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News :: Human Rights : International : Labor : Police and Prisons : Race
Murderous Cops, Liberal Snake Oil, & Revolutionary Solutions (Part 3)
by Steven Argue
13 Jan 2015
Modified: 08:17:43 AM
This is Part 3 of a four part article, also see Part 2 here:
Murderous Cops, Liberal Snake Oil, & Revolutionary Solutions (Part 2)
[Photo: Fred Hampton, Chicago Black Panther Party member murdered as he tried to sleep in a joint operation of the Chicago Police and FBI.]
Sections found here in Part 3:
Disrupting Business As Usual
Native American Lives Matter
Lives of Militant Blacks Matter
Cuban Lives Matter
Murderous Cops, Liberal Snake Oil, & Revolutionary Solutions (Part 3)
by Steven Argue
Disrupting Business As Usual
Multi-billionaire capitalist Donald Trump, who claims he’s “always had a great relationship with the blacks”, says of Ferguson, “They had a community that really worked, or it seemed to have worked, and now all this hatred's coming out." Brutal racist oppression “works” for the capitalist rulers of this country, until it doesn’t. While methods of property destruction and looting come at a great price, and I instead advocate other means of resistance, especially labor action, there should be no question that it is these methods that have helped create a crisis for the capitalist ruling class that is not without benefits for the rest of us. The people who do these things are widely portrayed as stupid, but these acts of desperation by people with absolutely no representation in government actually are not without intelligence. The case of Rodney King is a good example.
While justice is extremely rare under America’s racist capitalist government, one case where some semblance of justice was achieved was that of Rodney King in 1992. Despite videotape showing the cops using enough force to kill a man, the police were acquitted in their first trial. In that case, it took a mass six day uprising that destroyed over a billion dollars in property to win a new trial for the criminal cops. In the subsequent trial, two cops, Koon and Powell, were found guilty. For a change, two brutal cops went to prison for their crimes. In addition, the 1992 uprising forced the resignation of LA’s Chief of Police. On a small scale, property was also redistributed through “looting”. Yet, the people paid a heavy price for this action with all kinds of repressive government forces mobilized in the streets including the Marines, 53 people were killed, around 2,000 people were injured, and nearly 20,000 people arrested. Yet, the destruction of a billion dollars in property was not without sense, because much of what was destroyed was owned by the ruling capitalist class, our oppressors and exploiters.
Today, it remains the impunity with which police carry out brutality and murder in cities and towns across the United States that has ignited a mass movement of resistance. In these situations, revolutionaries point out that police brutality, murder, racism, and oppression are inherent in the capitalist system. These are means of terror and division by which the capitalist state maintains and enforces the inequalities of class exploitation. The cops do “protect and serve”; problem is the class they are serving is not ours.
The capitalist state is at its heart the coercive tools of oppression that beat us down, mainly the city police, sheriffs, FBI, NSA, CIA, prisons, courts, and military. Those who rule, the wealthy capitalists, will never allow those tools of oppression to be reformed to become institutions for the poor, people of color, or the working class in general. Instead, what is needed is the building of a multiracial revolutionary workers party that demands radical changes as it works to smash the capitalist state and abolish the class slavery of capitalism.
The revolutionary movement raises the transitional demands that the capitalist state must “Stop police brutality!”, “Jail killer cops!”, “Abolish the Racist Death Penalty!”, “End the mass incarceration of the poor!”, “Free Our Political Prisoners!”, “End racist profiling!”, “Repeal anti-homeless laws!”, “End imperialist wars!”, and “Stop torturing people!”. We do this with the knowledge that we will achieve some important, rare, and isolated victories that must be used to further the struggle. For instance, the demand for ending Jim Crow segregation was won. For another example, on some rare occasions the working class built a strong and militant enough movement to actually jail brutal and killer cops. Rare occasions. At the same time, we point out through those experiences that this system cannot be fundamentally reformed, that instead most real change will only happen through proletarian socialist revolution that smashes the capitalist state and puts the working class in power.
Police murders with impunity have been protested and exposed by activists and victims’ families for decades. This includes large numbers of lesser known cases that were barely mentioned and largely whitewashed in favor of the cops in the corporate media. What has changed is the level of resistance to these murders by police and wider exposure through social media and recordings from cell phones. Protests have taken place in hundreds of cities. Some of the most recent of these have included protests on December 13th where at least 30,000 people marched in New York, over 10,000 in Washington D.C., and 10,000 in Oakland.
Even professional football players have joined the protests. After the Ferguson ruling, five St. Louis Rams football players protested with their hands in the air as they entered the field, a symbol of solidarity with protesters who bring attention to Michael Brown’s attempt to surrender by holding hands in the air and chanting, “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot!”
