Revolution #235, June 12, 2011

Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party,USA

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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In the Wake of the Acquittal
of NYPD Pigs on Rape Charges

OUTRAGE!

For weeks the trial had been in the news. While the victim did not remember all the details, important facts were not in dispute. Some time after midnight on December 7, 2008, a cab driver called the New York City police to escort an intoxicated woman passenger from his cab to her apartment building. The woman was a 29-year-old fashion executive coming home from a celebration of her recent promotion.

Two NYPD officers, Kenneth Moreno and Franklin Mata, were recorded on a security video system taking the woman to her apartment. Over the course of the next four hours the two officers entered her apartment three more times, using her keys. They spent a total of 97 minutes in the building. Moreno admitted that he "flirted" with her, "snuggled" beside her in bed while she wore only a bra, kissed her head, and sang to her. The cops fabricated 911 calls and police records to cover their trips back to the neighborhood and the apartment.

Prosecutors arranged for the woman to confront Moreno outside his precinct with a concealed recorder. At first he insisted that nothing had happened, before he then admitted that he had "used a condom." He also told her that he had asked her that night if she had a "boyfriend" and offered to be her "boyfriend."

The woman's hospital medical report described bruising of her cervix. The Gothamist, a widely read New York City news and culture website, reported that "a nurse who examined the report testified that the bruising to the accuser's cervix was 'consistent with something coming into contact with her cervix when she is lying on her stomach.'" The defense claimed that the contusion could have been caused by overly vigorous scrubbing in the shower. Such an offensively misleading scenario can only be credible on the basis of widespread ignorance and demeaning of basic female anatomy. The cervix is not on the body's surface. It is the opening to a woman's uterus and is only reached with penetration into the vagina. The Gothamist continues: "During her testimony, the accuser told the jury, 'I woke up because the action of him penetrating me was so hard, that my head was moving so hard against my window that I thought I was going to go through it.'"

Two and a half years later, on May 26, the two NYPD officers were acquitted on rape and burglary charges. They were convicted only of misdemeanor counts of official misconduct for returning to the woman's apartment while they were supposed to be on patrol.

One of the jurors, Melinda Hernandez, chose to speak out in an interview with WeNews, a website that covers issues of significance to women. She was one of three jurors who believed that the cops were guilty but ended up voting to acquit after six days of deliberations. She says, "I think the system failed her big-time" because the crime scene evidence collected from the apartment was sent to the New York Police Department laboratory. The lab reported the implausible finding of NO traces of the police presence in the apartment at all.

This case bared raw truths about the position of women and the brutal reality of rape in this society, and the social relations among people that are enforced by the police and the courts.

Until the 1970s, marital rape was not even recognized as a crime in the U.S. or most of the world – a husband had the legal right to rape his wife because she was his property to do with as he wished. While this is no longer part of official law in the U.S., the grip of thousands of years of tradition is entwined with the modern-day brutal reality of women's less-than-human position as property and sex object.

One in three women in this country is sexually assaulted in her lifetime. One in four women in college is raped or assaulted during her campus years. The great majority of rapes are never reported, and the majority of those reported are never prosecuted.

We refuse to live this way! We are building a movement for revolution that does not tolerate this and will involve all of society in transforming all of it.

The liberation of women is a powerful component of this most radical, communist all-the-way revolution to emancipate all of humanity.

Get with the real revolution!

 

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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Report from a Reader

Thursday, May 26—The jury acquitted Moreno and Mata of rape charges.

Word of the Moreno and Mata verdict swept across the city like a gust of foul air. Deep truths about this system, its enforcers, its courts, and its culture were being revealed. Outrage, disbelief, and deep questioning was widespread. Shortly after the verdict was announced, a call for a protest was posted on Facebook and within 24 hours, the page had over 1,500 responses.

Friday, May 27—I stood in a gathering of hundreds of angry people in front of the Manhattan Criminal Courthouse. The crowd was composed of mainly young women of different nationalities and a significant number of men. Their signs expressed their rage: "New Rape City" – "RAPE: The only crime where the victim becomes the accused." – "COPS —› Raping Queers, POC, Sex Workers, Women! What else is new???" – "Fuck Rape!" – "Outraged Survivor" – "Fuck the Police!" – "Intoxication is not Invitation!" – "Only 6% of rapists ever go to Jail!!!" – "I used a condom, but nothing happened. Police Officer Kenneth Moreno" – "Dear Ms ____, Thank you for your strength."

While holding her baby daughter, one rape survivor told the crowd, "This girl is not going to grow up with this bullshit! We should be allowed to drink a few fucking beers!" [without fearing being raped]. Another woman, also a rape survivor, told the Village Voice when asked why she came to the protest: "I'm a survivor and I felt that I had to support this woman. I thought it would make her feel better," she said. "Also, let's start a fucking revolution."

Some of those addressing the crowd demanded better training for the police, and more police accountability. A chant rose from a more youthful section of the crowd, "No justice—no peace! Fuck the police!" Some opposed the chant and complained that all police were not rapists and should not be the target of the protest. The chant got louder, continued, and spread.

I worked my way to the front of the crowd and told rally organizers that I was actively involved in building mass political resistance to police brutality and all illegal actions by the police against the people and had come to stand against this outrage and I wanted to read a profoundly relevant quote from Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party.

The first line of that quote had echoed through my thoughts since hearing of the verdict, "Look at all the beautiful children who are female in the world..." I turned to page 7 of BAsics and gave the book to one of the organizers. She showed it to others and they shook their heads in agreement as they read. They looked at each other and at me, and then a young woman motioned me up to speak. I told the crowd that I was part of resisting police brutality and standing up to any and all illegal actions by the police against the people. The crowd cheered. I said the problem is not just a couple of rapists in the NYPD, or even just the NYPD, the problem is a system and a society that has male supremacy and the exploitation and brutalization of women woven into its every fiber and daily functioning. And the police are the enforcers of that system, and an embodiment of its values. We don't want to live this way. We refuse to live this way! We're building a movement for revolution.

I began to read quote #10 from Chapter 1, page 7 of BAsics—"Look at all the beautiful children who are female in the world..." People listened intently. "...surrounded on every side, and insulted at every moment, by a society and a culture which degrades women, on the streets, in the schools and workplaces, in the home, on a daily basis and in countless ways." We don't have to live this way. A different world is possible. We need a revolution.

A number of people approached as I stepped away from the bullhorn. I sold copies of the "Declaration: For Woman's Liberation and the Emancipation of All Humanity" and the current issue of Revolution newspaper. People asked about the quote, some knew something about Bob Avakian—most did not. A woman thanked me for being there and talked about how important it was to confront the reality that women are under assault in every way imaginable in this country and it is getting worse. "What kind of revolution are you talking about?" she asked. I turned to page 69 and handed her BAsics. She read the passage and said, "Communism didn't work. We need to try something new." She bought a copy of the Declaration. Another woman said that she did not think the demo was angry enough—that everything is getting worse for women in the world and people should be a lot more upset.

The rally became a march and went the few blocks to police headquarters at One Police Plaza. Protesters chanted and confronted police across barricades before the crowd, which included a brass band, left police headquarters and took to the street. The police scrambled, afraid the protesters might try to take the Brooklyn Bridge. Some in the crowd chanted "Take the bridge! Take the bridge!" But the procession marched past the entrance to the bridge and into the streets of lower Manhattan, leaving knots of debate and wrangling in its wake.

• • •

Saturday morning, May 28—I'm standing on the sidewalk outside the housing projects in Harlem with a sister and brother who read Revolution newspaper and are studying BAsics. The sister talks about how sexual assault is part of how the police operate in the projects and every young woman has to fear being in a situation where she is alone with the police. I recall a story from three years ago when another brother and I were walking along 125th Street to the subway stop carrying signs calling out the murder of Sean Bell by police. We had just finished a day in the street. A woman in her early 30s hurries to catch up with us—"I hate those motherfuckers!" she said in a voice filled with hurt and anger. She had been drinking but was not drunk. She pointed to the bruises around her neck. "They did this, the police, because I wouldn't have sex with them." Now tears were running down her face. "I'm a human being—they got no right to do this. I hate them." She told us we were right to stand up against them.

Another quote from BAsics is echoing through my thoughts now. #10, Chapter 2, page 43:

"It is right to want state power. It is necessary to want state power. State power is a good thing—state power is a great thing"—in the hands of the right people, the right class, in the service of the right things: bringing about an end to exploitation, oppression, and social inequality and bringing into being a world, a communist world, in which human beings can flourish in new and greater ways than ever before."

 

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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BIRDS CANNOT GIVE BIRTH TO CROCODILES, BUT HUMANITY CAN SOAR BEYOND THE HORIZON

Part 2: BUILDING THE MOVEMENT FOR REVOLUTION

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

Countries in the Third World

With regard to countries in the Third World which, in one way or another, are dominated by imperialism and whose internal structures and dynamics are qualitatively affected by that, one of the things we have been calling attention to are the major changes in the "demographics" and the "social configuration" in at least many of these countries, and the implications of this for revolutionary strategy. It's a very different world than China during its revolution in the late 1920s, 1930s and 1940s. It's even a very different world than the one that existed during the period of the Vietnamese war of resistance against U.S. imperialism in the 1960s and early 1970s, a period also marked by other anti-colonial, anti-imperialist struggles, in Angola and Mozambique and other parts of the world during that time. Major changes have taken place in the world, and in the conditions and lives of masses of people.

When, today, you have millions and millions of people crowded into shantytowns surrounding cities (as part of the broader urban cores), in countries throughout the Third World, that is very different than when you had many of those same millions in the countryside, in impoverished and exploited conditions but nevertheless living off the land in one form or another. These are, very significantly, different conditions. And the conditions today are ones within which reactionary forces, including religious fundamentalists, are working and presently thriving to a significant extent, in large part because of their apocalyptic and millennial approach to things—or that is, in any case, a big factor in their appeal—corresponding to the volatile conditions of a lot of the masses in these urban shantytowns. These are things that have to be confronted, studied and analyzed, and strategic thinking has to be further developed on that basis. This doesn't mean throwing out the whole strategic orientation developed by Mao of surrounding the cities from the countryside, as the road for carrying out protracted people's war. But, as Mao himself emphasized, you can't be bound by convention. If you're going to make revolution—to go back to the beginning, and to a main theme, of this talk—you have to do it on the basis of science and, with the scientific outlook and method of dialectical materialism, analyze and synthesize what the actual conditions are that you're confronted with and what, within the contradictory dynamics of that, are the possible pathways of change, and in particular revolutionary transformation. You cannot do that if you are bound by convention and by instrumentalism (seeking to impose on reality a vision of how you would like it to be, instead of proceeding on the basis of what reality actually is, and transforming it on that basis). A lot of work needs to be done in the realm of analysis and synthesis, strategic thinking and strategic conception.

Still, with all that, there is the question of the countryside (literally, or perhaps figuratively) as the "center of gravity" of the all-out struggle for power—at the beginning, and for a certain period, at least. Now what I mean by literally or perhaps figuratively is that in Mao's development of the theory of protracted people's war and surrounding the cities from the countryside, that was meant literally and was applied literally—and correctly so: the protracted people's war actually being based among the vast masses of the peasants in the countryside, beginning in the more remote areas where the reach of the reactionary state power was less intense and less constant, opening up the possibility of establishing areas of support and eventually base areas controlled by the revolutionary forces. But there can also be creative application of this concept of surrounding the city from the countryside.

Now, we do have to be careful of creative applications—in many cases things done in the name of "creative development" or "creative application" have led to all kinds of problems—such "creative development and application" of communist theory has been the hallmark of revisionism, or the rationalization in any case for revisionism. Revisionist creativity and related kinds of approaches are no good. I remember back in the 1960s, just to divert for a second, there was this group in the U.S., the Young Patriot Party, founded by some guys from the South, and they wanted to revive the Confederate flag as a symbol of rebellion against the system. I remember some of them showed up at a Black Panther Party rally in support of Huey Newton, when he was in jail, and a bunch of us were sitting out on the grass talking during a lull in things. They had the Red Book, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tsetung, and they were "creatively applying" that. I was demanding to know: "What the hell is with this Confederate flag, what are you guys doing?" They answered: "We're patriots." So I snapped back: "What kind of patriots are you?! You can't do that—that kind of patriotism is no good." Then they pulled out the Red Book and quoted from Mao: "In wars of national liberation, patriotism is applied internationalism." Well, I had heard this from Black nationalists many times, but this was the first time I heard it from white nationalists! So, I looked at them and I said: "You ain't waging no war of national liberation, just give it up." That was an example of very bad "creative application." But there is a need for creative application that actually is scientifically grounded and is in the service of revolution and communism.

In that light, this is something that needs to be explored: the "figurative countryside," in the sense of areas where masses are concentrated which may not literally be the countryside, at least in the more "classical" sense, but are places where the most concentrated power of the reactionary ruling class is not centered, or not as effectively enforced. Could those areas be a basis for a beginning, and for the strategic unfolding of things with that as a basis for a beginning?

There is also, in many cases, the question of whether the countryside, in the literal sense, would be the initial "starting ground," even if eventually the "center of gravity" would shift more to the urban areas, or even if fairly early on there would be much more significant emphasis on the urban areas than is involved classically, in the writings of Mao on the strategy of protracted people's war, for example? And there is the question of whether, particularly with intervention by powerful outside forces—reactionary powers and/or imperialists—there would, at least in some cases, be a need for pulling back into the countryside, as the main or even almost exclusive center of the struggle for a certain period of time?

All this, once again, needs to be examined in a manner free of the fetters of convention—but not free of science, not detached from a materialist approach and from the strategic objectives which must inform this whole struggle in the first place.

So, again, there is a question of the literal but perhaps also the figurative countryside and how that might apply. And there is a need for creative but scientifically based work in relation to this. Where might there be areas of significant concentration of the masses that would be outside the strongholds and the "ready reach" of the old, reactionary oppressive order? Making a start in this kind of way—in other words, finding the basis in which a start could be made without being immediately crushed—would be necessary and crucial to establish a clear pole in opposition to the established order and to accumulate forces for revolution.

As spoken to earlier in terms of how these principles would be applied, in qualitatively different conditions, in an imperialist country, there would be—from the beginning of the protracted struggle, once the conditions for that had come into being—the importance of clearly establishing a revolutionary "pole" actively contending for power in society, to which masses could increasingly rally with the development of the struggle: a pole in opposition to the established reactionary order and forces but also, in a different way, in opposition to other forces and programs in society—not necessarily on antagonistic terms with regard to non-ruling class, reformist forces, but nevertheless a pole that is clearly and radically different from what they represent.

