Revolution #312, August 4, 2013 (

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

Please note: this page is intended for quick printing of the entire issue. Some of the links may not work when clicked, and some images may be missing. Please go to the article's permalink if you require working links and images.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Here's what YOU can do now

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


We do not need to live under this criminal system. We do not need to live in a world of exploitation of the people, and the planet. We do not need to live in a world of violent oppression—from drones in the Middle East to racist vigilante murder in Florida.

The way to change all that is REVOLUTION. Revolution is not only necessary, it is possible. It is time to build that movement for revolution.

Here's what YOU can do now:

Through all this, and more, thousands can be brought forward and oriented, organized, and trained in a revolutionary way, while beginning to reach and influence millions more, even before there is a revolutionary situation... and then, when there is a revolutionary situation, those thousands can be a backbone and pivotal force in winning millions to revolution and organizing them in the struggle to carry the revolution through.

Write to RCP Publications, P.O. Box 3486, Chicago, IL 60654.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013


Prisoner Hunger Strike Enters Fourth Week

This System of Torture Killed Billy “Guero” Sell

by Larry Everest | August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


On July 8, the largest prisoner hunger strike in California history began with over 30,000 prisoners in 22 of the state’s 33 prisons refusing food. Now, going into a fourth week, hundreds of prisoners are still on a hunger strike, courageously fighting for an end to indefinite solitary confinement and other cruel, inhuman abuses.

But the California Department of Corrections (CDCR) has refused to even consider their just demands. Instead, prison authorities have retaliated against hunger strikers with further isolation, freezing air, and stealing their food—even denying medicines.

What this criminal system is doing to tens of thousands of prisoners around the country—what this hunger strike is fighting to put an end to—is TORTURE. And now, the CDCR’s efforts to isolate and crush the hunger strike have resulted in the death of one of the hunger strikers.

Billy Michael Sell, who was 32 years old and known as “Guero” by friends, died on July 22 while on strike at the Corcoran State Prison Security Housing Unit (SHU). The CDCR claims he was not on hunger strike and committed suicide. But other prisoners say Sell had been on hunger strike and had asked for medical attention for several days before he died. They say Sell was “strong, a good person,” that it was “completely out of character for him" [to commit suicide] and questioned prison authorities claims.” (Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition)

Prison authorities—who claim they have been carefully monitoring the health of those on strike, didn’t even inform prisoner mediators, who only learned of Sell’s death five days later, on July 27.

Let’s get real here: Billy Sell was murdered by the CDCR and this whole criminal system, with its mass incarceration and torturous solitary confinement.

Prisoners’ Lives Hang In the Balance...It’s Up to Us!

Hundreds of prisoners are putting their health and very lives on the line for an end to state-sanctioned torture and abuse. In California, nearly 4,000 prisoners are confined in SHUs, and over 6,000 in Administrative Segregation, another form of solitary confinement. Another 70,000 prisoners are in solitary confinement in prisons across the U.S. The “Emergency Call! Join Us in Stopping Torture in U.S. Prisons!” sharply exposes their conditions: locked in tiny, windowless cells for 22-24 hours every day; denied human contact and violently taken from their cells for petty violations; put in solitary arbitrarily, often because of baseless accusations of being a gang member. Many are forced to endure these conditions of torture for decades.

These conditions fit the international definition of torture! This is unjust, illegitimate, and profoundly immoral. WE MUST JOIN IN AN EFFORT TO STOP IT, NOW!

Prisoners: We’ll see our peaceful hunger strike through to victory

On July 23, after 16 days without food and being subjected to CDCR retaliation, hunger strikers held in Administrative Segregation at Pelican Bay State Prison vowed they would see our peaceful hunger strike through to victory even if this requires us to endure the torture of force-feeding.”

Their courageous, inspiring action must become known and supported by millions around the world—their lives, and the lives of over two million prisoners locked up in hellholes across the U.S. depend on it:

“Increased retaliation has been perpetuated upon defenseless and starving prisoners who only seek what any human being strives for—humane treatment, dignity, equality, and justice for our families, loved ones, and ourselves. These are the fundamental rights of all people, including those incarcerated by the state.

“The attempted repression of our protest has not broken our spirits. In fact it has only helped to strengthen each of us—individually and collectively. Despite CDCR’s retaliations and propaganda, we remain steadfast in our commitment. We will see our peaceful hunger strike through to victory, even if this requires us to endure the torture of force-feeding.

“In closing, we want to inform the world that this hunger strike is far from over. We are in it for the long haul. Thus, we strongly urge Gov. Brown to return from his ‘get-away’ vacation overseas and deal urgently with this crisis before more prisoners suffer serious health damage or death. If any deaths do occur, the responsibility for them will fall squarely on Brown and the CDCR in their callousness and inaction.” (Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition)

The torture of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons—and the CDCR’s murderous cruelty in response to the courageous prisoners who are fighting to put an end to this torture—is yet another example of the criminality and immorality of this capitalist system.

These prisoners, on the other hand, should give us renewed conviction that the “wretched of the earth” can resist this system's worst oppression, and rise above the worst the system heaps on them.

Anyone with a conscience and a shred of humanity must not turn away from the reality being exposed in California’s prisons. Those who DO know what’s being done behind prison walls have a responsibility to challenge others to wake up and resolutely oppose this system of brutality and torture.

These prisoners have dared to resist being "buried alive." Fighting beside them and our 2.3 million brothers and sisters behind bars must and can be part of a powerful movement that is resisting this killing system that oppresses us while building up a movement for revolution that can sweep this criminal system away when the time is right.





Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Building Societywide Support for Prisoner Hunger Strike

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


The torture exposed by the California prisoner hunger strike has shocked millions. All those who hate injustice are called on in this moment to build powerful mass resistance to demand an end to the criminal torture of solitary confinement being carried out by this system. And we need societywide support for the prisoners' courageous and just struggle.

Friday, July 26—Families with loved ones who have participated in the prisoner hunger strike and Southern California activists with Stop Mass Incarceration Network held an emergency action at the CDCR in Sacramento to support the hunger strikers and to demand the State of California and CDCR stop solitary confinement torture.

The Stop Mass Incarceration Network (SMIN) is taking up this challenge nationally as part of "building a movement to stop the injustice of mass incarceration and police brutality; and the racially biased policies and practices of the police, the courts and the U.S. legal system; and to support the rights of prisoners and the formerly incarcerated." There are chapters across the country, materials people can distribute, a website (, Facebook pages and weekly conference calls—all where people can connect, get organized, and make a big difference.

Over the past months, SMIN has been focusing on broadly taking the prisoner hunger strike out to many thousands of people and organizing protest actions at key junctures of the hunger strike, including joining an important protest of 400 people at Corcoran organized by the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition.

Urgent: Help Publish "Emergency Call! Join Us in Stopping Torture in U.S. Prisons!"

A letter is being widely circulated by SMIN to urge people to donate to publish the "Emergency Call" as a full-page paid ad in the Los Angeles Times as soon as possible. "Publishing the 'Emergency Call' can play a critical role right now. It would serve notice to the State of California that the prisoners are not alone, that thousands, including many respected voices, support them, and that refusing to grant their just demands will be widely seen as unconscionable and illegitimate."

This letter has been posted for spreading on social media:

* Donate generously!

* Circulate the link to the Emergency Call widely, especially to individuals and organizations looked to throughout society—to sign, circulate and donate generously to its publication. (

* Promote the Call's publication on Facebook, Twitter and other social media.

SMIN has also been building broad, societywide support for the prisoners with the "Emergency Call! Join Us in Stopping Torture in U.S. Prisons!" including in the midst of the Trayvon Martin protests. In the Los Angeles area, 25,000 copies of the call have been distributed. In the San Francisco Bay Area nearly 15,000 SMIN palm cards have gotten out—one side focusing on the hunger strike, the other on SMIN's mission and Justice for Trayvon Martin. There is a special push now to raise $15,000 to publish the call as a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times.

Many other organizations and political forces are taking up support for the prisoners' hunger strike, and SMIN is joining and supporting a number of those efforts. One online petition begun by the wife of a Pelican Bay SHU prisoner got 37,000 signatures in a matter of days. A statement by health care workers condemning the State of California's medical abuse of prisoners is being circulated ( On Tuesday, July 30, the National Religious Campaign Against Torture will join with inmates' families in Sacramento to deliver a letter to the Governor, signed by more than 1,000 clergy and religious leaders from across the country, asking the governor and the CDCR to meet the core demands of the prisoners on hunger strike. Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity Coalition ( is coordinating a number of actions, including a July 28 "Orange Alert" rally in Norwalk and 24 hours of action on July 30-31, which includes a "Hunger for Justice" fast on Wednesday, July 31, in which prominent figures such as Cornel West, Alice Walker, Danny Glover, and Elliott Gould will participate.

All these efforts need to be quickly and radically expanded! Revolution newspaper urges people to hook up with SMIN—online or in your area—and become an organizer. You can "like" SMIN on Facebook, follow SMIN on Twitter, take out materials, spread the Emergency Call and organize protests and outreach. Check back on for updates!




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Three Hard-Earned Lessons from the Comments of Juror B29

"George Zimmerman got away with murder."

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


This week Juror B29 from the trial of George Zimmerman came out on TV and said what millions of people already knew: "George Zimmerman got away with murder." She also said that while "the evidence shows he's guilty of killing Trayvon Martin ..." she ended up going along with the argument that the jury couldn't convict him "the way the law was read to me."

She said, "I feel like I was forcefully included in Trayvon Martin's death."

And that Zimmerman "can't get away from God. And at the end of the day, he's going to have a lot of questions and answers he has to deal with."

At the beginning of deliberations, Juror B29 thought Zimmerman was guilty of 2nd degree murder, and at least two other jurors out of six total thought Zimmerman was guilty of at least manslaughter. Yet in the end they all voted "not guilty" on all charges.

There are some bitter lessons in B29's comments:

#1: The laws used in this trial and the jury instructions from the judge were set up and presented in a way that pushed (but didn't force) the jury to acquit a racist murderer who gunned down a young Black man. The judge instructed the jury that a key issue in the case was "whether George Zimmerman acted in self defense..." and that "if George Zimmerman was not engaged in an unlawful activity and was attacked in any place where he had a right to be, he had no duty to retreat and had the right to stand his ground and meet force with force, including deadly force..." The law and the jury instructions fit into a whole system that painted a target on the back of Trayvon Martin—cops treated Trayvon like a suspect and let Zimmerman go after a few hours of gentle questioning; the jury was stacked with people who identified with Zimmerman; defense attorneys went on and on with racist innuendos about Black youth, and the prosecution basically went along with that ... and more. In short: THE WHOLE DAMN SYSTEM IS GUILTY.

#2: It is always wrong to cave in to injustice, no matter what "everyone else" thinks. Juror B29 could have, and should have, done the right thing. If she had stood her ground—there would have at least been a hung jury and that would have been much better than acquittal!

#3: There is no god for Zimmerman to answer to, there is no after-life where people are rewarded or punished for how they lived. Believing that there will be justice "in god's hands" is not only a false consolation, it is very harmful, and serves to keep people paralyzed, unable to do the right thing, and in different ways complicit with and shackled to this foul and murderous system that enslaves, brutalizes, and murders people all over the world.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

This is a time to step up BA Everywhere

Rev up the Engines for the Revolution—Nothing Less! August Van Tours

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Call up the volunteers. Reserve the vans. Ready the projection and sound equipment to reach hundreds and thousands of people. Rev up the engines for the second week of the Summer 2013 Revolution—Nothing Less! Van Tours to go back on the road at a juncture when people have new ears to hear the music of revolution.

Right now: when people are agonized about what is to be done about a system that justifies the lynching of Black youth...

Right now: when people are wrestling with what is to be done about a system that brutalizes and degrades women and that is rapidly and systematically taking away the right to abortion that enables a woman to be free to decide when and if she will have a child...

Right now: when people are beginning to make the connections between these outrageous crimes and the reality that this is a country that murders people across the globe by remote control, that spies on its entire population, that lets a racist vigilante walk free but unleashes the full thug force of its empire against Bradley Manning, Julian Assange, and Edward Snowden—whistleblowers who have exposed the real war crimes of this government—all while this system relentlessly destroys the planet...

People are grappling with big questions: why do these outrages keep happening, what can be done, and isn't there a better way the world could be?

There is an answer, and it's concentrated in the film: BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live. And there is a guide, a handbook for revolution in this time: BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian. And there is a campaign, BA Everywhere, to involve lots of people who yearn for a radically better world to spread this vision and to raise funds to make this known. (See "Summer 2013: Taking BA Everywhere, Raising Funds and Making a Difference.")

Van Tour, Oakland, California

If you are seething with outrage at the George Zimmerman verdict, if you have a conscience and just can't stomach any longer the whole horrific state of the country and the world, you can be a part of one of the Revolution—Nothing Less! Van Tours in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, or the San Francisco Bay Area during the second week of August.

THIS IS PRECISELY THE TIME TO STEP OUT AND STEP UP WITH THE REVOLUTIONARY VISION AND FRAMEWORK DEVELOPED BY BOB AVAKIAN. We are living in a moment when people's perceptions and understanding of the world are being challenged by the outrage of the murder and then the courtroom lynching of Trayvon Martin and the continuing unfolding debate and ramifications. This is a time when people's thinking is in flux. This is a time of serious questions that demand serious answers.

No one has developed a scientific methodology to go to work on these questions and forged answers like BA (Bob Avakian). As we have written before in Revolution: "Because of Bob Avakian and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal." (For more information on BA's new synthesis of communism go to

Discovering BA and what he has brought forward at this time can shake up people's long-held assumptions, break people out of thinking that there is no other way the world could be. Engage BA and new possibilities open, urgent matters like the future of the world get posed—and sections of people can be drawn towards and into the movement for revolution.

In early July, the first of the Summer 2013 Revolution—Nothing Less! Van Tours made a beginning impact. Volunteers of different ages, genders, nationalities, and background took off from work and school, and broke out of the routine of life to work together to introduce and involve a whole lot of people in the BA Everywhere campaign. The decorated vans were equipped with flat-screen TVs and portable DVD players and sound systems. Hundreds of people saw sections of the 6+ hour film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live. After the gut-wrenching Zimmerman not guilty verdict, the tours reported that there was a new openness and seriousness. A young woman said she didn't want another 30 years to go by and this to still be happening. Two young Black men who had known about the movement for revolution reconnected and volunteered to go out on the tour for a day or two. A Methodist minister went out to protest the Zimmerman verdict and the next day donated $50 and wrote: "We have come to a point of no return when it comes to dehumanizing our people of color and communities. Resist is the word. Tired of marches and speeches... This is time to act!!! and real revolution!!!"

The vicious verdict came just as the three-week crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo (IGG) to raise funds for the BA Everywhere Summer 2013 Campaign was approaching its last 48 hours, and people's horror at the verdict fueled their desire for BA and revolution to be way out in the midst—and $24,606 was raised, surpassing the goal of $20,000. This support must be built on and amplified on a whole other level now.

The August van tours must have the ability to show the film to large groups of people. Flat screens big enough to draw a crowd and/or projectors with good sound so that groups can gather and watch the film together. Announcements circulated that the vans will be at a project or park at a set time to show the film. Screenings arranged at community centers. The August van tours should aim for hundreds and more in each city to see the film. The experience selling the DVDs, BAsics, T-shirts and buttons from the July tours should be summed up and the potential of the current juncture grasped so that there is an exponential leap in sales and spreading BA.

Right now, BA Everywhere Committees need to involve all the people met in June and July, including all those who contributed to the IGG campaign to put heads together to plan to make a real leap in how to involve people in raising funds on the spot and in an ongoing process. People will contribute and join in if the great need that this campaign fills—in bringing to really large numbers of people the possibility of a radically better world and the movement for revolution that is making it a reality—is boldly and straightforwardly put forward. To raise the really big funds necessary for BA Everywhere to have societywide impact, people need to become a part of an ongoing campaign—following its progress online at, hooking up with it in the neighborhoods, taking it out to family and friends, and by joining the BA Everywhere Committees, so that BA Everywhere becomes a multifaceted mass fundraising campaign.

The tours and the whole summer's efforts will be capped off with a cultural celebration in a park or neighborhood and a showing of the opening hour of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live on Sunday, August 25—with events that bring together many of the different kinds of people that have been touched by and attracted to the campaign. These celebrations will be an opportunity for people to step back and reflect on what is unfolding as a turning-point summer—and to prepare for greater struggle and societywide influence and impact in the fall. In a summer when people are being jolted by the brutal truth that Amerikkka is indeed a lynching society that causes enormous pain and suffering around the world, a moment when many are lifting their heads and opening up to the big questions that are posed in the world, the August 25 events should be celebratory of the new—that people are finding and are becoming a part of bringing into being a radically better way the world could be through getting into and funding BA Everywhere.

Think again of what a difference the Revolution—Nothing Less! Van Tour can make in this highly charged time—in being able to take BA and the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live right to where the people are—where they live, where they gather, where things are hot. Think of the flexibility provided by having the vans with the film, all the organizing materials, projection equipment, and most important volunteers ready and able to go anywhere on quick notice. These are times when the movement for revolution needs to be flexible and on the scene with revolution and nothing less.

It is precisely in the heat of a time like this, when people are raising their heads, questioning, and fighting back, that they really need to engage a deep understanding of the source of the problem and especially the solution—a whole new society organized in a radically new way aiming at the emancipation of all humanity which can only be achieved through revolution. Without this, no matter how hard people fight or how much they sacrifice, the world will not fundamentally change, the horrors will continue, and the defeatist "common wisdom" that nothing can be done to really change things will be further reinforced.

Again, it is precisely in a time like this that not only are more people more open to consider revolution, but finding out the reality that there is the pathbreaking leadership of BA and a party he leads that IS building a movement for revolution is itself a powerful mood-creating factor. The BA Everywhere Campaign, with the Revolution—Nothing Less! Van Tours as a key focal point in August, has potential to break through on a scale we've not yet seen.

To those who have supported and/or been part of the struggle to build a movement for revolution, bending every effort to see that BA Everywhere runs through all that the movement for revolution does at this moment will make all the difference in whether or not a crisis like this contributes to the liberation of humanity.

And to all who are reading and Revolution newspaper for the first time, to all for whom the not guilty verdict in the murder of Trayvon Martin was the last straw, to all who just can't sit passively by while the right to abortion is taken from women, to all who are just finding out about BA and are beginning to appreciate that there is a radically new world possible through revolution, now is the time for you to take part in the Revolution—Nothing Less! Van Tours, and to become a part of spreading this among others while you are learning about it yourself. There is no better way to learn that there is a way forward for humanity, there is nothing more important you can do.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Abortion Rights Freedom Ride Hits the Road!

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride is on the road! After kickoff rallies in New York and San Francisco on July 23, the Freedom Riders set out for a month to take their message across the country: "Abortion on Demand and Without Apology!"

The Freedom Ride is caravanning from both coasts to North Dakota, Wichita, Kansas, and Jackson, Mississippi—some of the states where the attack against abortion is sharpest, threatening the last remaining clinics in these states.

The original Freedom Rides in this country challenged the brutal regime of the Jim Crow South. This Freedom Ride is going up against forced motherhood, which is female enslavement.

Abortion rights are facing a STATE OF EMERGENCY!

Things are quickly heading to a situation where women could lose the right to abortion altogether and be forced back into a situation where they will take desperate measures to end unwanted pregnancies. And we have to be absolutely clear about what this would mean: Forcing women to have children they don't want is a form of enslavement. And women's lives are at stake.

This IS a state of emergency that the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride is acting to CHALLENGE and CHANGE.

The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride is driving from both coasts—going right down the middle of the country for a full month on the road, building a national counteroffensive to the attacks on abortion rights. After the kickoff rallies in New York and San Francisco, it is making stops in Cleveland and Chicago, Minneapolis and Salt Lake City, Jackson, Wyoming, and Bozeman, Montana. People will then converge in North Dakota, right as the laws are scheduled to go into effect that would close the only clinic there. People will then caravan south to Wichita, Kansas, where Dr. George Tiller was assassinated four years ago. For four years a very courageous woman, Julie Burkhardt, has fought to reopen the clinic; she has finally done so and is receiving death threats. The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride will then culminate August 17 with a major rally in Jackson, Mississippi, where the one clinic left in the state is only open because of a court injunction against a law that would actually have closed it.

Sunsara Taylor and David Gunn Jr., whose father, Dr. David Gunn, was murdered in 1993 by a Christian fascist anti-abortionist, recently co-wrote an article in which they outlined the important objectives of the Abortion Rights Freedom Ride:

Crimes Against Women by a Criminal System

This fight for abortion rights is about the status and role of women in society. It is NOT about babies. Fetuses have the potential to become people, but they are a subordinate part of a woman's body and they don't have a separate biological existence or a separate social existence.

Fetuses are not people and don't have rights. But women are human beings and they do have rights—especially the right to thrive and be equal members of society.

The issue of abortion concentrates how women are viewed and what role they will play in society. Are women fundamentally incubators and breeders of children, or are women full human beings able to participate in every aspect of social and political life? If they're full human beings, they have the right to decide for themselves when and whether they have children.

But ever since the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion in this country, there has been a systematic and multidimensional counterattack against women's right to abortion. And there is a system behind all this—a CRIMINAL SYSTEM.

This system's attack on abortion—on a woman's right to NOT be a slave—is just one more example of how this system is totally illegitimate and immoral. Just one more reason why we need revolution, nothing less!

As Sunsara Taylor said in a recent interview with Revolution ("Abortion Rights Freedom Ride: From both coasts, and through the middle of the country," June 16, 2013):

"To put it very simply, if women, half of humanity, are not free, then no one is free. That's just a reality. But to get into it a little more deeply, this attack on abortion is not incidental. It's very bound up with the way women have been treated for millennia—ever since the very first emergence of class divisions and of exploitation and oppression, of private property and the state, ever since human beings thousands of years ago went from living in more or less egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies. It's very important to note that the oppression of women by men is NOT owing to 'human nature.' In fact, for tens of thousands of years, human beings lived without organized forms of oppression and divisions, including without the oppression of women by men. But when private property and the state and class divisions emerged, women's role got fundamentally transformed. Women became the property of men and breeders of children, breeders of new lines of inheritance of either the haves or the have-nots, the ruling class or the exploited. Controlling women's virginity before marriage and their sexuality from then on, making sure they only had sex with their husbands, was essential not only to the particular men who wanted to hand their property down to their children and not someone else's—but actually this control over women became very essential to maintaining and organizing class societies as a whole. This is as true, even if different in its forms and appearance, today in this capitalist-imperialist-dominated world as it was in feudal or slave societies.

"If you drill down to the root of what gives rise to any form of oppression—whether it is the gruesome history of oppression of Black people in this country and the way that continues today with one very sharp concentration of this being the literal mass incarceration that amounts to a slow genocide, you know, with one out of every eight Black males in their 20s in jail or prison; whether it be the wars of domination and plunder that are driven by the engine of imperialist conquest; whether it be the destruction of the environment on a massive scale—you'll see that it comes from a common root and a common system. And that this system also requires and gives rise to the oppression of women. You cannot shatter that system, you cannot overthrow that system, you can't make revolution to get rid of that system, without taking up the fight for the liberation of women. A big part of what Bob Avakian has fought for in one of the dimensions of the new synthesis of communism that he has forged over decades is that if you understand this deeply and scientifically, you actually grasp that unleashing the fury of women, unleashing the pent-up fury at thousands of years of being treated as chattel, abused, degraded, violated, raped, ridiculed, demeaned and diminished in a million ways—unleashing the fury against that is not only a powerful and potent and necessary force for the liberation of women, but it is a driving force in making revolution as a whole."

Repolarizing Society

The Abortion Rights Freedom Ride is taking place at a time when many people are being jolted, both in their thinking and in their actions, by the criminal acts of this system. People around the country were shocked and outraged when Edward Snowden revealed how the U.S. government is spying on everyone's phone and email communications. In Texas, hundreds of people flooded the statehouse and demonstrated outside against a senate bill that, if signed into law, would close almost every abortion clinic in the state. Thousands angrily took to the streets in the wake of the Zimmerman verdict.

In the midst of all this, we have to be "Fighting the Power, and Transforming the People, For Revolution."

And as Sunsara Taylor said:

"As people step forward to fight around these different faultlines, around mass incarceration and around the degradation and enslavement of women, around all of these things, that's going to be favorable for hastening the transformation of people in a revolutionary direction and the repolarization in society in a revolutionary direction. So it's very important for those of us who are coming from recognizing the need for revolution to really appreciate that this is a moment when a lot needs to be put on the line to bring people forward in mass struggle against these outrages, in combination with the all-around work that we're doing as revolutionaries, including around BA around this newspaper, Revolution, and, getting them out everywhere....

"What is posed for us very acutely right now is the need to step out there and take on and beat back this fascist assault on women with the aim of changing how millions in this country are viewing this critical issue. We need to unite with and lead many, many others coming from many different perspectives to do this—from getting out there in the streets with us, to telling their abortion story, to going down to the local clinic to escort, to sending money to support those who are going on the Freedom Ride, to offering legal support, to many, many other ways. And any and all of us who understand the pressing need to fight for the full equality and liberation of women need in the course of this to build up the organization and influence of the movement to End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women as it takes on the entire war on women, including with its focus on pornography and the sale of women's bodies as well. And, at the same time as all of this—and fundamentally this will strengthen the basis to do what I was just speaking about and it is the only way any of this will ultimately contribute to the emancipation of humanity as a whole—getting into it with people and revealing how all these horrors flow from this system of capitalism-imperialism and the kind of revolution we need, and the leadership we have, to put an end to this system and all the nightmares it brings for humanity once and for all."




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Hands Off Revolution Club NYC

Drop the Charges on Noche Diaz and Jamel Mims!

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


The system can give George Zimmerman a license to kill, but the system will not allow people to speak out!