On December 14th, Andrew Hawkins, wide receiver of the Cleveland Browns, also stood against the impunity with which cops in the United States murder people. He wore a shirt that said, "Justice for Tamir Rice and John Crawford III". Tamir Rice was a 12-year-old boy who was killed by the Cleveland police on November 22nd. He was playing in a park with a BB gun that looked like a realistic gun when police rolled up and immediately shot and killed him. Before releasing video, the police lied about the entire incident. They claimed that the police gave repeated warnings to Tamir Rice and that Tamir Rice reached for his waste, supposedly a threatening move. The release of video proved the cops were lying. Video shows that there was absolutely no time for the police to have issued the warnings that they claimed to have given. In addition, the idea of Tamir Rice reaching for anything makes no sense because Tamir never put the toy gun away. Nor did he point it at police. The 911 caller to police stressed twice that the “gun” Tamir Rice had was probably fake, which it was. After Tamir Rice was shot, police allowed him to roll around on the ground in agony for four minutes without any first aid, potentially contributing to Tamir’s death. Besides the protest by Andrew Hawkins, other protests have occurred in Cleveland for Tamir Rice, including at least one that blocked a major intersection.
Numerous other protests have continued up through the holidays and into 2015 as well. On December 20th, in Bloomington Minnesota, 3,000 protesters shut a section of the Mall of America down during one of the busiest shopping days of the year. One of the popular chants that broke out was, “There is Only One Solution, Revolution, Revolution!” During the protest, the workers at Lush Cosmetics walked out in solidarity with the protesters with their hands in the air. Protests like this cost the ruling capitalists money and force people to pay attention to police murders.
A similar philosophy has driven protests that have blocked freeways and major bridges in Berkeley, New York, San Francisco, and elsewhere.
LGBTQ protesters in San Francisco successfully blocked freeway entrances to Highway 101 on Christmas Eve day under the slogan of “Black Lives Matter!” It was in fact militant resistance by the LGBTQ community to police in the Stonewall Riots that first kicked off the movement for gay and lesbian equality in the United States in earnest. The Stonewall Riots started with a routine police raid of a gay and lesbian bar in Greenwich Village, New York on June 28th, 1969. These vice raids took place routinely all across the country at LGBTQ establishments where people were arrested for their homosexuality. Their names would then also be published in the corporate newspapers the next day and their jobs would be lost. What differed the morning that the Stonewall Riots started was that people physically fought back against the cops. Along with spontaneous physical resistance and speeches, people chanted “Gay Power!” and threw pennies at the cops, calling them “coppers” because pennies were all they were worth. This was the beginning of a movement that, while still having more progress to make, has won the legalization of homosexuality and eliminated homosexuality as a “condition” for which people could forcibly held in mental institutions and tortured. Today, Gay Pride rallies are held annually around the world in commemoration of the beginning of the Stonewall Riots.
Days of sustained protests in Berkeley for “Black and Brown Lives Matter!” have shut down freeways at least seven times. Vandalism occurred too, with at least some of that being instigated by undercover police. After being exposed as cops trying to instigate vandalism, two undercover cops then pulled out their guns on protesters and made an arrest. On December 15th, protesters in Oakland shut down the Oakland Police Department. Major walkouts of high school students occurred in Berkeley and Oakland as well, including 1,500 students who walked out of Berkeley High.
Police abuses against protesters by the Berkeley and Oakland police have included unprovoked attacks of protesters where people were beaten with batons, shot with rubber bullets, tear gassed, and thousands were arrested. Cops broke one person’s leg. Anonymous retaliated, disabling the computers of several Oakland government offices, including those of the Oakland Police Department. In addition, one Berkeley City Council meeting was rescheduled due to expected protesters. The next meeting had about 150 people in attendance. People at the meeting demanded that charges against protesters be dropped. Many demanded the resignation of Mayor Tom Bates whose police force had so brutally attacked peaceful protesters as well. People are also regularly showing up at the Oakland Courthouse (off 7th Street and Washington) in solidarity with those arrested at protests and demanding that charges against protesters be dropped. People facing charges can gain legal advice from the National Lawyers Guild at (415)285-1011.
In Minneapolis, we are also demanding that charges be brought against an SUV driver who brutally attacked protesters with his greenhouse gas emitting SUV, used not just as a deadly weapon against the planet, but also a deadly weapon against protesters. Video quite clearly shows that the driver purposely drove around another vehicle and rammed into a line of protesters while other drivers turned around. This was an assault with a deadly weapon, but police have filed no charges, despite knowing the identity of the driver to be Jeffrey Patrick Rice. One protester who was hit and run over, a 16 year-old girl, was hospitalized for a leg injury. We Demand: End Impunity For Vigilante Attacks on Protesters! Jail and Charge Jeffrey Patrick Rice for His Crime Now!
