Category Archives: Police Brutality

American Blowback: Cop-on-Cop Crime in LA

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By George Ciccariello-Maher and Mike King
February 9, 2013

Christopher Dorner

Yesterday was not simply a day like any other, and yet an entire system is grinding into motion to ensure that the peculiarities of the day be promptly forgotten: another crazy person lost it and committed unthinkable acts. The act of killing stands in and speaks for the person: look what he has done, of course he must be crazy. Case closed.

What they want you to see is just another Adam Lanza, just another inexplicable act, and when the act speaks for the assailant, words are secondary and there is no need to listen. But this is not, and has never been, a good way to understand reality.

What they want you to forget is the sheer strangeness of what is happening in Los Angeles. Christopher Dorner allegedly killed a police officer and two civilians. This was not a random shooting by a right-wing gun-nut mourning the loss of the “Real America.” Here is a man with good things to say about liberal democrats, a supporter of heightened gun control, a former LAPD officer and Navy reservist, targeting his own institution, which he accused of racism, violence, and corruption.

Dorner’s “Last Resort”

We know all of these things because what is most peculiar about this entire case is the written testament that Dorner has left us. In a letter titled only “Last Resort” and addressed to “America,” he makes clear his grievances, his objectives, and the rationale behind his actions – a chilling declaration of war on the Los Angeles Police Department.

The press is busy citing only those bits of the statement which make Dorner seem crazy: when he addresses Tim Tebow or Larry David, for example, or when he laments the fact that he will not survive to see The Hangover 3. (See for example, Buzzfeed’s “Everything You Need to Know,” which conspicuously says very little). But the vast majority of the letter paints a picture of someone who, while clearly undergoing some sort of mental break, is astonishingly lucid as to the causes and candid as to what he intends to do about it. These causes and these intentions, regardless of what you may hear on MSNBC or Entertainment Tonight(both will essentially carry the same message), begin and end with the LAPD.

The LAPD has long played a vanguard role in white supremacist policing in the United States. Whether it be the conscious recruitment of racist cops from the south in the 1960s under William Parker (sparking the 1965 Watts Rebellion) or the continuity of well-worn brutal methods under Darryl Gates (sparking the massive 1992 L.A. Rebellions), there has been little new under the sun. Even after 1992, when change seemed for a moment inevitable and when the Bloods and Crips had, themselves, laid down arms and put forth a plan to rebuild the city, this long-needed transformation didn’t materialize. Instead, South Central became South L.A., Gates was canned, and the LAPD forcibly destroyed the gang truce. Nothing had changed.

It wasn’t long before the next scandal. Toward the end of the 1990s, what many had already known became public knowledge: that the LAPD, and especially the Rampart Division, routinely brutalized suspects and planted evidence. As a result of this revelation, the LAPD was charged under the RICO Act (as a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization) and placed under the federal oversight of a consent decree that would only be lifted in 2009.

Not coincidentally, “Globocop” Bill Bratton, currently en route to advise the Oakland Police Department, amidst widespread public opposition, is credited with cleaning up the LAPD, and Dorner’s statement appears on many websites alongside a picture of the former officer beaming alongside Bratton (it has emerged that Dorner mailed evidence to Anderson Cooper last week, including a gift from Bratton, on which he wrote “Thanks, but no thanks Will Bratton”).

According to Dorner’s statement:

“The department has not changed since the Rampart and Rodney King days. It has gotten worse. The consent decree should never have been lifted. The only thing that has evolved from the consent decree is those officers involved in the Rampart scandal and Rodney King incidents have since promoted to supervisor, commanders, and command staff, and executive positions… Are you aware that an officer… seen on the Rodney King videotape striking Mr. King multiple times with a baton on 3/3/91 is still employed by the LAPD and is now a Captain on the police department? … As a commanding officer, he is now responsible for over 200 officers. Do you trust him to enforce department policy and investigate use of force investigations on arrestees by his officers?”

One indication of this is the fact that, during the course of more than a decade of investigation of the Rampart case, only five officers were terminated, which suggests just how shallow the investigation efforts were. Dorner ominously adds that “I will correct this error,” and deems his actions a “necessary evil” not only to clear his own name, but to force “substantial change” within the LAPD.

According to Dorner, he was suspended in 2008 after reporting a superior for use of excessive force against a suspect, and eventually terminated in 2009. Dorner goes on to describe the prevalence of white supremacy in the police force: from anti-Semitic taunting to openly anti-black sentiment. After one incident involving use of the n-word, Dorner recalls confronting other officers physically, for which he was reprimanded. In retrospect, he reflects, with regard to the speaker of the word, “What I should have done, was put a Winchester Ranger SXT 9mm 147 grain bullet in his skull.” On the day that his fellow officers were given what were effectively paid suspensions, “That day, the LAPD stated that it is acceptable for fellow officers to call black officers niggers to their face and you will receive a slap on the wrist.”

A Bloody Fight for Honor on the Other Side of the Blue Line

“I am an American by choice, I am a son, I am a brother, I am a military service member, I am a man who has lost complete faith in the system, when the system betrayed, slandered, and libeled me. I lived a good life and though not a religious man I always stuck to my own personal code of ethics, ethos and always stuck to my shoreline and true North. I didn’t need the US Navy to instill Honor, Courage, and Commitment in me but I thank them for re-enforcing it. It’s in my DNA.”

–Christopher Dorner

It is clear from Dorner’s communiqué that he feels that he is following a code of honor against an unlawful body that has sullied his name; his objective being to reclaim his honor. Through his spectacle of violence he is also overtly drawing attention to his self-identity – as a black man, as an “honest officer”/ conscientious worker, and as a veteran – counter-posed against institutions of corruption, deceit and abuse. In an effort that he clearly self-defines as terrorism, Dorner invokes old-West, rugged individualism: “Unfortunately, I will not be alive to see my name cleared. That’s what this is about, my name. A man is nothing without his name.” At length, Dorner goes through ideal-types of various officers’ grouped by race, and explicitly cites their role in reproducing white supremacy. He makes clear that he is patriotic and loves the government (and Chris Christie); his war is with the LAPD.

Not unlike many mass killers, Dorner’s writing exhibits a hyper-vigilant(e) feeling of betrayal and unwavering need for revenge. His writing reflects a self-conscious awareness of this role, a self-forged morality that invokes clear Zarathustra-like qualities of the Overman imposing his will on weak and vile petty tyrants. Dorner says:

“I am here to change and make policy. The culture of LAPD versus the community and honest/good officers needs to and will change. I am here to correct and calibrate your morale (sic) compasses to true north.”

Dorner’s writing also features a list of thanks to everyone from George H.W. Bush to Charlie Sheen. The following quote has extensively repeated in the press, and bears some interrogation: “If possible, I want my brain preserved for science/research to study the effects of severe depression on an individual’s brain.” To dismiss this as simple madness, is to individualize this man and his actions (however they are interpreted) as apolitical and random, another tragic coupling of broken people with fully-functional weapons. It is clear, through his chronicling of long-past slights un-avenged, interspersed with calls for more gun control and an endorsement for Hillary Clinton for President, that he is troubled. Dorner writes, “Ask yourselves what would cause somebody to take these drastic measures like I did. That’s what is important.”

This is surely a discussion the LAPD would not pine over if it did not happen. It is a discourse that is foreign to the press, even the likes of liberals like Chris Matthews, that Dorner lauds. Soldier-Officer Dorner sits, using his training against the force that trained him, waiting to unleash his next attack. The extent to which we go to Dr. Drew for helpful insights in the next few days and not victims of police brutality or whistle-blower cops or to analyses of race and policing in our cities, the extent to which we talk about gun control and not how and why the men who beat Rodney King got to run the LAPD instead of being run out of it, is the extent to which we sit and wait, feeding ammunition to the next Christopher Dorner.

A Defection in the Occupation Forces

Now Dorner has declared war on the LAPD and he has named targets: “The enemy combatants in LA are not the citizens and suspects, it’s the police officers.” To a list of different offenders, he adds the ominous promise: “You are a high value target.” The parameters of the violence he has seen meted out to everyday poor residents of Los Angeles structures his own response, such as when he urges:

“Citizens/non-combatants, do not render medical aid to downed officers/enemy combatants. They would not do the same for you. They will let you bleed out… don’t honor these fallen officers/dirtbags. When your family members die, they just see you as extra overtime at a crime scene and at a perimeter. Why would you value their lives when they clearly don’t value yours or your family members lives?”

He has studied the new counterinsurgency doctrine, as rewritten in 2006 by General David Petraeus, and he turns its language against its authors, comparing himself to insurgent forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. “I will bring unconventional and asymmetrical warfare to those in LAPD uniform whether on or off duty. ISR [Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance] is my strength and your weakness. You will now live the life of the prey.”

