Revolution #403, September 7, 2015 (

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

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Revolution #403 September 7, 2015

Voices from August 27... A Challenge to Everyone

"Come to New York City on October 24"
STOP Police Terror!

Updated September 12, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


On August 27, 2015, hundreds of people packed the First Corinthian Baptist Church (FCBC) in Harlem, New York City to take up Rise Up October.

People came together this night—families whose loved ones have been murdered by the police; folks from the religious community; college and high school students; people from the neighborhoods; activists, revolutionary communists; and many others—to put out the call and challenge:

WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? WHERE WILL YOU BE ON OCTOBER 22-24? Get organized. Come to New York City. Come one, come all. Be part of standing up and saying no more! Change history.

The whole evening provided a dynamic expression of the diversity of outlooks, agendas and philosophical frameworks of those coming together for Rise Up October and of the powerful love, unity, and determination to STOP police terror and make October 22-24 a serious step towards changing everything. Here are voices from those who spoke this night. The full webcast is available at and at























Get organized.
Come to New York.

Families of those murdered by police... people from the communities... college and high school students...Come one, come all. Be part of standing up and saying no more! Change history.

This will draw a big dividing line in society, posing the question for millions of people: Which Side Are You On? This will give heart to those who suffer this brutality and murder 24-7. And it will open the eyes of many more people in this society who don't suffer this brutality—and challenge them to join in acting to stop it.

Get organizing materials & comprehensive coverage here and at

Co-MC Nkosi Anderson, graduate student at Union Theological Seminary, #RiseUpOctober Steering Committee

I wish that I could say that we are gathered here tonight for a celebration. But that is not the case. In fact it is quite the opposite. We are in a state of emergency in this country. Broken windows type policing and mass incarceration and the police killings of Black and Brown people are terrorizing our communities. These injustices cannot continue. And so, we are all here tonight to stand together to say: NO MORE. THIS STOPS NOW....

Now I want to emphasize the network component. Tonight’s speakers represent the wide range of perspectives, backgrounds and orientations towards this problem of unjust policing. But here tonight we stand together to fight it. The Stop Mass Incarceration Network is part of the larger movement in this country and around the world to stop police terror. And so are various organizations and individuals in this fight, activists like Black Lives Matter, religious groups, student organizations, etc. We need all hands on deck in this fight. And only by working together can we ever hope to overcome, but overcome we shall. The purpose of this evening is to build momentum for Rise Up October.

Reverend Willie Francois III, assistant pastor at First Corinthian Baptist Church

It is a joy to welcome you to First Corinthian Baptist Church. We open this space to the real moral architects of America, people who are able to see through the smoke and see through the blood and the fire, to see and fight for a world that is feasible, a world where all people are free. That’s why this is a sacred space. And I welcome you to this sacred space. And it is not sacred because of the name that is affixed on the outside, it is not sacred because of the symbols that surround it. But it is sacred because of the work of freedom and justice that it is committed to. Because in this place we know that we cannot say Jesus without also saying justice simultaneously. So we welcome you to this space. This is a sacred space. It is sacred because of the work that it does. So it is important for you to be here today.... And so we welcome you to this place, a sacred place that is sacred because you are here today, and the divinity that is in you, and the power that is in you, and the sacredness that is in you will now add another flame to this movement to end mass incarceration. Because we know police brutality and policing is the front door of mass incarceration. So we’re here today to shut the front door of mass incarceration.

Noche Diaz, Revolution Club, New York City

This has got to stop! This is why we got these shirts on that say “BA Speaks: REVOLUTION—NOTHING LESS!” We’re talking about going up against these monsters and taking this system down without becoming the monsters that we’re fighting... Speaking of monsters, we’re coming up on the 60-year anniversary of the lynching murder of Emmett Till. I remember when I heard Bob Avakian tell the story of Emmett Till when I was 15 years old. I had tears flowing down my cheeks. When I heard about Mamie Till preparing her son to go down to Mississippi, and I heard echoes of my own mother and my own family telling me how I had to walk the streets, right here in New York, in the Bronx, to not be seen as a threat, to not be seen as a “criminal” or a “thug.”

This is a veil of terror that generations have been strangled and suffocated with. And this is what began to be dragged into the light when people began to rise up, starting in Ferguson when the youth took to the streets and said no, not this time, we’re not taking this anymore—and then spreading everywhere. All throughout society, including people who aren’t facing this everyday, standing with them, stepping out with them, saying this has got to stop. And we learned some things about how people have to live in what they tell us is the “great USA.” We learned that we don’t even know the half of how many people they kill every year. The youth who cannot even walk the streets or leave their own homes because of the fear of this police terror. This has got to be the mission of a generation to stop this. Lines began to form in the ashes of the rebellions and that needs to be taken to a whole other level in October where “which side are you on?” becomes the message all throughout society and a whole new generation begins to shake everything up.

Reverend Stephen Phelps

I had an opportunity to meet with [former commissioner of the NYPD] Ray Kelly in his massive offices at One Police Plaza, and I was rather annoyed by my fellow clergy and the softballs they were lobbing at the Commissioner. And I said to him, Commissioner, members of my church, members of my staff—I was then at Riverside Church—are terrified to see your men in blue. Just terrified. This is degrading the whole social fabric. And he said, “Somebody’s gotta pay for safety in this city. Somebody’s gotta pay.” Well, we got rid of him, but we did not get rid of police terrorism....

One of the things that God says according to the traditions is that he hates brutality against the oppressed... What’s it mean if god hates that? Does that mean that we forgive and sit back and wait? I don’t think so. Does it mean “vengeance is mine,” sayeth the Lord, therefore we sit back and wait? Does it mean doom is coming? Sit back and wait for doom? I don’t think so. No, I think there is only one thing that we really need to get into about what God hates. God hates it when people are shaken and refuse to wake up.

Jamal Joseph, former Black Panther, prosecuted as one of the Black Panther 21, Columbia University professor, artist and activist

[After talking about the 1985 NYPD murder of 66-year-old grandmother, Eleanor Bumpurs; the 1973 police murder of 10-year-old Clifford Glover; and a Black man coming home from WW2 in 1943 shot by police in Harlem...]

The history lesson is to say that nothing has changed in terms of state violence and state terror. There has been resistance... But nothing has changed in the way that our Black and Brown boys, men and women, in this case our grandmothers, our girls being slammed on the ground with no respect for their humanity. We are dealing with a state that doesn’t consider us humans, brothers and sisters. Human beings who have treated other human beings like dogs. Slavery has built this country. Built it because it was free labor and people got rich. They got rich off the slave trade...

Police are not here to protect us, they are here to protect property, and so we have to engage this idea. We have to engage this of this insanity that makes the young men and the young women in this room at risk when they step outside of the door. It is insane, it is crazy. We are in an insane asylum. But this is what we are saying. On October 22 to 24, the inmates are about to take over the insane asylum. Sweeping and dynamic change is going to come because from this night we spread forward, and we show the police, we show the state, we show state violence that we are human. All power to the people.

Marsha Coleman-Adebayo, a former senior policy analyst for, and whistle-blower on, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), activist with the DC Hands Up Coalition

I’m so happy to be here. This is a wonderful spiritual moment for us to recommit to our fight for justice... I’d like to tell you why I am supporting Rise Up October. You see, I am the mother of a son who has been stopped by police over 30 times. That means my son’s life has been threatened over 30 times. He has been terrorized by the police in the Washington, DC area. He has suffered severe depression and anxiety. You see, I am every Black mother. Because I don’t know a Black mother whose son has not been terrorized by police. I don’t even think we have the right to call ourselves mothers if we don’t stand up and protect our children. I don’t think we have the right to call ourselves fathers unless we stand up and protect our children... As parents we need to stand up and say either you are going to either take us out or you’re going to stop harassing our children. But you gotta make a choice because it cannot be both.

The mayor of Washington, DC two days ago announced that under a new program, it’s really under a pretext because of the rising crime rate in DC, she’s going to hire 500 more police. She didn’t say: I’m going to create 500 new jobs. No, what she’s doing is she’s putting in place structure to kill and to incarcerate and to terrorize our children. And so the streets of Washington, yesterday and today, we have been in the streets protesting this program. The program will allow police to search the homes of “ex-offenders”—and in Washington, DC, one out of every five Black guys are ex-offenders. Which means that all Black men in DC, essentially, will be covered under this law. So once you are labeled an offender, you are always an offender, there is never an “ex” before your name. So this program will amount to the reactivation of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. But instead it will be the Fugitive Slave Act of 2015.

Gina Belafonte, co-director of the SANKOFA Foundation founded by Harry Belafonte

I’m a human being. I come from a legacy of freedom fighters, a legacy that I carry and share with everyone in this room... I come from a family that is rich and multi-cultural. I am unapologetically Black... I am unapologetically WHAT? [audience answers: Black!] Unapologetically? [audience: Black!] We ready, we coming. We ready, we coming.

