“If you can’t believe what they are doing to us today. You have no idea of what they did to us yesterday.” – Chairman Fred Hampton Jr.
There is an old proverb that states: “If you don’t learn from the past, you’ll make the same mistakes in the future.” So, we shouldn’t be so surprised at the “legal lynching” of Black and Brown youth by the police on the streets of Amerikkka and in the courts of the racist judicial system of today.
A Brief Lesson in History
What we should have learned is that racist oppression is a manifestation of class oppression. That there is a ruling class in KKKapitalist Amerikkka, and we have been oppressed by this class since our ancestors arrived in slave ships. Actually, the original ruling class of Amerika was in Europe and the Amerikas were European colonies. Early chartered capitalist companies, like the West India Company and the Virginia Company, planted colonies to exploit the land they were stealing from the indigenous populations they were enslaving and putting to the sword.
Following the lead of Portuguese and Spanish colonizers, the English got into the business of importing Afrikans to work these lands as slaves. In the 15th century, the Kingdom of Castile invaded, conquered and colonized the Canary Islands and enslaved the islanders, known as Guanches, some of whom were put to work growing sugar and making wine on the colonist’s plantations, while others were sold as servants back in Castile and other European Christian kingdoms. Portugal attained its independence by driving the Moors out of its southern half in the 13th Century, whereas Castile would not drive out the Moors completely until 1492. In that same year, Columbus’ “discovery of the ‘New World,’” launched a global campaign of exploration, conquest and colonization. On May 4th, 1493, Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia), issued a Papal bull, Inter caetera, that all lands west and south of a pole-to-pole line 100 leagues west and south of any of the islands of the Azores or the Cape Verde Islands should belong to Castile. This set Portugal and Castile in conflict until the next Pope, Julius II, sanctioned the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494) which redrew the line giving Portugal the tip of Brazil and dominance over the islands off Afrika.
Using the Canary Islands as a naval base, European, (Primarily Portuguese), traders began raiding up and down the coast of West Afrika to seize slaves to sell in the Mediterranean. At first successful, the Europeans were soon met with stiff resistance by Afrikan coastal defense forces, who defeated them on different occasions. By 1494, the Portuguese king had entered agreements with the rulers of several West African states that would allow trade between their respective peoples, and despite occasional violent clashes, the Portuguese went into a relatively peaceful competition with the Arabs in the pre-existing Afrikan slave trade. As the Trans-Atlantic trade developed, Europeans would buy slaves from “Factories,” (run by men called “Factors),” on the coast or offshore islands of West Afrika, for shipment to the colonies. Without going into all the gruesome details, from the 15th thru the 19th Century, some 12 million Afrikans were shipped across the Atlantic, although many more than that were kidnapped from their homes or massacred by slave catchers, and many left their bones on the ocean bottom. Karl Marx in his influential economic history of capitalism, Das Kapital (Capital), wrote that, “…the turning of Africa into a warren for the commercial hunting of black-skins, signaled the rosy dawn of the era of capitalist production.”
Initially, the captive Afrikans brought to Virginia Colony were treated as “indentured servants,” the same as the poor English and Irish transported to labor for the profits of the investors in the colony. Starting with the first group of Afrikans who arrived at Jamestown dock in 1619, they were auctioned off on arrival, and after completing the prescribed years of unpaid labor, they were awarded farmland, tools and seed to start their own farm, and might in turn purchase indentured servants themselves, for a six or seven-year indenture. But after Bacon’s Rebellion in 1676, when white and Afrikan bond servants united in rebellion and put Jamestown to the torch, the Crown took a more direct hand in colonial affairs. The Virginia Slave Codes of 1705 established a color-based caste system rendering Blacks chattel slaves for life, as well as their progeny. Thus the commodity value of Afrikans went up, while Caucasian bond servants, who only had a 50% chance of surviving their indenture, remained cheap. Gradually, Black slavery came to dominate, since you could breed your own after making your initial investment. More and more wealth and power were accumulated by the large plantation owners, particularly after the invention of the mechanical cotton gin in 1792, which made it possible, (and profitable), to mass produce cotton. The value of Black slaves increased as well, particularly as the Afrikan slave trade became illegal when England banned it in 1833.
When drafting the U.S. Constitution in 1789, a majority wanted to abolish the importation of new slaves. Ten states had already banned importation of Afrikan slaves, but three states, Georgia and the Carolinas, threatened to withdraw from the Constitutional Convention if they did. A compromise was agreed upon postponing a decision until 1808. In 1807, Parliament voted overwhelmingly (283 to 16) to abolish the slave trade. The U.S. Congress soon followed suit. Between 1807 and 1860, the Royal Navy’s Squadron seized approximately 1,600 ships involved in the slave trade and freed 150,000 Africans who were aboard these vessels, (actually many of the “freed slaves” were transported by the Royal Navy to the British colony of Sierra Leone, where they were made to serve as “apprentices” in the colonial economy until the Slavery Abolition Act 1833.)