Noche Diaz and Jamel Mims, Stop Mass Incarceration Network organizers and members of the Revolution Club NYC, were arrested in Harlem on Saturday, July 27. Noche, Jamel, and other revolutionaries were leading a speak-out and protest at the Harlem State Office Building against the outrageous acquittal of George Zimmerman in Trayvon Martin’s murder.

Noche and Jamel called on people to step up and speak. A woman in a wheelchair who had been listening intently and holding up the “Three Strikes” poster with her granddaughters on her lap, took the bullhorn: “I am the grandmother of 34 children. I know what these youth face.” She called out to people walking by, “Don’t just walk by. Stop and demand justice for Trayvon.” A well-known Harlem artist stepped forward and began to sing about the coming battles for freedom.

That’s when the police (including white shirts, the commanding officers) swarmed in and grabbed Noche Diaz. As people surged forward to protect Noche, another line of cops moved in to push them away. More people stopped and yelled at the cops. The pigs swooped in again, this time grabbing Jamel Mims.

Some of the other revolutionaries began agitating and climbed up on a light pole calling on people to join with the protest, and that attacks on revolutionaries cannot be allowed! About 30 people took up the “3 Strikes” posters and Revolution newspapers in their hands and several people joined the revolutionaries in a march to the precinct house to demand that the pigs not harm Noche and Jamel and that they be released.

Noche and Jamel are well-known and loved by the people. They have been out leading the people to fight the outrageous acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, and have been on the frontlines in the struggle to stop mass incarceration, as part of fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution.

The pigs targeted Noche and Jamel in an attempt to silence them and send a message to others, “Don’t dare lift your head. Don’t dare stand up to the outrage of Trayvon Martin’s murder and the system responsible for it and a million other crimes. Don’t dare connect with the leadership and vision of BA and the movement for revolution.”

People phoned in to the precinct to demand the release of the two revolutionaries, and supportive attorneys intervened. Noche and Jamel were released from jail at 1:30 am on Sunday, July 28. The charges against Noche and Jamel are resisting arrest, obstruction of government administration, and disorderly conduct. These are totally unjust charges. At an emergency support rally at 8 pm that night, and another on Sunday afternoon, people gathered to deliver the message that they will not get away with the murder of Trayvon, and they will not be allowed to attack revolutionaries. Plans were forged for gathering broad support for these two revolutionaries and deepening the resistance around Trayvon Martin.





Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

NEWSFLASH!! Tuesday, July 23

Revolutionary Gregory Koger Sent Back to Jail

Judge's Secret Ruling Comes to Light

July 24, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Gregory Koger, revolutionary communist and ex-prisoner, was taken from a courtroom today and sent back to Cook County Jail in Chicago to serve the remainder of a 300-day sentence. Gregory had been convicted of trespass and resisting arrest almost four years ago. But this case has never been about trespass or resisting arrest. It has been about the political prosecution of a revolutionary.

Gregory Koger

Gregory Koger

Very importantly, at a rally and press conference before today's hearing, Gregory announced that while in Cook County Jail he would join the California prisoners hunger strike, now at Day 16, in solidarity with the demand to end solitary confinement.

When his case was called today, Gregory and his lawyers were told that the judge had rejected Gregory's post-conviction relief petition three months ago, on April 15, although no notice had been sent to Gregory or his lawyers. In fact, his lawyer protested that they had been checking Gregory's court file regularly and had not found any indication in it of the judge's order. To this, the judge casually replied that wasn't her problem, it was the responsibility of the clerk of court! This is not some inconsequential bureaucratic error. The fact that this ruling was hidden from the defendant and his lawyers for three months means that the normal deadline for Gregory to appeal the judge's rejection of the post-conviction relief petition passed over 60 days ago. This is one more travesty of justice in this completely prejudicial case that almost defies comprehension. His attorney, Jed Stone said afterwards that the unannounced order by the judge denying Gregory's petition for post-conviction relief was "like a secret ruling..." A legal response has yet to be formulated for this blatant trampling on his legal right to appeal, but clearly this cannot go unchallenged.

The judge also said Gregory was supposed to have appeared in court on April 15 but, again, neither Gregory nor his lawyers had received notice of that court date. This judge had already shown her contempt for Gregory in previous hearings, and she outdid herself at this one. She went from outrageous to absurd when she said the prosecutors told her that Gregory had been seen in the courthouse on April 15 but left before his case was called! This "sighting" of Gregory is a complete fabrication in service of the railroad of Gregory Koger. And on the basis of this bogus "evidence" she issued a warrant for his arrest. In the words of attorney Jed Stone, "In my 38 years as an attorney I have never seen anything like the blatant, sloppy and disingenuous actions of the Court today."

An ex-prisoner and former jailhouse lawyer, with deep working knowledge of the law and legal procedure, said afterwards, "People told me how bizarre and strange this case is, but until I saw it myself today, I didn't really believe it." After waiting for Gregory's case to be called and watching the machinery of justice grind up one after another defendant, through patronizing lectures, sentences and at times jailings, one young supporter said, "I thought that was me. I thought that crap only happened to me, that it happened to me because of me. I didn't realize it happened to everyone else, too."

Over 50 supporters who filled the courtroom expressed their outrage at this political persecution at another rally outside after court. An important message was read from Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution and initiator of End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women. It said in part, "No harm must come to him if he is taken into the clutches of the enemy. Everyone who cares about justice, who wants to see the youth on the bottom of society aspire to something better, who knows the horrors carried out against people in this country's dungeons and jails, and who yearns for a better world must have Gregory's back." Then two dozen people headed straight to the jail to demonstrate their support for Gregory and for the California prisoners on hunger strike against torture.

The sharp contrast between Gregory and all the forces who have stepped up to support him on the one side and the ugly vindictiveness of the judge and prosecutor on the other was plain for all to see. People came to court that day from as far away as Michigan, Indiana, and downstate Illinois. Wearing orange marigolds and stickers with Gregory's face saying "Not One More Day!" the supporters included six ex-prisoners, a torture survivor from Chile who went on hunger strike against the Pinochet regime, scientists, lawyers, doctors, anti-war activists and veterans, a priest, a world-renowned musician, a retired businessman, and revolutionaries. Several of these spoke briefly before the hearing and afterwards, Gregory's attorney Jed Stone and several revolutionaries spoke, and the statements from Sunsara Taylor and activist Cindy Sheehan were read. (See below for the statements.)

Gregory Koger has been fighting his prosecution since his arrest on November 1, 2009, at the Ethical [sic] Humanist Society of Chicago. Gregory was peacefully videotaping a statement by Sunsara Taylor opposing the censorship of her scheduled talk at the society that day.

Gregory had come up on the mean streets and by age 17 he had been sucked into the meat grinding machine of the U.S. courts and prisons. He ended up doing 11 years in state prison, 6 of which were in solitary confinement. While in prison, Gregory began reading as much revolutionary literature he could get his hands on. Among the publications he devoured was the Revolutionary Worker, later to become Revolution, the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. Through the work of the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund, Gregory was able to regularly read Revolution and other literature, including the works of Bob Avakian. All this made a dramatic difference in how Gregory began to see the world, how it got as fucked up as it is, how he and others like him came to be in the situation they were in, and the fact that there is a viable and visionary revolutionary path out of it. He transformed himself and has dedicated his life since his release to opposing injustice and struggling for a liberated world for all humanity.

After his arrest for videotaping in 2009, the powers-that-be came down with full force on Gregory. His past record was thrown in his face by the prosecutor and judge as "proof" of his incorrigible criminal nature. At his original sentencing, the judge had claimed that Gregory "chose a path of violence" and "endangered every single person in [the EHSC] auditorium that day"—for videotaping with an iPhone! The judge then questioned "whether he really has any rehabilitative potential." The intention was to punish Gregory for his political transformation and to send a warning to the rest of those in society, especially those on the bottom, who yearn and hunger for a better world, that they dare not try to change the world and themselves in the process.

But throughout the legal battle against his conviction, Gregory has deepened his understanding of, desire for, and many contributions to the whole struggle to emancipate all of humanity through revolution. In the recent days leading up to this court date, Gregory helped lead a protest march in downtown Chicago only hours after the racist vigilante Zimmerman was acquitted in the murder of Trayvon Martin, and also spoke out in support of California hunger strikers on radio shows such as WBEZ's Worldview, WVON's Cliff Kelley Show, and KPFK's Michael Slate Show.

Plans are being made for taking on the latest outrageous moves of the judge and "justice" system against Gregory. A petition on the website in the next day or two will call on the Cook County Sherriff to take Gregory out of jail and put him on house arrest. Watch and for further news and to send statements of protest and support.

For the history of Gregory's case, see "Post-Conviction Relief Petition Filed, Overturn the Wrongful Conviction of Gregory Koger—Not One More Day in Jail!" and "From Gregory Koger: Stand with Me on July 23...and Support the Prisoners' Hunger Strike," both on, and also go to, the web site of Gregory's defense committee.

* * * * *

Statement from Sunsara Taylor, writer for Revolution newspaper, initiator of

Gregory Koger is a friend, a comrade, and an inspiration not only to myself but to many, many others both inside this nation's prisons and outside. His life, starting from a very early age, was shaped by the deprivations and horrors of the way this system works and he, like millions and literally billions around the world, was never valued in the least by this system. He was imprisoned as a teenager and held in the indescribable torture of solitary confinement for years. But despite its degradation and brutality, its concrete walls and its psychological torment, this system did not succeed in breaking Gregory. Instead, Gregory fought to lift his head, to understand where all the horrors that he and so many others experienced came from, to grapple with revolutionary theory, to lift his sights to real communist revolution as it has been re-envisioned by Bob Avakian, and to come together with others to bring into a being a world without mass incarceration, without the grinding wars, without environmental destruction, and without violence and degradation against women. A world where humanity could live free from every form of exploitation and oppression and could truly flourish.

Many have been inspired by, learned from, and joined with Gregory in his commitment to fighting for a better world. They have seen in him not only a strong revolutionary brother, but one example of what many whose lives have been counted as nothing by this system can lift their heads and become in the fight for human emancipation. For this, the system has reacted with punishment and violence.

For almost four years Gregory has been unjustly persecuted for his role in peacefully documenting a political statement in opposition to censorship carried out by the "Ethical" Humanist Society of Chicago. He has already served 60 days in jail and now faces the prospect of being mandated to serve the rest of the time in his outrageous 300 day sentence.

All this only shows more clearly the utter bankruptcy and illegitimacy of this country's criminal in-justice system. His strength in the face of this has given many others strength. Now, we must all rally together to demand: This persecution must stop! Gregory must not do one more day of illegitimate time in jail. No harm must come to him if he is taken into the clutches of the enemy. Everyone who cares about justice, who wants to see the youth on the bottom of society aspire to something better, who knows the horrors carried out against people in this country's dungeons and jails, and who yearns for a better world must have Gregory's back.
July 23, 2013

Statement from Cindy Sheehan, Peace Mom and "indefatigable peace mongerer":

My good friend and comrade Gregory Koger is another victim of the so-called justice system here in the United States. Not only is Gregory a victim of a deeply unjust institution, he is also a victim of the "Ethical" "Humanist" Society in Chicago! Gregory did nothing wrong, I support him 100% and denounce this further travesty of justice! Free Gregory and all other political prisoners in this "free" country!
July 23, 2013




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Cook County Jail Retaliates Against Gregory Koger, Revolutionary Hunger Striker

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


This is from an alert that was sent out by the Stop Mass Incarceration Network Chicago:

Cook County jail has sent Gregory Koger for a “psychological evaluation” multiple times since he was sent to jail on Tuesday, July 23, citing as grounds his hunger strike in solidarity with thousands of California prisoners who are on hunger strike to end the torture of solitary confinement.

We demand an end to this retaliation—Hands Off Gregory Koger!

We learned today (Sunday, 7/28) that Gregory was placed on the psychiatric ward at the jail after a visit from a lawyer on Thursday and again after a visit from friends today, preventing other friends from seeing him. Prisoners who are making a conscious political statement by going on hunger strike are put in a dangerous situation when they are labeled “emotionally” or “mentally” unstable. That label is used to justify forced feeding at Guantánamo and explain the death of a hunger striker at Corcoran prison in California on July 22. By putting that label on Gregory, the jail is segregating him from other prisoners and putting his health and safety in jeopardy. This situation must stop immediately.

Gregory Koger does not belong in jail at all and he certainly doesn’t belong in Cook County Jail’s psychiatric ward. The authorities cannot be allowed to exact revenge for a righteous political stand.

Stop Mass Incarceration Network Chicago





Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

A Shout Out to Cornel West—
We Must Have His Back

by Carl Dix | August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Responding to Barack Obama's July 19 speech on the verdict that let the killer of Trayvon Martin walk free, on the radio show Democracy Now!, Cornel West called Obama a "Global George Zimmerman."

He added that "George Zimmerman is a criminal—but President Obama is a global George Zimmerman, because he tries to rationalize the killing of innocent children, 221 so far, in the name of self-defense... [i]n Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen. So when he comes to talk about the killing of an innocent person, you say, 'Well, wait a minute. What kind of moral authority are you bringing?'"

In response to Obama saying he had been racially profiled, Cornel said: "Will that identification hide and conceal the fact there's a criminal justice system in place that has nearly destroyed two generations of very precious poor Black and brown brothers? He [Obama] hasn't said a mumbling word until now. Five years in office and can't say a word about the new Jim Crow."

Cornel West called out Obama for having New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly as a major candidate for Homeland Security chief: "[H]e's the poster child of racial profiling. You know, Brother Carl Dix and many of us went to jail under Ray Kelly. Why? Because he racially profiled millions of young Black and brown brothers."

And he called out "these Black leaders on the Obama plantation, [who] won't say a criminal word about the master in the big house, will only try to tame the field folk so that they're not critical of the master in the big house."

Cornel West is speaking out about Obama and the crimes of the system, and calling out those who are apologizing for, covering over, or cheerleading for those crimes at a time when millions are angry over the verdict in the trial of the killer of Trayvon Martin and are being told to accept the verdict—at a time when many are raising big questions about what this society is about.

Cornel West is speaking important truths at this very sharp moment, truths that the powers-that-be don't want people to hear. And there are voices and forces who are trying to discredit and isolate him. This cannot be allowed to happen.





Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

"HIDDEN LIVES, HUMAN POSSIBILITIES: Authors Present to Save Revolution Books"

Edwidge Danticat Speaks at New York's Revolution Books

Updated July 31, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


"I'm so glad to be here at Revolution Books...When I first heard about this bookstore—well, we all have one of those teachers in high school, I had one who would take us, invite us, to demonstrations. 'You can go.' And he would give us newspapers, and one of them he got at Revolution Books, I think you were at a different location then. I remember reading the paper, there was all this talk of revolution in it. And I was just two years away, I had left the dictatorship [in Haiti] two years earlier, I was 14, and I was so afraid to take the paper. I said, you can walk around the streets with this? 'Yeah, take it, take it.' [laughter] He had gotten it at Revolution Books, that was stamped on the paper. So it has kind of followed me. I used to have many friends who have been to the bookstore... So it means a great deal to me, and I am one of many people who are concerned about what's happening to it."
—Edwidge Danticat at Revolution Books, July 24, 2013

Twenty-five years after Edwidge was given that revolutionary paper, a crowd filled the seats at Revolution Books to hear this now-world-renowned author. This night was the first in a new series hosted by the bookstore, "Hidden Lives, Human Possibilities: Authors Present to Save Revolution Books."

Edwidge Danticat is a writer who moved to the U.S. from Haiti at the age of 12, and in the past two decades has become beloved worldwide for her novels about the Haitian people (The Dew Breaker; Krik? Krak!; The Farming of Bones) and works of nonfiction (Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work; Brother, I'm Dying). Her work has received honors ranging from the American Book Award to Oprah's Book Club.

She began the night by reading a short passage from her upcoming novel, Claire of the Sea Light—the aftermath of the rape of a young woman, a maid, by the son of the household. A horrible and all too frequent and covered-up crime in the world today, but this time the whole town hears of it when the woman testifies on a local radio talk show. How the reader is told the story, and by whom, makes one rethink utterly the ways such acts come down through generations in class-divided societies—even as Danticat anchors every heart-crushing detail of her story in modern-day Haiti, a country where "hopes [have been] raised and dashed over and over again."

Edwidge Danticat brought her new novel and a lot more to the bookstore that night—her thinking, her experiences, her support. Revolution Books, the one place in New York City where you can find the books and the movement for revolution since 1978, is facing a financial emergency. The store's lease expired in March and it must raise $30,000 and enlist 50 new monthly sustainers by the end of September to keep the doors open. The battle is on, and this evening marked the beginning of something quite significant: prominent and beloved authors calling on their readers to come to the aid of this revolutionary bookstore so that it can remain in the heart of Manhattan, accessible to people throughout the New York metro area as well as people from all over the globe who visit New York.

The "Hidden Lives, Human Possibilities" benefit readings continue on August 21, with the novelist Walter Mosley. And on September 10, the historian Henry Wiencek will celebrate the paperback release of his controversial Master of the Mountain: Thomas Jefferson and His Slaves. (More authors in the series will be announced soon.)

In introducing the evening, Andy Zee, the spokesperson for Revolution Books, spoke about the link between the lives of Edwidge Danticat's characters and hundreds of millions like them in diasporas from around the world and the "hidden life" that was on people's mind that night: "One story that we never would have known about—who would have known about someone named Trayvon Martin?... except that people took to the streets and forced a trial. And now we're living with this punch-in-the-gut of a verdict..."

He asked Edwidge about her novel The Dew Breaker: "There's this burden, this horror that people carry around—the main protagonist who's done awful things, but also other people who've witnessed things. There's a thematic of giving voice to what has been kept silent. And it seems to me that this has a lot of resonance with people who've lived through the kind of experience of Haiti... particularly after it had the first [successful] slave rebellion in history, the retribution and vengeance that first France and then the U.S. committed over and over and over again over two centuries has been extraordinary... Giving voice to what's been silenced and repressed is something you wrestle with in your work."

Edwidge: "I agree. This goes to this evening's theme of the hidden lives and hidden possibilities. The great disparities that exist even to this day always haunt me because you think of the people who often have the most powerful story to tell. For example, now you could have a great novelist in Cité de Soleil or in Bel-Air... without the possibility of being heard... There's always this feeling that's someone's been left behind. That a story that should be heard is not being heard... What's exciting now is that we have both inside Haiti and also in the different diasporas you have a whole other generation that is telling its own story. Before, it was always told through others. Probably the most hideous period was the U.S. occupation period when everyone who was a Marine ended up writing a memoir of their zombie encounters, 'I walked through the zombies.' When what they were really doing was wearing blackface and killing people in the night. Nobody wrote about that."

Questions from the audience went deep into Edwidge's method, her story ideas, the history and politics of Haiti. More than one person wanted to know how she can literally bear to write the stories of a people who have suffered so cruelly for so long.

"I always think it's a good thing that I'm not writing in public because it would be really embarrassing... I do a lot of crying in the writing itself, I do a lot of standing up and moving away from the desk, so that by the time it's on the page, I always say the words are my tears. But even with the most personal story, in spite of my anger, my grief, I want to do something artful. And to do that you have to have distance."

People asked Edwidge about her memoir Brother, I'm Dying, which ends when her elderly uncle flees to Miami from Haiti in 2004 and is sent directly to Krome, a notorious U.S. detention center. He was refused his medicine, interrogated without mercy, and died hours later, still incarcerated. A professor who had taught the memoir to 200 college freshmen said: "When towards the end of the book you ask 'would my uncle have been detained if he was anything other than Haitian,' ...there is only one response that a reader could have at that point... You do lead a reader to that particular place but you do it in a way that's completely non-polemical..."

Edwidge: "Well, we love polemic at Revolution Books. [laughter] I think there's a place for it, but when I was writing this book it was in this very hostile-to-immigrant post-9/11 world.... Watching the whole Trayvon Martin thing, just watching that family, I kept going to back to that time, being part of a family where you've lost someone to a great injustice, and I completely understand the desire, you really want to make sure that doesn't happen to someone else." She told how they fought to get the documents on her uncle's case through the Freedom of Information Act. "I wanted to write the book in a way that their words themselves would indict them... You think at any moment someone could have made this turn out differently... someone who is thinking about humans as opposed to thinking of immigrants as pests. You are recreating [in your head] the whole thing with another outcome, but it never has one."

* * * *

Andy Zee spoke about the great urgency in saving Revolution Books: "I was smiling during Edwidge's description of being 14 years old, because I've seen the 14-year- old, and 40-year-olds, walk by this bookstore thinking, 'Am I really going to walk in that store that says revolution?' But once you cross that threshold it can open up a whole different sense of possibility... Because then we're not just talking about making life a little better for a few people somewhere while the majority of humanity is suffering. We're actually talking about changing the whole thing. And that's possible... at a moment when literally the planet itself is in peril..." He briefly encapsulated that because of all the contradictions embedded in this system and because there is a revolutionary theory in the new synthesis of communism developed by Bob Avakian; revolution for a whole new society really could be, here and around the world.

People hung out a long time afterwards, getting their books signed, meeting someone new, talking... could the world be different, and how? They wanted to know more about this bookstore. When asked by staff members to come to a dinner the next week to brainstorm on how to save it, many said yes. A Dominican woman we'd met a few days earlier at the Harlem Book Fair said that Danticat's novel The Farming of Bones "gave me the first true picture of what happened during the massacre of Haitians by then-dictator Trujillo [in the Dominican Republic]..." She offered to bring a Dominican dish to the bookstore dinner.

Someone who sustains Revolution Books every month emailed later: "Edwidge signed my book 'to my fellow shy revolutionary, in sisterhood' which is so funny and accurate in many ways. I often feel like I want to create more connections and be louder about this movement but struggle with the nature of my shyness."

A woman who'd recently joined the Revolution Books fiction book club and had been spreading the word about the event to news outlets and the Haitian community in Brooklyn, said afterwards: "I've been a registered Democrat my whole life, and most political discussions I have with friends are about fixing different parts of the system. No one thinks maybe we should have a different lens altogether, we should be talking about a different system..."

The bookstore raised $2,500 from the fifty people who came to this first night of "Hidden Lives, Human Possibilities." Some people who Revolution Books never met before bought $100 tickets and signed up that night to sustain the bookstore every month. The whole event, from the premium ticket prices to the special character of the evening, conveyed the emergency to Save Revolution Books—a bookstore at the center of building a movement for revolution that fills a great and urgent need in the world today.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

U.S. to World: Give Us Edward Snowden—or Else!

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Ever since whistleblower Edward Snowden publicly exposed to the world the massive spying that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) is carrying out on the phone and Internet communications of vast numbers of people around the world, the Obama regime has been pursuing him relentlessly and trying to get him in their clutches. And in the course of this, the U.S. has been carrying out thuggery on a global scale. The U.S. has openly threatened retaliation against any country that gives Snowden asylum status or safe passage. The U.S. Senate is considering imposing sanctions on any government that helps Snowden.

Snowden has reportedly filed for temporary political asylum status in Russia. On July 23, Obama's Attorney General, Eric Holder, sent an official letter to his counterpart in the Russian government, pressing the Russians to not grant Snowden asylum status. Holder's letter said that if Snowden were returned to the U.S., the government would not seek the death penalty, and he "would not be tortured." Holder claimed that "torture is illegal in the United States." Several things stand out: 1) Why should we believe anything that these imperialist gangsters claim or promise, including in relation to Snowden? 2) The whole world knows that the U.S. has tortured prisoners—at Abu Ghraib, at Guantánamo, at secret CIA prisons. And U.S. prisons hold tens of thousands of people in extended isolation—which, to be clear, is torture. 3) The actions of Obama and Company reveal how deeply stung the U.S is by Snowden's leaks, and how worried they are about further revelations Snowden may have in store (or leaks by other whistleblowers who may be inspired by what Snowden did).

Here's a question everyone must confront: Who is the real criminal? The man who, fully aware of how viciously other whistleblowers like Bradley Manning have been persecuted, acted on his conscience and stepped forward to let the world know about the vast use of repressive technology by the U.S.? The man who has dared to speak the truth, as when he ridiculed the NSA rationale for surveillance of everyone by sharply posing, "So we can potentially reveal a potential terrorist with the potential to kill fewer Americans than our own police do every year?" Or is it the government, and the system behind it, that exploits, represses, murders, and tortures people all over the world—and comes down brutally on those who courageously speak out and act against these crimes against humanity?




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Dr. Antonio Martinez: "Gregory is being punished for his political ideas"

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Dr. Antonio Martinez is a psychologist with the Institute for Survivors of Human Rights Abuse and co-founder of the Marjorie Kovler Center for the Treatment of Survivors of Torture in Chicago. Dr. Martinez has been recognized by UNESCO for his lifelong work treating survivors of torture and human rights abuses. Revolution talked with him outside the Cook County Jail as people protested the re-jailing of Gregory Koger on July 23. For the latest news on the railroading of Gregory Koger, see "Revolutionary Gregory Koger Sent Back to Jail... Judge's Secret Ruling Comes to Light."


Revolution: Dr. Antonio Martinez, we just came from the courthouse where we saw the display by the judge of some blatant...

Dr. Antonio Martinez (interrupting): Cynicism! Cynicism and lies and it was power abuse, a demonstration of how this system uses all its power to control people and to silence voices that are fighting for justices, they do whatever they want. This case, this judge, they really broke the law. They didn't follow the procedure. It was very obvious. And it's very obvious that Gregory is getting punished for his political ideas. It's very obvious they are afraid of what he is saying.

