Voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
Occupy Oakland, November 2:
On October 25, the City and the Oakland police tried to violently disperse and shut down Occupy Oakland, seriously wounding Iraq war vet and Occupy supporter Scott Olsen during the assault. The attempt was turned back within days, and on November 2, the Occupy Oakland movement took another big leap. At least 15,000 people, perhaps many more according to some estimates, joined the day-long “General Strike & Mass Day of Action—Everyone to the Streets! No Work! No School! Converge on Downtown Oakland to Help Shut Down the City.”
People across the country heard of these actions that night on the news—and this struck a deep chord among many, many people who took heart when they saw thousands take to the streets to repudiate the violence which had been visited upon the protesters—and stand up to carry the whole Occupy struggle forward.
The day was marked by both celebration... and defiant mass struggle. There was a tangible sense of uplift and joy among the thousands who thronged to downtown Oakland to see so many other people turn out and to have turned back the system’s efforts to crush Occupy Oakland. One Revolution Books staffer who talked to people throughout the day said, “People seem like a weight has been taken off their shoulders—they’ve said how glad they are to see something like this, that maybe change is possible. People have told me, ‘Maybe you’re right, maybe things can be changed.’”
|Oakland, November 2
Special to Revolution
There were also defiant actions. Protesters blocked entrances to some banks and forced them to close temporarily, final notices were placed on the doors of the banks and one woman wrote, “give me back my house.” Students marched to the offices of the University of California Regents. While most of the city remained at work, many businesses did shut down or supported the action in other ways. And the high point of the day was a march of many thousands from downtown to West Oakland that closed down the port of Oakland, the fifth-busiest port in the U.S.
The crowd was very diverse in age, nationality, culture, and politics as many joined the Occupy protests for the first time, and there was a big anti-capitalist thread throughout. There was truth in banner headlines in the Oakland Tribune—“The 99 Percent, United in Anger...Thousands descend on downtown, bringing city to standstill, Protesters mostly peaceful as they decry ‘capitalism run amok.’”
“Today is about saying no to the 1 percent,” one organizer said. Other demands included “end police attacks on our communities” and defending Oakland schools and libraries against budget cuts. There was a kind of ethos that you rarely see in a gathering of that size, of people looking out for each other and getting along across all kinds of social barriers—and in a crowd which was extremely diverse socially. There are, as one aspect of the Occupy movement, ways in which people are fighting for different values. There is a real openness to engaging different ideas and ways of looking at things; there is a sense of a kind of principle of “we SHOULD honestly engage each other’s ideas and dig into them”—which is so contrary to the dominant culture.
The City of Oakland was stung by the outpouring of protest after the vicious police assault against Occupy Oakland on October 25, and for most of the day [Wednesday, November 2] the police maintained a low profile. But late Wednesday night, after most who had joined the general strike had gone home, more than 200 police viciously attacked protesters after some had occupied a vacant downtown building.
According to a Statement on the Occupation of the former Traveler’s Aid Society at 520 16th Street, from “some friends of OO,” (Occupy Oakland) the vacant building, which had housed the Traveler’s Aid Society that served homeless people but had been closed due to budget cuts, had been occupied “to secure the shelter and space from which to continue organizing during the coming winter months.” They had also “hoped to use the national spotlight on Oakland to encourage other occupations in colder, more northern climates to consider claiming spaces and moving indoors in order to resist the repressive force of the weather, after so bravely resisting the police and the political establishment. We want this movement to be here next Spring...”
Five people were injured by the police, including a second Iraq vet. “Kayvan Sabehgi, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, is in intensive care with a lacerated spleen,” the Guardian (UK) reported. “He says he was beaten by police close to the Occupy Oakland camp, but despite suffering agonising pain, did not reach hospital until 18 hours later.” (“Occupy Oakland: second Iraq war veteran injured after police clashes,” November 4, 2011)
The National Lawyers Guild, which dispatched roughly 50 legal observers to the protest, told Revolution that some 90 people were arrested late Wednesday night for an unlawful assembly (most will be cited and released). According to the NLG, the significant thing was the extreme level of police violence. The NLG has reports that in at least one case, the cops surrounded and trapped people at the plaza and then started shooting at them with tear gas and rubber bullets. They also have reports of two people being hospitalized who were hit by rubber bullets. One man was hit in the face.
While the people have taken a big step forward with the general strike and day of mass action, it is still urgent to take up the battle to defend and strengthen Occupy Oakland and the whole Occupy movement, to prevent the ruling authorities from dividing and/or crushing it, and helping people better distinguish between differences and contradictions between the diverse people united around Occupy and the forces of the system attempting to stomp it out. As we wrote last week, the kind of mix taking place is very exciting, especially for people who see how the society constantly tries to divide different sections of the people. Differences and struggles among the people are different from the “contradictions between the people and the enemy,” between the people on the one hand, and the rulers, their police, and their whole state structure on the other. There is a need to learn to distinguish between the two and to resolve the contradictions among the people in a principled way which serves the interests of the people and enables them to continue to advance the struggle. It is heartening that many thousands were inspired and energized by the general strike, and that hundreds turned out for the first General Assembly (Friday night), following the day of mass action.
The day was supported and joined by many organizations, unions, small businesses, as well as teacher, student, professional and political organizations, and thousands came to downtown Oakland for a day of rallies, marches, and cultural happenings. It began at 7 am Wednesday morning, when people began setting up at Occupy Oakland at 14th and Broadway / Oscar Grant Plaza (officially Frank Ogawa Plaza) in the heart of downtown Oakland. By 9 am, there were probably several thousand downtown, and the general strike gained strength as the day went on. Thousands more—some coming individually, some in groups, some in organized marches—came downtown to join in. And the strike and day of action continued late into the night.
There were three separate marches from UC Berkeley—at 11, 1, and 5—with hundreds of students participating. A teacher in the Peralta Community College system told Revolution that over 1,500 students from the system, which includes Berkeley City College, the College of Alameda, and Laney and Merritt Colleges in Oakland, had marched. Nine students from UC Santa Barbara drove up for the protest. There were students from Holy Names, San Francisco State, and Mills College. Hundreds of high school students came out from Berkeley High, Oakland Tech, Skyline, Mt. Tamalpais, Bishop O’Dowd and no doubt many other schools. One Mills student told Revolution that 100-200 of her classmates had come to the protest; that some teachers had come down with their classes; and that others were using the day to teach about Occupy themes—including decolonization.
There was a convergence in Oakland’s mainly Latino Fruitvale District. There were professional groups—doctors, nurses, architects, and teachers including a contingent of 50-100 from the Oakland Education Association. The Service Workers International and Teamsters unions had a big presence. There were varying reports that five percent of city employees and anywhere from three to 20 percent of Oakland teachers joined the strike.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported, “More than 300 Oakland public school teachers did not show up to work today. City officials allowed public employees to take the day off, but every Oakland police officer was required to show up for work. About 5 percent of city employees called in to say they would be taking either an unpaid furlough or paid vacation day, officials said. Major labor unions in the city expressed support for the movement. Most union workers can not legally strike today, but some said they planned to participate by taking time off or walking off their jobs.”
Oakland School of the Arts closed for the day in solidarity, and at least 20 students came to the protest together. Revolution talked to two sisters, one in the 7th grade, the other in the 8th. The 8th grader said she liked the day—her first protest—because “I can find out what’s going on—I don’t have to just get it from the TV.” One sign said, “We are the 7 billion.”
The Grand Lake Theater’s marquee—visible from the 580 Freeway and normally carrying the names of movies playing—read: “We proudly support the Occupy Wall Street Movement. Closed Wed. to support the strike.”
The crowd of thousands in front of the sound truck at 14th and Broadway would grow in size—sometimes filling the three blocks from 16th to 13th Streets—then ebb as different marches set out in different directions. At 9:55 am there was an “I Will Survive... Capitalism” flashmob, with people dancing in the street to the disco hit “I Will Survive”; at 10 am and again at 12:30 pm “March and Bank Actions/Mobilizations” took place. Later there was a march to the UC Regents building downtown to protest budget cuts, and the Regents’ decision to allow the Oakland Police Department to use their building during the attack on Occupy Oakland. At 2 pm there was an anti-capitalist march. Hundreds, sometimes thousands, joined these actions.
Throughout the day Oscar Grant Plaza was jam packed. Bands and musicians played in the amphitheater right in front of City Hall, where the general assemblies are held, to hundreds of people. Groups had set up literature tables and food dispensaries. There were drum circles. DJ’ed music was pumping out from the Oaklandish store/community space—on Broadway—as people danced on the sidewalk. A festive and celebratory atmosphere prevailed.
Revolution Books had a big table and display area right on Oscar Grant Plaza on 14th Street. It was there to support the Occupy movement—and to let many, many people know about Bob Avakian and the movement for revolution he is leading. To the left of the table—stretching 25 feet, people had stood up five 3x4-foot enlargements of different quotes from BAsics (3:22, 1:3, 2:10, 1:5, and 1:24). Over the day hundreds of people were drawn to the quotes and stopped to study them. (There was also an enlargement of BA’s "Three Strikes" quote and of the July 31 Revolution centerfold—“Who Are the Real Criminals???”) The store had printed up 2,000 copies of the latest Revolution editorial on the Occupy Movement (“Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Everywhere: Police Attacks...Courageous Resistance...Big Stakes for the People,” #249, November 6). The main focus was on getting out Revolution #244, the special issue on BAsics, and on selling the book itself.
The staff of Revolution Books found tremendous openness. By the end of the day some 9,000 copies of #244 had been distributed and nearly 50 copies of BAsics had been sold, as well as other revolutionary literature including the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal). One way the store enlisted people in the effort to spread revolution was by printing up 200 of two colorful 11x17-inch two-sided posters—one read “Fight the Power, and Transform the People, for Revolution” on one side, “Get Into Bob Avakian” on the other. The other read “This System has no future for the youth, The Revolution does” on one side, and “Get with the Real Revolution” on the other. Each side included revcom.us at the bottom. People were carrying them, or just taping them to their shirts.
When it got dark, people showed the Revolution talk DVD and deepened the engagement further with some people watching for nearly an hour. “Oh—that’s the guy you’re talking about,” one person said. It was also notable that three former prisoners were drawn to the table because they were thrilled to see the banner supporting the hunger strike. One bought a copy of BAsics for his brother who is in the Pelican Bay SHU.
The main event of the day began at 4 pm: a march from downtown to the port of Oakland to shut down the docks (with another march following at 5 pm). Hundreds of Critical Mass bikers had gotten to the port and began shutting it down a little after 4 pm, by preventing trucks from leaving the port facility. By 5 pm the whole operation had been shut down as six busloads of people and thousands of marchers converged on the port. The march topped the bridge leading to the docks and stretched as far as one could see up 7th Street, filling the street. There was amazement that people could bring this all together.
According to a report posted on the Occupy Oakland website (occupyoakland.org):
“The evening march to the Port stretched from downtown to the freeway overcrossing in West Oakland and thousands more protestors kept arriving as the third convergence of the day reached its peak. Over 20,000 people joined the march which made its way to the main entrance of the port and shut it down completely. Port officials confirmed that the workforce was sent home.”
According to one mainstream report, there were 5,000 people at the port, some climbing onto trucks and cargo containers. The authorities planned to keep the port open, but the protesters simply overwhelmed the area. “Nothing is coming in or out of here right now,” a union official stated.
“Whose port? Our port!” many yelled, while dozens climbed on top of the idled trucks and waved signs. “It’s a victory,” exulted one protester, a 21-year-old Oakland art student. “To get all these people together as one unit is amazing.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
“It’s OK,” one trucker whose truck was prevented from leaving told a news camera, “they’re doing it for us, right?”
There was a real current of people trying to picture a different future. One student carried a sign that said, “I want to create more than just wealth.” And Revolution reporters saw a number of people sitting at the gates at the docks reading the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal).
What happened in Oakland on November 2 was an important step forward, at a crucial time for the Occupy movement overall. Attacks against the encampments across the country continue. Those in power find the actions of the Occupiers intolerable, precisely because this has been a mass movement that refuses to accept the bounds of what this capitalist system considers “acceptable.” And we have seen that when this movement has deepened and sharpened the focus against the system, and when it has broadened and reached out, when it has responded to police attacks with more determination—it has been able to come out even stronger, carve out more space, and open up new possibilities. This happened in a major way in Oakland, inspiring people all over the U.S. and around the world who yearn for real changes to this world full of injustices and suffering.
Revolution will be carrying further coverage of the general strike and Occupy Oakland.
|Special to Revolution|
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
Interview with a revolutionary:
The following report and interview is with someone who was part of Occupy Oakland nearly from the beginning and who was arrested in the police attack and destruction of the camp. Occupy Oakland has now come back, to the same place as before.
Q: Can you tell us why people came together initially for Occupy Oakland?
Hella Occupy Oakland started off converging onto Downtown Oakland's Frank Ogawa Plaza, all united around the slogan "WE ARE THE 99%!" Many people spoke of the deeply felt anger towards this system in many different ways, from the greed of corporations to the ongoing wars for empire. Others expressed a sense of hope coming from the Occupy Wall Street Movement that is spreading throughout this country and the world, because it is based on mass resistance and mobilization to the crimes of this system on many levels, including mass nonviolent civil disobedience, challenging people to act in accordance with transforming the world, however they may see that or relate to that. Nonetheless the call was clear; we the 99% are indeed, as Annie Day said in her article "Report from Occupy Wall Street: 'We Only Want the World'" (Revolution #247, October 9, 2011), "fed the fuck up," may I add, "hella fed the fuck up!" In the mix the first day were two communists who supported the newspaper Revolution. I was one of them and I had my backpack ready with clothes, hair and toothbrushes, and a sleeping bag ready to hella occupy this mutha fucka! While I listened to people speak and express their sentiments on unity, inspiration, and concerns, a HUGE FUCKING BANNER saying "WELCOME TO THE OSCAR GRANT PLAZA ON OHLONE LAND" struck me. I was filled with joyful emotions seeing that sign and what it represented in terms of people seeing the need for calling out the system and its historic crimes as well as current crimes. Oscar Grant was a young man murdered in cold blood by a Bay Area Rapid Transit police officer, (I mean pig, hog, swine, animal for the 1%, let's just get that clear now) Johannes Mehserle on New Year's Day 2009. And the Ohlone were the native inhabitants of Oakland and much of the Bay Area before the brutal U.S. expansion to the west led to the near destruction of the people and the culture, along with the theft of the land. There was a vibe in the crowd that what was happening with these Occupations around the country was historical and necessary in a time of great demoralization about the future of humanity as a whole.
Q: Who was part of Occupy Oakland?
A lot of what makes up the majority of the people there, I thought it was anarchists at first, but a majority of the people there are middle-class white youth from different backgrounds, from different ideological standpoints, who, you could get this sense they feel like they have no purpose in this society, like traveler kids from all over, and there is, within that, a section of anarchists, and that gets tricky too, you have black block who are militant and more closed off, and anarcho-syndicalists who have some kind of unity with communism, you have people who aspire to communism, consider themselves Marxists and some consider themselves Maoists, and some Marxist-Leninists and not Maoists and disagree with Maoism, and you have a lot of people from Oakland, homeless people who were living at that place before we even got there, who have been integrated into that community and have been contributing, whether through security or helping with the food, they are contributing as part of this. People are coming because they really are coming at this for the first time, they never even engaged in a protest before. And also, within that crowd, you have a lot of people from the older generation who are camping out and contributing and coming by and donating, and doing as much as they can to help out. So that is the campers. That is what the campers were looking like, the first round, before the police attacked and destroyed the original camp. (Editors' note: This protest has grown over the weeks, and many, many more people from all walks of life are now participating and supporting this movement, as evidenced in the General Strike on November 2.)
That was what the campers looked like. During the day, you had people from every background coming by. It is hard to put your thumb on what section of the people are coming to this because so many people are coming to this. You are getting more basic masses from East and West Oakland who are coming by to check it out. You are getting business people who work around downtown Oakland taking their lunch break and going down and eating with us and talking with us and figuring out what we are doing. You have high school students coming down every morning now, you have a class of high school students who come by and just talk with us, we have somebody give them a tour and explain what is going on. You have grandparents, parents, children, you have a kids' village. So during the day it is really hard to say "this is the kind of people" because everyone is coming. And that definitely has changed since the raid. After the raid there has been more people coming by and a certain sense of respect for what Occupy Oakland is now as opposed to before.
Q: Can you describe how the camp grew in its early days?
The size almost doubled the second day with people coming in to stay and many, many others coming in to show support and donate food, tents, water, medicine and anything else they can. People expressed a unity with the campers and sought in many different ways to see how they can plug in and help in whatever way they could. You really got a sense that not only were the campers determined to stay but that we had the support of the people. Hay bales and wood pallets were donated by American Steel, which is a huge warehouse that rents spaces to artists of all trades but in particular those who work with metal and wood arts, a lot of who work on art for Burning Man. We utilized the hay bales to spread around the grass that was soaked and muddy from the rain that hit strong for about a week before the occupation. We then set up roadways with the wood pallets to have more accessibility.
The food tent stayed open practically all night and day with people helping and contributing whatever they can, whether it be food or volunteer time. One thing that stood out to me is the active involvement of the homeless people in not just the food tent but also everything. You get this real sense and they even say it, "we have nothing at all and what you all have done has inspired us to become active contributors to changing the world." There was a woman who came and donated a salad and water and I helped her get the stuff from her car. She was saying how sorry she was that that's all she could do was bring food and leave but that she wanted to help somehow. I began to explain to her as we walked over to the food tent how important any donation is, especially food; in the middle of me explaining tears started to build in my eyes as she asked we what was wrong. I pointed to the food tent that had a huge line of people waiting, not to get food but to give us food. I said to her, "We need this, this gives us hope, and it makes us stronger, not just nutritionally but also emotionally."
Q: Can you describe the atmosphere in the encampment?
There is a whole atmosphere of people wanting to contribute in any way they can. This is crucially important to learn from in terms of applying it to our movement for revolution. Because of the fact that you have people from so many different sections of society wanting to contribute on whatever level they can. That can be in the form of donating water, food, to tents, that can look like doing your own workshop or coming by and expressing your art, music; you have screen printers who come in from different artistic backgrounds doing printing, you have musicians coming with free music for people that is uplifting and creative, you have performers, people who can juggle fire, who do belly dancing, folk music, rock music, rap music, all of these different things coming together, and then within that, not even within that, but what is characterizing all of that is this hunger, this drive to fight for a different world however people see that, you really do see a strong determination to go up against race, class and gender, and those are the three things that have constantly been at the fore of Occupy Oakland. And it is something that I found really significant and characteristic. I don't know if it is just Occupy Oakland, but what is happening here is people are putting the question of this whole system and what that has to do with things like race, class and gender, and people really hashing that kind of stuff out. Like women taking on the question of patriarchy and gender and their position in the world, I found was really significant. It has been the case that young women are taking up most of the organization and responsibilities of maintaining and keeping the camp going. And that is not just on the level of some patriarchal they are feeding and cleaning for the men -- they are taking an active part in politically organizing this whole thing. And it is something that is really significant. The challenge I think does need to be put up to more of the men, though there are men who are taking a role in organizing too politically...