Where the conditions exist in which it is possible, and is required for the advance of the revolution, to wage this kind of struggle, only by waging this struggle will it be possible to fully win forces away from various reformist programs, as well as to carry things forward overall in opposition to the established reactionary order and reactionary forces. This is an important point to understand: when the objective conditions have come into being, or do exist, if the initial breakthrough is not made in terms of waging this kind of struggle, then not only reactionary but reformist forces as well will retain or regain the initiative. And, on the positive side, once the conditions for this exist, then with the planting of a clear pole embodied in an active beginning of the struggle for power, it will be possible to catapult the basis for repolarization onto a different level.

Then, once the revolutionary forces in such a situation would be "on the map"—once they had been able to defeat attempts to crush them at the beginning and were able to advance—there would be the question of how to continue proceeding toward the situation where the question of the seizure of power throughout the country would be posed not only as a general strategic goal, but in more immediate terms—how to bring about the concluding or "final act." And in this regard, some aspects of "On the Possibility of Revolution" could be relevant and have application, even though "On the Possibility of Revolution" is focused on imperialist countries and not so much on Third World countries that are occupied or otherwise dominated by imperialism.

As referred to earlier, in Third World countries, with the advance of the struggle for power along the general lines that have been spoken of here—and even where there had not, up to that point, been direct occupation by imperialist or other foreign powers—it would be necessary to anticipate and prepare for the possibility of such intervention by imperialist and/or other reactionary states, in direct opposition to and in an attempt to crush the revolution. This could happen either with the seizure of power, or even before that when the revolution had reached an advanced stage, with the prospect of its seizing countrywide power becoming more real and palpable. The implications of this for the approach to completing, and consolidating, the seizure of power would need to be anticipated, and not just taken up at the time when such an intervention would be occurring or would appear imminent. Once again, this could include—and it is worth emphasizing that it might not require this, but it could include—the necessity of a temporary retreat from the major centers of power in and around the urban areas. Even if the struggle had gotten to the point where it focused in those areas to a significant degree, the necessity could arise for a retreat from that in order to accumulate the basis to go forward again. And that, after all, is the point: to go forward to the completion of this stage of the revolution, with the thorough defeat of the old, reactionary state power and the establishment of a new, revolutionary state power, in order to embark on the road of socialism, as part of the overall world revolutionary struggle with the final aim of communism.

The "two historically outmodeds"—and the crucial importance of a revolutionary orientation and strategic conception

What has been spoken to here involves principles and questions which are important in terms of revolutionary theory and strategic conception with regard to both imperialist countries and countries occupied or otherwise dominated by imperialism (countries of the Third World, for short). And, in all this, there is a need to take into account the whole dynamic of the "two historically outmodeds"—the outmoded imperialist system and its ruling strata, and outmoded strata and forces among colonized and oppressed humanity, including in particular Islamic fundamentalist, jihadist forces1—as a major part of the situation and the dynamics, not only in this or that country or part of the world, but in the world overall, even while this is not the only contradiction or only dynamic of significance asserting itself in the world today. In the world today the need is great, urgent and continually more urgent for not only mass opposition and resistance to both of these "outmodeds"—and above all the imperialist "outmoded"—but also for qualitative advances and breakthroughs for the real and fundamental alternative to both of these outmodeds: revolution, led by a genuinely communist vanguard and aiming for the final goal of a communist world, free of every kind of outmoded, exploitative and oppressive relations and the corresponding ideas.

In regard to basic orientation and approach, in addition to the particular points to which I've spoken, and along with referring people back to re-studying (or studying for the first time, for those who have not yet studied) "On the Possibility of Revolution," I want to stress in a more general and broader sense the ongoing need for further, serious and systematic, study and what we might call "theoretical assimilation of experience" of various kinds, and in various epochs, in order to carry forward the work that needs to be done in the realm of theoretical and strategic conception.

To be continued

1. For a fuller discussion of the "two outmodeds" and the relation of this to building a movement for revolution and the ultimate goal of communism, see Bringing Forward Another Way, an edited text of a talk by Bob Avakian in the fall of 2006, which has been published as a pamphlet and is also available online at revcom.us. [back]

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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Raising Funds... And Preparing for Revolution

From a reader

In thinking about the 30-30+100 drive, it is important to see this in light of the campaign, "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have." This 30-30+100 drive also ties in with one of the deepest questions of the Cultural Revolution in our Party—whether we are serious about making revolution, or whether we are going to drift into (and eventually take up and defend) the spontaneous revisionist path of "movement as an alternate lifestyle" that might call itself revolutionary, but is NOT in fact preparing for revolution in everything it does.

The funds being raised in this drive are all about being able to actually carry forward on the projects being targeted in this drive—publicizing BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian; getting that book into the hands of thousands of prisoners; producing a film of the really inspiring April 11 cultural event on the publication of BAsics; and sustaining Revolution, the voice of the RCP. These funding targets are all crucial—if very beginning—objectives to meet.

The overall goals of the "The Revolution We Need... The Leadership We Have" campaign focus on letting people very broadly know about this revolution and what it's all about; making Bob Avakian, and his leadership and work, known to millions and much more of a point of reference in society; and bringing forward new cores of communists and revolutionaries. BAsics is a major instrument in every dimension of that. We are really just beginning to learn of the potential impact of this book. Everything we can do to get this out there—most all of which requires money—will make a difference.

With the newspaper, the goal of over 100 new sustainers will not only enable the paper to keep coming out but to further and more deeply fulfill its mission as "the key instrument in developing an organized political network, among the most oppressed and other sections of the people, which can have a growing impact on the political scene and the society (and the world) as a whole, building up the forces of revolution and influencing ever broader numbers of people" (to quote the Party's statement, "On the Strategy for Revolution").

This drive also has a larger dimension. When we raise funds for these specific projects, we also build the movement for revolution. We are giving people a waya very important wayto be part of this movement. We are organizing people, now, to be part of changing the whole world.

We need, right now, to have many comrades and supporters of the Party going to people with BAsics, letting them see the brochures on what is envisioned with the different projects, and giving them ways to support and be part of this effort. And this should not be a one-shot deal; with those who donate, we should be getting back to them as they "live with" BAsics, and perhaps get deeper into BA's work, and we should definitely be both learning from their responses and letting them know how things are developing and what their donations are helping to bring into being.

We also need, right now, to have many comrades and supporters of the Party winning people to sustain the newspaper. And then once people have been won to sustain, revolutionaries need to be going to them and talking with them, consistently, listening well to what they say and learning from them, improving our paper as we learn from them, and working with them to figure out further ways that they can contribute... while fully valuing the contributions that they make through their activity in sustaining.

To come at it a little differently, one night a few years ago I was watching Pat Robertson on TV—the reactionary Christian fascist preacher who runs the Christian Broadcasting Network. Robertson was pitching to his social base to donate, and especially directing his pitch to those with very little income—saying that even those who can only give 5 or 10 dollars a month are doing their part of get Bibles into Arab countries, or whatever other reactionary notions he was promoting at the time—"and wouldn't that be worth the sacrifice of a few cups of coffee a month?" Why? Because he needed the money? Yes, in one sense; but Robertson gets serious backing from the bourgeoisie and does not really have to raise money from the masses in the same way that revolutionaries do. But Robertson does see the importance of building up an organized, committed base to his reactionary movement, one that feels that they are part of what these Christian fascists are trying to do and one that is being prepared for days to come.

Now our aims and objectives are diametrically opposed to Robertson's—for one thing, we are engaging people to think critically and act consciously to bring in a whole new and far better world, as opposed to being religious robots set on reinforcing and intensifying oppressive social relations. But shouldn't we be at least as serious as these reactionary fascists? And again—can we say we are really serious if we are NOT paying at least as much attention to organizing people to concretely support and participate in the revolutionary movement on whatever level they can, as these criminals like Robertson do to line up people for reaction?

It's important for us to understand this: when people give for the first time, we are beginning a relationship with them. This relationship should be rich and multidimensional even as it ultimately has everything to do with accumulating forces for revolution. As they continue to support these kinds of projects and efforts, the relationship should be deepening. Comrades and supporters who win people to sustain should consistently work with these new sustainers, learning more (and helping the Party to learn more) about their conditions and about their thinking and about the conditions and thinking among the people they live and work with. We should be learning about their aspirations and how they see things and what holds them back. We should be getting a deeper understanding about the ways in which the works of Bob Avakian and other works, as well as our newspaper, are connecting with them—the questions that these works are answering and the new ones being sparked.

We should, through all this, be getting an increasingly deeper sense of the kinds of ways that people see fighting the power and the kinds of questions that have to be joined and answered... for revolution. Some—perhaps most for a time—will want to mainly continue as supporters and sustainers of different kinds, and we should make sure that they understand how meaningful their support is. Others will want to take up other activities as well. But, even taking into account that some people drop away for a while or even for good, the overall motion should be an ever-deepening relationship with greater numbers of people.

This has importance in every section of society. This is one part of what is being spoken to in the statement on strategy:

All along the way, both in more "normal times" and especially in times of sharp breaks with the "normal routine," it is necessary to be working consistently to accumulate forces—to prepare minds and organize people in growing numbers—for revolution, among all those who can be rallied to the revolutionary cause. Among the millions and millions who catch hell in the hardest ways every day under this system. But also among many others who may not, on a daily basis, feel the hardest edge of this system's oppression but are demeaned and degraded, are alienated and often outraged, by what this system does, the relations among people it promotes and enforces, the brutality this embodies.

This kind of orientation toward fund-raising also begins to work on and change the culture. When there is a growing section of people who are seriously supporting the revolution—donating money to something bigger than themselves—it goes against the whole miserly "what's-in-it-for-me" mentality that is so promoted and so prevalent right now.

So all this should be kept in mind—and the connections consciously forged in practice—as we carry out this drive. Again, the specific goals of this particular fund drive are very important in their own right and we should all be thinking about how we can meet them; but as we do so, the relationships and organized ties that we build must be part of laying a foundation from which the movement for revolution can forge ahead further.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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Rape and a World of Violent Domination Over Women

In October 2010, pledges of the Yale University chapter of the fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) marched through campus for an initiation ritual. They chanted, "No means yes, yes means anal." Yale is one of the "elite" universities in the U.S., and past members of DKE include U.S. presidents, Supreme Court justices, and heads of major corporations.

Seven months later, university officials announced that DKE was banned from recruiting and holding events on campus. But the Yale campus paper reported that it is "unclear whether the University will have any sway over the future of the fraternity." The executive director of DKE called the campus ban "excessive" and said they will appeal. And the fact remains that the October incident was a vicious and blatant message of hate and threat of violence against women, which went viral with over 170,000 views on YouTube. This typical story compelled Revolution to create this center spread.

Rape and a World of Violent Domination Over Women

Rape is a vicious, dehumanizing crime. It is an expression of the routinely oppressive and often violent subjugation of women by men that is part of the normal functioning of this society—codified into laws, the mass culture, the family, and all mainstream religion.

 

NO

MEANS

NO

"Women are not breeders. Women are not lesser beings. Women are not objects created for the sexual pleasure of men. Women are human beings capable of participating fully and equally in every realm of human endeavor. When women are held down, all of humanity is held back. Women must win liberation, and they can only be liberated through the revolutionary transformation of the world and the emancipation of all of humanity, and through being a powerful motive force in that revolution...

"When so few will dare, this declaration is calling for something unseen in generations: an uncompromising outpouring of women and men the world over who refuse to see women oppressed, beaten, imprisoned, insulted, raped, abused, harassed, exploited, murdered, spat upon, thrown acid at, groped, shamed and systematically diminished."

Excerpt from "A Declaration: For Women's Liberation
and the Emancipation of All Humanity
,"
Revolution #158, March 8, 2009

References (listed in order)

UN Commission on the Status of Women, February 28, 2000

"Profiting from Abuse," UNICEF, New York, 2001

"Rape-silent war on SA women," April 9, 2002 (http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/1909220.stm)

Violence Against Women Information, Amnesty International (http://www.amnestyusa.org/our-work/issues/women-s-rights/violence-against-women/violence-against-women-information)

Statistics from Coalition Educating About Sexual Endangerment (CEASE) at Ohio University (http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~ad361896/anne/cease/rapestatisticspage.html)

UN Study on the World's Women, 2000 (cited by Amnesty International at http://www.amnesty.org.au/svaw/comments/2370/)

"Homicide Trends in the  U.S.,"  Bureau of Justice Statistics (http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/homicide/tables/intimatestab.cfm)

Ann Wright, "Is There an Army Cover Up of Rape and Murder of Women Soldiers?" April 28, 2008 (http://www.commondreams.org/view/2008/04/28)

Press release from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), June 27, 1996 (http://www.icty.org/sid/7334)

From interview with Robert Jensen, author of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity, by Sunsara Taylor, http://revcom.us/a/186/sunsara_jensen-en.html

"Hitmen charge $100 a victim as Basra honor killings rise," The Observer, November 30, 2008 ( http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/nov/30/iraq-honor-killings-women)

Statistics from Coalition Educating About Sexual Endangerment (CEASE) at Ohio University (http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~ad361896/anne/cease/rapestatisticspage.html)

National Crime Victimization Survey, 2007, U.S. Department of Justice (http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/cvus07.pdf)

Statistics from Coalition Educating About Sexual Endangerment (CEASE) at Ohio University (http://oak.cats.ohiou.edu/~ad361896/anne/cease/rapestatisticspage.html)

 

Send us your comments.

Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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Supreme Court Ruling:

CRUEL AND UNUSUAL PUNISHMENT IN CALIFORNIA PRISONS

by Li Onesto

On May 23, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prison conditions in California violate the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishment and ordered the state to reduce its prison population of 140,000 by 30,000 people. The court was sharply split on this case with a 5-4 decision. Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote the majority opinion while two extremely conservative judges, Antonin Scalia and Samuel Alito, wrote dissenting opinions.

This case, Brown v. Plata, grew out of two class-action lawsuits. One, going back to 1990, was filed by seriously mentally ill prisoners. The other, from 2001, came from prisoners with acute medical conditions. The Supreme Court has now upheld a 2009 ruling in this case by a panel of three federal judges that ordered California to reduce its prison population. The New York Times reported: "State officials in California will have two years to comply with the order, and they may ask for more time. Justice Kennedy emphasized that the reduction in population need not be achieved solely by releasing prisoners early. Among the other possibilities, he said, are new construction, transfers out of state and using county facilities."