Are we ready? Are we coming? Are we rising up in October? Which side are you on? You really need to take a look in the mirror and make a very clear and precise choice. You need to educate yourselves and prepare yourselves for this movement. I’m going to get emotional because I went down to Ferguson. I was not prepared. It’s no joke. They think it’s a game, they think it’s a joke. We need to prepare ourselves for this moment. We need to look, truthfully look into the eyes and see another human being there. We need to uplift and shine a light on the most marginalized, our transgendered and gay women; Black gay and transgendered gay women are the most marginalized. Say their names. We need to somehow figure out the way for all of us to deeply understand that as human beings, as long as we are not hurting anyone else, we need to allow ourselves to be all that we choose to be. I want to thank you all...for helping me, to guide me in this struggle, to help me carry on this legacy. I support Rise Up October.... This has got to stop.

Co-MC Kimberli Diaz

When you came in you were handed a rolled-up poster called the Stolen Lives Poster. Can you please open that up and take a look? Now, as you see, on that posters are the names and photos of just a small, small portion of lives that have been stolen across this country for many, many years. Now lift those posters up in the air. This is to symbolically lift up the names and the lives of these beautiful souls that are no longer with us. They are no longer with us because their lives were stolen by police murder and police terror. As we look over these posters, I’m sure you noticed that some of the names and dates that are there are from a long time ago. As some of the other speakers have noted, this isn’t something new. This isn’t something that just started last year with the murder of Michael Brown. This is something that has been going on entirely too long. And this tonight is a declaration that we’re all going to join together to make sure that it stops once and for all. October 24 will be an even bigger gathering to show that this must stop once and for all.

Juanita Young, mother of Malcolm Ferguson, murdered by NYC police March 1, 2000

I’m still trying to get Rivera put away for my son’s murder. In 2000, my son Malcolm, Ferguson was murdered in the Bronx by police officer Luis Rivera, he blew my son’s brains out. The DA Robert Johnson refused to indict this cop. I took the case to civil court. In civil court my attorney was able to get Luis Rivera to truthfully admit what really happened. According to Rivera, he murdered Malcolm for no reason. When you ask why did he shoot him, he says he don’t know. But why is this man still out on the streets today? That’s why I have to keep asking for justice because there is no way this man is still able to walk and be a police officer. And I have to cry everyday because I can’t touch, see or hear my son. My family is destroyed by the loss of their brother... We need to rise up in October. We need to let the people know, we have had enough. We have had enough of y’all coming into our communities and destroying our families. If there's any way possible you can help bring some more families to New York for October 22, 23, and 24th, please do. I come to you as a mother, as a family member. And we as families up here ask you to stand with us.

Mertilla Jones, grandmother of seven-year-old Aiyana Stanley-Jones,
murdered by Detroit cops May 16, 2010

I want to see what side people are on. Aiyana, seven-years-old, asleep—they came in and automatically blew my granddaughter’s brains out in front of me. Like I said, I seen the light of life leave out of Aiyana’s eyes. I never seen anything like this in my life. I don’t care how ghetto they say I am, how hood they say I am. I’ve never seen nothing like that in my life and I hope to never see it again. And I shouldn’t have had to see it on my seven-year-old sleeping. I traveled all the way from Detroit, Michigan to ask everybody: which side are you on?

Sharon Irwin, grandmother of Tony Robinson, killed by Madison, Wisconsin police March 6, 2015

This is my grandson. He was 19. He’s young. He is Black and he is beautiful. And I am here to tell you that they took his life with seven bullets. [The cop] shot him three times, dropped his flashlight, picked it up, shot him three more times, looked at him and shot him again. Tony was unarmed and nothing he did deserved that. I’m looking at all these people, the human side of this. I cry every day. I have to go through hundreds of pages of evidence because they didn’t indict him—they said, no, he didn’t do anything wrong. And I say to you, if you lie to justify your actions, are they justifiable? No. And he lied, and the Madison police lied, and the DA lied. And they disgraced my family, they made us the criminals, they made my grandson a criminal that he was not. And I’m telling you, I’m tired and I’m not standing for this anymore. We are one people. We are the human race. But they are targeting Black folk. I’m sorry, I get very emotional. I feel this this every day. My daughter feels this every day. Our grandchildren feel this every day. Yes, I am from a rich and multicultural family and like she said, I am unapologetically [hands mic to Tony Robinson’s aunt] Black.

We have, as a people, been taught to stay divided, because they can control us easier. Hey, if we stood up, there’s seven billion of us! If we stood up, what could anybody do? It is time to wake up. It is time to see we are not different. We are a people with different cultures and different ways to live. But we are human! And it is time!

Lorien Carter, aunt of Tony Robinson, killed by Madison, Wisconsin police March 6, 2015

The reason Rise Up October is so important is because there ain’t enough room in this church for all of the names. The reason why Rise Up October is so important is because in Madison, Wisconsin we are the number one worst place for minorities to live in this country and the number three “happiest place” in the country. We are the number one city in the entire country for minority youth incarceration, 18 and under. Our population of jail consists of three-fourths Black children. Meanwhile, our population outside consists of eight percent Black people. The truths that they are providing to you are not truths at all. The reason why Rise Up October is so important is because I neglected the facts and my nephew has paid. Because if any one of you, if it makes you feel uncomfortable I’m glad, it should. The blood of all of these people stains your hands, the same way it does mine. My nephew, yes he was biracial. It could be your nephew, it could be your grandchild. This is no longer polarized.

LaToya Howell, mother of 17-year-old Justus Howell, murdered by Zion, Illinois police April 4, 2015

I want you to all be aware of the realness of this tragedy. Every time I come up before all of y’all I don’t know what to say. But every time I look at a young face I think of my son and think of his demise. Every time I see little boys I shed a tear because I know that one day they can grow up and be killed—be killed, taken from us. That means all of our teaching, everything we told them not to do, everything he knew not to do, everything he was and was going to be, was stolen from him. And it’s all because of racist, coward police. It ain’t right. It’s not right. It’s not enough. I can’t stress this enough, it’s not enough to just press “like” on your Facebook status. It’s not enough to just tell somebody: Oh, did you hear about so-and-so, they got killed by the police?

But guess what’s next? We’re going to rise up together as one and fight it together. Otherwise that face that you see passing on the street could look like your boy, could look like your granddaughter, your children. And you could walk around feeling like something was snatched from you. When I heard it—have you ever felt scared and just knew something was wrong and then y’all took that breath and said, whew, I’m glad that wasn’t mine. I never got that chance to breathe. That was my boy laying there in the street. They wouldn’t even let me go back and see him. They wouldn’t let me go in the hospital, they told me repeatedly that he wasn’t in the hospital, that that wasn't my son. But it damn sure was. And that could be yours, you could be here just like me if you don’t stand up and tell the next person that the terror has to stop....

So I ask you all today, which side are you on? Would you stand by the way and watch another kid get gunned down, beaten? Another woman get raped? Would you stand by and act like it ain’t happening? I ask you today to stand up and choose your side. Power to the people. There is power in numbers. Put your fists in the air. Power to the people y’all!

Nicholas Heyward, Sr., father of 13-year-old Nicholas Heyward, Jr., murdered by NYC police September 22, 1994

Rise Up October is something that should have been done many, many Octobers ago. My son was killed—I use the word “killed,” but really he was murdered. Whenever you shoot and kill someone who is unarmed, committed no crimes, no threat to anyone and you shoot and kill that person, that is murder. My son was an honor student. Yesterday, August 26, he would have been 34. It was a very painful day for me, I cried just about half the day. The reality is that Nicholas Jr. is no longer here because of a cowardly cop who shot and killed him while he was playing with his friends an innocent game of cops-and-robbers with a plastic toy gun that didn’t look nothing like a real gun, they were all colorful guns and looked nothing close to a real gun.

Joanne Mickens, mother of Corey Mickens, murdered by NYPD March 13, 2007

My son Corey Mickens was killed in Manhattan, March 13, 2007. He was murdered while he was sitting in a restaurant eating. He was shot 12 times but they tried to say he had a gun. They shot him but it turned out he didn’t have a gun. And the person that murdered my son is the same officer involved in another shooting... I’m fighting for justice for my son. I’m going to be out here fighting for justice for all. Please don’t give up the fight, everybody. I’m still out here for the fight, for justice for my son.

Reverend Jerome McCorry, faith coordinator for Rise Up October Initiative and for
Stop Mass Incarceration Network

Tonight brother Reese is here with me because we have decided to be true to the cause. They taught me when I was ordained that you really have to serve in three ways. Your time, your talent and your tithe.... When you look at these family members—stand up and face the audience and give them a hand. We have put an unfair burden on these families... They tell their stories, but the truth of the matter is, if you rely on me to be real honest with you I’m going to tell you it’s the church that faces some condemnation. We don’t give money to pay nobody’s funeral, we don’t put folks on planes to get them to where their loved ones are, unless you’re a member in good standing. There is a role that all of us must play tonight to help these families on this tour, to help these families to get back here on October 22-24. To get the family of John Crawford III, from Beavercreek, Ohio, shot dead in a Walmart Store... It’s a broken system. Families after families, like that of Tamir Rice, a 12-year-old with a toy gun, playing in a park by himself, the police shot him down dead. These families have to travel, and they have been doing it at their own expense. We have to take that burden off of them. They shouldn’t worry where the next meal is coming from. They shouldn’t be concerned about where they’re going to stay when they travel. We at the Stop Mass Incarceration Network are going to be bringing 100 families representatives to New York in October, and we’re going to get them here. But we need your help in order to make that happen.... If you’re going to be here in October 24 put your hands together [applause]. And so to put that same hand that you clapped with and dig down deep and do what’s necessary to support this movement as you’ve never supported it before. Now there’s somebody in the audience here with that $500 gift, this is your time.