Q: Early on, a decision was made about the homeless and people from the drug rehab places in downtown Oakland—are they in or out? Can you talk about that and why you thought it was important?
There were several situations where people in the camp were confronted with the wounds this system has put on people, mentally and emotionally, in terms of homelessness, alcoholism, mental illness. When certain sections of people confronted that, late at night, in the encampment, people didn't know how to deal with that. Some people were saying let's just ignore these confrontations or these issues, other people were saying, no, we have to address these situations, and then there were different ideas on how to address that. The question that was put forward in front of the GA [General Assembly] one day was how to deal with this situation, will we just turn our backs on these people and say they are worthless and have no role in any of this? Because of the wounds they have got through this system? Or are we going to integrate them into our community? The fact is that they have illnesses that we don't know how to treat right now, but are working on getting people who can deal with these things. And it was decided, amongst everyone, the majority decided that we need to integrate them into our community. They have been living a life, and we confronted especially in particular the anger a lot of these Black homeless people were letting out. And what we realized was especially for someone who is homeless, who has a mental illness, and has an alcoholism problem, they are living a life where they are already feeling marginalized, already feeling outcast by society, like they are worthless, and if you have a process where people can't voice that anger, it builds up, especially when you have alcoholism and mental illness together. These bursts of outrage, though expressed really wrong sometimes and really violently sometimes, they stem from what people have been conditioned to become under this system. People wanted to confront that and they decided that was a challenge the camp was going to take up, that we were going to police ourselves. So that is when the actual question of how we were going to deal with these situations came up, because it was a gut wrenching process to see some people who were so on point about the role of the police, and the stress of situations like that, and there were some times when those people would say, I am all for being against the police but this guy, maybe it wouldn't be that bad to call the police and have this guy removed. And it was good, because overall what happened in the camp is that the police were not called. People realized that we have to take this on ourselves, and this is exactly what the system wants, for us to rip ourselves apart, through internal stuff.
And then there began to be talk of people who would come into the camp and start something, or steal something, or be aggressive, and when confronted by the entire camp, and confronted by the reality that this is a serious movement, some people would admit, "I was paid to come in there and do this by the police or by this person, somebody gave me an amount of money and told me to come in here and do this." So then we were really confronted with a serious situation. Now we had not only homelessness, mental illness, and alcoholism, but when that is combined with the police and other provocateurs paying people, that created a whole other level of something that people began to not really understand how to confront.
Q: Can you talk about what kind of conversations you have gotten into about revolution and communism?
On the front of my tent, before the police destroyed it, I had a sign that I made that says, Humanity Needs Revolution And Communism www.revcom.us. I had a little stand with Revolution newspaper by my tent. One thing I paid attention to is talking to the homeless.
For example, one guy is amazingly interestingly contradictory but I love this guy for the questions he brings up and the things we get into. He is a Black man who has spent nine years in the penitentiary. I met him on the third day around 3 am. I asked him why he was here. He said, "What you mean? Y'all came to me. I been at this park for a while 'cause I'm homeless, well I mean before this occupation I was and I was staying here. I was able to hustle up and make some money to get up out of here and up to Stockton where I got a little spot to stay in with the money I hustled. But the day I was going to leave y'all showed up and I realized I had to stay. This shit meant something to me. It was a fight for the underdogs, we need that. So I see this as the most important thing in my life right now, you know? This shit means more to me than anything because it's about real shit and dealing with real shit, fighting for real shit to get out of real shit. This shit is more meaningful than all the women I've fucked, all the money I've made, all the music I've done, this is the time, right now, for me to do a 180 and get out of this shit. That's why I stayed. Why are you here?" I told him, "Well I'm a revolutionary, a communist..." and before I can say more he snapped back, "Bro, you're a communist!?! A communist!?! You mean like them mutha fuckas that be running people over with tanks and shit!?! Why would you want to do that!?!" I smiled and said, "Nah man, that wasn't communism, they used the named communist but that was no longer a socialist society in transition to communism anymore." He paused and looked at me then said in an honest way, "Bro, I don't know what the fuck you talking about." I handed him the paper on "The Voices This System Has Cast Off" and he took it. We talked for a bit and he told me about being in prison for nine years and how he felt bad about the shit he did and how he wanted to make up for that. I told him, "First off, stop blaming yourself for what this system made you do, two if that's how you feel that you want to change the world then you need to read that paper and get with the revolution." He looked at the paper, and then looked back at me with a concerned look. I said, "What's up, you good?" He replied, "Bro, I will be real with you, I can't even read, like at all, I know this say 'revolution' up at the top cause you told me." I said, "Man don't be ashamed, I got you. Check out this quote." I read to him the quote in the paper on those the system has cast off. After I finished he said, "Damn... Damn Bro... wow... bro... um... wow... I'm like at a loss of words man... What is this paper, man? I want to be a part, man. I want to help out this right here. I know I can't read or write but I want to help this paper, can I sit down with you some time and you write down what I say and put it in the paper? I know that's asking a lot but what can I do to help even sort of that?" I told him, "Yeah, I can do that! Hell lets start now." He said, "Not now, I prefer later when I get some rest to think straight." I told him, "ok that's cool... want me to read you the rest of the paper?" He looked up with a look of "what the fuck!?!" and "hell yeah!!!" mixed together. He later explained his facial expression as "hell yeah I want to hear more" and "What the fuck? Is he really going to read it to me?"
I asked him what he thought it would take to bring forward basic masses to this occupation. He said, "I don't know man, they need to see determination, but not just camping, you feel me? We need to be getting together demands for our people, we need to get into those libraries and get into those law books and fight these mutha fuckas with facts and laws and demand what is ours." At first, I didn't understand the point he was making, so I told him, "See bro what you're talking about is reform, we can't seek justice through this system, we need to be out here fighting the power and transforming the people for revolution." He said, "That's what I'm saying though." I said "Nah bro you want to work within the system to ask them for favors, that's what you're talking about." Then he said something that stuck out to me, he said, "Nah fuck that! I don't mean ask them for help and shit. I'm just saying as a Black man in America we have been conditioned generation after generation to fear these mutha fuckas, you know? I mean I'm down to fight but my whole thing is, no more locked doors, you feel me?" ("No more locked doors" is a saying that became popular among sections of the basic masses after that movie Next Friday by Ice Cube had a Latino character who spent time in prison and disliked all locked doors and would get anxiety when doors where locked, and at one point he walks into a room flipping out about prison going in prison rape flashbacks and leaves the room saying, "No more locked doors! Gracias!") So I asked him to get deeper. He said, "Look man, if we don't have lawyers and other down ass people who are up on all these laws, we going to get crushed. How can I feel comfortable doing an action where the risk may be getting arrested and I got no help to get out? They going to keep my Black ass in jail." And that's when I saw what he was trying to get at is this point Avakian makes in the quotes about a force of communists among the basic masses and the feeling of being surrounded and crushed. The next few days that followed have been interesting with him in terms of dealing with some heavy contradictions. One is paranoia which I can relate to but realized that his time in prison has really, on the one hand made him very observant of his surroundings and being able to feel people out and see what they are serious about, while on the other hand has created a paranoia that I feel has developed into a mental disorder or block for him. He is constantly rethinking whether or not to stay or go. There are moments when he is down and loves the people he is surrounded by and then an hour later he is calling me saying he is sorry but he is done and going back home, only to come back and apologize for momentarily giving up. And this has happened a lot; for example one day he said six times that he was done and "fuck this shit, I will just make my money," only to return back apologizing for losing his patience with the people here. I asked him today what he thinks makes him do that. He said "I don't know Bro, it's like I see something here, it's beautiful what they got going here, but this isn't a utopia to me, this shit is real to me, and when I talk with people who are just cool with what we got here so far, I get pissed and I want to leave but as soon as I leave, I want to come back, because this isn't happening anywhere else. So I'm conflicted, I want to stay and I want to go."
Q: Can you paint a picture of the last days before the police raid, what was going on with the police?
On several occasions, when some of these confrontations I have described inside the camp were happening, a few of us would notice that on roof tops there would be people, it was hard to see who these people were.
Q: You are talking about on top of 15-or-more story buildings surrounding the camp in downtown Oakland?
Yes, big buildings, surrounding the camp, the shortest one is about six stories, and there would be one person on each building, normally three people. The plaza is shaped like a triangle and there were these observers on each point of the triangle; it was hard to see any symbols of who they were, but they were there all night, a few of us started to notice that when some of these situations were happening, in terms of confrontations with internal security issues, that there would be these people standing on these rooftops looking down. A few times some people said they saw telescopes. And this was all what was confusing us, we didn't know how every night, something happened, and then the next day it was in the newspaper. We were trying as hard as we could to not let that internal stuff be out there. We did discuss some of these things at general assemblies, and at certain occasions we would have emergency general assemblies to discuss what happened, when people's lives were on the line or threats were made. But it seemed like every time the news reported about these stories it was highly distorted. They would talk about whatever situation happened, but it would never cover the effort that was made to resolve that, the organization it took to de-escalate the situation, that it didn't end in a violent place. Obviously all of the newspaper articles were shaping public opinion around what this camp was, and they utilized that. People got frustrated day by day at the articles attacking the occupation. I remember jokingly saying that it is funny saying that the news talks about all of these problems it has with this occupation, but all of these problems exist in their cities but they won't talk about that. Nor will they talk about 30 to 40 people gathered to talk about race, class and gender, and make progress on their understanding of that. The news isn't going to say that. The news is going to talk about the rats, the smoking and drinking.
Q: Can you talk about when the police moved to attack the camp, to tear it down.
At the beginning, around 12 noon, that day, before the raid even happened, we had people coming to the camp, people were contacting me, these were people who had friends and family in the police department. They were coming down to let us know that something strange is happening. My brother-in-law, my uncle, my cousin, my friend, they are being called in at 2 am to work in Oakland. They are from Vacaville, Hayward, Fremont. People were coming in. We have heard rumors like this from the beginning of the occupation. So we would dismiss them. OK, thank you for that, but we would take it as hearsay. But that day, we felt it was too many people, we had some people's wives coming in saying my husband was called in, he can't come down here but he told me to come down here and let you guys know. And that I thought was really interesting. Because I don't agree that these cops are part of the 99 percent, but it had me thinking about situations where sections of people split and decide not to go against the people. Even though from what I know every cop showed up for work that night they came after us.
As the day progressed, we had people on bikes going out around downtown. Around 1 am in the morning, we had a call from some people saying that there was an enormous convergence of cops at the Oakland Coliseum. This was miles away from downtown Oakland. We were a little worried, but they had done this before as scare tactics. There was a situation where the first few days of camp they would park a police cruiser right outside the camp with a police dog which would bark for a couple hours. Like 4 am to 6 am. So that is what we thought. A lot of things are pointing to a raid. But we still wanted to wait. Around 3:30 in the morning, we had word that they were setting up around downtown Oakland and putting on riot gear. So at that point there was a struggle over how to defend the camp. There was a struggle among certain sections of the anarchists and other youth that were adhering to that model of resistance, to take an aggressive fighting stance. There were other sections of the people that said no, this has to be done as a question of legitimacy. We have to stand together peacefully to expose what these cops will do. We know that they are going to come in beating our asses and we have to be prepared for that. So there was a strong back and forth as barricades were being set up as to how, where, and for what reasons. Afterward, we were able to wake everyone up, and wait. That was the longest hour of my life. We know it was going to happen. We didn't have the support at that time in the morning, we sent out a call, but by the time they showed up we were already getting raided. The cops showed up at 4:30 am, surrounded us, from everywhere, everywhere, everywhere, there was no place for anyone to go. They announced we had five minutes to leave. We sort of joked about it afterward, the way they did it, they said, first, we are going to spray the shit out of you with tear gas, then we are going to beat the shit out of you, then we are going to arrest you. After the five minutes, they lobbed tear gas and concussion grenades from every angle. It was hard to describe where the first shots came from, I was at the front and we were hit with tear gas. I decided to look back, at one point I couldn't take the tear gas, I was thinking where the fuck could I go to get away from this tear gas, and I looked back to a tent melting on fire. Tear gas everywhere, concussion grenades still going off, cops coming in ripping down our barricades, beating people out of tents. It was like beating cats in bags to be honest with you. I don't understand why, but some people ran back in their tent and assumed that maybe they wouldn't fuck with the tent, and those people were beat out of their tents. Beaten and the cops would rip it open to get them out. They weren't arresting anyone. For a good five minutes, they were just whooping ass and launching tear gas. They had a line of cops sent in to rip down our barricades, then another line of cops to whoop ass. I guess that is what they were planning to do that day.
Q: Can you tell us about leaving jail and going out into the middle of the fierce battle that was raging late into the night in the streets of downtown Oakland in response to the police attack on the encampment?
When I was released, it was about 7:30 or so at night. The CO said, when you are released, you have to go directly out the door, talk to the National Lawyers Guild person, and then keep on walking or you will be arrested. I looked at him, like, god damn. He said, you can't go into the lobby, you can't go to the bathroom, you have to get out the door, go straight to the NLG person, talk to them, and continue walking, or you will be arrested. I was like, fuck, what is happening outside? Then we walk outside, and along the side of the police station there are riot police and a whole bunch of cops and helicopters. I looked at the guy next to me, and said, what the hell happened? We had no idea what the hell was going on. He looked up all confused, and said, "Do you think Oakland finally broke?" I said what do you mean? and he said, "I mean like exploded, do you think they finally gave up?" I said, gave up what, and he said, "Believing in this system, man. For all we know, there is a rebellion everywhere in Oakland." I said let's talk to the NLG, then get the hell out of here like we were told before we get arrested."
We walk over to the NLG lady and we said are we really going to be arrested? She said yeah, just talk to me then walk over there and then you won't be arrested. I said why would we be arrested? She was like, well, it's been a long day, and this area is kind of considered an illegal protesting ground for the evening, and you guys being here alone is cause for arrest. I said, wow, OK, good to know. She said if you get arrested twice in 24 hours, it is a felony. I said, OK, good to know.
Me and the other guy left, and we decided let's go back to the occupation. It was me and this homeless guy. I was like fuck it, let's go back. We started heading up there and we saw cops everywhere, and they were staring at us like, how did you guys get in here? And we just had to have this little card the NLG gave us, and we had to say to every cop, we just got out of jail.
We got to Broadway and 14th and we saw hella riot cops, and we saw people standing in front of the riot cops, yelling at them, cussing at them. And we still didn't know what had taken place. I saw one of my friends, and I said hey, what is going on? He said, Dude, I been looking for you all day. Did you just get out, and I said yeah, I just got out. And he said "these motherfuckers been on a rampage. I hate these motherfuckers. I want to fight. I want to learn more about how to fight." This is coming from a friend who doesn't like going to protests. He doesn't like it. He sees it as pointless. You do all of this stuff just to end up with the same system. So why even try.
Then five minutes later we saw thousands of people coming down the street and it was like the most beautiful thing ever. From being in jail, completely by yourself, to surrounded by thousands of people, god, that felt good. And there were smiles, but there was resistance, militancy, anger and frustration. Joy that we were standing up against it. And a lot of anger. So about 20 minutes of me being out of jail, I find myself being in another protest that gets labeled an illegal assembly, and the tear gas and grenades started again.
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
Announcing: A Mass Campaign to Raise Big Money to Get BA’s Vision and Works Into Every Corner of Society
“I hope he gets number one Amazon.com. We need to get this kind of word, this kind of conversation out—it needs to be disseminated, it needs to be in the mainstream more. We got to stop thinking that this kind of stuff just belongs at the very, very fringe of society...”
—journalist and writer
“I wish I had a copy of BAsics in high school so that I could counter the bullshit being taught to me. I didn’t have that opportunity, but there are millions of students today who need to hear the voice of Bob Avakian so they can join the fight. BAsics presents an essential challenge to all that is oppressive and intolerant. It paints not only a picture of a new world, but it leaves room for innovation and growth, as a communist future will have, as Bob Avakian says, ‘a solid core with a lot of elasticity.’”
—student from the Midwest
“I want to urge everybody out there to get their hands on this book and to help get it into the hands of others, not just prisoners, but into the hands of youth who are in danger of becoming prisoners themselves.... Help them unlock their potential and give them a sense of purpose that doesn’t involve killing each other. Give them an alternative to the criminal lifestyle that doesn’t involve conforming to this horrid system. That is what they need, that is what they ache for. They want to rebel, they just have to be introduced to the correct way to do so. Put them on the path to becoming communists...”
—a prisoner from California
These are things people have written us after reading BAsics, a book of quotations and short essays from Bob Avakian. They feel the need for more people to know about Bob Avakian—his vision and works. And so do we.
To do just that, we are launching a major, multi-faceted fundraising campaign to project BA, his voice and his work way out into society—far beyond what it is today. A fundraising campaign that will raise the necessary major money to make this possible. A fund drive that unleashes and develops imagination, defiance and community in everything it does.
Imagine what we could change... and imagine how we could change it.
This is a battle for funds with a very specific goal—to project this person’s voice and work into every corner of society. Because of BA and the work he has done over several decades, summing up the positive and negative experience of the communist revolution so far, and drawing from a broad range of human experience, there is a new synthesis of communism that has been brought forward—there really is a viable vision and strategy for a radically new, and much better, society and world, and there is the crucial leadership that is needed to carry forward the struggle toward that goal.
Projecting this voice... making this person a point of reference for all of society will make a HUGE difference! Imagine the difference it could make to the whole social atmosphere and culture of this whole country if thousands, hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions more were actively being made aware of the works and vision for a whole new society and world brought forward by BA. Some people would passionately agree, some people would passionately disagree, some people would for now simply feel the need to get better informed in order to understand it better. But people throughout society would be debating and wrangling over truly “big” questions about the nature of the present system (capitalism-imperialism), a concrete and worked out vision of an alternative way of organizing society which really would benefit the vast majority of people (as put forward in the recently published Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal), a document which is an embodiment of the new synthesis of revolution and communism that BA has brought forward).
Imagine if these were the kinds of things that served as the “framework” that people could debate and bounce off of as they developed their thinking and worked out points of agreement and disagreement. Wouldn’t that be so much better than what too often characterizes things today—with many people still in denial of reality and either avoiding altogether the “big questions” about whether and how to better organize society, or still clinging to the hope that this horrendous system could somehow be fixed if we could just find some better person to elect to high office. And for those who are lifting their heads and questioning and critiquing the direction of things more often these days, and newly engaging in much-needed active resistance: What, here again, could be better than being offered a fully developed coherent framework for what to do to remake society, a framework which includes many new and provocative insights and a very different method and approach and which has been developed and further fleshed out and sharpened up over the past few decades by BA. Imagine what a difference it could make if hundreds of thousands and then millions were actively discussing and debating the pros and cons of what he is proposing.