Before discussing the significance of the Supreme Court's decision in this case, it's worth stopping to look at the brutality prisoners in California have been subjected to for a very long time. Many, many horror stories have come out—such as this account of an incident in 1996 at California's Security Housing Unit at Pelican Bay, known as the SHU:

"Vaughn Dortch, a prisoner with a life-long history of mental problems, was confined after a conviction for grand theft. There, the stark conditions of isolation caused his mental condition to 'dramatically deteriorate,' to the point that he 'smeared himself repeatedly with feces and urine.' Prison officials took Vaughn to the infirmary to bathe him.... Six guards wearing rubber gloves held Vaughn, with his hands cuffed behind his back, in a tub of scalding water. His attorney later estimated the temperature to be about 125 degrees. McMillan proceeded with the bath while one officer pushed down on Vaughn's shoulder and held his arms in place. After about fifteen minutes, when Vaughn was finally allowed to stand, his skin peeled off in sheets, 'hanging in large clumps around his legs.' Nurse Barbara Kuroda later testified without rebuttal that she heard a guard say about the black inmate that it 'looks like we're going to have a white boy before this is through, . . . his skin is so dirty and so rotten, it's all fallen off.' Vaughn received no anesthetic for more than forty-five minutes, eventually collapsed from weakness, and was taken to the emergency room. There he went into shock and almost died."1

This is the kind of extreme brutality that has gone on in California prisons, along with many other forms of abuse, like rape, cell "extractions" where a whole gang of guards rush into a cell and beat a prisoner, and isolation units where prisoners are tortured with sensory deprivation.

Inhumane Conditions... an Inhumane System

The highest court in the land has delivered a decision that not only admits that prison conditions in the most populous state in the U.S. constitute cruel and unusual punishment and are unconstitutional—but offers a lot of explicit evidence to make this argument.

The Supreme Court's decision in Brown v. Plata, titled, "Serious constitutional violations in California's prison system," says that there has been continuing injury and harm resulting from these serious constitutional violations. It argues that, "For years the medical and mental health care provided by California's prisons has fallen short of minimum constitutional requirements and has failed to meet prisoners' basic health needs. Needless suffering and death have been the well-documented result."

The majority decision, written by Kennedy, includes stark examples of the "cruel and unusual punishment" prisoners in California are subjected to: hundreds of prisoners jammed into open gyms where the beds are only inches apart; suicidal inmates "held for prolonged periods in telephone-booth sized cages without toilets"; and mentally ill prisoners who "languished for months, or even years, without access to necessary care."

And there are many examples of how prisoners with serious health problems have been callously neglected, brutalized and literally left to die:

"Adequate housing for the disabled and aged does not exist. The medical facilities, when they exist at all, are in an abysmal state of disrepair. Basic medical equipment is often not available or used. Medications and other treatment options are too often not available when needed. . . .  Indeed, it is a misnomer to call the existing chaos a 'medical delivery system'—it is more an act of desperation than a system."

"A psychiatric expert reported observing an inmate who had been held in such a cage for nearly 24 hours, standing in a pool of his own urine, unresponsive and nearly catatonic. Prison officials explained they had 'no place to put him.'"

"A prisoner with severe abdominal pain died after a five-week delay in referral to a specialist; a prisoner with 'constant and extreme' chest pain died after an eight-hour delay in evaluation by a doctor; and a prisoner died of testicular cancer after a 'failure of MDs to work up for cancer in a young man with 17 months of testicular pain.'"

Kennedy includes the fact that suicide rates in the California prisons have been 80 percent higher than the average for prisoners nationwide and cites a lower court which said it was "an uncontested fact" that "an inmate in one of California's prisons needlessly dies every six or seven days due to constitutional deficiencies."

The Supreme Court's order to California rests on the assumption that overcrowding is the major reason behind the abuses it describes. And the way prisoners are jam-packed together is by itself inhumane. But the systematic brutalization of prisoners goes way beyond the problem of prisons being overcrowded. Overcrowding does not explain why prisoners are subjected to isolation for years, cattle prods, stun guns, and attack dogs.

President Nixon: "the whole problem is really the blacks"

We need to step back and ask, why are 140,000 people in California and 2.3 million nationwide being kept behind bars in the first place? Why is it that African-Americans are 13 percent of the general population in the U.S., but over 50 percent of the prison population? Why is it that so many prisoners are kept in isolation chambers, subjected to the kind of mental torture that is considered a war crime when carried out against prisoners of war?

Official propaganda whipped up the lie that the vast use of drugs was an urgent and serious threat to society and launched what they called a "war on drugs" in 1972. But in reality, what was behind this "war on drugs" was not genuine concern for the millions of lives destroyed by drug abuse and addiction—abuse which is largely driven by the widespread desire of people living under this brutal system to numb themselves.

The top aide to Nixon wrote this about what the president was thinking after the tumultuous 60s: "[Nixon] emphasized that you have to face the fact that the whole problem is really the blacks. The key is to devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to." 2

This "war on drugs" was engineered from the highest offices (first President Richard Nixon and then Ronald Reagan) and came at a time when the system was facing great challenges around the world and on the home front. And from the very beginning, this "war on drugs" has been a war on the people aimed at controlling and repressing a whole section of the population the system sees as volatile and potentially threatening to the system. The so-called "war on drugs" came in the wake of the 1960s—a time of urban rebellions, prison rebellions, the Black Panther Party, and widespread militant mass struggles against the oppression of Black people that influenced and intersected with other struggles in the 60s like the anti-war movement and the struggle for women's liberation. These struggles shook the system to its foundations, calling its very legitimacy into question for millions of people.

Indeed, the "war on drugs" was a way to, as Nixon put it, target Black people but "devise a system that recognizes this while not appearing to."

Since the Sixties... New and Intensifying Forms of Oppression

Since the 1960s, major changes have taken place in the world, and there have been changes within U.S. society—including the inclusion of a section of Black people in the "middle class" —precarious as that has been, and even the election of a Black president. But the basic conditions of millions and millions of African-Americans have become, if anything, more desperate.

Some of these changes are related to globalization. Factories producing goods were moved first from the inner cities to the suburbs and then to other countries—while the masses of Black people remained locked in those urban cores due to continued housing segregation and deprivation. Simultaneously, the inner cities were deprived of funds and allowed to become economic and cultural dead-zones. The drug trade and the gangs involved in that trade to a certain degree arose spontaneously—but they were also systematically manipulated and in some cases promoted to fill the economic and political void left in the ghettos and barrios by economic abandonment and by the counter-revolutionary suppression of the movement.

And the same system that created this situation has then turned around and demonized millions of African-Americans in the inner cities and prisons. Typical of this, and further inciting racism, were the comments of Supreme Court Justice Scalia in his dissenting opinion, railing that the court ruling would release "fine physical specimens who have developed intimidating muscles pumping iron in the prison gym." Such rhetoric evokes the hatred and fear of the slaves whipped up by the slave masters and their ideologues in slave days, and later by the plantation owners and the Klan who routinely depicted African-American men as fearsome predators to justify their brutal exploitation and oppression of Black people.

A special issue of Revolution on prisons and prisoners in the U.S., "From the Hellholes of Incarceration to a Future of Emancipation," says:

"The rulers used all this, along with other attacks, to create a 'pariah class'3 in the inner cities—that is, social outsiders for whom normal considerations and rights did not apply. And they in turn used the presence of that pariah class as an outlet and target for the resentments building up among a large section of white people, many of whom were also facing economic setback and instability, re-fitting and reinforcing the 'tool' of white racism for these times."

"A Drug War Waged Almost Exclusively Against Poor People of Color"

As a result of all this, the prison population in the U.S. went from about 500,000 in 1980 to over 2.3 million—the number of prisoners today. And, continuing the framework laid out by Nixon, this has taken the form of various versions of the "war on drugs."

Convictions for drug offenses were the single most important cause of this boom in mass incarceration. Drug offenses alone account for two-thirds of the rise in the federal inmate population and more than half of the rise in state prisoners between 1985 and 2000. Drug arrests have tripled since 1980. More than 31 million people have been arrested for drug offenses since the "war on drugs" began.4 The "war on drugs" which put so many people in prison has been stamped through and through with the white supremacy that has been part of the foundation of the U.S. since its very beginnings. For example, there are huge racial disparities in convictions and sentencing. African-Americans make up more than 80% of the people convicted of crack cocaine—vs. powder cocaine which is more widely used among white people.5 A 1986 law meant a person convicted of crack cocaine possession got the same mandatory prison term as someone with 100 times the same amount of powder cocaine. (Legislation in 2010 reduced this ratio to about 18-to-1.) And although the majority of illegal drug users and dealers nationwide are white, three-fourths of all people imprisoned for drug offenses have been Black or Latino.

Michelle Alexander's book, The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, notes:

"[H]istorians will undoubtedly look back and marvel that such an extraordinarily comprehensive system of racialized social control existed in the United States. How fascinating, they will likely say, that a drug war was waged almost exclusively against poor people of color—people already trapped in ghettos that lacked jobs and decent schools. They were rounded up by the millions, packed away in prisons, and when released, they were stigmatized for life, denied the right to vote, and ushered into a world of discrimination." [See accompanying article: "The Criminalization of a Generation and the Oppression of African-American and Latino People."]

USA #1 in Mass Incarceration

There is no doubt a complexity of factors involved in why a section of the U.S. ruling class feels it has to address the situation in California's prisons (and as indicated by Scalia's comment quoted earlier, there was very sharp disagreement on the court over this ruling). The State of California does face a serious financial crisis and currently spends $10 billion a year on its 33 prisons. But this doesn't fully explain what is behind such an unprecedented ruling—and the sharp intra-ruling class disagreements that are evident. It will take further study and analysis to understand what this decision reflects about possible disagreements within the ruling class and larger contradictions the U.S. faces domestically and internationally.

But one factor in this ruling is what the massive incarceration of minorities says about the U.S. anointing itself as "leader of the free world" and the most fair and just country in the world. The U.S. has 5 percent of the world's population, but 25 percent of its prisoners. The U.S. portrays itself as a land of equality, a color-blind society. Yet African-Americans and Latinos are incarcerated at rates far higher than that of whites. Around the world, people widely perceive this as an expression of the oppression and racist subjugation of Blacks and Latinos. And the astronomical rates of incarceration in the U.S. have the potential to cause people to question the very legitimacy of the U.S. judicial system, and indeed, the whole system of capitalism-imperialism we live under. Kennedy's decision hints at this ruling class problem where it says: "A prison that deprives prisoners of basic sustenance, including adequate medical care, is incompatible with the concept of human dignity and has no place in civilized society..."

Lessons of Change

There are many examples from history, but this calls to mind the articles in Revolution #233 on the 50th Anniversary of the Freedom Riders. Here was a group of people determined to fight for justice and to do away with Jim Crow in the South. (Jim Crow, formally and informally, mandated segregation between Black people and whites in all aspects of life.) As the Freedom Riders courageously fought for justice, the stories and images of Black people being denied their most basic rights were being splashed across the front pages of newspapers in this country and around the world. This was a major factor in the necessity of the U.S. ruling class to bring about some changes in the way Black people were treated—at least in terms of the way discrimination and segregation was blatantly enforced by the police and upheld by prevailing laws.

The end of legal segregation and Jim Crow laws would not have come about without tremendous struggle and sacrifice by the people. The Supreme Court decision in Brown v. The Board of Education said separate public schools for Black and white students were unconstitutional. And courts outlawed the segregation of buses traveling interstate. But this did not actually lead to any real change. The U.S. government only felt compelled to enforce these decisions in the face of determined, mass struggle which challenged the very legitimacy of the system.

Today, we face a situation where a mass movement is urgently needed to fight a determined and uncompromising struggle against the brutal imprisonment of millions in the U.S. More African-American adults are in prison or jail, on probation or parole, than were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. This is intolerable!

There are many ways, and pathways, for people of all nationalities and from all quarters of society—from artists, intellectuals and lawyers to people who are catching hell from this every day, to students and youth to take this up. As a key part of this, mass political resistance is indispensable.

History teaches us that the U.S. ruling class won't feel any compulsion to address any of the horrendous problems this recent Supreme Court decision speaks to without such a struggle. It teaches us that with such struggle broad numbers of people—including many who today are oblivious to what is really happening or believe the lies that this is all about controlling criminals and crime and that people in prison only have themselves to blame—can learn to look at things in a whole other way and feel compelled to fight.

The inhumane mass incarceration of millions of people is a manifestation of the reality that this is a system based on brutal oppression and exploitation. While there may be changes and adjustments to the forms of oppression and exploitation under this system, the only way to actually uproot and get rid of this oppression and exploitation is through communist revolution.

As the Message and Call from the RCP says: "The days when this system can just keep on doing what it does to people, here and all over the world...when people are not inspired and organized to stand up against these outrages and to build up the strength to put an end to this madness...those days must be GONE. And they CAN be."

In doing research for this article a number of people with expertise on the subject of mass incarceration in the U.S. contributed their ideas, articles and papers. This is very appreciated and will also be helpful in ongoing Revolution coverage of this important issue.

 FOOTNOTES

1 "If the Shu Fits: Cruel and Unusual Punishment at California's Pelican Bay State Prison;" Romano, Sally Mann, Emory Law Journal, Summer, 1996. [back]

2 The Haldeman Diaries: Inside the Nixon White House, p. 53, by H.R. Haldeman, cited in Smoke and Mirrors: the War on Drugs and the Politics of Failure, by Dan Baum. [back]

3 The concept of the targeting of Black people and Native Americans as a "pariah class," dating back to the early days of the U.S., and the overall way in which white supremacy has served to blunt class-consciousness in the U.S. since then, has been drawn on and further developed by Bob Avakian in the important work, Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy. Available in print (2008, RCP Publications) and online at revcom.us. [back]

4 "Disparity By Geography: The War on Drugs in America's Cities," The Sentencing Project, 2008. [back]

5 "ACLU Releases Crack Cocaine Report, Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1986 Deepened Racial Inequity in Sentencing," www.aclu.org, October 2006. [back]

 

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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The Criminalization of a Generation and the Oppression of African-American and Latino People

This originally appeared in the special issue of Revolution on prisons and prisoners in the U.S. (#183, available online at revcom.us); it has been slightly updated.