Actually, in my other side, my other alter ego, as an artist, my name is Olmo. I began yesterday, no, two days ago, a project called "The Shroud of Sorrows" that Gregory actually did a small, little film about it. Where in "The Shroud of Sorrows" we are asking people to stamp the shroud with different stamps of linocuts symbolizing light, trees, rain, justice, community, communication, one stamp for every prisoner that is now on hunger strike. We are looking for 30,000 of these little stamps. The shroud eventually will probably be 100 feet long. Our idea with this is to raise consciousness, to give to each person who stamps the shroud materials to call their representative, to call their churches, to talk about this injustice. Especially to fight the issue of solitary confinement. Solitary confinement beyond two weeks is torture, absolutely torture. I was a co-founder of the Marjorie Kovler Center for the treatment of torture. I was the first director for seven years. I've written books and articles about the topic. I have been now for 13 years volunteering in the same center. I'm telling you that solitary confinement does the same to the individual as torture does. Destroy the personality, break down the individual. We cannot allow this. The United Nations has declared solitary confinement beyond two weeks as torture and there's no doubt about it. We cannot permit this in this country. Even Pinochet [in Chile] in their concentration camps—people were able to talk to each other, they had music, they played, they had music. And to take a human being and to deny them one of the most basic things that defines us as human—human contact—is absolutely criminal. We're telling that we want to rehabilitate prisoners and nevertheless we are destroying the most healthy part of their personality, that is, their desire to connect to other people. It's like if I broke a leg, and I go to the hospital and they tell me we are going to fix your leg by cutting your two legs. That is what's happening. It doesn't make sense and is a crime against humanity. Human contact is not a privilege; human contact is a right.

Revolution: In the face of all that, in the face of that structure of torture and degradation that you've described, how do you feel about Gregory's stand, with his case—joining the prisoner hunger strike?

Gregory Koger

Martinez: Gregory is a very moral person. He is one of the most moral persons that I have met in my life. And he has very low weight and his life will be at serious risk. I consulted with several doctors. After two weeks, when he has little weight, he says to me that his moral duty, when he enters immediately into this jail, he immediately will go into a hunger strike in solidarity with the prisoners that are right now on a hunger strike in California, and the ones in Guantánamo Bay that are survivors of torture also. I think that he is doing a great service for humanity. I care a lot for him and his life is in danger at this moment because he cannot be in this more than two weeks and, knowing his commitment, he will continue. So that's why I am afraid. He is one of the most intelligent, compassionate, and sweet persons I have met. He was seven years in solitary confinement [before] and there was a moment in solitary confinement that he decided that he was not going to let himself be broken by solitary confinement and that was thank you to the revolutionary papers that he was receiving and he was able to put some meaning to his experience. That's why another thing that is going to happen is that he is going to put a suit against Cook County government and this jail that deny newspapers to the prisoners. And this is very important that they have the capacity also to be able to give meaning to their life experience.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

No Make-Believe God Has or Will End Oppression

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a Reader:

The article "They Must Not—They Will Not—Get Away with This!!" from Revolution newspaper (#311, July 28, 2013) about the outrageous acquittal of George Zimmerman for murdering Trayvon Martin includes the following paragraph:

There are those who say we need prayer vigils. To pray for WHAT? And more than that, to pray to WHOM? The sooner we put aside fairy tales about how some non-existent god is going to take care of this... any day now... or how the victims of this system have gone to a heaven that doesn't exist... the sooner we confront the reality that when this system kills people there is no afterworld that somehow redeems them... the sooner, in other words, that we actually confront the real problem—then the sooner we will get to the real solution. Anyway, who decided that African slaves and the descendants of African slaves have to kneel down to Jesus? We don't need consolation... we need REVOLUTION!

A religious activist objected: "How can the author of this text put in print the paragraph [reprinted above]. The anger of the African American community with your organization is fueled by the ways in which you undermine the foundations of the 'faith that has brought us thus far.' Some would say that your remarks are racist. You cannot teach this community experience that has been lived, and neither can you start the 'revolution' by advocating violence."

I was provoked to write this short response.

First, how can the newspaper print the paragraph above? Because it's TRUE, and people need to hear it.

Let's take the writer's objections apart:




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Four Points for Bill McKibben

by Raymond Lotta | August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Bill McKibben, an influential environmentalist, has written and lectured widely on global warming. His organization,, has been staging protests against oil, natural gas, and coal projects this summer.

1. You say, if we are going to "tackle global warming," we need to "identify the enemy," and that "public enemy number one is the fossil-fuel industry... which has become a rogue industry, reckless like no other force on Earth."

But in reality, the force on Earth destroying the planet is capitalism-imperialism.

Oil-drenched brown pelican on the Louisiana coast after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill dumped 172 million gallons of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico, April 2010. Photo: AP

Your image of a "rogue oil industry" covers over the reality that oil is foundational to the functioning of the whole imperialist system. Six of the 10 largest corporations in the U.S., and eight of the 10 largest in the world, are auto and oil companies. Rivalry among the great powers for control of production, refining, transport, and marketing of oil is in fact rivalry for control over the world economy. And U.S. imperialism's military depends on oil.

Oil is not a rogue industry. It is part of a larger system that operates according to certain capitalist rules and imperatives.

2. You talk about a movement from below that can pressure and shame officials and elites to see that you can move away from fossil fuel and curb global warming—and still have profits. You have said that Exxon Mobil and others can become "true energy companies...for real."

This is not a solution. Fossil fuel is so deeply embedded in the world imperialist economy that only revolution, nothing less, can change this: change how the economy is organized—change the fact that profit is its foundation. And only changing which class holds state power can change that.

Why are tropical forests being wiped out by logging and timber operations? Why is soil being degraded and dried out by agribusiness, and oceans acidified? Because capitalism invests, speculates, trades, and roams the globe treating nature as a limitless input into production for profit—without regard to long-term and planetary environmental consequences.

3. After Obama's climate change speech of June 25, you said that "the world desperately needs climate leadership and today Barack Obama showed he might turn out to be the guy who provided it."

This is as obscene as it is willfully self-deceptive.

You are aware that in 2009, Obama torpedoed any meaningful climate agreement in Copenhagen; that he expanded offshore drilling, including opening up the Arctic; and that he approved the southern portion of the Keystone XL pipeline (that would haul dirty tar-sands oil). You know that the U.S. posted the largest increase in oil production in the world and in U.S. history in 2012.

You also know Obama is: expanding war by drones, oversees the most massive electronic surveillance in history, is deporting immigrants in record numbers, and continues mass incarceration that especially targets Black and Latino youth.

As the political representative of this system, Obama's mandate is to maintain and strengthen the position of the U.S as the most powerful imperialist power. But because Barack Obama uttered a few honeyed words in June, you now anoint him "climate-protector-in-chief."

4. You stated to me in a public program that an "alternative system might possibly cope more easily with the environmental crisis" but then said we have to deal with current reality.

The reality is that capitalism-imperialism cannot interact with nature in a planned and sustainable way. But there is a solution: a liberatory socialist society, on the road to a communist world. This society can act on principles of socialist sustainable development, and tackle the environmental emergency for real, and with an internationalist perspective.

The vision and plan for this is set forth The Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) from the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. We will be able to decisively restructure the economy away from fossil fuels; mobilize resources and the creativity and determination of people to address the different dimensions of the environmental emergency; share knowledge and expertise and promote unprecedented international cooperation to address the environmental crisis; and imbue people with the understanding that we must act as caretakers of the planet for current and future generations. . (See “State of Emergency The Plunder of Our Planet, the Environmental Catastrophe, and the Real Revolutionary Solution”.)

This is not some well-meaning abstraction for intellectual consideration. This is about the visionary and viable way out of the horror of this world—for creating a society and world that truly emancipates humanity and that enables humanity to work urgently to save the planet. And we are building a movement for revolution to achieve this.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

A System of Oppression Working the Way It Has Always Worked

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


In slave days, the slave masters enlisted "regular white people" in slave patrols to roam the roads and paths, fields and forests. These slave patrols maintained a watch on places Black folks might slip off to, where they might share experiences between plantations, and where slaves might plot escape or rebellion. The slave patrols were authorized to brutalize and kill slaves who were "where they were not supposed to be." Even a slave sent on the road by his or her master might be hunted down and killed by these slave patrols.

What does that tell you about the kind of system this has always been?

In Jim Crow days, thousands of Black men (and others) were lynched for the most minor transgressions against institutionalized and degrading "customs"—like stepping off the sidewalk when a white person approached, calling even young white boys "sir,"... or, for nothing at all. Over and over again, as in the case of Emmett Till in 1955, juries let them off and then the killers openly bragged about what they did.

What does that tell you about the kind of system this has always been?

And now, again, George Zimmerman stalks and kills a young Black man for no good reason, and is let off with a pat on the back by the system:

What does this tell you about the kind of system is still in effect?

The reality we must all face is that in this Amerikkkan society, Black people have no rights that white people are bound to respect. That basic reality has not changed in hundreds of years. This is the same system at work.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

"This Film is HOPE for me cause i know things are going to get real..."

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


We greatly appreciate receiving these letters from prisoners and encourage prisoners to keep sending us correspondence. The views expressed by the writers of these letters are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.

The following letter from a prisoner was sent to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund:

Deep South, 4/8/13


Dear Family of the Struggle!

I am deeply whole heart that this new film BA Speaks is the push we have needed, and its right on time. By its been premiered in the most bigger cities are on point as well. Most as important is the youth will see this and learn about whats really going on in this reality we live, and why shit is fucked up the way it is, and how we can change this reality we are living before its to late. The film also shows big ass progress for most BA. The understanding of whats needed to be done now that you know the problem and how i can fix this shit. And i do have the real power with me; the mass will come together, but until then we need more of reality, the real reality so people can wake up out of the dream world of bullshit, lies. This Film is HOPE for me cause i know things are going to get real and people are going to be very happy to know we have a plan and a leader in BA. Also I want to thank you'll for all the hard work and the love for prisoners. Thank you!!!

Brother of Da Struggle

I would like to request a copy of BAsics please!

The Struggle Cont...




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Interview with Sarah Shourd

Surviving Prison in Iran... Now Fighting Solitary Confinement in the USA

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Sarah Shourd is a writer and advocate against the use of solitary confinement. In 2009 Sarah, along with her two friends, Shane Bauer and Josh Fattal, were hiking near the Iraq-Iran border when they were arrested by the Iranian military. All three were charged with espionage and imprisoned in Evin, Iran's notorious dungeon prison. Sarah was held in solitary confinement for 13 ½ months. Sarah was released on bail in September 2010. Her friends were released in September 2011. Since her release Sarah has worked to expose solitary confinement as torture and fought to end its use in U.S. prisons. She has been a supporter of the California Prisoners Hunger Strike, using her own experience of solitary to help lay bare the inhuman cruelty the prisoners are fighting against.

The following is a transcript of an interview with Sarah Shroud on the Michael Slate radio show on KPFK, which aired on Friday, July 12, 2013:

Michael Slate: Can you tell people a little bit about your situation? When you were arrested in Iran, you pretty much immediately went into solitary. And you spent almost fourteen months in solitary. Now, a lot of people talk about that as the ultimate in dehumanization, and you've written very powerfully about that. Can you tell people what your experience in solitary was?

Sarah Shourd: Yes, of course. Immediately after my now-husband Shane Bauer and my friend Josh Fattal and I were captured while hiking on the northern Iraqi side of the Iraq-Iran border, we were driven to Tehran and torn apart and thrown into solitary cells. And that's when the most horrific and difficult months, and actually it ended up being over a year of my life, began. Without any human contact in your life, you go numb. Your paranoid thoughts and fears almost completely take over, and my time in solitary was a day-to-day struggle in order to keep my mind and my sanity intact. And it went on for 410 days. When I was eventually released, it was very difficult to be around people, because when you haven't been around people for so long, you feel very uncomfortable in crowds. You have a hard time making eye contact. Being touched feels really uncomfortable. It was a long time until I felt normal again.

Slate: That struck me in something that you wrote. It was very powerful when you said, exactly that point, is that people always think that—and you even think for a while yourself when you're in a situation like that, that once you're out, you will be healed. But the scars of this—and I think it's very important that people recognize this, because this point about the ultimate in dehumanization, and what goes on with this. I've had a number of people on the show, psychologists, psychiatrists, who have talked about fundamentally, when people are in solitary, it doesn't take a very long time for actual mental illness to set in. And that's something that actually has to be taken very seriously in relation to all this.

Shourd: Yeah, definitely. This practice has been rising precipitously in our country for decades, at an even higher rate than the prison population. And as you know the prison population is completely out of control. But it wasn't until recently when the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Juan Mendez, stated unequivocally that prolonged solitary confinement—any period over fifteen days—can cause lasting and permanent damage, and is torture, that there is really no going back. The prison hunger strike followed Juan Mendez's statements, and here we are in our third widespread hunger strike, and it's just really clear that prisoners in this country are refusing to be ignored, and are refusing to endure this torture.

Slate: When you mention Juan Mendez and the Special UN Rapporteur on Torture, you also spoke about, look, you yourself looking into the UN Convention Against Torture, and you mentioned that while in fact, it's true what Mendez is saying about his view of this being torture, that actually the UN Convention Against Torture doesn't accept the idea that solitary confinement is torture, right?

Shourd: Well, the acting body—the U.S. is a signatory of the Convention Against Torture. And the acting body that presides over the Convention Against Torture, the Committee Against Torture, has stated that prolonged solitary confinement is torture and should be abolished. So the UN, I think, has made their stance actually very clear on the issue.

Slate: But then the U.S. doesn't accept that, do they?

Shourd: No, the U.S. does. The U.S. is a signatory of the Convention Against Torture. The problem is, the U.S. denies that the single housing unit or the SHU, what they call "administrative segregation," is solitary confinement. That denial has actually no basis.

In the same report, Juan Mendez, the UN Special Rapporteur Against Torture stated that any period of over 22 to 23 hours a day alone in a cell constitutes solitary confinement, and those are exactly the conditions that even a conservative estimate says up to 80,000 people in our country are enduring in our prisons every day.

Slate: Now, Sarah, one of the things I wanted to ask you about in relation to this thing of torture. It was very heavy I thought. You described this as sort of being buried alive, which I thought was one of these things that just comes out and just smacks you in the head. I thought it was very a powerful thing. Can you explain or dig into that a little more, being buried alive?

Shourd: Well, a lot of people, a lot of other survivors such as myself, have made many attempts to describe what solitary confinement is like, and it's a difficult thing to describe, because it's not anything that any human being should have to endure, and most people haven't obviously experienced it. So, we've all experienced loneliness. I think if you multiply that by—I don't know by what degree, but if you can kind of tap into that feeling of being cut off from the world, and just really make it as large and deep as an ocean, then maybe you can get a taste of what it's like. But, when I was in solitary confinement, I mean, just physically, the effects on your mental and physical health are very blatant. I had extreme insomnia, paranoia. I spent a lot of my time just crouched at the slot near the bottom of my cell door, listening for any kind of sounds. I fell into deep depression, and I had panic attacks where I screamed and actually beat at the walls until my knuckles were bloody.

And this is really only a fraction of the horrible things that you hear about people during prolonged solitary confinement. Some of them are too horrifying to really even mention. People cut themselves, self-mutilation is rampant. Actually, the only segments of our population that cuts themselves in large numbers are teenage girls and men in solitary confinement. And it's simply because the pain and the anguish need to come out. Prisoners in solitary start fights with guards for the sole purpose of having some kind of human interaction. And of course that leads to infractions and leads to them being kept in solitary even longer, in many cases indefinitely.

Another thing worth mentioning is that the suicide rate is much higher in solitary confinement. Psychiatrist Terry Kupers has come to the conclusion that approximately fifty percent of prison suicides nationwide happen in solitary confinement, and that means that prisoners in solitary are nineteen times more likely to commit suicide than those in the general population.

Slate: You talked about—there was something that struck me in some of your writings on this. You talked about some of the ways you were able to just hold onto anything, and you talked about the fact that there was a window in your cell that you could actually watch the passing of the light, and keep count of time, or even it seemed to me some vague connection to—that there is something outside of the cell. And I kept thinking about that, because we're always told about how, well, if you end up in prison in another country you're in big trouble, 'cause it's not the soft stuff you got here. It's remarkable that anybody could even say that, but they do, and it's actually the thing that's put out there. And yet, I kept thinking about in Iran, you had this window, and I'm not upholding the Iranian government or the Iranian prisons or anything else. They're brutal. I lost a lot of friends in fact in the prison you were in. I lost a lot of friends that were executed back in the early 1980s for their political activity. But at the same time, you had this window. And you think about—I kept thinking about Pelican Bay, and the fact that there is nothing. There's not a shred of anything you have there that you can possibly have some connection to outside of your cell. That's a very heavy comparison, I think.

Shourd: Oh, yeah. That's exactly right, Michael. Imagining enduring those 410 days without the window is just absolutely horrifying for me. When you have nothing, everything you have feels like the difference between losing your mind or maintaining some level of sanity. And, really, imagining being in a cell without any kind of window—and my window was high up at the ceiling of my cell where I couldn't reach it and couldn't actually look out it. It also had bars over it and a perforated sheet of metal, so really, all I had from the outside world were dots of light or dots of blue sky. But I felt the breeze sometime. I heard noises from the outside. I heard birds. I knew when the sun was rising and setting. And I could also chart the passage of time on the wall and that was extremely important to me. Not having that really is being buried alive. It's being entombed in a box.

Slate: Very much so. Horrifying. One of the things that you talk about, too, and I thought this was really, it was kind of jolting in a sense because, again, when you talk about this comparison between the two, when you came out of prison in Iran and you got back here and you started to see—can you tell people about your discovery? You started to see what exactly was happening in the prisons in the U.S., and one, how did that come about for you? And then two, what was the impact on you when you compared and contrasted this thing of, OK, I just came out of this horrifying situation in Iran, and now I look at what's going on in the prisons here, wow!

Shourd: Well, Michael, I knew that solitary confinement was a cruel practice. I knew that it was wrong. But it wasn't until I experienced it myself that I knew that it was torture. And when I came back to this country—I was released before my husband Shane Bauer and my friend Josh Fattal, and I spent the first year fighting non-stop for their freedom. But I also had a few spare moments to start to look into the practice of solitary confinement in our own country and I was absolutely shocked that we have more people in solitary than any country in the world. I mean, as far as the numbers, and the amount of time that people are kept in solitary, I mean the average, I think in the Pelican Bay SHU is seven and a half years. In that amount of time a person can go crazy dozens of times. And I have no idea how a person's psyche is completely reshaped and damaged during that period. There's just no comparison between what we are doing and what most countries in the world are doing.

One example is England tried solitary confinement as a disciplinary measure. And in England they have a system of review. They have a body that keeps track of the statistics and the data coming out of their prisons and shares it with the public. And it was very, very clear in a relatively short period of time that violence in prisons went up and the people were not reformed and rehabilitated. And they've practically done away with the whole practice in England, because it became clear that it was expensive and it didn't work.

We don't have that in our prisons. We don't have a kind of body, an impartial body to review and keep track of what's happening. And that's why things have gotten so completely out of control.

Slate: Now, Sarah, one of the things that you did, you became very active in exposing what solitary confinement means. You've been involved in doing support for the prison hunger strike. One of the things you've also started working on, and I found this very interesting and I wanted you to talk a little bit about it, you started working on a play that's centered on solitary confinement. Can you talk about what led you to that, and give people a sense of what that play is?

Shourd: Yeah. Well, the play's called Opening the Box, and I'm partnering with Solitary Watch. I now work for Solitary Watch as a contributing editor, and it's going to be real stories of people living in solitary confinement, a whole spectrum of people. We hope to represent a woman, a juvenile, a lifer, people who've been in for months and others that have been in for decades. And I really believe that hearing and seeing real, complex stories of people living through this hell has the potential of affecting people in a way that they can't and won't forget. Our play is, I think, going to reveal a lot, not just about the horror of solitary confinement, because that obviously is very important, but also about the resilience of the human spirit. It's absolutely amazing that people are able to endure this kind of torture and that so many people continue to live, even without the tiniest shred of hope. They find ways to make the best of a situation that is very, very little to work with. So the play's going to be about survival and resilience. We hope that it's a catalyst for action. And it's our humble effort to contribute to a nationwide movement against solitary confinement as well, and getting stronger and stronger by the day. It's also a very deeply personal journey for me as you can imagine. It's an attempt for me to understand what happened to me, and connect my own experience to what I see happening around my own country.

Slate: What do you think about the significance of the strike that began last year, is being taken up now. What do you think of the remounting of the strike after the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation basically refusing to do anything but the minor, even though it is important when people get these small things, but not responding at all or doing anything at all, in fact, in relation to the bigger questions, the bigger demands of the prisoners. What do you think of the significance of this strike, both in terms of the anti-solitary confinement movement, but also in society at large?

Shourd: Well, I think the strike is historic. It's the third large-scale hunger strike in two years. And there's promise that it's going to be the largest yet. Their demands are to end indefinite solitary confinement, and also to end the debriefing process which gives these prisoners the choice between snitching on other prisoners, on giving names and information about other prisoners that are reported to be gang members, which risks their lives. Or their other choice is to be in solitary confinement and only to have the possibility of a review every four years. So these demands have been stated loud and clear, and so far the response from the California Department of Corrections is to deny the prisoners that are hunger striking phone calls and to search their cells.

The world is watching and I wanted to share briefly—a prisoner at Pelican Bay sent me a message, actually to my mom who corresponds with him on a regular basis, and he said that since the last hunger strike, the CDCR has put up a pull-up bar in Pod 10 in the yard, and has given them some access to an additional electronic appliance and also given them bowls. And he said, "I'm happy about the bowls because eating cereal out of a milk carton kind of sucks. It seems like they're trying real hard to keep their SHU program alive though. But no matter how many bells and whistles they attach to it, the systematic isolation, with the intent and purpose of breaking that person is still a form of torture. It's kind of crazy when you put it all in perspective. Do they really think a bowl and a pull-up bar makes it constitutional?"

Slate: Very heavy. Now that leads into my last question, Sarah. We're both familiar with this quote. I was telling my wife this morning, wow, Sarah got this quote too, Dostoevsky's comment about the degree of civilization in society can be judged by entering its prisons. Talk about that a little bit.

Shourd: I see solitary confinement as really the deep end of our very broken prison system. It's the worst punishment that our system doles out, but it's by no means—it's really only the deep end of a whole system that needs to be reformed. That said, I think that solitary confinement is a strategic place to start, because the practice is used in the U.S. and countries all around the world as a way to control prisoners, you know, to pacify them, intimidate them and to break them. And it's used in lieu of giving them access to education, mental health and other services that promote and enable rehabilitation. Solitary confinement has been proven completely ineffective as a method of rehabilitation, and for that reason, many countries have stopped using it. But in our country, like I said, it's completely out of control, and we've become the largest offender. And the only way to reform our system is to start in the deep end and to end the practice of solitary confinement.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Running with the Revolution Club in Times Square

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

The Revolution Club had called people together to "wake up and shake up" the scene at Times Square on Friday night, saying "This System MUST NOT—They WILL NOT—Get Away with This!!"—the outrageous and horrifying acquittal [the previous Saturday] of George Zimmerman for the murder of Trayvon Martin—and they invited people to join them to see the movie Fruitvale Station, opening nationwide, including in Times Square, that night. The film is a searing portrayal of the last days of Oscar Grant's life before he was killed by police the morning of New Year's Day, 2009, at the BART [Bay Area Rapid Transit] Fruitvale Avenue station in Oakland, California.

I was really looking forward to joining the Revolution Club on this night—at Times Square, where thousands of youth from the neighborhoods all over NYC hang out and where people come from all over the world. It was the first Friday night since the brutal heat wave had broken and it was busy, electric, with young people of all nationalities and from everywhere out to have a good time. We had an hour before the movie began. As soon as we got to the corner the Revolution Club started leading the chant: "Trayvon did not have to die—we all know the reason why! The whole damn system is guilty!" We held up the Three Strikes poster and Revolution newspaper. Some people began stopping, taking the Three Strikes poster and reading it on the spot, a few people buying Revolution newspaper, listening to agitation over the bullhorn about this system and revolution, and expressing their own upset and anger. A small scene was developing. You could feel immediately that underneath the "norm" of people out for a nice evening, there was a lot going on.

After a few minutes the Revolution Club crew decided they would sharpen up their agitation and start challenging people to confront this situation. They started telling people, "Two sides are shaping up: those who want to see the Trayvons and the Rachels and the Oscar Grants live as full human beings, and those who don't—you need to be on the right side, we cannot let this go away, we have to get into what it's going to take to stop this and what kind of revolution we need and build the movement for this revolution, now."

Immediately and dramatically, knots of people, especially couples and groups of youth of all nationalities and mixed nationalities, and older Black women with children Trayvon's age, stopped and wanted to talk, to know more, to know what do we do about this right now. Very quickly there was a scene of anywhere from 10-15 people and more at a time gathered around and more listening from some distance, people talking intensely to the revolutionary organizers, eagerly sharing around the sign-up clipboard so they could be in touch with the movement for revolution. Some bought Revolution newspaper, some took bunches of the Three Strikes poster to put up in their neighborhoods and buildings or to take to their home cities. Some wanted to come out the next day to Harlem, where a 1 pm speak-out and protest had been called.

People from all over were agonizing. One young couple was a white woman from upstate New York and a young Black man from Florida. She asked, "What should we do now? What should I do when I go home? Can you come talk to us and organize a protest in my city?" The young man wanted to know whether you could really make the kind of revolution we were talking about in a country like this—wouldn't you be crushed? Was it really possible? He, along with more than a few others, was seriously thinking about the biggest and most real questions of how to change all this. They took bunches of Three Strikes posters, got hooked up to follow online, and to be in touch with the Revolution Club. The Revolution Club told them that if they got a group in her upstate city to talk to, they would come talk to them, but she should look into all this, look at for what this revolution is all about, and start organizing this and be in touch. A woman with another group of young people told us that she is close with the family of a police murder victim in Queens, and wants to bring that family into the protests the Revolution Club is organizing.

As we had begun on the corner, a couple of cops had walked by the scene and ignored it; later two uniformed cops pulled up in a taxicab! (One of this city's police programs to monitor everything everywhere) and told the Revolution Club members to put down the bullhorn. People who had been gathering around started watching closely. The bullhorn was put down this time, the agitation and knots of people intently engaging continued for several more minutes before we went to the movie.

