High Stakes in Baltimore

Updated May 18, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us


In the past week, this system has once again shown its true nature. In two separate decisions—the cases of Tony Robinson (an unarmed young man shot seven times) and Justus Howell (killed with two shots to the back)—it backed up murdering cops and gave the green light for MORE police murder. We cover both these cases in this issue. A day later, cops in Miami were exposed as having sent and received over 200 vicious and pornographic racist emails, joining their brethren cops in other cities where this has also been dragged into the open. And Obama topped it off by paying tribute to the police at a police memorial in DC, claiming to “heal the rift” between the police and those whose oppression they enthusiastically enforce.

The following editorial ran last week, but remains timely. What will be done—when the people have risen up, but the oppressors keep hammering down?


The struggle for justice for Freddie Gray began when someone videotaped the murderous assault of the Baltimore police on a young man innocent of any crime. It gained momentum as people went into the streets, day after day. And it hit a high point in the rebellion of April 27. This rebellion—and then the way in which many other sections of society refused to stop fighting for justice, even after the rebellion was slandered and violently suppressed—forced the powers-that-be to file charges.

April 21: Thousands march in front of the Baltimore Western District police station to seek justice for Freddie Gray, who died after being taken into police custody. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

There are high stakes—very high stakes—in what happens next. High stakes for the powers-that-be themselves—the capitalist-imperialists—who sit atop a world of exploitation and oppression of every kind. These capitalist-imperialists rely on their police to enforce that order within this country, even as they rely on their armies to go all over the world to do the same. When the right of these police to run around like mad dogs in the communities of the oppressed comes under challenge, that is a big, risky problem for them. And when people not only protest but actively resist as they did on April 27 and in the days that followed, that challenge is bigger.

But there 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?

Rising Up Against a World of Brutality and Oppression: What Was Revealed

The rebellion on April 27 was a great thing.

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Revolution correspondents have been listening, learning, and engaging with people who were at the heart of what happened in Baltimore. One thing that emerges is the heroism of the young rebels. The exact circumstances of how the initial clashes between youths and police came about are unclear, but on Monday, April 27, hundreds of teenage, mostly high school youths found themselves in a situation where they were being confronted by the police who heartlessly murdered Freddie Gray. The pigs were threatening these youths and moving to shut them down. The youths didn’t back down in this situation, but for hours and hours went toe to toe with these highly militarized police. The Stolen Lives poster was in the mix as these youths righteously confronted the pigs with what this system and its enforcers are all about.

This revealed the courage and potential power of the people, when they stand up together in courage. Such defiance in the face of great odds is liberating. And this was far from “mindless.” People were out to make it unmistakably clear that there MUST be justice. Symbols and instruments of violent repression were dealt with. People in the crowd made sure, at different points, that bystanders—like a group of construction workers early on—were not targeted.

You don’t find courage to do that because you’re trying to “loot” a drugstore. There was a largeness of mind and sense of purpose, along with unbreakable joyous defiance, that grew during the rebellion and that people need to know about. People told us how youths were grabbing diabetes medicine from the shelves for people who can’t get needed medicine, in a community where an epidemic of diabetes is an element of a slow genocide. And where the powers-that-be brag that in their generosity they provided a single drugstore for the oppressed.

So, a section of people for whom this system has no future but jail or early death had risen up, against great odds and real violence. For this courage, they were attacked as “thugs” by Obama and the mayor of Baltimore, instruments and mouthpieces of a system that stands alone in criminality and thuggery.

Then, on April 29, thousands of people took to the streets demanding justice, many if not most of them college students, including from elite, mainly white universities like Johns Hopkins in Baltimore (even as Black students were playing a decisive role). While some had mixed feelings about the intensity of the rebellion, others defended the youths. And they were all there standing with the oppressed, making clear that the violent murder of Freddie Gray was the issue here and that they were not having it.

In sum, this rebellion revealed the potential of the most oppressed to rise up against big odds, with courage. This rebellion transformed how everyone saw things: it made very clear the urgency of this injustice and that it must not and would not be tolerated. And it showed how, when this is done, there is potential to win active and important support from people who do not face that same hell, but can be won to sympathize.

The Challenge

Strive to be strategic commanders of the revolution, not just tactical leaders, and not just strategic philosophers.

