamid, but he now cries at the slightest touch. Satenya is a woman in her mid-30s. Her look is direct, steady. Since January she's only been able to feed Hamid rice water. "Milk isn't available," Satenya explains, "but even if it was available it is too expensive for me." Hamid's diet and the contamination of Baghdad's water supply after the U.S. bombing combined to give him a severe case of diarrhea beginning in January. It lasted for four months, and Hamid lost half his body weight--he's down to 15 pounds and looks half his age--before he was admitted to the hospital two months ago. He now has the blotchy skin and distended belly characteristic of kwashiorkor, severe protein deficiency due to malnutrition. Hamid is so weak he can't even lift his bony arm.

War Stories: A Report from South Africa

by Michael Slate RW #441, February 1, 1988

During one discussion with a number of youths who were from different parts of the country and belonged to the Black Consciousness-oriented Azanian Youth Organization, I asked them to describe what the uprisings had looked like and what was going on among the youth today. One youth from the Transvaal Province declared: "We have gone for confrontation and radical uprising in order to show by deeds that this society is not what we want.. One youth active in a township near Cape Town said: "The two states of emergency have had a big effect on us. Our organizations have been decapitated. Many of us have been killed, injured or taken into detention. But we have become a cool, calculating and angry group. Perhaps the mood is best captured by our theme for the year, `Our blood shall not be spilled in vain.' This doesn't mean we are just going to stand out in the street hollering slogans while the South African Defense Force comes up in their hippos with their guns. But we are not defeated or in a defeated mood. We will sit and look at what they do, pick up on their habits and hit them. That's our mood!"

The Panamanian Connection: ¡Fuera Yanquis! The Writing is on the Wall!

by Jack Gardener RW #551, April 9, 1990

If you ask Panamanians about resistance to the invasion, this is often the first place they mention: San Miguelito--a sprawling barrio in the hills that overlook Panama City from its eastern outskirts... Juan fought against the U.S. as a member of the Dignity Battalions in San Miguelito and he is proud of it. Before the invasion, there had been 100 people signed up in their unit. But 300 people came out--mostly marginados from the poorest sections of San Miguelito. They didn't have enough weapons or ammunition for all these people, so they fought with whatever was at hand--their "toy weapons," one fighter described them--against armored helicopters. Among those who joined up on the spot were a number of housewives like Maria. "I wasn't defending the government," she says. "But I love my country." They didn't have a weapon for her, but there were many women who fought together with the men. In fact, people say the first U.S. helicopter downed in the invasion was brought down by a woman member of the Dignity Battalion in El Chorrillo.

First Hand from Iran

by Clark Kissinger RW #34, December 28, 1979

After 25 years of SAVAK [secret police] tortures and the Shah, the embassy seizure is genuinely a festival of the oppressed. Everybody wants to go down there and take part, everybody wants to be able to tell their grandchildren that they were there, that they participated in this historic event against the U.S. imperialists. Day and night there are crowds around the embassy entrance. They are crowds of ordinary people, young and old, men and women, people bringing their whole families down, little kids, grandmothers, everybody. There are food vendors with little carts and steaming dishes. Displays of literature are spread out on the streets for sale. Banners of support are hanging everywhere, some of them in foreign languages from around the world. On our final night in Teheran we made arrangements to go down to the embassy as a group and present our statement of solidarity. It was wild. People are jumping up and down and giving us the fist. The Western press is going berserk. This wasn't supposed to happen! Everybody is supposed to be supporting the president. And here's a bunch of Americans from the States, together with Americans living in Teheran, standing there denouncing U.S. policy. We are reaching through the gates, shaking hands with the students, everybody's smiling and cheering.

Eyewitness from Palestine: Running with the Shibab

RW #1169, October 6, 2002,

It didn't take long for us to encounter the everyday life for Palestinian youth. Our first day in the West Bank, not even a mile past the Kalandia checkpoint, we spotted three 13-year-old youth being blindfolded and arrested at gunpoint by Israeli soldiers. Their only crime was playing soccer. We later found out that their soccer ball had gone to where the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF) had set up a military post, and the soldiers grabbed the youth. We saw this from our taxi on our way to Ramallah, and we jumped out. We were greeted by 50 to 100 youth, pointing to the post and speaking to us in Arabic. They ran with us to the post to confront the Israelis. At first, they hid behind a building to avoid being shot. In Nablus we met some really cool youth. These youth were fearless. Every day they were on rooftops with their slingshots. They showed us the graves of their martyrs. One youth, who was 21, invited us to his house for tea, and his dad cooked for us. They were surprised that we were Chicano--a lot of people confused us for being Arab. They found it interesting that people with a Mexican background were there supporting their struggle.

Mohawks Take on the Powers, Report from Behind the Barricades

by Debbie Lang RW #568, August 19, 1990

An intense standoff started with a gun battle when hundreds of Quebec police attacked a roadblock set up by Mohawks near the Indian community of Kanesatake. The roadblock had been set up to prevent local authorities from stealing Mohawk land to expand a golf course.

When you drive north through New York state into Canada you pass through the vast and beautiful land that once belonged to the Mohawk people. You pass along mountains, lakes and rivers where Native peoples lived before white European settlers stole almost everything. Now, all that is left to the Mohawks are small fragmented patches of land, scattered here and there on both sides of the border... The only way to bypass the police roadblocks is to come in by water. Our Mohawk contacts explained to us how to catch a boat into Kahnawake from a wealthy Montreal suburb just across the river. We shared the15-minute boat ride with a Mohawk woman who was bringing back a bag of groceries. We were met at the dock and taken to our first meeting with the Mohawk people.. There is pride here--you can't help feeling it. Not just because they have stood up for themselves, but also because their actions have sparked a countrywide upsurge among the Native peoples. A Mohawk who is a retired ironworker told us, "It's all across Canada now. In British Columbia the natives there are threatening armed confrontations if they don't get their land settlements quick."