Only one of our group in the movie had already seen it. If you haven't seen it, go. GO NOW. I don't need to say more here, but at the end of the movie we, and the rest of the audience, just sat for a minute, stunned and not moving. Then as one of the Revolution Club members stood up and spoke, we all started to stand up with him: "Oscar Grant did not have to die. Trayvon Martin did not have to die. If you hate this, come talk to us about the revolution that will end it. We are the Revolution Club." I couldn't tell right then what the audience thought about this; no one responded out loud in the moment. People seemed unable to speak. But then, as people started leaving the theater, almost everyone took the Three Strikes poster, including the movie staff people. As we moved into the lobby (still inside the multiplex), again knots of people gathered, discussing intently, wanting to know what this revolution was, who were we, how do you stop this, what should we do, can we do anything really? It was a mixed audience, mostly in their 20s and up, mostly middle class. Again, the sign-up clipboard was passed from hand to hand.

It was painful, raw, to talk after this movie. One woman I talked to had been among the people who slowed down on her way out to gather around us, and at first when I asked how she was feeling after seeing the film, she couldn't speak, furious, tearful. Then it was like, the words started pouring out and she couldn't stop. She works with young people, and the movie hit her very hard. The horrible injustice, the horrible loss of Oscar's life, and how he is like so many others. She said, "Ok you can say it's the system, and I know that's true, but do our people (she is Black) really understand that it's not just 'out there'—when you say the system, people think it's 'out there,' but it's IN us, it's in how we treat each other, in how our youth learn from day one that they don't matter. It's so DEEP, it goes back to slavery days." I told her I felt like, in this moment, many people were looking straight down 400 years and seeing things that normally are hidden and not much thought about. That this is not a "normal" moment. She said yes, that's right, and she told about visiting one of the slave-holding centers in Africa where millions of captured people had been held before being taken on the middle passage to North and South America. Then she went on, "But this is like a disease, and we don't even know we have it." She described how her seven-year old daughter, who goes to a progressive all-Black school, is still taught to be ashamed and afraid, and how she has had to confront her daughter's teachers, who are all good and well-meaning, about this. We talked about how and why the system works to shape how people think and feel about themselves and each other—and how this will not change fundamentally as long as we are enslaved under this system but it can change, as people get with this movement for revolution and then we bring about the revolution that can change the whole society and start changing the whole world. I told her about how this revolution was about "fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution." She had, before we even talked, put her name on the sign-up list and wanted to go online and come to Revolution Books, which she didn't know about before.

This was just one of a swirl of deep and emotional conversations going on. Meanwhile one of our crew was furiously pacing the lobby, having trouble himself even talking. Later when we all went to the McDonalds to talk more, he said that he had wanted to jump into the screen during the last half-hour of the film. It is part of how the movie is done that even though you know what is coming, you feel like you are right there, with the others in the BART station watching and screaming out in horror as this is going on. Yes, you feel like you want to jump into this and stop it. Think about thousands of people seeing this movie and how they might feel and act the next time they encounter a young man being harassed, stopped and frisked, brutalized by the police. And this at a moment when killing young Black men for any reason or no reason has just been legalized.

One of the people with our crew, a young woman who hadn't been so active with the movement for revolution for a while, told about being in the Trayvon protests near where she lived, and told how she was very struck by what this verdict has stirred among the people. She said, normally people get so accustomed to what they are forced to endure that they get numb. You just feel that you have to swallow it—but this is a different moment. She was surprised and moved by how open and determined a section of people were to talk with us, to find out about this movement for revolution, wanting to know about BA and this leadership. As we talked, I realized that we never would have seen this or been able to help people find voice for it without really putting to people very basically that this is a moment when you have to take a side, we can't let it go, let's get into why things are this way and how they can be different with this revolution. This is something anyone and everyone can do, in small groups and on their own, just about anywhere in this country right now. Anywhere you go, you can very quickly dig just one thin layer below the picture of "normalcy" to open up profound questioning and anger about what this verdict concentrates, and you can get very quickly into the basics of how to understand this and why we need to act now. You can use the Three Strikes poster and Revolution newspaper, and connect people with, all over the place.

And we talked about how now the system is desperately working double-time to close this back up—to tell everyone that the president cares, that the Justice Department will take care of it, or that god will take care of it.

BUT NO. NOT THIS TIME. This is NOT over and this time it can be different. We talked about how this depends on what the revolutionaries lead people to understand and to do. If we are already thinking "this is just about over" because people aren't on their own figuring out how to demonstrate every day or acting in some other particular way, we are not seeing and working at uncovering just how deep this has gone this time, how much of a serious jolt this is for this system and for everyone who lives in it, and how much is possible if we open up this deep faultline of this system, that is, the oppression of Black people especially, to advance toward when a revolution could be possible.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Millions of People in the Streets of Egypt Does NOT Change Reality—This Was a Reactionary U.S.-Backed Coup

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


There continues to be major turmoil in Egypt. On July 3, the Egyptian military overthrew President Mohamed Morsi in a coup, suspended the Constitution, and installed a "caretaker" government. The military junta has rounded up leaders of the organizations Morsi is part of—the reactionary Muslim Brotherhood and the Freedom and Justice Party—and violently attacked protests mounted by those groups. On July 27, police forces—reportedly joined by pro-military civilians—fired live ammunition at pro-Morsi protesters in the streets, killing over 70 and seriously injuring many more.

The fact that a section of the people in Egypt—even a sizable section—has been misled into supporting this coup means nothing about the actual character of it. What people think is a part of objective reality—but it does not determine objective reality. And the reality is that this was a U.S.-backed coup intended to more securely nail Egypt into the horrific system of capitalism-imperialism and, in particular, into the more direct domination of the U.S.-headed bloc of that system. What's involved with the mass support for the military is not just deception (U.S. lies about "supporting democracy") but also a very significant element of self-deception. People are not looking at reality squarely in the face and getting to the essence of the matter—that what is being advanced through the coup are reactionary class forces, interests, and programs. This is a tragedy, and something that has had, and will continue to have, very bad consequences for the real interests of the people—not something to celebrate and support.

1. Since the military takeover, it has become even more clear that this was a reactionary coup that in no way, shape, or form holds out anything good for the people. This is an army that for decades has been built up, trained, and funded by the U.S. imperialists. And it has served as a key protector of U.S. strategic interests in the region: giving the U.S. priority access to the Suez Canal and Egyptian airspace; backing Israel's savage assaults on the Palestinians; joining the U.S. in attacking Iraq in 1991; and collaborating with the U.S. "war on terror," including torturing prisoners "rendered" to Egypt by the U.S. The U.S. funds Egypt's military to the tune of some $1.6 billion a year. And Obama has refused to call the coup what it actually is—a coup—so that the U.S. aid to Egypt can continue to flow.

Accounts in the New York Times and other media reveal how directly the U.S. was involved in Morsi's ouster. In his last hours in office, Morsi refused an "offer" from Washington that would allow him to remain as a figurehead while key positions in government were replaced. According to the New York Times: "[Morsi's] top foreign policy adviser, Essam el-Haddad, then left the room to call the United States ambassador, Anne W. Patterson, to say that Mr. Morsi refused. When he returned, he said he had spoken to Susan E. Rice, the national security adviser, and that the military takeover was about to begin... 'Mother just told us that we will stop playing in one hour,' an aide texted an associate, playing on a sarcastic Egyptian expression of the country's Western patron, 'Mother America.'"

2. The Morsi government was no better than what replaced it. That regime too was seeking to integrate Egypt into a subordinate position in the world imperialist system, under slightly different terms. The clash between the forces represented by Morsi and the military is a sharp example of the phenomenon in the world today that Bob Avakian has pointed to:

What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system. These two reactionary poles reinforce each other, even while opposing each other. If you side with either of these "outmodeds," you end up strengthening both.

While this is a very important formulation and is crucial to understanding much of the dynamics driving things in the world in this period, at the same time we do have to be clear about which of these "historically outmodeds" has done the greater damage and poses the greater threat to humanity: It is the "historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system," and in particular the U.S. imperialists.

BAsics 1:28

The course of events in Egypt with the coup and its aftermath is reinforcing this reactionary dynamic—with a section of the people supporting the military's actions (and, objectively, its U.S. imperialist backers), and another section supporting the reactionary Islamic fundamentalists.

3. Does this mean that the people in Egypt and elsewhere have no choice but to side with one reactionary "outmoded" or another? NO! There is another way—communist revolution, as re-envisioned by Bob Avakian's new synthesis. This is a road of breaking free of imperialist domination as part of a revolution to get the whole planet beyond those horrors. This revolution is possible—but those who want that other way need to fight for it and, right now, fight to get it out into the world.

The situation described in BA's statement on the 2011 uprising against the Mubarak regime is still very relevant:

It has frequently happened in history, as has been the case in Egypt (as well as Tunisia), that the domination of imperialism and the rule of local exploiters has taken a concentrated form in the regime of a "strong man" butcher. This was the case, for example, in Iran, with the torture-chamber rule of the Shah, in the Philippines with the tyranny of Marcos, and in Indonesia with the long monstrous reign of Suharto—all brutal dictatorships put in power and long kept in power by U.S. imperialism. In Iran in the late 1970s, in the Philippines in the 1980s, in Indonesia more recently, massive uprisings of the people forced the U.S. imperialists to throw aside these hated tyrants and to allow some changes. But in every case, the ultimate result was not one which led to real "freedom" for the people—instead they have continued to be subjected to cruel oppression at the hands of those who replaced the old, hated rulers, while these countries have remained within the overall framework of global imperialist domination and exploitation. But historical experience has also shown that the continuation of oppressive rule, in one form or another, is NOT the only possible outcome.

In Russia, in February 1917, another brutal despot, the Czar (absolute monarch), was overthrown by the uprising of the people. Here again, the U.S., British, and other imperialists, and the Russian capitalists, tried to continue the oppression of the Russian people in a new form, using the mechanisms of "democratic rule" and elections which, while allowing for some broader participation of different parties, would still be totally controlled by the exploiters of the people and would ensure their continuing rule, and the continued suffering of the masses of people. In this case, however, the masses of people were enabled to see through these maneuvers and manipulations, to carry forward their revolutionary rising, through many different twists and turns and, in October 1917, to sweep aside and dismantle the institutions and mechanisms of bourgeois dictatorship and to establish a new political and economic system, socialism, which for several decades continued to advance in the direction of abolishing relations of exploitation and oppression, as part of the struggle throughout the world toward the final goal of communism. The crucial difference was that, in the uprisings in Russia, there was a core of leadership, communist leadership, that had a clear, scientifically grounded, understanding of the nature of not just this or that ruthless despot but of the whole oppressive system—and of the need to continue the revolutionary struggle not just to force a particular ruler from office but to abolish that whole system and replace it with one that would really embody and give life to the freedom and the most fundamental interests of the people, in striving to abolish all oppression and exploitation.

Even though the revolution in Russia was ultimately reversed, with capitalism restored there in the 1950s, and today Russia no longer seeks to disguise the fact that it is a capitalist-imperialist power, the lessons of the Russian Revolution of 1917 hold valuable, indeed decisive lessons for today. And the most decisive lesson is this: When people in their masses, in their millions, finally break free of the constraints that have kept them from rising up against their oppressors and tormentors, then whether or not their heroic struggle and sacrifice will really lead to a fundamental change, moving toward the abolition of all exploitation and oppression, depends on whether or not there is a leadership, communist leadership, that has the necessary scientific understanding and method, and on that basis can develop the necessary strategic approach and the influence and organized ties among growing numbers of the people, in order to lead the uprising of the people, through all the twists and turns, to the goal of a real, revolutionary transformation of society, in accordance with the fundamental interests of the people. And, in turn, when people massively break with the "normal routine" and the tightly woven chains of oppressive relations in which they are usually entrapped and by which they are heavily weighed down—when they break through and rise up in their millions—that is a crucial time for communist organization to further develop its ties with those masses, strengthening its ranks and its ability to lead. Or, if such communist organization does not yet exist, or exists only in isolated fragments, this is a crucial time for communist organization to be forged and developed, to take up the challenge of studying and applying communist theory, in a living way, in the midst of this tumultuous situation, and to strive to continually develop ties with, to influence and to ultimately lead growing numbers of the masses in the direction of the revolution that represents their fundamental and highest interests, the communist revolution.

While BA's statement was in response to what was in fact a mainly positive and progressive uprising in 2011, and while the current turmoil is not of the same basic character, the main point above—the need to forge communist organization in the midst of what is still a tumultuous situation—holds as true as ever.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Zimmerman Got Away With Murder...
Marissa Alexander Got 20 Years

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Marissa Alexander, a 32-year-old Black woman, was arrested in 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida, after she fired a warning shot into a wall of her home to stop an attack. The attacker was her estranged husband, who had beaten and abused her when she was pregnant, and against whom she had a restraining order. She had given birth to a premature baby just nine days earlier. The warning shot likely stopped a violent assault and possibly saved her life.

Alexander was charged with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, as well as child abuse for firing a weapon in her home. At the trial, she rejected a plea bargain that would have resulted in a three-year prison sentence. Instead, she attempted to invoke the "stand your ground" and self-defense laws in her defense. But in March of this year, she was convicted and sentenced to 20 years under a Florida law that carries a mandatory minimum for certain gun violations. The jury took 15 minutes to convict her.

The self-defense and "stand your ground" laws in Florida and other states don't outright give license to white racists to kill Black people under any pretense and call it self-defense. But in a society so deeply stamped with white supremacy, that's the definite subtext. The acquittal of George Zimmerman shows this in one way. What happened to Marissa Alexander shows it in another way.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

"I took the unjust killing of Trayvon Martin very personal."

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


We greatly appreciate receiving these letters from prisoners and encourage prisoners to keep sending us correspondence. The views expressed by the writers of these letters are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.


The following letter from a prisoner was sent to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund:

TX, 7/14/13

PRLF Volunteers and donors,

Greetings to you all! I write you enraged, frustrated, and anguished; but hardly surprised! I took the unjust killing of Trayvon Martin very personal. So, I have been paying strict attention to the George Zimmerman Trial. Once again the Injustice System has stayed true to its form and insidious purpose. I don't know why I allowed myself to entertain even a smidgen of hope that the State of Florida would make that coward Zimmerman pay for Racially Profiling, Stalking, and Murdering Trayvon Martin. I know beyond a reasonable doubt that is what "Georgie" did. I have come to expect the government "pigs" to get away with murdering our Black and Latino teenagers, but now wannabe "pigs" get a free-pass, too! It was sickening to listen to the defense's witnesses paint Zimmerman as this humble do-gooder that was attacked, and feared for his life.

If he was that scary, he should have stay in the safety of his vehicle. But no, he disregarded the 911 dispatcher, got out of his vehicle to stalk and harass Trayvon Martin. Seeing an opportunity to get away with some hero fantasy/fetish he been playing in his mind. Now George will probably be running around the neighborhood with tights, a mask and cape on thinking he is Batman!

Through the entire trial I've listen to Zimmernan's lawyer talk about Zimmerman fearing for his life. Well, what about Trayvon Martin fearing for his life? He was the one getting stalked at night by a 250 pound bigot! You know if it wasn't for Bob Avakian I wouldn't know what to do (that would be constructive) with my anger. But, I do know, and I want all those who don't know to pay attention. If any of you are like me (angry) and want redress; then embrace the Revolution and nothing less!

PRLF volunteers and donors, I love you, guys!

"Definitely" In The Struggle, XXX

Trayvon, you didn't die in vain;
for we shall protest in your name.
Only if you could see, little brother;
that your death has embolden The Struggle!
We have never met, but still I miss you;
and shall remember you in everything I go through.
Baby Boy, you shouldn't died;
because of that we fight and cry!
And we won't quit, nor rest;
it's all about Revolution, nothing less.
So, Trayvon, Rest In Peace;
and, rest assured, The Struggle won't cease!




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Prisoners on Hunger Strike Write: Day 9 and Day 10

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


The following letters from prisoner hunger strikers were sent to the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund:

Day 9

Today marks day nine of our peaceful protest hunger strike/work strike. We have heard on the news that people are being rehoused in an effort to isolate people further! The whole purpose of what we are doing is to protest isolation and as a result this concentration kamp reacts by further isolating us!

The news said 30,000 people participated in this prison strike which made history. But the state has also made history by torturing thousands throughout Amerikkka and its gulags. We are facing an extermination, a neutralization of thousands of oppressed mostly Brown and Black people. But this soft genocide is an extension of the long lineage of colonization that Chicanos, New Afrikans and First Nations people have been facing for 500 years. Prisons in the U.S. today are but appendages of this legacy of oppression on these shores.

Although we live in this advanced Imperialist state with all its high tech modes of repression and ultra secret technology it continues to underestimate the power of the people. We sit here in a supermax isolation torture center and yet we managed to mobilize 30,000 people in gulags throughout the state and beyond to rise up to these barbaric conditions and we resist this barbaric practice of torturing us en masse.

What seems to anger the state the most is that we have broken with reactionary views and have taken on a more revolutionary stance in our struggle for human rights behind prison walls. We have come to see that the ruling class has pitted us against one another within prisons but this wasn't the first time. For hundreds of years the state has found ways to use divide and conquer tactics to keep us unable to come together for a resolution to our common oppression.

Our biggest advancement has been in our ability to form this United Front and it frightens the state because if we can do this in prisons then our Barrios and Ghettos can also form United Fronts out in society and this is when real people's power can be exercised outside the State's influence, it is when the people can be introduced to alternative forms of authority.

Today we continue in our indefinite hunger strike as we face the beasts to stop the torture and this is but one step toward some real transformations in U.S. prisons and throughout Amerikka.

People's power!


"Day 10... many of us are not wavered with these distractions..."

July 17, 2013

Revolutionary Greetings Brothers and sisters! With opportunity at hand in the midst of our struggle we felt compelled to extend insight and update of our circumstances and conditions here at "Duel Vocational Institution" Tracy California Prison. We are presently housed here in the notorious K-Wing Administrative Segregation Unit ["the hole"]. Through Your Paper and other Civil Right's New's we have Joined in on this Peaceful Protest Hunger Strike. Today is day 10 that many of us have gone without food in hopes to accomplish some type of Substantial Changes here at DVI as well.

From the beginning of this protest Administration has already had numerous tactics prepared to undermine our efforts and discredit us as participants. The first day CO's came and told us that we have to step out of our cell to be searched or we would not be marked as participants, once people would step out CO's would enter cell's and confiscate personal canteen items coffee and food and told they would get their items back/property after Hunger Strike came to a cease. This was conducted with no "Due Process of Law" under the 5th amendment. Those of us who refused to step out of our Cell were supposedly marked off as non-Participants even though CO's can clearly see that we have no food item's from the bars. However, we have still been escorted out for medical check up's. Most of us have already Lost 7-12 Pounds. During our check up's we are told to drink Koolaid or water. The next day a different nurse come's and ask inmates if they have drank Koolaid. If the inmate Say's Yes the nurse then tells them they are no longer part of the Hunger Strike because they drank Koolaid.

This morning July 17th 2013 they had a nurse come with a clip board looking in cell's trying to see people's cup's claiming that cup's had food in them because they look brown & telling them they are no longer on the hunger Strike because their cup's look like they had food or coffee in it—which is false. CO's have been lying to other inmates saying that everyone is eating so take your tray. However, many of us are not wavered with these distractions and have remained steadfast in our daily endeavor's accepting nothing off CDCR food cart's. Our Canteen purchases priveleges have been modified or cut altogether when we have done nothing wrong. Specifically food Item's & Coffee are not being given to us.

It Should be noted that this specific Institution has the highest Rate in California for the Validation process here in California. Many of us are housed here 2 years plus waiting While they run us through the process resubmit paper work, falsify document's, Staff openly telling P.C.s/snitches Information about inmates that is false. Which is then returned to them in form's of 1030s confidential information chrono's [notice of confidential information without citing source] which are used against us to extend our Stay's in these S.H.U.s We stand in Solidarity with you all in our Goal's and objectives in hope's that some substantial changes could be made as these adverse tactics effect many lives and many of us have family's who need us home. We are forced to do extended sentence's when we've already completed Administrative disciplinary term's We are then validated and forced to Live Entombed!

We Continue the March in Solidarity

Power to the People.

....could you please add this [new] number to my addressed mail so that I can continue to receive my Paper it is the only one here on [this] side. I share it with 2nd and 3rd tier alot of inmates out of this unit are transferred to other facilities and spread the word about & all ongoing Revolutionary protest thank You for You time and Patience.


If possible Could I please get a copy of Oct 2012 Paper [includes "Agreement to End Hostilities" between different nationalities issued by prisoners in Pelican Bay SHU, including leaders of the Hunger Strike] Thank You.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Genocidal Realities

August 4, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


This capitalist system in the U.S. has no future for millions of Black and Latino youth—that is, no “viable” way to exploit them. In this situation, a “New Jim Crow” has arisen, featuring a drumbeat of demonization, a relentless school-to-prison pipeline, pervasive police harassment and brutality, and massive systematic incarceration of Black and Latino people. This New Jim Crow has a logic: the logic of genocide, which is the extermination of a whole people. Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network, has described what we have now as a slow genocide that could turn into a fast genocide. Stigmatization... containment... extermination. This has happened before. And this must be STOPPED. The following is a regular feature showing just some of what goes on week-in, week-out in this offensive by the system.

* * * * *

Sundown Towns

Zimmerman trial Juror B37 told Anderson Cooper that anyone would think Trayvon Martin suspicious for being out late at night (7 pm!). During jury selection, Juror B76 said Trayvon shouldn't have been out at night. She was seated anyway.

Shouldn't have been out at night? Ain't that the same as the signs posted at the limits of "Sundown Towns"? Signs like these:

"Nigger, Don't Let The Sun Go Down On You In Our Town"
"Nigger, don't let the sun set on your ass in Old Homosassa!"
"Whites only after dark"

James Loewen, author of Sundown Towns, estimates that at their peak in 1970, there were 10,000 Sundown Towns in the United States. As the Zimmerman verdict makes clear, there will be Sundown Towns as long as there is a United States of America.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Manning Must Go Free!
U.S. Mass Murderers Convict Bradley Manning for Exposing Their War Crimes

By Carl Dix | July 31, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Bradley Manning dared to expose the war crimes of the U.S. For this, he has been convicted by a military court on 19 charges, including espionage and theft of government property. He was acquitted of aiding the enemy, which could have gotten him the death penalty—but he faces more than 130 years in prison when the judge decides his sentence.

What "crimes" did Bradley Manning commit? In 2010, he leaked video footage to WikiLeaks that documented U.S. troops firing from a helicopter and mowing down Iraqi civilians, including a journalist carrying a camera, people coming to the aid of those wounded or killed, and children! The video became known as "Collateral Murder" and was viewed by people the world over.

Later Manning leaked documents that included a U.S. government report that documented more than 66,000 Iraqi civilians killed in the U.S. invasion and occupation of that country. The U.S. had claimed that it had no records of civilian deaths in Iraq, and this leak exposed that as a flat-out lie.

Bradley Manning was a young man who joined the military because he thought he could help people as a soldier. Then he saw the horrors America was perpetrating on people in Iraq and Afghanistan that were being covered up. He righteously decided that he had a responsibility to bring those horrors to the light of day. For doing this, he was viciously persecuted in prison—held in solitary confinement, and stripped naked for much of the time he was jailed. Now he faces a lifetime in prison.

The punishment of Bradley Manning is cruel and vindictive. And the system is trying to make an example of him: to warn and intimidate others in the military and in society more broadly that anyone who acts on conscience this way will face the same consequences.

Bradley Manning did the right thing! He never should have been put on trial, and he should go free from prison.

I have a sense of what Bradley went through. I was drafted into the U.S. military in the 1960s and given orders to go to Vietnam. I had to do a crash course in what that war was about and learned that U.S. imperialists were trying to drown the liberation struggle of the Vietnamese people in blood. It was a war that I should not be a part of. Then I had to decide whether to act on what I knew to be true, knowing that meant going to jail. I did the right thing—refused to go to Vietnam and spent two years in Leavenworth Military penitentiary.

Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, the drone wars of Obama. The political representatives of U.S. imperialism never tire of proclaiming America to be the worldwide champion of "democratic values." But look beneath the façade, and there is the gruesome reality of murderous wars, atrocious war crimes routinely covered up, and the harsh prosecution of those who expose these crimes.

This IS a criminal system and we need revolution—nothing less.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

The Questions That Must Be Asked About Bradley Manning Case

July 31, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

In all the discussion about Bradley Manning why isn't anyone from the mainstream media or the government who are so busy instructing the people how to think about this case—how to understand the rule of law and Manning's legal and moral responsibility to honor his oath as a soldier—why aren't any of them posing the questions:



* From an article by Marjorie Cohn; Professor, Thomas Jefferson School of Law, former President of the National Lawyers Guild. First published on

The "Collateral Murder" video [released by Bradley Manning] depicts a US Apache attack helicopter killing 12 civilians and wounding two children on the ground in Baghdad in 2007. The helicopter then fired on and killed the people trying to rescue the wounded. Finally, a US tank drove over one of the bodies, cutting the man in half. These acts constitute three separate war crimes.

Manning fulfilled his legal duty to report war crimes. He complied with his legal duty to obey lawful orders but also his legal duty to disobey unlawful orders.

Section 499 of the Army Field Manual states, "Every violation of the law of war is a war crime." The law of war is contained in the Geneva Conventions.

Article 85 of the First Protocol to the Geneva Conventions describes making the civilian population or individual civilians the object of attack as a grave breach. The firing on and killing of civilians shown in the "Collateral Murder" video violated this provision of Geneva.

Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions requires that the wounded be collected and cared for. Article 17 of the First Protocol states that the civilian population "shall be permitted, even on their own initiative, to collect and care for the wounded." That article also says, "No one shall be harmed . . . for such humanitarian acts." The firing on rescuers portrayed in the "Collateral Murder" video violates these provisions of Geneva.

Finally, Section 27-10 of the Army Field Manual states that "maltreatment of dead bodies" is a war crime. When the Army jeep drove over the dead body, it violated this provision.