Revolutionaries have been out among the people in Baltimore, standing with them. They have been spreading word of the revolution: the path forward for it, the leadership we have in Bob Avakian and the Revolutionary Communist Party, and the ways now to spread this further. Carl Dix has done this in speeches and talks and organizing, and members of the Revolution Club have also been talking with people, and organizing them to represent and to stand up. Old and new members of the club have gotten together to watch and discuss the film of Bob Avakian’s dialogue with Cornel West, and to begin to get into works like BAsics, the handbook for revolutionaries with quotes and essays from BA. They are getting out Revolution, the Party’s newspaper, and spreading word of revcom.us, our website. They are out there in the streets when people protest, and they are making plans, with the people, on how to carry forward the fight for justice as part of all this. They are planning as well to go to students and indeed all sections of people, with this same basic message. Our reporters have been there too, and in these next days and weeks, we will be reporting more on this.

A Statement from the Revolutionary Communist Party ON THE STRATEGY FOR REVOLUTION

What revolutionaries do in situations like Baltimore can play a big role in making revolution. The Party’s statement on its strategy talks about how this system gives rise to great suffering, and sometimes this leads to “sudden jolts and breakdowns in the ‘normal functioning’ of society, which compel many people to question and to resist what they usually accept. No one can say in advance exactly what will happen in these situations—how deep the crisis may go, in what ways and to what extent it might pose challenges to the system as a whole, and to what degree and in what ways it might call forth unrest and rebellion among people who are normally caught up in, or feel powerless to stand up against, what this system does.”

The statement goes on to say that in these kinds of situations, “many more people are searching for answers and open to considering radical change.” At just such times, leaps must be “made in building up the movement and the organized forces for revolution, creating in this way a stronger basis from which to work for further advances.

But that is not all. There are ways in which jolts like this, as they develop and in combination with other things, including what revolutionaries do, can go further. The statement says that things “can come together in such a way that the system is shaken to its foundations...deep cracks appear and magnify within the ruling structures and institutions...the raw relations of oppression are more sharply exposed...conflicts among the powers-that-be deepen, and cannot be easily resolved, and it becomes much more difficult for them to hold things together under their control and keep people down. In this kind of situation, for great numbers of people, the ‘legitimacy’ of the current system, and the right and ability of the ruling powers to keep on ruling, can be called seriously and directly into question, with millions hungering for a radical change that only a revolution can bring about.”

On the streets of Baltimore, April 25. Photo: Special to revcom.us

Baltimore has brought all that into sharp relief. People want to hear about revolution, and they want to get into BA to find out more about what kind of revolution and how to make it, in a way that is different from “normal times.” They want to wear the “Revolution—Nothing Less!” T-shirt, and let others know about this. They hunger to be part of a genuine force that is working to change things, in a real way. And from this vantage point, the struggle for justice for Freddie Gray, as part of the larger struggle against police murder and the criminalization of a whole people, is more, not less, important. A letter from a reader, which emphasized the centrality of getting the word out on BA and the revolution he has envisioned and been giving leadership to, also made this point:

The revolutionaries must also lead the masses to continue to fight the power, including leading them through all the twists and turns, major developments, and heavy repression, slanders, and diversions thrown at the struggle by this system and its enforcers, mouthpieces, defenders and apologists. And, in fact, the masses must be led to understand the scope and scale of the outrages that they are rising up against—the fact that there is a national, decades-long, and unrelenting epidemic of police brutality and police murder, and that they are not isolated in being outraged by and fighting against this epidemic of police murder and brutality, as the system and its mouthpieces constantly try to make them think and feel that they are. This is one of many reasons that broadly getting out the posters and banners from revcom.us with the faces and names of victims of police brutality and murder has been, is, and will continue to be so important, as is continuing to fight to broaden and deepen the struggle against police brutality, murder and mass incarceration, bringing forward and leading people broadly, from many different sections of society, to take up this fight.

All this must be built upon, urgently, and with leaps. There is no room for hitting the pause button. But what happens in Baltimore cannot stay in Baltimore. It must be taken up all over society. Word of revolution needs to get out all over, and resistance must spread to every city.

Stakes Are Raised

Let’s go back to this question of the high stakes.

There are high stakes for the powers-that-be. Baltimore is a big city. In frothing at the mouth and demanding more violent repression, CNN’s Wolf Blitzer repeatedly railed that this was going on only 60 miles from the nation’s capital. They don’t want the spirit of Baltimore spreading. They didn’t like—at all—the fact that they were not able to isolate the uprising anywhere near to the degree they wanted to, that protests broke out around the country. And they don’t like what all this does to their image and interests around the world where they brand themselves champions of freedom and equality.