November Elections: A Week on the Razor's Edge, Inside Stories From the Streets of Haiti

by Nadine Andre RW #451, April 11, 1988

The charred remains of a Tonton Macoute lay in a pile in front of me on Route Delmas. In the movement to dechouke [uproot], people referred to such victories as "Macoute boukane"--or roasted Macoute. It was Wednesday, four days before the November 29 elections. For months, Macoute and military death squads had gone out in the dark to try and terrorize people into submission. But now the nighttime bloodshed, which had become as predictable as sunset, was being turned on its head. After an onslaught of death-squad terror at the beginning of the week, Brigades de Vigilance , neighborhood groups of ordinary people, had quickly taken shape and gone into action. In three separate incidents, four men suspected of being death squad members had been stopped and killed by the brigades. In each case arms had been found in their cars. One of these men was now nothing more than a pile of rubble at my feet.... People gathered in groups to look and soak up the sweet feeling that accompanied such a turn of events. And taxis and cars drove obligingly around the whole scene. That day in Port-au- Prince, these monuments to "people's justice" became sharp points of interest. So much so that it was easy to find them in the sprawling capital simply by asking people on the street.

With the New People's Army in the Philippines: Report from a Guerrilla Front (intro), Part 1, Part 2, Conclusion

RW #951-953, April 1998

Our van had been climbing a coastal road. Now it came to a sudden stop. My companion and I got out. It was a beautiful night. The sky was clear, the moon and stars were shining. Below me, not far off, I heard the sea washing up against the shoreline. But before I could take in more of the scene, someone nudged me: "Quick, up the hill." We darted off the road and onto a path and began heading inland and upland. My heart was pounding with anticipation. Our journey into the guerrilla front was beginning.. The enemy kept watch on this area, so we had to be careful about our movements. We got a little rest and set off while it was still dark. On the trails, I was only allowed to use my flashlight for quick bursts of assistance. Three hours later we reached another peasant's hut where we would camp for two days. We were staying at the household of Cesar. Cesar allows the NPA unit to use his hut when it passes through the area. He and his wife went about their daily activities, while the NPA fighters went about theirs: washing clothes, doing maintenance on their weapons, cooking (the squad prepared meals both for itself and for the family), and going off on patrols.

The Battle of Seattle: Report from the WTO "War Zone"

by Orpheus RW #1034, December 12, 1999

The Convention Center was ringed by buses and riot police. In front of the Sheraton hotel, where many WTO delegates were staying, youth had linked arms blocking delegates from leaving to go to the meeting. At 6th and Union protesters had linked themselves with chains inside PVC pipe connected to a platform to block the intersection. On 5th Avenue youth blocked a huge black limo in the intersection, closing off the street... At the corner of 6th and University a giant whale balloon blocked the street. People chanted "Ain't no power like the power of the people because the power of the people don't stop." Suddenly police pepper-sprayed a group of people who sat down in the street, and from the other side of the intersection cops began tear-gassing the crowd. People dispersed, many choking and crying from the gas, then moved right back in. This scene was repeated over and over throughout the day, as people resisted clouds of tear gas and contested every key intersection.

Dispatches: Report from the People's War in Nepal
Meeting the People's Army

by Li Onesto RW #1014, July 18, 1999

The squad members file in and put their rifles up against the wall. The room is very small and with about a dozen guerrillas, plus a couple of local people and the two party leaders from the area, it's very crowded. Some of the young women guerrillas come and sit right next to me on the bed. They are wearing people's army uniforms-- military green pants with many big roomy pockets and matching jackets. The caps are sort of squared off on the top with a full brim--a big, bright red star declares from the front. For the next couple of hours members of this cultural squad tell me about themselves and their revolutionary passion. Almost all of them come from poor peasant families. The women are the first to speak up and talk about the tremendous repression in their villages and how they came to join the people's army. At first the women guerrillas seem shy and hesitant. But as each one takes her turn to speak I am impressed by the strength and determination in their calm manner. They have a character about them that is common to teenage girls around the world--the way they sit next to each other, whisper some secret or fix one another's hair. But there is also a communal and disciplined way about them that comes from living and fighting together as a military unit.

Campesinos with Guns: An Awakening of Women

by Michael Slate RW #787, December 25, 1994

The morning sun was hidden by clouds and a light drizzle. The forests on the hillsides were shrouded in low clouds. A line of big, black turkeys remained on their roost. A group of men arriving in the town on horseback caused a brief commotion and then disappeared into the woods. Some folks had already started baking bread in the small clay ovens that stood in front of some of the huts. Down the hill a half a dozen giant cooking pots used to make a sugar product laid overturned in the dirt. We walked through the town for awhile and then sat on a small dirt hill to watch the goings on. One of the local youth paused to speak. He was shy and found it difficult to talk but when he did it was brief and powerful. "I am a professor of war. Yes, it was a big decision for me to become a professional soldier. But I had to do it, it was a necessity. We are fighting to change many things. We are not afraid to die. Yes it is better to live and win the struggle. But our people are not afraid to die because the point of dying is to get rid of all of the bosses, to make it so there are no kings of the world."