Revolution #163, May 1, 2009

Damián García ¡Presente!

April 22, 2009, marks 29 years since my friend and comrade Damián García was brutally murdered in a housing project in East Los Angeles, the act of cowardly LAPD operatives in the service of this system. Just one month before, in an act of revolutionary internationalist defiance to the whole imperialist system, Damián had proudly scaled the walls of the Alamo in San Antonio Texas, tearing down the U.S. and Texas flags, and raising high the red flag in their place. The Alamo is a hated symbol of the oppression that resulted from the U.S. wars that stole large sections of Mexican territory, and this act was heralded not only by the oppressed people in Texas but in other countries as well.

Damián was one of those Chicanos who grew up poor and discriminated against in the barrios of Southern California, and he became active in the struggles of the 1960's against the Vietnam War, and against national oppression of peoples inside the U.S. He was one of those who was able to go to college and had a chance to “be somebody.” He was a very talented and likeable person. But Damián, like many people those days, came to understand that there was a whole system responsible for all the things he saw that were wrong, and he decided to dedicate his life to the struggle for freedom from oppression all over the world. This was the Damián that I knew. As I said, he was my friend and comrade. Damián became a revolutionary communist and joined the Revolutionary Communist Party.

In 1980, along with many others, he answered the call for Revolutionary May 1st 1980—a call to bring revolution and internationalism to the working class and oppressed of this country and make a powerful statement in the streets on that day. As part of that he worked tirelessly to bring that message to the kinds of people who need to be the core of a revolutionary movement. Teams went out to the factories and into the housing projects in places like Watts, East Los Angeles—and San Antonio Texas—with the Revolutionary Worker newspaper, calling on people to take history into their own hands. The red flag has long been the symbol of rebellion and revolution all over the world, and so this was the flag that Damián raised atop the Alamo. And it was the flag he carried on April 22 when a man proclaiming “my flag is red, white and blue” stepped out, drew his knife and cut the life from Comrade Damián García.

As those of us who were part of the movement for Revolutionary May Day 1980 grieved for the loss of our comrade, cut down so early in his life, and as others whose hopes for revolutionary change had been lifted heard about this crime by the system, we received a message from Bob Avakian, Chairman of the RCP, USA, which he quotes in his Memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond:

"To die in the causes for which the imperialists and reactionaries have and will on an even more monstrous scale enlist the people, or to give up living and to die a little death on your knees, or to consume oneself in futile attempts at self-indulgent escape; all this is miserable and disgraceful. But to devote your life, and even be willing to lay it down, to put an end to the system that spews all of this forth, to live and die for the cause of the international proletariat, to make revolution, transform society and advance mankind to the bright dawn of communism—this is truly a living, and a dying, that is full of meaning and inspiration for millions and hundreds of millions fighting for or awakening to the same goal all around the world. Such was the life and death of Comrade Damián García, a fighter and martyr in the army of the international proletariat."

This was, and is, a profound truth, and a great source of strength for those of us who, like Damián, burn with hatred for the way the world is, and see the struggle for a communist world as our only hope and cause worth dedicating our lives to. This statement was the leadership that we had at that moment which inspired us to carry forward the movement for Revolutionary May Day that year and beyond.... and these words have stayed in my heart ever since.

In April 1980, as word went out all over the country about Damián’s assassination, a prisoner in a jail in Atlanta, Georgia wrote a poem with the line “I never knew I had a flag until Damián García died...” Thinking about this today, it is all the more true that far too many of the oppressed in this country and all around the world do not know they have a flag, do not know about communism, do not know they have a cause worth living and dying for, and they don’t know they have a leader like Bob Avakian—they don’t know there is a way out. At a time when those millions are condemned to live lives of suffering and degradation under this system, the meaning of Damián’s life can inspire many to step forward now to help change that situation, dedicating their lives to bringing an end to this unnecessary suffering, and to creating a whole radically different, communist world.

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From Ike to Mao and Beyond