Remolding Racist Brainwash: A Guide to Revolutionary Practice or Revolutionary Theory as Dogma (A Response to Comrade Xinachtli) (2017)

I Said No Such Things

Earlier this year I replied to Azzurra Crispino’s communiqué concerning her being criticized in various circles for corresponding with an alleged white supremacist while he was imprisoned, and using his harrowing account of living in solitary confinement to refute some misguided views of this condition in U.S. prisons. (1)

She was also asked to resign her position as media cochair of the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC). I belatedly learned that shortly before my reply to Azzurra was published she was removed because of these allegations from her elected position by the IWOC’s steering committee.

While I heard nothing formal from any of her original critics, I have received a response by political prisoner, Comrade Xinachtli (aka Alvaro Luna Hernandez) that I’d like to answer here in the spirit of unity-struggle-unity.

Xinachtli harshly criticizes Azzurra, who was until recently co-coordinator of his own freedom campaign, and he charges me with defending her without having a complete picture of her “history” of “unprincipled positions”. He also charges her with embracing a hodgepodge of inherently contradictory doctrines and theories that serve only to confuse and mislead.

The principal problem with Xinachtli’s response to me is that he largely answers things he read into my reply to Azzurra, instead of what I actually wrote.

First, I didn’t defend Azzurra anywhere in that reply, in fact I never passed judgment on her period. What I specifically addressed, and as to her I did so hypothetically, was the question of engaging and struggling to remold and win over people brainwashed on race. I agreed with her stated position that we should try to win such people over when we can. I did not, however, conclude that she was interacting with such people for the actual purpose of remolding their views and winning them over politically, but said “to the extent” that she was then I felt “her position is exactly right.” What’s more I specifically distinguished my own ideological and political views from hers.

So not only did I not defend her (I defended a necessary strategy for political organizing), but I also, contrary to Xinachtli’s contentions did not promote dealing complacently with and embracing “hard core racists.” I’m not sure how he overlooked the distinction I made between struggling to remold and reeducate people who harbor racial supremacist views, and those “die hard racist reactionaries [who] must be dealt with by isolating them and mobilizing revolutionary forces to minimize their influence on others, and to repress them by force where they present a genuine threat of violence.”

Given that Xinachtli argues against positions I never took, everything else he adds to bolster these arguments is meaningless. But I would like to address some of his positions — several being mechanically recited stereotypes projected against Communists by Anarchists — like that I was supposedly “using ‘revolutionary theory’ as dogma and not guides to serious action.”

If he’d read what I actually wrote, he’d have seen the numerous examples I gave of the effectiveness of the approach I was promoting, which I have applied myself, as very “serious action” when thrust by the pigs into environments where I was literally surrounded by racial supremacists (“white” and Chicano/Mexican), with intentions of seeing me dealt with much as Comrade Hugo was. And not only did my approach spoil their plans, but it led to winning over quite a number of them and also bringing many on board with the 2013 hunger strike (and agreement to end racial hostilities) led by the Cali prisoners.

A Guide To Revolutionary Action

In fact that hunger strike which involved over 30,000 prisoners, and the two that preceded it in 2011, were the products of work by Ed Mead (another Communist), who struggled for years through his writings in various periodicals he published and/or edited going into Cali’s prisons (such as Prison Focus, Prison Art, Basta Ya! , Rock! and others), to win racists, ultra-nationalists, homophobes and other reactionaries within the prison population over to a united struggle against the system.

No one expected every prisoner or faction to come fully into accord with or not deviate from the hunger strike or agreement to end hostilities, (there were those hardcore elements I spoke of who must be isolated and repressed), hence the targeting of Comrade Hugo. But what was achieved in this protracted struggle, was historical, inspirational, standard-setting and monumental. To the extent that Xinachtli opposes work like Ed’s and the NABPP-PC to remold and win over folks brainwashed on race, then his line is no less reactionary than that of the hardcore racists who would have us all remain polarized according to the designs of the pigs and imperialist system.

Clearly our revolutionary line on race has proven a genuine guide to not only serious action, but effective and historical action, and is anything but dogmatic.

Indeed, this line and practice was brought to Texas prisons by NABPP-PC comrades and led to two prison work strikes (again historic and inspirational events), first in April 2016 then September 2016. The planned strike of September prompted Texas officials to lock down at least eleven prisons to counter or prevent the work strike. Has Comrade Xinachtli’s doctrines or theories provided a guide to any such “serious action” during his over two decades in the Texas prison system?

Then too there are definite historic revolutionary examples that validate the work by Communists of remolding and reeducating reactionary chauvinists. Two examples suggest themselves. One being, again, the revolutionary struggle in China under Mao Tse-tung’s leadership, the other being the revolutionary anticolonial struggle in Guinea Bissau led by Amilcar Cabral.

In the Chinese case there was an open civil war between the nationalists on one side who were backed and supplied by the U.S. and other imperialist powers, and Mao’s Reds on the other side. The nationalists were particularly brutal in their treatment of the Reds and anyone suspected of supporting them. The Reds, however, used such violence as necessary to suppress the enemy on the battlefield but cared for, treated like brothers and released captured nationalist soldiers. Their method proved so effective that the nationalists in turn routinely surrendered in vast numbers to join the Reds with entire supply and weapon convoys.

The Reds actually fought and ultimately won the Civil War using these captured supplies and weapons — billions of dollars worth provided by the imperialists to the nationalist army.

The same occurred in the Reds’ response to China’s invasion by Japan who carried out a barbaric “kill all, burn all, loot all” campaign. Despite Japan’s brutality, captured Japanese soldiers were also treated as brothers, cared for and released, with the result that many were converted and returned to their side and Japan to espouse the Communist line. The Reds’ rag-tag peasant army was thus able to hold its own against one of the day’s most advanced and powerful imperialist militaries, and ultimately repelled it from China, while also countering treacherous attacks by the nationalists. Upon Japan’s retreat from China, the Civil War was resumed and the Reds decidedly defeated the nationalists within four years.

