Revolution #249, November 6, 2011
Los Angeles: A Fresh Spirit on October 22
Revolution received the following letter:
An important embryonic synergy was brought into being at the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality in Los Angeles. There was the fresh spirit of challenging of everything old from the Occupy L.A.'ers, connecting with the bitter experience and deep anger of those who live at the bottom of society. In addition, there was a wide diversity of participants, including family members of people who have been killed by the police, as well as others who have been brutalized and harassed by police and sheriffs; people from different walks of life—proletarians, students, professionals, and others; plus a significant percentage of Black people marching through and rallying in the Latino neighborhood of Pico-Union—all of these strategically significant forces coming together and stepping out to stop police brutality and murder, mass incarceration, and the criminalization of a generation.
This had a transformative effect on many. A Black woman whose son was killed by police said she had been depressed for two years after her son's death, but coming out to O22 helped her a lot and had a healing effect. A Chicano youth said he was very moved and angered to tears by what the families said on stage, and signed up to become part of this movement. The 3 Strikes poster got a lot of attention in the immigrant community, and some people commented that mass incarceration is modern-day slavery. An immigrant woman who knew about the hunger strike declared, "We support the prisoners!" And a short skit was performed that sharply contrasted the illegality of this system with its invasions of other countries, to the situation of immigrants who are forced to come here.
This unusual scene did not go unnoticed by the powers-that-be. As the march took off from downtown, the radio dispatch from a police car was overheard, "Occupy LA. has joined the protest." And this was after a noticeable increase of police had surrounded the encampment in the morning, something that didn't succeed in intimidating marchers, but rather made them even more determined.
In the days leading up to the 22nd, there was a buzz developing, including an online call from a cyclist collective for a solidarity bike ride to end police brutality that announced, "Wear Black and Take Water!" At the OLA encampment, there were many people who were waiting eagerly for the contingent that would march to the rally site. Some had seen it on the Occupy LA website. Four students from a somewhat distant college had stayed overnight at the OLA so they could join the march, and they held up Bob Avakian's quote about the role of the police during the entire march route. A Black man from OLA who had spent time in prison was telling people, "This is our cause!" Another man said he was joining the protest because the police had brutalized his friends at Occupy Wall Street, adding, "Just because the police haven't attacked here doesn't mean police brutality isn't happening everywhere else." People held photographs of those killed by police, as well as signs from the occupation movement. When the spirited march took off, people chanted, "Who let the pigs out? Oink, oink, oink, oink!" and "No justice, no peace." And later when a newspaper team returned to OLA, a person told them that it was good to go into the Latino community and connect with the immigrants.
Throughout the day almost 500 Revolution newspapers were sold, about half in Spanish, especially along the march route. One immigrant bought 5 papers for $5 because he wanted to distribute them to his friends. A Guatemalan man bought Lo BAsico at the table because someone had talked to him before about the book and he wanted to get it, and a musician got it because he is intrigued by Avakian's new synthesis of communism.
All of this brings to mind the "two maximizings" described in BAsics 3:26 that is drawn from Bringing Forward Another Way:
"You are not going to bring forward a revolutionary force and a communist movement among the basic masses, on anything like the scale that is necessary, and potentially realizable, without there being the development of political ferment and political resistance broadly—and, yes, the development of a revolutionary and communist current—among the middle strata. In the absence of that, the basic masses are going to say to you—and they're going to have a point—that 'we'll never get anywhere, we're going to be surrounded, everybody's going to oppose us, and we're just going to be viciously crushed once again.' On the other hand, you can't hinge the development of a revolutionary force and a communist movement among the basic masses, and in society in general, on developments among even the progressive section of the middle strata or among the middle strata more broadly. That's not mainly where it's going to come out of. So we have to get the dialectics of this correctly."