Frantz Fanon argued pointedly that exploitation, occupation, and colonization simply cannot exist without racism and torture of one form or another. As a result, it is useless to oppose the violence of occupation, or the torture made so palpable in Zero Dark Thirty, without opposing the occupation itself, of Iraq, of Afghanistan, of South Central L.A. Yes, something similar could be said of the LAPD, and here we begin to grasp why this most violent of institutions has so rigidly resisted change: because its historically brutal and terroristic tactics, the daily oppression and humiliation exerted most directly at poor black and brownAngelinos, are merely symptoms of the LAPD’s structural function.

When Fanon resigned his post as a psychiatrist to join the Algerian Revolution, he was merely putting into revolutionary practice what he had practiced in the analyst’s chair for years. For Fanon, mental neuroses, especially among people of color, were the result not of any inherent trait or familial trauma, but of the profound trauma imposed by white supremacist and colonial society. And since social structures generate many mental illnesses, we cannot hope to cure these without destroying the institutions that make people sick in the first place.

It was this imperative that led Fanon to throw himself into the armed struggle, and when he did so, he wrote that: “A society that drives its members to desperate solutions is a non-viable society, a society to be replaced.” There can be no more powerful symptom of desperation, no more direct indicator of the non-viability of existing institutions, than this hunted man named Christopher Dorner.

There’s nothing pretty about the desperate actions of a soon-to-be-dead man, but we owe it to ourselves, and to the world, to at least attempt to understand. To be clear: Dorner’s statement is not a revolutionary manifesto, and he certainly didn’t grasp the structural relationship between occupation and LAPD brutality, but his statement and his actions are deeply symptomatic of a social illness that it does not name. If the adage “you reap what you sow” were not already the slogan of the week when unrepentant Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, who embraced the murderous dehumanization of his profession, was killed at a Texas gun range last Saturday, this is now undeniable.

Shoot to Kill: Counterinsurgency and Collateral Damage

Given its social function, the LAPD simply cannot be anything but racist and brutal, and as though attempting to prove Dorner’s point, the response to his attacks has been as brutal as anything. The thin blue line of secrecy among officers has been replaced by a thick blue line, protecting officers and their families while unleashing unrestrained violence on southern California. In only the most infamous incident of yesterday, two women delivering newspapers were shot by trigger-happy officers who, it seems, mistook their royal blue truck for Dorner’s gray one. Dozens of bullet holes riddled the back of the pickup, their clusters suggesting a clear intent to kill without identifying. Within the context of legitimate, open threats to officers, the “shoot anything that moves” approach is perhaps an accentuation, but hardly an aberration, from the norm.

The application of a counterinsurgency model of urban policing in cities like Los Angeles is longstanding. In Los Angeles alone, from bulldozed houses in “Operation Hammer” and the invention of gang injunctions in the mid-late 1980s, to the racialized use of checkpoints, and the routine abuses Dorner points to today, the “War on Crime” is a war in every sense of the word. The LAPD gang unit trains troops headed to Afghanistan in how to develop informants and use counterinsurgency tactics to control “hostile” populations and spaces. The abuses that Dorner lists are the effects of this logic of occupation, a term officers themselves use to describe their work. As with criminal Ramparts officers getting promotions, Dorner sees the daily routines of abuse as morally wrong, but without seeing the logic of the broader structures in which those practices are embedded.

The violent overlap between modern warfare and domestic policing, of which Dorner is a strange byproduct of, is especially acute among police officers that are returning veterans from Afghanistan and Iraq. The increased levels of PTSD and violence among veterans in general, is amplified, not only by holding a job that empowers, and sometimes requires, the use of deadly force, but because the current methods of contemporary urban policing have become enmeshed with the overall objectives, strategic logic, and daily practice of counterinsurgency.

As Oakland brings on former LAPD Chief William Bratton to add a play or two to Oakland’s counterinsurgency manual, the OPD, City Council, and District Attorney continue to refuse to fire and criminally charge Miguel Masso, an Iraq veteran who had previously tortured a man in custody when with the NYPD, before shooting and killing 18-year old Alan Blueford in East Oakland last May, as he laid on the ground and cried “I didn’t do anything.” Despite Masso’s account of what happened seriously conflicting with the coroner’s report and witness accounts, Masso still has his job. Without pathologizing veterans it is clear that there are serious concerns here. For the time being, Masso is another one of those cops who gets paid leave, who gets to walk the streets, who may get a medal or a promotion down the line – though there are many people in Oakland continuing to try and see otherwise. It is the commonness of excuses for police abuse/murder, the erasure of the victims as collateral damage that should be highlighted when trying to make sense of this broken, rogue former-LA cop.

A Gravedigger in Uniform

“I am the walking exigent circumstance you created.”

– Christopher Dorner

Much like Dan Freeman, the main character in Stan Greenlee’s classic book and film, The Spook Who Sat By the Door, Christopher Dorner is the dialectical gravedigger of a dying system: armed, trained, and prepared by a system which prizes cop culture, which massively arms the police and unleashes them on the poor and racialized, and which in its late stages demands that black people do the work of white supremacy. In this circumstance, those skills are being utilized against the police. Riverside Police Chief Sergio Diaz said, “This is a somewhat unprecedented, or at least rare occurrence – a trained, heavily armed person who is hunting for police officers.”  LAPD Chief Charlie Beckadded, “Of course he knows what he’s doing; we trained him. He was also a member of the Armed Forces… It is extremely worrisome and scary.”

For Marx, capitalism would sow the seeds of its own destruction and produce its own gravedigger, the proletariat. Fanon recognized, however, that this gravedigger might be characterized more by the “desperate solutions” to which they turn than by their class consciousness. In the United States today, late capitalism is equally shot through with white supremacy and upheld by brute force by increasingly heavy-handed police. It should not surprise us when the gravediggers assume an ominously different form.

George Ciccariello-Maher is assistant professor of political science at Drexel University. He is the author of We Created Chávez: A People’s History of the Venezuelan Revolution and can be reached at gjcm(at)drexel.edu.

Mike King is a Ph.D candidate in sociology at UC Santa Cruz, and can be reached at mikeking0101(at)gmail.com. Both study policing and counterinsurgency.

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Three Positions on Gun Control

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The following article below was originally published by the Return to the Source news blog: 

December 19, 2012

Armed Black Panther members of the Seattle chapter on the steps of the Legislative Building.

People across the United States are mourning the ghoulish mass murder that took place on Friday, December 14, at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The victims – 20 children as young as six years old and six adults – were murdered by 20 year old Adam Lanza.

The horrific tragedy in Connecticut immediately ignited fierce debate on the merits of gun control, but predictably neither side is interested in examining the issue from a class-based perspective. The usual suspects representing the traditional political trends in America, led by different sections of the capitalist class, jumped feet-first into the discussion espousing the positions that people in the US have come to expect.

Yesterday, President Barack Obama came out in support of reinstating the assault weapons ban that expired under President George W. Bush in 2004. Though Lanza acquired his murder weapons by stealing them from his mother, rather than purchasing them, the President argues that reducing access to assault weapons will prevent future tragedies like the killings in Newtown, Connecticut, from taking place.

On the other side, we find the right-wing gun proponents. For them, not even the most heinous tragedy can shake their determination to uphold the Second Amendment for the capitalist class. Whereas liberals want to limit gun ownership to the state, the right-wing prefers to have armed bands of vigilantes and militias, who can be counted on to repress workers and oppressed nationalities if the conditions call for it. They hypocritically defend the right to bear arms for themselves while turning a blind eye to the already-existing gun control regulations on oppressed people in the US.

After observing the stances of comrades taking part in the debate, we felt it might be helpful to identify and materially analyze the competing positions of the gun control question. For the purposes of this piece, we hope to present some historical examples to better prepare comrades for discussions in the workplaces and the community.

Most of all, we hope to refute both the liberal position calling for greater restrictions on firearms and the crypto-right-wing position extolling the Second Amendment of the US Constitution. In its place, we arrive at and examine the Marxist position on the right to bear arms.

The Liberal Position

The “pro-gun control” forces, who have traditionally opposed to the Republican Party’s Second Amendment support and the expansion of firearms across the US, have found themselves languishing for many years. The Democratic Party has all but abandoned the position out of political opportunism. The pro-gun control position has found new life in the corporate media and the mind of liberal supporters in the US following the recent wave of mass shootings, like in Connecticut.

Rest assured, this “pro-gun control” position is put forward by other sections of the capitalist class in the Democratic Party, supported broadly by white middle class liberals. However, it also has some material support in oppressed nations affected most heavily by gun violence. Groups like the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence articulate this position as follows:

“We should make it harder for convicted felons, the dangerously mentally ill, and others like them to get guns in the first place. We can do this by passing laws such as requiring Brady criminal background checks on all gun sales; banning military-style assault weapons; and strengthening law enforcement’s efforts to stop the illegal gun market, like limiting the number of guns that can be bought at one time.” (1)

The capitalist class and the white middle class in the large cities in the North, West, and Midwest that live in more constricted confines with the working class and oppressed nations push forward this “law and order” gun control policy. Indeed, the US government already has massive gun control measures in place, especially in the major cities like New York and Chicago and states across the nation, which represent the extreme end of this policy, where it’s practically unheard of for average citizens to own firearms legally.