Native American Lives Matter
Many of the protests that have taken place have been under the slogan “Black Lives Matter”. In Rapid City, South Dakota, Native Americans held a similar protest on December 19th with the slogan “Native Lives Matter”. As I pointed out earlier, Native Americans are the minority group most likely to be shot and killed by police in the United States. One example is Take Mah-hi-vist Goodblanket, 18, a Cheyenne and Arapaho youth killed by cops in Oklahoma on December 13th, 2013. Two sheriff's deputies shot him seven times. The deputies claim Goodblanket threw a knife and tried to attack with another. However, Goodblanket’s girlfriend, Naomi Baron, was present and she says the cops are lying. She says, "He [had] his arms up and his hands were free ... he had no weapons." The Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has conducted an investigation, but they have refused to release their report.
About 100 people attended the Rapid City protest and commemorated the lives of 25 people killed by law enforcement. A day after the protest, one of its Native American participants, Allen Locke, 30, was gunned down by Rapid City cop Anthony Meirose. Police claim that Anthony Locke charged police with a knife, but they have produced absolutely no evidence to back their claim. Without providing any evidence, Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker is also promoting the story of a knife wielding Allen Locke and is saying that this shooting had nothing to do with race. What authorities are giving is just the usual cover story of the police state, a cover story that has often proven to be a lie when actual evidence emerges.
The official poverty rate for Native Americans in Rapid City is over 50%. The Rapid City area has a long history of extreme violence and discrimination against Native Americans. Up through the 1960s, Native Americans in South Dakota were segregated much as Blacks were in the south. In addition, Native American children were kidnapped and brought to boarding schools for forced cultural assimilation. Native American women were subject to forced sterilization on a massive scale up through the 1970s. Much of this began to change for the better with the Occupation of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in Washington DC by the American Indian Movement (AIM) and the armed uprising of Native Americans at Wounded Knee in 1973. These actions brought national and international attention to the plight of Native Americans in the United States. While Native Americans are small in numbers, nobody, including the capitalist government on the right and revolutionary socialists on the left, should ever underestimate their potential as a moral force in U.S. politics as a group that has suffered inarguable genocide and has widespread popular sympathy.
While AIM made major gains through the BIA and Wounded Knee actions, the retaliation of the U.S. government was brutal as well. On the Pine Ridge Reservation, the FBI worked with the corrupt and undemocratic tribal leadership of Dick Wilson to establish death squads, officially called GOONs. To suppress Native American dissent, the GOON death squads and FBI murdered at least 61 people on the Pine Ridge Reservation between 1973 and 1976 according to Ward Churchill. American Indian Movement (AIM) members have, however, estimated the number of people killed to be much higher, around 200, with those victims including Native Americans killed by cops working with the FBI outside of the reservations in several states as well. Members and supporters of AIM were the primary target of this brutal repression, but family members, including children, were also killed. During that FBI’s reign of terror, Leonard Peltier was framed up for the shooting of two FBI agents and remains in prison. While an innocent man sits in prison for decades, the FBI, local police forces, and GOONs who committed mass murder have never been prosecuted for their crimes. Revolutionary socialists call for Native American liberation through socialist revolution and we demand of the racist capitalist government: Free Leonard Peltier! Jail Killer Cops! Jail Murderous FBI Agents! Jail Responsible Government Officials! and Jail GOON Death Squad Members Now! There is no statute of limitations on murder.
Lives of Militant Blacks Matter
African Americans have faced brutal political repression similar to that of Native Americans in the United States with this also orchestrated by the FBI. In the 1960’s and 70’s the U.S. government liquidated the Black Panther Party For Self Defense through the murders of 38 members, constant police harassment costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in bail money, and the frame-up of many other members.
Fred Hampton was a leader of the Chicago Black Panther Party (BPP). He was murdered in his sleep at the age of 21 in a joint assassination carried out by the Chicago Police and the FBI. The operation also murdered BPP member Mark Clark. As a leader of the BPP, Fred Hampton organized a non-aggression pact between Chicago’s street gangs, a successful breakfast program, and a multi-racial Rainbow Coalition unrelated to Jesse Jackson’s later liberal appropriation of the name for the so-called “Democratic” Party. In addition, Fred Hampton gave fiery speeches that were part of building a movement for proletarian socialist revolution. As Fred Hampton said, “Racism is the excuse used; racism is just a byproduct of capitalism.”