THIS—effecting a radical and fundamental change in the social and political “atmosphere” of this whole country by projecting the whole BA vision and framework into all corners of society where it does not yet exist, or is still too little known, and getting all sorts of people to engage and wrestle with it—is what this massive fundraising campaign is all about. You can love and agree with most of what BA has to say, or you can disagree with a lot of it, or you can just feel like you don’t know enough yet to be sure one way or another, even as you find yourself drawn in and attracted by different elements... but if you are a decent, thinking person, a person with a conscience, someone who just can’t go along with the notion that it’s acceptable for great social injustices to repeatedly be tolerated or swept under the rug, then this campaign is for you.
Because if we succeed with this—if we collectively raise enough money to make it concretely possible to project the whole BA vision and project into all corners of society and to introduce him and what he is bringing forward to millions who are not yet familiar with his works and vision; if the framework he is bringing forward and advocating for becomes increasingly debated and wrangled over by thousands and by millions of people from all walks of life; if, together, we manage to accomplish this, this will actually make a very big difference. The whole social and political culture will “breathe” more freely, people will wrangle passionately over “big questions” concerning the direction of society (like knowing that much of the future of humanity hangs in the balance) and the times will once again resonate with big dreams for fundamental change and the emancipation of humanity.
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
On April 11, 2011, hundreds of people of diverse ages, backgrounds, and political perspectives came together for an evening of jazz, funk, soul, rock, theater, dance, poetry, visual arts, commentary, and film. All of it aching for, giving voice to, and infused with the possibility of a radically different world than the maddening planet we live on now.
All of it occasioned by the publication of BAsics, a book of quotations and short essays by Bob Avakian, the Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, with much of the evening's performances flowing from, bouncing off of and inspired by the life and the work of Avakian and what it means to celebrate revolution and the vision of a new world.
This was a night where people felt a door opened to the potential for a whole new world... a different way to think, feel and be. In this intense and important political moment, this is something that has to reverberate throughout society.
But this film can't be made without your support. Go to indiegogo.com/basicsevent... watch the trailer for the film... contribute generously... and spread the word!
As a thank you for any level of contribution, there is a range of perks... signed copies of the poster for the event, the beautifully designed program, a thank you memento that was given to participants on the night itself, a copy of BAsics—the book that occasioned this event—and other special gifts from the performers and artists who took part in this historic event including original artwork from Dread Scott, Emory Douglas, and even a chance to have dinner with the MCs of the event, Sunsara Taylor and Herb Boyd. And more than anything, you'll be contributing to impacting society with a vibrant and moving celebration of revolution and the vision of a new world.
Watch the trailer at indiegogo.com/basicsevent and donate generously.
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
CALL TO ACTION
We are told that “equality for women has been won” and that “there are no limits to what girls can achieve.” BULLSHIT!
Every 15 seconds a woman is beaten. Every day three to four women are killed by their partners. One out of four female college students will be raped or sexually assaulted while in college.
In recent years, pornography has become increasingly violent, cruel, degrading towards women; women are referred to as “cumdumpsters” and “fuckbuckets;” the “money shot” (ejaculation in a women’s face) is standard; humiliating cruelty—like violent “ass-to-mouth” penetration—is normalized, and racist bigotry is sexualized. Meanwhile, the broader culture has been pornified: pole dancing is taught at gyms, “sexting” is a national phenomenon among teens, and the strip club is the accepted backdrop to male bonding. All this is tied in with, and reinforces, the trafficking of millions of women and girls as literal chattel in the international sex industry.
This is NOT society becoming more comfortable with sex. This is society becoming saturated with the sexualized degradation of women. If you can’t imagine sex without porn, you’re fucked.
At the same time, a Christian fundamentalist-driven assault is imperiling abortion, birth control, real sex education, and women’s lives. Doctors are killed. Women who seek abortion (a safe, necessary, and perfectly moral medical procedure)—or even birth control—are stigmatized. 2011 has seen the largest spate of legal restrictions on abortion since Roe v. Wade in 1973. Women who are not virgins or who do not choose to become mothers are shamed.
ALL THIS MUST BE STOPPED!
Women are not objects. Women are not things to be used for the sexual pleasure of men NOR are they breeders of children. WOMEN ARE HUMAN BEINGS CAPABLE OF FULL EQUALITY IN EVERY REALM!
It is long past time that this new generation stand up, reject, and RESIST this culture of rape and pornography, this culture that reduces women and girls to sexualized objects while denying their full multi-dimensional humanity (including their right— as one essential part of this—to explore and experience mutually respectful and fulfilling sexuality without shame or stigma), this culture that labels women “selfish” if they choose not to become mothers and stigmatizes them for having abortions.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions, comments, ideas, and interest in getting involved. Get flyers to hand out, bring a speaker to your campus, ask your toughest questions. The future of women depends on YOU! stoppatriarchy.tumblr.com Check out the conversation going on on Sunsara Taylor’s blog at sunsara.blogspot.com.
Our purpose is NOT to lobby for new legislation to ban pornography (“decency laws” have always served to further repress homosexuality, boundary-challenging art, and scientific sex education). We oppose the criminalization of women in the sex industry. Our mission is to challenge the new generation in particular to reject this culture of rape and pornography, to resist the shaming of women who have sex and/or abortions, to wage fierce cultural and political resistance to put an end to pornography and patriarchy, and to bring forward a liberating culture that celebrates the full equality and liberation of women.
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
Editors' note: The following is an excerpt from Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy by Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, published in 2008. Earlier excerpts were published in Revolution #248 and #249. All of these excerpts, and the work as a whole, address important questions that are on many people's minds in the situation today. The pamphlet is available for purchase online at revcom.us/avakian or amazon.com. The text is available at revcom.us/Comm_JeffDem/Jeffersonian_Democracy.html; audio available at bobavakian.net/talk2.html.
All this points to the essential fact that what we're dealing with here is a dictatorship. There is a lot of popular misconception—and a lot of deliberately-propagated misconception—of what dictatorship is, and what it is not. Commonly and popularly—and through the influence of bourgeois political representatives and theoreticians, media mouthpieces, commentators and "pundits," and the rest—dictatorship is understood to mean the rule of an all-powerful and essentially maniacal Leader (with a capital L), like a Hitler (or, as it's generally put out these days, a Stalin or a Mao); or it is presented that a dictatorship is where a small group of people exercise power without allowing any rights to the masses of people, any free expression of ideas, any right to political dissent, and so on. And, conversely, it is said that what a dictatorship is not is any society where you have elections with competing candidates and parties and where people are allowed certain civil liberties and human rights (recall the arguments of Robert A. Dahl cited earlier). But in reality, and as a matter of scientific analysis: A dictatorship is a system of class rule, a monopoly of political power, expressed in a concentrated way through a monopoly of armed force to maintain and enforce that monopoly of political power—which is exercised to preserve and to serve the underlying economic system and its production relations, and the corresponding class and social relations.
That is the essence of what a dictatorship is. A dictatorship may—in the case of bourgeois democracy, for example—allow people to vote on which group within the ruling class will exercise the functions of this dictatorship over them. What a brilliant scheme!—you not only exercise dictatorship, but you involve those being dictated over in fostering and reinforcing the illusion that they are not being dictated over.
At times you will hear some people, including some progressive people, say: "I refuse to acknowledge that I'm being ruled over." Well, refuse to acknowledge it or not, you are. And your refusing to acknowledge it is only doing harm to yourself and others in the same situation, because you can't change reality if you have refused to accept what that reality is. As much as Huey Newton, especially in his early years in leading the Black Panther Party, contributed to the development of a revolutionary movement in the U.S. (and helped inspire people who were building that kind of movement in other countries as well), he was fundamentally wrong—and he gave expression to a misconception that, in one form or another, has a great deal of currency these days—when he said: "Power resides in the ability to define phenomena and cause them to act in a desired manner." You don't exercise power by having some abstract ability to define phenomena any way you would like and thereby cause those phenomena to act in a desired manner. You exert political influence and ultimately exercise political power by recognizing the essential reality that you are dealing with—what the existing political power is rooted in, reinforces and serves; what the contradictions are within that, and the possible pathways of transformation; and where your interests lie in relation to that—and by acting accordingly.
The fact is that, bourgeois democracy is a very effective form of dictatorship. You have to give the bourgeoisie credit: they've really hit upon and "perfected" something very clever in terms of perpetuating their rule and their interests. And it makes sense for the bourgeoisie to determinedly and stubbornly cling to this, as long as possible, because it involves exercising dictatorship while allowing, and encouraging, people to feel that they are exercising the power which in fact is being exercised over them.
But this is, nonetheless, a dictatorship, and whenever any group (or at times even an individual) acts in any significant way in opposition to the actual interests that are being dictated, then out comes the sharp edge of this dictatorship. The whole history of the U.S. is in reality a testament to this. In periods of acute social crisis and mass outpouring of opposition, this becomes more clear—it bursts through more of the outward appearance and camouflage. For example, in the great upsurges of the 1960s and into the early '70s in the U.S., many people came up against this dictatorship, and began to get at least a sense of it. I remember myself being in situations of virtual martial law, where you couldn't congregate in groups of more than a few—the police would forcibly break up any attempt to do so—particularly if it seemed to have any oppositional political purpose; and you couldn't do things like openly pass out oppositional political literature. Well, in those conditions it was much harder for people to argue that there is no dictatorship in this country.
And we saw what happened, for example, in the L.A. rebellion in 1992. When the masses of people rebelled, the government didn't say: "Let's have a vote to decide whether we think their rebellion is justified or not." They sent out the National Guard and then they sent out the Army. Why? "To restore order." From the standpoint of the functioning of this system, that was a logical thing to do—to mobilize brute military force, with the threat of massively using it, in order to suppress an uprising that threatened the interests of the ruling class and the "order" that this ruling class, and this system, requires. It did not matter to the ruling class—or it was not accepted by the ruling class—that this rebellion was righteous, that it was an expression of completely justified mass outrage at years and years of brutal oppression. And even many people who might have identified with, or at least been sympathetic toward, the feeling of outrage that led to the rebellion—which was set off by the Rodney King beating and more specifically the acquittal of the cops who were caught on videotape beating him—were confused and conflicted by the rebellion, because the question was posing itself quite acutely: where is this rebellion going to go? Many people, particularly white middle class people, felt like this: "There is chaos in the streets...Are they going to come over to my house and burn my house down or take my things?" Even some people who think of themselves as progressive got caught up in that—but what they got caught up in, fundamentally, was a logic that corresponded to the needs of the system. The bourgeois system—whose oppressive functioning was the fundamental cause of the rebellion in the first place—required the reimposition, by open and brutal force, of order. In other words, it required the aggressive assertion of dictatorship acting on behalf of, and reinforcing the class interests of, the bourgeois (capitalist) ruling class and the production and social relations of which that bourgeoisie, in turn, is ultimately and fundamentally itself an expression.
If you didn't want to see order reimposed in that kind of way, then you would have to affirm that it is better to have chaos and disorder, at least for a time, than to have the forcible reimposition and reinforcement of injustice. It takes a radical standpoint, verging on a revolutionary one, to take that stand—and to take it thoroughly, and in a deep way. It takes a scientific understanding of the actual relations and dynamics that are involved, and how what exists, and what was then being aggressively asserted, is the actual exercise of dictatorship—even with certain democratic forms—in the interests of a definite class, which is itself the embodiment of definite social and, above all, production relations and the underlying dynamics of capitalist accumulation through those production relations.
At the same time as this dictatorship has a monopoly of political power—expressed in a concentrated way as a monopoly of armed power—it also has a monopoly in molding public opinion, so that the way people are inclined to act politically is in line with the interests of the class which exercises political power—dictatorship—over them.
Some of this came through in the movie "Bulworth." In that movie the Warren Beatty character, Senator Bulworth, has kind of lost it, but in losing it he's come closer to the truth—he's lost his inhibitions. Well, he goes to a candidates' debate, and you have the Jim Lehrer types there from the media who are going to ask the questions of the candidates. They start asking him questions, but Bulworth replies: Oh, man, this is really ridiculous—the same people who pay us are paying you to ask us the questions! [Laughter]
Well, this is, in somewhat populist terms, a basic reflection, if not a thoroughly scientific analysis, of what actually goes on. It is the "same people"—in the sense of the same class that's exercising political power—who also monopolize and control the media and the means of molding public opinion in various ways—not just through the news media, but in an overall sense in the culture as well, including "popular entertainment" (although in the realm of culture some opposition does get expressed, this is hugely outweighed by the predominant "message" that comes through, in various forms, in the service of the ruling class).
In Morris Berman's book Dark Ages America, there is an important section that speaks about the lies that were told by the Bush regime going into the Iraq war. In reading this, for my own reference I marked the word "lies" next to every place where Berman pinpoints these lies: it goes on for page after page. Berman also exposes the role of the mainstream media in propagating these lies and viciously attacking people who attempted to counter them. He asks, rhetorically:
What to think of NBC, which fired Phil Donahue (in addition to veteran war reporter Peter Arnett), the only TV network host opposed to the war? Or CNN, which attacked Scott Ritter, who had headed the U.N. weapons inspections from 1991 to 1998, as "an apologist for and defender of Saddam Hussein," because he claimed that the case for Hussein being "a threat to the U.S. worthy of war" had yet to be made? (Kyra Phillips practically called him a traitor during their interview, and Paula Zahn told CNN viewers that he had "drunk Saddam Hussein's Kool-Aid.") (Morris Berman, Dark Ages America: The Final Phase of Empire, W.W. Norton & Company, 2006, p. 221.)
Well, this is perfectly consistent with the essential role of these media. That role is to mold and shape public opinion in such a way that when people think and act politically, they are conditioned to think and act within the confines and in the interests of the capitalist-imperialist system.
To cite once again Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?:
the much-vaunted freedom of expression in the "democratic countries" is not in opposition to but is encompassed by and confined within the actual exercise of dictatorship by the bourgeoisie. This is for two basic reasons—because the ruling class has a monopoly on the means of molding public opinion and because its monopoly of armed force puts it in a position to suppress, as violently as necessary, any expression of ideas, as well as any action, that poses a serious challenge to the established order. What Marx and Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto is more true than ever in today's conditions: "The ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class." (Bob Avakian, Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That?, Banner Press, 1986, p. 71)
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
New Freedom Fighters in Brooklyn:
Revolution received the following report:
November 1, Brownsville, Brooklyn. The Network to Stop Mass Incarceration, participants in Occupy Wall Street, and people from the neighborhood joined together, nearly 100 strong, for a rally and march to STOP “Stop and Frisk.” Twenty-eight people were arrested participating in nonviolent civil disobedience outside the 73rd NYPD Precinct as others were part of bearing witness.
Among those arrested were: Rev. Luis Barrios, professor at John Jay College for Criminal Justice; Carl Dix of the Revolutionary Communist Party; Randy Credico, social comedian/activist and former director of the William Kunstler Fund for Racial Justice; Margaret Ratner Kunstler, widow of the late William Moses Kunstler; and Gbenga Akinnagbe, the actor who portrayed Chris Partlow on the TV show The Wire. The Washington Post, Channel 12 News, and Democracy Now! reported on the event.
This action was part of the movement to stop mass incarceration, which has initiated determined struggle to end the racist, illegitimate¸ illegal practice of stop-and-frisk by the NYPD. The police are on pace to stop-and-frisk over 700,000 people this year alone. Eight-five percent of those stopped and frisked are Black and Latino, and 90 percent of them are found to be not doing anything wrong at all.
The abuse of stop-and-frisk goes on all the time in Brownsville and people spoke bitterness and expressed their determination to end this illegal police practice. Nicholas Heyward, Sr., whose son was killed by police years ago, spoke along with several of those participating in the nonviolent civil disobedience. The rally grew as people from the neighborhood stopped to listen. Dix said he had put out a call for a new generation to step forward like the Freedom Riders of the Civil Rights Movement who challenged segregation—and that a number of young people have already answered that call and stepped up. He called them up to stand with him, and a multinational group of young people, Black, white, Latino, Asian, both men and women, gathered around him.
At the precinct, those engaging in civil disobedience formed a line right up in the face of the rows of police. As 28 people were arrested, people continued to chant, “We say no to the new Jim Crow, stop and frisk has got to go,” and “We won’t stop until we STOP stop and frisk,” “Stop and frisk don’t stop the crime, stop and frisk IS the crime.” After the arrests, one Brownsville resident said, “It touched my heart and brought tears to my eyes. Stop-and-frisk doesn’t affect me but it’s unjust, demeaning and dehumanizing.”
Out of the 28 people arrested, at least eight of them had been arrested at the first bold civil disobedience action to STOP “Stop and Frisk” on October 21 in Harlem where 33 people were arrested including Cornel West, Carl Dix, and several reverends and social justice activists (“From Up Against the Wall to Up in Their Faces . . . A Movement Has Begun to STOP ‘Stop and Frisk,’” Revolution #249, November 6, 2011).
Very significantly, many people from Occupy Wall Street have joined this struggle—some after hearing about stop-and-frisk for the first time. An OWS contingent marched up to Harlem for the first action on October 21; many from OWS participated in this Brooklyn action; and people from OWS have been an important part of ongoing organizing meetings to plan further actions to STOP “Stop and Frisk.”
When asked what difference this will make, a 30-year-old white male from Occupy Wall Street talked about his experience that day, for the first time participating in nonviolent civil disobedience: “I think it will make a huge difference because, you know, we marched in Harlem and I saw all those kids come out and all those people come out and stand on the other side of the street. I talked to people on the streets today and people were thanking me for going out and doing this... I went to a barber shop to use the bathroom and the guys at the barber shop gave me a round of applause and thanked me for being out there because their friends and their loved ones and they themselves are being victimized by this every single day so I know this is making a difference.”
There is a new generation of Freedom Fighters stepping forward to take on the New Jim Crow, from all walks of life, with different life experiences compelling them to play this role. As Carl Dix told Revolution: “We are aiming to win this battle, to STOP “Stop and Frisk,” to force them to just scrap this policy—it’s no damn good, it is unjust, it’s illegal and unconstitutional and human beings should not have to put up with this stuff. But the way that that’s going to happen is not just talking about how bad it is, not just lobbying some politicians, or something like that. Direct action, dramatic action... has to continue.” For more information, including dates for further civil disobedience go to: www.stopmassincarceration.tumblr.com.
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
Interview with Freedom Fighter
A special feature of Revolution to acquaint our readers with the views of significant figures in art, theater, music and literature, science, sports and politics. The views expressed by those we interview are, of course, their own; and they are not responsible for the views published elsewhere in our paper.
Burchell Marcus is the Director of Organizing Brooklyn Communities, Inc., a member of the October 22 Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation and a new Freedom Fighter in the struggle to STOP "Stop and Frisk." Revolution interviewed Marcus shortly after the November 1 action where 100 people marched and rallied at the 73rd NYPD Precinct in Brooklyn against stop-and-frisk and where 28 people were arrested for civil disobedience.
Revolution: I understand you're pretty familiar with this area, being a community organizer. Could you talk about this neighborhood, who lives here, what life is like?