These measures don’t restrict mass murderers like Jared Lee Loughner – the shooter in Arizona last year – or Neo-Nazis like Wade Michael Page, who murdered six people at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin this summer, from acquiring firearms. Instead, they largely restrict the rights of oppressed people who face violence from vigilantes or police from owning guns.

It is no surprise then that billionaire Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg and his coalition, “Mayors Against Illegal Guns,” are quickly becoming the leading force advancing this agenda. Principally, they support gun control for the same reason the Republican opposed gun control: they are afraid of oppressed nationalities. We quote the website of “Mayors Against Illegal Guns”:

“We support the Second Amendment and the rights of citizens to own guns. We recognize the vast majority of gun dealers and gun owners carefully follow the law…But what binds us together is a determination to fight crime, and a belief that we can do more to stop criminals from getting guns while also protecting the rights of citizens to freely own them.” (2)

This is a common theme among the liberal gun control advocates: a heavy focus on “crime” and keeping guns out of the hands of criminals, especially in big cities. This position cannot be divorced from the war on drugs and the war on Black and Latino youth, who find themselves disportionately criminalized and imprisoned. Capitalist leaders like Mayor Bloomberg in no way seek to limit the violence visited on working class and oppressed communities. Remember that Bloomberg is responsible for spearheading the blatantly racist “stop and frisk” policies carried out by the NYPD. (3) The NAACP has said of these policies: “Bloomberg’s massive street-level racial profiling program is a civil rights and human rights catastrophe that both hurts our children and makes our communities less safe.” (4)

Are we to trust the liberals like Bloomberg, chiefly responsible and complicit in waging the war on black and brown communities, with ending gun violence with new criminal restrictions? Are we to trust the racist criminal justice system and groups like the NYPD whom Bloomberg has called “his army, the 7th largest in the world?” (5)

It is no coincidence that liberal bourgeoisie like Bloomberg are silent about gun control for their “private army” when it comes to police violence and murder committed by police, like in the case of unarmed 17 year old Ramarley Graham in New York City. (6)

The gun control policies of Bloomberg and reactionary allies, like Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, are efforts to extend national oppression and the capitalist monopoly on violence, especially over Black and Latino communities. This also serves to keep the working class and discontented elements of society passive in the face of foreclosures, austerity, voter suppression, legislative attacks like Right-to-Work initiatives, and efforts to use state repression to silence social movements like Occupy Wall Street and trade union protesters in Michigan. After all, unarmed protesters are entirely at the mercy of the capitalist class’ “personal army,” leaving them subject to violent repression at protests or on picket lines.

It is only natural that these forces support such measures to strip oppressed nationalities and workers from their democratic rights to bear arms: They have their own arms, their own personal security, their own “personal armies”, their police, their courts, their prisons; in other words, the “special bodies of armed men” talked of by Lenin in State & Revolution. They live in gated communities and mansions, while most Black and Latino people live in occupied territory not unlike occupied Afghanistan. The agenda of the liberal Democrats is to strengthen the apparatus of state repression – to increase arms and weapons in the hands of their “personal army” – while keeping guns out of the hands of “criminals” and other “undesirable elements”. This agenda is reflected in the expansion of billions of dollars in state funding to arm police with military hardware to the tune of $34 billion dollars over the past decade. (7)

There seems to be no talk of gun control or preventing gun violence when it comes to the army of the capitalist class. There’s no talk of assault weapon bans for the police, who are upgrading to tanks in many cities! (8)

Middle class white liberals who live in gated communities, or the “nice” sections of town also don’t have the same worries as our class and our allies. They want to strip “the common rabble” and criminals of their means of self-defense. After all, the police and the ruling class of the United States are their friends. They’re not the ones getting imprisoned, stopped and frisked, or having their homes foreclosed on.

However, comrades cannot ignore that gun violence does have a disproportionate and devastating impact in the communities of oppressed people and working class communities. African-Americans are the victim of 54% of all firearm homicides, despite making up just 13% of the population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (9) It’s no surprise that gun-related violence disproportionately occurs in the US South, the historical home of Jim Crow and Ku Klux Klan terrorism against Black and Latino people, according to Zara Matheson at the Martin Prosperity Institute. (10) This provides some material appeal to elements of the oppressed nations in regards to these gun control policy.

Still, comrades should combat this wolf in sheep’s clothing. The enforcers of this violence are the American capitalist class and white supremacist forces that work to uphold the established order. Trusting them to end violence in the oppressed communities with gun control is the equivalent to entrusting the United States to help Syria and Libya with “humanitarian intervention.”

Malcolm X understood the nature of violence by the US government and police, as well as the need for African-Americans to defend themselves from these attacks. We quote him at some length:

“Last but not least, I must say this concerning the great controversy over rifles and shotguns. White people been buying rifles all their lives…no commotion. The only thing I’ve ever said is that in areas where the government has proven itself either unwilling or unable to defend the lives and the property of Negroes, it’s time for Negroes to defend themselves. Article number two of the Constitutional amendments provides you and me the right to own a rifle or a shotgun. It is constitutionally legal to own a shotgun or a rifle. This doesn’t mean you’re going to get a rifle and form battalions and go out looking for white folks, although you’d be within your rights – I mean, you’d be justified; but that would be illegal and we don’t do anything illegal. If the white man doesn’t want the black man buying rifles and shotguns, then let the government do its job.” (11)

There’s a reason that the Sanford police covered up the shooting of Trayvon Martin this past February, and it was only after massive protests that his killer, George Zimmerman, was arrested. Across this country, the system of white supremacy is reinforced by the underlying threat of violence, whether it comes from police brutality or vigilante terrorism. The response is not to buckle to the pressures of liberals, who trust the very purveyors of violence to protect oppressed people, but for oppressed people to have the ability to defend themselves.

Sensible policy on guns for working class and oppressed people in America can only come from a Marxist position. But to do that, we must first analyze and pull apart the muddled position carried by the advanced, progressives, and some of our comrades.

The Left-Second Amendment Position

In response to the liberal gun control proposals, many people on the US Left embrace a position similar to that espoused by the Right. This “Left-Second Amendment” position unites with the views put forth by the National Rifle Association by dismissing guns as incidental to mass murders like yesterday’s tragedy in Connecticut. In this view, something else – an external cause like mental health or the culture of violence in the US – is chiefly to blame.

This is not incorrect. The US is an incredibly violent society, with the greatest purveyor of violence being the US government itself – and that’s not our opinion; that’s the opinion of Martin Luther King Junior, who used those exact words to describe the government on April 4, 1967. We see the evidence of this ‘cultural violence’ everywhere, from movies like Act of Valor, financed by the US military to glorify violence committed against other countries, to police violence inflicted on children and the innocent, like we saw in Anaheim, California, this year.

Along the same lines, mental health services in the US are stigmatized and woefully underfunded. It’s no coincidence that many of the perpetrators of these mass killings have had severe mental health crises; crises that were more often than not identified but not adequately treated.

The Left-Second Amendment position boils down to the pressing concern over the state having a monopoly on violence. When we look back in history, oppressed people have never won their freedom without armed struggle. In many cases, the lack of an armed populace has led directly to the rise of brutal fascist regimes, like in Chile and Spain. In 1973, the workers in Chile were underprepared to defeat the fascist coup d’etat that overthrew elected President Salvador Allende because of the government’s refusal to arm the people. During the Spanish Civil War almost four decades earlier, the social democratic government was similarly reluctant to arm the workers to resist Franco’s fascist brigades. And of course everyone knows of Adolf Hitler’s infamous ban on citizens owning guns after the rise of the Nazis.

In essence, many leftists view guns as a means of self-defense for oppressed people and a safeguard against fascism. This leads them to oppose gun control measures, i.e. the liberal position on gun control.

However, the Left-Second Amendment position mistakenly adopts the Right’s view of the right to bear arms as a philosophical abstraction, rather than a material reality. In practice, the Constitution does not protect the rights of oppressed people to bear arms. Even the most vocal advocates of the Second Amendment have no objection to regulations on firearm ownership by the people who need it most to defend their class and national interests from right-wing vigilantes and state power.

The Left-Second Amendment position rests on two incorrect assumptions. First, it implicitly assumes that gun ownership is not already heavily regulated and restricted for oppressed people. And second, it assumes that the US government would ever totally restrict the ownership of firearms, which leads these leftists to vocally oppose gun control measures.

We will begin with the first assumption.