The taste of Europeans for slave-produced sugar grew apace with the popularity of tea imported from India and China, and the habit of smoking tobacco became very popular, but cotton became “King” and underpinned the “Industrial Revolution.” In England and New England, textile mills depended on the flow of slave-produced cotton to keep their mills in operation. So much so, that Southerners wrongly assumed they could dictate policy to the world, as Senator James Henry Hammond of South Carolina expressed in a famous boast in 1858:
“Without firing a gun, without drawing a sword, should they make war on us, we could bring the whole world to our feet… What would happen if no cotton was furnished for three years?… England would topple headlong and carry the whole civilized world with her save the South. No, you dare not to make war on cotton. No power on the earth dares to make war upon it. Cotton is king!” – (Speech before the U.S. Senate, March 4, 1858).
The price of slaves rose dramatically as cotton production increased. In 1804, the average cost of a slave was around $300 but by 1860 the price had gone up to around $800. Of course a prime field hand or skilled worker would fetch a greater price, and a younger slave was more valuable, etc. But, in today’s currency, we’re talking thousands of dollars on a ratio of 8 to 1, a sizeable investment. To meet the demand of the cotton planters, slaves were often “sold south” or “down the river” where prices were higher, and smuggling slaves into the country, via Galveston and New Orleans, became a profitable illegal business. Fugitive slave catching also became a lucrative profession, particularly after the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. As it deprived alleged fugitive slaves from any sort of hearing, it became quite easy to frame a “free Negro” and transport them to a slave-state where they could be sold for pure profit. This generated quite a bit of friction between North and South in the years leading up to the Civil War, and some armed confrontations between Abolitionists and slave catchers.
Increasingly, “One Was Dividing into Two,” and the English and Amerikan ruling classes were separating and the ruling capitalist class in Amerika was dividing North from South and contending for hegemony. The industrial, mercantile and finance capitalists of the North were being held back by the dominance of the agriculturally-based South, that was uninterested in building infrastructure like railroads and canals or protective tariffs. As the population grew in the North and West, there was increasing resentment at the political domination of the federal government by the South. As pointed out on Wikipedia:
“British mercantilist ideology largely explains the rise of the plantation system in the United States. In the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries under mercantilism, rulers of nations believed that the accumulation of wealth through a favorable balance of trade was the best way to ensure power. As a result, Britain began to colonize territories across the Atlantic to take advantage of their rich natural resources and encourage exports.
“Perhaps the best example of Britain utilizing the colonies for economic gain was tobacco. When tobacco was first discovered as a recreational substance, there was a widespread social backlash in mainland England, spearheaded by King James himself. By the middle of the 17th century, however, the British government had realized the revenue potential of tobacco and quickly changed its official moral stance towards its use. As a result, tobacco plantations sprung up across the American South in large numbers to support European demand. Britain benefitted from the immense volume of tobacco that colonial plantations could produce. By 1670, more than half of all tobacco shipped to England was being re-exported to other countries throughout Europe at a premium. In similar ways Britain was able to profit from other American staple crops, such as cotton, rice, and indigo. As Russell Menard puts it, Britain’s capitalizing on increased European demand for these crops ‘fueled the expansion of the American plantation colonies, transformed the Atlantic into an English inland sea, and led to the creation of the first British Empire.’” (From: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “The Plantation Era”)
Even though the War of Independence (1775-1783) had established the political independence of the United States, economic independence was another matter. The southern plantation owners were disproportionately represented in Congress (because of the 3/5ths compromise) and tended to dominate the Presidency and the Supreme Court.
“The debate over slavery in the pre-Civil War United States has several sides. Abolitionists grew directly out of the Second Great Awakening and the European Enlightenment and saw slavery as an affront to God and/or reason. Abolitionism had roots similar to the temperance movement. The publishing of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin, in 1852, galvanized the abolitionist movement.
“Most debates over slavery, however, had to do with the constitutionality of the extension of slavery rather than its morality. The debates took the form of arguments over the powers of Congress rather than the merits of slavery. The result was the so-called ‘Free Soil Movement.’ Free-soilers believed that slavery was dangerous because of what it did to whites. The ‘peculiar institution’ ensured that elites controlled most of the land, property, and capital in the South. The Southern United States was, by this definition, undemocratic. To fight the ‘slave power conspiracy,’ the nation’s democratic ideals had to be spread to the new territories and the South.
“In the South, however, slavery was justified in many ways. The Nat Turner Uprising of 1831 had terrified Southern whites. Moreover, the expansion of ‘King Cotton’ into the Deep South further entrenched the institution into Southern society. John Calhoun’s treatise, The Pro-Slavery Argument, stated that slavery was not simply a necessary evil but a positive good. Slavery was a blessing to so-called African savages. It civilized them and provided them with the lifelong security that they needed. Under this argument, the pro-slavery proponents believed that the African Americans were unable to take care of themselves because they were biologically inferior. Furthermore, white Southerners looked upon the North and Britain as soulless industrial societies with little culture. Whereas the North was dirty, dangerous, industrial, fast-paced, and greedy, pro-slavery proponents believed that the South was civilized, stable, orderly, and moved at a ‘human pace.’
