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Urgency of Rise Up October and Lessons from the Genocide of Jews

September 23, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


I've been struggling with students and others over why, as it said in a recent article in Revolution newspaper:

There is a huge need to make a leap nationwide in this next period, not fighting city by city, always on the defensive after the pigs gun someone down, but drawing a line in society that challenges everyone, Which Side Are You On?

Some lessons of history are relevant. As a baby boomer of Jewish background, I grew up in the "shadow" of the Holocaust that murdered 6 million Jews and millions of others. Though my family wasn't directly affected, the genocide of the Jews haunted and infuriated me: why had the Jews allowed themselves to go to the gas chambers, why didn't they rise up? Why didn't people in Germany and other countries rise up on their behalf? Later I learned there had been some resistance, but too little, too late!

Many people know the poem by Martin Niemoller, a German pastor who opposed the Nazis:

First they came for the Communists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn't speak up because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.

But fewer people know how he summed up the responsibility of people of conscience, in a speech given after the war when he was released from a concentration camp he had been in for seven years for opposing the Nazis:

We preferred to keep silent. We are certainly not without guilt or fault and I ask myself again and again, what would have happened, if in the year 1933 or 1934, 14,000 Protestant pastors and all Protestant communities in Germany had defended the truth until their deaths? If we had said back then, "It is not right when Hermann Göring simply puts 100,000 communists in concentration camps in order to let them die." I can imagine that perhaps 30,000 to 40,000 Protestant Christians would have had their heads cut off, but I can also imagine we would have rescued 30 to 40 million people, because that is what it [cost us.]

What does this have to do with why it is so important for Rise Up October/Which Side Are You On? to succeed in bringing tens of thousands, massive numbers of people to NYC on October 24, to demand with conviction and determination: "Police Murders of Black People Must Stop! No More!" We need the level of resistance there should have been in Germany in the early years of the Nazi genocide, that could have stopped it! Not only those most directly affected but all kinds of people of conscience rising up to stop today's police murders, mass incarceration and other genocidal crimes against Black people.

Because, as Carl Dix said in his speech at the August 27 program in Harlem, New York City to build for Rise Up October:

When you’re up against a genocide—and that IS what we’re dealing with—you don’t ask the people presiding over it to make some changes to smooth out the rough edges of that genocide or to slow down its intensity. You act to stop it.

  • Look at the scope of what Carl Dix is talking about. Police in the U.S. are killing people at a rate that would result in 1,100 fatalities by the end of this year, according to the Guardian newspaper, which recorded an average of three people killed per day during the first half of 2015. Black people are being killed by police at more than twice the rate of white and Hispanic or Latino people. Black people killed by police were also significantly more likely to have been unarmed. Are small, local protests going to stop this? We need to reckon with and act on what it will take to stop this genocidal trajectory, and it isn't protest as usual, not even the "best of."
  • If as many say, the protests of last year didn't work, so maybe we need to do "something else," why are the ruling class viciously attacking the protests and arresting thousands, using their media to invent a "war on police," and calling groups protesting police murders" terrorist”? The rulers of this country were hit hard by the protests, shamed before the whole world. They hit back with a vengeance. They desperately want to crush this movement. And if the movement to stop police murders doesn't go on the offensive and make a huge leap, they will not only crush the protest movement, but step up their genocide. Things won't stay the same—if we don't go forward, it will get unimaginably much worse! But if we succeed, it will inspire and strengthen people struggling against this system all over the world, and strengthen the potential for revolution to end these crimes against Black people, and all humanity, once and for all.
  • Donald Trump and his racist, misogynist, fascist rants and agenda are getting endless media support, which means support from significant sections of the ruling class. Unleashing thug police to murder Black people is part of this agenda. Do people really think there is any "safe space" from this? And is it morally acceptable to seek safe space when human beings are facing genocide? Do we really think we can stop something this monstrous without sacrifice?

Carl Dix, in his August 27 speech, had more to say about this:

And when you're up against a genocide, you don't listen when they say: "you've made your point—now you can stop disrupting the business as usual of our system." We haven't "made our point" until all of society is in an uproar saying that THIS MUST STOP. We haven't made our point until everyone has felt compelled to choose sides on this because they understand that there is no middle ground, and people feel challenged to be in the street saying THIS MUST STOP. We haven't made our point until, like Rev McCorry says, these so-called champions of human rights stand revealed before the whole wide world for the frauds that they are, and the whole world sees that THIS MUST STOP.

Organize your church, neighborhood, school, arrange busses, raise funds, buy tickets—and if you're not in New York City, "get on the bus" to be in New York City on October 24! History and present day realities demand this! Which Side Are You On!


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