Consider the following: In 1967, there was a major legal battle going on in California against a Governor bent on abridging “the right of the people to keep and bear arms.” The Governor and his party brought out all of the pro-gun control arguments about dangerous vigilantes running loose with weapons, saying that he saw “no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons” and that guns were a “ridiculous way to solve problems that have to be solved among people of good will.” (11) As it would today, the Governor’s gun control policies led to massive demonstrations of armed people marching on the Capitol.

Yes, in 1967, California Governor Ronald Reagan – future right-wing President of the United States and darling of the National Rifle Association – signed the Mulford Act in direct response to the protests and actions of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. The Act banned the open-carry of loaded firearms in California, which the Panthers used to intimidate racist police officers and thereby prevent police brutality in black neighborhoods. Open-carry meant that the Panthers could defend the black community, and they rarely had to fire a single shot.

There was no talk of “a well-regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state.” The white Second Amendment advocates we see today were not out in the streets marching with the Panthers against “encroaching tyranny.” Reagan banned the use of guns in a meaningful way by oppressed people because it was a direct threat to police dominance and white supremacy in California.

Historically, the Second Amendment has never defended the right of oppressed people to bear arms. An integral component of the state “Black codes” that were implemented at the end of Reconstruction was the denial of the gun ownership to African-Americans. This Jim Crow-era policy of national oppression extends into the 21st century through the racist “War on Drugs” and the disenfranchisement of Blacks and Latinos.

Remember that the US takes away the second amendment “right” of non-violent felons. By prosecuting the war on drugs, a disproportionate amount of Black men – 1 in 8, according to the Huffington Post – have no right to bear arms because of convicted felon status. (12) Similarly, Latinos comprise a disproportionate percentage of all convicted felons – “disenfranchised at a rate higher than whites, but lower than blacks.” (13) Through convicted felon status, the US government takes away the right to bear arms disproportionately from the African-American and Chican@ nations, allowing the state to more heavily occupy their territory through police.

Onto the second assumption:

The US government has no interest in repealing the second amendment or outright banning guns across the board. They already have ways of restricting the right of oppressed people to bear arms. For everyone else – especially white males – it’s the Wild, Wild West.

When the country was experiencing revolutionary upheavals during Reconstruction and the Civil Rights Movement, armed bands of white reactionaries used their second amendment ‘right to bear arms’ to attack and repress African-Americans struggling for more freedom. Striking trade unionists faced the same repression from both police and company-hired thugs on the picket lines in the 1930s and 1940s. In both cases, oppressed people and workers exercised their right to bear arms against and in opposition to the rights of an oppressor to bear arms.

The real Second Amendment advocates, attempting to make guns even more prevalent, actively pass Stand Your Ground laws that lead to the slaughter of Black youth like Trayvon Martin in February and Jordan Davis last month in Jacksonville, Florida. Marxists and progressives have nothing in common with these people.

The Marxist Position

“Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary.”

Karl Marx, March, 1850

We have examined two erroneous positions on gun control: the “left” error of embracing the Second Amendment, and the liberal “right” error of trusting the state with an exclusive monopoly on violence. Fundamentally, both positions stem from idealist assumptions about rights and the nature of the state.

The Marxist position on gun control is unequivocally upholding the right of workers and oppressed nationalities to bear arms.

In direct refutation of the Left-Second Amendment position, which upholds the right to bear arms as an abstract constitutional right, the Marxist position upholds gun ownership as a class right. Similarly, class rights directly confront the liberal belief that the state should be the predominant or sole trustee of firearms.

By classifying the right to bear arms as a class right, rather than a ‘human’, ‘constitutional’, or ‘natural’ right, the Marxist position upholds the social character of gun ownership. The Second Amendment enshrines the right to bear arms as an individual right set in place to protect individuals and their property from threats. Under capitalism, this translates into principally a ruling class and petty-bourgeois right since these are the classes that own “property,” i.e. capital, businesses, the means of production.

‘Open-Carry’ or ‘Concealed-Carry’?

We see further evidence of the reactionary character of the Second Amendment when looking at the prevalence of ‘concealed-carry’ state laws versus ‘open-carry’ state laws. ‘Open-Carry’ – allowing people to publicly carry firearms – is a social means of exercising the right to bear arms. As the Black Panther Party understood, the known presence of firearms allows oppressed people to better police their own communities and challenge the authority of the state without firing a single shot. The right to bear arms thereby becomes ‘social’ because it is a public exercise of power.

Consider why the police openly carry their firearms. The state allows its officers and agents to publicly display their firearms to deter confrontations with said agents. It is a silent exercise of state power.

Reagan banned the open-carry of loaded firearms in California precisely in reaction to the Black Panthers’ practices. If an African-American was stopped and harassed by a police officer, an openly armed Panther cadre would enter the scene to give legal counsel to the person facing police harassment. The Panthers challenged the state’s perceived monopoly on violence by acting as “a well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free [Black] State.”

In fact, California is one of seven states in the US to have outright bans on open-carry. Not surprisingly, the other six states with these bans – Illinois, Texas, New York, Florida, South Carolina, and Arkansas – are either the most populous and multinational, or located in the heart of the Black Belt South.

Not coincidentally, though, all 50 states in the US allow the concealed-carry of firearms. Illinois was the one state that upheld a ban on concealed-carry, but the US Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down that ban a week ago. (15) Concealed-carry caters to the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois class nature of the Second Amendment, which allows individuals to ‘protect themselves from attacks in public’. From Bernhard Goetz in 1984 to George Zimmerman in 2012, this right has generally manifested itself in white men gunning down Blacks and Latinos on the basis that they ‘felt threatened’.

Concealed-carry individualizes, rather than socializes, the right to bear arms. The Right uses concealed-carry laws to expand the legal basis for the murder of African-Americans and Latinos through Stand Your Ground laws. Even the NRA backhandedly agrees with bans on open-carry, calling the repeal of these bans “not a priority.” (16) Instead, the NRA’s far-right membership dedicatedly works to expand concealed-carry, which offers no legal basis for oppressed people to socially exercise the right to bear arms.

The Social Organization of the Right to Bear Arms

On picket lines, strikers in the 1930s regularly had to defend themselves and their fellow workers from company-hired paramilitaries. As far back as the Homestead Strike in 1892 involving Steelworkers and the Battle of Blair Mountain involving Coal Miners, the capitalist class has openly resorted to violence in order to crush the demands of striking workers.

Looking at restoring a militant strike movement as one of the main objectives of the progressive labor movement, it would be a folly to support increased gun control, which would allow the state, the capitalist class and its supporters to monopolize guns. While not all proposed gun control methods would completely curb access to firearms, Marxists should oppose any restrictions that further reduce the ability of oppressed people and workers to defend themselves or deter violence.

The disastrous consequences of gun control on the workers’ movement came full-circle during the South African Miner’s strike this year, in which state police opened fire killing 34 miners, armed mostly with clubs and other such weapons. A modern picket line with workers legally and openly carrying arms in self-defense would represent a strong deterrent to violent attempts to break up the strike by management, vigilantes or illegal police actions, like the ones that occurred in South Africa.

Many comrades will find that workers, and especially people of the oppressed nations in the US instinctively understand that the police force represents the ruling class and not their interests. Presenting the question of gun ownership in terms of class opens up workers to realizing that gun control is a question of democratic and class rights. Many workers understand reasonable gun rights and even gun control, but they will also reject the idea when presented with the prospect of surrendering their democratic right while the rich and their personal army get to hold onto this right.

In a March 1850 Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League, Karl Marx described the need for workers to exercise the right to bear arms through social organization independent of the state. We will quote him at some length:

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. (17)

In the underlined portion of the quote selected above, Marx describes the security functions of what the Bolsheviks would later call ‘Soviets’, or workers councils. Writing in London, Marx was warning against English attempts to co-opt independent armed bodies of workers by reviving citizens militias, which were directed and organized by the state to supposedly police communities. In actuality, these bodies served the interest of the capitalist state, making them functionally analogous to the gun control demands of the liberals today.

Marx instead recognized the necessity of workers organizing themselves and defending the right to bear arms through political struggle. This right would not be exercised individually through concealed-carry or for personal security, but it was instead a social right of the working class to defend their gains and interests.

In the oppressed nations within the United States, open-carry and the class right to bear arms has a rich history in America of forwarding national liberation. From countering white terrorism during Reconstruction, to the CPUSA again fighting off the Klan in the 1930’s, to the Black Panthers patrolling black communities, the right of Black armed organizations has been a guarantor of their democratic rights. Every instance of this has been organized, not on individual basis of “concealed-carrying” a handgun for individual defense, but as disciplined groups acting practically as the police force or army of the black nation itself. This, in essence, is the social right to bear arms.

The American working class and the Black and Chican@ nations should have the right and authority in their respective organizations to decide how to best manage gun rights in their communities. The answers lie in organizations and successful practices of the past, in contrast to the white liberal proposal to rely on the capitalist police forces’ monopoly on violence for protection.