“According to the 1860 U.S. census, fewer than 385,000 individuals (i.e. 1.4% of whites in the country, or 4.8% of southern whites) owned one or more slaves. 95% of blacks lived in the South, comprising one-third of the population there as opposed to 1% of the population of the North.” (From: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “History of the United States (1849–65)”)
When the South decided to secede and force the issue by attacking Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, they fully expected British intervention to break the anticipated Northern blockade, and European assistance to wage their “War of Independence.” What they did not expect was the solidarity of the English workers in opposition to slavery, as pointed out by Claude McKay of the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB) when addressing the Communist International in Moscow:
“When in 1920 the American government started to investigate and to suppress radical propaganda among the Negroes, the small radical groups in America retaliated by publishing the fact that the Socialists stood for the emancipation of the Negroes, and that reformist America could do nothing for them. Then, I think, for the first time in American history, the American Negroes found that Karl Marx had been interested in their emancipation and had fought valiantly for it. I shall just read this extract that was taken from Karl Marx’s writing at the time of the Civil War:
‘When an oligarchy of 300,000 slave holders for the first time in the annals of the world, dared to inscribe “Slavery” on the banner of armed revolt, on the very spot where hardly a century ago, the idea of one great democratic republic had first sprung up, whence the first declaration of the Rights of Man was issued, and the first impulse given to the European revolution of the eighteenth-century, when on that spot the counter-revolution cynically proclaimed property in man to be “the cornerstone of the new edifice” — then the working class of Europe understood at once that the slaveholders’ rebellion was to sound the tocsin for a general holy war of property against labor, and that (its) hopes of the future, even its past conquests were at stake in that tremendous conflict on the other side of the Atlantic.’
“Karl Marx who drafted the above resolution is generally known as the father of Scientific Socialism and also of the epoch-making volume popularly known as the socialist bible, Capital. During the Civil War he was correspondent of the New York Tribune. In the company of Richard Cobden, Charles Bradlaugh, the atheist, and John Bright, he toured England making speeches and so roused up the sentiment of the workers of that country against the Confederacy that Lord Palmerston, [the] Prime Minister, who was about to recognize the South, had to desist.
“As Marx fought against chattel slavery in 1861, so are present-day socialists, his intellectual descendants, fighting wage slavery.” (Claude McKay, “Report on the Negro Question: Speech to the 4th Congress of the Comintern,” Nov. 1922).
In the aftermath of the Civil War, the radical Republicans sought to break the power of the former slave-owners and empower the former slaves and poor whites through a series of reforms, including the promise of “40 acres and a mule” to the former slaves as compensation for their unpaid labor. Known as the Reconstruction Era, this lasted from 1865 till 1877:
“[President Andrew] Johnson’s interpretations of Lincoln’s policies prevailed until the Congressional elections of 1866 in the North, which enabled the Radicals to take control of policy, remove former Confederates from power, and enfranchise the freedmen. A Republican coalition came to power in nearly all the southern states and set out to transform the society by setting up a free labor economy, using the U.S. Army and the Freedmen’s Bureau. The Bureau protected the legal rights of freedmen, negotiated labor contracts, and set up schools and even churches for them. Thousands of Northerners came South as missionaries, teachers, businessmen and politicians; hostile elements called them ‘Carpetbaggers.’ Rebuilding the rundown railroad system was a major strategy, but it collapsed when a nationwide depression (called the Panic of 1873) struck the economy. The Radicals, frustrated by Johnson’s opposition to Congressional Reconstruction, filed impeachment charges but the action failed by one vote in the Senate. In early 1866, Congress passed the Freedmen’s Bureau and Civil Rights Bills and sent them to Johnson for his signature. The first bill extended the life of the bureau, originally established as a temporary organization charged with assisting refugees and freed slaves, while the second defined all persons born in the United States as national citizens who were to enjoy equality before the law. After Johnson vetoed the bills–causing a permanent rupture in his relationship with Congress that would culminate in his impeachment in 1868–the Civil Rights Act became the first major bill to become law over presidential veto.
“President Ulysses S. Grant supported Radical Reconstruction and enforced the protection of African Americans in the South through the use of the Enforcement Acts passed by Congress. Grant suppressed the Ku Klux Klan, but was unable to resolve the escalating tensions inside the Republican party between the Carpetbaggers and the Scalawags (native whites in the South). Meanwhile, self-styled Conservatives (in close cooperation with the Democratic Party) strongly opposed Republican rule. They alleged widespread corruption by the Carpetbaggers, excessive state spending and ruinous taxes. The opposition violently counterattacked and regained power in each “redeemed” Southern state by 1877. Meanwhile, public support for Reconstruction policies faded in the North, as voters decided the Civil War was over and slavery was dead. The Democrats, who strongly opposed Reconstruction, regained control of the House of Representatives in 1874; the presidential electoral vote in 1876 was very close and confused, forcing Congress to make the final decision. The deployment of the U.S. Army was central to the survival of Republican state governments; they collapsed when the Army was removed in 1877 as part of a Congressional bargain to elect Republican Rutherford B. Hayes as president.” (From: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “Reconstruction Era”)
The “Hayes’ Compromise” unleashed the terror of the KKK and other white supremacist groups and reestablished the rule of the former big slaveholders who set up a system of neo-feudalism based upon share-cropping and “Jim Crow” segregation. Lynching became widespread, both of Blacks and whites who allied with Blacks. Once again, we must recognize that it is the ruling class, now concentrated in the North, whose economic interests dictated our oppression. The Wall Street bankers and New England textile manufacturers wanted a steady supply of cheap cotton, and didn’t care who suffered for them to get it. The dire poverty and oppression of the sharecroppers (Black and white) created the wealth of the rising capitalists.