Marcus: This community for the past 30 years or more has been predominantly African Americans and Caribbean Americans. About 45 years or so ago, it was predominantly white. As time went on, it became predominantly West Indian—East Flatbush, Brownsville and Crown Heights. In East Flatbush, people are just slightly above the poverty level. Brownsville, people are very far beneath the poverty level. East New York, it's under the poverty level. Bushwick is under the poverty level. These are communities that are under the poverty level because of the dynamics of having a minority community—the job market is tough on the minority communities. Many people are struggling and fighting day-to-day to survive. Some people don't even have food on their tables on many occasions. We have the soup kitchens run by churches that do help out a great deal. If you walk around our community you see a lot of churches that actually feed the people, and the lines are so long... The rents are astronomically high, the food in the stores are astronomically high, unemployment is very high. They created this mess so that they could impose their will on the people who are not privileged to live as good as they are. Because many of these officers live in predominantly white neighborhoods, most of them don't even live in Brooklyn; they live out in Long Island.
Revolution: What is the prevalence of stop-and-frisk in this neighborhood?
Marcus: For many years, before stop-and-frisk even came on the forefront, it was being done but people weren't paying that much attention to it. I remember as a young kid growing up in Brownsville. This was back in the early 1970s, coming home from school and the white officers would roll up to us and call us and search us and we were like, "Hey, what's going on?" They go through our pockets, our bags and tell us to go home, get off the street—that if they drive by and see us in the street, they'd lock us up—scare tactics.
Revolution: How many times would you say you have been stopped and frisked?
Marcus: I would say in my whole life, maybe about 15-20 times. And I've seen so many people, including grandfathers getting stopped and frisked. My older brother, who is about 62 years of age, riding, coming home from a soccer game—and they pulled alongside him and told him to get off his bike and he said, for what? Because he asked "for what," they drove the car into him and made him fall off the bike and then arrested him for disorderly conduct. This happened about two months ago.
We also had a march on the 73rd Precinct after they victimized my nieces and nephews. My nephew was bringing home the kids from church and he happened to go around a taxi that was parked in the middle of the street. And when he parked the vehicle the [police] van pulled up and the cops told him to get back in his car. And he asked them, "for what?" At the same time my sister was crossing the street and they told her to stand back. So she asked what the problem was. Before you knew it, one of the officers jumped punched one of my nieces—because she told him that she got his name and badge number and was going to call his superiors. We have a lawsuit pending against them. That day, the cops did incite a riot. They jumped the fence and went into my yard and beat up my nieces and nephews that were standing in the yard. They charged them with disorderly conduct, some of them with obstruction of governmental procedures, inciting a riot. There were people just standing in the streets, just watching and they got beat up, they got slammed into cars.
Revolution: So this is pretty typical of what goes on?
Marcus: Yes, I came on my block and there is a gentleman who lives across the street from me, he was sitting on the steps talking to his friend, he got up to go to the store, and the van pulled up, jumped out and searched him. He had maybe a little bit of weed on him, just a little...
Revolution: Which is... in New York State, it isn't a crime to have a small amount of weed as long as it isn't displayed in public.
Marcus: Yeah, and they searched him, if they didn't search him they would have never known he had it on him—the search was illegal. They locked him up, they charged him with possession of weed and disorderly conduct. And this "disorderly conduct" has been more prevalent than ever.
Revolution: That's like a catch-all, they use that for anything.
Marcus: For anything, and "resisting arrest"—whether you resist or not... They have indicated that they want to turn this country into a police state. That's one way of doing it, getting everybody into the data base so that when they do an action, they submit you to this national ID, as they were talking about long ago.
Revolution: Getting back to the STOP "Stop and Frisk" action, maybe this is a silly question since you just talked about all your experiences with the police. But what made you become a new Freedom Fighter in the struggle against stop-and-frisk? And what do you think is the effect this is going to have?
Marcus: Well, first of all, I joined the Freedom Fighters because I believe in freedom of the people, I believe your inalienable rights should not be trampled upon. I feel that we all do need laws to govern society because some people will try to infringe on your rights. But that don't mean that if you're innocently walking the streets or coming from work, or whatever the case might be, as long as you didn't break any laws, you shouldn't be subject to stop-and-frisk or subject to someone saying that they think you want to commit a crime. It's like saying these people are mind readers and they could do anything they want. No, they're infringing on your god-given rights. I follow the book and the laws of Moses and it clearly states that no one should infringe on anyone else's rights so no state government or any individual have that right to trample on the rights that were given to me by god.
Revolution: Why do you think this whole stop-and-frisk policy is only aimed at some neighborhoods?
Marcus: The people who are actually running this government or corporation are predominantly white so what they do is they protect their own, their people, they feel that white people should be superior, and that's where the Ku Klux Klan comes in. They're white supremacists. And they have put people in high places in order, where they can make decisions that would effect what they're trying to do as far as governing and ruling over all people. And by doing that they are able to enforce their will upon people through the laws that they make— like it said in the Constitution that a Black man is 3/5 of a man. And that still stands according to them. We need to go back and have a referendum and an amendment to the Constitution to change that...
Two years ago, the [police] inspector that is in now came into the precinct and immediately he started putting up roadblocks in our community. He came in and claimed the community was out of control and there was too much crime going on and he said he was here to change all of that. So three or four times a week, at different times, in different parts of the community, we would get roadblocks where you have the cops pulling people over and searching the cars.
Revolution: Where is the probable cause that they can stop someone and search their car. Isn't that illegal?
Marcus: It is illegal. But apparently he doesn't know the Constitution, he doesn't know the law. We just had a forum in the neighborhood where he publicly said that as long as he's commander in the precinct, I'm quoting his words, he will continue to enforce stop-and-frisk because he believes it is the right tool to use to bring down crime, to stop the shootings. And I reminded him that stop-and-frisk does not stop crime because on his command, in one week, we had 13 shootings in his precinct, I'm talking about within two days. And for the week, we had something like 21 shootings. So that shows that it didn't work. Many of the officers come out and they don't stop-and-frisk the people who are committing crimes, they stop people coming home from work, people who are going to school, trying to do the right things. And I let him know, it's not working, it needs to stop, it's unconstitutional and illegal and it must stop. And he asked the audience by a show of hands, who believes that stop-and-frisk should continue and who is for it. No one put their hands up.
Revolution: How many people were there?
Marcus: About 200 people and no one put their hands up.
Revolution: How did you build for the November 1 action of civil disobedience against stop-and-frisk?
Marcus: Even before I got the fliers I was going through the community, explaining to people that we're getting ready to do a march on the precinct around stop-and-frisk because it's illegal and unconstitutional. I got on the buses and trains. When I got the fliers it was a greater impact because it had the information that would open people's eyes.
Revolution: Did most people on the trains know about stop-and-frisk?
Marcus: Yes, they did and they're very upset about it, people are complaining about it. They're calling for the removal of this inspector from the precinct, for stop-and-frisk and everything...
I feel that if someone breaks the law, they should be punished—and these cops are breaking the law every single day and they are not being punished, they are not even getting a slap on the wrist. They are just not being punished. They are killing our young men and women, including our grandmothers and grandfathers, like Eleanor Bumpurs. One of my nephews was shot and killed by a police officer in his own house. He was 19 then. This happened in the '90s. He was shot and killed in his house. He and his girlfriend had an argument, he was living with his mother at the time, and after the argument she just called the cops. The cops came; they were standing at the door. He was standing eating a mango in the kitchen. And the cop told him to put the mango and the knife down. And he said, man I'm in my house you need to leave my house and he refused to put the knife down, and he kept eating the mango. And they shot him, they shot and killed him. And they claimed that he attacked them with the knife and knowing this young man, he's not a violent person to begin with. His girlfriend first made the statement that he did nothing wrong, he didn't attack them. And they silenced her. They told her that if she said another word she would be charged with his murder...
Revolution: When the march, rally and civil disobedience happened at the 73rd Precinct, did people from the community join in?
Marcus: Yes, we had a great number of people that come out. At first they were kind of scared because they were afraid of retaliation from the police. But they came out anyway and most of them joined us after they saw that we were really serious about taking action against this illegal act by the police.
Revolution: Were they looking to see what the new Freedom Fighters were going to do?
Marcus: Yes, some of the people were coming and they were standing across the street from us and then when they saw all these cops they were like leery about coming over to join. But when they saw us gathering in mass numbers, then they came over and made it even better. And when we walked over to the precinct the cops didn't even give anyone a chance to commit civil disobedience, they went ahead and started arresting people. So it's like saying that, hey look, you all don't have to commit no crime, we can arrest you.
Revolution: What's the word on the street since this happened?
Marcus: The word on the street is that we need to do this at all the precincts...
Revolution: People liked this...
Marcus: Yes, they want us to march on all the precincts. And so I said, if you want us to march on all the precincts, then you have to help me rally the people and bring them out in record numbers so that we can send a true statement not only to them but to the Justice Department to let them know that, hey look, we're not going to tolerate this illegal act. We are law-abiding citizens who are going to work, paying taxes and doing everything right. We have no reason to be stopped. People are driving their cars, going home and being pulled over by the cops. If you didn't break the law why are you being stopped in the first place? People are being dragged out of the cars and the cops are searching their cars and ripping their cars apart and all kinds of stuff. I've seen it with my own eyes. And so when is this going to stop? If it's a revolution they want, they'll get a revolution. We are not going to stop, we are going to do this until it winds up being a massive revolution where this is concerned, this is going to propel people to really open their eyes and say look...
I'm very outspoken. I don't bite my tongue for anyone. And I believe that as long as you're trampling on the rights of human beings, I will continue to speak up. The only thing that you can do to silence me is killing me and even so, even if you kill me, it won't make a difference because I have educated enough people and enough people understand that killing me will not stop the movement, it will not stop what's happening because of the people I have educated—they will continue to spread the word and get the message to people and it will grow and grow. And as a matter of fact they will make it worse for themselves if they harm me or do anything to me. I am not afraid to die and I will continue as long as I live to stand up and fight for the rights of human beings.
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
Revolution is a serious and complex matter. It involves many different people coming together to unite on a common program of struggle, identifying and working toward the aims and means of fighting to make a radical change in the whole way humans interact with each other. Communists are fighting for a revolution which will bring an end to the power held by the capitalist-imperialists over the lives of billions, and bring into being a very different—and better—society for all of humanity. Those who hold power promote counter-revolution, working in every way they can to oppose and derail movements for revolution. This is the counter-revolution, which comes in many forms, but means active opposition to revolution, with the intent to destroy revolutionary groups or individuals. (For a fuller discussion see "What Is Counter-Revolution?" in Revolution No. 241.) It is important to have criteria for making distinctions between those who are part of the camp of the people, and those whose activities are part of, or strengthen, the camp of counter-revolution.
It is an essential part of making revolution to have lively and principled debate and political struggle in the camp of the people, among those who are in favor of revolution and also among people who disagree with all or part of a revolutionary program and approach. This will often involve sharp struggle over what are the aims and goals of the revolution and what is the strategy for getting there. This kind of struggle is aimed at getting at the heart of the disagreements over what is the problem and what is the solution. This is a key element in making revolution, a necessary part of understanding the reality we are dealing with and working to change, and it is important for drawing the masses of people into the process of determining how to go forward toward revolution and the emancipation of humanity–and steering clear of false paths. It needs to be carried out in a principled way, according to standards that help to clarify and strengthen revolution. The RCP, and Bob Avakian in particular, have fought for and have been guided by these standards in the way we carry out this kind of struggle. An important principle and method is this: if people have disagreements with the line of an organization or individual, they should take on the best representation of the line they are criticizing, based on what that group or individual publishes about their views, and then state how they differ as clearly and sharply as possible with that line.
There is a crucial distinction between principled struggle over differences in line and approach, on the one hand, and wrecking activities on the other. It is one thing for people to disagree with and even sharply criticize our positions, our outlook and approach—all of which we welcome because we are anxious to engage with people over the substance of this, and to learn from what people are raising. It is quite another for people to do things which have the effect of—which at least many of them know, or have every basis to know will have the effect of—aiding the actual enemy in its attempts to crush those who resist, and especially those who are proceeding from an understanding of the need to fundamentally oppose and ultimately sweep away this system through revolution.
Unfortunately, there are people who claim to be revolutionaries and communists but then conduct themselves in ways that objectively aid the counter-revolution. A very sharp example of this is the Kasama website, founded by Mike Ely several years ago with the intent of attacking the RCP and Bob Avakian in particular in very unprincipled ways. We have written and made available a substantial polemic titled "Stuck in the 'Awful Capitalist Present' or Forging a Path to the Communist Future? A Response to Mike Ely's Nine Letters" which addressed the content of the political arguments that were made initially on Kasama. But this website, while posing as a platform and forum for discussion of revolution and communism, has over several years engaged in activities that promote anti-communism and strengthen counter-revolution, and has been on a mission to alienate people from and to attack and destroy the RCP and its leadership, trafficking in innuendo, lies, gossip, and personal narratives.
Specifically, including very recently, there has been a whole practice of naming individuals who are identified on the Kasama site as being connected to the RCP, and then encouraging people to try to find out about individuals, their relationship to the Party, and speculation about the composition of different bodies and membership in the Party. And there has been an ongoing campaign of posting ad hominem (personal) attacks on Bob Avakian in particular. This alone puts it in the same camp as reactionary and vicious right-wing blogs and websites, doing the work for government agencies whose mission is to collect this kind of information which is then used to destroy individuals and organizations they deem to be a threat.
But that is not all. This website has orchestrated a campaign of gathering and propagating gossip, lies, half truths, and personal narratives—including of things alleged to have been said or done many years ago—which can in no way be verified or interrogated as to their truthfulness, with the conscious effort to whip up animosity toward Bob Avakian and the RCP more generally. Mike Ely in particular has sought out and published stories that in actual fact can only serve one purpose: to assist all kinds of reactionary forces in going after genuine revolutionaries. Mike Ely is very conscious of what he is doing and knows full well the ugly history of this kind of thing which was carried out by COINTELPRO and other agencies of the government in the 1960s and '70s, bitter lessons paid for in blood. He knows how this kind of pig activity served to isolate genuine revolutionaries and set them up for attack from all kinds of reactionaries, and what horrible consequences this led to, including assassinations of revolutionaries, destruction of revolutionary organizations, targeting of revolutionary leaders to isolate them from the masses, pitting people against each other by planting untruths and playing on the weaknesses of different individuals that would facilitate that. For example, the FBI and police would constantly foment and feed an atmosphere of rumor-mongering and gossip, often using anonymous poison-pen letters, which enabled them to surround the assassinations of people like Malcolm X, or the Black Panther Party leaders Bunchy Carter and John Huggins, with all kinds of murkiness and conceal their own roles in driving forward horrible events like that.
It can be very confusing to people when this is done in the framework of a website that claims and pretends to be promoting debate and honest struggle over questions of revolution and communism. But again, setting and acting according to standards that are designed at getting clarity over the essential matters of line is key to being able to sort things out. As we have made clear repeatedly as a matter of principle, debate and struggle over questions of political and ideological line, including on substantial differences over what will lead to revolutionary transformation and human emancipation, are essential. There is in fact a great need for more principled struggle over line to forge the kind of revolutionary movement that is sorely needed in today's world.
Further, from what our Party says and how we continually strive to conduct ourselves, it should be clear that we welcome and engage criticisms and disagreements, even sharp and fundamental disagreements, and recognize this as part of the necessary process of building the kind of society we're aiming for and the kind of Party that is needed to lead in getting there. Indeed, a key element at the core of the life of our Party is the struggle over what is true, and in the service of that we strive to present and engage the best representation of opposing lines; we do not go in for cheap shots, distortions or ad hominem attacks against people. This principled approach to struggle over line is a hallmark of the leadership that Bob Avakian has given our Party and has projected for the kind of future society that we are working to bring into being.
But the kinds of things we are describing that are promoted on the Kasama website about Bob Avakian and the RCP belong in the gutter and have put this site way beyond the pale, far, far from anything remotely connected to honest and principled struggle over line. Instead, all that this does is serve and assist the enemies of revolution and confuse the people, and everyone who is taking a serious approach to revolution knows, or should know, this. It has nothing to do with putting forward an alternative line as to how to change the world and in fact greatly undermines any serious efforts to get clarity on what are the source of the problems of the world and how to go about changing them. It is a telltale sign that there has been no serious engagement of any kind with the actual line of the RCP on this website—no principled approach to clarifying matters of line. Instead one finds a passion for spreading lies, inviting vendettas, and naming names and speculating about people and their association with the Party, all posted in the posture of a self-declared "expert" and authoritative voice about the RCP.
This website is no more of a reliable source about the RCP and its leadership than the FBI is. Despite Mike Ely's attempts to confuse people and pose authoritatively as someone "in the know," he provides no credible information that people should believe. First, he actually does not know a lot of what he claims to know; second, even more important is that honest people who have any scintilla of concern about protecting revolutionary leaders and organizations don't do this kind of thing—and people who do this are objectively doing the work of pigs. Whatever his particular associations might have been or might be, there is no objective distinction between his actions and a whole well-documented history of actions by the FBI and others of their ilk.
Think about what happens when you work to establish as "the truth" all kinds of unsubstantiated stories, rumors and lies about someone: what purpose does that serve and who benefits from that kind of counter-revolutionary activity? Think about what happens when you start naming people in revolutionary organizations and speculating about their whereabouts and activity. Think about what it means to encourage people to seek to find out and discuss publicly who are the leaders of a communist organization—an organization which is in fundamental antagonism to those who have powerful means to crush all opposition, and further to criticize that organization for not making this information public. The state wants to know the internal workings of any force that opposes them and especially a revolutionary organization which has the potential to bring forward masses of people to challenge their whole rule. And they use this information to destroy those organizations and the individuals who lead them. Anyone who has had the slightest experience—past or present—knows this.
All of this is aided by the current "culture of transparency," where millions of people promote and carry out the practice of posting in a permanent record many details about their lives, their family and friends and their daily activities, with no sense of the harm this can do, and how this can be used against them in many different ways. But beyond that, think about how the dominant culture of constant gossip spread all over the mass media, establishing "truth" and verdicts by posting things on the Internet, and using this means to accuse and "convict" people of horrible things in the media, how all this is training people how to think–or better said, training people to not think critically. And then think about the ways that this kind of thing being promoted and propagated on a website which claims it is interested in revolution both reinforces and takes advantage of that putrid culture. What does it say about people who rather than struggle with and encourage others to rise above it, sink down into it and utilize it? There is truly something very wrong with those who are more turned on by this tabloidization and bloodlust than they are concerned with trying to change the world in the interests of humanity.
It is important to take a serious look at what are the consequences of all this. Think about how this actually works against getting clarity on the important questions of what are the real problems that we confront if we are serious about building a movement that really can mobilize millions to change the world, a movement that is going up against very real and powerful forces who use everything in their disposal not only to directly go after those in opposition, but also to utilize, work with and unleash a whole host of people who do their work for them, whether getting paid for it or not. People should learn from history and be determined to not fall into the same kinds of traps that played such a destructive role in earlier times, like what was done at the height of the 1960s through the COINTELPRO program of the FBI and other covert operations of the government. Ask yourself, if the intention to destroy BA and the Party he leads were to succeed, how would humanity be better off? Who would benefit?
There are important reasons to keep confidential the identities of people in and associated with our Party, to keep confidential the composition of leading bodies and structure of the Party, and its ties to the masses of people. And it is not the business of those who are not members of our Party to spread gossip and speculation about these matters.