Enshrined in the US Army Subject Schedule No. 27-1 is "the obligation to report all violations of the law of war." At his guilty plea hearing, Manning explained that he had gone to his chain of command and asked them to investigate the "Collateral Murder" video and other "war porn," but his superiors refused. "I was disturbed by the response to injured children," Manning stated. He was also bothered by the soldiers depicted in the video who "seemed to not value human life by referring to [their targets] as 'dead bastards.' "

The Uniform Code of Military Justice sets forth the duty of a service member to obey lawful orders. But that duty includes the concomitant duty to disobey unlawful orders. An order not to reveal classified information that contains evidence of war crimes would be an unlawful order. Manning had a legal duty to reveal the commission of war crimes. [back]




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Sermon from a Cell—Preaching Against America's Prisons

August 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From Stop Mass Incarceration, San Francisco Bay Area:

Sunday, July 28: San Francisco's Glide Memorial is one of the most well-known churches in the Bay Area. They have for decades been known as a church welcoming and serving the diverse population of the inner-city of San Francisco's Tenderloin District. This includes not only the diverse and colorful denizens of the city, but also those who society has cast off—many of them formerly prisoners of this system. When Stop Mass Incarceration Network, Bay Area was invited to bring our message to a special Sunday service, we were happy to accept. So, on July 28, the 21st day of the California Prisoners Hunger Strike, we joined with Pastor Karen Oliveto, as she gave a sermon on America's prisons, including the current prisoners' hunger strike against the torture of solitary confinement.

In two services, Glide's incredible band and choir had the audience of thousands on their feet. While people were dancing in the aisles, messages of struggle and inspiration were projected high on the wall. As the pastor began speaking, photos depicting mass incarceration, some from, were projected as well, and then, a cage, a cell, was erected around her. From her cage, Pastor Karen passionately addressed the inhuman treatment of prisoners, and acknowledged the death of Billy Sell, the hunger striker who died on Tuesday in the Corcoran State Prison SHU. As she paced back and forth in her cage, she first read the hunger strikers' 5 Demands, and then said, "Men in Pelican Bay are more free than most of us. They may be locked behind doors but they are not willing to imprison their spirits. They know that if they give in and accept the inhuman conditions and harsh treatment of Pelican Bay, then they will truly be in prison. As long as they are working to improve their living conditions, standing up and speaking out for better treatment, they are freer than most of us who accept the way things are as the way things are always going to be."

"The U.S. has five percent of the world's population, but twenty-five percent of the world's prison population. One in three Black males born today can expect to spend part of their life in prison. Two-thirds of former inmates will find themselves back in prison. It is a nation of shame that we have written off a whole group of young men, in the prime of their lives. It is a nation's shame that there is not more outrage in our streets, in our political chambers, and in our churches."

After the sermon many people stopped by our table to get materials, sign up, and become involved in the struggle to end mass incarceration and to support the hunger strikers.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Bradley Manning and U.S. War Crimes

The Injustices of a Criminal System

August 1, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


In May 2010, Bradley Manning told someone whom he considered a friend that he had released to WikiLeaks the "Collateral Murder" video and a video of a U.S. airstrike in Afghanistan that had killed over 100 Afghan civilians. Manning was arrested, and among the 34 counts he was originally charged with were four that mentioned a "2007 July 17 Baghdad video." For the "crime" of exposing war crimes, Bradley Manning is now facing the possibility of spending the rest of his life in prison.

Bradley Manning faces a possible sentence of life in prison for EXPOSING U.S. war crimes.

Meanwhile, those who have carried out U.S. war crimes are seldom even brought to trial, or if they are, are given very little punishment.

In October 2001, the U.S. and some allies invaded Afghanistan. They claimed it was in response to the attack on the World Trade Center in New York a month earlier. This invasion began a war and military occupation of Afghanistan that continue to this day. In March 2003, the U.S. launched an invasion of Iraq, allegedly to deprive the Iraqi government of its "weapons of mass destruction"—weapons which did not, in fact, exist.

In the 12 years since the invasion of Afghanistan set off the U.S.'s "war on terror," hundreds of thousands of people have been killed by the actions of the U.S. and its allies. A recent article in the medical journal Lancet reported that estimates of "excess Iraqi deaths as a consequence of war" in the first 40 months alone after the U.S. invasion were 655,000, and that at least 5 million Iraqi people had been displaced from their homes.

Millions of other people have been traumatized, maimed, and sickened by the war. As just one example—doctors who have studied public health in Iraq think that the depleted uranium and other toxic residue of U.S. explosives are the cause of a sharp increase in cases of cancer and other immune disorders, birth defects, infertility in women, and other devastating medical conditions. Chris Busby, a chemist at the University of Ulster in Northern Ireland and one of the authors of a study of the health crisis in Iraq, said recently that the situation in the city of Fallujah represents "the highest rate of genetic damage in any population ever studied."

The U.S. has terrified and killed people in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, and Somalia with its remote controlled drone bombings. The U.S. has developed a network of torture chambers like Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, and Bagram, that spans much of the globe.

The people who order, plan, supervise, and execute these and other war crimes in the interest of the U.S. empire are regarded as heroes by this system, and often honored with medals. On the rare occasions when a U.S. soldier faces charges for particularly savage behavior that somehow comes to broader attention, the charges have been nowhere close to commensurate with the atrocities they've committed. In the even rarer cases where they've been convicted, their sentences are a fraction of what Bradley Manning is facing for exposing such war crimes in the files he released to Wikileaks.

Some examples:





Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Millions of People CAN Be Wrong: The Coup in Egypt Is Not a People's Revolution

August 2, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Editors' Note: A number of readers have responded and commented on our article "On the Coup in Egypt: Strengthening Imperialism, Not the People."

One Egyptian reader wrote:

Your article has it all wrong. This was not a coup as the U.S. media would make you believe. This was a truly popular action that encompassed essentially ALL Egyptians rising up all-at-once against the Muslim Brotherhood (MB). The Army simply joined in when they saw the massive and undeniable hatred the general population has for the MB. The Army stepped in when it became clear that the two sides would essentially tear each other to pieces and destroy Egypt in the process.

And that writer argued:

Your article is just parroting the same old disdain for the military complex (which normally I would agree with) BUT this time in Egypt, believe it or not this was a great and truly popular REVOLUTION against a growing Fascist and irresponsible mafia of men who use religion to manipulate the masses for their own personal and organizational gain. The MB never had the interests of the nation or the people (many of whom are minorities), at heart. They even admitted long ago that they would use "democracy" only once—to assume power—and that once in power, they would dismantle the very "democracy" that got them there.


The irony in your coverage is that you actually play into the hands of the Imperialist game by completely ignoring the fact that this was the biggest political protest in the history of mankind (BBC quote) that had over 33 million people on the streets chanting for Morsi to LEAVE. In fact, you and your article have simply toed the line on the CNN line that it was a coup—effectively denying to the world that this was people power—not military power—that made them fall. The US media has never and will never empower the people that way—ironically neither does your article.

This reader's letter also argued that the U.S. was invested in the Muslim Brotherhood, and that "it was the people of Egypt that did it on their own—and would have done it on their own, with or without the Army."

Below is a response to these arguments, written by another reader to whom we forwarded the letter. We look forward to a continuing dialog and debate on the critical questions involved in understanding and acting on recent events in Egypt.


This Revolution article you refer to states the truth with regard to the actual reality of what is happening in Egypt. It does not skew things for any political ends; it does not further illusions, deceptions, and self-deceptions that seem so commonplace today. Recent events and revelations only further prove and reinforce that this was a coup by the military—"a sudden and decisive action in politics resulting in change of government illegally or by force." What is unfolding in Egypt is not a people's revolution.

Yes, to be crystal clear, Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood represent a reactionary force, oppressive to whole sections of people, especially women—and not operating out of any fundamentally liberating or even anti-imperialist framework. But does this justify the slaughter by the U.S.-backed military—and the liberal democratic secular forces it has unleashed in support of its actions?


What Millions of Egyptians Think Does Not Define Reality

There is a profoundly problematical—and wrong and harmful—underlying assumption and mode of thinking in this letter. The assumption and argument is that because the masses in their millions are acting, whatever they are doing must be righteous, just, and ultimately in their interests. Millions may think it is a popular revolution, but objective reality is that it was a coup, engineered by and serving the military, with the blessing of the U.S. ("Mother America"). Among the millions out in the streets, there were demonstrated assertions that the army is "with" the people, joining the people, as you state in your letter, "when they saw the massive and undeniable hatred the general population has for the MB [Muslim Brotherhood]."

This is a particular and concentrated form of populist epistemology (epistemology: the philosophy of what is truth, how do you get to it) that what people think defines reality. (This populist epistemology is an approach where truth is determined by what people think, that is, on public opinion. It does not apply science to understand objective reality in its underlying workings and dynamics; it does not challenge, refute, and transform people's false ideas and ways of thinking that are out of sync with objective reality; and therein ultimately leaves the world "as is").

Masses of people—including in their millions—can be, and in this case are, confused, misled, and profoundly wrong.

Behind the Coup

There were millions on the street unhappy with Morsi and chanting for him to leave, but who and what engineered it, organized and unleashed it, and to what ends?

Recent events and revelations demonstrate that the opposition—meaning those who were opposed to the Morsi Islamic fundamentalist regime and supported the Egyptian military—and the military were working together, with a convergence of interests, to unseat Morsi.

The Wall Street Journal reported: "In the months before the military ousted President Mohammed Morsi, Egypt's top generals met regularly with opposition leaders, often at the Navy Officers' Club nestled on the Nile. The message: If the opposition could put enough protestors in the streets, the military would step in—and forcibly remove the president.

"By June 30, millions of Egyptians took to the streets, calling for Morsi to go. Three days later, the military unseated him." (July 19, 2013)

I want to note that it is not the case that the U.S.—even with its influence over both the Brotherhood and the army—initiated, maneuvered, and controlled every step of the process. However, what has become increasingly clear is that the U.S. decisively stepped in at critical moments. For instance, the New York Times published an account indicating that in Morsi's last hours as the president, he was offered a deal via an Arab foreign minister, who was acting as emissary of Washington, to end the standoff with the country's top generals by effectively relinquishing power through accepting a new prime minister and cabinet that would take over all legislative powers. Reportedly, Morsi refused.

This was communicated by his top foreign policy advisor, Essam el-Haddad, who spoke with Anne Patterson, the U.S. ambassador, and Susan Rice, the U.S. national security advisor. According to the NY Times account, after the phone call el-Haddad reported, "'Mother just told us that we will stop playing in one hour' an [Morsi] aide texted an associate, playing on a sarcastic Egyptian expression for the country's Western patron, 'Mother America.'" (July 6, 2013)

The military takeover that unseated Morsi then began.

This flies in the face of the popular myth and mass self-deception on the nature of what happened—that the army merely stepped in to carry out and fulfill the people's spontaneously expressed will, and as expressed and concentrated in your statement that "The Army simply joined in when they saw the massive and undeniable hatred the general population has for the Muslim Brotherhood. The Army stepped in when it became clear that the two sides would essentially tear each other to pieces and destroy Egypt in the process."

What Does It Mean to Empower the People?

You talk glowingly of "empowering" the people. The more fundamental question is: millions "empowered" to do what? What are the interests being served by any particular "empowerment" of the people? Are they being empowered to consciously fight for the fundamental interests and liberation of the people—or serving and strengthening another reactionary pole?

It is also not true that "This was a truly popular action that encompassed essentially ALL Egyptians rising up all-at-once against the Muslim Brotherhood." What about the supporters of the Brotherhood—are they not Egyptians? What about those getting slaughtered by the Army now for opposing the coup—are they not Egyptians?

U.S. Interests and the Egyptian Military

The army concentrates the monopoly of legitimate armed force—and is the main pillar and enforcer of a reactionary and oppressive state. The Egyptian state is the guardian of property rights and an economic structure based on exploitation and subordination to imperialism. And while it is not the focus of my response to your letter, a critical element of that has been collaborating with Israel to violently oppress the Palestinian people—including helping enforce the horrific blockade of Gaza. The Egyptian military stands fundamentally opposed and antagonistic to the interests of the people. Try fighting for a genuinely emancipatory revolution which breaks free of imperialist and oppressive political, economic, and social relations—and this becomes sharply and dangerously clear.

There is an irony that while millions—including yourself—clearly see U.S. interests as fundamentally antithetical to the interests of the Egyptian people and masses of people around the world, somehow that does not apply to an Egyptian military that has historically been built up and funded by the U.S.—to the tune of more than $1 billion annually (which does not include secret aid), second only to Israel. As is becoming increasingly clear, the hand and control of the U.S.-backed military is being strengthened.

People are being unleashed for very reactionary ends—to strengthen a reactionary Egyptian military and to commit massacres against the supporters of the Brotherhood. Does stating this truth deny the millions of people "empowerment" or "agency," as some might put it? No, it reveals the underlying content of this agency, the content of this empowerment, who and what guiding framework and goals are objectively leading this—and brings into sharp relief the need for a radically different type of leadership, of conscious, revolutionary and communist, leadership that is guided by the method and goals of genuine emancipation.

What Is Needed

Which brings me to my final point.

What is needed is to bring forward another way—in opposition to the McWorld vs. Jihad dynamic that dominates much of the world now, including in Egypt. Calls for democracy merely channel back into one of these reactionary alternatives—and fundamentally do not and cannot escape the imperialist framework and relations which dominate Egypt.

Because of the work of Bob Avakian, that radically different alternative—in its re-envisioned socialism, and its overall method and approach to social reality and its transformation—does exist. In opposition to McWorld/Jihad, what is sorely needed is raising people's sights to this far better world that is necessary, desirable, and viable—and from that standpoint and framework for a new stage of communist revolution, people in Egypt engaging and wrangling with this, taking it up, and struggling through to forge leadership that in the midst of mass upheaval and upsurges can lead the millions on a conscious scientific basis to realize this through a genuine revolution—one that does not leave the reactionary state and army, exploitative economy, imperialist relations, and oppressive social relations intact, but that replaces them with a genuine socialist society, a new economy and political system with liberating social relations, all aiming for a communist world.

This is what is sorely needed. What we do not need is euphoria which fosters and chases after dangerous illusions.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Outrageous Verdict: Bradley Manning Faces Possible Life in Prison

August 2, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Bradley Manning is a hero. But this criminal system is now set to put him behind bars for the rest of his life.

While an intelligence analyst in the military, Manning leaked documents to WikiLeaks, exposing U.S. war crimes including the Collateral Murder video of a 2007 U.S. Apache helicopter attack where:

U.S. soldiers gun down 12 Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists. A man with two children pulls up in a van and tries to save the wounded. He is shot and killed. The two children are severely wounded. A U.S. tank drives over one of the bodies, cutting the man in half. The U.S. soldiers in the helicopter are heard repeatedly requesting and being granted permission to open fire, and joking with each other about the dead and injured victims on the ground.

The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism. What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.

Bob Avakian,
Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
BAsics 1:3

The U.S. goes around the world carrying out all kinds of horrendous war crimes that are kept secret, that the world never knows about.

But because of Bradley Manning, the world knows about this and other U.S. war crimes revealed in documents he leaked, including torture, the killings of civilians, and the abuse and bullying of other governments by the U.S.

And now the U.S. imperialist system, like an international godfather overseeing and protecting its hitmen, is doing everything it can to make sure Bradley Manning will never, ever be free.

On Tuesday, July 30, Manning was found guilty on 19 of the 21 charges he faced. A military court found him not guilty on the charge of "aiding the enemy," which carried a possible death sentence. But Manning still faces a possible sentence of up to 136 years in prison.

The sentencing phase of Bradley Manning's trial, which is expected to go for a couple of weeks, began immediately after the verdict was announced. Among other things, Manning was convicted of five violations of the Espionage Act of 1917, a law enacted to be used against spies. He was also convicted of theft charges, for publicly revealing materials such as the Collateral Murder video.

Other Recent Articles on Bradley Manning:

Manning Must Go Free!
U.S. Mass Murderers Convict Bradley Manning for Exposing Their War Crimes

by Carl Dix

Bradley Manning and U.S. War Crimes
The Injustices of a Criminal System

The Questions That Must Be Asked About Bradley Manning Case

This system that considers it "justice" to punish Bradley Manning for exposing U.S. war crimes is the same system that considers it "justice" to let a racist vigilante like George Zimmerman walk free after murdering Trayvon Martin.

This is the same system whose "justice system" has some 2.3 million people incarcerated, the majority Black and Latino, with 80,000 being tortured in solitary confinement.

This outrageous persecution of Bradley Manning is just one more exposure of the criminal and illegitimate nature of this system. It is an absolute outrage. And one more example of why it is that we need revolution and nothing less!

Vicious Prosecution of a Truth Teller

Michael Ratner, attorney for Julian Assange of WikiLeaks, attended closing arguments in the trial. Ratner said the government's prosecution and conviction of Manning is "one of greatest injustices of our decade." He told PBS, "You have the people engaged in some of the criminality he revealed not being investigated at all. Bradley Manning is a whistle-blower. He should not be prosecuted. The people who committed the crimes ought to be prosecuted."

Screenshots from the Collateral Murder video, one of the documents Bradley Manning is accused of leaking. The video shows American soldiers in an Apache helicopter in Baghdad, 2007, firing on and killing 12 Iraqi civilians.

The Center for Constitutional Rights said on Tuesday, "Manning's treatment, prosecution, and sentencing have one purpose: to silence potential whistleblowers and the media as well. One of the main targets has been our clients, WikiLeaks and Julian Assange, for publishing the leaks. Given the U.S. government's treatment of Manning, Assange should be granted asylum in his home country of Australia and given the protections all journalists and publishers deserve." Daniel Ellsberg, the most famous whistleblower alive, called the conviction of Manning on "absurd and onerous charges" a danger to press freedom.

World Can't Wait responded to Manning's conviction by saying, "The government's prosecution aimed to make an example of Manning, imprisoning him under harsh conditions, and charging him with 'aiding the enemy,' a capital offense, to intimidate others from standing up and speaking out against U.S. war crimes ...We are outraged that Manning was found guilty for reporting widespread, horrific crimes.  His action was honorable and correct, as opposed to the action of the U.S. government in committing, justifying and covering up crimes against a whole people..."

Obama has refused to even investigate, let alone prosecute, top officials of the Bush regime who blatantly carried out torture and other crimes under U.S. and international law. Meanwhile, Manning is one of seven people prosecuted by the Obama administration for leaking information to news media. And Obama has carried out more prosecutions of whistleblowers—those who leak or publicly come forward to expose various kinds of official crimes, corruption, and wrongdoing—than have occurred in all previous administrations combined.

"We Are All Bradley Manning"

Manning: "They dehumanized the individuals"

Bradley Manning accepted responsibility for many of the leaks and told the court, "I felt I had accomplished something that allowed me to have a clear conscience based upon what I had seen and read about and knew were happening in both Iraq and Afghanistan everyday."

Manning explained in court why he released classified files to Wikileaks: "I believed that if the general public ... had access to the information contained within the [Iraq and Afghan War Logs, two of the main files Manning sent to Wikileaks] it could spark a domestic debate on the role of the military and our foreign policy in general as it related to Iraq and Afghanistan."

In open court in February 2013, Manning conveyed his dismay at learning that his work as an intelligence analyst was aiding the U.S. and Iraqi governments in detaining authors who wrote scholarly critiques of the Iraqi president. As journalist Kevin Gosztola wrote, "Manning knew that if he continued to assist the police in identifying political opponents, innocent people would be jailed, likely tortured, and 'not seen again for a very long time, if ever.'"

Manning was even more shocked at the callousness of fellow soldiers who laughed about the deaths of Iraqis. Speaking of the Collateral Murder video, Manning said, "They [his fellow soldiers] dehumanized the individuals they were engaging and seemed to not value human life, and referred to them as quote 'dead bastards' unquote and congratulated each other on their ability to kill in large numbers."

He continued, "While saddened by ... lack of concern about human life, I was disturbed by the response of the discovery of injured children at the scene. In the video, you can see a bongo truck driving up to assist the wounded individual. In response the aerial weapons team crew assumes the individuals are a threat, they repeatedly request for authorization to fire on the bongo truck, and once granted they engage the vehicle at least six times.

"Shortly after the second engagement, a mechanized infantry unit arrives at the scene. Within minutes, the aerial weapons team crew learns that children were in the van and despite the injuries the crew exhibits no remorse. Instead, they downplay the significance of their actions, saying quote 'Well, it's their fault for bringing their kids into a battle' unquote."

Manning also spoke about how this very incident was reported on—and distorted beyond any relation to what actually happened—by David Finkel, a reporter for the Washington Post. Manning said he was "aghast" at Finkel's report. Manning told the court, "Reading his account, one would believe the engagement was somehow justified as 'payback' for an earlier attack that led to the death of a soldier."

On July 25, a full-page ad titled "We Are All Bradley Manning" appeared in the New York Times. It had hundreds of signatures. The ad pointed out some—by no means close to all—of the truths that had been brought into the light of day by the documents Bradley Manning released: "How Donald Rumsfeld and General Petraeus built their careers by supporting torture in Iraq; how deliberate civilian killings by U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan went unpunished, and that thousands of civilian casualties were never acknowledged; how most Guantánamo detainees were innocent."

And there have been many other efforts by Bradley Manning supporters, including marches in Bradley Manning contingents in gay rights parades, the hundreds who attended the trial, and 40 solidarity actions on July 27 around the world.

With arguments now underway over the sentencing of Bradley Manning, David Coombs, Manning's attorney, said he is not celebrating the verdict of not guilty on aiding the enemy, and that he will be arguing for the lightest sentence possible on the other convictions. The government is expected to go for the longest possible sentence. Manning was held unlawfully in the torture of solitary confinement for over ten months at the Quantico Marine base before worldwide protest got him into better conditions and the court will take 112 days off his sentence for "unlawful punishment." But he still faces the possibility of 136 years in prison—which is in effect, a life sentence.

World Can't Wait wrote supporters Tuesday:

"The only suitable response from people who care about humanity to the unjust conviction of Bradley Manning is to demand that Bradley Manning be released immediately for his time served, 3+ years, including 10 months in solitary confinement.

"He was right to blow the whistle on war crimes. We should follow his lead. During the time his sentence is being considered, we must make a concerted effort to make sure that hundreds of thousands see Collateral Murder, U.S. military footage of an Apache helicopter attack in Baghdad in 2007 which killed 12 Iraqi civilians. Government prosecutors claim this is 'propaganda'; Bradley thinks it must be used to show the truth.

"Distribute this video widely. Write Bradley Manning to let him know of your experiences taking this to out widely to people. Show him and the whole world, that people living in this country are blowing the whistle on war crimes and that We Are All Bradley Manning!"

World Can't Wait offers a DVD of the Collateral Murder and instructions for projecting it outdoors at its website




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Free Lynne Stewart!
Government's Vindictive Action Keeps Radical Lawyer, Ill with Cancer, in Prison

August 2, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

When U.S. District Judge John Koetl sentenced radical attorney Lynne Stewart to 10 years in prison in 2009, he said he was not giving her a "death sentence," even though she had been diagnosed with cancer in 2005 and her imprisonment would delay a planned surgery for 18 months. But, outrageously, Lynne is being left to die confined in a federal prison near Fort Worth, Texas, as cancer spreads through her body. (For background on her case, see "Free Lynne Stewart NOW!" online at

Supporters around the world, led by her husband Ralph Poynter and many of the political prisoners she defended in 40 years as a "people's lawyer," are fighting the vindictive, deadly action of the system to keep her in prison, demanding that she be released immediately to return to New York City.

A petition at demanding her release has almost 25,000 signatures, and led, initially, to the Bureau of Prisons indicating they might endorse the prison warden's request that Lynne be released for treatment. Arrangements had been made to transfer her for treatment to a New York City hospital when, on June 24, the Federal Bureau of Prisons suddenly denied her emergency petition on the grounds that while she is seriously ill, they did not expect her to die in the next 18 months. reports that her "condition is deteriorating rapidly. Medical treatment to arrest the cancer that is metastasizing in her body has been halted because she is too weak to receive it. She remains in isolation, as her white blood cell count is so low that she is at risk for generalized infection." Her daughter, a physician, said, "Under the best circumstances, Lynne would be in a battle of the most serious consequences with dangerous odds. With cancer and cancer treatment, the complications can be as debilitating and as dangerous as the cancer itself."

Lynne's attorneys, Jill Shetlow and Robert Boyle, have gone back to the Bureau of Prisons with the latest medical opinion that her health has worsened in the last month, and also filed an emergency motion with Judge Koetl. On July 31, 75 supporters packed his courtroom. Shetlow wrote to Koetl that "Ms. Stewart is dying. Her condition is rapidly deteriorating," and asked him to expedite her release on grounds of compassion, so that she could return to spend her last months with her family. They argue that Koetl has the authority to order her immediate release.

Koetl—who originally sentenced Lynne Stewart to 28 months in prison, and revised the sentence upward when the Bush regime demanded it—asked why the attorneys were using their only chance for an emergency appeal now. They replied that she is terminally ill and does not wish to die in prison. He set a hearing for August 8 for oral argument, noting that he thought prisoners should have the right to see their medical records. He directed the government to explain why the Federal Bureau of Prisons was not providing access to the medical records on which its June 24 decision was made.

In the continuing government quest for revenge against Lynne, the U.S. Assistant District Attorney on the case said that he doesn't believe Koetl has jurisdiction on the matter, which should only be a Bureau of Prisons decision, and objected that there is no "formal appeal" for him to rule on. Meanwhile, in the prison, as the article pointed out, "Stewart, who is hardly a flight risk, must wear 10 pounds of shackles on her wrists and ankles with connecting chains whenever she makes the trip to the prison physician. And in the prison hospital she is shackled wrist and ankle to the bed."

Lynne's motion to the judge pointed to systemic disregard of dying prisoners' rights. "The Bureau of Prisons has implemented its own interpretation and refused to notify the sentencing judge of objectively 'extraordinary and compelling circumstances,' including but not limited to imminent death, unless, in its own judgment, a motion should be granted. Between 2000 and 2008, on average, 21.3 motions were filed each year. In about 24% of those motions, the prisoner died before the district court ever had a chance to rule on the motion."