After the Union Army was withdrawn, the federal government did nothing to stop lynching in the South, nor to enforce the right to vote or be represented, and each year “Jim Crow” expanded and become more all-inclusive of society, until even looking at or whistling at a white woman was considered enough to justify beating a 14-year old Black youth to a pulp and then lynching him, as was done to Emmit Till on August 28, 1955. The invention of the mechanical cotton picker, which became practical in 1944, had made the system of share-cropping obsolete. The “Great Migration” of poor Blacks and whites away from the “Black Belt” South had begun during World War 1 and was already in full swing before World War 2 created a fresh demand for industrial workers in the North and West and inspired many a poor sharecropper family to pick up stakes and leave the South as did the “Dust Bowl” in Oklahoma and neighboring states.
Ill prepared educationally and socially, the former sharecroppers entered the industrial proletariat at the lowest level and not infrequently in the role of “scabs” (or strike breakers), being desperate for employment. The poorest working class neighborhoods became ghettoized and overcrowded as new arrivals from the South were squeezed in. Racist attitudes from the South were transplanted with them as poor Blacks, poor southern whites and poor European immigrants competed for the scraps at the bottom of industrial-capitalist society. Racist white supremacist groups like the KKK proliferated. In 1915, the Ku Klux Klan reemerged, adding new enemies to its list. The revitalized organization drew upon anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, and anti-Communist prejudices, believing that the ethnic character of U.S. society was changing, and white Protestants were losing their dominant position. The reinvigorated Klan extended its reach outside the South and into the North and West and particularly the Midwest, drawing most of its members from small towns. By the late 1920s, Klan membership exceeded four million nationally. Klan members participated in marches, parades, picnics, nighttime cross burnings and selective acts of terrorism and murder.
Brown people have had their own history of oppression by the ruling class of Amerika. The slave-states needed to expand, as cotton burnt out the soil after a few years, and they pushed the border of the U.S. west into the northern portion of Mexico. Texas was colonized by Amerikans at the invitation of Spain. When Mexico won its independence from Spain in 1821, it continued to encourage emigration from the U.S. Though Mexico had outlawed slavery, an exemption was made for the Anglo-Texicans, but Mexican president Anastasio Bustamante ordered that all slaves be freed in 1830. To circumvent the law, the colonists converted their slaves into indentured servants “for life.” By 1836 there were some 5,000 enslaved New Afrikans in Texas. By 1834, over 30,000 Anglos lived in Texas, compared to some 7,800 Spanish-speaking Mexicans. President Bustamante also tried to halt the continued immigration of Anglos into Texas.
After winning independence from Mexico, the first act of the Congress of the independent Republic of Texas was to reinstitute slavery. The Mexican-American War (1846-1848), was also about extending slavery and followed in the wake of the U.S. annexation of Texas in 1845. President James Polk, the former governor of Tennessee, campaigned on the issue of annexation of Texas, and when Mexico objected, he seized what was to become the whole Southwest of the United States. When the Chicano (Xicano) people say, “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us,” it is quite true. War between Mexico and the United States ended with the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848 in which Mexico surrendered 890,000 square miles, close to one-half of its territory. Six years later, in order to finish construction of a transcontinental railway, the United States purchased an additional 30,000 square miles of Mexican land for $10 million. This acquisition was made final through the Gadsden Treaty of 1854 (Carlos Cortés, Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups, p. 701). Some 80,000 Mexicans inhabited the newly annexed territory. They were told they would become full citizens within two years. The reality is, they would never be fully accepted by white Amerikans.
By 1900, some 500,000 people of Mexican origin lived in the U.S., but only some 100,000 of them had been born in Mexico. Many of these were miners or agricultural workers. As irrigation expanded the amount of land under cultivation, more and more low wage agriculture workers were needed. But during World War 1, all sorts of job opportunities opened up in industry, not just in the Southwest but in Chicago and other industrial centers. Brown-skinned immigrants were also drawn from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries. Many of the Brown-skinned people in the U.S. are of partial or full Native American ancestry and many have Afrikan blood heritage as well. The racial prejudice cultivated by slavery and colonialism was extended to the Brown as well as Black people, and they were subjected to lynchings and terroristic violence. Many of the old landed estates were stolen by Anglos and during the “Great Depression” thousands were deported back to Mexico, including many who had lived here for generations. During World War 2, some hundreds of thousands of Mexican-Americans fought in the military, but still Chicanos were targeted for racial violence by white Amerikans in uniform in the LA “Zoot Suit Riots” in 1943.
In the 1960’s, mass revolutionary organizations of Mexicans and Chicanos, Puerto Ricans and other Brown-skinned people were allied with the original Black Panther Party (BPP), including the Brown Berets and Young Lords Party (YLP) and the Young Lords Organization (YLO). Along with similar organizations representing other oppressed ethnic communities, such as the poor Appalachian whites (Young Patriot Party), Native Americans (American Indian Movement (AIM)), Chinese Americans (I Wor Kun and Red Guards), Filipino Americans (Katipunan ng mga Demokratikong Pilipino, Union of Democratic Filipinos (KDP)), and others. The intercommunal solidarity built by these alliances are a model we can do well to emulate.