But there is no secret about what is important for people to know, which is the political and ideological line of our Party: what are our goals and methods for our work now and in the future. There is an abundance of material explaining our positions, outlook, and aims... and the reasoning for them. This is the basis on which people should judge whether what we represent is what is needed in the world or not. If people want to know how leadership is chosen and how our Party functions, go to the Constitution of our Party. If people want to know the foundation of our ideology, read the Manifesto from our Party: Communism: the Beginning of a New Stage. If people want to know our strategy for revolution, this is articulated in the statement "On the Strategy for Revolution" and in many articles and writings which can be found on revcom.us. And people can read the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) for a concrete vision of the kind of society we envision and are working toward. There are websites where people can go to find out more about Bob Avakian, and the actual work to build a movement for revolution and there are Revolution bookstores in major cities where people can find literature and discussions of our Party's line and the work we are engaged in, and many of the books written by Bob Avakian, including his own memoir, From Ike to Mao and Beyond. All of this is quite accessible to those who want to know about Bob Avakian and the RCP.
There is a need for those who are serious about fighting to bring about a different world to set and insist on some standards for the movements that will not tolerate this kind of counter-revolutionary activity. Anyone who is serious and does not want to be part of the counter-revolutionary cesspool concentrated on Kasama website (and related activities) should denounce it and have nothing to do with it. If you are involved with it you should get out, because if you know what goes on there and you don't then you are making a conscious choice to stay in it. There is no longer any remotely conceivable basis to think that what is put on that website regarding Bob Avakian and the RCP is any legitimate form of carrying out principled ideological and political criticisms.
Coming to grips with this form of counter-revolution and drawing a clear line in opposition to it is part of the struggle for revolution; and this kind of counter-revolutionary activity will emerge in different forms as the revolutionary movement develops. From the article "What is Counter-Revolution?": "All of this may be disconcerting to people who are new to the revolutionary movement. Why would people who claim to be for revolution act in such a way? Unfortunately, this type of counter-revolutionary activity is an inevitable part of making revolution—but that does not mean it should be excused, or shrugged off. While not getting pulled off course or disoriented, we have to be clear that this kind of thing does real damage, providing a climate where the forces of the state in power can bring down vicious repression on the revolution. This is one way you can tell the difference between people who are raising, even sharply, principled differences with revolutionaries, on the one hand, and counter-revolutionaries on the other. ...These are life and death matters which affect the lives of millions. Serious revolutionary movements have to raise their standards and learn to reject and have nothing to do with anyone who carries out these kinds of counter-revolutionary activities."
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
So read a headline on page one of the New York Times Sunday Review, calling attention to a recent article by Robert Worth, entitled "The Arab Intellectuals Who Didn't Roar." The "Arab Spring" (the various uprisings of the past 10 months across the nations of the Middle East and North Africa) "has not," in Worth's words, "yielded any clear political or economic project, or any intellectual standard-bearers of the kind who shaped almost every modern revolution from 1776 onward. In those revolts, thinkers or ideologues—from Thomas Paine to Lenin to Mao to Vaclav Havel—helped provide a unifying vision or became symbols of a people's aspirations." What Worth calls the "leaderless quality" of these upsurges "has become a liability. Organizers in and out of the country are now struggling to shape a set of shared political goals, and intellectual coherence and leadership is increasingly seen as important in that process."
While there are things to take issue with in his article, Worth has put his finger on a crucial question: what kind of leadership is needed to actually deal with the agonizing problems and realize the high aspirations that impelled the masses to rise up so courageously in January of this year.
It is in this context that the names of Lenin and Mao come up. Lenin, in 1917 in Russia, and then Mao in China, led revolutions that went after the deepest problems in society. They applied and further developed the theory—scientific communism, first brought forward by Karl Marx—that lays bare the source of the exploitation and misery in society and that shows how all that could be fundamentally overcome and then uprooted. Lenin and Mao forged and led parties that, first, led the masses to make these revolutions, against overwhelming odds; and second, to establish new structures that began to abolish the relations and institutions of exploitation and oppression and to give living expression to the possibility first uncovered by Marx: that of a new, emancipatory, dawn for humanity. (In this, by the way, they were a leap beyond and away from the others lumped with them in Worth's piece—Thomas Paine, a leader of the American Revolution, the primary aim of which was to displace the dominance of the British capitalist class over the colonies with the rule of the native capitalists and slave owners, opening the way to establishing the United States as a new capitalist empire; and Vaclav Havel, the Czech dissident who came to power after the revolts of 1989 which aimed only to replace systems in eastern Europe that were socialist in name only with ones that were more openly capitalist.)
In fact, for all the talk of being "leaderless," there is leadership being provided to these upsurges in the Middle East and North Africa. The question is leadership to do what. All kinds of forces have all kinds of programs—and later Worth describes some of how this is falling out. But none of those forces have a vision or program capable of tackling and resolving—or even correctly identifying—the most fundamental questions facing these societies. None of these forces can lead the masses to satisfy their most fundamental interests and highest aspirations.
Bob Avakian posed it like this:
Theirs [the masses] is the cry of "freedom," and the struggle must be carried forward until real freedom is achieved—freedom from the rule of the imperialists and their local henchmen and junior partners, freedom from all forms of oppression and exploitation. Freedom from both the outmoded forces which would enslave women, and the people as a whole, in medieval darkness and oppression—and from the outmoded forces who would enslave people in the name of "democracy"..."freedom"... and capitalist-imperialist exploitation marketed as "progress." ("Egypt 2011: Millions Have Heroically Stood Up...The Future Remains To Be Written," Revolution #224)
And then, actually summing up what happened when Lenin and the Bolshevik (Communist) Party did lead the masses in all-the-way struggle to get rid of the old system and replace it "with one that would really embody and give life to the freedom and the most fundamental interests of the people, in striving to abolish all oppression and exploitation," Avakian went on to say:
When people in their masses, in their millions, finally break free of the constraints that have kept them from rising up against their oppressors and tormentors, then whether or not their heroic struggle and sacrifice will really lead to fundamental change, moving toward the abolition of all exploitation and oppression, depends on whether or not there is leadership, communist leadership, that has the necessary scientific understanding and method, and on that basis can develop the necessary strategic approach and the influence and organized ties among growing numbers of the people, in order to lead the uprising of the people, through all the twists and turns, to the goal of a real, revolutionary transformation of society, in accordance with the fundamental interests of the people. [ibid.]
This is the sharpest question: will there be leadership which can lead the people to effect really fundamental change... or will there only be change which, however seemingly dramatic on the surface, leaves untouched the oppressive foundations of society? That question remains to be answered. The framework with which to chart the course to actual liberation exists—it is there, in concentrated form in the Manifesto from the RCP, USA, Communism: The Beginning of a New Stage, to be taken up and wielded by those who would take up the challenge posed by the current crossroads (and given expression by the headline writer at the New York Times). As Avakian ended his statement on Egypt:
To all who truly want to see the heroic struggle of the oppressed masses develop, with the necessary leadership, in the direction of real revolutionary transformation of society and genuine liberation: engage with and take up the emancipating viewpoint and goals of communism, and the challenge of giving this organized expression and a growing influence and presence among the struggling masses. [ibid.]
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
University of California Berkeley
CORNEL WEST is one of America’s most provocative public intellectuals and has been a champion for racial justice since childhood. His writing, speaking, and teaching weave together the traditions of the black Baptist Church, progressive politics, and jazz. The New York Times has praised his “ferocious moral vision.” Dr. West currently teaches at Princeton University.
CARL DIX is a longtime revolutionary and a founding member of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA. In 1970 Carl was one of the Fort Lewis 6, six GIs who refused orders to go to Vietnam. He served 2 years in Leavenworth Military Penitentiary for his stand. In 1985 Carl initiated the Draw The Line statement, a powerful condemnation of the bombing of the MOVE house in Philadelphia. In 1996, Carl was a founder of the October 22nd Coalition to Stop Police Brutality. Carl coordinated the Katrina hearings of the 2006 Bush Crimes Commission.
Initial sponsors include: Hermanos Unidos • 100 Black Men • African Arts Society • Kroeber Anthropological Society • Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity • Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity • Cross-Cultural Student Development Center • Townsend Center for the Humanities • Department of English • Department of Art Practice • Center for Race and Gender • African-American Studies Department • Revolution Books • Laney College Black Student Union
Email: email@example.com. Search “Dec. 2 UC Berkeley Cornel West Carl Dix” on Facebook. This event is free and open to the public.\
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
The morning of October 22—the National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality AND the first day of the International Association of Chiefs of Police convention in Chicago—the front-page headline of the Chicago Tribune blared: “Justified? Chicago cop shot unarmed man in back.” This major exposé reveals outrageous, previously suppressed facts about the cold-blooded murder of Flint Farmer on June 7 by Chicago cop Gildardo Sierra. (See “Justice for Flint Farmer! Indict the Chicago Cops Who Killed Him!” Revolution #237, June 26, 2011.) Video images from the dashboard camera of another police car as it drove up to the scene show the wounded Flint Farmer lying motionless and face down on the grass while Sierra walks around him firing off three more shots into his back. Sierra shot at Flint a total of 16 times, hitting him seven times. The Cook County medical examiner who performed the autopsy said that the three shots in the back were the fatal shots.
On November 2, Flint Farmer’s family and supporters held a press conference demanding that the Cook County State’s Attorney order the immediate arrest of Sierra, charge him with first-degree murder, convict him, and send him to prison for life. The press conference was covered on four TV stations and by the Chicago Tribune, and it has been picked up by the Huffington Post online and papers from as far away as Boston.
The family and supporters see this press conference as an important nodal point in the battle for justice for Flint Farmer. The response from the press and the increasing support from diverse sections of the people, including Occupy Chicago, has given new energy to the fight to make good on the demand that has been raised since Flint’s funeral in June: “Indict, Convict, Jail the Killer Cop—the Whole System Is Guilty.” The October 22 Tribune exposé had a big photo of Flint Farmer’s father holding a sign with the demand.
This battle for justice for Flint Farmer has also hooked up with the movement for justice for the victims of the notorious police torturer Jon Burge. Mark Clements, of the campaign to end police torture, spoke at the press conference to express outrage that Sierra had not already been arrested. Clements was imprisoned at age 16 and spent 28 years in prison because of a confession he was forced to give under torture by cops commanded by Burge.
Flint was the third person shot by Sierra in the six-month period between January 7 and June 7, 2011. Two of the three died. The police department ruled all three shootings justified. A 2007 Tribune investigation, which reviewed the records of 200 police shootings over a 10-year period, found “a pattern of officials rushing to clear officers who shoot civilians” and that “these cursory police investigations create a separate standard of justice and fuel the fear among some citizens that officers can shoot people with impunity.”
This pattern has gotten worse since then. No Chicago police have been charged for shooting civilians, despite repeated exposure and public outcry, and 51 people have been shot by Chicago cops so far in 2011.
Since the so-called Independent Police Review Authority (IPRA) was formed in 2007, the names of police who have shot people are no longer released pending an “investigation.” The previous policy of removing police involved in shooting incidents from the streets while the investigation is pending has been eliminated. Now police are back, threatening the community, the day after they kill. And there’s no way to know the identity of cops who shoot people unless someone witnessed them at the scene and read their name tag. The IPRA keeps that and other information deeply hidden, objectively hampering efforts to get some measure of justice for the victim. Lawyers for families seeking redress for wrongful deaths at the hands of the police describe how very difficult it is to get crucial information out of IPRA, even with a subpoena. Of the 254 police shootings (81 of them fatal) from September 2007 to September 2011, there were only TWO findings of “fault.”
The Tribune article focuses on the truly outrageous crimes of a particular cop in shooting three people in six months, and reveals that the police department does not even keep any record of cops who are involved in police shootings. But the problem is much deeper than Officer Sierra or “a few bad apples,” as some portray it.
There is a systematic and systemic occupation of the neighborhoods of the Black masses in Chicago and other cities, where the armed power of the police is used to suppress and terrorize the people, much like how lynching was used in the South through the 1950s and ’60s. Flint Farmer’s family reported that his body was left lying in a pool of blood from 1:30 am to 5 am, and for all those hours the family was forced to stand half a block away and were subjected to insults by the police—some of whom were parading around grinning and laughing. Then two days later five or six police officers came walking up a relative’s street strapped with assault rifles around their necks. The little kids ran in terror. One person said, “As they passed my house they saw us with ‘RIP Flint’ shirts on, and they turned and said, ‘If we catch any of you motherfuckers walking up and down the block doing anything, with a beer or anything, doing anything we are going to lock you up.’” For days after, the police drove by every 10 minutes eyeing the family. This is pure terror and intimidation of an entire population under the authority of the state.
We say NO MORE. No more murdering cops. No more “investigations” that automatically exonerate the killers, no more marauding forces degrading and humiliating the people.
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
The main—and, up to this point at least, the overwhelming—aspect of these "Occupy" protests has been their very positive thrust: in mobilizing people to stand up against injustice and inequality and the domination of economic, social and political life, and international relations, by a super-rich elite class whose interests are in opposition to those of the great majority of people; and in contributing in significant ways to an atmosphere in which people are raising and wrangling with big questions about the state of society and the world and whether and how something much better can be brought into being. It will be a very good thing if these protests continue to spread and further develop, with this basic thrust and this positive impact. And these "Occupy" protests can be a significant positive factor in contributing to the revolution that is needed—IF this is approached, by those with the necessary scientific communist understanding, in accordance with that understanding and the strategic orientation and approach that flows from it.
At the same time, and in keeping with this understanding, it is also very important, indeed crucial, to compellingly make the case, for broad and growing numbers of people (both those who are involved in these protests and people more generally), that the idea (or ideal), which at this point has considerable currency among many involved in or supportive of these protests—that a "horizontal" (as opposed to a "hierarchal") movement can in itself serve as a means of major social change and perhaps even a model of a different society—this idea (or ideal) does not and cannot measure up to the reality of what is actually required to fundamentally uproot and transform a society, and indeed a world, marked by and grounded in profound inequalities and relations of oppression and exploitation, within every country and in the domination by a handful of powerful, imperial powers over the great majority of countries in the world and the great mass of humanity. To uproot and transform all this requires nothing less than an unprecedented revolution: a radical overturning of the entrenched, and violently repressive, ruling forces and imperial powers who now dominate human social existence, and the deep-seated economic, social and political relations of exploitation and oppression of which they are the embodiment and enforcers. And to achieve such a radical overturning and transforming requires a scientific approach to the strategic orientation, program, and organization that is actually required for the revolution that is really needed.
This revolution is necessary not only in order to deal with the basic, and antagonistic, relation in which the masses of people are ruled over by an exploiting class representing a small part of society, but also in order to transform the relations between different sections of the people themselves—including the transformation of the contradiction between those who (primarily) engage in physical labor and those who (primarily) engage in intellectual labor (the mental/manual contradiction)—in such a way that these relations no longer involve oppression and no longer contain the seeds of antagonism. Without such a revolution, even very positive developments, such as what is represented, in its main thrust and content, by the "Occupy" protests, will ultimately run into their limits. Such a movement cannot be extended linearly, and in its present form, into the radical change that is fundamentally needed. As with very positive movements in the past (including the very broad and very radical movements of the 1960s), left to their own spontaneous course (that is, without the necessary process of revolutionary communists uniting with and working to build these struggles but also working to provide direction to divert things onto a more fully and consciously revolutionary path) these movements, even while they can involve truly large numbers of people and have a very positive impact, will eventually be repressed and/or dissipated, and/or brought under the domination of the ruling class, in one form or another—unless masses of people involved in them are won to, become firmly convinced of, the need to develop the struggle further, into a movement for revolution, with the necessary understanding and organization—yes, including the necessary structure and leadership—that is required to finally sweep away this system and bring into being a radically new system with the aim of ultimately abolishing all exploitation and oppression.
In fact, as positive as things like the "Occupy" protests are, and despite the sincere intent and efforts of a great many involved in them, they cannot fundamentally provide the means for "equal participation" by people from different parts of society, since the very nature and functioning of the capitalist-imperialist system—in its historical development in this country, down to the present time, and in its international relations of exploitation, oppression, plunder and depredation—results in a situation where, within U.S. society itself (and in an even more pronounced way on an international level), there are profound and deeply rooted inequalities between different sections of people, which cannot be overcome within the framework and confines of this system and its fundamental relations and dynamics. Along with oppressive divisions based on race (or nationality), gender and sexual orientation, there are, within this society, significant differences in economic and social position. There are layers of people who are part of what is broadly referred to as the "middle class" and who generally occupy a more privileged position, in terms of access to education (and the whole realm of working with ideas), better-paying jobs and the benefits that go along with this, and a life relatively free of constant and intense repression, so long as they do not "step out of line," and yet they are subordinated to and, yes, dictated to by the ruling class of this country and, especially in these times, they find the quality of their lives and their prospects for the future significantly demeaned and diminished and many feel increasingly acute anger and disgust at basic inequalities, injustices and outrages which are in fact built into and expressive of the very fabric and nature of this system. At the same time, there are tens of millions, especially among those in the inner cities and the immigrants, who are deeply discriminated against and heavily weighed down under this system, which subjects them to the most profound and bitter exploitation, oppression and repression, binding them in chains which, in ultimate and fundamental terms, can only be broken by shattering the grip of this system and fully dismantling its apparatus of violent repression. As is demonstrated in the "Occupy" movement, there is a basis for a broad unity among these different sections of the people—in opposition to many of the manifestations of the oppressive and truly murderous nature of this system, and in a basic searching for a better way that human beings could relate to each other—but that unity cannot eliminate nor cancel out the reality and the effects of the profound inequalities that are so deeply rooted in this system and will continue to have force and effect so long as this system remains in power and its relations and dynamics set the fundamental and ultimate terms for things. This is yet another expression of the fact that nothing short of revolution, with a leadership grounded in a communist understanding and orientation, can fully penetrate to the depths of, let alone uproot, the relations that oppress and divide masses of people.
While uniting with the basic and very positive thrust of the "Occupy" protests; while continuing to work to broaden and deepen them; and while learning as much as can be learned from the already rich experience of these protests and the initiative and creativity, as well as determination, shown by many involved in them, it is crucial to influence and win more and more people to seriously engage with the scientific communist understanding and orientation—particularly as this is embodied in the outlook and strategic approach of our Party, the RCP, and in a concentrated way in the new synthesis of communism that I have brought forward over the past few decades and that I am continuing to work to further develop. For, once more, as emphasized in the first supplement in BAsics,* this is not "our thing," in some narrow and sectarian sense—it is what, in accordance with the deepest reality, is required to end the outrages and injustices continually perpetrated by this system, and the horrendous suffering to which this continually subjects the great majority of humanity, and to bring into being a radically new and better society and world.
Once again, this understanding is crucial not only in an overall and basic sense, but also more specifically in relation—in opposition—to the idea of a "leaderless revolution" and related concepts, which are not in accord with the reality that must be confronted and transformed, in order to truly achieve the kind of world that many in the "Occupy" movement are searching and struggling for.