For many Americans, the astronomical rates of incarceration are statistics. But millions of Black and Latino youth grow up in an environment where they see many of their older friends going into, and coming out of, prison. For whole communities, the prospect of prison looms ominously over people's lives.

If you live in a poor Black urban neighborhood, whether in New York or Los Angeles, Chicago or Atlanta or some other city... 10 percent of the children you know have a father in prison or jail. One out of every five adults you know can't vote because at one point in their life they got a felony conviction. These same people are banned from having a government job and can't get many types of assistance—including financial aid for college. You feel it and see it all around you—from the politicians, the TV news, the police waiting to jack you up on the corner. Young Black men are degraded and treated like criminals, with no future other than prison, some shit job or the military. In 2009, the NYPD stopped and frisked 306,965 Black people in New York City. Almost none were charged with crimes—92 percent were neither arrested nor given a summons, but they were criminalized and entered into NYPD databases.

African-Americans are 13 percent of the general population, but over 50 percent of the prison population. Nearly 60 percent of all young Black men born between 1965 and 1969 who dropped out of high school went to prison at least once on a felony conviction before they turned 35. The incarceration rate of Black male high school dropouts is nearly 50 times the national average. ("Can Our Shameful Prisons Be Reformed?" by David Cole, The New York Review of Books, November 19, 2009)

Black people in particular have always filled the prisons in greatly disproportionate numbers compared to whites. But as the forms under which Black people have been subjugated in this country have evolved, the forms of the enforcement of their subjugation have evolved as well. And the massive numbers of African-Americans in jail concentrate that—in terrible ways with ominous implications. In the 1950s, when segregation was still legal, African-Americans comprised 30 percent of the prison population. Sixty years later, African-Americans and Latinos make up 70 percent of the incarcerated population—at a time when that population has skyrocketed. (Cole)

In earlier eras, the slave master's whip and the lynch mob enforced the super-exploited and all-around subjugated state of Black people. Today, those forms of violent oppression have been replaced by the policeman's Taser and gun, and the prison cell. Poor Black people and Latinos in the inner cities are at ground zero for police terror and the threat of prison. But Black people of all classes are enveloped by the brush of demonization, humiliation, and repression—witness the 2009 arrest of the prominent Harvard professor and public intellectual Henry Louis Gates, arrested for refusing to scrape and bow when accused of "breaking into" his own home.

From within this nightmare, a prisoner wrote to Revolution: "I am no stranger to struggle and hardship. I grew up in just one of the many, many slums in Chicago. I ended up in prison by the age of 13. I am 30 now. I have been raised by cold steel and concrete which I do not wear as a Scar of Honor but as an indictment against a system that has been built on genocide and slavery, and has continued to insist on throwing away its 'undesirables' generation after generation. However, let me be clear, I am in search of the truth and not pity. My struggle is linked with the struggle of millions across the globe."

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund:

Donate Generously to Send 2,000 BAsics to Prisoners

Thanks to many donations, large and small, the Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund (PRLF) has mailed 110 copies of BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian to prisoners around  the country, the first step towards our goal of 2,000 BAsics to prisoners.  One contribution of $50 came from a woman prisoner who wrote these words with her check. "Thank you for all of your excellent years of serving the people." This appreciation is addressed to all PRLF donors who are collectively the reason subscriptions to Revolution newspaper and books like BAsics are regularly getting to those behind bars. 

Join this young prisoner and donate for BAsics for prisoners and to renew Revolution subscriptions. One copy of BAsics for prisoners costs $10. The goal for PRLF in the $30,000 in 30 days + 100 sustainers campaign is $6,000. Give generously and download one or both of the PRLF brochures online and share them with your friends.

How to Donate

PRLF is a project of the International Humanities Center, a non-profit public charity, exempt from federal income tax under section 501 (c) (3) of the IRS code.

Tax deductible credit card and Pay Pal donations can be made online at:
IHCenter.org/groups/prlf  or at prlf.org
("International Humanities" will appear on your credit card statement)

Make tax deductible checks payable to:

IHCenter/PRLF and mail to:

International Humanities Center/Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund
PO Box 207
Woodland Hills, CA 91365 

Make other checks or money orders payable to:

PRLF and mail to:

Prisoners Revolutionary Literature Fund
1321 N. Milwaukee, #407
Chicago, IL 60622

To contact PRLF: (773) 960-6952 or contact@prlf.org

 

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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Cornel West Slammed by Obama Supporters For Telling the Truth About Obama

By Carl Dix

A shit storm has been raging around critical comments by Cornel West about Barack Obama's presidency, in an interview done by Chris Hedges for the online magazine, Truthdig. West has been accused of launching personal attacks and hurling racial slurs at Obama. The attacks on West have had several striking features in common. One is how his accusers have had little or nothing to say about what he actually said about what Obama has, and hasn't, done as president. The other is how those attacking West have either distorted his history and track record or gone after him like he has neither. (For the interview, go to www.truthdig.com.)

In his interview with Hedges, West bitterly describes Obama as "a black mascot of Wall Street oligarchs and a black puppet of corporate plutocrats. And now he has become head of the American killing machine and is proud of it."

Is this true? Obama is the commander in chief for the U.S. global empire. In that capacity, he has continued much of the thrust of the Bush regime, waging wars for empire, ordering drone attacks that destroy whole villages, carrying out government spying, torture and indefinite detention.

As it says in the 2010 statement issued by World Can't Wait, "Crimes Are Crimes No Matter Who Does Them": "In some respects, this is worse than Bush. First, because Obama has claimed the right to assassinate American citizens whom he suspects of 'terrorism,' merely on the grounds of his own suspicion or that of the CIA, something Bush never claimed publicly. Second, Obama says that the government can detain you indefinitely, even if you have been exonerated in a trial, and he has publicly floated the idea of 'preventive detention.' Third, the Obama administration, in expanding the use of unmanned drone attacks, argues that the U.S. has the authority under international law to use such lethal force and extrajudicial killing in sovereign countries with which it is not at war.

"Such measures by Bush were widely considered by liberals and progressives to be outrages and were roundly, and correctly, protested. But those acts which may have been construed (wishfully or not) as anomalies under the Bush regime, have now been consecrated into 'standard operating procedure' by Obama, who claims, as did Bush, executive privilege and state secrecy in defending the crime of aggressive war." (To read the entire statement, go to www.worldcantwait.net.)

And on domestic policy, Obama has represented the interests of the capitalist class while their system is caught up in an intense financial crisis. This is the backdrop against which Obama has pushed legislation and policies that serve banking and other corporate interests and that has caused severe economic deprivation for the masses. This deprivation includes massive unemployment, a record number of foreclosures and evictions, and cutbacks in all kinds of social services, from education to health. And all this hits minority people disproportionately. While Obama has taken the spotlight off immigration, more deportations have been carried out on his watch than under Bush.

Right-wing forces have continued and escalated their attacks on abortion rights during his presidency. And before him, Bill Clinton did harm on this front, by implying that abortion was morally wrong a stand which Obama has not just echoed but taken further.

And Obama has been singing lead in the chorus that blames poor Black people for what the system does to them. How often has he blamed the poverty and miserable conditions faced by Black youth on absent Black fathers without mentioning how the criminal "injustice" system targets Black men disproportionately and warehouses hundreds of thousands of them in prison? Or blamed Black parents for the high drop-out rates of Black youth while giving a pass to the education system that is geared to fail those youth?

Those slamming West argue that Obama has done the best he can, and that, whatever his shortcomings, he represents the best Black people and progressive people are going to get. They also argue that any criticism of Obama by a prominent voice of conscience like West only aids his right-wing opponents. Instead, people should shut up, get behind Obama and, at most, try to nudge him into a better direction.

But what are people supposed to get behind? Obama's wars for empire? His attacks on Black people and immigrants? If people fall for swallowing all that because something worse might be waiting in the wings, then the capitalist rulers of this country will ram even worse down their throats.  As Bob Avakian, the leader of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), puts it in his new book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian : "If you try to make the Democrats be what they are not and never will be, you will end up being more like what the Democrats actually are."

What West is really doing in the Truthdig interview is calling Obama out for what he has done, and hasn't done, in heaping abuse on people in the U.S. and around the world. He has dared to say the emperor has no clothes.

This is consistent with who Cornel West is and what he's done all his life. He has a history of speaking truth to power, of dramatically telling the truth about the way the powers that be have abused "the least among us." He tours college campuses across the country to challenge the youth not to become "adapted to indifference" or "adjusted to injustice." He goes into prisons to meet with, educate and learn from those locked down in this country's dungeons. He tirelessly speaks out about how Black people and other oppressed nationalities, poor and working people, women, lesbians and gays are being mistreated by the wealthy and powerful. And he bends every effort to forge unity among oppressed groups and between people from different class backgrounds.

Again from West's interview with Chris Hedges: "'When you look at a society you look at it through the lens of the least of these, the weak and the vulnerable; you are committed to loving them first, not exclusively, but first, and therefore giving them priority,' says West, the Class of 1943 University Professor of African American Studies and Religion at Princeton University. 'And even at this moment, when the empire is in deep decline, the culture is in deep decay, the political system is broken, where nearly everyone is up for sale, you say all I have is the subversive memory of those who came before, personal integrity, trying to live a decent life, and a willingness to live and die for the love of folk who are catching hell. This means civil disobedience, going to jail, supporting progressive forums of social unrest if they in fact awaken the conscience, whatever conscience is left, of the nation. And that's where I find myself now.'"

Cornel West, a widely respected public intellectual listened to by many, promotes critical thinking. He challenges the young generation to have the courage to speak the truth and to be committed to working to alleviate the suffering of those on the bottom of society. He displays a poetic spirit. In his own words, Cornel would describe himself as "engaging in Socratic questioning, being committed to the least of these and being a bluesman in the life of the mind." All this is why I love this brother so much.

This is also why he has become the target of Obama's defenders. The concerted chorus of condemnation of West has coincided with indications of widespread unease and dissatisfaction over the actions, and inactions, of the first Black president, among Black people and progressive people in general. Cornel West is giving voice to that spreading discontent in his critique of Obama, and to some that makes him a dangerous man. But those who are still catching hell every day under Obama, just as they have before, and those not willing to swallow their principles and go along with the continuing outrages, should cherish and defend Cornel West.

The attacks on West come down to a concerted attempt to tear down and discredit him among the Black masses and progressive people generally and to place criticisms of Obama's presidency and exposure of whose interests it is serving outside the bounds of acceptable discourse. On one level, this shores up the prospects of a second term for Obama as president, but on another and deeper level it serves the global and strategic interests of the U.S. imperialist ruling class.

In 2008, Bob Avakian likened the U.S. ruling class allowing/having Obama win the presidency as their global empire faced heavy challenges around the world and domestically, to them playing a major trump in a bid whist card game to try to change the flow of the game. This was gotten into in an article in Revolution newspaper #148: "Tears & Pride, Reality & REAL Change."

"Anyone on this planet with any sense of the real history and present-day reality of the U.S.A. and how deeply white supremacy is embedded into the operation of this exploitive system... Anyone who knows about the slave master's whip...the lynch mobs...and present-day reality where any young Black man who steps out of his door faces a death sentence waiting to be executed by a policeman... Anyone who has any sense of this understands and feels the tears and celebrations that met the election of Barack Obama as President of the United States."

The article goes on to lay out the global and domestic challenges facing the rulers of the U.S. Then it says:

"In the face of all this, put yourself in the shoes of those who run this system: They see storms on the horizon, and they have some idea of the pent up anger and outrage among Black people in particular. From that perspective, you can begin to get a sense of why they took what is for them, the major strategic step of turning now to a Black man to represent the interests of this system.

"Obama is not talking about any real or substantial positive changes in the conditions of Black people. The 'first Black president' is not a concession to struggles or potential struggles against the oppression of Black people. Study Obama's actual proposals and speeches. Listen to the theme in Obama's victory speech, calling for 'a new spirit of sacrifice.' Obama is a vehicle to rally America, including those who have been systematically cut out of the so-called American Dream, to identify with the system as it forces people to sacrifice."

We in the Revolutionary Communist Party, along with a very few others, stood against the wave of Obama mania in 2008. We called out how progressive people who were backing Obama in order to end the horrors of the Bush regime were engaging in wishful thinking and self-deception in "On the Nation's Open Letter to Obama." (revcom.us/a/139/Nation-en.html) I exposed in "Don't Be a Buffalo Soldier" how Obama's call for a new spirit of service to America was aimed at pumping up Black youth and others to enlist in America's wars for empire. (revcom.us/a/150/buffalo_soldiers-en.html) We also spoke to how even before his election, Obama was adding his voice to those blaming Black people for the things the system does to them.

We also said that we would stand together with people to oppose injustice, whatever their position on Obama. Cornel stands out as someone whose principles have moved him to re-evaluate his stance on Obama and to expose, rather than ignore or try to justify, actions which inflict abuse on people in the U.S. and around the world.

Again, from his interview with Chris Hedges: "'I have to take some responsibility,' he admits of his support for Obama as we sit in his book-lined office. 'I could have been reading into it more than was there.'"

Cornel was among the many signatories to the "Crimes are Crimes, No Matter Who Does Them" statement I excerpted above. The attacks being aimed at Cornel are vicious, and people need to support him.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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Carl Dix's Challenge to Get Into and Get Out BAsics

Featuring BAsics at Printer's Row in Chicago
Revolution Books, Chicago features BAsics at the Printer's Row Lit Fest, June 2011.
Photo: Special to Revolution

On April 11, A Celebration of Revolution and the Vision of a New World—On the Occasion of the Publication of BAsics—brought to life a different way to think and to feel, and to be. This revolution and the vision of a new world came to life that night, as works of art interacted with the words of BAsics. Now is the time to seize upon this incredible real thing and to realize the potential the words of Bob Avakian have to change how people think and act in the world. Toward the close of the evening, Carl Dix called on the audience to just do three things: Get In, Get Out, and Get Connected. And it is up to us—all of us—to take up this call.

Now I want to leave you with three important phrases: Get in, get out, and get connected.

Get in: Get into BAsics, if you don't have a copy of this book, get one tonight.  If you got one, get a few others.  Read this book, in fact study it, discuss it with others, form discussion and study groups with them.  It's that important.