An Analysis of the Present
Black and Brown youth are more and more becoming endangered species, because not only are they being more frequently murdered on the streets by trigger-happy, racist police, but they are the principle target of the ruling class’s “War on the Poor” and the strategy of “Mass Criminalization and Mass Incarceration.” Many are tagged with perversely long sentences that will effectively prevent them from procreating. Others are condemned to never get out, and many are trapped in indefinite solitary confinement. When you look at the totality of the “War on the Poor,” you will see that at the core of it is the fact that more than half of the world’s population is surplus labor power the ruling class cannot profitably exploit as workers. Even as warehoused and forgotten shadows, they generate profit in the private prisons of corporate Amerika. In the past, our woes were caused by the capitalist’s insatiable need for cheap labor, now they just need our bodies to feed “The Matrix.”
The sole reason for the Atlantic slave trade was to exploit our people’s labor, just as the sole purpose of colonizing the world has been to generate profit and create wealth to own and to concentrate, to create power to create more wealth…. And so on. Capitalism has only one function and that is to make the rich richer at the expense of the masses and ultimately at the expense of the sustainability of life on this planet. So when we see the tragic ends of youth like Trayvon Martin, Oscar Grant, Sean Bell, Renaldo Cuevas, Shantel Davis, and so many more who flash before our eyes on social and mass media, we are only seeing the tip of the iceberg of mass destruction coming at us. It is not enough to hold up signs that say “Black Lives Matter!” or “Brown Lives Matter!” or “Native Lives Matter!” when we are all trapped in a system in which “No Lives Matter! – in which only profits matter and all power is concentrated in the exploiting ruling class.
It is even more pointless to rally around slogans like “Let’s Make America Great Again!” When was it ever “Great?” Let’s look back for a minute at the “Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.” This law stated that special federal commissioners could determine the fate of alleged fugitives without benefit of a jury trial or even testimony by the accused. Today, Black and Brown youth can be “validated” as “gang members” and placed in solitary confinement for years without a jury trial. Let’s look at the case of Gabriel Reyes:
“Gabriel Reyes spent more than 17 years living this way, without access to direct sunlight, physical contact with another person, rehabilitation and education programs, and even phone calls from his family. ‘Unless you have lived it, you cannot imagine what it feels like to be by yourself,’ he wrote in 2011, ‘between four cold walls, with little concept of time, no one to confide in, and only a pillow for comfort—for years on end. It is a living tomb.’
“Reyes ended up at Pelican Bay after burglarizing an empty house in 1995. It was his third conviction, and, under California’s ‘three strikes’ law, it landed him 25 years to life. But it wasn’t this crime—or any other—that got him thrown into the SHU. Like many of the more than 1,100 prisoners housed there, Reyes was put in solitary simply for being suspected of being part of a gang.
“Using the ‘Predictive Behavior Model,’ prison officials could isolate inmates for just about anything they thought showed signs of gang involvement: associating with the wrong person, having certain kinds of tattoos, or even reading books and poetry that officials deemed suspect was enough to land a prisoner ‘in the hole.’ And, at Pelican Bay, you could stay there for the rest of your life.” (Gabrielle Canon, “Inside the Landmark Court Case that Will End Indefinite Solitary Confinement in California,” Mother Jones, Sept. 2, 2015)
After leading two hunger strikes in which over 12,000 inmates across California participated, Reyes and nine other prisoners, who have been in solitary confinement for more than a decade each, filed a lawsuit in 2012, with the help of a legal team that included support from the Center for Constitutional Rights and California Prison Focus.
“As part of the settlement, prison officials can isolate an inmate only if he or she commits a serious or violent infraction. Any perceived rule violation must be then proven in a hearing. Even those who do end up housed in the so-called Secure Housing Unit (SHU) will have different living quarters. The ‘high-security but non-isolation environment’ will allow prisoners movement without restraints, the same amount of time away from their cells as the general prison population, access to educational and recreational programs, and physical contact with their visitors.
“The settlement also bars the prison from housing inmates in these units for more than 10 years and will officially put an end to indeterminate stays. Instead, there will be a two-year program that provides incremental steps with increasing privileges to return to the general population.
“Most inmates currently serving time in solitary are expected to qualify for removal under the settlement agreement—including all who have served more than 10 years—and they will be transitioned out over the next year.
“’It is a remarkable feat of political organizing. This whole movement and the result is because of their collective action,’ said Alexis Agathocleous, counsel on the suit and the deputy legal director at the Center for Constitutional Rights. ‘It’s a huge step forward, in terms of how solitary confinement is used in California, but I really think it also sets up the model for how reform can occur around the country.’” (Ibid.)