This was a point also made by BPP member Connie Mathews in a speech to 500 students at San Jose State University on October 25th, 1969:
“…the reason they divided us up into ethnic groups, into races, because as Fanon has said—capitalism and racism—one is a cause and the other is effect. They did not bring Black people over from Africa as slaves because we are Black. They brought Black people over so capitalism could thrive. When capitalism reached its highest form—imperialism—they had to define methods to keep the division.”
These kinds of teachings were expressly forbidden by FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover who infamously declared in 1968, "The Negro youth and moderate[s] must be made to understand that if they succumb to revolutionary teachings, they will be dead revolutionaries."
By the time of Connie Mathews’ San Jose speech, that repression was already well under way as she pointed out, saying, “I am saying that over the last 6 months Nixon has launched a massive repression against the Black Panther Party that is unheard of.” Fred Hampton was not yet murdered at that time, that came two months later on December 4th, but he was rapidly rising up in the national leadership of the party due in part to FBI and police murders and frame-ups.
Among the prominent FBI frame-ups was that of Geronimo Ji Jaga (Pratt), a BPP member in Los Angeles who was finally exonerated (i.e. found innocent) after 27 years in prison. The FBI stated in their own files that they sought to "neutralize Pratt as an effective BPP functionary." While carrying out Geronimo’s frame-up, the FBI hid evidence of their knowledge that Geronimo was 350 miles from the murders for which he was framed at the time they occurred.
Other framed Black Panthers still sit in prison and Black Panther Assata Shakur lives in exile, granted political asylum by Cuba, but with a one million dollar bounty placed on her head by Chris Christie’s state government in New Jersey. In addition, Obama’s FBI has placed Assata Shakur on its most wanted “terrorist” list and is offering an additional million dollar reward. Some have feared a deal between the U.S. and Cuba now that both countries are setting up diplomatic relations for the first time since the early years of the Cuban Revolution. Cuba’s head of North American Affairs, Josefina Vidal, however, has responded by saying:
“Every nation has sovereign and legitimate rights to grant political asylum to people it considers to have been persecuted. ... That’s a legitimate right. We’ve explained to the U.S. government in the past that there are some people living in Cuba to whom Cuba has legitimately granted political asylum.”
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie responded, calling Cubans “thugs” and likewise applying typical racist disrespect by using Assata Shakur’s discarded slave name saying:
“So Joanne Chesimard, a cold-blooded cop-killer, convicted by a jury of her peers, in what is without question the fairest and most just criminal justice system in the world ... is now, according to an official of the Cuban government, persecuted. These thugs in Cuba have given her political asylum for 30 years. It’s unacceptable.”
In reality, Assata Shakur was not convicted by a “jury of her peers”, she was convicted by an all white jury. Assata Shakur was a victim of America’s racist courts and the FBI’s COINTELPRO operations that targeted Black radicals for police murder and judicial frame-up. Police ambushed Assata Shakur and her comrades in 1973. In that attack, police crossfire struck and killed New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster, with a bullet from a police revolver killing the cop. James Harper, the slain trooper’s partner has admitted that he lied about seeing a gun in Assata Shakur’s hand. Assata Shakur was supposedly being apprehended for 7 counts, including a bank robbery. She was later acquitted for all of these counts and a jury even decided that the picture the FBI had widely circulated, supposedly showing her during a bank robbery, wasn’t even a picture of her. She and her comrade Sundiata Acoli were, however, wrongly convicted in the death of Werner Foerster.
Before going to trial, Assata Shakur was badly tortured as were other Black Panthers in custody like Ruben Scott who confessed after being tortured. Assata Shakur did not confess.
The torture and murder of political dissidents by the U.S. government did not begin with Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, it was used against the Black Panther Party as well as directly by the U.S. government in places like Vietnam. For instance, before Guantanamo and the Panthers, there were the tiger cages of Côn Sơn Island where U.S. forces and the South Vietnamese puppet government tortured prisoners and murdered 20,000 people. The victims were largely leftists and suspected leftists who opposed the U.S. imposed dictatorship of southern Vietnam. Similarly, the CIA’s torture and assassination under the Phoenix Program in southern Vietnam targeted Communists and suspected Communist supporters. Few prisoners survived their interrogations. The U.S. State Department admits to directly killing 20,000 people under this program and another 20,000 people were murdered by it when the program was turned over to the South Vietnamese dictatorship.
It was in 1977 that Assata Shakur was convicted by an all-white jury that was kept unaware of the FBI’s COINTELPRO campaign of murder and frame-up against the Black liberation movement. After the conviction, Assata Shakur’s comrades, however, broke her out of prison. She lived underground in the United States for 5 years and by 1984 she was able to escape to the freedom of Cuba.