Get out: Get BAsics out to a lot of other people, take those extra copies that you picked up tonight, and sell them to your family and friends, distribute them among people that you work with on your job, people you go to school with, people in your neighborhood.  Let's wield this book broadly in society in ways that could realize the potential that this book has to rear and sustain a new generation of revolutionaries.

And three, get connected: Get connected with this movement for revolution.  If you're somebody who's dissatisfied with the current state of the world and yearns to see a fundamentally different and better way of life for people brought into being, then there's a place for you in this movement for revolution.  Don't be held back by the fact that you got to put most of your time into the struggle for survival.  Even if you only got one hour a week, give that hour over to this movement for revolution and it can make use of that contribution.  If you're somebody who hates the way things are but aren't sure about revolution as the way to go, there are still ways for you to get involved even as you learn more about revolution.  And this book, BAsics, will help you to learn more.

So like I said: Get In. Get Out. And get involved. It's that important.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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BAsics and Revolution at the 25th Annual JazzReggae Fest at UCLA

WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR? Check out BAsics

A small group of revolutionaries had an impact at the recent JazzReggae Fest at UCLA in Los Angeles. Especially with summer concert season beginning, here is an experience and some lessons to share.

This was a very cool event taking place over two days on Memorial Day weekend. Featured bands included hip-hop artists Lupe Fiasco and Talib Kweli, Swedish electronic sync-pop band Little Dragon, roots reggae band Steel Pulse, and numerous other performers. The audience included UCLA students and a diverse audience from well beyond the campus.

We featured the new book BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian and distributed Revolution newspaper, especially issue #233 which had a great cover article on the significance of the Freedom Riders 50 years ago. We sold 27 BAsics books, over 150 newspapers, and distributed 4,000 BAsics palm cards. We collected funds for the 30-30+100 campaign, off a nice visual display.

A collective effort of a relatively small group "synergized" and made for a significant impact. There is a lesson here: we lined the walkways into the concert with colorful displays of quotes taken from BAsics; a couple of people focused on getting out hundreds and hundreds of BAsics palm cards while others put up a small book table featuring BAsics and Revolution newspaper outside, and sold Basics as their starting point. Some people went inside the concert and also distributed hundreds of BAsics cards and sold copies of BAsics and Revolution, wearing sandwich poster boards with quotes from BAsics.

Thousands of people read the quotes as they walked into the event. Quote 1:1 "There would be no United States as we know it today without slavery. That is a simple and basic truth." Quote 2:1 "Communism: A Whole New World and the Emancipation of All Humanity─Not 'The Last Shall Be First and the First Shall Be Last.'" Quote 4:13  "There is not one human nature. There is not some uniform and unchanging way that everybody is and how everybody sees the world. Human nature has different meanings in different times and for different classes and groups in society." Quote 5:3 "The whole point of principle is that you have to fight for it when it is not easy to do. There is no need for principle if the only time it is applied is when it doesn't matter." Quote 5:4 "'Western morality' and, for that matter, the dominant morality in all parts of the world, wherever society is marked by class division and exploitation, patriarchy, and other forms of oppression—has always been a rationale and justification for oppression."

We also included a couple of quotes on religion, and the promo quote, "You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics," struck a chord.

One student, when asked why he bought the book, said he wants to know the world and change the world for the better, and "You can't change the world if you don't know the BAsics" piqued his interest. Another young man walked up to us and said, "You know, these subjects taken up in these quotes are quite taboo—I want that book." Others toward the end of the event said the quotes they'd read going into the event really stuck with them and when we were outside offering to sell them the book they jumped at it. A Black couple said, in looking at and thinking about some of the quotes that they'd never seen or heard anything that resonated quite the same way when it came to understanding their experience as Black people. We also shared that Avakian has been developing the strategy for revolution and for ending exploitation and oppression, including, importantly, the long history of oppression of Black people in the United States.

Several UCLA students had been to the Cornel West/Carl Dix dialogue at UCLA. The impact of that event continues to reverberate on the campus, and beyond. To be blunt, after seeing that event... readers of Revolution newspaper have read about it, but if you were there... well... all we could ask these students who attended is "WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?! Check out BAsics, which Carl Dix read from and encouraged you to read at that program." A number of them did. There is more work to do to reach all the UCLA students with BAsics who have been impacted by that spectacular program (work we are systematically carrying out).

BAsics is a handbook for revolution in the 21st century and surely thousands at this event were open to revolution and did not at all like the direction of society and the world. Among some youth, including some who especially came to see conscious hip-hop artists Lupe Fiasco and Talib Kweli, one could sense a sort of righteous impatience and yearning for solutions to big problems facing this world and were drawn to BAsics because of that. Among some veterans there was a trend that it may be too late, "everybody is brainwashed." We took this seriously; there is a lot of brainwashing this system does and it is "late in the game" to put it a certain way. But we also shared with them what difference Bob Avakian and a genuine vanguard party makes in unleashing conscious revolutionary struggle (see Chapter 6 of BAsics)... and posed the importance of this in the context of recent developments like Egypt and the Middle East. We have the specific objective of getting BAsics into the hands of a new generation of revolutionaries who could be at the backbone of revolution involving millions, and we brought to people this understanding.

We showed many people the RCP's  "On the Strategy for Revolution" supplement and struggled over what is said there: that revolution is possible (but, of course, revolution cannot happen with conditions and people the way they are now; revolution can come about as conditions and people are moved to change because of developments in the world and because of the work of revolutionaries....). The key strategic principles forged by the RCP and Bob Avakian─which can be found in BAsics ─do represent, for the first time in the history of the United States, a viable, scientific strategy for preparing the ground politically and ideologically for revolution and making revolution when conditions arise. This is a very important part of the book that addresses the profound question on the mind of not an insignificant number people in society, young and old:  "...Is revolution possible...?"

Very serious people, some speaking softly but with agonizing directness, asked  "What about the nuclear problem..." referring to both the thousands of nuclear weapons the imperialists point at the earth's people, and reliance on nuclear energy in some areas of the world and what we are seeing as the major, catastrophic, implications of this. BAsics quote 3:3, taken from  "Birds Cannot Give Birth to Crocodiles, But Humanity Can Soar Beyond the Horizon," can help wrestle with what is a profound challenge in not only making revolution but going on from there to put an entirely new system into being.

Send us your comments.

Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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Note to readers:

As we go to press, there are reports that the Israeli army again opened fire on unarmed protesters at the Syrian border, killing several. These protests were on the occasion of the anniversary of Israel's seizure of additional Palestinian and Arab territories in the 1967 war. For coverage of recent protests on the Israeli border, along with background, exposure and analysis, see last week's issue of Revolution. And a special issue of Revolution: "Bastion of Enlightenment or Enforcer for Imperialism: The Case of ISRAEL" available at Revolution books, or online at revcom.us/Israel. We encourage readers to circulate these materials widely among everyone protesting, or trying to understand the situation in the Middle East, and the nature and role of Israel

Send us your comments.

Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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Stop the Occupation
No More Police Murders
No More Repression and Criminalization of Youth

We received this statement on May 31:

On May 18, Fletcher "Antoine" Jackson and his friend John Sloan, two young Black men, were murdered by the police in cold blood on Curran Street in the Fruitvale district of Oakland. The day after the latest gang injunction was passed, they were hunted down and killed like animals. The cops were shooting through people's fences and into their houses where children were sleeping. John was shot through the head in someone's front yard. Antoine was also shot, and the cops refused to do anything when someone asked them to stop the bleeding. Instead, the cops told the people: "go back in your house and turn out the lights," while they were 'high fiving' and congratulating each other on the shooting—like it was a big party for them. Antoine died later.

The next night dozens of cop cars blocked both entrances to Cuthbert St. in the Fruitvale, not allowing residents in or out. No one could check on their loved ones and children. Snipers, heavily armed cops in camouflage, a 35-man SWAT team, DEA agents, military-style vehicles, and cop helicopters—all roaming the street and sky. For what? A raid on one—ONE—apartment that supposedly netted two guns and a knife.

The cops claim this is all about "taking weapons off the streets." No—It's about putting more weapons on the streets—their weapons! This is a military-style occupation, that echoes what the U.S. is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan and many other countries. And right here in the USA it's going on especially in Black and Latino neighborhoods. So who is really the world's "Number One Terrorist"? The U.S. of A.!

What's going on in Oakland is part of a nationwide epidemic of police brutality and murder. Just a year ago in Detroit, a 7-year-old girl, Aiyana Stanley-Jones, was killed when the police raided the wrong apartment. Not a single cop, not a single city official has yet been punished or reprimanded for this murder. Now, on June 1, Johannes Mehserle, the BART cop who murdered Oscar Grant, is appearing before a judge who will probably let him walk free after 7 months in prison.

It's like Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, says:

"The role of the police is not to serve and protect the people. It is to serve and protect the system that rules over the people. To enforce the relations of exploitation and oppression, the conditions of poverty, misery, and degradation into which the system has cast people and is determined to keep people in. The law and order the police are about, with all of their brutality and murder, is the law and order that enforces all this oppression and madness." (BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian, RCP Publications)

Stop the Occupation – the Whole Damn System is Guilty!

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

 

Send us your comments.

Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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From A World to Win News Service

Report from Tunisia: what happened, why and what more could happen

May 23, 2011. A World to Win News Service. Following is the first instalment of a report written for AWTWNS by Samuel Albert. It describes what the revolt in Tunisia has achieved, and how. Subsequent instalments will analyze the underlying and triggering factors behind this revolt, and what the future may hold.

I. Great things

Great things have happened in Tunisia.

The greatest thing is that Tunisians, kept down first by the French and then by more than half a century of autocratic government subservient to France and other foreign capital, have awoken to political life in a way that happens only in special moments in history. They cast off passivity and routine's chains and sought to take the destiny of their country in their own hands. In fact, the masses of people were able to seize the political initiative countrywide – how often has that happened in today's world? – and impose changes that the Tunisian ruling classes and France and the U.S. might or might not be able to accept but definitely did not want.

Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali ruled over Tunisia for 23 years. On January 14, 2011, he fell so unexpectedly and suddenly that the world was stunned, including Tunisians themselves. Since then they have brought down two successor governments and are challenging the third. The country remains in a rare state of effervescence.

Bourguiba boulevard in Tunis is a grand, French-style avenue with two rows of trees in the middle and cafés and expensive shops lining the sidewalks. Almost every evening since January 14 people of all walks of life gather to discuss and debate the issues of the day. The crowds are thickest on Friday and over the weekend. Knots of university students and older unemployed workers often listen to each other. Sometimes everyone shouts at once about this or that government proposal, about whether or not people should quiet down and go back to work and let the authorities take charge, or about Islam and the role of women in society. It's not unusual to see a woman loudly proclaiming her views to dozens of surrounding men. It seems to be a rule that everyone gets to speak.

Tongues have been untied. What a foreigner hears over and over again, from young and old, men and women, is this: "We've been kept silent all our lives. Now we are going to talk and nobody can make us shut up. We're going to be heard. Everybody's going to have to listen to us now."

People in the neglected smaller cities and dusty towns of the country's interior gather in squares and the cafés where men drink tea, smoke and argue from morning to night. They want to make sure that the country is still listening to them. There have been several violent social explosions over the past several months. Unemployed youth in at least two towns are on hunger strike, continuing to send the message that a young street peddler conveyed when he burned himself alive on December 17 and set off the revolt: they'd rather be dead than go on living this way.

Everywhere, one of the most contentious questions is whether or not there has been a real revolution. The current government says there has been, and that it is the revolution's representative. The armed forces says that there has been, and that it is the revolution's protector. In the streets and cafés, opinion is divided. An immense number of people are far from satisfied, especially the youth in general and the lower classes, and various parts of the middle classes, including the intelligentsia. What they have done so far has demonstrated their potential strength and made them hungry for more.

The question now is this: Will what the people have achieved so far make it possible to bring about the kind of radical change that could satisfy the aspirations expressed in their revolt? Or will the gains they have won through their self-sacrificing spirit be snatched away?

II. How it happened

Sidi Bouzid, where it all began
Sidi Bouzid is the town in the country's center where the uprising began. It is the administrative capital of an arid governate (province) isolated from the world by wretched roads even though it is only a few hundred kilometres from the coast over flat land.

—A doctor (general practitioner):

Sidi Bouzid is last no matter what parameter you use to measure it. By law, health care is supposed to be guaranteed for everyone, but there's only one small, badly equipped clinic in this town and other towns have none. I've never heard of a woman from the countryside coming in for a prenatal checkup. The public dispensaries have no medicationsthe supplies are sold illegally to private clinics.

There are no gynecologists/obstetricians. Why would a specialist come to live in a province that has 413,000 inhabitants but not a single cinema? People are scattered in the countryside and small towns. There's no industry to concentrate people, no cultural life and it's hard to get to the big cities. Only 10 percent of the population is connected to the sewer system. There are 140,000 unemployed university graduates in this country of ten million, and 10 percent of them, 1,400, are in this town of 45,000 people.

—A primary school teacher:

I was one of the first to pass by in front of the building after Mohammed Bouazizi set fire to himself, about 1 in the afternoon. A few men and women were demonstrating, mainly family members.

I called comrades and told them what happened and how it was the fault of the authorities. There are about 6,000 school teachers here. We're the biggest union, and we're also the intellectuals most closely in touch with the youth. Other activists came, including lawyers.

About 10:30 the next morning, lots of police came from Kasserine (the nearest city, towards the Algerian border). The battle began and continued for two days. About 8,000 gendarmes were brought in from all over the province. Ninety busloads of them, plus motorcycles (two-man teams, one to drive and the other to beat people). The whole town was throwing stones and fighting themwomen, youth, elderly. We didn't burn and loot because it's our town, after all.

On the fifth day, people came from other towns and villages to demonstrate. Other towns of 5-10,000 people erupted. It spread to Gabes on the coast, and then back to larger interior cities like Medenine. Then to Sfax, on January 12, and the other big coastal cities. We didn't go to Tunis until after Ben Ali fled on January 14...

—An older schoolteachers' union leader and political activist associated with the Patriotic and Democratic Labour Party (PT):

Most of the people in this region are small farmers. They tend livestockespecially sheep, and grow olives and other crops. Some land is irrigated, some not. There are no big landowners here. Families hire seasonal laborers during harvests, mostly women from neighboring areas. There are some tomato canneries and an air conditioner plant, but not many factories. Aside from the top local government employees, living standards range from OK to pretty bad. Many farmers can't sell their crops in the coastal cities because there's no transport, and the buyers here rob them. The government programs and other institutions like cooperatives are run by corrupt people with ties to the regime. Instead of helping the peasants they bleed them.