The more direct form of “legal lynching” is when police kill people in cold blood because of the color of their skin. Let’s look at the case of Ramany Graham, who was “legally lynched” by the NYPD in 2012. First, they claimed, “Graham appeared to be armed.” But guess what? No gun was ever found. This lie was fabricated after the fact to justify the “lynching.” They claimed, “He ran into the building fleeing from the officers,” but video surveillance cameras showed he was walking, not running, and calmly taking his keys out to unlock his apartment door. Officer Haste, nonetheless, for no apparent reason, kicked down the 18-year old’s door, entered his apartment and shot him to death in his bathroom at point blank range.
Kimani “Kiki” Gray was also “lynched” by the NYPD on March 9, 2013, and shot seven times. The lynchers claimed “Kimani adjusted his waistband … in a suspicious manner.” Predictably, the Police Commissioner pronounced that, “there’s nothing to indicate that this shooting, at this time, is outside the guidelines.” Mayor Bloomberg even claimed that, “all indications are that the young man had gun.” Except there was no gun, and witnesses claimed, “the police gave him no time to surrender.” Kimai was a 16-year-old Black kid whose life was taken from him because of the color of his skin, and neither the Police Commissioner nor the Mayor saw anything wrong with that.
Ernest Duenez Jr. was sadistically shot 11 times by police in Manteca, California on a car stop. The District Attorney claimed that, “Officer John Moody legitimately believed his life was in danger,” but Moody’s dashcam showed that Duenez made no threating moves and recorded Moody calmly pumping bullets into him without cause. After clearing Officer Moody of any wrongdoing, the PD turned around and settled with the family for $2.2 million to avoid a wrongful death law suit. In case after case, we see the police get away with murder, even get rewarded and promoted. While The Guardian puts the tally at 1,125 — the website killedbypolice.net found that police have killed 1,186 people in 2015 (the U.S. government currently does not track how many people are killed in police encounters.) Data from the web site shows that young Black men are 21 times more likely to be killed by police than young white men. Police in the U.S. kill people at over 70 times the rate of police in other 1st World countries. According to The Guardian, England and Wales together have had 55 fatal police shootings in the past 24 years. The U.S. had 59 in the first 24 days of 2015.
“Along with extraordinarily violent police, the U.S. has an ‘exceptional’ and truly monstrous prison system. There are more people jailed in the U.S. than any other country, over 2.4 million. Next is China with 1.5 million in prison, but China has a population four times greater than the U.S. The U.S. rate of imprisonment is 737 per 100,000 people; China’s is 128 per 100,000.
“The U.S. has 5 percent of the world’s population but 24 percent of all the prisoners in the world! It not only has the largest number of imprisoned human beings but the highest rate of incarceration of any country on the planet.
“Reflecting the racist nature of the system as a whole, African Americans make up about 12 percent of the U.S. population but nearly 40 percent of those in prison. African Americans are more than six times as likely to be imprisoned as whites.” (“U.S. Cops Kill at 100 Times the Rate of Other Capitalist Countries,” By Richard Becker, Global Research, January 06, 2015)
Even when police do get convicted of wrongdoing in Amerika, the odds are that the conviction will be overturned, as in the case of Henry Glover, who was “lynched” by police in 2005 in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. According to evidence presented by the District Attorney:
- NOPD officer David Warren shot Glover in the chest with a .223 rifle near an Algiers strip mall.
- Glover’s brother, Edward King, and sister, Patrice Glover, came to Glover’s aid.
- A neighbor of Glover, named William Tanner, drove Glover and his brother to seek medical attention at a nearby school, Habans Elementary School, which had been commandeered by a SWAT team of officers. Several SWAT officers testified in trial that Tanner actually fled from a marked police car near the school. It was only after several other police cars joined in the chase that he stopped on the Mercedes Street side of the school. Neither of the two men knew how Glover had been injured.
- SWAT officers at the school immediately placed Tanner and King into handcuffs, and then allegedly beat them. The jury acquitted the officers on this charge. Testimony in trial also alleged that an African American officer also struck one of the detained men, but little effort was put into finding that officer. While it was alleged by William Tanner in numerous media interviews that the SWAT officers let Henry Glover bleed to death in the car, the trial testimony of Lt. Scheuermann proved that in fact he had checked Glover’s body for any signs of life and in fact he was already deceased. This proof was in the form of photographs provided to the defense in discovery.
- Glover died from his wounds. NOPD officer Greg McRae set fire to Glover’s body as it sat inside Tanner’s 2001 Chevrolet Malibu. The car was left parked on a Mississippi River levee down the street from a NOPD office.
- Istvan Balogh, a former law enforcement officer who had come in from out of state, discovered Glover’s corpse on September 9. He admitted in trial that he videotaped the burned car with Glover’s remains and has since sold copies of the video tape.
On March 31, 2011, Judge Lance M. Africk sentenced David Warren to 25 years and 9 months in federal prison on a federal civil rights violation of committing manslaughter with a firearm. Judge Africk sentenced Greg MacRae to 17 years and 3 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release on obstruction of justice and another civil rights charge, but these convictions were overturned on a technicality and both were acquitted of all charges in their retrials. What makes these killing “lynchings” is precisely the non-accountability of the perpetrators.