Will Reese, the NYC Revolution Club

I want to tell you a story while you’re thinking about this $500. You’ve seen this poster [of people killed by the police]. You have it in your hand. Two weeks ago I was standing with an enlargement of this poster, and there was this kid who was about the same height as the poster, standing affixed in front of that poster. So I walked over to him and said, “You know what this is about, don’t you?” He looked up and he shook his head, “Yeah.” I said, “You think about this?” He said, “Yeah, I do.” He said, “The police kill people.” And then he said, “Did they kill the little girl too?” He was looking at Aiyana Stanley-Jones. And I told him the story of Aiyana Stanley-Jones. And he said, “The police are killing everyone.” I asked him, “How old are you?” He said, “I’m seven.”

Some people tonight have said tonight, it stops here. It begins here. And there are people across this country who are listening to what we do here today. There are people who are watching what we do here. And as we move forward, things have to be different. And I’m going to ask you as you’re thinking about whether you can do $500—what do you tell that seven-year-old? I’m not going to tell you what I told him. What do you tell him? “It’s going to be all right baby”? “It’s going to be all right, just do the right thing”? See what these people said about how they taught their children to do the right thing, and their children are dead. What are you going to tell that kid? It’s not some abstract question. What are you going to tell people across the country? Are you going to do something different? This is your chance to do something different. There is more than one $500 here. And I’ll tell you something else. Somebody always has to be first. And I want to know who the hell it is. I want to know who it is. There’s the hand. $500. There it is. Another $500. And another one...

Carl Dix, representative of the Revolutionary Communist Party, co-initiator of
Rise Up October

Don’t let people tell you we can’t do better than this... Don’t let anybody tell you that America is eternal, and that the best we can hope for is getting some itty-bitty changes in HOW they dog us. Don’t let them suck you into framing what you’re trying to do in the language and the terms of the system. Don’t let them tell you that we have to limit ourselves to working within the channels this system puts out there. We’ve seen this movie before, and the result is the whole genocidal situation we face right now—and yes, I said genocide. So I’m challenging everyone here, especially you young people—get into this revolution, get into Bob Avakian and what he’s brought forward about how to make revolution—keep your sights aimed where they need to be: on emancipating all of humanity. You can do this by going to our website——or come to our new bookstore opening up this fall in Harlem at 437 Malcolm X Blvd at 132nd Street... but do get into him.

Now, coming from where I’m coming from—the need for and possibility of revolution—I understand that we have to fight right now—we can’t let them beat people so far down that we could never rise up against the things they do to us. We have to mobilize everyone we can, wherever they’re coming from and however they see the problem and the solution, to fight this madness we face. Again, that’s why you came here tonight—to find out what we must do to stop police terror and murder.

Dr. Cornel West, Professor of Philosophy and Christian Practice at
Union Theological Seminary, co-initiator of Rise Up October

Black people at our best, a hated people, taught the world so much about love. Treated unjustly but taught the world so much about justice. Traumatized, but taught the world so much about how to be cool. Black people at our best have been truth tellers, which means we’ve been cross bearers before we were flag wavers.... The problem in the age of Obama is that once we got a Black president we got too many people more concerned by the breakthrough at the top, then lose sight of those stuck in the basement, those wretched of the earth that Franz Fanon talked about, in the midst of the American Empire. That’s what Stop Mass Incarceration is all about...

But how do we do it? It’s a spiritual question as well as a political one. For Black people, any time we decide to straighten our backs, to speak the truth, to bear witness, and be willing to live or die for something, any time we decide to do that, the powers-that-be start shaking.

[Pointing to the pictures of the faces of victims of police murder on the stage] Their afterlife [will] work through us. Because we gonna have Sankofa, which means we not gonna move forward till we first look back and remember the best of those who came before us. That constitutes wind at our back. That’s what Stop Mass Incarceration’s about. That’s why I call it the love train. Get on the love train! Curtis Mayfield said you don’t need no ticket, just get on board! Get on board! Stop mass incarceration, and decide what side you’re really on. And come with us.





Revolution #403 September 7, 2015

Reform or Revolution

Questions of Orientation, Questions of Morality

by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA

January 29, 2006 | Revolution Newspaper |


Editors Note: The following is an excerpt from a talk given by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, to a group of Party members and supporters in 2005. It was edited for publication when originally posted.

This essay appears in the book BAsics, from the talks and writing of Bob Avakian.


Now, when you come up against the great gulf that often, and even generally, exists between the conditions and the suffering of the masses of people, on the one hand, and what you are able to do about that at any given point—when you run up against that repeatedly, everyone feels a definite pull which expresses itself in moral terms: how can you stand by and not do something about what's happening to the masses of people? As I have said a number of times, I have enormous respect for people who do things like volunteer for Doctors Without Borders. But the fact is that while they're doing what they're doing, and even with the good they do, this is being engulfed and overwhelmed by a tsunami of suffering (metaphorically speaking and sometimes literally) that's brought forth by larger objective forces.

When I was younger, I considered being a doctor or a lawyer, not to make money and get on the golf course, but because I knew there were many people who needed good medical care and people who were victimized by the so-called legal system who could use an advocate who really would be an advocate and a fighter for them. But at a certain point I came to understand that, while I would be helping a few people, and even if I threw myself into it, much greater numbers of people would find themselves in the position of needing these services—far beyond what I, and others, could do to help them—and it would just be perpetuated forever, and the conditions would get worse. And once you understand this, you can't look yourself in the mirror and do anything less than what you understand, if you're going to be consistent and follow through on your own principles.

So, yes, there's a moral dimension here. How can you sit by and watch people die of diseases that are preventable, not just in the Third World, but right down the street from you? How can you "sit by"? How can you not immediately try to do something about that? But moralities are a reflection of class outlooks, ultimately. They are a reflection of your understanding of reality, which takes a class expression in class society, in an ultimate and fundamental sense. And there is a morality that corresponds not to reformism and seeking merely to mitigate the conditions and the suffering of masses of people—not merely to addressing some, and only some, of the symptoms of that suffering—but to uprooting and abolishing the causes of that suffering. This morality corresponds to a revolutionary understanding, that we cannot eliminate the suffering of the masses, and in fact it's only going to get worse, as long as this capitalist-imperialist system remains.

This doesn't mean that it is unimportant to address particular abuses, or that mass resistance to particular forms of oppression is not important. Far from it. The basic point that Marx emphasized is profoundly true: If the masses don't fight back and resist their oppression, even short of revolution, they will be crushed and reduced to a broken mass and will be incapable of rising up for any higher thing. But, as a fundamental point of orientation, we have to grasp firmly the truth that, despite the best and most heroic and self-sacrificing efforts, it is not possible, within the framework of this system, even to really alleviate, let alone eliminate, the suffering and the causes of the suffering of the masses of people. And our morality has to flow from that.

Let me give you an analogy. Let's say you went back several centuries, somewhat like Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court. Let's say in this case you went back to the time of the plagues in Europe that wiped out huge swaths of the population. And the most people knew to do then was to try to quarantine and stay away from people infected with the plague. Then, looking at all these people dying of the plague, if you were a good-hearted person perhaps you would take wet towels and put them on the foreheads of the people who were dying, or take some other steps to try to minimize their suffering to some degree. And maybe you would do what you could to keep the disease from spreading. But let's say that, as a person from the present time, you know that the plague could actually be cured, fairly easily, with antibiotics, if they were administered in time. And, further extending and elaborating the analogy, let's imagine that somehow there were antibiotics back in that time—of course, in reality antibiotics did not exist and the scientific understanding had not been developed to produce antibiotics until more recent times, but let's say that somehow these antibiotics also existed back then: let's put into our scenario some other people who had also gone back in time from the present age and had taken with them a big stash of antibiotics, which could prevent the millions of deaths that were caused by the plague several centuries ago. But these other time-travelers were monopolizing the ownership of these antibiotics and had organized and paid an armed force of thugs to guard this stash of antibiotics, and were refusing to distribute any of these antibiotics unless they could profit from it, by charging a price that most of the people could not afford.

Now, knowing this, which way would people be better served: by continuing to put towels on the foreheads of the fevered people, or by organizing people to storm the compound where the antibiotics were being hoarded, seize the antibiotics and distribute them among the people?