* "Reform or Revolution, Questions of Orientation, Questions of Morality," supplement of Chapter 1, "Worldwide System of Exploitation and Oppression," BAsics, from the talks and writings of Bob Avakian (Chicago: RCP Publications, 2011), pages 25-32. Originally published in Revolution #32, January 29, 2006, and available online at revcom.us/a/032/avakian-reform-or-revolution [back]
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
Revolution received the following reports early Thursday evening:
November 17, 3 p.m. Early this morning, to stand against the violent eviction at Zuccotti Park and to mark the two-month anniversary for the Occupy movement, groups of hundreds of people took to the sidewalks and streets near Wall Street with the intention of shutting down the New York Stock Exchange through a cacophony of resistance. People came out at 7 a.m. to have "breakfast." One sign read, "Egg, Cheese, Revolution." This seemed to be a way of saying let's start the day off right. People had a healthy diet of marching, hollering and shouting, occupying intersections, blockades, making their voices heard and showing support for this movement with a hell of a lot of determination to go forward and get stronger. In the face of the violent attack on Tuesday, the mood was not dampened but celebratory, defiant, with groupings of marchers parading through the blocks of Wall Street singing and dancing. There was street theater and drumming as well.
There seems to be a strong show of support of New Yorkers coming out. A group of doctors came to help with non-violent direct action; some protesters held signs telling stories of struggle and injustice in this society. One recent college graduate had a sign that simply said, "I played by the rules." She explained how in spite of that she is unable to survive because she's paying off student loans. Other signs read, "Demands are for the small minded," "We are the source of wealth," "Wake Up," "Laid off stock broker" and "We are human beings, not commodities."
Many occupiers participated in non-violent civil disobedience, linking arms in attempts to blockade intersections to shut down Wall Street. Eventually it looked as if a shutdown was not going to occur and many hoped the action would at least delay the bell. Some groups held intersections for over an hour. There are reports that 60-75 arrests took place. Some groups took to the street marching to the Wall Street bull (sculpture). The police were very aggressive and hostile, pushing and grabbing people, throwing them to the ground. At least one woman was dragged by her hair. One group that included the Revolution crew reported being pushed by the police and hit with billy clubs. As this occurred young middle school students in the windows above inside a school banged on the window for the police to stop.
It's been tit-for-tat with the authorities all the way through and it's tense and intense in Zuccotti Park. The mood can alter in an instant from drumming, jubilation and dancing to stand-offs with the NYPD. One occupier described:
"I was in the drum circle and we were chanting 'We are united, we'll never be divided.' There was momentum and enthusiasm with protesters, then there was some kind of a commotion, some kind of hoopla at the gate where you enter now, on the left. Twenty people from the circle went over there and someone was being chased by cops. I went to see who was being arrested, there were so many people. I looked over and saw 15 cops circling someone, swinging batons; well over 100 cops started pushing everyone back and there was so much force one of the gates went over the park and hit a car. Cops came out with someone, their head was bleeding. Women were crying, everyone's screaming 'peaceful, peaceful.' After the guy emerged with blood on his head, two other individuals were arrested."
Shortly after this, scores of cops in riot gear lined up in rows along one side of the park and on at least two corners they had closed the sidewalk. As we write, thousands are gathering for a student walkout in Union Square; protesters are occupying the subway, traveling to several locations throughout all five boroughs to tell their stories.
The police presence was massive, dressed in full riot gear, turning Wall Street into a gated police occupation. Over the course of the morning hours 177 were arrested, several injured. When people returned to Zuccotti Park the police were surrounding, wading into the crowd. A video circulated widely on the Internet showed a bloodied protester being led out of the park by police.
The Occupy Wall Street website under the banner of International Day of Action listed a full day's menu including: "Lunch: 3PM Occupy the Subways and 5PM Dinner: Occupy the Square," referring to Foley Square at the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge. A few thousand students from colleges and high schools gathered at Union Square at 3 p.m. There was militant and heartfelt testimony through mic checks about the massive debt that students face, with rising tuition and declining prospects for work. Some marched to Foley Square while others flooded onto the subways. Massive numbers of police were out with new mobile barricades to confine the marches to the sidewalk. Yet, along the route there were numerous signs of support from people in office buildings and apartments.
As of 5 p.m. people are starting to rally at Foley Square and the news of the protest is dominating the airwaves—regular programming interrupted by newscasts devoted to "Occupy Wall Street." While Mayor Bloomberg took to the airwaves to say that the protest was no big deal, and his thug police chief Ray Kelly complained of protester brutality—a charge that was rendered absurdly deceitful from the images being broadcast—the message of the day was the message of OCCUPY Wall Street.
More to come...
by the Bay Area Revolution Writers Group
At 3:30 a.m. this morning (November 17), more than 100 police in riot gear attacked the Occupy Cal encampment and ordered it to be disbanded or face arrest. Two people were arrested and non-students were forced to leave the campus. By 4:30 a.m. the encampment was completely destroyed and at around 5:15 a.m., a backhoe and trucks were brought into the plaza to clear the remains of the encampment.
Eight days ago, on November 9, police had attacked and beaten students putting up tents on campus, an assault that sparked campus and national outrage. The encampment was re-established after a rally of an estimated 10,000 on Tuesday, November 15 (see report at http://revcom.us/a/250/occupied_cal_report.html).
At least six different police agencies participated in today's assault, including UCPD, Emeryville, Oakland, Newark, Union City and Alameda County sheriffs.
Afterward, police and campus administrators said students wouldn't be allowed to camp, but would be allowed to continue to have a presence at the site. Despite this, the police arrested one student for just sitting on the steps of the administration building, and they also tore down much of the creative art pieces erected on the plaza, including a 10-foot-tall bright red "Regentasaurus" sculpture.
Freshman Aly Maun told the Daily Cal, "At about 3:30 [a.m.], I looked outside my tent, and I saw what looked like hundreds of police officers coming up the steps [from Lower into Upper Sproul Plaza]. Now they're tearing down the art, and the art is beautiful. I don't think this was necessary."
Alex Kim, 24, an English major, was arrested after he stood in front of police officers and flashed peace signs with both hands. "We're coming back," Kim told the San Francisco Chronicle before being led away by police.
On Wednesday (November 16), in between a police raid on one of the San Francisco Occupy sites and this morning's raid on the Occupy at UC's Sproul Plaza, students and Occupy activists marched in the streets of the San Francisco financial district. A protest had been planned to coincide with the meeting of the UC Regents but the Regents abruptly canceled the meeting, citing police warnings about "rogue elements" "intent on violence" among the protesters.
The UC students have been battling increasing budget cuts. The Regents, who control the funds for the UC system, have many ties to banking and huge corporations and one of the UC Regents is on the Board and a director of Bank of America. Students from UC and other colleges streamed into the financial district, joined by other activists. About 1,000 people marched, and hundreds tried to enter the Bank of America. In spite of police attacks and arrests, people stayed inside the bank for hours, some of them pitching a tent—occupying Bank of America! This occupation was live-streamed by a TV station, and hundreds of people outside stayed to support it as traffic was completely disrupted for hours. Ninety-five people were eventually arrested inside the bank.
Today, Thursday, November 17, a strike is also planned at California State University at Hayward, in protest of steep fee increases.
The Occupy Seattle encampment has moved to Seattle Central Community College (SCCC) where as many as 100 tents are pitched each night. Protests and marches have continued. On November 17 in solidarity with OWS in New York, students are holding a student general assembly, and marches from SCCC and University of Washington are converging together and have created a big stir in the university area.
On November 16, Cornel West spoke at the Occupy Seattle encampment. A student from Seattle Central Community College who attended said, "It was announced in classes, a reporter from the Seattle Times came, and news spread like wildfire that Cornel West was coming to speak to the occupiers. Organizers had set up a canopy in the rain and a sophisticated sound system, and 100-200 people gathered around. He spoke from the heart, as usual, and said that this is a movement of love for the people, and inclusion of different sections of the oppressed."
The Seattle City Council passed a resolution saying they support Occupy Seattle's First Amendment rights, but nonetheless Seattle police attacked an Occupy protest in downtown on November 15. Seattle police slammed bikes into protesters and doused dozens of people with pepper spray, including clergy, a pregnant woman and a well-known 84-year-old activist, Dorli Rainey. Images of Rainey covered with pepper spray and being helped by others flashed around the world and created widespread outrage. Rainey appeared on Countdown with Keith Olbermann. When asked how she was doing she said, "I'm feeling great. I feel so energized. It's amazing what a little pepper spray will do for you."
She said that on riding the bus home, people asked her what had happened and she told them she had just been pepper-sprayed by "Seattle's finest." People were horrified and the entire bus got into a conversation of what had happened and about the Occupy movement after hearing her story.
Seattle's mayor, Mike McGinn, felt he had to apologize for the pepper-spraying and said police will review policy, but he was speaking for the city whose police have repeatedly arrested protesters, trashed their encampment at Westlake Mall and harassed them as they tried to sleep. McGinn said that Occupy "needs to work with us too." Occupy Seattle responded: "On this particular night, we had informed the police of our march and route in advance so as to assure public safety. Given that the police blocked our passage and then used pepper spray indiscriminately suggests that it is not Occupy Seattle that is unwilling to work with the city, but rather that SPD is not willing to work with Occupy Seattle."
A statement put out by Seattle distributors of Revolution called for people to "defend and support Occupy coast to coast and worldwide" and to condemn all the police attacks on the Occupy movement. It said, "The attacks on occupy movements coast to coast can't be allowed to stand. Many know in their hearts that justice is on the side of the occupy movement and people who know and feel this must act on this knowledge to stand up and fight for our collective future. Join the resistance to these attacks today and from here on. The whole world is watching!"
November 17, 2011, 3 p.m. The national day of action began early as over 1,000 protesters gathered at Bank of America Plaza in downtown L.A. The action was called by Good Jobs LA, and supported by many unions, including the SEIU, the Teamsters, and teachers' unions. Many had watched the night before as students at Cal State Long Beach resisted budget cuts. About 150 occupiers marched over from Occupy Los Angeles at City Hall, and the whole crowd took up their chants: Occupy LA! We are the 99 percent! As the protesters marched around downtown, they blocked a freeway entrance and exit. Twenty-five people were arrested for sitting in the street.
On the heels of the morning protest, people gathered at the occupation at L.A. City Hall for an un-permitted march down Broadway and through the L.A. Financial Center. Many of the unions that had marched in the morning joined them. When the 99% got back to Bank of America Plaza, they rallied briefly, and then a group of occupiers set up tents across from the bank building. The LAPD has declared this an "unlawful assembly," but the occupiers aren't moving.
Across town at UCLA, dozens of tents have been erected in an action called in solidarity with the Occupy movements at UC Berkeley and UC Davis, and the global movement for justice. UCLA officials have declared the encampment illegal and are threatening to move in after midnight.
The struggle is growing and becoming widespread, involving many students and others. November 16, police attacked protesters at a California State University Board of Trustees meeting at Cal State Long Beach, as trustees voted yet another increase in student fees. A November 17 faculty strike at nearby Cal State Dominguez Hills drew hundreds of students from Cal States in San Diego, Los Angeles and surrounding areas.
In the wake of evictions in Oakland and NYC, hundreds marched and rallied the following night during rush hour and held a speakout to reaffirm their determination to go forward and spread the occupy movement everywhere. People testified to the role of the police as brutal enforcers and the need to "know your enemy". "I want to live in a world that cares about the environment and the future of the planet". "My mother migrated here looking for opportunity, but I don't see that" A host of issues were spoken to and debated over, like when two speakers referred to their desire to see America prosper again. Someone else pointed out that America includes a whole hemisphere not just the USA. It was a spirited evening captured in one daily the next morning with a banner headline "Hell no, we won't go!" On another front activists got a court injunction saying the city couldn't evict them from their camp, except in an emergency, with many expecting a sneak attack from the authorities. Meanwhile Students at Northeastern U. and Harvard have set up tent cities on campus. At N.U. tents went up for three days and a big teach-in was held, while Harvard tents remain to this day in the yard while the school administration has instituted a lockdown barring all but Harvard personnel and students from entering the grounds. Public opinion here is divided over who to blame for this disruption of the normal routine and the struggle continues. People in the movement are also struggling over which way the movement needs to go and what to do if the main camp is in fact evicted. The city has prevented people from bringing in winterized tents and has also begun harassing people trying to drive by with supplies and food donations.
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
Students first attempted to set up an Occupy encampment at UC Berkeley on November 9—in a Day of Action with protests by 3,000-4,000 people. They were met with a vicious attack. Police struck students with batons and ripped down tents. The UC Berkeley Chancellor defended the action of the police and declared that no tents would be allowed on campus. In response Occupy Cal called for the General Strike for November 15. [see accompanying article]
By the evening of the General Strike, Sproul Plaza was packed with an estimated 10,000 students and others. Minutes earlier the general assembly of Occupy Cal had voted overwhelmingly to defy the University and re-set up the encampment. The Plaza was jam-packed, with some students standing on the roof of a campus dining facility. Tents were set up in the midst of this massive general assembly—and Occupy Cal was re-established.
As the tents were being set up words from Mario Savio, a leader of the 1964 Free Speech Movement at UC Berkeley were read: "There is a time when the operation of the machine becomes so odious, makes you so sick at heart, that you can't take part; you can't even passively take part, and you've got to put your bodies upon the gears and upon the wheels, upon the levers, upon all the apparatus, and you've got to make it stop. And you've got to indicate to the people who run it, to the people who own it, that unless you're free, the machine will be prevented from working at all!"
During the night the police threatened to arrest students. As of 9:00 am on Wednesday, November 16 there had been no arrests and more than 20 tents remained on the steps of the administration building.
A third year student told Revolution about the police attack the week before: "I was on the lines Wednesday night and it was scary. I had a moment where I thought, hey this is real, there really are police with batons coming at me. I didn't realize up to that time that it was a real possibility that they would start hitting people without us doing anything. But then they did it two times in one day."
Students were determined to carry their message and the struggle forward. "I don't think the police should use batons against people who have ideas for change...They are not going to silence us," a woman student told Revolution. More than 85% of the General Assembly voted to reestablish the camp despite the University mobilizing the Alameda County Sheriffs and police from other campuses as backup.
The mood during the day was both festive and militant. There was a march against police brutality with an estimated 3,000 students marching through the streets to Berkeley High School and Berkeley City College. As they marched students sang the lyrics to the Twisted Sister anthem, "We're Not Going to Take It—Anymore" and chanted "The System has Got to Die! Hella Hella Occupy!"
In the afternoon, several hundred from Occupy Oakland, which had been raided on Monday, marched the five miles from Oakland to the Berkeley campus chanting, "Here Comes Oakland!"
Many professors either cancelled class or decided to hold their classes outside in support. There was an open university with teach-ins going on all day on a whole range of different topics.
"What we see today and what we feel today is our creative power. This is the return of the repressed, and it is beautiful," one Occupy Cal organizer told the Daily Cal. Various art was created on the Plaza from a large "Regentasaurus" sculpture, to a teepee made of sticks inside which a number of students sat playing musical instruments.
Departments and schools held marches into the Plaza. More than 100 law students marched from Boalt Law School and a similar number marched in from the School of Social Welfare. There were marches by the English Department and the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management.
A creative writing class had discussed how they should respond after two faculty of the English Department were beaten by police and one arrested on November 9. They decided to take their class out to the Plaza and read poetry they had written about the Occupy Movement.
Occupy San Francisco: Democracy Now! (November 16) reports, "Just miles away, there are fears of a new raid on Occupy San Francisco after a battalion of riot police surrounded the downtown encampment. San Francisco police say they do not plan to clear the main camp, but have arrested seven people who set up tents on a sidewalk."
Occupy Oakland has called for a rally and march on Saturday, November 19 to support the people's movement—"the right to good jobs, access to education and the right to keep our homes"—2 p.m.— 14th & Broadway.
Check revcom.us frequently for updates and further coverage.
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
"The Occupy Movement has arrived. This is beautiful."
—a UC Berkeley student organizer quoted in the Daily Cal on November 9
Occupy Cal was born on Wednesday November 9, in a surge of student protest fueled by anger and outrage, the Occupy Wall Street movement and Occupy Oakland. It was met with brutal repression by the police and school administration.
Thousands of University of California Berkeley students walked out of classes or held their classes outside, then marched and rallied in a day of action to protest obscene tuition increases, an unequal system of education and to join with the occupy movement.
At noon Sproul Plaza was packed with 3,000-4,000 students. At the end of the rally, over a thousand students marched through the streets of Berkeley to the Bank of America. Students then met in a general assembly. By a vote of 456 to 1 the students passed the following resolution: "We the UC Berkeley general assembly hereby establish an encampment on the UC Berkeley campus in order to ... help the university become what it always should have been: open and free to all ... We disagree with the idea that this university and this land are the property of the UC Regents, the vast majority of whom hail from the 1 percent."
As soon as students started to put up tents in a small grassy area next to the administration building they had to face off with lines of riot police including Alameda County Sheriffs who were brought in to supplement the campus and city police. Students linked arms in an attempt to stop the police from getting to and ripping down the tents.
Videos of the police attacking students with bully clubs as the students chanted "peaceful protest," "we’re just standing here," and "stop beating students" were posted all over the internet. A 90-second YouTube of the police attack (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buovLQ9qyWQ) went viral with over 600,000 hits.
Later in the evening the police attacked again, beating students and ripping down tents. Over 2,000 students—as well as hundreds from Occupy Oakland and Occupy San Francisco—again turned out around midnight to protect Occupy Cal, preventing the campus cops from tearing down the last tent until late the next morning.
The Daily Californian student newspaper wrote: "Ashley Pinkerton, a UC Berkeley senior, reported getting hit with a baton by police. ‘We were linked arms, peacefully, when they were stabbing and beating people as hard as they could, it hurt really bad when they got me in the stomach,’ she said, visibly sweating."
Another student, from a conservative family in Orange County, told the Daily Cal that he came to support the other protesters after witnessing the police brutality. "I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing. So I came down, and I was part of the chain when the police made their second push. I was thrown to the ground, but it wasn’t that bad compared to what happened to other people."
In response students voted to organize and call for a general strike for Tuesday, November 15.
Thirty-nine protesters and one faculty member were arrested during the day. An Open Letter from University Faculty describes the arrest of Associate Professor Celeste Langan saying she "offered her wrist to the police in surrender, saying ’arrest me, arrest me,’ but was nevertheless aggressively pulled by her hair to the ground and cuffed." Another faculty member had broken ribs. A Black student from Saint Mary’s College in Oakland was singled out and charged with a felony for no apparent reason. While in jail he was subjected to racist taunts by police and sheriffs who accused him of being a gang member and asked to see his tattoos.
The police and campus administration defended their brutality. University of California Police Captain Margo Bennett said, "The individuals who linked arms and actively resisted, that in itself is an act of violence...I understand that many students may not think that, but linking arms in a human chain when ordered to step aside is not a nonviolent protest." This was echoed by University Chancellor in a November 10 letter to the campus community, "It is unfortunate that some protesters chose to obstruct the police by linking arms and forming a human chain to prevent the police from gaining access to the tents. This is not non-violent civil disobedience."