Last month, Lynne said that she was "disappointed but not devastated" by the Bureau of Prison's "barbaric decision" not to release her. She is using her limited energy and 10 phone minutes per day to keep people's attention on the whole system. "When I compare myself to other far worse off than I am—the Guantánamo and Pelican Bay prisoners, Marie Mason, Afia Siddiqui, Hugo Yogi Pinell, those under death Penalty like Kevin Cooper, the remaining Angola 2, Ruchell Magee and my fellow New Yorkers Jalil, Sekou, Herman, Seth, David, Abdul—let me stop before I choke up here... I know we MUST win my fight and the struggle for all other political prisoners to be freed. And then we must struggle for all to be free in this country."

On August 1, Lynne Stewart's supporters rallied in protest in New York City and San Francisco. A protest demanding her immediate release is set for Monday, August 12 at the White House (more information at


New York City, July 31, 2013. Photo: Special to Revolution




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Week Four:

Prison Officials Refuse to End Torture—Hunger Strikers Fight On

by Larry Everest | August 2, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Friday, August 2, 2013. It's day 26 of California prisoners' historic hunger strike to end the torture of solitary confinement and for their basic rights and humanity. Over 500 prisoners remain on hunger strike—more than 300 of whom have gone 26 days without any food! (Los Angeles Times, August 1). The focus of the prisoners' struggle is to end indefinite, long-term solitary confinement. Under this form of torture, some 10,000 prisoners in California are held in small—8' by 10'—windowless cells. They never see the sun, are never outdoors, and are without any meaningful human contact for years, even decades. The prisoners are demanding: eliminate group punishments; abolish the debriefing policy and modify active/inactive gang status criteria; comply with the recommendation of the U.S. Commission on Safety and Abuse in Prisons (2006) regarding an end to long-term solitary confinement; provide adequate and nutritious food; and expand and provide constructive programs and privileges for indefinite Security Housing Unit [SHU] inmates.

30,000 prisoners launched this hunger strike on July 8. Initiated by prisoners in the Pelican Bay State Prison SHU and then taken up at 22 other prisons statewide, this is the third California prisoner hunger strike in three years, and the largest prisoner action in California history. On the first day 2,300 prisoners refused to go to work. For the first week of the strike, thousands refused food. On July 11, for example, 12,421 prisoners refused food, and 4,487 prisoners refused food for a full week.

Even now, thousands continue to support the struggle in various ways in the face of harsh repression, including going on and off hunger strike, taking only liquids, refusing to work or buy canteen food, and with other actions, including writing letters to get news outside prison walls. Upon being sent back to prison in Illinois, revolutionary communist political prisoner Gregory Koger immediately went on hunger strike in solidarity with California prisoners. The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation [CDCR] has refused to negotiate, insisting to the San Francisco Chronicle July 27 "they have no intention of implementing changes." Governor Jerry Brown hasn't uttered a word about the strike and defends the horrific conditions in California prisons, which Amnesty International calls an "affront to human rights." Billy 'Guero' Sell, a hunger striker at Corcoran State Prison, died July 22.

Meanwhile, there are protests against California's cruel prison conditions and growing support for the prisoners nationally and internationally. "Support for the hunger strikers and pressure on Governor Brown and the CDCR has continued to grow, with demonstrations happening nearly daily in cities across the country and the world," Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity reports. Very importantly, prominent figures including Jay Leno, Susan Sarandon, Jesse Jackson, Cornel West, Michelle Alexander, Noam Chomsky, and others signed an open letter to Governor Jerry Brown "to end torture at Pelican Bay and all California Prisons immediately." (See "Prominent Voices Speak Out in Support of Prisoners' Hunger Strike".)

Today, for the first time, CDCR head Jeffrey Beard met with mediators working on behalf of hunger striking prisoners. Afterward the hunger strike mediators stated, "We gave [Secretary Beard] ideas that would help bring the prisoners' hunger strike to a just end in short order.... Our revisions are intended to create more humane conditions and circumstances." Mediators called for ending "harsh and long term isolation practices."

The CDCR claimed it wasn't a negotiation—just a "discussion." They did not meet the prisoners' just demands. "Lives hang in the balance, and honest negotiations and a legally binding agreement are the only things that can prevent further loss of life," said Kamau Walton, a spokesperson for Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity.

Prison Authorities Punish and Retaliate Against Hunger Strikers

The State of California claims prisoners are not being mistreated. Yet it bars the media and independent investigators from having unimpeded access to the prisons to verify these assertions or to investigate prisoners' charges of abuse and retaliation. The prisons often suspend or bar visits by prisoners' families. And the contact that prisoners have been able to have with people on the outside has revealed that prison authorities are not only viciously mistreating prisoners, but singling out some of the leaders for especially harsh punishment.

Prisoners' letters and visits by family members, lawyers, and advocates for the prisoners paint a clear picture of punishment and retaliation against hunger strikers: greater isolation, reprimands and added jail time, denial of reading materials and even medicines, confiscation of food and liquids. In other words, cruelty piled on top of cruelty.

One particularly vicious twist: some prisoners on strike want to drink Kool-Aid to have fluids and some bit of nourishment—but the prison tells them they won't be counted on hunger strike if they do so. So they're forced to forego Kool-Aid, further jeopardizing their health—or not be counted as being on strike thus (at least in the public view) weakening the struggle!

One prisoner in the Pelican Bay SHU wrote a prison supporter who circulated his comments on the Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity list:

"Repression here has reached unbelievable levels. The first week there was no activity, it was as if nobody was on strike. Even up to the second week nobody was weighed and "medical" staff accompanied with the pig simply did a walk by our cells as fast as they could. Prisoners began to fall out of consciousness, two men in my pod alone had to be taken out to medical because they began to vomit water which they could no longer keep down. While being escorted to medical men were told things like 'Why are you doing this? No one else is striking' or men were erroneously told 'Everyone is eating already.' But we quickly found out this was disinformation. Our cells have had the AC cranked up to freezing temperatures and as a capper on 7-24-13 we were given a 115 write up and told we will all be given a 90 day time add to our sentence for hunger striking! What's more is this write up—which is for participating in a 'mass disturbance,' it is a mass disturbance but a mass disturbance against injustice, against torture and against national oppression. By prisoners uniting to ask for dignity and refuse to remain silent it disturbs state repression."

Another prisoner wrote to San Francisco Bayview that he had lost over 40 pounds and was "getting smaller every day.... There are several who already fell out from [the] effects of the hunger strike and we have some who have been placed in the hospital and the prison specialty clinic. But there are many of us who will see this out to the end. We are still strong." There are also reports from Pelican Bay that a 70-year-old prisoner was pepper-sprayed by guards searching his cell for food.

"All strikers are to have received by now 'written information about advance directives and a Physician Order for Life Sustaining Treatment,'" Solitary Watch writes, "and a document informing them 'You may die, even after you start to eat again,' and that 'Now is the time for you to think about what medical care you want when you are no longer able to talk to health care staff.'" (Sal Rodriquez, "Hundreds Still on Hunger Strike in California Prisons As Situation Becomes Increasingly Dire," August 1)

There are also numerous reports of general medical abuse and neglect inside the prisons, as well as abuse in relation to the hunger strikers specifically. Court-appointed medical monitors have been dispatched to some prisons to investigate the situation. Los Angeles radio station KPCC reported July 30, "Independent court investigators have found medical care at Corcoran State Prison to be sorely lacking.... In a report filed in Federal Court, three independent investigators found an array of problems that they say threaten the health and safety of inmates at the ... prison."

More than 100 health care providers have signed an open letter demanding the CDCR provide all prisoners, including those on hunger strike, with all needed medical care, and that "all medical professionals uphold their code of ethics and maintain the highest standards of care for all their patients—be they incarcerated or not." This is another very important expression of broader social support for the prisoners.

The letter raises concerns that "appropriate medical care is being denied the hunger striking prisoners.... Medications are being withheld in an attempt to coerce prisoners into abandoning their protest. According to attorney Marilyn McMahon, pain relief medication in particular is being withheld, 'even if it's medicine that should not be cut abruptly, but instead tapered off.' In one case a patient with heart failure has had his medications discontinued on the dubious assertion that he doesn't need them because he's on a hunger strike.... Some prisoners have told the prison authorities that they are refusing solid foods only, but CDCR refuses to provide them with liquid sustenance other than water, and guards have even confiscated any such liquids that they had in their cells."

CDCR's Obscene Denial of Responsibility for Billy 'Guero' Sell's Death

Obscenely, the CDCR claims hunger striker Billy Sell's death had nothing to do with the hunger strike—even though they've confirmed Sell refused food from July 11 to July 21, the day before his death. They claim he'd been closely monitored as are all prisoners, that the coroner's report stated he died of strangulation, and then went on to vilify Sell by reporting on the crimes he'd allegedly committed that sent him to prison—as if that justified the torture prisoners are subjected to.

"I find that absurd," Ron Ahnen of California Prison Focus told The Nation August 3. "We know that Sell was in solitary confinement for at least five years, which can create a sense of despair. If you've been in solitary confinement for half a decade and you go on hunger strike thinking that you can help change things and nothing happens, then you ask for medical help and you don't receive it, you feel even more despair. These conditions of despair have been created by the CDCR. If the demands of the prisoners had been negotiated before the hunger strike—and, remember, these demands were made public months ago—I firmly believe that Billy Sell would be here with us today."

State Senator Tom Ammiano also questioned the CDCR's claims: "The death of a prisoner who had participated in the hunger strike has been ruled a suicide, I can't be comforted by the knowledge that conditions in taxpayer funded institutions have led to unusual rates of suicide instead of reasonable rates of rehabilitation."

Amnesty International is calling for an impartial investigation into Sell's death.

The Heroism of the Prisoners Up Against the Barbarism of U.S. Prisons

Prisoners' Families Raise Their Voices

At protests in the last week, people with relatives in the SHU have raised their voices. They are fiercely proud of what the hunger strikers are doing, an unselfish and courageous act. At a July 30 demonstration in Sacramento, Revolution talked with a number of family members with loved ones in prison. One Latina had asked her brother not to go on strike, she said she would try to help him with his case herself and he told her no, that this had to be for everybody. "He sees that there's youngsters, 18 years old, that are going in there [to the SHU]. And he doesn't want them to go through what he's been through for 23 years. So, it needs to stop. And that's how strong they are in there, sticking by each other."

Families deeply appreciate the potential power of the Call to End Hostilities. A woman with a brother in Pelican Bay SHU stood with her arm around a Latina woman whose son is in there too. "This is a public display outside, of what is happening inside." "We could be at odds, but we are standing together in unity. All the races."

But the families are also aware that the hunger strikers are in danger of losing their lives, and are suffering. Some have lost 30 or 40 pounds. There is fear mixed with pride. A niece of a prisoner said at a rally, "I looked up [on the internet] how long does a body last without food, they've lasted 23 days. They're strong."

A white woman said she was being retaliated against for asking questions and speaking out: she showed us a letter denying her future visits with her son. The letter from the CDCR, citing no particulars, said that she was being investigated for being a gang affiliate and so she was denied visiting. The woman was crying angrily, "I ain't in a gang, I'm his mother, damnit. I asked questions. Now I get this letter." Another woman said her relative told her that no one is getting enough sleep, because they're waking them up all the time. "They're calling it security checks, but it's sleep deprivation to try to wear them down. The checks are per the warden's orders. So every half hour they're walking and clanking down the corridor, 24 hours a day."

But the families know that the prisoners are very determined. "My brother has been in Pelican Bay SHU for over seven years. Today is day 23 that he has gone without food. We knew long before it happened. We were all prepared mentally. It is hard. The way he told me was he said, 'this is the last visit till the strike is over. Don't come up there because it will be bad and I don't want you to see me that way.' He said, 'We are going to take it all the way.' It was like, oh my god, it's confirming everything that's being said: They're willing to die. And they're going to take it as far as they have to get this done because you are either going to die physically or they are going to bury you alive in the SHU. Which is what is happening now. It's heartbreaking. What angers me the most is Jerry Brown. His actions tell me that he doesn't care. And for me, he's got blood on is hands because now somebody has died in this strike, regardless of how it happened, he was participating in the strike."

Prison authorities have tried to highlight the fact that the numbers being counted on hunger strike have declined over the 26 days of the strike. But the fact that 331 prisoners have refused food for 26 days is an astonishing number and extremely significant. These courageous prisoners are risking their health—even their lives—and are vowing to continue!

And many others are going on and off hunger strike as the CDCR's own numbers confirm.

On July 30-31, attorney and National Lawyers Guild Bay Area board member Caitlin Kelly Henry visited 17 prisoners at Pelican Bay. She reported:

"Overall spirits are very high. People are dedicated to the fight for the 5 demands, and are maintaining or resuming various forms of support, whether boycotting canteen, continuing to fast, resuming a fast, refusing work (there do not seem to be any porters that have resumed work), or doing other symbolic actions. They have been receiving little mail or TV or radio reports, but any bit of supportive news coverage has been very meaningful for them. They feel they have been receiving misleading information from staff, so facts in media reports, whether favorable or unfavorable, have served to inform and inspire them. In particular, the actions of high profile people and celebrities make them want to continue in their struggle. Overall they are extremely grateful and thankful and moved by supporters on the outside. Each person I visited spent a good deal of time expressing deep and sincere thanks for this, over and over."

The CDCR's Outrageous Lies and the Battle for Public Opinion

In the face of all this, the State of California continues to churn out lies and absurd propaganda justifying their system of solitary confinement and torture, and they continue to vilify the prisoners—essentially denying their humanity and basic rights. For example, CDCR (@CACorrections) tweeted: "No 'solitary confinement' n CA prisons. SHU inmates have visitation, cell mates, education/religious programs, cable TV/radio and more."

In reality, more than 10,000 prisoners in California are in SHUs or Administrative Segregation—forms of solitary confinement and many have been denied any meaningful human contact for years, even decades.

On Facebook the CDCR posted, "Did you know that Pelican Bay's Security Housing Unit (SHU) is the only one of its kind in CA? All other SHUs are regular housing units that have windows, dayrooms, and yards. Pelican Bay's SHU houses some of the most serious/violent inmates in the state." As if SHUs and Administrative Segregation are practically like having your own home—and as if prisoners the state claims are "violent" can have their basic rights and humanity stripped away.

Prison authorities claim the hunger strike has been "organized by violent prison gangs seeking greater ability to operate within the state's sprawling penal system." (Los Angeles Times, August 1). This is particularly outrageous because the prisoners' demands are for basic rights—and they have signed an agreement to END hostilities, which marks a historic turning point in relations among prisoners which has lessened violence and is a direct challenge to the system's racist, divide-and-conquer practices in prisons (and society at large).

California's refusal to meet the prisoners' demands, but instead to retaliate against and lie about the prisoners points to the reality that the system of mass incarceration—including racial profiling, police brutality and murder, the criminalization and imprisonment of millions is a key means of suppressing and controlling the millions of oppressed for whom capitalism-imperialism has no life and no future. This is an indictment of the entire system that the U.S. rulers tout as "the greatest" in the world. And it's a challenge to all those who value humanity and basic justice to step up our efforts to support the courageous prisoners on hunger strike—and to expose the lies, cruelty, and criminality of the U.S. prison system and the whole system it is an integral part of.


For more coverage see prisoners letters, interviews with prominent activists, and updates about the strike at "Stand Up for the Courageous California Prisoner Hunger Strikers!"





Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Hunger for Justice Events Around the World Support the Prison Hunger Strikers

August 3, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Mike Farrell

Danny Glover

Families of prisoners

All photos: Los Angeles, July 31, 2013. Special to Revolution

On July 31, Hunger for Justice events took place in Los Angeles, Oakland and Santa Cruz in California, and in several other U.S. cities including Philadelphia and Jackson, Mississippi, as well as in London, Guyana, and Germany. The call for the day of protests and a fast in support of the hunger strikers in prison was issued by family members of the prisoners and endorsed by James Cromwell, Angela Davis, Mike Farrell, Danny Glover, Elliott Gould, Chris Hedges, Alice Walker, Cornel West, and many progressive organizations. The call said, in part, "We fast knowing the criminalization that killed Trayvon Martin, and the criminalization that justifies the torture of prisoners in solitary confinement are one and the same."

In Los Angeles, over 200 people gathered to hear the voices of families with loved ones in solitary confinement and prominent voices of conscience. Dolores Canales of California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement said, "We come together, all races, as we work toward bringing an end to injustices everywhere, from solitary confinement to racial profiling to mass incarceration." Actors Danny Glover and Mike Farrell spoke out to the crowd and to the media.

July 31 was Day 24 of the California prisoners' hunger strike, and this event occurred at an acute juncture. The state of California and its prison authorities have refused to negotiate with the hunger strikers. Instead, they have conducted systematic and vicious retaliation, in prison and in the media, against those on hunger strike, including by declaring hunger strikers as "murderers," "criminals," "gang leaders," and "terrorists" through as many public news channels as possible. The Hunger for Justice events, and the participation of notable people of conscience as well as many families with loved ones in the SHU and a range of organizations, need to be built upon, and urgently.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Prominent Voices Speak Out in Support of Prisoners' Hunger Strike

August 3, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


An important “Open Letter to Governor Brown” is being circulated calling for an end to the torture of solitary confinement in U.S. prisons and has already been signed by prominent voices—including Jay Leno; actors Peter Coyote, Ed Asner, Susan Sarandon, Leonard Nimoy, Mike Farrell and Jamie Cromwell; cinematographer Haskell Wexler; singer Bonnie Raitt; Tom Morello; author Michelle Alexander; Gloria Steinem; Rabbi Michael Lerner; Jesse Jackson; Noam Chomsky; and Cornel West. The Open Letter has received national media coverage, including a July 29 story in the Los Angeles Times, "Hollywood stars, civil rights icons protest solitary confinement."

The letter states in part, "Extended solitary confinement is globally recognized as torture. Cut off from any normal human interaction, enduring sensory and physical deprivation, many prisoners describe their lockdown in the SHU [Security Housing Unit] as being 'buried alive'...." The signers say they "stand together against these shameful practices and consider them extensions of the same inhumanity practiced at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay." The letter concludes, "We, the undersigned, call on Governor Jerry Brown to end this torture at Pelican Bay and all California Prisons immediately."

This represents a very significant step in building much broader, societywide support for the prisoners' hunger strike, now in its 26th day. Organizers hope to reach 20,000 signatures on the letter in coming days. The entire letter can be found online.

On Wednesday, July 31, there was an international day of action endorsed by prominent voices of conscience, with rallies to support the hunger strikers. (See "Hunger For Justice Events Around the World Support Prison Hunger Strikers")

On Friday, August 2, California State Senator Tom Ammiano issued a statement urging the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) to meet with prisoner hunger strike mediators and work toward meeting the prisoners' demands. "These are not minor prisoner complaints, they are violations of international standards that have drawn worldwide attention. To keep anyone in severe isolation for indefinite amounts of time does not meet norms of human rights that civilized countries accept," said Ammiano.

Push to Publish Emergency Call

Many others, from all walks of life, need to speak out in support of the prisoners and for an end to prison torture, including those whose voices reach widely in society.

A number of important petitions and statements are circulating online, including one authored by Mayra Romero, wife of a Pelican Bay SHU prisoner, that has gotten more than 80,000 signatures.

The Stop Mass Incarceration Network is working urgently to raise the money to publish the "Emergency Call! Join Us in Stopping Torture in U.S. Prisons!" as a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times. The "Emergency Call" has already been signed by Cornel West, Luis Valdez, Gbenga Akinnagbe, Cindy Sheehan, Chuck D, Cynthia McKinney, and hundreds of others. People from neighborhoods in Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay Area have been taking stacks of Emergency Calls and getting signatures from many people. Organizers write that publishing this Emergency Call in the Los Angeles Times "would serve notice to the State of California that the prisoners are not alone, that thousands, including many respected voices, support them, and that refusing to grant their just demands will be widely seen as unconscionable and illegitimate." It would also bring the truth to the many thousands who are only beginning to hear about the prisoners' situation and their hunger strike.





Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

From A World to Win News Service

From Hiroshima and Nagasaki to Today: Reporting American Crimes Against Humanity

August 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


July 29, 2013. A World to Win News Service. Sixty-eight years ago, on August 6, 1945, the United States committed the worst terrorist bombing ever—the atomic bombing of Hiroshima.

On August 9, another American A-bomb destroyed the Japanese city of Nagasaki. The two blasts were each the equivalent of tens of thousands of tons of dynamite. The heat reached 1,000 degrees Celsius [1,832 degrees Fahrenheit]. The explosions and the radiation cloud they created killed more than 200,000 people, either immediately or over the next few months. Many years of suffering from cancer and other ills caused by radiation poisoning lay ahead for the survivors and their children.

The destruction of these two cities was not the first time major urban centers had been destroyed, but the scale of killing was unlike anything the world had ever seen before. No one else, before or since, has ever used nuclear weapons.

The U.S. unleashed the nuclear era in the closing days of the Second World War. Germany had already surrendered. Japan's economy had been destroyed and its capital firebombed into ashes; its military had been dealt decisive defeats. Many historians—although not all—believe that Japan would have surrendered without the atomic bombing. The purpose of the bombing was not just to make sure that the U.S. and its allies won the war, but even more, to make sure that the U.S. and the U.S. alone would benefit from Japan's surrender. In Washington at that time, "There was a belief that dropping the bomb could accelerate the end of the war in ways that would greatly strengthen the American strategic position in Asia," U.S. historian and sociology professor Mark Selden told a conference organized in London by Greenpeace to mark the 60th anniversary in 2005.

America was determined not to let the Soviet Union [Union of Soviet Socialist Republics] prevent it from stepping into Japan's shoes as the top colonial power in Asia. The USSR was still a socialist country then. It had been allied with the U.S. during the war against Germany and Japan, but even before the war was over the U.S. was baring its teeth to the USSR and setting out to dominate much of the world.

The bombing of these two cities is as relevant today as it has ever been, although the world has changed a great deal.

The U.S. is still brandishing its weapons of mass destruction to forcibly reshape the world according to its imperialist interests. At a time when U.S. President Barack Obama and other representatives of those interests try to further and justify their criminal enterprise with fake outrage about chemical weapons in Syria and threats to use atomic weapons to stop Iran's nuclear program, the world's people need to remember the U.S.'s heartless bombing of civilians in Hiroshima and Nagasaki to pursue those same interests.

Further, the struggle between those who perpetuate and defend such crimes and those who oppose and expose them is even sharper today.

After the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the American authorities denied the reports about radiation sickness. The first Western journalist on the scene, the progressive Australian Wilfred Burchett, wrote, "In Hiroshima, 30 days after the first atomic bomb destroyed the city and shook the world, people are still dying, mysteriously and horribly—people who were uninjured in the cataclysm from an unknown something which I can only describe as an atomic plague. Hiroshima does not look like a bombed city. It looks as if a monster steamroller had passed over it and squashed it out of existence. I write these facts as dispassionately as I can in the hope that they will act as a warning to the world." The American occupation authorities confiscated his camera but failed to stop his telex. When the article appeared, the U.S. accused Burchett of simply mouthing false Japanese propaganda. Burchett later went on to report on the war in Vietnam from the viewpoint of the liberation forces.

U.S. military censors were more successful in killing the articles written by the first American journalist to reach Nagasaki after the bombing. George Weller, who considered himself very patriotic, initially wrote in praise of the atomic bomb as if it were simply a more powerful kind of explosive. His early articles show great skepticism about the existence of "disease x," as radiation sickness was called at first, but he later saw unmistakable evidence that convinced him otherwise. Only after Weller's death were these pieces finally published, by Japan's Mainichi Newspapers in 2005.

The New York Times reporter in Hiroshima, on whose dispatches much of the world relied, parroted the official lies. He denied the existence of radiation sickness and downplayed the seriousness and special nature of the devastation caused by atomic weapons—which the U.S. government was then considering using on the USSR. Later it turned out that this journalist, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his work, was on the Pentagon payroll. A Yale Global Online article by Mark Selden calls this an early example "of what we now call embedded journalism."

It is worth noting that almost sixty years later, American and British authorities and their media mouthpieces, including the New York Times, used the same kind of deception in connection with the war against Iraq, first about that country's non-existent weapons of mass destruction and later to conceal the death and devastation caused by the invasion and occupation. The Times also led the pack of the government's media dogs in trying to discredit Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier who leaked secret military footage of an American helicopter crew deliberately murdering Iraqi civilians, including children.

The video Collateral Damage brought Manning severe punishment in a military brig even before his current trial, where he faces life in prison. It also enraged the Obama government and its partners against Julian Assange, whose WikiLeaks organization distributed these materials. The Obama government, currently at war against truth-teller Edward Snowden, would almost undoubtedly have done everything it could to silence and punish those who spoiled American attempts to cover up the consequences of the atomic bombing of Japan and threatened to ruin the U.S.'s "good guy" image attained through hypocrisy, secrecy and coercion.


From John Hersey's Hiroshima

July 29, 2013. A World to Win News Service. (Reprinted from the August 1, 2005 AWTWNS.) The American novelist and journalist John Hersey arrived in Hiroshima after the August 6, 1945 bombing, and returned again the following year to conduct interviews.

John Hersey chronicled the Hiroshima bombing through the eyes of six people he interviewed for the New Yorker. Called "the most famous magazine article ever published," it is still readily available today in book form—a book that helped open the eyes of several generations. The following excerpts from his Hiroshima focus on the accounts told by two of those survivors.

At exactly 8:15 am, on August 6, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department of the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk.

At that same moment, Dr. Masakazu Fujii was settling down cross-legged to read his newspaper on the porch of his private hospital, overhanging one of the seven deltaic rivers which divide Hiroshima. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor's widow, stood by the window of her kitchen, watching a neighbour tearing down his house because it lay in the path of an air-raid-defense fire lane. Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest of the Society of Jesus, reclined in his underwear on a cot on the top floor of his order's three-story mission house, reading a Jesuit magazine. Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the surgical staff of the city's large, modern Red Cross Hospital (no relation to Miss Sasaki), walked along one of the hospital corridors with a blood specimen in his hand. And the Reverend Kiyoshi Tanimoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, paused at the door of a rich man's house in Koi, the city's western suburb, and prepared to unload a handcart full of things he had evacuated from town in fear of the massive B-29 raid which everyone expected Hiroshima to suffer.