This is, by analogy, the essential difference between reform and revolution. And our morality flows from our understanding of this. Yes, it's very hard to see masses of people suffer and not be able to put a stop to this suffering, right at the time; and, yes, we should organize the masses to fight back against their oppression and the ways in which this system causes them to suffer; but if we really understand where "the antibiotics" are and who's hoarding and monopolizing them and turning them into machinery for profit, into capital, and what it is that's preventing the masses of people from getting to those antibiotics, then our responsibility is to lead the masses to rise up and seize those things and distribute them among themselves.

Now, let me emphasize again: I can and do admire the morality of people who want to alleviate suffering (and who may not see beyond that). We should in no way denigrate or put down these people—people who do things like put water in the desert for immigrants crossing from Mexico—we should admire them and we should unite with them. But that cannot provide the fundamental solution to that particular problem, of the suffering of these immigrants and what drives them to leave their homelands in the first place, nor can it eliminate all the other ways in which masses of people, throughout the world, are oppressed and caused to suffer. Or, again, while I admire the people who volunteer with things like Doctors Without Borders, if they were to say, "this is the most anybody can do, there's nothing more you can do," we would have to engage in principled but very sharp struggle with them, even while uniting with them and admiring their spirit, because it is objectively not true that this is all that can, or should, be done—and it is harmful to the masses of people to say that this is all that can be done.

In fundamental and strategic terms, it is necessary to choose where the weight and the essence of your efforts is going to go: into fighting the effects and the symptoms, or getting to the cause and uprooting and getting rid of that cause? And that's why you become a revolutionary—when you realize that you have to seek the full solution to this, or else the suffering is going to continue, and get worse. That's one of the main things that impels people toward revolution, even before they understand, scientifically, all the complexity of what revolution means and what it requires. And, as you become a communist and you increasingly look at the whole world, and not just the part of the world that you are immediately situated in, you see that the whole world has to change, that all oppression and exploitation has to be uprooted, everywhere, so that it can no longer exist anywhere.

So we have to be on a mission to liberate those antibiotics, and not get diverted into thinking that the most and the highest good we can do is trying to lessen the misery, to mitigate the symptoms, rather than getting to the cause and bringing about a real and lasting cure. The question of reform vs. revolution is not some petty notion of "our thing" vs. somebody's else's "thing"—it is a matter of what is really required to eliminate the horrendous suffering to which the great majority of humanity is subjected, day after day, and what kind of world is possible.

Nor are we revolutionaries because it's a "fashionable" thing to do—right now, in fact, it's not very fashionable at all. Back in the '60s, among certain sections of the people, Black people and others, being a revolutionary was a "legitimate avocation": What do you do? I'm a doctor. What do you do? I'm a basketball player. What do you do? I'm a revolutionary. Legitimate avocation. I was talking to another veteran comrade about this, and they pointed out that, in a certain sense, it was easier in those days to be a revolutionary because you had a lot of "social approbation"— there was a lot of approval coming from significant sections of society for being a revolutionary. Right now you don't get that much "social approbation" for being a revolutionary, and in particular a revolutionary communist. [laughter] "What the fuck, you crazy?!" [laughter] That's a lot of what you get, as you know. Or you get more theoretically developed arguments about why it's hopeless or a bad idea, or a disaster, or a nightmare. Well, we aren't doing this because we're seeking social approbation. It's good in one sense if you have that—in the sense that it reflects favorable elements in society, in terms of how people are viewing the question of radical change—but we're not doing what we're doing in order to get "social approbation," and we're not relying on such "social approbation" for what we're doing. If there isn't "social approbation," we have to create it—not so people will "approve" of what we're doing, in some more narrow or personal sense, but because we need to transform people's understanding of reality and therefore the way they act in terms of transforming reality.

So this is a fundamental question of orientation, but that orientation is not just: revolution, it's more righteous. "Reform, that sounds kind of paltry; revolutionary, that's more righteous." [laughter] No, that's not the heart of the matter. It's very righteous to be in Doctors Without Borders. But the essential thing is that revolution corresponds to reality, it corresponds to what's needed to resolve the contradictions that have been spoken to repeatedly in this talk—the fundamental contradiction of capitalism and other contradictions bound up with that, and all the effects of this in the world—to resolve these contradictions in the interests of the masses of people. That's why we're revolutionaries—and a certain kind of revolutionaries—communist revolutionaries. Because that's the only kind of revolution that can do what needs to be done, what cries out to be done. So what we do has to proceed from that, in terms of our fundamental orientation.





Revolution #403 September 7, 2015

Global Refugee Crisis:
Criminal Arsonists Aren't Humanitarians

September 7, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


September 2, 2015. Three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, washed up lifeless on a beach in Turkey. He, his brother and mother drowned after their small boat capsized.
September 2, 2015. Three-year-old Aylan Kurdi, washed up lifeless on a beach in Turkey. He, his brother and mother drowned after their small boat capsized. AP photo

September 2, 2015. A three-year-old Kurdish boy face down in the sand, washed up on a Turkish beach, drowned. Nine hundred miles west, bodies litter beaches in Zuwara, Libya. In Hungary, a Syrian man--with his wife and young child--lies down on railroad tracks, trying to push away police, saying in effect, we’d rather die a gruesome death than be returned to the fiery hell we fled.

As the world reacts with shock and outrage to such scenes, the rulers of Europe—big powers like Germany, as well as those lower down on the European pecking order—proclaim themselves great humanitarians. This sick hypocrisy is like a criminal arsonist setting millions of people's homes on fire and then proclaiming themselves gracious hosts for providing a few of the victims with a cot out in the back alley next to the garbage and the rats.

Yes, the European powers are criminal arsonists.

Sometimes literally—with drones, bombs, and brutal wars. They and their big-brother-in-crime, the U.S., set fire to whole countries to advance their interests and contend with rivals. Yes, they are criminal arsonists, burning over 100 workers in a hyper-profitable garment sweatshop in Bangladesh in 2012.

Beyond that, the capitalist-imperialist system that produced the wealth, culture, military power, and relative stability of much of Europe has at its roots the horrific enslavement of millions of Africans and genocide in the Americas. And today that system feeds off exploitation and oppression around the world. It is a system whose workings—economic, political, and military—from Nigeria to Syria, from Somalia to Afghanistan, have made life simply impossible for hundreds of millions of people.

Now, under pressure, the European powers are allowing a relative handful of the tens of millions of people driven from their homes around the world to apply for asylum. Meanwhile, they lock up thousands in detention centers. They condemn others to sleep in the streets without food or water. They whip up and set loose fascist mobs and police to attack immigrants. And they leave thousands every year to drown in the Mediterranean Sea.

The United States is leader of the pack in the whole setup, and carries out attacks that are just as criminal on immigrants in the U.S.—deporting hundreds of thousands every year to parts of the world where the workings of their system have made life intolerable.

And then they all proclaim themselves Good Samaritans as they pass out a cup of tea to a handful of survivors of their crimes.

* * *

Immigrants at the port of the island of Lesvos, Greece, on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. Immigrants at the port of the island of Lesvos, Greece, on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015.
AP photo

There are caring people in Europe who are doing their best to aid the victims of capitalism-imperialism who are seeking refuge there. And there have been righteous protests of migrants and others demanding to be treated as human beings. The protests must be supported and joined by all with a shred of feeling for their fellow human beings. The European powers must be compelled to provide food, shelter, and rights for all refugees.

But those who have set the world on fire are the criminals responsible for this crisis. They are the problem, not the solution. In the name of “humanitarian aid” they must not be allowed to carry out further crimes against humanity within their borders or around the world. And the current horrific refugee crisis points to the urgency of revolution to end their global system once and for all.






Revolution #403 September 7, 2015

September 15: Rally and Be in Court for Noche Diaz—On Trial for #ShutDownA14 Arrest

September 7, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Note from Editors: We received this from someone working on Noche Diaz’s political defense


Noche Diaz

Noche Diaz speaking at Times Square, New York City, on August 13 at a show stopping event that included major recording artists, community leaders, and family members of victims of police murder in the fight against police terror. Photo:

On September 15, Noche Diaz will go on trial in Brooklyn Criminal Court for charges thrown at him after he was arrested during the April 14, 2015, action in New York City that was part of the national #ShutDownA14 actions to Stop Murder by Police. Noche is a young revolutionary leader who works with the Revolutionary Communist Party and the NYC Revolution Club. He is known and loved by people in Harlem and far beyond, from pre-teens hassled by the cops to veteran fighters against police brutality and injustice. He is also well known to and hated by forces of authority, concentrated in the NYPD, for being on the front lines of struggle for years.

On April 14, thousands made no business as usual a reality across the country. In New York City, 1,500 protesters surged into the streets in protest against police terror and murder, breaking into the national media and inspiring many more. More than 40 were arrested. ALL cases except Noche’s have been settled without criminal convictions.

Consider this: The cops who murdered Mike Brown and Eric Garner did not even face a trial—nor were they punished in any way. This injustice goes on every day all over this country—Black and Brown people are killed at the hands of the police, and the killer cops walk free. Yet the people who protest police terror are the ones who are attacked, arrested, and hit with criminal charges.