We believe gun rights for workers and oppressed nationalities is a major factor in this struggle. Marxists should oppose the war on drugs and any possible “war on guns,” which would likely result in an intensification of national oppression. We should oppose legal restrictions, including efforts to strip members of the oppressed nations victimized by the Jim Crow legal system, of their right to bear arms. We believe Marxists should also support defensive, deterrence-based social gun policies, like open-carry, which would give oppressed nationalities and workers the ability to defend themselves from illegal violence and racist vigilantes in a legal fashion.

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(1) Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, Mission Statement, 2012,http://www.bradycampaign.org/about/

(2) Mayors Against Illegal Guns, “About the Coalition,” 2012, http://maig.us/awoN03

(3) The Gothamist, “Bloomberg Continues Tone-Deaf Support Of Stop-And-Frisk Policy,” May 18, 2012,http://bit.ly/KXZrz2

(4) CBS News, “Bloomberg Defends NYPD’s Stop-And-Frisk Program, Says It Should Be ‘Mended, Not Ended’,” June 11, 2012, http://cbsloc.al/NsJZht

(5) Graham Rayman, The Village Voice, “Bloomberg Claims NYPD “7th Biggest Army in World” … Um, That’s Totally Wrong,” November 30, 2011, http://bit.ly/tgb0fT

(6) Lucy McKeon, The Nation, “Marchers Demand Justice for Ramarley Graham,” June 26, 2012,http://bit.ly/Oe65EU

(7) Justin Elliott, Salon, “How the feds fueled the militarization of the police,” December 24, 2011,http://bit.ly/u74o0s

(8) John W. Whitehead, The Rutherford Institute, “Tanks on Mainstreet: The Militarization of the Local Police,” January 3, 2012, http://bit.ly/ybNymo

(9) Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, “Introduction to Gun Violence Statistics,” November 18, 2012,http://bit.ly/R5xf0i

(10) The Atlantic Cities, “The Geography of Gun Violence,” July 20, 2012, http://bit.ly/MOxA2k

(11) Malcolm X, “Malcolm X on the Right to Bear Arms,” http://bit.ly/R49Yhq

(12) Adam Winkler, The Atlantic, “The Secret History of Guns,” September 2011, http://huff.to/odPpKZ

(13) Dan Froomkin, The Huffington Post, “How Do You Disenfranchise 1 in 8 Black Men?” May 17, 2010,http://huff.to/au3ptU

(14) Michael McLaughlin, The Huffington Post, “Felon Voting Laws Disenfranchise 5.85 Million Americans With Criminal Records: The Sentencing Project,” July 12, 2010, http://huff.to/NtkyLs

(15) Ray Long, The Chicago Tribune, “Concealed carry: Court strikes down Illinois’ ban,” December 11, 2012, http://bit.ly/SRqfEW

(16) Sean Caranna, All Nine Yards, “NRA’s Own Prodigal Son Story – Open and Concealed Carry,” August 25, 2011, http://bit.ly/YdAOXJ

(17) Karl Marx, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League, March 1850, http://bit.ly/noHW0h

Committee to Stop FBI Repression condemns Seattle SWAT raid

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The following statement below was originally published by the Committee to Stop FBI Repression:

July 10, 2012

We have received reports, that this morning, July 10 2012, the Seattle Police Department raided an apartment – targeting well known activists from Occupy Seattle and the Red Spark Collective. A statement from the Red Spark Collective (part of the national Kasama network), notes “This apartment has been a hub for organizing the Everything 4 Everyone festival in August – to bring together West Coast forces for a cultural and political event building on the year of Occupy.”

In the United States today the forces of repression and reaction, ranging from the FBI to local police forces are trying to intimidate those who are standing up for peace, justice, equality and liberation. The examples are many, including the repression directed at Arabs and Muslims, the coordinated attacks on the occupy movement, and FBI raids on anti war and international solidarity activists.

We condemn this act of political repression and send our solidarity to all those who were targeted in this raid.

SWAT raid on organizers of Occupy Seattle & E4E

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The following article below was originally published by the Kasama Project. To read ongoing coverage on the situation by the Kasama Project, click here

July 10, 2012

Door beaten in by SWAT police raid.

Early morning, July 10, SWAT police forced their way into the Seattle apartment of organizers from the Occupy movement. The sleeping residents scrambled to put on clothes as they were confronted with automatic weapons.

The neighbor Natalio Perez heard the attack from downstairs: “Suddenly we heard the bang of their grenade, and the crashing as police entered the apartment. The crashing and stomping continued for a long time as they tore the place apart.”

After the raid, the residents pored over the papers handed them by a detective. One explained: “This warrant says that they were specifically looking for ‘anarchist materials’ — which lays out the political police state nature of this right there. In addition they were looking for specific pieces of clothing supposedly connected with a May First incident.

When the police finally left, they did not arrest anyone.

This action targets well known activists from Occupy Seattle and the Red Spark Collective (part of the national Kasama network).

This apartment has been a hub for organizing the Everything 4 Everyone festival in August – to bring together West Coast forces for a cultural and political event building on the year of Occupy.

A Tragic Week in Paraguay: Context of the Right-Wing Coup

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By Javiera Manuela Rulli and Reto Sonderegger, Translation by Lilian Joensen, Grupo de Reflexión Rural
June 24, 2012

Farmers holding pictures of those massacred by police on June 15, 2012, on the outskirts of Curuguaty, Paraguay.

Paraguayan President Fernando Lugo has just been removed from office by Congress through political impeachment, an express trial that lasted only 24 hours. This manoeuvre must be seen as a coup to the democratic process started in 2008. Social movements are protesting in front of Congress as well as in various parts of the country.

This plot by the major Paraguayan political parties has to be interpreted as the last step of a process of political destabilization in the country started with the massacre of Curuguaty last June 15th.

The facts from Curuguaty seem to show a high-level plot and operation by the opposition. The massacre that occurred in a camp of the landless peasants during a police operation left a toll of 17 dead, 11 peasants and 6 police officers, and 80 wounded. There are 54 people arrested facing very serious charges.

We will try to explain now the chain of events that have shaken the country from the Curuguaty deaths to Lugo’s overthrow today.

Background to the Curuguaty events

The Canindeyú department in the northeast part of Paraguay is a border region with Brazil with a high concentration of land in the hands of soy agribusinesses, marijuana cultivation and drugs and weapons smuggling.

Blas N. Riquelme is one of the richest people in the country, former Colorado Senator, large landowner with supermarket chains and many other food companies. Blas N. Riquelme was fraudulently given 50 thousand hectares of land, which were meant for poor peasants of the agrarian reform, during the Stroessner Dictatorship in 1969. This case of ill-gotten land was reported in the Report of the Truth and Justice Commission in 2008.

Since the fall of the Dictatorship in 1989, local peasants have been fighting to get these lands back. Two months ago a group of 60 landless peasants occupied two thousand hectares of the lands in an area called Marina Cue. These people did not belong to any specific peasant organization.

The Curuguaty massacre

On Friday June 15, two groups of law enforcement officers, the GEO Special forces and the police, entered Marina Cue with only a search warrant. The first group went to the camp to talk with the peasants. The police group suspiciously positioned itself behind. Surprisingly, in a confused event, long distance shots were fired. The first persons to fall were the chief and the deputy chief of the GEO forces.

During the ensuing battle, helicopters with reinforcements from the Special Operations Forces arrived and dispersed the peasants with flamethrowers and tear gas. The result of the battle was 11 peasants and 6 policemen dead.

In the first 24 hours after these events, police and soldiers surrounded and closed the area not letting anybody in. A first group of human rights advocates from Asuncion was detained by the police for several hours. In the Capital peasant leaders remained on alert, and in Curuguaty locals complained of law enforcement hunting down all survivors of the gunfight and any peasant activists in the area. Police burned the camp, erasing all evidence. During this period no prosecutors entered the area to observe what happened and collect evidence. It is assumed that during this time the police removed dead bodies and destroyed any proof.

Injured people, who went to health centers, were detained and placed in isolation cells in police stations. Some relatives and local people, who went to the health centers or to the police stations in order to get information on the victims, were also arrested. Lawyers and human rights organizations were not allowed access.

On Saturday, 16 family members, activists and media members crossed the police cordon and entered the peasant camp to search for survivors and wounded who might still be hiding. Indigenous people from the area helped with the search operation. Throughout the weekend there was heavy rain which made the operation almost impossible; regardless, they found 2 peasant bodies. According to information provided by human rights and peasant organizations: “these bodies were moved from where they were killed because there was no blood in the vicinity. They were also dressed as alleged guerilla-snipers and showed signs of recent torture and execution, with fresh blood and bullet wounds in the head and neck, and the weapons that are beside them are shotguns that could not have been used, since they are short distance weapons that shoot pellets, that do not match the long-distance wounds of the dead policemen.”