While Assata Shakur benefits from the gains of the Cuban Revolution living in exile in Cuba, political prisoners who have not been able to escape the United States like Sundiata Acoli, who was arrested in relation to the same incident as Assata Shakur, still sit in prison. In September 2014, Sundiata Acoli, however, won an appeal to grant his release on parole, but the state of New Jersey is still fighting the ruling. Free Sundiata Acoli Now!
A similar case is that of Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald. He was pulled over by the California Highway Patrol in 1969, supposedly for a broken tail light. At that time, the police all across the country, in coordination with the FBI, were carrying out these kinds of stops and then opening fire on BPP members to kill them. In the shoot out that came with this CHP attack, Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald was shot in the head and CHP Officer Leslie Clapp was injured as well. At the trial for attempted murder, CHP Officer Leslie Clapp admitted that he was under orders to shoot and kill members of the Black Panther Party. The judge ordered the jury to disregard this essential fact. An additional charge for the murder of security guard Barge Miller was also placed on Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald. Yet, the one eyewitness against him couldn’t even pick out the picture of Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald when photos of three men were placed before him. Romaine “Chip” Fitzgerald fired on Officer Leslie Clapp in self-defense and was framed for the death of Barge Miller.
While all of this went on, the corporate media loyally reported the FBI’s murder campaign against the Black Panther Party in the reverse of reality, with the BPP portrayed as the aggressors. Other FBI operations were used to discredit and murder members of the BPP as well. For instance, on his own initiative, FBI agent “Crazy” Tom Mosher set-up the so-called Guevara guerrilla training base in the Santa Cruz Mountains. From this base FBI agent Tom Mosher carried out various illegal activities like robberies of pot growers and leftists as well as guerrilla activities that were used to get people busted, all while doing his best to associate himself with the BPP. In 1971, an important and well liked member of the BPP, Fred Bennett, was murdered and his body disposed of at this FBI run training camp. FBI agent Tom Mosher then “leaked” a falsified version of what happened to a reporter he worked closely with in his operations named Ed Montgomery of the San Francisco Chronicle. From this falsified FBI information, Montgomery reported that Fred Bennett’s murder had been ordered by BPP leader Bobby Seale because of a personal relationship Fred Bennett was having with a woman in the BPP. This was an obvious lie from a known liar, in part because the BPP had actually approved their relationship. In his article, Montgomery hid the fact that he knew his source was FBI, and instead reported him as a movement source.
Full details of the murder of Fred Bennett may never be known, but what appears likely is that a snitch jacket was placed on him, probably with the participation of FBI agent Tom Mosher himself. This fits with an FBI COINTELPRO memo from FBI headquarters to the San Francisco office on May 11, 1970, urging them to work with local police to plant fabricated documents and other "disruptive disinformation ... pinpointing Panthers as police or FBI informants." In this way, under a climate of fear and anger already created by FBI frame-ups and murders, the FBI also carried out a targeted campaign to incite BPP members to kill each other.
While innocent former Panthers sit framed-up in prison, live in exile, or have been put in their graves by the U.S. government; guilty FBI agents and city cops, including the Chicago police and FBI who murdered Fred Hampton in his sleep, have never been prosecuted for their crimes. Revolutionary Leininist-Trotskyists denounce this injustice. At the same time, we do make criticisms of the program of the Black Panther Party. It was a program that lacked a needed orientation to the multi-racial working class as both an agent for change and as a powerful force that can curtail repression by the capitalist state. The revolutionary party, as part of this working class orientation, fights for the leadership of the unions against its current conservative and bureaucratic leadership that is incapable of winning strikes and ties working class hopes to electoral victories of the racist and anti-working class Democrat Party. The Black Panther Party, lacking this needed orientation to the organized working class found itself increasingly under a war of extermination by the capitalist state, and without the strength of industrial unions to shut down production was reduced to a level of alternating between adventuristic military strikes and impotent appeals to the Democrat Party. Yet, it must also be said that such an orientation to labor was also less obvious at that time, a time when the organized working class was far better off than we are today as well as less influenced by the ideological gains of the Vietnam, Black, Chicano, Native American, women’s, and LGBT liberation movements that has had a big impact on the thinking of today’s working class.
Another former Black Panther Party member unjustly sitting in prison is Mumia Abu-Jamal. He is currently serving a life sentence in the United States for his political views and journalism under a blatant frame-up murder charge. Mumia managed to survive the wave of FBI and police terror against the BPP in the 1960s and 70s only to be the victim of an attempted police murder in 1981 and then framed-up by the Philadelphia Police and sentenced to death 1982. There have been decades of struggle for Mumia’s freedom that have included an ILWU strike on his behalf on May 1st 1999 that shut down all west coast ports from 6 AM to 8 PM with a 300 strong ILWU contingent marching at the head of a march of 20,000 people demanding justice for Mumia. It was due to these kinds of actions as well as international outrage that Mumia was never executed. In 2011, Mumia’s death sentence was commuted to a life sentence, still a major travesty of justice.