Noche faces three misdemeanor charges from the April 14 protest: obstructing government administration, which could bring a one-year jail sentence; resisting arrest; and disorderly conduct. He has already spent more time in jail than 99 percent of those murdering cops and is being threatened with a full year in jail

The authorities are trying to send a message: Don’t you dare lead others to protest police terror—and especially don’t even think about making an actual revolution. The people need to send a very different message: We are NOT intimidated, we will NOT be silenced by these attacks and threats from the powers-that-be, we will stand with Noche and rally others to stand with him—to demand that all the charges be dropped. Noche needs to be out in the streets where he belongs, as a leader of the people. We will wage a fierce political battle to keep him out of their clutches.

As we do, we will step up the fight to STOP POLICE TERROR—joining with Noche, the Revolution Club, and the Stop Mass Incarceration Network and many, many others in building for a powerful national march in New York City October 24 to STOP police terror and murder.

The Stop Mass Incarceration Network and Revolution Club are calling for everyone to pack the court on Tuesday, September 15, and to rally at the court at 9 am—120 Schermerhorn Street, Brooklyn—before going inside. They are also calling for people to write statements of support for Noche demanding that the charges be dropped and send them to

Since righteous protests erupted after the August 9, 2014, murder of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Noche has been blatantly singled out by the NYPD for persecution. In an interview with, Noche described what happened when he was arrested at a mass protest on November 25, 2014, the day after the announcement that the cop who murdered Michael Brown would not be indicted:

“[The police] were saying things like, ‘I know you, you already have a case, you better go home, cuz when we get you, you ain’t going nowhere for a long time, we’re gonna put you away...’ ... They were trying to isolate people who were trying to lead things, especially people in the Revolution Club, including myself. But they weren’t able to do that and they kept striking me on the back of the head.... The police had me pushed against a car, and finally were able to pull me out of the crowd. They had made a decision to really go get me. Despite efforts from the crowd to protect me, they got me. They slammed me to the ground. Then they pulled me up to my feet and took me behind the police line. One said, ‘Let’s take him down behind the truck where no one can see.’ So I stopped walking and faced the crowd.”

This fall Noche is scheduled for trial on charges stemming from that arrest, as well as another arrest in August 2014 in a mass action right after Michael Brown was killed. Keep reading for updates in the political and legal battle to demand that all the charges from all these arrests be dropped and that they stop targeting Noche!






Revolution #403 September 7, 2015

Obama's Trip to Alaska

Talking Climate Change to Preserve the System That's Destroying the Planet

by Orpheus Reed | September 7, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Thwaites glacier in West Antarctic

Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctica. Studies show that part of the huge West Antarctic ice sheet is starting a slow collapse in an unstoppable way. Photo: AP


This week, President Barack Obama went to Alaska with a stated purpose of highlighting the dangers of climate change. Obama visited melting glaciers, an indigenous village along the Arctic coast, and met with fishermen, all to create public opinion for the U.S. agenda on climate change.

Before getting into what Obama’s trip was actually aimed at accomplishing, let’s review the emergency situation: The last two months have been the warmest worldwide since records began being kept in 1880. In many cases, records are not being slightly exceeded but smashed. Unprecedented wildfires of enormous ferocity and scope have been raging throughout Western North America all summer, including in Alaska, after terrible drought and lack of snowfall this past winter. Around the world heat waves have interacted with other factors arising from imperialist oppression of poor countries, killing hundreds and perhaps thousands of people. Salmon are dying in Western rivers from waters too warm to swim in. Glaciers and ice sheets are melting with growing rapidity. Some ice sheets, such as the West Antarctic sheet, are already locked in a death spiral of slow collapse, past the point of no return. The oceans are being drained of life, disrupted, warmed, and chemically altered in ways that could lead to the end of much of life.

Scientific studies follow one after the other citing the enormous damage occurring to the planet and its species. They warn that the changes occurring now can lead to the unraveling of world ecosystems for millennia to come. All of this is pointing to huge transformations right now and to the likelihood of impending leaps into zones of catastrophe never experienced in recorded history. All of this is due to the very system of capitalism-imperialism Obama heads and fronts for, and its utterly rapacious drive for competitive profitability—clashing with other world powers driven by the same factors.

A System With NO Answers

Given all this, did Obama announce that his government would immediately move away from drilling for oil and natural gas, of which the U.S. under Obama has become the world’s leading producer? Did he say that we must urgently transition without pause to green energy sources and that all U.S. coal would be left in the ground? Did he rescind his plans to open the Atlantic Ocean to offshore drilling? Did he lay out a plan for combating the extinction crisis of species that the capitalist-imperialist system has caused? Did he apologize for and then cancel his decision to open the Arctic for drilling, which not only threatens oil spill devastation to one of the world’s last wilderness oceans but which scientists have said is entirely incompatible with averting climate disaster? No on every single count.

In Anchorage, Obama spoke at an international conference on the Arctic. He cited changes going on in Alaska due to climate change and how these and other events worldwide demonstrate that this is not a far-off problem but one “happening now.” Obama said: “We’re not acting fast enough” on climate change, and that “the United States recognizes our role in creating the problem and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it.”

Obama’s comments were played in the press as “an urgent message.” The truth is his comments hardly begin to capture either the urgency or the out-of-control character of the climate crisis, not to mention the overall environmental emergency, (which he didn’t even touch on). Both he and a  White House briefing talked about how climate change is disrupting the lives of Americans, with no mention of how climate change threatens impending catastrophe, especially to the billions of people living in the poorest countries. Obama’s message amounted to using the people of Alaska and its increasingly eroded, but still magnificent, environment as a photo-op to cover over, and line people up behind, the criminal system that is the chief reason we are at a climate/environmental precipice.

What’s Driving the Race to Devastate the Arctic?

What Obama did was use this Arctic trip to appear as climate defender and aim to position the U.S. as the dominant force in upcoming climate talks in Paris, where it is looking more likely that a climate treaty with some modest limits on greenhouse emissions will be signed by world powers.

This possible treaty and all the jockeying shaping up around these talks are an important way the world capitalist powers are vying for top-dog position in the coming world of environmental devastation and massive upheaval that their system is responsible for. Obama put forward no new proposals for dealing with climate change during his Alaska trip. He simply reiterated his plan to cut U.S. emissions 26-28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025 and to cut U.S. power plant emissions 32 percent by 2030. As we’ve written, these proposals are puny compared to the level of cuts demanded by the reality of the climate crisis. They are based on phony calculations that cover over the real amount of emissions for which the U.S. is responsible when taking into account its offloading of carbon pollution to production in other countries, and those emissions caused by the U.S. military, whose emissions are entirely “off the books.” Obama’s proposed cuts are consistent with the interests of continuing U.S. capitalist domination of the planet’s economy. In fact, Obama’s whole proposal and positioning around the upcoming Paris conference stem from a logic of how best to preserve U.S. economic and strategic interests and domination in the world in the face of rapidly accelerating environmental devastation that will affect everything.

Obama is speaking for a section of the U.S. ruling class that recognizes at least some of the real disruptions facing the planet, and is interested in how to try to “manage” this crisis the best way possible to guarantee the U.S. will remain on top. This crisis cannot be “managed.” It cannot be stuffed into a neat box tied up in the string of U.S. capitalist interests. The environmental crisis is a threat to the entire world and humanity’s entire future, and it is raging. It needs to be tackled straight up with huge and radical transformations starting immediately. But whatever moves this system makes, it has no answers and can’t make the radical changes needed.

And U.S. interests are up against intense and growing challenges from rivals. One important way this is shaping up is  over who is going to plunder the Arctic and “cash in” or be left behind on “opportunities,” as capitalism-imperialism sees things, created there by climate change.

This is not just about economic competition. The projection of military power—while not yet to the point of direct conflict—is a growing aspect of competition between the U.S., Canada, Norway, Russia, and Denmark, and others like China, which are trying to find a way in. A presidential directive put in place by George W. Bush, and continued under Obama, outlines a strategy requiring the United States “to assert a more active and influential national presence to protect its Arctic interests and to project sea power throughout the region.” A strategic paper from the CNA Military Advisory Board said climate change was a threat to U.S. “national power” and advocated that the U.S. needs to step up its ability to project military power in the Arctic as it melts. (See “Climate Change and U.S. Global Supremacy.”)

Hundreds of kayaktivists take to the water during a protest against drilling in the Arctic and the Port of Seattle being used as a port for the Shell Oil drilling rig Polar Pioneer, May 16, 2015, in Seattle. (AP photo)
Hundreds of kayaktivists take to the water in Seattle during a protest against drilling in the Arctic, and against the Port of Seattle being used by the Shell Oil drilling rig, Polar Pioneer (in background). May 16, 2015. (AP photo)

Protest at Port of Seattle, May 18.
Protest at Port of Seattle, May 18. (AP photo)

In fact, one of Obama’s few new proposals in Alaska is to build more U.S. icebreakers to enhance the ability of the U.S. to extend power in the strategically important Arctic region.