The poor peasants take out credit to buy a small truck or other equipment, and often can't pay back their loans. The interest is high. They end up going bankrupt and have to leave the country. When someone else buys up their landand here there are few big capitalists and even fewer foreign investorsthey irrigate it and grow crops for export like grapes, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers and melons. Because we're so far south, crops are ready for market early in the year, long before Europe and even northern Tunisia.

There isn't a single large store. There are lots of cafés because it doesn't take much capital to open one up and there's nothing to do but drink tea in a café. Some people buy and sell alcohol illegally.

Until now, hardly anybody was interested in politics, society or culture. Traditional holidays and folkloric events were organized by the regime for its own political purposes. Tribal relations are dying out because so many people are moving to big cities. In some places in this province 50-90 percent of the population have gone to look for work in Sfax, Monastir and Tunis, or immigrated illegally to Italy and France.

What we have here are lots of schools313 primary schools, 170 middle schools and several high schools. Education is compulsory and free. Among other reasons, peasants send their children to school because they don't have enough land to divide it up among their children. There's nothing else for kids to do but go to school. But the schools are in terrible condition and don't have much modern equipment.

The roads are so bad, especially the farm roads, that children who come to town for high school can't commute and have to find a place to live here. For university they go to the coastal cities. Many youth end up living with five or six other people in a garage. They drink wine, like most youth.

Isolated from their families and connected to the world by television and the Internet, craving a modern lifestyle that unemployment and the lack of development won't let them have, they grow distant from their families and traditions. This is a patriarchal society, but they don't recognize their parents' authority. They won't even let their fathers find them a wife. That's a big generational rupture.

My son has two years of technical university. He's 29. I tell him, "I want you to have a wife and children like me." He says, "I can't, papa. That's too big a burden, too much responsibility." Some people are 40 years old and still haven't started their own family.

On top of all this is the fact that the youth weren't allowed to talk freely to each other and nobody would listen to them. Politics and political life was forbidden to them. Police were in the cafés to keep people from talking.

There were social explosions in 2006, 2008 and 2010 in the mining areas to the south and near the borders with Libya and Algeria. The government's solution was the police, and this aggravated the situation. Some brave people, especially teachers, were sentenced to long prison terms. The economic situation got worse; peddlers selling contraband became numerous. The general mood among youth was very pessimistic and there were suicides.

Mohammed Bouazizi was typical of these youth. He wasn't a university graduate like the media said. He had a pushcart selling fruit and vegetables. He didn't have a permit, so a municipal agent confiscated his scale. Without a scale, he couldn't make a living. He complained to the authorities, but nobody would listen to him. A woman municipal agent slapped him in the face.

I wasn't there when he set fire to himself in front of the administration building on December 17. His family staged a protest, and spread the word to other towns through tribal relationships. On the 18th and 19th we organized demonstrations. There were teachers and government employees, and soon most of the townspeople were in the streets. Our slogans held the regime responsible for Bouazizi's death. The police encircled the whole city. We met in the offices of the UGTT (the union federation). The police wouldn't let us out of there to demonstrate in the streets.

So the youth started protesting in their neighborhoods. They fought with the police, especially at night when police cameras couldn't take pictures.

Our first slogans were "Work is a right" and "Gang of thieves – where is our right to work?" Then the central government sent in the gendarmes. We chanted slogans for freedom of expression and demonstrations and equality of development.

The media didn't mention any of this. There was a total blackout for the first few days, even as the protests spread to nearby cities. Many towns were blockaded by the police and gendarmes. We made videos with our mobiles (cell phones) and posted them online.

"Let us tell you how we made the revolution"

—University student, Tunis (with half a dozen other students chiming in):

I'm a member of the Communist Party of Tunisian Workers (PCOT). I've been a student activist since 2000, when we were arrested for holding a demonstration at school. We were always getting clubbed by the police. When Bouazizi burned himself, students and high school teachers' union members from Tunis went to Sidi Bouzid. The regime was trying to calm people down. Ben Ali gave Bouazizi's mother money. We paralyzed the city and used our mobiles to spread the news. Many comrades were shot in the head while fighting the police. Some of us stayed there; others came back to Tunis to work Facebook and show people what was happening in Sidi Bouzid and Kasserine.

The demonstrations started to reach Tunis on December 28 (when artists and professionals, especially lawyers, protested), but not in a big way until January 11, when there was a major protest in a suburb near the capital. The next day there was a demonstration in Bab El Khadra, about a kilometer from the city center. A youth was killed in another demo there the next day. Seven of us comrades went there. On the 14th we carried his body all the way through the city and down Bourguiba boulevard, calling on the people to revolt. People on the street were very respectful of us. We attacked the police. We didn't want to have just another demonstration and then everyone go home. We were tired of seeing youth get beaten.

—A third year student:

For a long time I felt like I was just about the only one who thought like me. We started using Youtube and Facebook because it was the only way we could talk freely. Then two bloggers were arrested in mid-2010, and everyone got scared.

When friends called and told us what was happening in Sidi Bouzid and Kasserine, and the media wasn't saying anything about it, we got mad. We had to express ourselves. About a hundred of us used Facebook to organize the first demonstration in central Tunis. On January 13, the police arrested me and other bloggers and held me for about three hours. I'd been clubbed before, but never arrested. They asked why we were demonstrating; I said because of injustice.

When they let me go I went home to the working class neighborhood where I live. On the Net I saw that other bloggers had been busted. We told everyone to come out into the streets the next day. That night Ben Ali gave a big speech saying that he wouldn't step down. Some guysnobody knows who they werewere driving around in cars without license plates and shooting people at random. I was scared to go out. A curfew was in force, but a few people were allowed to come to Bourguiba boulevard to applaud the president. We heard that France and the EU were going to send Ben Ali help. I thought that was going to be the end of it.

The next morning, at 8:30, I was on the boulevard. There were three or four thousand people in front of the Municipal Theatre. Everyone carried Tunisian flags and protest signs. For once, it wasn't raining. By 10 or 11 the boulevard was full; there wasn't room for one more person. I didn't think the police could attack, because there were so many of us and the international press was watching. Nothing was happening, and then suddenly tear gas grenades were fired. People in the first ranks in front of the Interior Ministry began trying to back up. I thought that would be it for the day and we'd come back tomorrow. It was an unforgettable momentpeople were crying as they sang the national anthem. The old people, children and some women retreated. The rest of us started fighting. We fought all day.

—Union members and leaders, UGTT regional headquarters in the Tunisian industrial suburb of Ben Arous:

This town has half a million people. It has chemical plants, an oil refinery and many factories like electronic parts sub-assembly plants for foreign car companies and food processing. It's considered attractive for foreign investment because of its educated and skilled workers and technicians and good infrastructure. Most of the workers here are originally from this region.

We were never a "normal" union. The UGTT was founded during the liberation struggle in the 1930s. We were doing political work for years, especially in the mining region of the south. The national union leadership supported Ben Ali, but the regional and local leadership were against that. Because political parties were outlawed, the leftist parties worked mainly through the unions, as well as human rights organizations and NGOs.

It's true, like people say, that the revolution was made for liberty, not bread, but it's also true that while we were suffocated by the Ben Ali mafia, people in the interior were suffering from extreme regional inequalities and unemployment.

We had our first rally here on January 5, mainly union members and other workers. The police surrounded our offices. After that we held a mass meeting to decide what to do, and called for a regional general strike on January 14 from 10 am to noon.

Ben Ali closed the schools because of the unrest. The students came to meet in our offices because they had nowhere else to meetthe official student union was run by the regime. It turned out that there were no strikes because many factories didn't even open that morning. Everything just stopped. So students and other people went to demonstrate in central Tunis. That evening Ben Ali resigned.

To be continued

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

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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Geronimo Ji Jaga PrattA Political Prisoner for 27 Years in the USA

On June 2, former Black Panther Party (BPP) leader Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt died in Africa. Geronimo served 27 years in jail after being framed for murder, and was released in 1997 after a long, fierce political and legal battle that brought to light dimensions of the system's moves to isolate, kill off, frame up, and jail the revolutionary movement of the '60s. After his release, Geronimo continued to search for ways to contribute to ending the oppression of Black people.

The following is drawn from coverage of the frame-up, and struggle, to free Geronimo Ji Jaga (Pratt) that appeared in The Revolutionary Worker─as Revolution was previously known.

* * *

On June 10, 1997, after nearly 27 years in prison, Geronimo Ji Jagapreviously known as Geronimo Prattstepped into the sunlight. Framed and railroaded for murder, sentenced to life in prison, locked down in the hole for eight years, denied parole 16 times because he refused to recant his revolutionary beliefs, gassed and beatenGeronimo Ji Jaga spent 27 year behind bars for a crime the authorities knew he did not commit.

On May 29, 1997, Judge Everett W. Dickey threw out Geronimo's 1972 murder conviction, ruling that the government had built their case around a police informant and had kept this, and other crucial evidence, from the defense in Geronimo's trial.

Targeted by COINTELPRO

In the late 1960s and early '70s, when Geronimo was a young revolutionary, the whole system of U.S. imperialism was being challenged─from the war in Vietnam to the revolutionary movements at home. Federal agencies led by the FBI created COINTELPRO, a "counterintelligence" program aimed at targeting, harassing, sabotaging, jailing and murdering radicals and revolutionaries. A major focus of COINTELPRO was destroying key leaders within the Black Liberation movement, and one of their main targets was the Black Panther Party.

In November 1968, FBI Chief J. Edgar Hoover sent a secret order to his field agents saying that "recipient offices are instructed to submit imaginative and hard-hitting counterintelligence measures aimed at crippling the BPP." FBI agents organized murderous armed assaults on Panther offices and leaders. They attempted to infiltrate snitches into the Party, they framed Panther leaders and carried out "disinformation" campaigns. These included forging letters and starting rumors to create splits in the Panthers and other organizations, and disunity between revolutionaries and other sympathetic forces.

Within two months of Hoover's secret memo, agents of the FBI and the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) had instigated members of the nonrevolutionary "cultural nationalist" organization US (led by Ron Karenga) to kill two leaders of the L.A. Panthers—Bunchy Carter and John Huggins. Bunchy had brought many "brothers on the block" into the revolutionary ranks. Without him, the police expected the L.A. Panther chapter to fall apart.

But new forces filled the shoes of fallen leaders. Geronimo Pratt, a 21-year-old combat veteran of the Vietnam War, emerged as a new skillful leader of the L.A. Panther chapter.

Geronimo was targeted by COINTELPRO─to be "neutralized." He was wiretapped, surveilled and arrested constantly. Behind the scenes, police agents worked overtime to cook up some way of setting him up for prison or assassination. COINTELPRO agents have since revealed that the police teams examined many different unsolved crimes to see which one they could most easily use to frame Geronimo in court.

Late in 1969, four days after Illinois Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were murdered in the night by the FBI and Chicago cops, 40 SWAT police and 100 regular LAPD─in coordination with the FBI─launched an early morning armed assault on the Southern California Black Panther headquarters on Central Ave. But the Panthersled by Geronimo─insisted that people take the possibility of a police assault seriously. The headquarters building had two stories. Because of the preparations, and the heroic actions of the Panthers, the cops were not able to get up to the second floor. As the Panthers held out inside the building, masses gathered around the police lines, forcing the cops to retreat.

Six Panthers were wounded, 13 were arrested, but because of their successful self-defense, no Panthers were killed that night. Using the same assassination techniques that murdered Fred Hampton, the LAPD aimed their fire to hit Geronimo's bed─but Geronimo had decided to sleep on the floor that night, narrowly escaping the police bullets.

The arrested Panthers were charged with "assaulting the police" and Geronimo spent two months in jail until $125,000 bond was raised. On a nationwide tour, Geronimo was hounded by police surveillance and COINTELPRO disinformation designed to foment distrust against him.

Framed

In December 1970, one year after the L.A. raid, Geronimo was arrested and falsely charged with the killing of Caroline Olsen. Olsen was killed on a tennis court in Santa Monica in 1968 during a robbery where $18 was stolen. Her husband Kenneth Olsen was wounded.

The government had wiretapped phone conversations all along that proved Geronimo was far away when this took place. At the time of the 1968 robbery he was 400 miles away at a Black Panther Party retreat in Oakland, California. He called L.A. from the Oakland Black Panther Party office two-and-a-half hours before the robbery. Although the full extent of COINTELPRO operations did not emerge until years later, it was well known that leaders of the Black Panther Party were under heavy government surveillance. Articles in the progressive media at the time questioned where the FBI surveillance logs of the Oakland meeting were.

In 1975 two private investigators saw the 1968 wiretap logs while investigating another case─the logs revealed that the FBI knew that Geronimo was on Bobby Seale's telephone in Oakland shortly before the murder and could not have been in Santa Monica.

The FBI later claimed that wiretap and other surveillance records of the Panthers during the week of the tennis court robbery in 1968 were "lost."

In Geronimo's original trial in 1972, the prosecution offered no physical evidence linking Geronimo to the murder. The prosecution's flimsy case rested on the testimony of only two witnesses. One of these witnesses, Julius Butler, was a police informant. Butler testified that Geronimo "confessed" to him that he had committed the Santa Monica tennis court robbery. Butler swore that he was not a police informant. But since Geronimo's conviction, numerous documents from the LAPD and the FBI have identified Julius Butler as an informant who snitched on the Panthers for two years. FBI documents released in 1979 disclosed that Butler had more than 30 documented contacts with agents before Geronimo's trial in 1972.

In 1970 Butler was expelled from the Black Panther Party. Two days later, he produced a "letter" which he said he had written earlier, accusing Geronimo of the 1968 robbery. The police used this "letter" as a pretext to arrest, frame and convict Geronimo.

The Struggle for a New Trial

During the entire time Geronimo was in jail, activists waged political struggle to publicize and protest his frame-up. And, in 1992 Geronimo's defense team presented evidence of a wide-ranging government frame-up to the L.A. County District Attorney, Gil Garcetti, who promised a thorough investigation. After three years nothing had been done. Finally, on February 26, 1996, Geronimo's lawyers filed a writ of habeas corpus in the L.A. Superior Court.