I write about the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal in more detail in a piece I link at the end of this article, but a brief synopsis is in order. During the frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal, police coerced eyewitnesses into saying what they wanted to hear while the DA’s office illegally hid evidence for the defense and used obviously perjured testimony, including from one eyewitness that wasn’t even there. There were three reasons for the frame-up of Mumia Abu-Jamal. The first is that he was at the wrong place at the wrong time while a mob hit was taking place against Officer Faulkner, a cop who corrupt officers involved with the mob thought was part of an FBI investigation of their criminal activities. The second reason was that Mumia was Black, working class, and a former Black Panther, so he was an easy victim of police frame-up for cops who wanted to cover-up a murder they were involved in. The third reason was that Mumia, as a freelance journalist, had worked to expose rampant police murders and repression carried out against the leftist and largely Black organization called MOVE in Philadelphia.
In years following Mumia’s frame-up, his journalism behind bars has spread far and wide as an important voice of the voiceless. The continued attempts at his execution up until 2011 by the entire system were intended to silence that voice. The latest move to silence Mumia came in the form of the Revictimization Relief Act signed into law in October 2014 by Governor Tom Corbett. Soon after signing the law, Corbett held a press conference on the site where Officer Faulkner was killed where he stated the law would stunt the “obscene celebrity” garnered by offenders like Mumia Abu-Jamal. The law greatly curtails the free speech rights of Mumia Abu-Jamal and any journalist who would like to report what he or any other inmate says.
It is to terrorize and silence leftists and the Black community that the capitalist class carries out outrageous repression against Mumia Abu-Jamal, Philadelphia MOVE, and the Black Panther Party. Leninist-Trotskyists call for Black liberation through socialist revolution. In addition, we call for labor and other types of action to demand of the racist capitalist government: Free all political prisoners of the U.S. war on the Black liberation movement including Mumia Abu-Jamal, Sundiata Acoli, and Romaine “Chip” Fitzegerald! End the $2 Million Bounty Against Assata Shakur and Drop The Conviction Against Her! Jail the Police, Judges, FBI, and Prosecutors Who Slaughtered and Framed Leaders of the Black Liberation Movement! Jail Killer Cops Who Continue to Murder With Impunity Today! End the U.S. Imperialist Economic Blockade of Cuba!
Cuban Lives Matter
Cuba justly recognizes Assata Shakur as a political refugee from racist political persecution in the United States. As opposed to supporters of the white supremacist power structure of the United States, like Barack Obama who puts a million dollar bounty on Assata Shakur’s head, revolutionary socialists thank the Cuban government for their anti-racist solidarity and demand an end to the U.S. government’s persecution of Assata Shakur.
As with Assata Shakkur, Cuba did a great service to the Black liberation struggle of the United States by granting political asylum to Robert F. Williams as well. In North Carolina, Williams was a pioneer of the tactic of armed Black self-defense that was so successfully employed by the Deacons of Defense and Justice. This led to some early successes, but he also came under attack from liberal organizations, including the NAACP, as well as the U.S. government.
In 1961, Robert F. Williams, facing false charges of kidnapping white people that he was actually protecting from angry Black protesters, was pursued by the FBI and then driven into exile in Cuba and China. From revolutionary Cuba and the People’s Republic of China, Robert F. Williams and his wife Mabel were not silenced by FBI harassment, but he was instead able to exert influence in the United States against racist segregation through Cuban backed broadcasts of Radio Free Dixie between 1962 and 1965 and used his time in Cuba to publish the newspaper “The Crusader” as well as the book “Negroes With Guns”. This work, aided by the Cuban Revolution, influenced the Deacons for Defense and Justice and later Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party.
While the Cuban government grants asylum for legitimate political refugees, the U.S. shelters real terrorists like CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles. On October 6th, 1976, Carriles blew up Cubana Airlines Flight 455 with a bomb, killing all 73 people on board. Despite demands for extradition from Cuba and Venezuela, Luis Posada Carriles lives happily in Miami, sheltered from prosecution for his terrorist crimes by the U.S. government. Since the 1959 Cuban Revolution, 3,500 Cubans have been killed by CIA backed counterrevolutionary groups that have based their operations in Miami and carried out their crimes with impunity in the U.S.