Obama also said it is consistent to address climate change in a meaningful way to save the planet, and for the world’s economies to continue to grow (meaning grow in the market-driven way they have been, not based on the needs of humanity and the environment). His evidence for this? World economies grew this past year but carbon emissions reportedly did not grow for the first time in at least decades. This slight, one-year flattening of carbon emissions is light-years away from what the situation demands: massive cuts in carbon emissions, moves to stop wrenching oil, gas, and coal from the earth and seas, and an end to deforestation. The nature of the problem is immediate and daunting. For instance, recent scientific reports say even if emissions were stopped immediately, the oceans would continue to warm for centuries because of the heat they have already sucked out of the atmosphere.

But Obama, even as an “enlightened” imperialist, still cannot come close to being able to face up to, not to mention really deal with, this emergency. And even if he really wanted to, this system and its deeper modes of operation would preclude this.

Whatever agreements get made will be shaped and limited by the interests of the capitalist powers who are all seeking to get a leg up on each other. Further, imperialist promises and agreements are one thing, following through with them is another matter. Given the system’s endless drive for profitability and growth, the intense rivalries between all the competitive powers and extremely sharp differences among even the ruling class forces in the U.S., it is quite unlikely that they would be able to follow through with any agreements that are made, if they make them.

All this highlights the importance of people struggling to STOP capitalism-imperialism from destroying the planet.


Special Issue of Revolution on the Environmental Emergency

This Revolution special issue focuses on the environmental emergency that now faces humanity and Earth's ecosystems. In this issue we show:

Read online....

Also available in brochure format (downloadable PDF)










Revolution #403 September 7, 2015

Carl Dix on “Reasonable Demands” When It Comes to Stopping Police Murder

September 7, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


This is an excerpt from a speech given August 27, 2015.


Let me start out by getting personal. When I tell you the police have killed over 700 people so far this year, these are not just statistics to me. In the decades I’ve been working to stop murder by police I’ve seen the devastation killer cops inflict on families and on communities. I met Mertilla Jones five years ago. It was just days after a SWAT team broke into the wrong house and murdered her seven-year-old granddaughter, Aiyana Stanley-Jones. I met Juanita Young 15 years ago, just days after a cop, who had arrested her son Malcolm Ferguson the previous week for protesting the police murder of Amadou Diallo, murdered Malcolm. I met Nicholas Heyward almost 20 years ago, two years after his 13-year-old son, Nicholas Jr. was gunned down by a cop while he was playing with a toy gun. These are just a few of the thousands of people who have been murdered by police. Ask these parents what it’s like to mourn your child, without even justice. Or ask my wife, whose brother was shot down by cops right in front of his mother, just a day after they had told her they were gonna kill him. All this is a big part of why I’m doing all I can to mobilize people to act to STOP police getting away with murder. And it’s why you need to join with this effort.

People who front for this system are asking, “What are your demands?” They say, “You can’t just tell us to stop letting our cops kill you, you have to have some ‘reasonable’ demands.”

It tells you something about this system that to them stopping the police from murdering innocent people and terrorizing Black and other oppressed peoples is “unreasonable.” Let’s leave that aside for now. OK, here are some demands.

How about indicting, convicting, and putting the killer cops in jail? And I don’t just mean the ones who get caught on video killing someone next week. I mean all the killer cops, including those who have killed thousands of people over the past years and decades. This is a “reasonable” demand because there is no statute of limitations on murder!

How about dismantling the new Jim Crow of mass incarceration and the whole genocidal program this concentrates? Don’t be bragging about how Obama pardoned 46 people when there are 2.3 million people locked down. How about doing something about this for real?

How about dropping the charges on everybody who got arrested protesting murder by police over the past year?

How about shutting down that dungeon and butcher shop they got over there on Rikers Island, and the other dungeons just like it in other cities?

And we do have an overarching demand: How about you STOP unleashing your cops to kill our people?

These are pretty reasonable demands, unless you are presiding over a system that NEEDS official murder, terror and massive, unjust imprisonment. These are the demands that people need to throw down over and fight for as part of ending these horrors. And Rise Up October, the big national march in New York City on October 24, is aimed at making a big leap in the fight to do this.

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

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

THIS is why we have to be out there on October 22, 23, and 24.


There is the potential...






Revolution #403 September 7, 2015

Chicago: 60 Years After the Racist Murder of Emmett Till—Honoring the Fighters for Justice Then and Now

September 7, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Emmett Till, 1941-1955

Emmett Till

From readers:

On Sunday, August 30, hundreds gathered at the Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ on Chicago's South Side, the same church where 60 years ago tens of thousands of people lined up to see 14-year-old Emmett Till's murdered and mutilated body lying in an open casket. It was in August 1955 that white men came to the house in Money, Mississippi, where Emmett Till was staying with relatives for the summer and dragged him off because they said he whistled at a white woman. They took him to the river, beat him mercilessly, shot him, tied him to a heavy metal fan, and threw him into the water. The lynchers were never punished, even though they admitted to the murder in a national magazine.

Called a "Gospel Regeneration Revival and Recognition Ceremony," the August 30 event honored Mamie Till, the heroic mother of Emmett Till who fought for justice for her son and for his story to be told to the whole world; family members and others who stood up at the time of Emmett's murder; and families of Black people fighting for justice for their loved ones, many of them children, murdered by police and racists in today's New Jim Crow. The ceremony was part of a weekend of events organized by the Mamie Till Mobley Memorial Foundation, including a trip to the cemetery where Emmett and his mother were buried, and a Youth Empowerment day at the University of Chicago.

When you walked in, the first thing you saw were pictures of Emmett Till, with his beautiful eyes as he looked before he was murdered, and his unrecognizable, mutilated body in the casket. One child attending the commemoration looked from one picture to the other, and then said of the picture of Emmett’s mutilated body, "That can't be a human being.”

There were people at the ceremony who had been at Emmett Till's funeral 60 years ago. One woman, an usher and relative of Emmett, said, "He was lying right there, just like in the picture." She remembered the church being packed, with people "of all races and creeds, all colors" and "police all around, up to 47th Street" (seven blocks away).

See also: Interview with Educator and Oral Historian Timuel Black: Remembering the Lynching and Funeral of Emmett Till: "I was ANGRY!"

Another woman who had been at Emmett's funeral had come to the ceremony from Los Angeles. She was 10 at the time of Emmett’s murder and visiting her grandparents in Alabama. She said her parents made her come home right away: "It was so dangerous for Black people at that time." She remembered the funeral and how scary it was for a 10-year-old "that an adult could do that to a child."

Bob Avakian on "Emmett Till and Jim Crow: Black people lived under a death sentence"

Transcript of this clip available here.

Who is Bob Avakian?

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.

Find out much more about Bob Avakian here.

A woman had come all the way from Japan to be at the commemoration. A teacher of African-American history in Kyoto, Japan, who had done her Ph.D. thesis on lynching in the 1930s and 1940s, she said, "You can't miss Emmett Till in the history of the civil rights movement." When she heard about the commemoration from friends teaching in the U.S., she felt she had to come to be part of it. She said, "It has been a moving and rich experience. All the families who lost loved ones, their messages and stories, make me cry... I'm going to go back and tell their stories."

During the ceremony, one felt the weight of the great horrors of Jim Crow segregation but also the soaring courage of many who stood up against it in the fight for justice for Emmett Till. Awards, a glass plaque with a whistle on it, were given to some of the heroes or their family members.

Moses Wright Sr., Emmett Till's great uncle, was hosting Emmett in Mississippi when Emmett was kidnapped and murdered. In an incredibly brave act, Moses Wright took the stand and identified two white men as Emmett's killers, the first time a Black person had ever openly accused whites in court in Mississippi. Willie Reed, 18 at the time, was also honored for risking his life to testify in court. (The two white men were acquitted by an all-white jury after less than an hour deliberation.)

Reverend Wheeler Parker Jr., Emmett’s cousin, had traveled with him to Mississippi. He described the night Emmett was taken. He said, "I heard people talking outside the door. I thought we were all going to be killed. It was pure terror in that house that night. You'd have to have lived in the South to understand it. You couldn't call anyone, not the government, there was no due process." He praised Mamie Till's great courage in coming to the trial of the men who murdered her son. "She thought she could be killed, and nothing would have been done." Parker and another family member, Simeon Wright, were honored for dedicating their lives over the past 60 years to educating people about Emmett Till and keeping his name and story alive.

Others were honored for assisting the Tills, including A. A. Rayner Sr., director of the funeral home where Emmett’s body was taken. Sharon Roberts, daughter of Bishop Isaiah Roberts who did the eulogy at Emmett's funeral, told this story: When Emmett's body came back to Chicago by train, it was in a locked and sealed box. At first, the funeral director didn't want to break the seal. But Mamie Till said, "Give me a hammer." A. A. Rayner broke the seal, and prepared Emmett's body for display and burial. Sharon said, "What people saw at the funeral was after A. A. Rayner fixed him up. Mamie saw him before that." Mamie Till insisted that the body be shown publicly at the funeral—so that everyone could see what had been done to him. Because of her courageous action, the lynching of Emmett Till aroused deep anger among Black people across the U.S., shocked many white people around the country, and touched off outrage internationally.