“Lynching is an extrajudicial punishment by an informal group. It is most often used to characterize informal public executions by a mob in order to punish an alleged transgressor, or to intimidate a minority group…. Lynchings have been more frequent in times of social and economic tension, and have often been a means for a dominant group to suppress challengers. However, it has also resulted from long-held prejudices and practices of discrimination that have conditioned societies to accept this type of violence as normal practices of popular justice. Though racial oppression and the frontier mentality in the United States have given lynching its current familiar face, execution by mob justice is not exclusive to North America, but it is also found around the world as vigilantes act to punish people behaving outside of commonly acceptable boundaries. Indeed, instances of it can be found in societies long antedating European settlement of North America…. In the United States, during the decades before the Civil War (sometimes called the Antebellum era), assertive free-Blacks, Latinos in the South West and runaways were the object of racial lynching. But lynching attacks on U.S. blacks, especially in the South, increased dramatically in the aftermath of the Civil War, after slavery had been abolished and recently freed black men gained the right to vote. Violence rose even more at the end of the 19th century, after southern white Democrats regained their political power in the South in the 1870s. States passed new constitutions or legislation which effectively disfranchised most blacks and many poor whites, established segregation of public facilities by race, and separated blacks from common public life and facilities. Nearly 3,500 African Americans and 1,300 whites were lynched in the United States between 1882 and 1968, mostly from 1882 to 1920.” (From: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: “Lynching”)
These types of extra-judicial and judicial brutalities and injustices have in the past proved effective at intimidating the oppressed people, which is why they are still in practice today. It is a fact that the civil rights movement did not create any fundamental changes in the system. I commend the comrades who sacrificed their blood for the cause, but the reality is any concession that the system makes can be taken back later. Only revolution can make fundamental changes by changing which class holds power. Even then, revolutions can be reversed by counter-revolution, until the very foundations of society are changed and classes are eliminated. Only when we cross this threshold can we permanently eliminate the evils generated by class-based society.
I could go on and on listing the instances of young people of color being legally “lynched” in Amerika today. It happens with such frequency, and the intent is to numb us to the brutality of it. But we must not accept it or fail to analyze and understand what it represents and why it is happening. It is police state repression, and it is a tactic in the ruling class’ “War on the Poor.” We cannot ever forget how ruthless they are. When asked by 60 Minutes in 1996, about the estimated 1.7 million deaths (mostly children and elders) in Iraq, caused by U.S.-imposed sanctions, before the U.S. began bombing and invaded Iraq, Madeline Albright, the former Secretary of State under Clinton, responded: “I think this is a very hard choice, but the price – we think the price is worth it!” Over a million and a half innocent people killed because they falsely suspected the President of the country secretly had weapons of mass destruction he might use to attack Israel! How cold blooded is that?
I commend all the brothers and sisters, of every color, who sacrificed to win concessions during the civil rights struggles, and I honor their memories, but we must take the struggle to a higher level and educate the masses to the need of building an “all-the-way revolutionary” vanguard party and movement of the people dedicated to creating global people’s power and making the transition to global classless society. This is the only correct strategy and here’s why. If the system was really interested in equality and social justice, the mass protests of the past years would have caused the number of police murders to decrease from year to year, but the police killed more people in 2015 than 2014. The legislatures and the courts would have sent clear messages to the police that extra-judicial killings would not be tolerated. But they didn’t, instead we see bills being considered to criminalize people videotaping the police violating people’s rights.
People struggled and sacrificed to integrate, schools, work places and public spaces, but we still see schools segregated by economic classes. Worse, we see the truth about the past is falsified to “white wash” the actual history. We see Black and Brown people are still overly represented in the low paying jobs and unemployment lines and noticeably underrepresented in the better paying jobs. We see more Black and Brown faces in high places, (even the White House), but just as much institutionalized racism, (if not more), in the political decisions and policies of federal, state and local governments. In other words, the only thing that changes is appearances.
All of these integrative objectives during the civil rights movement created a pseudo-sense of achievement and progress. We integrated into white schools, white government, white jobs, white entertainment, white sports and the white military, but we didn’t fundamentally change any of these institutions to make them serve the people, and particularly not the oppressed masses at the bottom of society. The Black and Brown middle classes are just as self-centered and uninterested in the welfare of the poor and oppressed masses here and internationally as the white middle class. And the Black and Brown millionaires and the few billionaires, forget about it!
Decades later, and the oppressed masses are still where we were socially, only a lot more of us are in prison, or homeless, drug addicted, or suffering from the many cutbacks in social services and the “social safety net” that has been the hallmark of the neo-liberal agenda. This is why, everywhere you look around the world, you see masses of people in the streets protesting against the austerity measures being forced on them by the global ruling class backed by U.S. imperialism.
I am an immense fan of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and believed in what he stood for regarding racial equality and social justice for all, however, I equally oppose his idealism and the belief that his methods of nonviolent protest and appealing to the moral sense of those in power will achieve those results. We have only integrated into a self-destructive system that will destroy us too unless we put an end to it first. I believe Dr. King realized this at the end, but he was too caught up in his identity as a preacher to do anything but accept his martyrdom.
As long as the system stands, we are all an endangered species, because capitalist-imperialism can’t change its basic nature. It can’t put the interests of the masses of people ahead of the interests of private profit and private accumulation of wealth and power. Only a command political economy – socialism – can do that, and only the oppressed masses themselves can be in command to do it.