In the case of Guinea Bissau, Cabral refused to play the racial game or the game of tribal or national divisiveness. He united various previously divided tribes and nationalities of Guineans into Afrika’s most effective anticolonial struggle. He emphasized that they would not allow the struggle to descend into a racial one as against their ‘white’ Portuguese colonizers, who’d dealt with them quite savagely. As he stated, “I do not confuse oppression with the color of people’s skins.”

Like the Chinese Reds, his forces related to captured Portuguese soldiers as brothers, and through published speeches and articles he struggled to remold and awaken the consciousness of the Portuguese people as against the oppression and exploitation of Guinea. His methods proved so effective that, even though he was assassinated before the struggle’s successful end, it prompted a near revolutionary overthrow by the Portuguese people of their government, compelling the army to quit Guinea and rush home to Portugal to suppress the uprising there.

Keeping Politics Not Posturing in Command

As noted I did not “defend” as Azzurra. I defended a political strategy — and not the one Xinachtli accused me of. As for her claimed “history” of “unprincipled positions” and such that has led to her estrangement from Anarchist circles, I have no knowledge of any of that. But I do now take issue in her defense with the IWOC’s steering committee’s independently overriding and revoking her elected position as media co-chair which Xinachtli endorses.

To my understanding the steering committee is composed of Anarchists. And Anarchists almost by reflex accuse and denounce Communists as “authoritarians” who reject democratic practices, and rather supposedly concentrate power within a small circle of people operating above and independent of the overall body of their organizations and the masses.

Not only is this projection untrue, especially of Maoists, but we have right now it being practiced by those who traditionally criticize it as the worst sort of political evil… which it is. Azzurra was elected through popular ballot by the overall Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) membership. As such it is the exclusive right and duty of this same body to hear and decide any case that might warrant her removal from that position. And it is her democratic right to present her defenses and be heard in refutation of such a case before that body.

A steering committee of a few IWW members that overrides the will and decision of a general election without the knowledge and participation of the electorate is “authoritarianism” and “elitism” of the purest sort.

What genuine Communists practice is democratic centralism (DC). In the context of selecting leaders, this involves publicizing their work and qualifications pro and con to the broad electorate and allowing them to elect or reject the candidate by majority vote. If elected then everyone accepts them into the elected position. Democratic choice, centralized enforcement thereof. Likewise when the elected party runs afoul of the organization’s or people’s interests, their case is presented for a recall vote, with any decision to revoke their position turning on majority vote, after hearing evidence in the case pro and con. This was the overall IWW membership’s right and duty and Azzurra’s right (to be heard and have her fate decided by those who elected her). The steering committee should have no such dictatorial power to override the electoral will of the overall IWW membership.

The reason I never passed judgment on Azzurra’s situation or her, and emphasized in the very opening paragraph of my reply to her that her IWOC position was an elected one, was because I was looking at the matter from a democratic perspective. I recognized it was the role of the overall IWW membership to hear and decide the matter not mine.

In this respect the undemocratic action against Azzurra comes off more as political posturing against the judgments of outsiders, much like Xinachtli’s critiques, than genuine commitment to political principles. Take for example the critiques and rejection of Azzurra because of her interaction with the alleged white supremacist. Remember, Xinachtli stated he supports Comrade George Jackson’s position that “we must work with white prisoners although they may express some racism in their viewpoints.” Well, neither he nor the steering committee presents evidence to show that the guy Azzurra was corresponding with was a “hardcore racist” as opposed to a guy with “some racist viewpoints.” And of course the question and evidence was never presented to or decided by the IWW membership who elected Azzurra.

Then Xinachtli rejects Azzurra for embracing contradictory doctrines and theories. Well, the same can be charged of many other folks on the ‘Left’, including Xinachtli himself. By his own representations he is a proponent of Anarchism and Chicano nationalism — inherently contradictory doctrines. Anarchists reject the exercise of state power whereas Chicano liberationists aspire to achieve a separate state in the SW territory of the U.S. that was stolen from Mexico, which they call Aztlan. And wasn’t the steering committee’s peremptory revocation of Azzurra’s elected position a contradiction of principles?

The U.S. ‘Left’ has more than its share of groups and people who embrace and espouse contradictory ideological and political lines. This is especially true of the petty bourgeoisie and the lumpen proletariat, who daily experience an admixture of social-economic conditions which conditions them to assume contradictory class lines, doctrines and theories. Even the working class (proletariat) experiences this under bourgeois cultural indoctrination and brainwash. We often see it reflected in the tenacity with which many of the most oppressed and insecure adopt and cling to racist doctrines, to compensate for a sense of lack of social worth and purpose. Should we be relating to them as enemies or working to show them that they are victims of systematic oppression and manipulation?

And while our political prisoners like Xinachtli deserve the greatest support and respect, this doesn’t mean their views and opinions are to be given a presumption of correctness or are entitled to automatic deference. We must uphold correct ideas, which come from and are proven through practice. Has Comrade Xinachtli’s theories and practice proven to counter racist brainwash and produce serious and effective mass action across “racial” lines?

It’s not our opinions that matter in this struggle against this capitalist imperialist monster, but our practice that informs it and the resultant impact it has on organizing the masses to take up and carry the struggle to its victorious conclusion.

Dare to struggle Dare to Win!

All Power to the People!


  1. See, Kevin “Rashid” Johnson, “The Revolutionary Response to Racism: Reply to A Communique By Azzurra Crispino” (2017),
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