A hundred thousand people were killed by the atomic bomb, and these six were among the survivors. Later, they wondered why they lived when so many others died. Each of them counted many small items of chance or volition—a step taken in time, a decision to go indoors, catching one streetcar instead of the next—that spared him. And afterwards each knew that, in the act of survival, he had lived a dozen lives and had seen more death than he ever thought he would see.

At the time, none of them knew anything. Then a tremendous flash of light cut across the sky. Reverend Tanimoto has a distinct recollection that it travelled from east to west, from the city toward the hills. It seemed a sheet of sun. Both he and his friend Mr. Matsuo reacted in terror—they had time to react for they were 3,500 yards, or two miles, from the centre of the explosion. Matsuo dashed up the front steps into the house and dived among the bedrolls and buried himself there. Reverend Tanimoto took four or five steps and threw himself between two big rocks in the garden. He bellied up hard against one of them. As his face was against the stone, he did not see what happened. He felt a sudden pressure, and then splinters and pieces of board and fragments of tile fell on him. He heard no roar. (Almost no one in Hiroshima recalls hearing any noise of the bomb.)

When he dared, Reverend Tanimoto raised his head and saw that the rich man's house had collapsed. He thought a bomb had fallen directly on it. Such clouds of dust had risen that there was a sort of twilight around. In panic, not thinking for the moment of Matsuo under the ruins, he dashed out into the street. In the street, the first thing he saw was a squad of soldiers who had been burrowing into the hillside opposite, making one of the thousands of dugouts in which the Japanese apparently intended to resist invasion, hill by hill, life for life. The soldiers were coming out of the hole, where they should have been safe, and blood was running from their heads, chests, and backs. They were silent and dazed. Under what seemed to be a local dust cloud, the day grew darker and darker.

Hatsuyo Nakamura had not had an easy time. Her husband, Isawa, had gone into the army just after the youngest of her three children, Myeko, was born, and she had heard nothing from or of him for a long time, until, on March 5, 1942, she received a seven-word telegram: "Isawa died an honorable death at Singapore." Isawa had been a not particularly prosperous tailor, and his only capital was a Sankoku sewing machine. After his death, Nakamura got out the machine and began to take in piecework herself, and since then had supported the children, but poorly, by sewing.

As Nakamura stood in her kitchen watching her neighbour, everything flashed whiter than any white she had ever seen. She did not notice what happened to the man next door; the reflex of a mother set her in motion toward her children. She had taken a single step (the house was 1,350 yards, or three-quarters of a mile, from the centre of the explosion) when something picked her up and she seemed to fly into the next room over the raised sleeping platform, pursued by parts of her house.

Timbers fell around her as she landed, and a shower of tiles pummeled her; everything became dark, for she was buried. The debris did not cover her deeply. She rose up and freed herself. She heard a child cry, "Mother, help me!" and saw Myeko, the five-year-old, buried up to her breast and unable to move. As Nakamura started frantically to claw her way toward the child, she could see or hear nothing of her other children...

From the mound, Reverend Tanimoto saw an astonishing panorama. Not just a patch of Koi, as he had expected, but as much of Hiroshima as he could see through the clouded air was giving off a thick, dreadful miasma. Clumps of smoke, near and far, had begun to push up through the general dust. He wondered how such extensive damage could have been dealt out of a silent sky; even a few planes far up would have been audible.

Houses nearby were burning, and when huge drops of water the size of marbles began to fall, he half-thought that they must be coming from the hoses of firemen fighting the blazes. (They were actually drops of condensed moisture falling from the turbulent tower of dust, heat and fission fragments that had already risen miles into the sky above Hiroshima.) Reverend Tanimoto thought of his wife and baby, his church, his home, his parishioners, all of them down in that awful murk. Once more he began to run in fear—toward the city.

Hatsuyo Nakamura, the tailor's widow, having struggled up from under the ruins of her house after the explosion, and seeing Myeko, the youngest of her three children, buried breast-deep and unable to move, crawled across the debris, hauled at timbers and flung tiles aside, in a hurried effort to free the child. Then, from what seemed to be caverns far below, she heard two small voices crying, "Tasukete! Tasukete! Help! Help!"

She called the names of her 10-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter: "Toshio! Yaeko!" The voices from below answered.

Nakamura abandoned Myeko, who at least could breathe, and in a frenzy made the wreckage fly above the crying voices. The children had been sleeping nearly 10 feet apart, but now their voices seemed to come from the same place. Toshio, the boy, apparently had some freedom to move, because she could feel him undermining the pile of wood and tiles as she worked from above. At last she saw his head, and she hastily pulled him out by it. A mosquito net was wound intricately, as if it had been carefully wrapped, around his feet. He said he had been blown right across the room and had been on top of his sister Yaeko under the wreckage. She now said, from underneath, that she could not move, because there was something on her legs. With a bit more digging, Nakamura cleared a hole above the child and began to pull her arm. "Itai! It hurts!" Yaeko cried. Nakamura shouted, "There's no time now to say whether it hurts or not," and yanked her whimpering daughter up. Then she freed Myeko. The children were filthy and bruised, but none of them had a single cut or scratch.

Nakamura took the children out into the street. They had nothing on but underpants, and, although the day was very hot, she worried rather confusedly about their being cold, so she went back into the wreckage and burrowed underneath and found a bundle of clothes she had packed for an emergency, and she dressed them in pants, blouses, shoes, padded cotton air-raid helmets called bokuzuki, and even, irrationally, overcoats. The children were silent, except for the five-year-old, Myeko, who kept asking questions: "Why is it night already? Why did our house fall down? What happened?"

Nakamura, who did not know what had happened, looked around and saw through the darkness that all the houses in her neighborhood had collapsed. The house next door, which its owner had been tearing down to make way for a fire lane, was now very thoroughly, if crudely, torn down; its owner, who had been sacrificing his home for the community's safety, lay dead...

After crossing Koi Bridge and Kannon Bridge, having run the whole way, Reverend Tanimoto saw, as he approached the centre, that all the houses had been crushed and many were afire. So impressed was he by this time by the extent of the damage that he ran north two miles to Gion, a suburb in the foothills. At Gion, he bore toward the right bank of the main river, the Ota, and ran down it until he reached fire again. Near a large Shinto shrine, he came to more fire, and as he turned left to get around it, he met, by incredible luck, his wife. She was carrying their infant daughter. Reverend Tanimoto was now so emotionally worn out that nothing could surprise him. He did not embrace his wife; he simply said, "Oh, you are safe." She told him that she had been buried under the parsonage with the baby in her arms. The wreckage had pressed down on her, and the baby had cried. She saw a chink of light and, by reaching up with a hand, she worked the hole bigger, bit by bit. After about half an hour, she heard the crackling noise of wood burning. At last, the opening was big enough for her to push the baby out, and afterward she crawled out herself. She said she was now going out to Ushida. Tanimoto said he wanted to see his church and take care of the people of his neighborhood association. They parted as casually—as bewildered—as they had met.

All day, people poured into Asano Park. Hatsuyo Nakamura and her children were among the first to arrive, and they settled in the bamboo grove near the river. They all felt terribly thirsty, and they drank from the river. At once they were nauseated and began vomiting, and they retched the whole day. Others were also nauseated; they all thought (probably because of the strong odor of ionization, an "electric smell" given off by the bomb's fission) that they were sick from a gas the Americans had dropped. When Father Kleinsorge and the other priests came into the park, the Nakamuras were all sick and prostrate. A woman named Iwasaki, who lived in the neighborhood of the mission and who was sitting near the Nakamuras, got up and asked the priests if she should stay where she was or go with them. Father Kleinsorge said, "I hardly know where the safest place is." She stayed there, and later in the day, though she had no visible wounds or burns, she died.

When Reverend Tanimoto, with his basin still in his hand, reached the park, it was very crowded, and to distinguish the living from the dead was not easy, for most of the people lay still, with their eyes open. To Father Kleinsorge, the silence in the grove by the river, where hundreds of gruesomely wounded suffered together, was one of the most dreadful phenomena of his whole experience. No one wept, much less screamed in pain; no one complained; not even the children cried; very few people even spoke. And when Father Kleinsorge gave water to some whose faces had been almost blotted out by flash burns, they took their share and then raised themselves a little and bowed to him in thanks...

As she dressed on the morning of August 20, in the home of her sister-in-law in Kabe, not far from Nagatsuka, Nakamura, who had suffered no cuts or burns at all, though she had been rather nauseated, began fixing her hair and noticed, after one stroke, that her comb carried with it a whole handful of hair; the second time, the same thing happened, so she stopped combing at once. But in the next three or four days, her hair kept falling out of its own accord, until she was quite bald. She began living indoors, practically in hiding. On August 26, both she and her younger daughter, Myeko, woke up feeling extremely weak and tired, and they stayed on their bedrolls. Her son and other daughter, who had shared every experience with her during and after the bombing, felt fine. At about the same time, Tanimoto fell suddenly ill with a general malaise, weariness, and feverishness. These four did not realize it, but they were coming down with the strange, capricious disease which came to be known as radiation sickness...

A year after the bomb was dropped, Toshiko Sasaki was a cripple; Hatsuyou Nakamura was destitute; Father Kleinsorge was back in hospital; Dr. Sasaki was incapable of the work he once could do; Dr. Fujii had lost the 30-room hospital it took him many years to acquire, and had no prospects of rebuilding it. Reverend Tanimoto's church had been ruined and he no longer had his exceptional vitality. The lives of these six people, who were among the luckiest in Hiroshima, would never be the same...

It would be impossible to say what horrors were embedded in the minds of the children who lived through the day of the bombing in Hiroshima. On the surface, their recollections, months after the disaster, were of an exhilarating adventure. Toshio Nakamura, who was 10 at the time of the bombing, was soon able to talk freely, even gaily, about the experience, and a few weeks before the anniversary he wrote the following matter-of-fact essay for his teacher at Noboricho primary school: "The day before the bomb, I went for a swim. In the morning, I was eating peanuts. I saw a light. I was knocked to little sister's sleeping place. When we were saved, I could only see as far as the tram. My mother and I started to pack our things. The neighbors were walking around burned and bleeding. Hetaya-san told me to run away with her. I said I wanted to wait for my mother. We went to the park. A whirlwind came. At night a gas tank burned and I saw the reflection in the river. We stayed in the park on night. Next day I went to Taiko bridge and met my girl friends Kikuki and Murakami. They were looking for their mothers. But Kikuki's mother was wounded and Murakami's mother, alas was dead."


A World to Win News Service is put out by A World to Win magazine, a political and theoretical review inspired by the formation of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic center of the world's Marxist-Leninist-Maoist parties and organizations.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

What Is Actually Revealed in the California Prisoners Hunger Strike?

Responding to Jeffrey Beard's Los Angeles Times Op-ed

from the Revolutionary Communist Party, LA Branch | August 7, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


Four weeks ago, 30,000 people in prisons in California and surrounding states went on a hunger strike to protest their conditions, in particular in Security Housing Units (called SHU's). Currently, there are hundreds still going without food, they are losing weight, being sent to the hospital and one has even died since this began.

In the Los Angeles Times for Tuesday, August 6, 2013, Jeffrey Beard, head of the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR), argued that this hunger strike is not about protesting living conditions that constitute torture, but is instead prison gangs attempting to “restore their ability to terrorize fellow prisoners, prison staff and communities throughout California.” He went on to defend the conditions of those in the SHU and argued this was not solitary confinement and therefore, not torture. 

His Op-ed is as vicious as it is deceitful and it is very calculatedly designed to make millions of people who might support those risking their lives on the hunger strike instead see the hunger strikers as animals, criminals and gangsters with an inexplicable “agenda of violence” who deserve whatever punishment they get.  And it's aimed at putting the imprisoned millions, their family members and those who've experienced incarceration feel isolated, alienated and put on the defensive.

But we should also take note of the fact that Beard has been driven to write this because of the hundreds who have expressed their determination to continue this hunger strike and because of the broad support these prisoners have garnered, including from voices of prominence.  People are raising big questions about the nature of America's prison system, and are linking it up to broader questions in society.  This is why Beard felt compelled to go on the attack.  While we should refute these lies, we should also take heart and redouble our efforts to expose what this system is doing and to have these prisoners' backs.

In Beard's op-ed, he plays on consciously crafted public opinion about “irredeemable criminals” we should be glad are locked away.  But the deeper reality is that it is this system that is criminal and without legitimacy.  It is this system that is committing crimes against humanity, torturing tens of thousands of people within its own borders and turning generation after generation of Black and Latino youth into suspects before they have even grown their full height.  It locks people into conditions where they are set against each other, blames them for reacting in ways this system trains them to react and then condemns them further when they put their lives on the line to rise above this and assert their humanity.

WHY Is This Happening?

Why has this kind of systematic torture become a necessary part of their program of mass incarceration?

Mass incarceration is not, as Beard would have you believe, a response to the explosion of gang violence in the 1970s and 80s. Mass incarceration is about the social control of whole sections of people this system has no future for. It developed as both conscious policy and the spontaneous workings of a system built on white supremacy, the oppression of Black people and other oppressed nationalities.

Revolution newspaper has written extensively about how the development of mass incarceration is a product of the workings of the system of capitalism in the U.S.... How and why this system went from slavery to Jim Crow with the violent enforcement of racial codes, white supremacy and new forms of slavery through convict labor and sharecropping. And how this gave rise to the New Jim Crow—police brutality, murder, criminalization and mass incarceration, legalized forms of discrimination but this time under the guise of supposed color-blindness. To find out more, go to

In talking about the situation that gave rise to this New Jim Crow, a special issue of Revolution newspaper, “From the Hellholes of Incarceration to a Future of Emancipation” walks it through this way:

“Factories producing goods were moved first from the inner cities to the suburbs and then to other countries—while the masses of Black people remained locked in those urban cores due to continued housing segregation and deprivation. Simultaneously, the inner cities were deprived of funds and allowed to become economic and cultural dead-zones. The drug trade and the gangs involved in that trade to a certain degree arose spontaneously—but they were also systematically manipulated and in some cases promoted to fill the economic and political void left in the ghettos and barrios by economic abandonment and counter-revolutionary suppression of the movement. That escalated in the 1980s, as the CIA orchestrated the funding of pro-U.S. Central American terrorists (the “Contras”) through the sale and distribution of drugs through gangs in the inner cities of the U.S. (See “The CIA/Crack Connection: RW Interview with Gary Webb,” at, and Dark Alliance: The CIA, the Contras, and the Crack Cocaine Explosion, by Gary Webb).

“The rulers used all this, along with other attacks, to create a 'pariah class*' in the inner cities—that is, social outsiders for whom normal considerations and rights did not apply. And they in turn used the presence of that pariah class as an outlet and target for the resentments building up among a large section of white people, many of whom were also facing economic setback and instability, re-fitting and reinforcing the 'tool' of white racism for these times.” [*The concept of the targeting of Black people and Native Americans as a “pariah class,” dating back to the early days of the U.S., and the overall way in which white supremacy has served to blunt class-consciousness in the U.S. since then, has been drawn on and further developed by Bob Avakian in the important work, Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy.]

Millions of people's eyes were opened to the mass criminalization of generations of youth with the murder of Trayvon Martin—a 17 year old Black youth who was walking home from the store when he was murdered by George Zimmerman.  There is only one reason Zimmerman saw Trayvon Martin as a dangerous threat to begin with, only one reason he followed this young man wearing a hoodie through a rainy night-–because George Zimmerman has been trained to view all Black youth as criminals and suspects above all else. And once again, this has been backed up and legalized by the state.

Along with the changes in the development of capitalism described above, this mass incarceration plays a role of counter-insurgency against a whole people this system has and continues to forcibly oppress and whose system has developed and made great use of white supremacy as part of its social glue.

The 1960s were a time of revolutionary upheaval with a Black liberation struggle that rocked this system to its foundations. This came together with revolutionary movements around the world, a revolutionary culture, challenging of traditional gender roles and other oppressed people's rising up all over the world. These struggles impacted all of society, including inside the prisons. Thousands of people went from “criminal-minded to revolutionary-minded.” While some reforms were forced from this system, it was also met with brutal and bloody repression. Revolutionaries in prison, like George Jackson, who went through this transformation were murdered while others faced more prison time for their revolutionary activities. In 1971, during the Attica prison rebellion, at least 39 people were murdered (prisoners and prison guards) by state troopers and the national guard.

Black people across the country—including in prison—met the support of people all around the world. While these were revolutionary times, there was not a revolution, and once those movements ebbed and were crushed, this system has forcibly maintained the forms of oppression and exploitation that it is built on, if in different forms. In relation to Black people, and other oppressed nationalities, they've done this principally through mass repression, incarceration and criminalization. Actually, some of the first prisoners in maximum security prisons and SHUs (Security Housing Units) were political prisoners, revolutionaries who went through transformations in their outlook and became determined not to be fighting against each other, but to be fighting for a better world.

This kind of mass criminalization requires dehumanization and degradation, creating a situation where everyone—including those suffering from all this—see themselves as the ones to blame. Torture contributes to this mass dehumanization. 

Alan Goodman in Revolution newspaper concentrated the role and definition of torture: "Let's make it plain: torture is, literally and in essence, a crime against humanity. Like rape, it is a systematic attempt to violently degrade people and rob them of their very humanity. Any government which not only tolerates such things but which, from its highest offices, justifies and insists on them as 'instruments of policy'...  any government which does not, once this has been exposed, prosecute the perpetrators but instead provides them in advance with immunity...reveals itself as a system that requires such crimes, and such criminals, for its functioning. Any people that does not resist such crimes, and demand prosecution of the torturers and, even more so, those who formulated the policy at the highest levels, reveals themselves to be complicit in those crimes. And in passively allowing the humanity of others to be degraded and attacked, they lose their own." ("The Torture Memos ...  And the Need for Justice," Revolution, May 17, 2009)

We intend to get into this further in this statement but, before we do, we need to speak to and unravel some of Beard's lies.

The SHU's Are Solitary Confinement, Solitary Confinement Is Torture

Despite their claims of being the home of freedom and democracy, America has been exposed as a state that enforces and condones torture.  This is a source of increasing illegitimacy in the eyes of millions and millions around the world.

Think about what was exposed in pictures from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq where soldiers were photographing themselves with prisoners in poses of sexual degradation and violence. This was standard operating procedure, and the soldiers felt perfectly comfortable bragging about this and sharing these pictures with friends back home. Think about what's been exposed about Guantanamo where prisoners on hunger strike to demand an end to their torturous conditions are being further tortured through brutal force feeding. [To get an understanding of how intolerable this is, watch the video from rapper Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) where he undergoes the process of force feeding and can only withstand a couple minutes of what is normally a two hour procedure which happens twice a day.] Think about what it tells you that Attorney General Holder had to pre-emptively promise Russia that the U.S. wouldn't kill or torture Edward Snowden if they sent him back to the U.S.  (Snowden is a heroic whistleblower who has exposed the U.S.’ massive spying program and sought asylum in Russia.)

This torture was and is official U.S. policy, but given how the U.S. sends its armies to maraud all around the world in the name of democracy and human rights, it goes a long way to undermine the legitimacy of the U.S. around the world to be seen that way.

So what about Beard's claim that the SHU's are not solitary confinement and are therefore not torture? This is a bald-faced lie.

Over 10,000 prisoners are now in one form or another of solitary confinement in California alone, some for decades. According to the United Nations, solitary confinement is defined as any regime where an inmate is held in isolation from others (except guards) for at least twenty-two hours a day.  At Pelican Bay in northern California, prisoners are locked into 11 by 7 foot cells 22½ hours every day.  At other SHU's in the state, the cement boxes are all about the same size.  Prisoners sleep on a concrete slab of cement.  Food is often rotten and barely edible; clocks, playing cards, and chessboards are banned.  Prisoners spend 1 hour a day outside, alone, in a 16 by 25 foot concrete box with only a small patch of sky visible.  Prison staff and prisoners call this the “dog run.” 

There is no meaningful human physical contact.  All personal visits are separated by a barrier.  Personal visits are also restricted due to the long distance family members have to travel to these prisons in far flung areas throughout the state.  Often, even contact with medical, mental, or other staff takes place behind barriers. 

These are conditions intended to break people and are recognized by people all around the world, including medical and psychiatric professionals, as one of the cruelest forms of torture. Sandra Schank, a staff psychiatrist at Mule Creek Prison said, “It’s a standard psychiatric concept, if you put people in isolation, they will go insane...” One of the most telling statistics of the psychological impact of solitary confinement is that half of the prisoners who commit suicide are those in isolation units, like the SHU, while they only make up 5% of the prison population.

The sentence in the SHUs are not given through due process, but a relatively arbitrary decision of prison officials. People are “validated” into the SHU's through claims of gang association. But this association can be determined by the artwork on your walls, having a picture taken with someone who is claimed to be a gang member or even what books you read (revolutionary literature is on the list of official gang literature). And it is incredibly difficult to get out of the SHU. One prisoner wrote to Revolution newspaper, “There are three ways out of the SHU, parole, debrief or die.” Debriefing is a process where you snitch on others which lands them in the SHU. One prisoner described this as a vicious cycle where people end up getting put in by people desperate to get out. These are some of the things being protested through this hunger strike.

This is the reality. The painful and brutal, inhumane reality. This is well documented and is the lived experience of many tens of thousands of people whose voices we never hear, whose experiences we never learn from, whose lives we are told don't count.

WHY Is This Happening?

Mass incarceration is not, as Beard would have you believe, a response to the explosion of gang violence in the 1970s and 80s. Mass incarceration is about the social control of whole sections of people this system has no future for. It developed as both conscious policy and the spontaneous workings of a system built on white supremacy, the oppression of Black people and other oppressed nationalities.

Revolution newspaper has written extensively about how the development of mass incarceration is a product of the workings of the system, of capitalism in the U.S.... How and why this system went from slavery to Jim Crow with the violent enforcement of racial codes, white supremacy and new forms of slavery through convict labor and sharecropping. And how this gave rise to the New Jim Crow—police brutality, murder, criminalization and mass incarceration, legalized forms of discrimination but this time under the guise of supposed color-blindness. To get into this more deeply, go to

What Is Actually Revealed by the Prisoners on Hunger Strike?

To back up his argument, Beard quotes a prisoner saying about the hunger strike that “The objective was to get into the general population, or mainline, and start running our street regiments again.” He quotes another that “We knew we could tap big time support through this tactic, but we weren't trying to improve the conditions in the SHU; we were trying to get out of the SHU to further our gang agenda on the mainline.”

But Beard does not quote anything from those who initiated the hunger strike. He did not quote or even cite the concrete demands put forward by those who initiated the hunger strike. He did not quote any of the very moving letters from prisoners themselves about how they may die in this fight but are determined to end this for future generations to come. (It is also almost never the case that the media  are allowed to interview prisoners in the SHU except those who have agreed to debrief or snitch on other prisoners, so it is not surprising that they would say things to defend their actions instead of speaking to the more overall reality.)

Here are the words of just one prisoner: “A hunger strike is not taken lightly by us, we are not suicidal, rather we hope to save lives. We may not be able to save our lives. But we have come to identify our existence in SHU as a conveyor belt leading into an oven of inferno. And we may indeed be strapped onto this conveyor belt with no way out as we have continued for years to watch our comrades fall into the abyss of the oven in psychosis, suicide or other chronic illness. And we may not be able to stop our ride from dropping us into the abyss but we will stop this conveyor belt for future generations to come. Today this ride stops!”

A number of prisoners have drawn connections between what they're suffering and what prisoners in Guantánamo are suffering. One prisoner writes from Pelican Bay, “We sit here in windowless cells and held in solitary but we have begun to learn more about what is taking place and a couple of men have even begun to hunger strike in solidarity with Guantánamo because what we have realized is that the thing that links Pelican Bay SHU with Guantánamo is we share the same torturer.”

The fact that Beard decries “gang control” in prison is complete and utter hypocrisy. Anyone who knows anything about the basic functioning of prison knows they rely on and further enforce gang divisions as a form of brutal control. From the moment you enter prison, you are slotted by nationality or where you're from. You get told where you will eat, sleep and exercise. You get told when your visiting days will be and when you can use the phone based on these racial divisions.  And the prison guards foment conflict based on these divisions. In the late 90s it was exposed that in the Corcoran SHU they were organizing “gladiator days” where prisoners from different gangs were put into the exercise pen and told to fight each other, with armed prison guards watching and betting on the outcome. They foment and enforce these divisions and then set people up to go at each other.

Ever further, ask yourself this: if the prison authorities are so worried about prison gangs and the division among the prisoners, why wouldn't they celebrate the inspiring Agreement to End Hostilities released by a multinational group of prisoners in Pelican Bay's SHU which called for an end to all hostilities between different nationalities within California’s prisons and jails? Instead, they are claiming this is part of an attempt for further gang control.

Think about what this means: for decades people have fought to maintain their sanity in conditions that regularly make people insane. In the scramble to survive, people have held onto meaningless divisions among people, finding refuge in “your kind alone,” finding a foothold in the desire to be top dog in a dog-eat-dog situation. The whole setup in prison serves to foster and enforce the ways and thinking bound up with people being played against each other.

In the face of all this, first tens of thousands of people inside and now hundreds have said NO. NO! They will stand together against this criminal torture, they will foster unity and not divisions among people, they will risk their lives for this. In the words of a prisoner the day after the hunger strike began, “We just started tha hunger strike, was surprised so many people was on board. Asians, Blacks, whites, Hispanic. It's a beautiful thing.”

How has this system responded? More repression and criminalization.


There are three major things revealed in this hunger strike:

First, it reveals the complete bankruptcy of a system that has no future for generations of Black and Latino youth except confining them into inner cities without hope of employment, flooding these neighborhoods with drugs, setting people against each other, pumping out a culture and morality whose sole purpose is to hammer home the need to “get rich or die trying” in a capitalist system where that can only be done at the expense of others just like you. Then blames these youth and incarcerates them in huge numbers when they act in the ways this system has confined, shaped and set them up to act. Warehousing hundreds of thousands of people in prison and torturing them, and threatening them with torture once they are inside. And when they fight to lift their heads and come together to step out of this: further brutality and criminalization. This oppression is built into the nature of this system and it needs to be done in and done away with through revolution at the earliest possible time.