The search committee found traces of weapons of war, weapons which are not used by peasants. The suspicion is that, besides the landless peasant group, there was another infiltrated group which ambushed and killed the police. Peasant witnesses confirm this information, reporting that another group of men had camped nearby during the previous days, carrying heavy weapons and that these were the shooters. Their actions do not correspond to the methods used by peasants in their struggle for land. Questions arise about who these people might be: Could they be thugs tied to Blas Riquelme, border mafia, paramilitaries, or guerrillas? What seems to be clear is that they are not among those killed, detained or charged. Much of the evidence that could have helped identify them has also been eliminated.

Meanwhile, the prosecution presents charges against 54 people. Most are members of peasant organizations and relatives of the deceased who were not in the peasant camp at the time of the massacre. The charges are every serious, such as aggravated homicide and intentional murder, in addition to charges of invasion of private property, which carry sentences of up to 30 years in prison.

Only 12 people are currently arrested and charged, several of them are in jail. There are several minors, including a 16-year-old wounded girl and her infant child. The detainees have signs of torture, and several were arrested when they went to the police inquiring on friends and relatives. The situation of helplessness and defenselessness makes the locals dare not leave their homes. There is a non-declared state of siege in Curuguaty.

The prisoners are kidnapped by the police

On Sunday June 17th, Presidential Cabinet Secretary Miguel Angel Lopez Perito and Health Minister Esperanza Martinez went to Curuguaty to personally evaluate the matter. Previously, the police moved the detainees out of the police stations to other detention centers, so that the two Ministers could not see them. The detainees were literally kidnapped by the police.

Assembly meetings are held between civil servants (funcionarios?), family and social movements where they present their demands, which are:

1. End to the persecution and release of all prisoners;

2. Compensation for the families of the victims,

3. Recovery of ill-gotten lands of Marina Cue for the creation of a model peasant settlement

At a conference on June 19th, Emilio Camacho, auditor of the Paraguayan Land Institute (INDERT), confirmed that Blas Riquelme did not have the title to the 2,000 hectares; the ongoing ownership trial is still unresolved. This makes evident the irregularity and partiality (to landed interests) of the Paraguayan judiciary system: search warrants and eviction orders are signed without land titles.

Lugo hands over the repressive apparatus to the Colorados

Because of what happened in Curuguaty, Lugo replaced Interior Minister Carlos Filizzola naming as his replacement the former Attorney General, Candia Amarilla. During his tenure as State Prosecutor, Amarilla was characterized by his persecution and criminalization of social sectors.

Amarilla was trained in Colombia and is one of the promoters of the implementation of Plan Colombia in Paraguay. He is also a member of the Colorado Party. To make matters worse, Lugo replaced the National Director of Police and put in his place the chief who was in charge of the police operation in Curuguaty, the Commissioner Moran Arnaldo Sanabria. Both officials are publicly rejected by the social movements and several political sectors. Amarilla announced the end of the “protocol” in eviction operations, implemented by the previous Minister, consisting of dialogue with civil society organizations prior to operations. Amarilla states that his mandate will be the enforcement of the law with a strong arm.

With these two appointments, Lugo hands over the repressive apparatus into the hands of the Colorado Party. It is evident that he negotiated these nominations to avoid political impeachment. However, by doing this, he got the Liberal Party against him, which in turn negotiated with the Colorado Party and the Oviedistas to carry out the political impeachment.

On Thursday June 21st, a popular mobilization was called in front of the lands of Marina Cue. Over a thousand people were present with the objective of re-occupying the property until the detained people are freed and the land of Marine Cue returned to its rightful owners, landless peasants.

That same morning, the Colorado and Liberal parties suddenly agreed with the Oviedistas to impeach Lugo. In a few hours the impeachment process was set in motion by both houses, giving the president two hours on Friday to defend himself.

On Thursday, social movements called for mass mobilization in front of the Congress. Thursday night, 2000 people slept in the square in front of the Congress and people from all over the country started arriving in Asuncion. In several parts of the country, peasant organizations blocked roads.

On Friday afternoon, after an absurd and circus-like session in the Senate, Lugo is impeached. Paraguayan parliamentarians finally destroyed the democratization process that started with the electoral victory of Lugo. Upon hearing the verdict the first wave of repression started in the square outside the Congress. It marks only the beginning of what is being orchestrated against social movements and especially the peasant movement.

International solidarity can play a crucial role in the defense of Human Rights of the popular sectors in Paraguay. We call on all social organizations to be on alert to the situation in this country.

Source

The World Tomorrow: Julian Assange interviews President of Ecuador Rafael Correa

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15,000 march against NATO in Chicago

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The following article below was originally published by Fight Back! News, the news wing of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization

By Tom Burke
May 21, 2012

Carlos Montes, Los Angeles activist targeted by FBI repression, at Chicago anti-NATO protest. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

Chicago, IL – In the largest anti-war protest ever held in Chicago, 15,000 people took to the streets marching against the NATO military summit. Inside McCormick Convention Center, politicians, generals and bankers discussed the faltering U.S./NATO war and occupation in Afghanistan. They also forged agreements that set the stage for destabilizing and overthrowing independent governments in places like Syria and Iran.

Outside, in the streets of Chicago’s South Loop however, waves of protesters marched in contingents with a message against NATO and G8, opposing war and poverty. Protesters were chanting and singing, surrounded by police on all sides. They were in high spirits and feeling their power, knowing their message of opposing war and poverty was reaching across the world to people suffering from NATO wars and occupations.

The day began with music and poetry at Petrillo Bandshell in Grant Park, a park famous for 1960s protests against the U.S. war in Vietnam. Rebel Diaz, Tom Morello, David Rovics and hip-hop poets performed, with an appearance by the Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW). As the crowd began to grow, many taking shelter in the shade of nearby trees, protesters listened to speakers from scores of groups and movements that built for the protest against NATO.

The audience listened closely when Chicano leader and anti-war activist Carlos Montes took the stage. Members of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) held a big banner reading “Justice for Carlos Montes” behind him. Montes said, “I am here in solidarity with you today, despite being on trial in Los Angeles as part of an FBI frame up. I am being persecuted because of my anti-war, immigrant rights and labor activism. I organized protests against the U.S. War in Vietnam in the ‘60s and I organize against NATO and the U.S. war in Afghanistan today. We were in solidarity with and inspired by the people of Vietnam in their struggle against U.S. imperialism and we act in solidarity with the struggles of the people of Colombia, the Philippines and Mexico today. I call for the U.S. out of Afghanistan and to no U.S. or NATO intervention in Syria and Iran.”

Hatem Abudayyeh, a Palestinian-American, who is one of 23 Midwest anti-war activists subpoenaed to a grand jury investigation and had his home raided by the FBI because of his solidarity work, also spoke: “We are organizing toward the day when Palestine will be a free and sovereign nation, with the right to return for refugees. We call for an end to U.S. aid to Israel and for people here to join us in demanding Palestinian liberation!” A big roar went up from the entire crowd.

Meredith Aby from the Minneapolis Anti-War Committee spoke about the need to get NATO out of Afghanistan and prevent future U.S. wars for oil and Empire. Aby is also one of the 23 who the FBI raided and she asserted, “Being anti-war is not a crime!’

The Reverend Jesse Jackson, from Chicago’s Operation PUSH and a former presidential candidate, called for an end to spending billions on war. He demanded the money be used to fund social services and end poverty. Jackson educated the crowd about poverty in this country, often portrayed in the media as only affecting African-Americans and other oppressed peoples. Reverend Jackson said, “The largest single category of poor people is white women who are single parents with children.” Reverend Jackson used the African-American call and response tradition in his speech, much to the amazement of Occupy Wall Street activists who use a similar technique.

The contingent against political repression lines up to march against NATO in Chicago. (Fight Back! News/Staff)

All in all there were more than 40 speakers from students, labor, immigrant rights, war veteran, environmental, housing and healthcare groups. Speakers included Leah Bolger, the President of Vets for Peace, Larry Holmes of the International Action Center and Lisa Grab with Students for a Democratic Society. Many were interested to hear from the Afghan women for peace, and the International League of People’s Struggle representing many international movements for freedom.

There were dozens of international guests who came to the protest, particularly anti-NATO organizations from European NATO countries. The importance of this is not to be underestimated, as NATO is fragile and some countries have already pulled troops out of Afghanistan.

The afternoon march began with a group of Afghan women for peace joined by a large contingent of Iraq and Afghan war veterans marching together. The Coalition Against NATO and G8 (CANG8), the organizers of the march, held the lead banner, with the United National Antiwar Coalition F(UNAC) as a part of that.

A river of protesters stretched across four lanes of traffic and for nearly a mile on Michigan Avenue. Onlookers and whole families came out on apartment balconies and onto sidewalks to film and take photos.