On December 16, 1996, new hearings in Santa Ana, California, centered around Julius Butler. At the time of these hearings he was the chairman of the board of directors of the First AME Church, one of the largest Black churches in L.A.

For the first time in 25 years, Julius Butler was forced to testify about his role in the railroad of Geronimo. Geronimo's lawyers produced documents from the LAPD, FBI and L.A. County DA's office identifying Butler as a government informant. In the face of this, Butler told Geronimo's lawyer Johnnie L. Cochran, Jr. that he was not an informant. Butler tried to say he was just a "concerned citizen who was passing along information." But Butler was finally forced to admit that he was "acting as an informant" at certain times.

The hearings established new details about Butler's relationship to law enforcement agencies. Two LAPD officers, Duwayne Rice and Edward Henry, testified about their numerous contacts with Julius Butler. In the words of Geronimo's attorney Stuart Hanlon, they painted a picture of a "classic informant relationship with law enforcement."

According to the law, the prosecution and every other state agency, including the police, are required to reveal all evidence to the defense. This is especially true when they have evidence that would help people prove their innocence. If a person is convicted and it comes out later that the prosecution covered up important information, the convicted person has the right to a new trial.

The December 1996 hearing in Santa Ana also revealed new evidence on how the prosecution handled not only Julius Butler but the other main witness used against Geronimothe surviving robbery victim Kenneth Olsen. One of the investigators on the case testified that he thought Kenneth Olsen was "flaky." Before Olsen had fingered Geronimo, he had already identified two other "suspects" as the killer of his wife, including one "suspect" who was in jail at the time of the robbery. None of this crucial information was given to the defense.

Uncovering the Truth

"It's about time! It's about fucking time," Stuart Hanlon told reporters, after Judge Everett W. Dickey ruled on May 29, 1997, that Geronimo Ji Jaga should be released. The ruling stated that because crucial evidence was withheld from the defense, Geronimo had been denied a fair trial and the verdict against him should be overturned. "It's hard to say this case shows the justice system works when it takes this long to free an innocent man." Hanlon, Geronimo's lawyer for 24 years on a volunteer basis, has been co-counsel with Johnnie Cochran in the quarter century fight for a new trial.

The judge found that the evidence before the court "makes it clear that prosecution witness Julius C. Butler ... had been, for at least three years before the trial, providing information about the Black Panther Party and individuals associated with it to law enforcement agencies on a confidential basis." The agencies cited by the judge include the LAPD, the FBI and L.A. District Attorney's Office which prosecuted Geronimo. The decision stated that the DA's own records listed Butler as an informant and that one investigator for the DA's office had even been instructed by a supervisor that he needed permission to talk to Butler from FBI agent George Akin because Butler "belongs to George." After receiving permission from the FBI, Butler was considered an informant of the DA's office. Butler was even provided with $200 by a detective in the DA's office to buy a handgun (which he could not legally own because he had been convicted of a felony in 1969).

Other evidence concealed from the defense pointed to an FBI/LAPD setup of Geronimo. The judge found that records available to the DA showed that Butler had delivered a letter which implicated Geronimo in the death of Caroline Olsen to LAPD Sgt. Rice and that Rice was immediately approached by two FBI agents who demanded the letter be surrendered to them as "evidence."

The judge summed up that this information "if properly and timely disclosed to competent defense counsel, would have permitted potentially devastating cross-examination or other impeachment evidence regarding Butler in important respects."

The judge also noted that Butler had given false testimony at the 1972 trial by swearing, "I've never been an informant" and that LAPD Sgt. Rice had "left a grossly inaccurate impress on the jury as to the scope of Butler's activities which was not corrected by the prosecutor."

In refuting claims that the defense was not diligent in uncovering this information, the judge noted that: "It is highly unlikely that criminal defense attorneys for a known Black Panther leader in 1972 would have been able to obtain any information about a prosecution witness of the type mentioned herein just by asking law enforcement agents for it, especially where such extensive efforts were made to keep his informing activities confidential (such as the LAPD officers' falsifying of a police report with the permission of the Acting Police Chief....)."

Shortly after his release, Geronimo spoke at Lil' Bobby Hutton Park in West Oakland. He was greeted by thousands of people Black youth from the Oakland ghetto, progressive people from different backgrounds, and activists who had worked tirelessly for the overturn of his conviction.

Political Prisoners in the USA

The case of Geronimo Ji Jaga (Pratt) was one of many political frame-ups used by the government against the Black Panther Party and other revolutionaries in the 1960s, and in the period since. Today, Mumia Abu Jamal, a former Black Panther Party member, revolutionary journalist, and unrepentant opponent of oppression, sits on death row in Pennsylvania. Mumia's conviction was based on falsified evidence and his sentencing overtly based on his political beliefsprosecutors cited Mumia quoting Mao Tsetung as part of their argument for the death penalty.

Native American activist Leonard Peltier has served almost 35 years in jail for his role in the uprising of Native Americans at Wounded Knee in 1973, site of the massacre of 300 Sioux men, women and children in 1890, and other Native American resistance against ongoing genocide and theft of Indian land.

For more on political prisoners in the USA, see "It's Right to Fight Against Oppression!: Political Prisoners in the U.S." in the special issue of Revolution on prisons and prisoners, November 15, 2009─available at revcom.us.

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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Gil Scott-Heron—Poet, Musician and Storyteller of the Oppressed

By Michael Slate

Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies and Hooterville Junction
will no longer be so damned relevant
and women will no longer care if Dick finally got down with Jane
on Search for Tomorrow
because Black people will be in the streets looking for
A Brighter Day
The revolution will not be televised.

From—The Revolution Will Not Be Televised

Every now and then when the news drops it makes the world's heart skip a beat. On May 27 Gil Scott-Heron, a poet, musician and storyteller whose art changed the world, died sadly and quietly in a New York City hospital. Over the course of his life Gil Scott-Heron produced music and poetry that became one of the voices of rebellion in the U.S. and spread that vibe around the world as well.

 Born in 1949, Gil's life was shaped by—and in turn, helped shape—the upheaval of the times. He aimed to speak truth to power—and to the powerless as well. In songs like the Bicentennial Blues and H2OGate Blues, Gil used his remarkable wit, sense of irony and poetic spirit to skewer the system and the rulers, hold them up for ridicule and lay bare their ugliness to the world. He could have you laughing your ass off and then twist things up just a bit to make you step back and recognize some truth.

Take a listen to a little piece like No Knock (referring to the law that allows police to kick down the doors of people's homes without a warrant or warning): "'No Knock!' The Man will say, 'to keep that man from beatin' his wife!'/ 'No Knock!' The Man will say, 'to keep people from hurtin' themselves!'/ No-knockin', head rockin', enter shockin', shootin', cussin'/ killin', cryin', lyin' and bein' white!/ No knocked on my brother, Fred Hampton,/ bullet holes all over the place!/ No knocked on my brother, Michael Harris,/ and jammed a shotgun against his skull!/ For my protection?/ Who's gonna protect me from you?"

When he spoke of the oppressed it was with a different voice—one filled with love, and sometimes impatience, but always with a solid hatred for the hell people are forced to live under. Songs like Pieces of a Man, The Bottle, Paint It Black, and Whitey on the Moon painted the stories of Black people in America the same way Romare Bearden told the stories on canvas and August Wilson told them on stage.

In the notes he wrote to the 1975 album he made with the Midnight Band and Brian Jackson, The First Minute of a New Day, Gil spoke about living in a time of shattered dreams and shocked citizens and wrote, "...mid winter/ there is a revolution going on in America/the World; a shifting in the winds/vibrations, as disruptive as an actual earth-tremor, but it is happening in our hearts. There is a revolution going on in America/the World; a change as swift as blackening skies when the rains come, as fresh and clear as the air after the rain. We need change. The seeds of this revolution were planted hundreds of years ago; in slave ships, in cotton fields, in tepees, in the souls of brave men. The seeds were watered, nurtured and bloom now in our hands as we rock our babies."

At some point Gil began to target capitalism to a degree and used razor sharp poetry to savagely expose the roots of America in slavery and genocide in songs like Bicentennial Blues.

In Winter in America, Gil wrestles with the ebb of the struggle of the 1960s and what the future might hold. In the notes from Winter in America Gil wrote, "Winter is a metaphor; a term not only used to describe the season of ice, but the period of our lives through which we are travelling. In our hearts we feel that spring is just around the corner; a spring of brotherhood and united spirits among people of color. Everyone is moving, searching. There is a restlessness within our souls that keeps us questioning, discovering and struggling against a system that will not allow us space and time for fresh expression." In the song Must Be Something Gil speaks to the changing times in 1975 and especially the ebb in the struggle beginning to emerge, beginning the song with "Must be somethin'/Must be somethin' we can do/Must be somethin'/Must be somethin' we can do/We didn't come all this way just to give up/We didn't struggle all this time to say we've had enough/Had enough." And answers at the end of the song with, "Tell you somethin'/ Tell you somethin' you can do/Keep on movin'/Keep on movin' for what's true!"

Gil made no bones about how he felt about sellout "leaders" of Black people. In songs like Push Comes to Shove and The New Deal he calls them: "Which brings me back to my convictions/ and being convicted for my beliefs/ 'cause I believe these smiles/ in three piece suits/ with gracious, liberal demeanor/ took our movement off the streets/ and took us to the cleaners."

Gil was a revolutionary rooted in the politics of Black Nationalism with conflicting understandings of the roots of oppression, and a mixed record on the oppression of women—but with an embrace that took in the oppressed all over the world. Alien (Hold on to Your Dream) from his great—but terribly underpublicized—album 1980 is one of the most moving songs about the hellish life of the undocumented immigrants forced to seek work in El Norte there is—and it's a song that should be played loud and often in the face of all the current attempts to pit Black people in the U.S. against undocumented immigrants. When Jose Campos Torres, a Chicano man in Houston, Texas, was murdered by the police—who received a $1 fine for their crime—and Chicano people in Houston rebelled, Gil wrote one of the most powerful songs against police brutality ever. And two years later when the Iranian people overthrew the Shah of Iran, Gil celebrated with the song Shah Mot (The Shah is Dead/Checkmate), again from his album 1980.

In Johannesburg, Gil brought home the struggle of the people in South Africa against the racist system of official segregation known as apartheid—a system that held the black people in South Africa to be no more than beasts of burden for the white, settler-colonialist regime. Many people in the U.S. at the time had no idea what was going on in South Africa but would find themselves leaving his concert with the refrain "What's the word? Johannesburg!" etched into their brain. In 2010 Gil was scheduled to perform in Israel and when activists asked him to cancel the tour because playing in Israel was the same as playing in South Africa under the apartheid regime, Gil canceled to stand with the Palestinian people.

He sang about the dangers of nuclear power in a world like this, including at a major "No Nukes" concert at Madison Square Garden held by Musicians United for Safe Energy shortly after the meltdown at the Three Mile Island nuclear power plant in Pennsylvania.

Gil Scott-Heron refused to be boxed in, he had a broadness of mind that thrived in the complexity, irony, humor, tragedy, oppression and revolution of human life on earth. He drew the inspiration for his music and poetry from many wells. He saw his art as part of a great musical river flowing through the world. Gil called himself a "Bluesologist" and among the scores of people he often cited as his influences were Richie Havens, John Coltrane, Otis Redding, the Last Poets, Oscar Brown Jr., Jose Feliciano, Billie Holiday, Langston Hughes, Paul Robeson, Malcolm X, Huey Newton, Nina Simone and Brian Jackson, the pianist/keyboardist/flutist and producer who teamed up with Gil in college and worked with him for more than a decade.

One element of jazz that Gil incorporated into his music and poetry was improvisation—he could take off on a verbal riff that rivaled any mind-bending improvisational solo found in jazz or freestyle rhyming cipher in hip-hop. His music has been sampled by many hip-hop artists over the years, and Gil felt a certain responsibility to counsel rappers, speaking to a new generation of youth. In 1994's Message to the Messengers, Gil put his arm around the shoulders of the rappers who came behind him and wrestled with them about the content and outlook of their art, challenging them to rise up against the system and the culture it produced rather than go along with it.

There was a private tragic aspect to Gil's life, a decades-long addiction problem that paralleled the long winter that did weigh heavily on the people of the U.S. over the last few decades. And at a certain point that addiction also became a way to deal with the pain he suffered from health problems including being HIV positive. Gil also spent much of the first decade of the 21st century in and out of jail on drug-related charges. In 2010 Gil released his first album in 16 years, I'm New Here, a deeply personal look at how he's lived his life and the possibility of change.

Gil once explained that his poetry came out of music and he then made his music sound like words. And in that context he brought to life the lives of Black people in America and the oppressed everywhere. When he sang/spoke his art, it bent the air, found its way to your ears and wove itself through the folds in your brain, eventually dropping down to embrace your heart. And in the end it caused us all to look at things differently and for many to join in the quest for revolution and an end to the madness. He will be sorely missed.

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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Cheers/Jeers:

Cheers to Carlos Santana

From readers in Atlanta

Cheers to the legendary rock guitarist Carlos Santana, who, while being honored May 15 with a "Beacon of Change" award at the Major League Baseball Civil Rights Game at Turner Field in Atlanta, spoke out against Georgia's new anti-immigration law HB87.

The following was reported in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the headline "Santana knocks Georgia over immigration law."

"Santana took his turn at the podium in the pre-game ceremony before the Braves-Phillies game to criticize the immigration bill just signed into law by Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal. 'I represent the human race. The people of Arizona, the people of Atlanta, Georgia, you should be ashamed of yourselves.' Shortly after the game started he met with the media in an impromptu gathering in the Turner Field press box after word of his comments began to break on the Internet and through social media. He said the law is based on racism and economic anxiety. 'This is about fear, that people are going to steal my job,' Santana said of the law. 'No we ain't. You don't clean toilets and clean sheets; stop shucking and jiving.' Santana said he is a 1960's-era artist unafraid to speak out. 'It's an anti-American law. It's a cruel law, actually,' Santana said. 'If you all remember what it was like here with Martin Luther King and the dogs and the hoses, it's the same thing, only it's high tech. So let's change it.'"

Georgia HB 87 is an Arizona copy-cat bill known as the "show me your papers" law. Signed by the governor on May 13, it is scheduled to go into effect on July 1. It establishes new law enforcement powers to allow police to check immigration status if they "suspect" a person is undocumented. It requires potential employers to verify the immigration status of new hires, it makes it a serious crime to use false information to find work, and makes it a criminal offense to harbor or transport an undocumented person.