From the very top, the rulers of this system are moving on two tracks to put what emerged back in the bottle, to lock it down, cover it up, smother it and crush it. Obama called the rebels “thugs.” Some cops had the nerve to compare the protesters to a lynch mob—when the real lynch mob in blue does its dirty work day in, day out in every city and town. They brought very heavy charges against people arrested. Bail for one protester, accused of breaking a window in a pig car, was $500,000! Twice that of the police charged with murder of a human being.

When Baltimore prosecutor Marilyn Mosby announced charges against six cops, this was a decision by the powers-that-be, or at least a section of them, that something had to be done to chill things, for now. But it’s a long way from charges to conviction and jail, and there is a world of police brutality and murder to STOP, and a whole new world to bring into being. This road of voting for some savior that the rulers put up in their elections—the same rulers who caused and perpetuate the problem in the first place—is a very, very deadly trap.

And along with this, the system is running every hustle and diversion it can. All of a sudden Obama—after first calling these youths thugs—began to profess great sympathy. He revived his “My Brother’s Keeper” program, which promotes different charities and small projects, often run by businesses that claim to make a difference for individuals. As Malcolm X said, these dual tactics are like that of a wolf and his trickier cousin the fox—the point is, they both want to eat you!

There are also high stakes for forces representing the views of the middle class—views that want to cool things out, that want both sides to “tone it down.” These forces propose different kinds of solutions, most of which involve “keeping things peaceful” (i.e., keeping people from rising up) and hoping for what amounts to band-aids to deal with cancer. Many of them have real sympathy for the masses and very much oppose what is being done by the system, and can be united with in different ways—but this line cannot lead the struggle, or that struggle will go nowhere. And these views also affect people who are not middle class, which adds to the importance of criticizing them.

Why? Because NONE of this gets anywhere in addressing the real situation. And the more that people are led to see and push for their real interests on this, the rougher it could get for these rulers.

First of all, there must be JUSTICE for Freddie Gray. The whole world saw what happened to him. He was minding his own business, feeling fine when the pigs jumped on him, and dead when they were finished with him. They murdered him, and they need to go to jail. If they don’t this is another signal that it is open season on Black and Latino youth, that these pigs can murder with impunity. And that can NOT be allowed. And the powers-that-be must DROP ALL THE CHARGES against ALL THOSE ARRESTED IN THE PROTESTS. The system itself admits there would be no charges against the police who murdered Freddie Gray if not for the rebellion, and demanding justice is not a crime.

But even more than that, what has been happening to Black people has been nothing less than a slow genocide. (The intensity of this slow genocide has also affected other oppressed groups, even as the persecution of these groups—and intense police violence against them—flows from their own dynamics.) This genocide has been and is being caused by a SYSTEM—capitalism-imperialism—and relying on charities or even talking about “structural change” is meaningless and worse without the MAIN STRUCTURAL CHANGE that must happen: the radical overturning of this ruthless system of capitalism and white supremacy, through revolution, and its replacement by a whole new system in which the power is devoted to eliminating all oppression and exploitation, meeting the material needs of the people as it does so, and supporting revolution all over the world.

And this gets back to the point: We NEED a revolution, we need to get organized for an ACTUAL revolution. What the masses have done in Baltimore has increased the possibility of that... and increased the challenges that revolutionaries must recognize and meet to actually move closer to being able to make that revolution.


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"The film brings you up close inside Cornel West's and Bob Avakian's dialogue: the passion, the audacity, the science, the morality, the revolutionary substance. Two courageous voices modeling a morality that refuses to accept injustice – pouring heart and soul into standing together challenging all of us to fight for a world worthy of humanity."

Andy Zee,
co-director of the film


BA Speaks

"No more generations of our youth, here and all around the world, whose life is over, whose fate has been sealed, who have been condemned to an early death or a life of misery and brutality, whom the system has destined for oppression and oblivion even before they are born. I say no more of that."

BAsics 1:13

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What Humanity Needs

At the beginning of 2012, an in-depth interview with Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, was conducted over a period of several days by A. Brooks, a younger generation revolutionary who has been inspired by the leadership and body of work of Bob Avakian and the new synthesis of communism this has brought forward.

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