An additional U.S. operation against the Cuban Revolution is to portray the Cuban government as racist. UCLA Professor Mark Sawyer, an African American man and leading U.S. scholar on the question of racism in Cuba, says, “The broad scholarly consensus is that Cuba through a combination of redistribution of wealth, improved education systems and open access to health care had moved the black population on the island closer to parity with whites than any other society in the world.” He also blows the whistle on attempts by powerful and well funded individuals to intervene to change that consensus, saying, “In the early 2000's the Cuban members of Congress funded projects located at HBCU's [historically black colleges and universities] for scholars under to contract to produce articles on racism in Cuba.”
For the Cuban exile counterrevolutionary community and their CIA backers, the question of race has always been a sticky one. They are predominantly the wealthy whites who fled the Cuban Revolution and deny the problems with rampant racism under the U.S. backed Batista dictatorship that was overthrown. In addition, both the CIA and the Cuban exile community supported the racist Apartheid system in South Africa, with the CIA even tipping off the South African government for the arrest of Nelson Mandela. Yet, these racist forces are funding people in academia in attempts to stir accusations of racism in Cuba as an attempt to discredit the Cuban Revolution. Likewise, a covert U.S. government operation to infiltrate the Cuban hip hop scene and fund any counterrevolutionaries within it was exposed in 2014. The operation was carried out through USAID, and became so exposed that even U.S. congress people spoke out against it (all be it for the wrong reasons).
Cuba’s commitment to the fight against racism was declared at the outset of the Cuban Revolution, with Fidel Castro declaring in 1959:
“One of the most just battles that must be fought, a battle that must be emphasized more and more, which I might call the fourth battle—the battle to end racial discrimination at work centers. I repeat: the battle to end racial discrimination at work centers. Of all the forms of racial discrimination the worst is the one that limits the colored Cuban's access to jobs.” –Fidel Castro, March 23, 1959, Havana labor rally
Race segregation and racism in hiring were outlawed. Other measures that helped poor people in general like socialized health care and the reduction of all rent to a maximum of 10% of a person’s income and the elimination of illiteracy helped Cuba’s poor Black population the most. Still, despite major progress, racism has not been eradicated in Cuba. This has often been recognized by leaders of the Cuban Revolution as well as by Cuba’s hip hop movement.
In recent decades a major cause of Cuba’s growing racial inequalities has been increasing capitalist inroads into the Cuban economy. The most important of these was the legalization of the American dollar. This was a measure taken after the capitalist counterrevolutions in the USSR and Eastern Europe eliminated 85% of Cuba’s foreign trade almost overnight in the early 1990s. This brutally thrusted Cuba’s economy back into the world capitalist market. This also took place under the continued pressures of the U.S. economic blockade. In the early years of this economic crisis, international aid agencies credited Cuba’s socialist food distribution policies for preventing a mass humanitarian food crisis. To help the economy, Cuba also made moves towards encouraging limited and strictly regulated foreign investment as well as legalizing the dollar. With the dollar legalized, Cubans with relatives in the United States were greatly benefited because they could get dollars sent to them. The problem is, most of the Cubans with relatives in the U.S. are white or lighter skinned. A far higher percentage of Blacks stayed in Cuba with the Cuban Revolution. As a result of fewer dollars being sent to Cuban Blacks from the United States, racial inequalities have greatly increased in Cuba.
Attempts to bring in needed foreign currency for the Cuban economy have also produced a luxury tourist industry and services that are out of reach of what most Cubans can afford. They also often involve joint state and foreign capitalist investment. The international class divisions involved in such enterprises have also helped exacerbate racial divides, so much so that Cuban revolutionary leader Raúl Castro felt compelled to issue a public warning in 2000 saying that, “If a single person is not allowed to enter a hotel because of being black, then by law that hotel will be closed down.”
Cuba’s internationalist commitment to Black liberation can be seen in part by the political asylum they have given to people like Robert F. Williams and Assata Shakur. It has also been shown clearly with the troops Cuba sent to Angola to successfully defeat the invading white racist South African army. The victories of Cuba’s heroic troops in Angola played an essential role in defending Angola’s independence, winning independence for Namibia, and the ultimate defeat of the racist Apartheid system in South Africa.
In addition, in attempts to help struggling African American, Latino/a, and other poor communities in the United States, Cuba gives free education to Americans who want to become doctors provided they go back to the United States and use their skills in under served communities. Cuba also attempted to send hundreds of doctors trained and experienced in disaster situations to the U.S. to help out after Hurricane Katrina. These professionals would have saved lives, but Bush Jr. preferred to let poor Black people in New Orleans die. Bush refused the doctors entry.