When the march came to within a few blocks of McCormick Place, it was time for the war veterans to take command. In one of the most moving moments of any anti-war protest in a generation, U.S. military veterans made declarations against U.S. and NATO wars and occupations, throwing their medals off the stage and into the street. One war veteran describing his combat experience began choking back tears and saying, “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” to which thousands in the streets began chanting, “It’s not your fault! It’s not your fault!”

Other veterans gave impassioned speeches against wars for oil and U.S. imperialism, denouncing the 1% and the U.S. government, while throwing their combat service awards and other medals as far as possible down the street towards the NATO summit. Jacob Flom of IVAW dedicated his medals to Carlos Montes and the Anti-War 23.

The Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) ended the day with an announcement for people to exit to the west, taking note that there was a tremendous build-up of police in riot gear and military-type uniforms. The official show of force was intimidating to people and clearly planned and funded months ahead of time.

The crowds of protesters were so large, however, that it appeared impossible for everyone to exit in time for the end of the permitted Veterans rally. It soon became a scene of police encircling and pushing and shoving a much smaller crowd of people, some who responded in kind and were beaten and arrested. Others were simply singled out for arrest or beaten at random, including a few journalists. The big business media took up this story and these images to attempt to quickly bury the largest and most successful anti-war protest ever held in the city of Chicago.

While the greatest purveyors of violence in the world were meeting inside the NATO summit, the anti-war protesters outside sent a message heard round the world: “Say no to NATO! Troops out now!”

Oakland police drop charges against Bakari Olatunji

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The following article below was originally published by Uhuru News

The people are victorious! Oakland police drop charges! Bakari Olatunji freed! Forward to the Oakland Freedom Summer Project!

By Diop Olugbala
May 9, 2012

On Tue, May 8, 2012, members and supporters of the International People’s Democratic Uhuru Movement (InPDUM) and Oakland Freedom Summer Project emerged from the California State Court victorious after discovering that the Oakland Police Department had dropped its charges brought against our comrade Bakari Olatunji.

We went to the court to stand in unity and resistance as we faced the arraignment of comrade Bakari, who was facing felony charges stemming from the police attack on him and other members of the Uhuru Movement during an Oakland Police Dept (OPD) “open house” event.

It was at this event where InPDUM attempted to serve the People’s Subpoena to Police Chief Howard Jordan to appear at the Court for Black Justice and Reparations.

The date of arraignment was preceded by several days of relentless struggle waged by members and supporters of InPDUM from around the world.

Since Bakari’s arrest, the OPD, the jail and the DA’s office were bombarded with phone calls from comrades and supporters from as far as Paris, France and London, UK.

In addition, InPDUM Oakland was already mobilizing the African community here around the weekend of resistance on May 4 and 5.

This weekend of resistance included a candlelight vigil, a march for Black Justice and Court for Black Justice – all actions which served to expose the OPD’s colonial oppression of the African community.

This tremendous response from the people in support of Bakari was topped off by the show of support on the day of the arraignment by InPDUM forces as well as other organizations, including the Onyx Organizing Committee and Occupy Oakland.

Although a press conference was called to express our opposition to Bakari’s arrest and charges and to further expose the OPD as the real criminal organization in Oakland – no ruling class media showed.

This response from such media as the Oakland Tribune, ABC, CBS and NBC news is consistent with the historic stance these forces have taken in uniting with the state against the African community – whether through silence or manipulation of information.

Despite the media boycott of the Uhuru Movement, we moved forward with our resistance, standing as a united force in the courthouse, where our presence was amplified through the dozens, if not hundreds of calls to the State that called to free Bakari.

Bakari’s Case an Example of Counterinsurgency

InPDUM was clear that Bakari was targeted because of his involvement in the Uhuru Movement. He has lead countless struggles over the last 20-30 years in Oakland against the police repression of the African community.

The most recent and perhaps significant struggle that Bakari was a part of was the campaign to Defend Lovelle Mixon, a 26-year-old African who killed four cops who were part of a squad of police who assassinated him.

While every organization and individual in the Bay Area who claimed to be revolutionary and progressive ran for cover in the aftermath of the Lovelle Mixon struggle, it was Bakari and the Uhuru Movement who not only raised up the right of African people to resist, but also defended Lovelle Mixon and held him up as a hero for the African working class.

This stance taken by comrade Bakari put him directly in the crosshairs of the State, evident in the way he was targeted by police at the open house where he was arrested.

Further, Bakari’s arrest was evidence of the OPD’s inability to tolerate criticism, particularly from the African working class and is the latest manifestation of a rogue police force that disregards any form of law and order.

While comrade Bakari faced trumped up charges, the real criminals of the Oakland Police Department wielded, and continue to wield a license from the U.S. government to murder young African men, as they recently did 18-year-old high school senior Alan Dwayne Blueford on Sunday, May 6 – just two days after Bakari’s arrest.

More significantly, Bakari’s freedom is evident of the State’s inability to withstand the organized resistance of the African working class.

While he was locked up in Santa Rita County Jail, Bakari was approached by several jail employees and one sheriff who were recognizing his significance based on the amount of calls they were receiving, if they were not outright begging him to call off the dogs!

Surely, it was for fear of political consequences from the African community that the State decided it was not in its interests to keep Bakari in prison. Thus, they released him and retracted all charges against him.

We Won the Battle, but the War Continues! Revolutionary Organization Will Win!

When we struggle we win! When we stand up they fall down! Moreover, the highest, most effective form of African struggle is resistance under the leadership of organization.

This is the principle that has informed all the work done to free Bakari. This is the principle upon which the court for Black Justice was built. And this is the principle that will result in our ultimate liberation.

The Uhuru Movement has long worked to rebuild a strong movement for Black Power in Oakland.

It is Oakland where the Black Panther Party was founded in the 1960’s.

It was in Oakland in which the African People’s Socialist Party rebuilt the movement for Black Power after the Panthers were crushed militarily by the U.S. And it is in Oakland where we are working to re-establish a base of power from which we wage the African Liberation struggle from the West Coast region of North America.

Our strategy to liberate Oakland has already begun, and will be advanced through the successful completion of the Oakland Freedom Summer Project.

From July 9-29, 2012, we will deploy revolutionary forces from throughout the U.S. into Oakland to wage a month-long campaign to initiate the renovation of the Uhuru House and advance the struggle for African community control of police and education.

This struggle has already begun with the Court for Black Justice, and was aided by the victory of the Free Bakari campaign.

The extraordinary record of police repression in the schools and streets of Oakland provided the basis for mass participation in this campaign.

The OPD’s oppressive record served as the basis for the People’s Verdict of “GUILTY” at the Court for Black Justice.

Now, we are entering the phase in which we must build revolutionary organization to enforce the People’s Sentence.

This will all be tied together during the Oakland Freedom Summer Project.

InPDUM is calling on African students, workers and revolutionaries throughout the world to come to Oakland to join in what promises to be a historic project.

To watch the video of Bakari’s arrest, click here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zxFj1E4lzxU

What Must be Done:

Register for the Oakland Freedom Summer Project. Click here to REGISTER NOW: http://uhurusummerproject.org/register.shtml

If you are in Oakland, attend the weekly mass meetings to build the Oakland Freedom Summer Project:

Every Sunday at 4PM, Uhuru House – 7911 MacArthur Blvd

At week’s meeting on Sunday, May 13, we will hold a special VICTORY RALLY as we forward the struggle to build the Committee for African Community Self-Defense!

One Party! One Movement!

Build the Revolutionary Mass Organization for African Liberation!

Great new video online: “Hands off Carlos Montes!”

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May 5, 2012

Los Angeles, CA – The Committee to Stop FBI Repression has created a great new video on the life of Carlos Montes, and the fight to beat back the attempt to jail him.

Montes is a veteran Chicano activist known for his leadership of the 1968 East Los Angeles student walkouts, the historic Chicano Moratorium against the U.S. war in Vietnam, and the recent immigrants’ rights mega-marches of 2006. Montes was a co-founder of the Brown Berets. In recent years he has be active in the anti war, Chicano, labor and immigrant rights movements. He currently one of the 24 anti war and international solidarity activists who have been targeted by the FBI, and is scheduled to go on trial May 15.

The video urges people to call Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley, at 213-974-3512 to demand that all charges against Montes be dropped.

“Everyone should see this video and share it with their friends. It‘s the inspiring story of a heroic activists, Carlos Montes, who facing an FBI frame up. We can’t let him go to prison,” says Jess Sundin of the Committee to Stop FBI Repression.

Source

Freedom Road Socialist Organization: “The future is ours and the future is bright”

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The following speech below was originally published by Fight Back! News, the news wing of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization

Mick Kelly, of Freedom Road Socialist Organization, speaking at May Day event. (Fight Back! News/Staff)


FRSO Minnesota May Day celebration: “The future is ours and the future is bright.”