An Open Letter to Chancellor Birgeneau, the UC Berkeley administration, and the UC Regents written by three members of the university faculty and signed by more than 2,200 faculty began by demanding, "You should all resign!" It continued:
"We are appalled by the Chancellor’s account, in his November 10 ‘Message to the Campus Community,’ that the police were "forced to use their batons.’ We strenuously object to the charge that protesters—by linking arms and refusing to disperse—engaged in a form of ’violence’ directed at law enforcement. The protests did not justify the overwhelming use of force and severe bodily assault by heavily armed officers and deputies. Widely-circulated documentation from videos, photographs, and TV news outlets make plainly evident the squad tactics and individual actions of members of the UCPD and Alameda County Sheriff’s Department. This sends a message to the world that UC Berkeley faculty, staff, and student protesters are regarded on their own campus with suspicion and hostility rather than treated as participants in civil society."
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
Revolution received the following statement:
The early hours of Tuesday, November 15—suddenly and brutally, the New York Police Department, with police chief Ray Kelly personally presiding, moved to shut down Occupy Wall Street. In a massive coordinated attack, police sealed off the area, subway stations were closed and trains rerouted. Hundreds of supporters who came in response to emergency alerts, as well as media trying to cover the attack, were barricaded blocks away and reportedly pepper-sprayed by police. Police in full riot gear swept the park, slashing tents and sleeping bags with knives and destroying everything they could get their hands on. The communal kitchen, the communications center, and thousands of donated books in the shared library were trashed. By morning rush hour, an estimated 200 people had been arrested between those taken from Zuccotti Park, and people taken trying to reach the park to support the occupiers. Hundreds more gathered, marched and regathered throughout downtown Manhattan. One of the chants was “We are unstoppable; another world is possible!”
As the eyes of the world woke up to the violent attack on the heart of the Occupy movement in New York, occupations in Oakland, Portland and elsewhere had also been attacked, and occupations in other cities are threatened. What should be learned from this and what should be done?
Recently, Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, made this statement:
“The main—and, up to this point at least, the overwhelming—aspect of these 'Occupy' protests has been their very positive thrust: in mobilizing people to stand up against injustice and inequality and the domination of economic, social and political life, and international relations, by a super-rich elite class whose interests are in opposition to those of the great majority of people; and in contributing in significant ways to an atmosphere in which people are raising and wrangling with big questions about the state of society and the world and whether and how something much better can be brought into being. It will be a very good thing if these protests continue to spread and further develop, with this basic thrust and this positive impact.” (See full statement and coverage of the Occupy movement on revcom.us.)
The massive attack on the occupations was coordinated nationally from the highest levels of power—including those who claim to support the 99%. What does this tell you about pouring hopes and dreams into the electoral process that legitimizes this capitalist-imperialist state power? Enough of that!
In just two months, this new resistance has opened up political space and the geographic focal point for millions to grapple with and imagine alternatives to the horrific every-day capitalist-imperialist destruction of human spirit and human life and the planet. The defiance of the limits of tired acceptable protest—with the occupiers coming back from political attack, arrests and police beatings, with courage and creativity and righteous anger—is raising precious hope and determination that the world does not have to be this way.
People in New York: the whole world is watching! The attacks on Zuccotti Park cannot be allowed to stand. Join the resistance to these attacks—now, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and beyond. Show the world that this resistance will be defended, nurtured and supported as it grows in determination and focus.
Join the Occupy Wall Street call for a day of action at Wall Street on Thursday, Nov. 17
Begins: 7AM at Zuccotti Park. Actions all day. 5PM Foley Square.
DEFEND OCCUPY WALL STREET
FOR A WORLD WITHOUT WALL STREETS
WE ARE BUILDING A MOVEMENT FOR REVOLUTION
Revolutionary Communist Party, New York City Branch
Material and information available at Revolution Books
146 W. 26th St. (between 6th/7th Aves.) * New York, NY 10001 * 212-691-3345 * firstname.lastname@example.org
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
Revolution distributors sent the following update:
For most of Tuesday, Nov. 15, Zuccotti Park, which has been the site of Occupy Wall Street, was occupied by several hundred riot-clad police and private security squads hired by the real estate firm that owns the site. The park was brutally cleared this morning by the NYPD under the personal supervision of police chief Raymond Kelly. (See Defend Occupy Wall Street – No Police Attacks on Zuccotti Park!) Protests have continued all day. The level of anger at the police has been higher than in the past. People had been hollering and screaming at the police, demanding that they reopen the park even as some of the same people tried to reason with them.
This morning, after the police cleared the park, pepper-spraying protesters and arresting 200 people, a New York State Supreme Court judge issued a temporary restraining order requiring the city to allow the occupiers to return with their tents and equipment. The city and the NYPD flagrantly ignored this order. Then in the afternoon, the court ruled in favor of the city, saying the free-speech rights of the protesters did not include camping with tents and equipment in the park. This is an outrageous ruling. This new movement has created room and energy for imagining and debating how to bring about a new world—and this has involved collectively occupying space, creating a focal point with community that challenges the prevailing consumerist, competitive and oppressive social relations in society. The denial of the ability of the occupiers to protect themselves from the approaching winter conditions is aimed at gutting the epicenter of the powerful new resistance that has grown up since the first small group of determined young people camped in the park.
After the ruling, the police reopened the park but everyone entering the park was forced to enter through a checkpoint. No one can enter with food, a musical instrument or a sleeping bag, in addition to no tents. All backpacks are being searched. As of this writing, hundreds of people have returned to the park—preparing to spend the night without sleeping bags or blankets, not sure if they are even allowed to lie down. Tonight is balmy—and there is great determination not to lose the park. The park is very tense. Within the park are 50 police in riot gear. As we are posting this update, it will be important for everyone to watch developments—and not to allow further attacks on the occupation in NYC or anywhere!
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
Revolution distributors sent the following update:
Monday, November 14, Oakland. Sunday night and into early Monday morning several hundred Occupy Oakland supporters gathered at the encampment and in the streets to stand against an anticipated eviction by the police. The mood was tense, and many expected a repeat of the brutal and violent attacks on protests that had taken place in recent weeks.
At 5:00 a.m. hundreds of police in riot gear—including helmets with full face shields, hand-held plastic shields, tear gas canisters, various kinds of rifles—descended on the Occupy encampment, dismantling tents, trashing people’s property, and ripping down banners. Helicopters flew overhead and armored police vehicles blocked intersections. The police erected barricades around the park. Many police had their name badges covered to prevent them from being identified.
Some occupiers remained in their tents to resist while others took to the streets, with about 400 protesters blocking the main intersection. “Occupy Oakland Will Not Die! Hella, Hella Occupy!” protesters shouted at the police who formed a line to prevent demonstrators from returning to the camp. Thirty-two people were arrested including 14 religious people and members of the clergy who refused to leave the encampment and tried to stay in the interfaith tent.
Tuesday November 15. Monday evening, November 14, just 12 hours after Occupy Oakland was evicted, more than 1000 supporters rallied and marched back to Oscar Grant Plaza (officially known as Frank Ogawa Plaza). "We were evicted because we think, because we are willing to envision a different world," one protester said as people gathered for the march. "The eyes of the world are on occupy Oakland and that's why we can't back down," a demonstrator told Revolution.
As the march approached the plaza hip hop artist Boots Riley led a song/chant of "We're not going to take it—any more." When the march arrived at the plaza, demonstrators occupied it for a general assembly meeting to discuss future plans. Occupy Oakland plans to march in the afternoon to UC Berkeley to support the Student/Faculty Strike and a large mass rally on Saturday, November 19.
On Monday the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union filed an emergency injunction to prevent Oakland from using tear gas and other weapons against protesters. Police have said that they will allow political meetings in the Plaza but that anyone setting up tents will be subject to arrest. Occupy Oakland is intent on reclaiming the space, so the situation remains tense.
Photos November 14, Occupy Oakland. All photos Special to Revolution.
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
April 2011 marked the release of BAsics, a book by Bob Avakian, the revolutionary leader who has developed a new synthesis of communism. This book of quotations and essays speaks to essential questions of revolution and human emancipation. On this occasion, a range of artists, musicians, dancers and actors from a diversity of perspectives came together in a unique cultural event to celebrate revolution and the vision of a new world.
This film will tell the story of what those artists did and why they did it. It will bring a taste of the remarkable connection between these artists and the hundreds in the audience that night.
This is a film for everyone who has wondered whether art and culture can be part of creating a different and better world... a film that needs to be seen.
But it won't be made without your support.
Contribute toward the production and release of the upcoming full-length film about this event (currently set for late winter). Be part of something that can be a source of great inspiration, enabling imagination to take flight with revolution and envisioning a whole other way the world can be.
Go to indiegogo.com/basicsevent to make a tax-deductible contribution, check out the perks for giving, favorite the page so you can receive regular updates about ways you can be part of this.
Right now, you can make all the difference by doing these THREE things:
WATCH THE TRAILER AND DONATE GENEROUSLY!
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
Revolution received the following letter:
An important embryonic synergy was brought into being at the October 22nd National Day of Protest to Stop Police Brutality in Los Angeles. There was the fresh spirit of challenging of everything old from the Occupy L.A.'ers, connecting with the bitter experience and deep anger of those who live at the bottom of society. In addition, there was a wide diversity of participants, including family members of people who have been killed by the police, as well as others who have been brutalized and harassed by police and sheriffs; people from different walks of life—proletarians, students, professionals, and others; plus a significant percentage of Black people marching through and rallying in the Latino neighborhood of Pico-Union—all of these strategically significant forces coming together and stepping out to stop police brutality and murder, mass incarceration, and the criminalization of a generation.
This had a transformative effect on many. A Black woman whose son was killed by police said she had been depressed for two years after her son's death, but coming out to O22 helped her a lot and had a healing effect. A Chicano youth said he was very moved and angered to tears by what the families said on stage, and signed up to become part of this movement. The 3 Strikes poster got a lot of attention in the immigrant community, and some people commented that mass incarceration is modern-day slavery. An immigrant woman who knew about the hunger strike declared, "We support the prisoners!" And a short skit was performed that sharply contrasted the illegality of this system with its invasions of other countries, to the situation of immigrants who are forced to come here.
This unusual scene did not go unnoticed by the powers-that-be. As the march took off from downtown, the radio dispatch from a police car was overheard, "Occupy LA. has joined the protest." And this was after a noticeable increase of police had surrounded the encampment in the morning, something that didn't succeed in intimidating marchers, but rather made them even more determined.
In the days leading up to the 22nd, there was a buzz developing, including an online call from a cyclist collective for a solidarity bike ride to end police brutality that announced, "Wear Black and Take Water!" At the OLA encampment, there were many people who were waiting eagerly for the contingent that would march to the rally site. Some had seen it on the Occupy LA website. Four students from a somewhat distant college had stayed overnight at the OLA so they could join the march, and they held up Bob Avakian's quote about the role of the police during the entire march route. A Black man from OLA who had spent time in prison was telling people, "This is our cause!" Another man said he was joining the protest because the police had brutalized his friends at Occupy Wall Street, adding, "Just because the police haven't attacked here doesn't mean police brutality isn't happening everywhere else." People held photographs of those killed by police, as well as signs from the occupation movement. When the spirited march took off, people chanted, "Who let the pigs out? Oink, oink, oink, oink!" and "No justice, no peace." And later when a newspaper team returned to OLA, a person told them that it was good to go into the Latino community and connect with the immigrants.
Throughout the day almost 500 Revolution newspapers were sold, about half in Spanish, especially along the march route. One immigrant bought 5 papers for $5 because he wanted to distribute them to his friends. A Guatemalan man bought Lo BAsico at the table because someone had talked to him before about the book and he wanted to get it, and a musician got it because he is intrigued by Avakian's new synthesis of communism.
All of this brings to mind the "two maximizings" described in BAsics 3:26 that is drawn from Bringing Forward Another Way:
"You are not going to bring forward a revolutionary force and a communist movement among the basic masses, on anything like the scale that is necessary, and potentially realizable, without there being the development of political ferment and political resistance broadly—and, yes, the development of a revolutionary and communist current—among the middle strata. In the absence of that, the basic masses are going to say to you—and they're going to have a point—that 'we'll never get anywhere, we're going to be surrounded, everybody's going to oppose us, and we're just going to be viciously crushed once again.' On the other hand, you can't hinge the development of a revolutionary force and a communist movement among the basic masses, and in society in general, on developments among even the progressive section of the middle strata or among the middle strata more broadly. That's not mainly where it's going to come out of. So we have to get the dialectics of this correctly."
This quote also poses challenges that revolutionary communists and others have to work on. As has been reported previously, there has been a lot of important debate around the role of the police at Occupy L.A. and around the country. And, at one point during the march there was a heated exchange between two immigrants, with one saying, "You must have done something wrong for the police to go after you," and the other responding, "But you shouldn't be killed for being drunk like Manuel Jamines." But there was also sharp back and forth here with some (and frankly we were slow to struggle around this) who looked at Occupy L.A. as a bunch of "privileged white people who would change the focus of the day" and opposed including a several block detour of the march to swing by the encampment, and undoubtedly gather even more forces and strength. As one of the family members emailed in the midst of the debate, "Isn't the point to have the biggest, most powerful march possible?"
Some of what was brought to life is what Bob Avakian wrote about in "There Is No 'Permanent Necessity' for Things to be This Way—A Radically Different and Better World Can Be Brought into Being Through Revolution":
"..what we're doing with popularizing and actually creating a movement where people live our morality is nothing less than projecting an alternate authority in the realm of ideology. All of these initiatives are saying that the world does not have to be this way; they are all different avenues of bringing people to grapple with the reality that the world really does NOT have to be this way."
The vibrant scene at the notorious Ramparts police station comes to mind where the names of nearly 50 people killed in L.A. this year were called out from the sound truck, and after each one, the crowd roared back "Presente!" And when a college student joined many in having their bodies chalked on the sidewalk in front of the station, she wrote beside it, "Think about humanity; Stop police brutality," which she found that many people liked. The streets in that area were lined with immigrants watching, listening, and reading the signs. They had not been stopped by the yellow police tape that had been put up to prevent people from joining the march. And in the same neighborhood, several immigrant shopkeepers handed out cups of juice and Gatorade to the marchers as they passed by. Participants could really feel the warmth from the residents and were emboldened by it. It was striking that there were many calls for unity made by the speakers on stage, especially from the families, who were very heartened by the breadth of marchers from different nationalities and social strata, and who were themselves a multinational mix of people, from a variety of proletarian and middle class backgrounds. And very significantly this alternate authority came to life when the People's Neighborhood Patrol gathered that evening, half a dozen people joined in to patrol the streets in a proletarian neighborhood.
One last point: a great idea developed in the invigorating conversations that night back at the OLA encampment. There's a lot of interest in BAsics but many people don't have the funds to buy it. And there's real desire to hold discussions on it. So learning from the BAsics challenge for prisoners, we are asking people to buy a copy for themselves, if they don't already have one, and donate a copy to the Occupy L.A. library. It would make a difference if there were 50 copies circulating there!
I talked to some older people who were setting up a film showing and they said they were already hooked in—had been to the meeting re Mass Incarceration and said they would talk to one of the organizers who sells Revolution newspaper and they would hook up with him about BAsics.
Ran into two people who were readers of the newspaper and of BAsics. One of them said that people are asking big questions and there is an answer—referring to BAsics. The other said that they were talking about an encampment at the county jail and she talked about how important O22 was—and how she really loved what the comrade I was with was saying from the truck. A very sizeable feeder march had joined O22 from Occupy L.A. and a two-hour rally was held there for the prisoner hunger strikers and a discussion on police brutality had taken place at OLA leading up to the day. She had talked to an older Black woman who was walking through OLA who argued that demonstrating won't do anything. She found herself marching with her on O22 and the woman said she had been brutalized by the police. And she talked about bringing her friend on the march. She said that they needed to bring their copy of BAsics to their tent so people could look at it.
I got home and thought about the quotation by BA on the back of this issue of the newspaper in the wake of those very momentous events in Oakland—and all the things that the occupiers were grappling with. I thought about the crucial role of Revolution newspaper and this very precious volume by Bob Avakian.
"When the whole society is erupting in upheaval and turmoil, when dramatic changes are taking place and things are going up for grabs politically, then what was tolerable, what people had adjusted to—maybe not just once but several times—becomes intolerable. With people who are discontented with their situation and just trying to get through it, when the possibility arises that they just don't have to do that, then they go through changes in their thinking and actions very quickly—not in a straight line toward revolution, but quickly all the same—and they become more and more open to the idea of revolution. A lot of people put up with what goes on all the time in this society and they also know it's garbage and when they actually see the chance to throw it away, a lot of them will do so quickly."
Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
Herman Cain, the "Black conservative" candidate for President, calls to mind Booker T. Washington. Washington was promoted as a "responsible Negro" by the powers-that-be—and was actually the darling of open, aggressive white supremacists—during the period of Jim Crow segregation and Ku Klux Klan terror, because Washington insisted that Black people should not fight their oppression but should work to "better" themselves by accepting and working within their horribly oppressed conditions. Cain today, in this era of New Jim Crow and supposedly "colorblind" oppression, is treated as a serious political contender, and is a favorite of the—yes, racist—"Tea Party," because Cain acts the part of a 21st century Minstrel Show clown, posturing and proclaiming: that he made it all by himself...that America is the greatest country, and there are no racist barriers, no racist oppression to be angry about...And if you don't have a job and aren't rich—blame yourself.
And then there is President Obama, who uses his "blackness" to help enforce and "justify" the "modern-day" enslavement of the masses of Black people, along with the deepening divide between the haves and have-nots, the violation of the environment, the robbing of the future from the youth, the wars, torture and assassinations, and other abominations carried out by the ruling class of this country, and its machinery of violent repression, death and destruction, all around the world as well as "at home."
From Booker T. Washington to his "successors" today...from second-class servant of the system to actual or wannabe commander-in-chief...it's all about perpetuating a capitalist-imperialist system based on exploitation and oppression—committing countless crimes against humanity.The masses of people, and humanity as a whole, must and can do better.
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
We received the following from a reader:
The City of Honolulu, Hawai`i, is bracing for the 2011 APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Summit, which is scheduled to meet here from November 7-13. The 7-day meeting will culminate with a CEO Summit from November 10-12 and a Leaders' Summit from November 10-13. The CEO Summit will include CEOs representing hundreds of corporations, including Walmart, Microsoft, Freeport Copper, Dow, Boeing, and Chevron. The Leaders' Summit will include government leaders from the 21 member countries, including President Obama and Hillary Clinton from the U.S., President Hu Jintao of China, and President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia.
Leading up to and during APEC, a variety of events and actions in opposition to APEC are also being planned. Art exhibits, workshops and talks are being held leading up to the conference, and an alternative conference with a full slate of speakers and workshops will be held from November 9-11 (Moananui2011.org). World Can't Wait-Hawai`i has taken the lead in organizing a staging area from November 10-12 at Old Stadium Park (Isenberg and King), and marches, banner drops, sign-holding, drum groups and art happenings are being planned.