The bill was passed and signed into law under the pretext of "protecting Georgia's economy" against the supposed drain on resources for services provided to undocumented immigrants. However, the real impact of immigrants on the Georgia economy is now blaring through headlines about an acute shortage of farm laborers during harvest time, because migrant farmworkers are avoiding Georgia for fear of a crackdown. Growers in south Georgia are in an uproar, saying they could lose $300 million due to crops rotting in the fields.

A lawsuit was filed by a number of civil rights groups on June 2 to block implementation of the bill. Immigrant rights activists have called for a boycott of Georgia and are planning resistance mobilizations leading up to and on July 1.

Cheers to Carlos Santana for taking the opportunity of his civil rights award to speak out against this vicious law.

For more on the battle around Georgia HB87, see Revolution #231, "Georgia: Thousands Protest Ugly Anti-Immigrant Law."

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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New Developments in Targeting of Activists

Sheriffs and FBI Raid Home of Chicano Activist in Los Angeles

There have been significant new developments in the targeting of antiwar and international solidarity activists by Obama's Justice Department. On May 17 the LA County Sheriff's SWAT team and members of the FBI raided the home of Chicano activist Carlos Montes. In Minneapolis, the next day, FBI documents were brought to light that further expose the escalation of political repression of political organizations that began last September.

From a statement by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression, at 5 a.m. on May 17:

"The SWAT Team smashed the front door and rushed in with automatic weapons as Carlos slept. The team of Sheriffs and FBI proceeded to ransack his house, taking his computer, cell phones and hundreds of documents, photos, diskettes and mementos of his current political activities in the pro-immigrant rights and Chicano civil rights movement. Also taken were hundreds of historical documents related to Carlos Montes' involvement in the Chicano movement for the past 44 years."

The statement continues:

"Carlos was arrested on one charge dealing with a firearm code and released on bail the following morning. His first court appearance is set for June 16, 2011.

"This attack on Carlos Montes is part of the campaign of FBI harassment taking place against the 23 peace and justice activists which has until now been centered in the Midwest. Carlos Montes' name was listed on the subpoena left in the office of the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee last September 24. When Carlos Montes was placed in the LA County Sheriff's car, an FBI agent approached and asked him questions about the Freedom Road Socialist Organization."

On September 24 of last year, the FBI carried out coordinated raids of seven houses in Chicago and Minneapolis and the Anti-War Committee office in Minneapolis. The raids were aimed at activists, including in the antiwar movement; the Colombian and Palestinian solidarity movements; and Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO). The warrants authorizing the raid claimed that the Joint Terrorism Task Force (which includes the FBI) was seeking evidence in an ongoing investigation into "material support of terrorism." Fourteen people were served with subpoenas to appear before a federal grand jury. All signed letters from their lawyers refusing to testify and the subpoenas were temporarily suspended, with three later being reissued. In December a new round of subpoenas was served on nine additional people, mainly Palestinian solidarity activists. These nine also signed a statement refusing to appear before the grand jury. All those with active subpoenas face the possibility of being granted limited immunity and jailed if they continue to refuse to testify.

The documents released by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression on May 18 are FBI documents that the FBI left behind in one of the September raids. The documents include a list of "interview questions" prepared by the FBI that is seeking to gain information about these political organizations with questions like: who are the leaders, who are the members, how is the organization structured, what does it do, what is discussed at the meetings, etc.?

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression said in its May 18 statement:

"While we have no way of knowing if it was speaking tours or educational events on Colombia that got them so riled up, there is something we can state with certainty: There is nothing illegal about traveling to Colombia, or visiting the areas where the FARC is in charge. This is something that journalists, including U.S. journalists, do, and we have yet to hear of their doors being broken down. Upon returning from Colombia, [Meredith] Aby and [Jess] Sundin spoke at many public events about their experiences."

After the raids last September, people rallied in emergency protests across the country. Statements of support have been written, and people have signed pledges to respond to any indictments that come down. There have also been letters written by some legislators and mention of these raids in the Annual Report of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in the section of Freedom of Expression. There is a need for all kinds of people who support the right to organize in opposition to U.S. policies to politically and legally oppose this repression and defend those who have come under attack. An emergency response in Los Angeles to the raid on Carlos Montes' house drew a hundred people on May 20 and another protest is called for June 16, the day of his arraignment in Alhambra.

As Revolution wrote last October, "The cold truth is this: The ruling class, and Obama, do not let rights supposedly guaranteed by law get in the way of what they perceive to be the interests of imperialism. But this does NOT mean that people should not fight for those rights. Far from it. What it does show is that we must struggle all the harder and without illusions against this repression, exposing both the cruel nature of the policies these raids are enforcing (and the interests behind those policies), and the ways in which these raids are totally illegitimate—a violation not only of the fundamental rights and of the fundamental beliefs of many, many people as to what is just, but of the actual laws as written." ("In The Age Of Obama, Criminalizing Political Opposition To U.S. Aggression and the FBI Raids on Antiwar Activists," Revolution, October 31, 2010)

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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A Fundraiser's Response to BAsics

June 1, 2011

From a reader

I want to share with you one person's response to BAsics who is donating $100 to the current fund drive.

This is someone who used to be a professional fundraiser. I have talked to him on and off, gotten him the paper and he usually just gave a cynical old laugh, even though he is a pretty young guy (30's or early 40's). He is aghast at how bad things are, but more aghast at what people fall for like "be real, you can't really do anything to change things." But I saw him at a dinner recently and he said, "We have to talk; I have come to an important conclusion about my life and my relation to the universe and I am ready to hear what you have to say." I said, "Well, that's good. I want to hear all about it, and I will ask you for a hefty donation."

So today was the first chance we were able to sit down and chat. He said that several things have brought him to the conclusion that he can't just watch things from the sidelines anymore. He has to be a part of finding some answers and doing something to bring about a better world. He doesn't think, at least at this point, that it is with communism — but he does want to begin the discussion. He was familiar with BA and liked what he heard.

I asked for $1K. He laughed, said he didn't have it. I asked for $500 and went through the brochure with him and showed him what we were doing and why each was important. I asked him to sustain the paper for $50 a month.  He said he would give $100 to "this" and pointed to BAsics and said, "This is what I want to contribute because I have heard him speak on the radio and he does not mince words and I think people need to hear this." He said he had the book on his Amazon wish list. I said that was great, get that one for a friend and get one now, which he did.

He is an intellectual, reads a lot, is very concerned with the environment, the rise of the Tea Party movement and wants to know who can take that on. I linked his question up to what we are doing in this fund drive, bringing forward a revolutionary movement, an advanced section of society around a scientific understanding of the problem and solution. He said, yeah, but communism, come on. Here I used the quotes and the bibliography at end of BAsics which wowed him. I showed him the Revolution talk website revolutiontalk.net (Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About) which is listed first in the bibliography and asked him if he would want to be part of a discussion on BAsics with people who are also very new to reading it. He thought about it and said, yes, he would.

At the end he said, "I'll contribute the $100 and if I read this, like it, there will be more." And then he said, "You know, I may disagree when we talk, but I may also fight with my friends using what I am learning and taking your side. At the same time, I will fight you every step of the way on this." I laughed and said we wouldn't have it any other way.

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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A Reader Writes on:

50th Anniversary
Freedom Riders—A Legacy of Defiance

I really was moved by this article as that it reveals history which has been hidden from the majority of the people. That people can and do change the world, and that others are moved and compelled to act by the example of a courageous few who start the ball rolling. This brings to mind something that was part of my childhood. I grew up in a major metropolitan area, but would spend my summers in a rural/suburban town which had a lot of progressive minded people, mainly white. Many of these people had been moved to support the Freedom Riders in ways that were not widely known. There were a number of youth from the Freedom Riders who stayed in our area for a short period of time receiving medical care, dental care and some much needed R&R provided by sympathetic people of the middle strata who were outraged over these vicious attacks. There was one young African American man named "Bill" who looked after the gaggle of children (of which I was one of) and he genuinely loved and cared for us and engaged us in various games. A number of us became quite attached to him. It turned out later that he went back down South a few months later, quite aware of the risks that he was once again taking. One evening, after dinner, my family was watching the evening news, and we saw "Bill" being beaten bloody by the police. Of course, I recognized him and starting yelling that the police were beating "Bill." It took quite some time for my parents to calm me and my brother down, but I never forgot that incident. I think that probably was my first real exposure to the viciousness of this system, and it helped to lay the seed for me to later step forward as part of a new generation of rebel youth that came of age later on. Today, there is very real potential for a new movement of resistance to the crimes of this system to come forth and being built. That things do NOT have to be this way, and that a whole new future can come into being.

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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From a Reader:

Taking Revolution to a Leonard Peltier Benefit

I read the back page of the paper at a Leonard Peltier Benefit. You know the one about imagine a new world with a better culture.*

The performer doing the benefit was a transgender person who wrote some great stuff. One cover showed a picture of Mt. Rushmore and was called "American Genocide." The audience was a mix of cultural/revolutionary nationalist, transgendered folks, anarchists and liberals. IE folks that didn't know about the Party or Bob Avakian's new synthesis. Well I got up and read the two paragraphs and there was silence as I read. The whole audience was really into it. When I got done I got a standing ovation. I sat down and the performer for the evening kept saying "Imagine that" as she walked to the keyboard and then sang a song about a soldier who refused to take part in some slaughter of a group of Native Americans but instead organized some soldiers to protect them.

At the break every person was glad I read there. I had some papers to give to some one who didn't show. They flew out of my hands. I made some good connections there. This just shows that you don't have to talk about the paper – just use it wisely – it will speak for itself if you take it out. Wisely.

Now let me add this to it. Just last week I was hosting a poetry reading. When I arrived to set up one of the poets who had been at the Peltier benefit asked me to re-read the Bob Avakian quote. I said sure and asked him would he like to read it – he politely declined. When I got up to do my bit. I read the quote. Once again there was silence. I scanned the audience there were smiles of recognition on all the faces. It was as if little ah ha light bulbs were going on in all the listeners' heads. Once again when I was through I got vigorous applause and a standing ovation. I had no papers, but I did have bookmarks. Everybody took a bookmark. Lesson – I should have been prepared with BAsics and papers.

En Lucha

* The back page poster is available at revcom.us/i/230/230backcover-en.pdf. The quote (BAsics 2:8) reads:

Let's imagine if we had a whole different art and culture. Come on, enough of this "bitches and ho's" and SWAT teams kicking down doors. Enough of this "get low" bullshit. And how come it's always the women that have to get low? We already have a situation where the masses of women and the masses of people are pushed down and held down low enough already. It's time for us to get up and get on up.

Imagine if we had a society where there was culture—yes it was lively and full of creativity and energy and yes rhythm and excitement, but at the same time, instead of degrading people, lifted us up. Imagine if it gave us a vision and a reality of what it means to make a whole different society and a whole different kind of world. Imagine if it laid out the problems for people in making this kind of world and challenged them to take up these problems. Imagine if art and culture too—movies, songs, television, everything—challenged people to think critically, to look at things differently, to see things in a different light, but all pointing toward how can we make a better world.

Imagine if the people who created art and culture were not just a handful of people but all of the masses of people, with all their creative energy unleashed, and the time were made for them to do that, and for them to join with people who are more full-time workers and creators in the realm of art and culture to bring forward something new that would challenge people, that would make them think in different ways, that would make them be able to see things critically and from a different angle, and would help them to be uplifted and help them to see their unity with each other and with people throughout the world in putting an end to all the horrors that we're taught are just the natural order of things. Imagine all that. [back]

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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From a reader:

CHEERS to Daniel Barenboim for his concert in Gaza

On May 3 Daniel Barenboim, a classical pianist and world-famous conductor, led an orchestra made up of musicians from some of the top orchestras in the world, including the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, and La Scala, to perform a Mozart concert for several hundred people in Gaza. According to Israeli law, it was illegal for Barenboim, an Israeli with honorary Palestinian citizenship, to enter Gaza, which has been under a brutal Israeli blockade since 2006. So he went through Egypt, which opened the border crossing at Rafah and the El Arish airport near the Egyptian border, so the musicians could get into Gaza. The concert was sponsored by the Al Mathaf Cultural House in Gaza, under the auspices of UNSCO (Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process) and UNRWA (United Nations Relief and Works Agency).

At the concert, Barenboim told the cheering crowd which included many children, "We are very happy to come to Gaza. We are playing this concert as a sign of our solidarity and friendship with the civil society of Gaza." He said the concert was intended to "bring solace and pleasure through music to the people of Gaza and to let them know that people all over the world care for them." He also said, "No people should be expected to live under occupation."

Jawdat Khoudary, of the Mathaf Cultural House, said, "For one hour or so we listen to music like the rest of the world. It is an acknowledgment that we are normal people, that our interests are the same as anyone else's in the world, that our dreams are the same, and that we want to create beauty again in Gaza. Culture has no borders, no limits."

Daniel Barenboim, along with his friend, the late Palestinian activist/scholar Edward Said, founded the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, made up of young Palestinian and Israeli and international musicians. In 2005, they performed an historic concert in Ramallah, on the West Bank. This concert has been filmed in a powerful documentary, The Ramallah Concert – Knowledge Is the Beginning, available on DVD.

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Revolution #235, June 12, 2011


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This poem was submitted by a reader.

The Bible and The Flag

If there's two things in life make a Fascist dog's tail wag,
It's the Goddamned Bible and The Goddamned Flag.
You know it's the fact, yeah it's real real true,
more crap gets wrapped up in the Good Book and The Red White and Blue.
Behind both these things reactionaries hide when they plan their wars of genocide.
They quote from the Bible scripture and verse, as they put another freedom fighter in a hearse.
They carry the Stars and Stripes over the water where they rob and rape, and steal and slaughter.
When people rise up to fight this disgrace,
some sucker always slappin' a Bible in your face, sayin'
turn the other cheek, that's what so and so said,
your reward's in heaven when your ass is dead!
The Bible and The Flag, The Bible and The Flag,
they're putrid and they're rotten and they'll make a maggot gag.
That King James crap and the red white and blue,
if you're about liberation, they don't mean shit to you.
If you want to fight the power, and struggle to be free,
then you can't uphold the banner of your class enemy.
And if you're looking for some watchwords in your quest for liberty—
don't look in the pages of bourgeois IDEOLOGY

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