While Cuba works to build ties with oppressed and exploited communities in the United States, U.S. ties with Cuba were originally broken in 1960, not long after the Cuban Revolution overthrew the U.S. backed capitalist dictatorship of Batista in 1959. This was a dictator that tortured and murdered at least 20,000 people with full U.S. backing. Cuba became an enemy to the U.S. ruling class when the Cuban Revolution expropriated the holdings of U.S. capitalist exploiters, establishing in their place a planned socialist economy with guaranteed nutrition, free healthcare, free education, and low rent and utilities. Just as the U.S. government under the presidency of Thomas Jefferson (a slave owner who never freed his slaves) placed an economic embargo on the Black people of Haiti for carrying out the first successful slave revolt in world history, the U.S. has similarly punished the Cuban people for decades for ending a brutal U.S. backed dictatorship, outlawing racist discrimination, and establishing a planned socialist economy that benefits the majority of the people.
Barack Obama is now talking about ending the U.S. economic embargo that was begun against Cuba by Eisenhower in 1960 and maintained by every U.S. president as well as worsened by Bush Senior and Bill Clinton. A possible end to the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba is also signaled by Obama’s renewal of diplomatic relations with Cuba and freeing of the remaining prisoners of the Cuban Five. The Cuban Five were Cubans who went to Miami to infiltrate CIA backed exile terrorist organizations to help prevent terrorist attacks on Cuba. Unfortunately, they were caught and spent many years in prison in the United States. An end to the U.S. economic blockade of Cuba will indeed be a major step forward when and if it finally does come. The imperialists may be changing their position partly because decades of imperialist economic blockade have failed to bring the Cuban people to their knees. An additional reason is because U.S. capitalists are realizing that they are missing out on many investment and trade opportunities as the Cuban leadership liberalizes portions of Cuba’s socialist economic system. A third reason is that U.S. imperialists recognize that economic engagement may be a means to destroy the remaining gains of the Cuban Revolution and thereby destroy its inspirational example to the rest of the world in the fight against racism, capitalism, and U.S. imperialism.
Capitalist inroads into the Cuban economy, the unequal social forces it produces, as well as increased racial inequalities may ultimately be used as a lever to pressure and overthrow the remaining gains of the Cuban Revolution. A key means of preventing this that is advocated by Leninist-Trotskyists is through breaking Cuba out of its economic isolation through building the world revolutionary socialist movement. This was an important component of Lenin and Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution, promoted at the time they were in power in the USSR through their establishment of the Communist International. During this time the leadership of the Communist International built more effective parties around the world through measures that included instructing the communist movement of the United States on the necessity of adopting a program on combating the special oppression of African Americans. Under the instructions of the Communist International, the Communist Party’s new program to combat the special oppression of African Americans as a doubly oppressed section of the working class was a vast improvement over the Socialist Party of Eugene Debs that supposedly had a color blind policy.
A similar question arises in Cuba. The Cuban revolution, while taking great steps in alleviating problems of systemic racism through socialist measures, also has a leadership that sees the question of race as largely resolved by socialism and has repressed real discussion of areas where this is not true in Cuba. This is partly a result of Cuba copying of the USSR’s top down model of bureaucratic rule, consolidated by Stalin after Lenin’s death, rather than establishing real workers democracy as advocated by Lenininist-Trotskyists. Cuba largely imported a top down method of rule that while not as brutal as the system established in the USSR during Stalin’s rule, has not allowed a proper exercise of workers democracy. Violations of workers democracy have included the suppression of discussions of racism through banning independent organizations of the working class that could advocate for Blacks, also curtailing at times important freedoms of the hip hop movement, as well as suppression of the Trotskyist movement.
Leninist-Trotskyists support Cuba’s right to defend itself from U.S. imperialist attack and internal capitalist counterrevolution, including U.S. sponsored attempts to bring about capitalist counterrevolution through paid CIA terrorists and advocates of bourgeois “democracy”. At the same time we advocate the need for legitimate workers democracy that allows a freer discussion of issues of racism, internationalism, austerity, capitalist inroads, Trotskyism, and other issues that affect the Cuban Revolution.
Yet, the Cuban revolution, despite some very serious unhealthy tendencies, so far largely continues a commitment to socialism as well as its internationalist commitment to the Black liberation struggle Despite important deformations of the communist program, Cuba does also provide some positive lessons and examples of anti-racism, internationalism, and what a planned socialist economy can do. Of the U.S. imperialist government, Leninist-Trotskyists demand: End the U.S. Imperialist Economic Blockade of Cuba! End Torture at Guantanamo by giving it Back to the Cuban People! Let Justice Be Done For the Murder of 73 Innocents, Honor Cuba’s Extradition Request For Luis Posada Carriles!
Please Also See Part 4
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by Steven Argue
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13 Jan 2015
Modified: 08:48:31 AM
Murderous Cops, Liberal Snake Oil, & Revolutionary Solutions (Part 4)