Sixty years after the lynching of Emmett Till, honor and recognition were given to today's family members who, as Mamie Till did, are fighting for justice for their loved ones and all victims of police murder and racist violence. Some of those in attendance were: Kadiatou Diallo, mother of Amadou Diallo, shot at 41 times by NYC police for pulling out his wallet; Geneva Reed-Veal and Sharon Cooper, mother and sister of Sandra Bland, found hanging in a cell in Texas after a brutal, racist arrest; Jackie Johnson, mother of Kendrick Johnson, found dead in a rolled up mat in his high school gym in Georgia, the death ruled "accidental" by authorities but as blunt force homicide by an independent coroner; Wanda Johnson and "Uncle" Bobby Johnson, mother and uncle of Oscar Grant, shot in the back lying handcuffed on a subway platform by Oakland, California, transit police; Valerie Bell, mother of Sean Bell, shot at 50 times by New York City police on the night before his wedding; Gloria Pinex, mother of Darius Pinex, murdered by a Chicago cop who walked free even after evidence of lies in his story came out; Cynthia Lane, mother of Roshad McIntosh, murdered by Chicago police who after a year have still not been identified; and Freddie "Godfather" McGee, father of Freddie Latrice Wilson, shot at 18 times by Chicago police.

The previous day, Sybrina Fulton, mother of Trayvon Martin, and Michael Brown Sr., father of Michael Brown, were among family members who spoke at a Youth Empowerment Day, part of the Emmett Till commemorative events. Also there was Martese Johnson, graduate of Kenwood Academy (in Chicago) and student at the University of Virginia, who was viciously beaten by racist cops near the campus in front of other students.

Families at that event spoke out strongly against the demonization of their loved ones. Ron Davis, whose son Jordan was killed by a white racist who said his music was too loud, said: "It wasn't loud music, it was white supremacy, with a Constitution that didn't see us as human beings."

Families were asked about "forgiveness" for their loved ones' killers. Kadiatou Diallo said, "They killed him [Amadou] and blamed him and I can't forgive that. And I don't forgive the system for doing this to the children of every generation. We have to change the system."

A common theme was the need for continued struggle by the families, and throughout society, to stop these crimes against Black youth. Michael Brown Sr. said, "I'll rest when I'm dead. I'll never stop fighting." Sybrina Fulton said, "We're going to continue to fight for our children. We won't let our love for our children separate us from the death of our children." Uncle Bobby Johnson said, "When I saw a video of what happened to my nephew, I fell down on my knees in anger... I jumped up running, ‘I'm going to kick your ass,’ because of what happened. I'm going to keep running because these babies are still being killed in the streets."

Learn more about the brutal history of the oppression of Black people in the United States, and how that oppression can be ended as part of the revolution to emancipate all humanity.

At the ceremony on Sunday, Father Michael Pfleger, an activist Catholic priest whose church, St. Sabina, has been involved in the struggle to stop police murders (last winter he led his congregation to block an intersection after a Sunday service), spoke sharply and with rage on the connections between Emmett Till and the crimes against Black people today: "Remember Emmett's life, but remember it was snatched from us. All God deposited in him, all his potential, snatched from us. More than individuals, it was done by a society, a country where racism runs in the blood of America, unacceptable injustice... It is not much better than 60 years ago... We're still dealing with children shot and killed in America. Their blood cries out from the grave... Enough is enough! This is no time for passivity, apathy, no time to be immune... They are demonizing our children as thugs and gang bangers. How dare they! They don't call the cops who killed them thugs... We don't have to cross oceans to see shooting outside our doors. How dare the U.S. tell the world how to act!"

Father Pfleger challenged people, "What are you going to do when you leave here? If you do nothing, you insult what you do in here. If you love Emmett Till, you won't rest till our children are safe."

Revcoms were in the house to be part of marking the anniversary of Emmett Till’s lynching and honoring those who fought for justice for Emmett and those fighting against police and racist murder and brutality today. We got out palm cards, the Call for October 24, and Revolution newspaper to connect people up with the movement for revolution and with the Rise Up October mass mobilization October 22-24 in New York City to stop police terror and murder. Outside was a big Stolen Lives banner with the faces and names of some of the thousands murdered by police, there at the invitation of the event's organizers. People stopped to look at the banner—and too often recognized people they knew who had been killed by police.

During the ceremony, someone quoted Mamie Till as saying of Emmett, "I hope he didn't die in vain." As Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party has said, the massive mobilization against police terror on October 24 must be “as powerful as possible,” and “it HAS to happen.” And it is only with a revolution that sweeps away the monstrous system behind the murder of Emmett Till and countless others that their blood and sacrifice will not be in vain.

A children's choir at the ceremony had a song with a refrain: "Giants. The bigger they are, the harder they fall. Reach out, reach up, they gotta come down." It's up to us.






Revolution #403 September 7, 2015

Interview with Educator and Oral Historian Timuel Black

Remembering the Lynching and Funeral of Emmett Till: "I was ANGRY!"

September 7, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


Timuel Black, 96, is an eminent educator, political activist, and oral historian. He has taught at a number of high schools, as well as universities, in Chicago. He is perhaps best known for his series of books, Bridges of Memory, about the Great Migration of Black people from the South and about Black Chicago history from the 1920s to the present.

He graciously agreed to be interviewed by Revolution newspaper about his experiences at the time of the Emmett Till lynching and funeral in 1955. He started by getting into “the background and context that led to the accusation that Emmett Till had insulted this white lady,” by way of his own personal experience going from north to south as a soldier during World War 2.

Revolution Interview: A special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.

Professor Black told us about his experience in the South more than a decade before Emmett Till was killed:

When we were drafted into the army in World War 2, those up in the North were sent south to get our so-called basic training. I was in Camp Lee near Petersburg, Virginia. There was a Black college there, so we would go and visit on breaks. But if we went into town with our soldier suit on, we had to learn that whoever was Caucasian could come and get in front of us... even though we were supposed to be back in camp at a certain time. If we got on the bus, or any other transportation, and didn’t remember that we were Negro, and just sat down, we might be beat up, or certainly be told that we had to go to the back of the bus. We were not accustomed to that. Like me, most of our families had fled the South during the first great migration to be rid of the Ku Klux Klan terror being applied back there. People like my daddy were in jeopardy all the time. My mother was so glad they fled the South. They were kind of drafted to come north by Black newspapers, but also by the growing industries—steel mills, stockyards.

What I’m trying to get you to understand is the background and context that led to the accusation that Emmett Till had insulted this white lady. Emmett Till was from the North. So those of us who were in service... for example, because I was so unsophisticated, I got word that my unit was being shipped overseas. I wasn’t even thinking, but I wanted my brother to know that I was going overseas, and I wanted my mother to know, so I jumped on a bus. I had my uniform on. I was the first person on the bus, I just sat down, as I would do in Chicago. So just after that a white guy gets on the bus with a white woman. Immediately he goes to the bus driver. I had made up my psychological and emotional mind. The bus driver comes, “You’re sitting in the wrong spot.” I asked, as if I didn’t know, “Why didn’t you tell me that when I got on? You mean to tell me to sit in the back and I’m about to go overseas and lose my life? Hell NO!” I was prepared to die, psychologically and emotionally. Fortunately, we got to the train station and I had cooled myself and knew how to behave.

My attitude was, “Why go overseas and die when I can come down here and die?” That’s an experiential culture that those of us from the North carry with us. We tried to adjust, but sometimes it was very difficult. We go overseas in a segregated army; I’m smarter than my commanding officer, by their own standards, but he has to keep me in my place. I had to adjust and stay in my place, as my momma had commanded. This is not just Tim Black, this is also Emmett Till not knowing how to behave in the South.

We asked Timuel Black to talk about going to Emmett Till’s funeral:

Now when Emmett was killed, drowned, and they had the trial... it was so unfair. Because these men who were accused were acquitted without much of a problem. They later in a national magazine admitted that they had done it. Now when some of my students—I was teaching at Gary, Indiana, Roosevelt High School, but I still lived in Chicago―a lot of those students had lived in Mississippi. When they heard the story of Emmett Till, they knew, and immediately they wanted to go back home to fight that battle.

The undertaker was A. A. Rayner, longtime friend of my family. The lines outside of the Rayner Funeral Home, on 71st street, were two and three blocks long, on a continuous basis. Mr. Rayner was preparing Emmett’s body for the funeral. The participation in the funeral [at Roberts Temple Church of God in Christ], in terms of numbers, was very similar—it was over-packed, and lines were outside. Emmett’s mother had decided that her son, and the condition of her son when he was finally pulled from the water, would be available for everyone.

Even if they couldn’t hear the minister, they were weavin’ and grievin’, because, as they could say, no one in those lines had not had a similar experience in their own family. Personal grievance and experience, transferred to the drama of Emmett Till. That was a great day in history, in African-American history, that most people don’t know about. But I hope your project can give some attention to that.

We asked whether he was able to go inside the church at Emmett Till's funeral and view the open casket.

Timuel Black: I was there. I was inside.

Revolution: And what was your emotional reaction?