Second, it reveals the liberatory potential of the people who would be the backbone of this revolution. The potential of those this system has cast off and cast down. In the most dehumanizing of conditions, these prisoners are determined to assert their humanity. To stand up and fight, literally putting their lives on the line, not just to stop the torture they are suffering under but to stop this for others and for future generations. What is shown here is the potential for transformation on an even greater scale to step out of the conditions and dog-eat-dog mentality of this system, to lift their heads, come together in unity and for a whole better way.

What we see—in living color—is, in beginning ways, the process and potential that is spoken to by Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party in BAsics 3:16:

An Appeal to Those the System Has Cast Off

Here I am speaking not only to prisoners but to those whose life is lived on the desperate edge, whether or not they find some work; to those without work or even homes; to all those the system and its enforcers treat as so much human waste material.

Raise your sights above the degradation and madness, the muck and demoralization, above the individual battle to survive and to “be somebody” on the terms of the imperialists—of fouler, more monstrous criminals than mythology has ever invented or jails ever held. Become a part of the human saviors of humanity: the gravediggers of this system and the bearers of the future communist society.

This is not just talk or an attempt to make poetry here: there are great tasks to be fulfilled, great struggles to be carried out, and yes great sacrifices to be made to accomplish all this. But there is a world to save—and to win—and in that process those the system has counted as nothing can count for a great deal. They represent a great reserve force that must become an active force for the proletarian revolution.

This brings us to the third and final point: the need to get busy in the movement for revolution now to make all this possible. This system needs to be swept aside, its repressive apparatus—including its armies, prisons and police which are wielded against the people through torture and brutality—needs to be dismantled by a revolutionary people in their millions when conditions come into being to make that possible. For revolution to be consciously worked at today, and for revolution to have a real chance of winning, it requires leadership. There is such a leadership in Bob Avakian and the Party he leads, the Revolutionary Communist Party. But there is also much work to do.

The Revolutionary Communist Party has a strategy for revolution, which everyone with a burning hunger for a different world needs to find out about. Get into it, support this Party and spread the work of Bob Avakian. Be part of fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution.

If you want to live in a world where the energy and creativity of the millions locked behind steel cages can truly flourish... where there are no more antagonistic social divisions that twist all human relations today... where people work and struggle together for the common good... where everyone contributes whatever they can to society and gets back what they need to live a life worthy of human beings... be part of the movement for revolution to make this real.

Be part of thousands today who are influencing millions toward revolution... who are challenging and changing the way people are seeing things, and preparing those millions to make revolution, when the conditions emerge to do so.

Demand an end to torture in U.S. prisons. Have the prisoner's backs!

Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution!




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

More on Choices...And Radical Changes

by Bob Avakian



Introductory note: These are comments by BA that were part of a discussion with people that went deeply into the questions of why people oppressed under this system often get caught up in things like crime, who and what is fundamentally to blame for this, and what is the way forward out of this situation. Comments from people in the discussion are in double brackets.

BA: I know by what was reported to me, and I hope I’m not out of line here. [laughs] But I know, for example, over the informal discussion, there was some question from people about what I was just saying, like whether it’s true that it’s the system’s fault that people get into crime or whether it’s people making bad choices. I know that this has come up so I spoke to that some but if people have something they want to throw in about that, either disagree with what I’m saying or ask more about that, it would be good. I know, for example you [...] brought this up, right? That people make these bad choices, am I right about that?

[[“Yeah, like, murderers, that’s they choice, it’s not the system to kill somebody. But they go out and kill somebody just to get a hit, or get anything. The system don’t tell them to do that, that’s by choice. Then they get caught up and they go to jail, stuff like that. And I’m like, I don’t get it how people say it’s the system.”]]

BA: Okay, I think that’s a good question, I think it’s a question that a lot of people have, even if they don’t like the system.

Look, I think you’re right that obviously people do make a choice, in the more narrow sense people do decide to do something or not to do it. It’s not like, in most cases at least, somebody literally puts a gun to their head, says you have to go out and rob somebody, you have to go out and rape somebody, you have to go out and kill somebody. That’s true.

But the point is the reason why we say that it’s the system in a more basic sense is because, both in terms of the conditions people find themselves in that aren’t of their own choosing, and in terms of the ideas that are out there in society that influence people, those things are not things that people thought up all on their own, those are things that come from something bigger than people—namely from the system.

In other words, the idea that you should get yours, and get over on other people, is an idea that has a lot of influence on people. But it is not just something people thought of on their own, that is the culture that we get from the popular... the TV programs, the music, all the things that are promoted encourage people to think in that kind of way.

Now if you are a stockbroker, and you work on Wall Street in New York, you do that by high level swindling and manipulating the stock market to get more money for yourself, or just undercutting other people in billion-dollar deals. And very rarely do you get caught for doing that and sent to prison for doing that. It’s not even always illegal what those people do, they just engage in a lot of high financial speculation and manipulation to make a lot of money off the misery of people who are being exploited to create that wealth in the first place. But that’s the mentality: make as much money as you can, get over on other people any way you can.

But if you are in a position to be a stockbroker then you can do it in a big-time way and you’re called a role model. [appreciative laughter] You’re held up as what people should try to be like.

But if you are on the street and you don’t have any way, you don’t have a background in knowing all about the stock market and everything else, but you have the same kind of thinking that’s been instilled in and influences your mind, then you’re going to go out and rob somebody because that’s the thing that you can do, or you can sell them drugs.

[[Because they can get away with it?]]

BA: Not because they can get away with it, but because that’s what is available to you, if you have the way of thinking that the idea is to get as much as you can get by getting over on other people. You can’t become a big-time stock trader if you don’t have the background to do that. They’re not going to let you just walk up in there and start manipulating stocks, right? [laughter] But you can rob somebody on the street.

[[Yeah, I’m understanding what you are saying now.]]

BA: Okay, so you can rob somebody, right? Now am I saying it is right to rob somebody? Absolutely not. But what I’m saying is if you’re influenced by the way that the culture and all the popular stuff on TV and the music and everything tells you you ought to be trying to get rich and get over on other people. If you get influenced by that and you say that’s the way the game is played, so I’m going to do my thing in it, right, then you are going to do what you can do. If you can’t be a stockbroker... if you can’t be some other person, a banker, who loans money to somebody to buy a house knowing that they can’t pay back the loan, and then forecloses on the house and sells it again, does the same thing again and again... If you can’t make your money that way, but you got the idea in your mind from the whole culture out there that the thing to do is to get over on other people, and get money any way you can, then you’ll do what you can do, which is to stick up somebody, or to sell some drugs, or to pimp out a woman and beat her down when she tries to get out of it, and so on.

Now did you make a choice to do that? Yes, you did. But why?

First of all, where did the ideas come from that told you that that was the kind of thing you should do? You didn’t just wake up one day and have those ideas. Those ideas are coming at you from every direction in the society.

Second of all, why did you have the choice of sticking up somebody instead of being a banker loaning people money? Because you came up in a certain situation that wasn’t of your own choosing. You were born into a certain situation that you were faced with from the moment you slipped out of your mother’s womb. That’s what’s the conditions that you were in. And if you are of a certain color or a certain situation, you are going to have a very hard time getting out of that. Yeah, you could become a rapper, or you could become a basketball player, but they never tell us—but think about it—how many people who are really good at rapping, or how many people who are really good, let’s say, high school basketball players, make it into the big time? One out of a thousand? One out of ten thousand, probably more likely, one out of one hundred thousand, maybe? Not very many people can get out of those situations by going into hip-hop or going into basketball or football or whatever.

So, there you are, and you didn’t choose these circumstances you’re in but you have got this influence of  “okay I gotta get over,” so you do what you can. You can hear people say that, “I gotta do what I gotta do, I gotta do what I can do.” Because they have been poisoned with the ideology—in other words, the way of thinking—of the system and so they do what is available to them to do.

Now, is that bad? Of course it is. It’s bad for the people. It’s bad for the person who does it. And it’s bad for the kind of world we want. And it’s bad for the revolution we need to get to the kind of world we want. So do we have to struggle with people about that? Of course.

But if we don’t give them a sense of a larger thing that this could be all about. If we don’t give them the sense that the world could be a whole different way, and that their circumstances could be a whole different way, that they could be actually using their creativity and their daring and other things to help make a revolution to get to a whole different kind of society where people like them and many, many others could be actually using their abilities to make a better society, then it’s very likely they are going to fall back into what they know how to do.

So this is the way we talk about it’s the system’s fault. It is not that the system literally put a gun in their hand, but it put the idea in their head of what life should be all about, and it put them in conditions where taking a gun in their hand makes a certain amount of sense, if you’re going from the idea of what the system tells you you ought to be going from.

So it’s not that this is a way of “excusing” what people do. It’s not that it’s all right to do it. It’s not like we’re saying “Oh well, you didn’t have any choice.” You know, it wasn’t your fault, in the sense that you couldn’t have done anything else. Yeah, they could do something else, but not as long as you are under the rule and playing by the rules of this system. You are not very likely to find a better choice for millions and millions of people. 

That’s what I meant by saying that this conservative writer said that if you’re in that situation, it makes sense to go into crime, it makes more sense than trying to get a job at McDonald’s.

Now, we need a different society where it doesn’t make sense for people to go into crime and rip other people off. Either the people on the very top—we need to get rid of all that. But also the people on the bottom who get caught up in all of this. We need to change all that so we don’t have people on the top and people on the bottom like this anymore.

So that’s why I say it’s the system, not in the sense that the people don’t have any responsibility, but in the sense that they’re being influenced and their way of thinking is being shaped by a system that then leaves them almost no other options once it’s convinced them through its culture and everything that this is the way that you have to try to live.

You do find people saying, “You know, I’ve got a wife and kids,” or “I got a family I gotta support,” or “I have my mama,” or “I have my kids and what am I going to do out here?” So we need to have a whole different world where that isn’t the situation that people are in.

Does that make any sense?


BA: But???

 [[no but...]]

 BA: I am just saying, is there something I am missing with this? Is there something I’m skipping over that is part of the picture that we need to think about?

I don’t want to go on and on with this, but I do think maybe if we come across as saying in a kind of a simple-minded way “it’s the system” as if people are just machines that don’t have any mind of their own, then that would be wrong. If the way I’m presenting it is falling into that then that’s a mistake on my part, it is not that kind of crude over-simple thing. But it’s more the way I was trying to describe it, in terms of how people are influenced, and then how that influence causes them to act within the choices that they’re given, the very limited choices by the way the system works and the position it’s put them in.  


Bob Avakian (BA) is the most important political thinker and leader in the world today.

Read more

On Choices... And Radical Changes

First, people don't make choices in a vacuum. They do it in the context of the social relations they're enmeshed in and the options they have within those relations—which are not of their own choosing. They confront those relations, they don't choose them.

Two, if people feel for whatever reasons that they want to choose to harm themselves and others, we're going to struggle with them—but we're not going to blame them. We're going to show them the source of all this in the system, and call on them to struggle against that system, and transform themselves in the process. Just because a youth "chooses" to sell drugs, or a woman "chooses" to commodify herself sexually, doesn't mean that they chose to have those choices. And there is no other way besides fighting the power, and transforming the people, for revolution that all this will change for the better. Blaming the masses for bad choices just reinforces the conditions that they are oppressed by.

In sum, people do make choices—but they make them enmeshed and confined within social relations that are not of their choosing. We have to bring into being different social relations and conditions so that masses of people can act differently and relate differently to each other. Fundamentally, that takes a revolution which is aiming for communism.

— Bob Avakian




Get a free email subscription to




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Continuing the Discussion on "Jolts"

August 8, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

In continuing the discussion about the current situation and the responsibility of revolutionaries, I wanted to share some further thinking... Are we really appreciating the depth of the ways people have been hit by the Zimmerman verdict, and are we taking things as far as they go?

While this isn’t all staying at the same pitch, and while there are a whole range of interpenetrating contradictions breaking open throughout society, there is still a great deal to learn and apply about what has been posed in the two pieces: "There is a Jolt! What Is Our Responsibility Now?" and "More On 'Jolts.'"

In particular, I think it’s important to learn from the emphasis given to how are we acting on this in making LEAPS in accumulating forces for revolution. This isn’t going to happen by having general, good discussions with people. I feel there are way more people who can be drawn into and activated to be part of impacting and influencing society with revolution in so many ways right now. Are we still being too passive about this? Not enough recognizing a situation which is still roiling.

Many, many people are still very angry and have big concerns about the future of Black youth as well as Black people in general in the wake of the acquittal of Zimmerman. But many do not really know what to do with this anger. Some are reaching for the system’s answers—putting their hopes in call for federal intervention, focusing in on "Black-on-Black violence" as the problem (ending up in blaming themselves) and/or leaving things in god’s hands.

But for many, many people this isn’t closing the wound... there is still a deep, raw anger and people don’t know what to do. At the same time, this system is continuing to bring forward more horrors... a young Latino man murdered by the police in Santa Ana, CA... a 14-year-old Black youth murdered by the police in the Bronx, NY... hundreds of prisoners remain on hunger strike and the system is punishing these prisoners with more brutality and repression. (In this, we also need to be making the links to other outrages of this system—the prosecution of Bradley Manning, the war on women, waging a battle for science...)

This is an intense situation... people are unsettled and still not ready to let things die down.

But this will not go where it needs to—and can—if people don’t get more deeply into and understand the SOURCE of all this in this system, if broad numbers of people aren’t getting with and getting into the SOLUTION of revolution—as an immediate and urgent need, if they’re not finding out about the leadership for this revolution in Bob Avakian and the Party he leads and if they’re not becoming part of the movement for revolution that is being built right now. People who understand have to act in the ways commensurate and be working with people to themselves be acting in this way.

As a key part of this, we’ve been doing mass distribution of the Three Strikes poster as well as BAsics 1:13 (“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.”—from Bob Avakian) and getting out hundreds of copies of Revolution newspaper. Lots of people respond with a deep agreement but again, I don’t think we’re enough making the connection that THIS—along with themselves getting deeply into the substance of what this revolution is about, getting into BA’s work and spreading this—is a big part of what they can do. And how that is so.

I posed to a Black youth waiting for the bus in a shopping district who was reading the Three Strikes poster, “What do you think about the Zimmerman verdict?” and he looked at me and said, “What do you think I think about that!?” So I said, “Okay, so what do you think we should do about this?” He paused and said, “Wow, that’s a really good question but I really don’t know.” He looked at the poster and then I opened up to the centerfold of the current issue of Revolution and he read BAsics 1:13. He said very emphatically, “That’s what I say: NO MORE. Exactly! I say NO MORE too!” I answered that this is why we are out here building a movement for revolution—to make real that “no more.” And right now, here’s how you can act on your emphatic agreement with that and got into the fact that we have printed up tens of thousands of these posters. We talked about what difference it would make to have these posters up in the thousands around this city. This would radically and drastically change the terms of the discussion and debate and for all those who feel as he does—angry but not sure what to do about this. It would let people know there are others like them who aren’t ready to let this die down, it will help people understand what this is a part of—the whole history of the oppression of Black people under this system, it will introduce people to the leadership they have for the revolution we need in BA and the Party he leads AND it will move people to say: “That’s it for this system. Three strikes, you’re out!” He immediately said, “I want to get that paper and I will take these posters and get them up.” He also wanted a handful of the BAsics 1:13 palm cards to get out. His bus was coming so he gave me a couple of dollars, I told him to get back with us and let us know where he got materials out, what the responses are as well as his thoughts after reading the paper and how he sees his role in all this.

This kind of thing has been happening with dozens of people but should be happening with hundreds. But we have to be putting this to people—and working through with them what difference this can make NOW.

Finally, there is a great deal more appreciation and openness to Revolution newspaper, people watching parts of BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! and the presence of the revolutionaries in a lot of different places. One way we’ve been working at further cohering this—in addition to what’s in last week’s issue of Revolution newspaper about getting into BA, contributing funds, chalking messages from Revolution, etc.—is them taking small stacks of Revolution newspaper and getting them to people they know. Really working at this systematically can be part of the big leap required in accumulating forces for revolution and forging networks of distribution around Revolution newspaper.

Again, learning from the openness and appreciation for what we’re stepping out with right now is important, but still not sufficient and we really can’t leave it at that. People need leadership and need to know now not just what they can do—being part of impacting society with this message and raising funds to make that possible—but why: what difference this kind of mass effort can make right now in ending this and all the other horrors this system rains down on people.

We have to be hearing people right now in the deep ways they’re wrangling with the situation, we need to be very open and helping them find the range of ways they can be part of this movement for revolution and be challenging them to do so.




Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Report from Summer Heat Environmental Action at Columbia River

August 8, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

From July to mid-August actions and protests are taking place as part of the “Summer Heat” campaign against fossil fuel extraction and shipment. The actions are being called by national, regional and local environmental groups—including, Rising Tide, Peaceful Uprising, Sierra Club, and tar sands action groups around the country. In Somerset, Massachusetts, 44 people were arrested on July 28 for blocking the Brayton coal-fired power plant. In Utah activists are engaged right now in actions to try to block the “first tar sands mine in the USA from ever breaking ground.” (For background on the danger to the environment represented by tar sands oil, see the article “The Keystone XL Pipeline: An Urgent Danger to the Environment“)

Everywhere you turn there is a stepped-up race by capitalist interests to dig out, drill, ship and pipe new sources of oil, coal and gas—the very fossil fuels whose burning is advancing a global climate emergency that is spinning out of control. Disaster after disaster keep happening as a result of this madness—from Superstorm Sandy last year to the July 8 disaster at the small town of Lac-Mégantic, Quebec where a train loaded with oil from North Dakota crashed into the city center, incinerating dozens of buildings and killing 47 people. There is increased understanding among millions of the need to stop fossil fuel projects that are killing the planet’s ecosystems and people.

On July 27, revolutionaries from Seattle traveled to the action in Vancouver, Washington at the Columbia River across from Portland, Oregon. We wanted to be at this to join in and help build this critical resistance and to bring to the people that there is a viable way to go at dealing with the global environmental emergency—through revolution and the new synthesis of communism applied to this situation. We were hosted by friends in Portland who are interested in revolution and helping bring BA’s vision and strategy for revolution to Portland. A showing of the film BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! Bob Avakian Live was held in Portland the night before the Summer Heat action.

The Columbia River action was built by Portland Rising Tide and other groups.

A striking and important feature of the action was opposition to all development and shipping of fossil fuels. There are plans to build a new oil terminal at Vancouver that would receive oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota. There are other plans in different stages of development for building new oil, gas and coal terminals all along the West coast. There is widespread opposition to all of this. A speaker from Portland Rising Tide said all “fossil fuel infrastructure must be resisted. If they can’t ship it, they can’t extract it.” He noted that in the wake of powerful hurricanes like Sandy, “The climate crisis must be addressed. These terminals are not compatible with life on the planet.”

People came from all over Washington and Oregon—including a bus full of activists from Corvallis, Oregon, carloads from Bellingham, Washington, and others from Seattle, Portland, etc. There was a wide range of ages of people present—from kids and quite a few college students to older folks. Organizers say 800 people turned out.

We mixed it up very broadly with people there, distributing the special issue of Revolution on the environmental emergency and palm cards for BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS! During the rally we unfurled a large banner saying, “No tar sands, no fracking, no coal! We need revolution to save the planet,”

I’d spoken with a guy earlier who was knowledgeable about alternative energy forms and was arguing society could easily switch to these if money was just put into it. We struggled with him that technology wasn’t the problem, that the climate crisis was happening because of the drives of the system of capitalism and that dealing with this would require a revolution. When the banner came out, he came up to me and asked if it was our banner, and I told him yes. He said, “You’re right, it will take a revolution to solve this.”

The revolutionaries had lots of discussion and struggle with people over what the problem is—the corporations and the fossil fuel industry, or the entire system of capitalism?—and over whether revolution is the answer, and also is it possible? There were a number of people who agreed that we needed revolution, although what they meant by revolution often differed from the real revolution we were advocating. Still, there were some who were definitely looking to find, engage with and hook up with a radical way to resist this crisis and to discuss and debate various more radical solutions. We fanned out throughout the crowd to try to get every person there a palm card for BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!, telling people they needed to check out this DVD because this was about fighting for a fundamentally different world through revolution. Quite a few said, “We need revolution,” and the great majority of people, who had never heard about the film or BA, wanted a card. One fool said he didn’t need to know anything from BA because this was a cult. We challenged him on the spot to say what he knew about BA’s actual vision and strategy, and when he could only repeat the same shit, said loudly so everyone around could hear, “then you’re not serious about radically changing the world—here is a person who has brought forward a vision for and a way to get to a totally different world and you refuse to even engage it, you’re not serious.”

The Columbia River action was creative and fun. People jumped into around 100 kayaks and paddled out to the middle of the river to symbolize their intention to block fossil fuel shipments if they take place down river. The rest of us marched up to the walkway across the Interstate 5 bridge from Washington to Oregon. People were chanting, “If you build it, we will block it, if you ship it, we will stop it.” We stretched all across the bridge from almost one side to the other, holding our signs and banners along the bridge as well as to traffic whizzing by. Crews of people hooked up ropes to the bridge and suddenly three people rappelled off the bridge. After getting everything ready, the climbers unfurled a huge banner hanging under the bridge saying, “Coal, oil, gas, None shall pass.” There were some threats by the authorities to organizers that the climbers could be arrested, so people stayed on the bridge and made sure that after the banner had been out for some time, the climbers could get safely back and that the authorities wouldn’t know who they were. We did rounds of agitation over the bullhorn connecting the climate and environmental emergency to what the system did with the Zimmerman verdict, NSA (National Security Agency) spying, etc. and that we needed revolution and were building a movement for that. Some people joined in chants saying, “Climate emergency, We need revolution.”

Things are heating up on environmental resistance. Various groups are calling for a campaign of civil disobedience in the event of a finding this fall by the Obama administration that the Keystone XL pipeline that would ship tar sands oil from Alberta into the U.S. is in “the national interest.” Some of these same groups are also fostering a lot of illusions about Obama and the possibility of him siding with the environmental movement, and seeking to confine this struggle within the limits of the system as it is. It’s crucial given the tremendous stakes for humanity and ecosystems, as well as the potential for truly massive resistance around the environmental crisis, that revolutionaries find ways to relate to this resistance and fight to connect it to building a movement for revolution.





Revolution #312 August 4, 2013

Oakland's Domain Awareness Center:
Heavy-Duty Leap in Repressive Police Surveillance Powers

August 8, 2013 | Revolution Newspaper |


From a reader:

In the midst of growing outrage in this country regarding the NSA spying scandal and the outrageous guilty verdict against Bradley Manning who courageously exposed the murderous hand of U.S. capitalism-imperialism, there are some heavy-duty moves in the realm of surveillance taking place in Oakland, California that I thought readers of Revolution should know about.

On July 30, to shouts of "Shame! Shame!"—the Oakland city Council unanimously approved moving forward with a surveillance project reminiscent of the novel 1984, linking surveillance cameras, license plate readers (which already are mounted in all Oakland Police Department vehicles), Twitter feeds, alarm notifications and other data. This Big Brother system, known as the Domain Awareness Center, will be jointly operated by the Oakland Police Department (OPD) and the Port of Oakland, and fully funded through grants from the federal government. It will be one of the most advanced surveillance system functioning in a single city.

Originally conceived and funded by the Department of Homeland Security as a project to protect the Port of Oakland from "terrorist attacks," it has grown into a full-scale effort to give the Oakland Police Department added power to surveil, harass and suppress the people. It is being billed as an important tool to fight crime, but it will surely be used to suppress political protest. Anyone familiar with coverage in Revolution knows that Oakland is one of the cities in the country with the most active protest movements, as well as an important center of the budding movement for revolution. It should come as no surprise that former NYPD Chief Bratton, well known for going after the people in New York City, including introducing the now notorious Stop and Frisk program, has his fingerprints are all over the further expansion of the surveillance center.

Not surprisingly, the Domain Awareness Center has no guidelines to protect privacy or to limit the retention of data collected, but claims have been made that they are a work in progress and quite "complex."

The Center for Investigative Reporting* reported last month, "As planned, the center would integrate computer dispatch systems for the Oakland police and fire departments, gunshot detection, microphones and license-plate readers. It includes use of crime mapping software and stationary video cameras, private alarm detection programs, Twitter feeds, news feeds and other alerts for increased 'situational awareness' and 'more effective incident response,' according to (Oakland's information technology manager Ahsan Baig, who briefed the City Council's Public Safety Committee this month.

"Key to the operation is a geographic information system map with overlaid points that represent cameras, license-plate readers, sensors and other infrastructure that feeds into the central network. Multiple camera feeds, sensor indicators and maps can be viewed simultaneously on-screen alongside alerts from other government agencies. Alarms, crime reports and trends in offenses are accessible through a 'Crime View' portal."

The contract for building this system is expected to go to the company that has designed it, Science Applications International Corp., which also builds drones and computer networks. There is already talk of expanding the scope of the Domain Awareness Center to include feeds from the 135 surveillance cameras installed at the Oakland Coliseum and arena.

Outrage at the plan forced the city council to postpone voting on adoption of the plan at a mid-July meeting. The ACLU and Electronic Frontier Foundation spoke in opposition to the plan at the July 16 meeting and the San Francisco Chronicle reported that dozens of speakers at the July 30 meeting exposed the proposed plan as turning Oakland into a police state.

The Chronicle quoted one youth as saying, "The Domain Awareness Center is the guard tower which will watch over every person in the city of Oakland. The program is an attempt to criminalize and imprison all people who live in and pass through Oakland."


 * "Oakland surveillance center progresses amid debate on privacy, data collection," by Ali Winston, contributor, Center for Investigative Reporting, July 18, 2013 [back]