April 29, 2012

Fight Back News Service is reprinting the speech of Mick Kelly, a leader of Freedom Road Socialist Organization, delivered at the FRSO-organized May Day celebration, April 27.

Sisters and Brothers,

It is a real honor to be speaking here this afternoon to so many fighters who have made so many contributions to the people’s struggle.

I look out over this group of people and I see folks who helped change the political landscape in this county at Occupy, who have stood up against the poor bashing politicians at the capitol, who have campaigned against home foreclosures, who have stood strong on picket lines and – yes it is important that we talk about it this year – who have stood up against repression that has been unleashed by the FBI, the Justice Department and the federal government. And as to the last point I will return to it later.

In past years, we in Freedom Road Socialist Organization have organized events like this to celebrate May Day International Workers Day – sometimes on May 1, sometimes not. The basic point is this: all year long we fight for the things we need – for the most basic measure of justice – why not take out one day and celebrate the struggles we waged, the fights we have won, and look forward to the day that society is organized to serve us, not a handful of rich folks – the capitalist class.

You know, we have held celebrations like this for quite a few years, and when we started May Day it’s not what you would call a mass celebration. The upsurge for immigrant rights changed all that, and that is a wonderful thing.

May Day is celebrated as a day of struggle all over the world. From the streets of Cuba, where working people already have political power, to the villages of Palestine, where the masses of people want freedom from the Israeli occupation, to the jungles of Colombia, where the Colombian rebels are defeating the U.S.-backed death squad government.

Many of us will be marching on May 1 on Lake Street demanding legalization for the undocumented and an end to deportations. All of you should join us.

Now this afternoon I’ll be making a few points, presenting analyses, and a way of looking at how this society works. I urge you to think about it and give it some consideration.

Capitalism the enemy

All of us, who have been fighting for a better life this past year, have a lot in common. Other than courage and commitment, we are up against a common enemy.

This country is run by a small clique – a tiny group of people who monopolizes the wealth and power – the 1% that controls the majority of this country’s wealth. And they have at their beck and call a host of bought and paid for politicians that do their bidding in government.

The economic system we live under – capitalism = exists to serve this small elite. In this society you don’t get rich by working hard, you get rich by having others work hard for you. In fact, as many of you know, it’s a rule of thumb: the harder the work, the less you get paid.

Everything of value is the product of human labor; it was created by women and men working hard. This is political economy 101. Look around this room, and try to pick out one thing that was made by a rich man, by a capitalist. Can’t be done. The capitalists own the places where we work, we produce the goods and services and everything worthwhile – they get the profits.

We are dealing with a class that is made up of parasites. Malcolm X was entirely right to say: Show me a capitalist and I’ll show you a bloodsucker.

Not only are they rich parasites, they are thieves, thugs of the worse sort; They have stolen the land, labor, and, indeed, the lives of others.

The history of the owning class of this country is the history of the most sickening sort of brutality and criminality ever known to human kind. It begins with the systematic genocide of the native peoples. Tens of millions of Africans were kidnapped and forced into slavery. The northern part of Mexico was occupied. Hawaii was annexed by force. Puerto Rico was turned into a colony.

Some people say that was then, this is now – I don’t think so. We are dealing with a class of people who got rich through robbery, murder and exploitation. We can’t just say “that’s history”. These are events that have shaped our reality that we’re now living in. Look at the epidemic of police terror around this country. Look at the case of Trayvon Martin. Racist oppression is not a matter of history, it’s the here and now.

Our ruling class is unfit to rule. They are waging a war on the American people. We need to be clear on this.

The class that is in charge does not have any intrinsic god given right to wealth and power. Let me ask you a question: If you took the rich and powerful and plunged them to our condition, cut their wages and food stamps and foreclosed on their homes, what would happen? Would they be carrying picket signs? Hell no! They would be carrying rifles. No ruling class in human history has ever given up its wealth and privilege voluntarily, and this applies double to the rulers of the United States.

It is for this reason that we in Freedom Road have decided to build a revolutionary organization. We have come to the conclusion that the existing order of things is unacceptable and we aim to do something about it. We are serious about this and our enemies know this too.

Every person here knows that over the last 18 months the government has launched a furious attack on anti-war and international solidarity activists. The FBI invaded our homes, convened a grand jury, and in L.A. they are putting veteran Chicano activist Carlos Montes on trial on May 15.

Why have they done this? Well there is a very mundane, common place explanation and that explanation is perfectly true. In the run up to the 2008 Republican National Convention, a police officer named Karen Sullivan was placed into the organizing effort, and she stayed. She got involved in Palestine and Colombia solidarity work, concocted all sorts of lies with her handlers, and the next thing you know we have the U.S. Attorneys’ Office in Chicago talking about “multiple indictments of multiple people.”

You can see the same thing in the case of Carlos Montes. Carlos was here to organize for the RNC protests. He came in contact with Karen Sullivan and her police agent sidekick. According to FBI documents we know the LA Field Office of the FBI got involved.

So this is what happened; A plus B equals C. But there is a broader context. The rulers of the U.S. have built an empire that expands across the globe and it is crumbling. The peoples of the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia do not want to live under foreign domination. So they are rebelling, and the U.S. is lashing out abroad and here at home.

Most Arab and Muslim people in the U.S. do not agree that the liberation organizations of the Middle East are “terrorist organizations” and they do not agree with the occupation of Palestine. So an incredible wave of repression has been visited upon them.

Likewise, many of us in this room do not agree with calling freedom fighters “terrorists” and the government wants to make us pay.

Well it should be obvious at this point – we are not going quietly anywhere. We might suffer, but we will never suffer in silence.

We intend to defeat this repression and a campaign is underway to put pressure on the District Attorney in Los Angeles to drop the charges against Carlos Montes.

And the government has added a strange McCarthyite anti-communist twist to the attack that targets Freedom Road.

They are angry because we are working class internationalists. We are glad when other peoples across the globe are able to strike a blow at the rulers of this country.

They are mad because we are Marxist-Leninists. For real, the prosecutors talk about this. For us Marxism is a science. It helps us understand the world in order to change it. We see capitalism as a human destroying, blood sucking vampire and we want to put a stake through its heart. To do this we need a plan, a strategy. Marxism allows us to do just that.

You know, I am sure that some of you have read in some books, or seen in some movies or on TV, that communists are terrible people that want to do awful things. What do they want? What do communists, or revolutionaries, or socialists advocate that causes so much alarm?

In the context of the U.S. today, we think everyone has a right to a living wage job. And that those of us who are not working have a right to public assistance. In fact, as far as we are concerned, benefits are too low and the eligibility requirements too tight. The right to survive and, indeed, to thrive is a basic human right.

We think that the systematic discrimination against African American, Chicanos, Latinos, Asians and the Native peoples must come to an end. American capitalism has been built on the super–exploitation of Black, Chicano/Latino and other oppressed peoples. It is this system where some have privileges, and the basic human rights of others are trampled on, that we seek to tear down.

And further more, we think that the polices such as Affirmative Action, that go a little way towards addressing the racist discrimination that is taking place today, should be expanded. We also think that oppressed peoples, nations really, within the borders of our country have the right to determine their own destiny – the right to self-determination.

We cannot and will never accept the oppression of women. In fact we demand an end to inequality and support liberation. This is something deeper than equal pay for equal work. Although we certainly favor that, we are against any sort of social set-up that serves to hold women down.

We call for, and insist upon, full equality for immigrants (documented or undocumented), including the equality of languages.

We are against any actions or policies that discriminate against gays or lesbians. And let me talk for a moment about the case of CeCe McDonald, the transgender woman whose only crime is self-defense. She is a hero who deserves our support.

I could say a lot more about what communists are for and against – and I’ll be glad to talk with anyone afterwards about it more – but I think folks should get the basic gist of it. We are for justice, for peace, for equality, and for liberation.

And we believe that the only way to achieve those goals is to end the rule of the rich, of the capitalists, and build a socialist system – a system where all political and economic power is in the hands of the people.

This is not a dream. In some places it has been achieved. In Cuba they have already done this. Cuba is not a rich country to be sure. Medical care is free. Government policy aims at the elimination, not the creation, of poverty. No reasonable person can say that about this country.

150 odd years ago Karl Marx, who was the founder of the communist movement, wrote that communists disdain to conceal our aims. In other words, we don’t want to keep our views a secret and we intend to advocate them. That’s what I have been doing here today.

Is it any wonder that the rich would violently oppose such views and changes? For themselves they have built a heaven on earth. We intend to storm that heaven and raise all kinds of hell.

We don’t imagine this kind of change will happen tomorrow, but we do think they will happen.

In this city, state, country and planet, working people are the majority. We have every right to reorganize society in such a way that it serves our interests. Provided that we have the organization, determination, and understanding necessary, the future is ours and the future is bright!

Long Live International Workers Day!