This quote also poses challenges that revolutionary communists and others have to work on. As has been reported previously, there has been a lot of important debate around the role of the police at Occupy L.A. and around the country. And, at one point during the march there was a heated exchange between two immigrants, with one saying, "You must have done something wrong for the police to go after you," and the other responding, "But you shouldn't be killed for being drunk like Manuel Jamines." But there was also sharp back and forth here with some (and frankly we were slow to struggle around this) who looked at Occupy L.A. as a bunch of "privileged white people who would change the focus of the day" and opposed including a several block detour of the march to swing by the encampment, and undoubtedly gather even more forces and strength. As one of the family members emailed in the midst of the debate, "Isn't the point to have the biggest, most powerful march possible?"
Glimpses of an Alternate Authority
Some of what was brought to life is what Bob Avakian wrote about in "There Is No 'Permanent Necessity' for Things to be This Way—A Radically Different and Better World Can Be Brought into Being Through Revolution":
"..what we're doing with popularizing and actually creating a movement where people live our morality is nothing less than projecting an alternate authority in the realm of ideology. All of these initiatives are saying that the world does not have to be this way; they are all different avenues of bringing people to grapple with the reality that the world really does NOT have to be this way."
The vibrant scene at the notorious Ramparts police station comes to mind where the names of nearly 50 people killed in L.A. this year were called out from the sound truck, and after each one, the crowd roared back "Presente!" And when a college student joined many in having their bodies chalked on the sidewalk in front of the station, she wrote beside it, "Think about humanity; Stop police brutality," which she found that many people liked. The streets in that area were lined with immigrants watching, listening, and reading the signs. They had not been stopped by the yellow police tape that had been put up to prevent people from joining the march. And in the same neighborhood, several immigrant shopkeepers handed out cups of juice and Gatorade to the marchers as they passed by. Participants could really feel the warmth from the residents and were emboldened by it. It was striking that there were many calls for unity made by the speakers on stage, especially from the families, who were very heartened by the breadth of marchers from different nationalities and social strata, and who were themselves a multinational mix of people, from a variety of proletarian and middle class backgrounds. And very significantly this alternate authority came to life when the People's Neighborhood Patrol gathered that evening, half a dozen people joined in to patrol the streets in a proletarian neighborhood.
One last point: a great idea developed in the invigorating conversations that night back at the OLA encampment. There's a lot of interest in BAsics but many people don't have the funds to buy it. And there's real desire to hold discussions on it. So learning from the BAsics challenge for prisoners, we are asking people to buy a copy for themselves, if they don't already have one, and donate a copy to the Occupy L.A. library. It would make a difference if there were 50 copies circulating there!
I talked to some older people who were setting up a film showing and they said they were already hooked in—had been to the meeting re Mass Incarceration and said they would talk to one of the organizers who sells Revolution newspaper and they would hook up with him about BAsics.
Ran into two people who were readers of the newspaper and of BAsics. One of them said that people are asking big questions and there is an answer—referring to BAsics. The other said that they were talking about an encampment at the county jail and she talked about how important O22 was—and how she really loved what the comrade I was with was saying from the truck. A very sizeable feeder march had joined O22 from Occupy L.A. and a two-hour rally was held there for the prisoner hunger strikers and a discussion on police brutality had taken place at OLA leading up to the day. She had talked to an older Black woman who was walking through OLA who argued that demonstrating won't do anything. She found herself marching with her on O22 and the woman said she had been brutalized by the police. And she talked about bringing her friend on the march. She said that they needed to bring their copy of BAsics to their tent so people could look at it.
I got home and thought about the quotation by BA on the back of this issue of the newspaper in the wake of those very momentous events in Oakland—and all the things that the occupiers were grappling with. I thought about the crucial role of Revolution newspaper and this very precious volume by Bob Avakian.
"When the whole society is erupting in upheaval and turmoil, when dramatic changes are taking place and things are going up for grabs politically, then what was tolerable, what people had adjusted to—maybe not just once but several times—becomes intolerable. With people who are discontented with their situation and just trying to get through it, when the possibility arises that they just don't have to do that, then they go through changes in their thinking and actions very quickly—not in a straight line toward revolution, but quickly all the same—and they become more and more open to the idea of revolution. A lot of people put up with what goes on all the time in this society and they also know it's garbage and when they actually see the chance to throw it away, a lot of them will do so quickly."
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
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