Timuel Black: I was ANGRY! I was angry. I don’t know if I was sorry, but I was angry. And my attitude was: “We’ve got to get rid of these motherfuckers.” That was my street, personal attitude—we’ve got to get rid of this shit. But there were many others who felt that way, I’m just articulating one guy’s expression of a community’s spirituality about an injustice that had started during slavery. The stories of men being castrated and women having hot pokers placed up their vaginas when they broke the culture. And the public spectacle, with the children, for both sides to see. For the Blacks: “See, this will happen to you.” And the whites: “This is what you’ve gotta do.”

So that division, which existed so openly then, carries forward now, in a much more subtle way. The police, conditioned against young Blacks, particularly.

See also: Chicago: 60 Years After the Racist Murder of Emmett Till—Honoring the Fighters for Justice Then and Now

Professor Black concluded by talking about the historical significance of the lynching of Emmett Till:

So the day of Emmett Till then made it easier, when in that same period, in Montgomery, Alabama, Rosa Parks and E. D. Nixon planned that she would get on the bus, and not give up. The funeral of Emmett Till spurred the movement, but it didn’t start it. We who were present at the funeral could understand it, and we carried the life of Emmett Till that we had experienced into expanding the civil rights movement, which became more national and international. And the reverence of Emmett’s family at the funeral, that diversity, primarily African-American, but Caucasian as well, spurred the feeling that things must change, embodying the idea in the song by Sam Cook, “A Change Is Gonna Come.” Emmett Till dramatized and spurred the civil rights movement during that period and later.






Revolution #403 September 7, 2015

We received this from #RiseUpOctober organizers:

You Are Needed...

Bring the Families of 100 Police Murder Victims to Rise Up October

September 7, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


On October 24, #RiseUpOctober will mobilize people from all walks of life to flood the streets of New York City to Stop Police Terror. This massive mobilization will call out to and challenge people throughout society: Which Side Are You On?

A centerpiece of these outpourings will be 100+ families of those who have been murdered by police.

Families of people who have been murdered by police Family members of those whose lives were stolen by police at the August 27 program, "What We Must Do to STOP Police Murder and Terror—Get Ready for #RiseUpOctober: Massive Mobilization to Stop Police Terror & Murder, October 22-24 in NYC."

These family members bear the excruciating pain of not only losing their loved ones at the hand of state violence, but then being denied any justice... watching in agony as the police go unpunished, while their murdered loved ones are demonized. And then on top of all that, the families are often also treated as criminals and threatened by the very police departments that killed their loved ones. It takes a lot of courage to stand up to all this and speak out publicly.

Never before have this many families of police murder gathered in one place. Never before has the world had to confront so many of the faces of those whose lives have been torn apart by police terror and murder. Never before have their courage and cries for justice been fused together with each other on this scale, and with many thousands more from all walks of life demanding: POLICE TERROR MUST STOP—WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?

But these families who have lost so much, and who are now determined to give so much to win justice, cannot do this by themselves.

Hundreds of individuals and institutions, student groups and social justice organizations, religious congregations and atheist groups, sororities and fraternities, book clubs and community groups, and more are needed now to sponsor a family to travel to New York City to take part in Rise Up October.

You are needed now to answer this challenge.


Make your commitment and then raise the funds, drawing in many new people as you do so. Raise funds through bake sales, selling dinner plates, car washes, and special collections of donations or offerings. Ask better-off people (like professors, lawyers) to match the funds that you raise through grassroots efforts. And as you undertake this critical part of Rise Up October, you will be spreading the word and organizing others through this. Many more people will be moved to be in New York City on October 22 through the 24 together with these families. Ask others you know to also sponsor a stolen lives family and together create a wave of support that will transport these families to New York City for Rise Up October.

Everyone can contribute:

If you are a family member of someone murdered by police, contact

Online donations can be made at or by writing a check to Alliance for Global Justice/Stop Mass Incarceration; write “100 families travel fund” in the memo line and send to Stop Mass Incarceration Network, PO Box 941 Knickerbocker Station, New York, NY 10002-0900.

For more information contact the 100 Families 4 #RiseUpOctober project at 646.709.1961 or by email at






Revolution #403 September 7, 2015

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




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Revolution #403 September 7, 2015

Three Points on Ohio's Proposed Down Syndrome Abortion Ban

Fetuses Are NOT Human Beings! Women ARE Human Beings, and MUST Have the Rights of Personhood!

September 7, 2015 | Revolution Newspaper |


We received this letter from someone active in Stop Patriarchy.

Download the PDF of this pamphlet: A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity

Ohio's proposed law H.B. No. 135 would ban abortions that are sought because of a fetal diagnosis of Down syndrome and make it a felony for providers to knowingly perform abortions under such circumstances. The state could also revoke a provider's license. The fact that this is even being considered is outrageous!

1. Forced Motherhood is Female Enslavement!

Forced motherhood happens within a larger societal context, where women are raped, beaten, harassed, demeaned, degraded—treated as property, breeders and sex objects. When women are not allowed to decide for themselves whether to become a parent, then they are often trapped in abusive relationships, pushed into (or further into) poverty, and their lives and dreams are foreclosed.

Parenting a child—including a child with Down syndrome—can be wonderful, if that is what you want to do, and you're able to do so, but forcing women into motherhood against their will, by denying them the right to abortion, is wrong! This is even more so the case when women are forced to continue a pregnancy that would bring into being a child with severe disabilities. This is a life-long commitment, and the emotional and social burdens are full-time.

2. Abortion Providers Are Heroes!

Abortion providers already face attacks every day, including the threat of murder, and heroically continue to provide women with access. They should NOT be further criminalized and demonized by any law!

Under this Ohio law, abortion providers may find themselves in a position where they are forced to choose between patient confidentiality and avoiding felony charges and/or their license being revoked. It will have a chilling effect on doctors and their patients holding forthright and private conversations about their circumstances, diagnosis, and medical care. It could easily impact what treatments and tests abortion providers might be inclined to prescribe, which would negatively impact women's health. Women need to be able to talk with their doctors openly, without fear of the doctors being prosecuted. This is even more the case when considering the extra demands and burdens of carrying to term a fetus with disabilities.

3. Fetuses Are NOT babies  

To propose an anti-discrimination law to protect the “rights” of fetuses implies that fetuses are somehow people. Anti-discrimination laws apply to people, not fetuses! If fetuses are people, then women are no longer human beings in the eyes of the law; reality is turned on its head, pregnant women's rights are subordinated, and women become state-mandated incubators. (See “What Is an Abortion and Why Women Must Have the Right to Choose—Life Cannot and Should Not Always Be Preserved”)

For all the hype about the lives of “babies,” the anti-abortion, Christian-fascist-led movement to end all abortion, and even birth control, does not have the interests of women, or children—disabled or not—at heart. This battle over abortion has always been about control over women, and what the anti-abortion movement is fighting for has everything to do with the re-assertion of traditional patriarchy.

Consider the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” and how it was applied in Indiana: not to enact antidiscrimination laws to protect LGBT people, but to prevent any laws from being passed to protect the rights of LGBT people, and to protect “religious freedom.” Such laws offer a thin mask of legitimacy to cover over and strengthen ugly bigotry, oppression, and prejudice rooted in Christian fundamentalism. (See “Indiana’s anti-LGBT Discrimination: A Fascist Law, a Storm of Protest”) The same is true of fetal “personhood” laws—they masquerade as “concern for babies,” when really those laws objectively serve to dehumanize and attack women. An example of this, among those currently auditioning to head up this system, is Mike Huckabee, who finds it morally acceptable to agree with a law in Paraguay that forced a ten-year-old victim of incest to carry her stepfather's fetus to term.

This is not the first time that the anti-abortion movement has set legal precedent and twisted anti-discrimination laws to apply to fetuses. In 2013, North Dakota made it illegal for a doctor to perform an abortion because of fetal genetic anomalies, including Down syndrome. Indiana, Missouri and South Dakota considered similar laws this year. Seven states—Arizona, Kansas, North Carolina, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and South Dakota—have laws banning abortions if the reason is gender selection. In 2012, the U.S. House of Representatives considered (but rejected) such a measure as national law.

This is the current direction, where women are increasingly forced into motherhood, into the back alleys, and criminalized and even jailed for miscarriage or self-inducing abortion. (See “The Outrageous Imprisonment of Purvi Patel and the Wake-Up Call to Everyone: The Fascist War on Women MUST BE STOPPED!Abortion is a basic, liberating, and fundamental right that women MUST have if they are to be able to chart the course of their own lives. Women are half of humanity, and if women cannot even make the essential decision about when and whether to become mothers, if women are forced into motherhood against their will for any reason, then they are enslaved. If women are not free, then no one is free.

Abortion on Demand and Without Apology!

Fetuses Are NOT babies, Abortion Is NOT Murder, and Women Are NOT Incubators!



To learn more about the fight to break the chains and unleash the fury of women as a mighty force for revolution:

Break ALL the Chains! Bob Avakian on the Emancipation of Women and the Communist Revolution

A Declaration: For Women's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity


End Pornography and Patriarchy: The Enslavement and Degradation of Women section of this website