The 2011 APEC meeting is taking place against the backdrop of 1) continuing instability and crisis in the world economy, 2) a situation in which East Asia in particular represents one of the few regions of dynamic economic growth in the world, and 3) a time when China has surpassed Japan to become the world's second largest capitalist economy, and is asserting its strategic interests in the world, and economically challenging the United States.
APEC has 21 member countries and has been historically dominated by the United States. Using code words like "free trade," "deregulation," and "liberalization," APEC's policies pry open the economies of its member countries to foreign investment and control, and give imperialist powers and transnational corporations the "right" to take out whatever resources they want. Deregulation of industries, environmental laws, and labor laws enables corporations to move more freely between countries, chasing the regions where profits are the highest, and privatization opens up government-owned and/or government-controlled lands and companies to private ownership and control. The major economic powers, particularly the U.S., Japan, and China, use APEC to advance their geo-economic agendas.
As a result of policies established by APEC, small-scale, sustainable and indigenous agriculture has been destroyed; huge silver and copper mines in Papua New Guinea have displaced entire villages and created enormous regions that are uninhabitable due to air and water pollution; and subsistence agriculture has been greatly undermined in the poorest countries, forcing people to migrate to cities where they are caught in a never-ending cycle of either unemployment or work in slave-like conditions. Environmental restrictions have been lifted, allowing uncontrolled plunder of natural resources. APEC policies of deregulation and privatization have accelerated the destruction of the environment. (See accompanying article, "What APEC Is and Why People Should Protest Against It")
In 1999 huge protests disrupted the 2000 World Trade Organization (WTO) meeting in Seattle, and this was a time of protests all over the world against imperialist globalization. After this, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), which facilitates imperialist economic development in Asia, announced it was moving its May 2001 meeting from Seattle to Honolulu, Hawai`i—where it would be much more difficult for protesters to mount significant opposition. To prepare for the ADB meeting in 2001, Hawai`i mounted a concerted campaign of repression including special training for 1800 officers, the purchase of special equipment to deal with protesters, and a whole set of repressive rules and ordinances aimed at limiting the freedom to protest (which remain today). In spite of this concerted campaign of intimidation, more than 500 people marched to protest the ADB meeting.
In the wake of the ADB meeting, Hawai`i's governor issued an open invitation to the WTO, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and APEC to hold future meetings in Hawai`i. APEC, which has been confronted by protest wherever it has gone, accepted the invitation and announced it would hold its November 2011 Summit in Honolulu.
Hawai`i is now working at a fever pitch to roll out the red carpet to welcome 20,000 government leaders, dignitaries and the CEOs from some of the most hated corporations on the planet. Hotels are being upgraded. Public sidewalks and streets in Waikiki are being repaved. Sand is being dredged up from the bottom of the ocean to expand beaches fronting the hotels, and 205 palm trees are being removed from less visible locations on other islands, shipped to Honolulu, and replanted along the corridor from the airport, along with two miles of grass. As Lt. Gov. Schatz said, "First impressions are everything." At the same time, security measures are being taken to create an atmosphere of fear and intimidation should anyone dare protest.
According to a local tourism official, "APEC will be a linchpin for our future. It creates excitement and provides a vehicle to solidify future international conferences in Hawai`i. Everyone is starting to feel more optimistic."
The local media is hyping APEC as a vehicle to promote Hawai`i as a high-end tourist destination. Visions of 2,000 members of the international media beaming images of palm trees and white sand beaches around the world have the tourism authorities, hotels, and shop owners salivating. Small businesses are vying for space at an APEC trade fair showcasing Hawai`i -based companies in hopes that their business will be chosen to expand into the global market. High schools are organizing simulation conferences, with students jumping into roles as senior officials from participating countries. Cash prizes are being offered to high school students in an essay contest on "sustainability," and college students will be rewarded with cash and Apple products for submitting videos on "what APEC means to them." Huge billboards have sprung up on the University of Hawai`i campus, and the president of the University is on the host committee. One thousand two hundred volunteers are being lined up to greet delegates at the airport with flower leis and to give directions. In an effort to create the illusion of promoting "sustainability," local organic restaurants are being invited to cater, and indigenous Hawaiian artists are being paid for creating artistic pieces to decorate the walls of the Summit venue.
All of this is happening when austerity measures are hitting Hawai`i's people hard. Small businesses are being shuttered. Last year state employees (including teachers) were furloughed every other Friday, and this year they were forced to accept lower salaries and cuts to their benefits. Social services to children and seniors have been drastically cut, and low-income residents are being forced to move from "affordable housing" because they can no longer afford the rents. Fees for school lunches and city bus services have been increased, causing many children to go hungry or miss school altogether. Unions are being busted, including the state teachers union, whose rights to collective bargaining were overridden by Hawai`i's "liberal" governor. Funding for environmental protection, including the monitoring of alien species (animals/plants brought into the state from the outside), has all but disappeared. The infrastructure is so broken that in many parts of Honolulu, the stench rising from broken sewer pipes causes people to gag, and potholes in streets bring traffic to a crawl. Consequently, the exorbitant amount of money and resources being spent to host APEC elicits a schizophrenic response from most people, who are disgusted that taxes are being spent to host the most rich and powerful but hope that the meeting will strengthen Hawai`i's economic future.
While the state is preparing to greet APEC delegates with leis and hula, it is creating an atmosphere of fear and intimidation should anyone dare to protest. The City and County of Honolulu alone have budgeted $45 million for security, including $18.3 million for the police, and it was recently disclosed that the Honolulu Police Department has purchased an arsenal of "non-lethal" weapons and 25,000 additional pepper spray projectiles, 18,000 units of bean bag ammunition, 3,000 Taser cartridges, and hundreds of smoke grenades. More than 5,500 Army and National Guard troops are being trained to assist the Honolulu police. Hospitals are making plans to be on "lock-down," although it is as yet unclear what measures would be taken if they were. Eight million dollars is being spent by the Fire Department to purchase "special devices, multi-agency communications, decontamination, hazardous incident management," etc. Surveillance cameras are being installed along the streets and roadways APEC delegates are expected to use. Public sidewalks in Waikiki have been torn up and replaced with exotic plants, and sidewalks in front of hotels and Waikiki businesses have been privatized. As a result, areas which appear to be "public" are actually off-limits to demonstrators. Reactionary talk show programs and on-line newspapers are spreading lies and rumors, and are targeting activist groups and individuals by name.
The security measures being taken to "ensure the safety" of the delegates is mind-boggling. The air over the entire island of O`ahu, where the city of Honolulu is located, is restricted. Scheduled commercial airlines are allowed to take off and land, but all private aircraft (including planes, helicopters, hang gliders, and parachutes) are banned. More than half of Honolulu's huge boat harbor has been designated a "restricted area," and boat traffic will be banned. The Ala Wai Canal, which runs along one side of Waikiki, will be patrolled by heavily armed security forces in boats. A huge expanse of ocean near the venues that extends 2,000 yards from land has been designated a "security zone" and will be off-limits to swimmers, surfers and boaters. Beaches in the same area will be closed. Access to the five venues hosting the Summit will be closed, and 10-foot high chain link fences, covered with black tarp, will be set up far beyond the sites. Hawai`i's world-famous international hula competition has been kicked out of its venue fully two miles from the Summit venue to make way for security staging. Three of Honolulu's largest public parks will be largely closed; many of Waikiki's roadways will be closed, and parking will be severely restricted. New and restrictive plans are being disclosed almost daily, and increasing numbers of people are beginning to question whether hosting APEC is really "worth the trouble."
Throughout all of the preparation, the single issue getting the most attention is "What are we going to do with the homeless?" Thousands of homeless people live in tents on Honolulu's sidewalks, under hedges, on benches, and in beach parks. Shopping carts piled high with belongings form sidewalk parades, as their owners move from trash can to trash can to search for food and cans to recycle. Hundreds are in Waikiki and the area surrounding the convention center, and there is a relentless debate being fomented over "what to do with THEM." Should they be removed to an isolated area en masse? Should a special tent be set up? Governor Abercrombie has a 90-day plan, whose first step is a new regulation prohibiting the feeding of the homeless in the parks. Honolulu's Mayor Carlisle likened the homeless to "rats" who had to be removed. The heartlessness of the attacks against the homeless has rightly outraged many people, but this has not prevented the massive sweeps against the homeless that are currently happening and are sure to increase.
In spite of a daily barrage of media hype about APEC in Hawai`i's media, one question is seldom heard. "What is APEC, and what is APEC's effect on the world's people and its environment?" When asked, many just shrug their shoulders and say they don't know. Some say they've heard it's "just a bunch of rich guys who get together in order to vacation in luxury." Others say they don't care, as long as it's good for Hawai`i's economy. But all of this is beginning to change because a very a small minority has been trying to dig into deeper questions about the effects of globalization, and are ferreting out facts about APEC's agenda and finding ways to expose it.
Revolution Books has hosted four well-attended forums on APEC's policies. Hundreds of copies of Raymond Lotta's recent talk at Occupy Wall Street ("Are Corporations Corrupting the System...or is the Problem the System of Capitalism") have been reproduced, as well as his longer analysis of the world financial crisis ("Shifts and Faultlines in the World Economy and Great Power Rivalry," in Revolution #136). Posters of Bob Avakian's quotes from BAsics, and ads for "What Is Capitalism"—an excerpt from the film of his talk Revolution: Why It's Necessary, Why It's Possible, What It's All About (accessible online at youtube.com/revolutiontalk and revolutiontalk.net)—have been posted broadly. The store has also expanded its selection of books on globalization and is becoming a real center for discussion and debate over the future.
A sharp but friendly debate is being waged about the future: Is the problem capitalism/imperialism, and is it going to take revolution to begin to build a better world? Or is the problem that corporations have taken over the government, and we need a combination of government laws to "control the corporations," along with more "personal responsibility"? What's clear is that many are disgusted with capitalism as it is, and are much more open to ideas of socialism than in the past, even while having a knee-jerk reaction against communism. It is in this conversation that the Constitution for the New Socialist Republic in North America (Draft Proposal) plays a powerful role, as we challenge people to compare THIS with the horrors of the capitalist-imperialist world we live in.
World Can't Wait-Hawa`i is also playing a key organizing role. They have distributed thousands of pamphlets about APEC, have done PSAs calling on people to protest, which are running on community television stations, and have organized an anti-APEC festival at the University of Hawai`i campus. It has secured a permit for an organizing center in a public park during the 3-day Summit, and is uniting with other organizations around plans to hold protests.
"Eating in Public" has collected more than 1,000 used T-shirts, screened them with anti-APEC slogans, and distributed them free. A group of artists are holding anti-APEC workshops at a popular downtown nightclub, and an art show is being set up at a downtown studio. An advertised visit by the Yes Men is creating a buzz, and new plans are springing up seemingly out of nowhere. Sovereignty activists and academics, along with the International Forum on Globalization (IFG), are planning an "Alternative APEC" conference focusing on their vision for the future. A new website (apecsucks.com) carries news of the latest plans and actions.
ACLU-Hawai`i has been playing an important role in the mix and is training protest monitors, disseminating information on the right to protest, is making public records requests of the city demanding disclosure of police preparations, and protecting the rights of the homeless. According to Dan Gluck, attorney with ACLU, "We're very concerned that if HPD believes it's in for a war, then officers will be hostile to all members of the public, even those who seek to peacefully exercise their First Amendment Rights." Consequently, the ACLU has been monitoring the police and state closely, and has been waging a media campaign encouraging people not to give up their right to protest in response to the atmosphere of intimidation being created.
The sudden emergence of the Occupy Wall Street movement has infused new energy into all of this, and there's a growing "Occupy APEC" spirit. The involvement of young people, newly interested in activism, is creating a freshness to the movement that we haven't seen in decades. The connection is being made: APEC is the 1%.
In only a month, the shift in attitudes toward APEC is palpable. People are hungry for information and are grabbing up leaflets. Many who had volunteered to help at APEC or had contracted for services with APEC are questioning their decisions.
All this is not being lost on the police, who are openly boasting of monitoring organizing meetings and actions. Many are new to protest, and have not personally witnessed police brutality against protesters, so they don't recognize such illegal blatant violations. Police regularly approach activists and greet them by name, asking them for private personal information and about upcoming plans. Consequently, it is relatively easy for the police to gather information on protesters. A new "Civil Affairs" police unit sporting aloha shirts is passing out calling cards to protesters which promise to "protect First Amendment Rights to Protest" and are stamped with "2011 APEC USA."
Images of police brutality beamed from New York, Minneapolis, or Philadelphia have long seemed remote, and we often hear people say "at least we don't have THOSE kinds of protesters here," blaming the protesters rather than the police. Consequently, when police show up at organizing meetings and openly listen in on planning meetings, few people object. When the police announce that the surveillance cameras will be used to identify protesters, few voices of concern are raised. When security forces boast that they are closely monitoring "outside protesters" who might arrive in Hawai`i, too many people accept it.
One of the real challenges is to change this situation, and it's beginning to happen. As the Occupy movement is growing on Hawai`i, people are more closely identifying with protesters in the Occupy movement who are coming under police attack. As the federal government and the Honolulu Police Department issue joint statements disclosing the latest repressive measures being implemented to quash protest, the real role of the police is becoming clearer to some people.
But there is a crucial need to bring out to people the whole history of the political police in the U.S. in the targeting of movements of resistance and revolutionary forces, and how political repression has been greatly expanded and intensified since 9/11. Revolutionaries must take the lead in setting standards on the question of the political police. As the Revolution article "Don't Talk" pointed out, "Part of building a culture of defiance and resistance, based on mass movements of people, is refusing to allow the government to either intimidate or bamboozle people into giving up resistance, and refusing in any way to enter into complicity with such intimidation and repression. The authorities are not interested in the truth; they are not out to seek justice. They have an agenda—using the legal system (as well as illegal means) to repress serious movements of resistance of all kinds. As bitter experience has shown, not only will they outright murder revolutionaries (as they did with Black Panther leader Fred Hampton, who was gunned down as he slept in his bed), but they will spin a web of lies and fabricated evidence in order to use the courts to frame and railroad those whom they want to silence. When facing agents of government repression (here we are talking about the local police and prosecutors, state or federal law enforcement or various government agencies), the principle of 'Don't Talk' is an important legal principle which is crucial in fighting to protect the various movements of resistance and of revolution from government repression."
On October 17 the first APEC forum on Climate Change was held at the University of Hawai`i and was met by a small group of protesters. Significantly, among the first signs picked up by college students were "Capitalism Sucks! We Need a Revolution" and "Capitalism IS the Crisis!" As APEC 2011 draws closer, many people are becoming newly conscious of the horrors of capitalism/imperialism and are debating what it's going to take to realize a better future. Huge questions are being thrown up, the system itself is being questioned, and momentum for a spirited protest during the APEC Summit is growing. Such protest is absolutely necessary—and must become a reality in the coming weeks. We here in the "belly of the beast," in the most criminal imperialist country on the planet, have a special responsibility to step up and struggle against the moves of the U.S. and all those who will be at this summit to strengthen their domination, exploitation and oppression of the people of the world and the further destruction of the environment.
As events unfold we'll keep Revolution readers informed of the latest developments.
Stop Thinking Like Americans! Start Thinking About Humanity!
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Revolution #251, November 13, 2011
The 2011 APEC meeting is taking place against the backdrop of 1) continuing instability and crisis in the world economy, 2) a situation in which East Asia in particular represents one of the few regions of dynamic economic growth in the world, and 3) a time when China has surpassed Japan to become the world's second largest capitalist economy, and is asserting its strategic interests in the world, and economically challenging the United States.
APEC was established in 1989 and currently has 21 member countries (or "economies," as they like to call them) with borders on both sides of the Pacific Ocean1. APEC's member countries account for approximately 40% of the world's population, 54% of the world GDP and about 44% of world trade.
APEC's stated mission is to "champion free trade and open trade and investment" to "facilitate a favorable business environment" and to establish a Pacific "free trade zone" similar to NAFTA (North American Free Trade Zone). Using code words like "free trade," "deregulation," and "liberalization," APEC's policies pry open the economies of its member countries to foreign investment and control, and give imperialist powers and transnational corporations the "right" to take out whatever resources they want. Deregulation of industries, environmental laws, and labor laws enables corporations to move more freely between countries, chasing the regions where profits are the highest, and privatization opens up government owned and/or controlled lands and companies to private ownership and control. The major economic powers, particularly the U.S., Japan, and China, use APEC to advance their geo-economic agendas.
The United States has historically played the dominant role in APEC and promotes a package of economic policies known as the "Washington Consensus." Its central features include free markets, trade liberalization, deregulation, financial liberalization and "structural adjustment" or "fiscal discipline." This economic policy shifts government funding away from social spending and toward the privatization and liberalization of the economy. As a result of policies established by APEC, small-scale, sustainable and indigenous agriculture has been destroyed and replaced by corporate agribusinesses Small rice farmers in Vietnam and the Philippines have been driven out by agribusiness. Huge silver and copper mines in Papua New Guinea have displaced entire villages and created enormous regions that are uninhabitable due to air and water pollution. Subsistence agriculture has been greatly undermined in the poorest countries, forcing people to migrate to cities where they are caught in a never-ending cycle of either unemployment or work in slave-like conditions. Environmental restrictions have been lifted, allowing uncontrolled plunder of natural resources. Regulations controlling the energy sector have been removed and the cheapest and most destructive forms of energy (petroleum, coal, hydro and nuclear) are being promoted.
The social consequences of these policies have contributed to an ever-growing economic gap between rich and poor. In Indonesia, which APEC upholds as the poster child of economic growth, the number of poor people has soared, and more than 80 million live on less than $1 a day. Urban China has experienced enormous income growth over the past decades, even while there has been a huge increase in urban and rural poverty. Education, housing, and medical care, which were previously either free or subsidized by the state, have been privatized. Grain and fuel prices have been deregulated, causing enormous price fluctuations.
Many APEC countries point to rising income levels of sections of the poor as proof of reducing poverty levels. But this rise in income is often the result of massive migration from rural areas to the cities, where food, housing and health costs are higher. So the statistics about rises in income does not give a full or accurate picture of the real situation. For example, fuel prices have risen more than 100% in both Indonesia and the Philippines, while wages have increased only marginally.
APEC policies of deregulation and privatization have accelerated the destruction of the environment; for example, 65% of the native forests of Sumatra have been deforested.
While APEC boasts of its successes in creating a "favorable business environment" in Indonesia, 1.8 million hectares of land have been deforested annually for the international timber and palm oil industries. The government of New Zealand has privatized its national energy sector, and its mountaintops are being removed to extract coal for China. In Papua New Guinea indigenous villages have been evacuated to make way for silver mines, where native people now work in conditions that condemn them to an early death.
The APEC 2011 Summit in Honolulu is of strategic importance to the U.S. imperialists in the face of the current world financial crisis, the downgrading of the U.S. credit rating, and increasing competition from China. And the compulsion at this meeting will be to introduce and promote even more destructive policies that will protect and strengthen U.S. domination at the expense of the majority of the people in the region and the planet's environment.
1. Member countries include: Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, United States and Vietnam. [back]
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