The original BPP was very inspired by the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution in People’s China. This was a life and death struggle to determine whether China was going to continue on the road towards Communism, by building people’s power and exercising all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie or take the capitalist road and ally itself with capitalist-imperialism. Chang Chun-chiao (Zhang Chunqiao) was a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and a very close ally of Mao Tse-tung. As Mao’s health was failing, and his enemies were itching to seize power and take China down the road it has taken, Chang Chun-chiao wrote a very important document under Mao’s direction to sum up the lessons of the Cultural Revolution, and guide the struggle of the future:
“Historical experience shows us that whether the proletariat can triumph over the bourgeoisie and whether China will turn revisionist hinges on whether we can persevere in exercising all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie in all spheres and at all stages of development of the revolution. What is all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie? The most succinct generalization is found in a passage from a letter Marx wrote in 1852 to J. Weydemeyer, which we are all studying. Marx said, “…no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society, nor yet the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this struggle of the classes, and bourgeois economists the economic anatomy of the classes, What I did that was new was to prove: 1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production; 2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat; 3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.” In this splendid observation, Lenin said, Marx succeeded in expressing with striking clarity the chief and radical difference between his theory on the state and that of the bourgeoisie, and the essence of his teaching on the state. Here it should be noted that Marx divided the sentence on the dictatorship of the proletariat into three points, which are interrelated and cannot be cut apart. It is impermissible to accept only one of the three points while rejecting the other two. For the sentence gives complete expression to the entire process of the inception, development and withering away of the dictatorship of the proletariat and covers the whole task of the dictatorship of the proletariat and its actual content. In The Class Struggles in France, 1848-1850, Marx deals in more specific terms with this dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally, to the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest, to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, and to the revolutionizing of all the ideas that result from these social relations. In all the four cases, Marx means all. Not a part, a greater part, or even the greatest part, but all! This is nothing surprising, for only by emancipating all mankind can the proletariat achieve its own final emancipation. The only way to attain this goal is to exercise all-round dictatorship over the bourgeoisie and carry the continued revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat through to the end, until the above-mentioned four alls are banished from the earth so that it will be impossible for the bourgeoisie and all other exploiting classes to exist or for new ones to arise; we definitely must not call a halt along the path of the transition.” (From: “On Exercising All Round Dictatorship Over the Bourgeoisie,” by Chang Chun-chiao, 1975)
Here in the “Belly of the Beast,” the home base of global capitalist-imperialism, we are in a position to strike a death blow to the system and move directly to establishing the worldwide dictatorship of the proletariat and global revolutionary intercommunalism as a stepping stone to worldwide classless society. But first, we must get ourselves together and stand against the class enemies that plot our destruction. As Comrade Hubert Harrison spoke back in the time of the “Red Summer of 1919” when racist mobs were attacking Black people on the street:
“If the national government should refuse to take any steps to protect its Negro people from murderous mob violence, then we should call upon our own people to defend themselves against murder with weapons of murder…” (Cited in: Hubert Harrison: Reader, page 91.)
Black and Brown youth need to organize to defend our communities. As Mao said: “Without a People’s army, the people have nothing.” (Mao Tse-tung, “On Coalition Government,” 1945) I salute the comrades of the Huey P. Newton Gun Club, who have been demonstrating with weapons that we have a right to defend ourselves and our communities. And I salute the comrades of the John Brown Militia. We must rely upon ourselves and our communities to defend ourselves and our communities. We must consistently defend and organize around the people’s right to keep and bear arms and organize for their collective defense. We must have no illusions about who the police serve or that Black politicians in the Democratic Party will protect us, as Etienne Balibar so cogently put it over thirty years ago, the modern capitalist state, ours included, “is expressly organized as the State of pre-emptive counter-revolution:”
“To be able forcefully and threateningly to oppose this party, whose betrayal of the workers will begin with the very first hour of victory, the workers must be armed and organized. The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannon and ammunition, and the revival of the old-style citizens’ militia, directed against the workers, must be opposed. Where the formation of this militia cannot be prevented, the workers must try to organize themselves independently as a proletarian guard, with elected leaders and with their own elected general staff; they must try to place themselves not under the orders of the state authority but of the revolutionary local councils set up by the workers. Where the workers are employed by the state, they must arm and organize themselves into special corps with elected leaders, or as a part of the proletarian guard. Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary. The destruction of the bourgeois democrats’ influence over the workers, and the enforcement of conditions which will compromise the rule of bourgeois democracy, which is for the moment inevitable, and make it as difficult as possible – these are the main points which the proletariat and therefore the League must keep in mind during and after the approaching uprising.” (Karl Marx, The “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League,”1850)
We must also keep in mind the instruction of Frederick Douglass:
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” (Frederick Douglass, Frederick Douglass: Selected Speeches and Writings)
Finally, I would like to end with a poem from that great warrior poet and a leading member of the African Blood Brotherhood (ABB), the first Marxist revolutionary, armed self-defense force of New Afrikans in Amerika, Claude McKay:
If We Must Die
If we must die—let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die—oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!
Claude McKay, 1889 – 1948